Category Archives: Politics & Society

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 4 —

Part 4 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.

The previous installment ended with Curington’s testimony concerning a meeting between H.L. Hunt and Lee Oswald’s wife, Marina. Discussion of that meeting continues here.

Further details covered: circumstances surrounding Oswald’s murder; rowdy crowds at Adlai Stevenson’s visit to Dallas; and retrieval of an autographed book.

~ ~ ~

John Curington

GD: You mentioned that it was maybe thirty minutes. That’s not a very long time for a visit.

JC: It would be less than—oh he wouldn’t, no, that would be a long time for Mr. Hunt to spend with somebody. I don’t believe he’d have had any interest whatsoever in other than a five or ten minute conversation.

GD: OK.

JC: Again, you’re going back to what most people would do, but you know, he just wasn’t most people.

GD: OK.

JC: But again, when I make a statement like that, or when I write something like that, when Marina Oswald denies the story, most people hearing my remarks wash ’em off as a fictitious story. Nothing I can do about that. You know, they’ve got their opinion. But I know—you just don’t go lock a door between two buildings that’s never been locked before, never been locked since. You don’t normally go in and tell every Hunt employee to go home if in fact they are there. And you don’t stay in the lobby and if a Hunt employee comes in to send them home. It would suggest to me that he wanted somebody coming into that office that he didn’t want anybody else to recognize or see.

H.L. Hunt;       Marina Oswald Porter

GD: Did she speak to you or anything?

JC: No, my instructions were not to look at her, not to speak to her. She didn’t look left, didn’t look right, I didn’t show any recognition whatsoever. She was well dressed, her hair was combed, had on lipstick, she would not be what I would call a pretty woman, but sort of an attractive woman you know, just the way she walked and carried there—she didn’t look left, she didn’t look right, she punched the elevator door. Of course at that time all of the elevators were on the ground floor. I think there were four there in the lobby. It opened immediately, she disappeared, and came back within a less than a thirty minute period of time.

GD: Is the fact that she says she never went to see Mr. Hunt—could that be as simple as he asked her not to tell anyone?

JC: Well, again in fairness to her, she may not have known. But you’ve been around me long enough to know that I sort of have a grasp of the situation—

GD: Yes.

JC: —going around me, you know.

GD: Yes.

JC: I’m not going to be in the lobby under a very set of mysterious instructions, see a lady come in that is on the news 24 hours a day 7 days a week, that I don’t know who she is, you know.

GD: Right.

JC: An orangutang if he had been with me he could have told me who the lady was there.

(This is one of Mr. Curington’s favorite expressions to emphasize something that, in his opinion, should be obvious, some form of even an orangutang could figure that out.)

So I don’t think, you know—I don’t have any reservation, conscience whatsoever in telling that story. That’s exactly what happened, and I think what happened with Marina Oswald, one, Mr. Hunt could or could not have given her a pretty substantial gift. He could or could not have identified himself. Normally he wouldn’t identify himself. But he just had enough ego that in his mind, if he could talk to Marina Oswald for three or four minutes, he could pretty well tell anything she believed as far as Lee Harvey Oswald and Kennedy was concerned.

GD: And when you saw her, how long did it take for you to say, “That’s Marina Oswald”?

JC: The minute she was out of the car. Of course I had an opportunity to observe her for about a two hundred foot walk there, so, you know, it wasn’t just a haphazard glance where well maybe it is, maybe it’s not.

But, anyway, I’m the first to admit, that’s my story, she has a different one, but mine’s correct and hers may not be deliberately incorrect, but she may not have known any differently.

GD: That’s one of these unexplained questions, as to what that meeting was about, but who knows—yeah.

JC: Yo. But anyway, having said that, you know, we could speculate forever on did this happen or did that happen. The comments that I am making leave just as many unanswered questions as when we started. But I can move that pendulum a little bit, a little bit step further.

GD: Let’s go back to Civello there in Dallas. Was Civello under any other Mob boss?

Joe Civello

JC: Civello was not a high profile Mafia leader. But he was one of the smarter Mafia leaders, and in a way more cruel. He ran his part of the United States with an iron fist—but in a gentlemanly manner you know. He just had the ability to get things done the way he wanted them done, without a lot of the adverse publicity that some of the people out of Chicago and New York and Los Angeles may have done there.

When the United States was divided there were eight different sections in the United States. It wasn’t an organizational chart, but they didn’t go out of their geographical area. And it was a gentleman’s agreement, this is your area, and you run it. You don’t get involved in this place, and you don’t get involved over here, and we’re not interested in your concerns as to what happens in Louisville Kentucky. You run your business and we’ll take care of the rest of it here.

I would guess that Marcello—well I wouldn’t have any way of guessing—but it wouldn’t be uncommon for Marcello to come to Dallas two or three, four times a year, you know—

GD: Marcello?

10 Lamar Waldron, The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint, 2013), 189; John L. Davis, Mafia Kingfish: Carlos Marcello and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy (New York: Signet, 1989); Stefano Vaccara, Carlos Marcello: The Man Behind the JFK Assassination (New York: Enigma Books, 2013).

(Carlos Marcello was head of the New Orleans crime family from 1947 to the 1980s, considered one of the top Mob bosses in the United States. Marcello’s sphere of operations included Dallas, and according to an FBI informant, Jack Van Laningham, Marcello said, speaking of Dallas, that “all the police were on the take, and as long as he kept the money flowing they let him operate anything in Dallas that he wanted to.”10)

Carlos Marcello (From NCS)

JC: Yeah. It wouldn’t be uncommon, you know, to get a call, “Well, Marcello’s here if you want to drop by.” Nothing planned, nothing formal, nothing regimented or—just a routine thing. Normally it wasn’t a formal meeting. It sort of was like saying, “If you and Mr. Hunt—Marcello’s going to be in town tomorrow, just stop by the liquor store by the airport”—just very informal, no scheduled meeting, no plan to get together, no drawing up a plan or anything—

GD: Most people would be scared to meet these guys.

JC: I had a limited knowledge of a lot of these activities. But astute people don’t have to go into a long-winded detailed explanation of what to do or how to do it. Just three or four words gets the message across you know. And I don’t think Civello, or Marcello, or H. L. Hunt or anybody else is gonna sit down and write out a plan, and discuss it, and call in people to evaluate it—

Again, I’m making a statement. It has nothing to do with anything. But just suppose that H. L. Hunt did have enough concern that Lee Harvey Oswald needed some way not to testify. All he’d have to say is, “Man if there’s any way in the world that somebody could get to Oswald and keep him quiet.” That’s all that would be said, you know. Civello wouldn’t say, “Well what do you want me to do? How much money you gonna—?” Its not that kind of conversation at all. People want there to be something like that, where you want a committee meeting, and you want a faculty meeting, and you want an outlined plan, and you want it written down, and you want to rehearse it and go over it. Its not that kind of a deal at all.

GD: OK.

JC: But the people that think they’re in the know, they believe they have every answer in the world as to why Jack Ruby should not have been at the spot he was when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Again, my opinion. I’m not giving you any evidence whatsoever. But in my opinion, Ruby was given instructions to get rid of Lee Harvey Oswald. He didn’t want to do it! But he was afraid not to do it. So he left a paper trail as wide as he could, on protecting his image. And everything he did corresponded with the delay that exactly corresponded with what the Dallas police department was bringing on themselves. Not deliberately. But they had the car parked wrong. That cost ten minutes. They had to do something else to change the deal there. So the Dallas police department was making time mistakes there, so when the shooting <unintelligible>, Ruby over here was leaving the best defense he could as to where he was and it being impossible for him to be there. But by him building up his defense theory, and the Dallas police department making mistakes, put the two together, unintercooperated (sic) by anybody else, to me the explanation is just as simple as two and two is four.

The police department made enough administrative errors that it delayed the meeting about fifteen minutes from the schedule. Jack Ruby didn’t know those things were going on. If the Dallas police department had done what they were supposed to do, and not made the errors that they did make, Oswald would have been in the car and disposed of by the time Jack Ruby was building his alibi that he couldn’t have been there. Everything just unraveled where, without any assistance from anybody, just unraveled, to put him where he was able to confront Lee Harvey Oswald and do just exactly what he did.

Now me saying that doesn’t make it happen that way. You can accept it or reject it. That’s my theory as to what happened there. The Dallas police department didn’t plan on making the mistakes it did. Ruby knew what time that he should have been coming out of that deal. He scheduled everything he did, going to the Western Union office, calling somebody, calling in, so it would have been impossible for him to have been there. I don’t think Ruby wanted to do the shooting. But then he had no other choice. You know, somebody told him what needs to be done. And he knew if he didn’t do it, he could very well have been ground up in a sausage grinder, and all his brothers and sisters and everybody else there.

So its not that simple to just say, “Well I don’t believe I’ll load my gun this morning and go down and shoot somebody.” You don’t have that, you know, you don’t have that choice there.

GD: When Ruby was arrested, after shooting Oswald, Ruby said he did it on his own—

JC: Well, what do you think he’s gonna say?! “Oh, me and Joe Civello, the leader, we own the Carousel Club together, and Civello called me this morning—woke me up, just told me to go down and shoot the deal, and I had to do it.”

They’re not going to say those—

read more »

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 3 —

Part 3 of Greg Doudna‘s the interview with John Curington.

~ ~ ~

GD: No one at the door asked for ID?

JC: No. Nobody asked for ID, nobody looked into my briefcase. I even got on an elevator to go up where the man, to get him released from his jail cell—

GD: On the fifth floor, right? The jail?

JC: Yeah. And Captain Will Fritz got on the elevator, and he had Lee Harvey Oswald with him. And Captain Fritz, of course we knew each other, and he just looked over and said, “Meet the S.O.B. that shot the president.” Oswald didn’t make a comment, I didn’t make a comment. But anyway that was the gist of the conversation.

But after that I did get the man out of jail. Then I went down to get out of jail. And then by this time it was about 1:30, 2 o’clock in the morning. I had to go to Mr. Hunt’s house. And as I recall, he was still up. Anyway I rang his doorbell and he came to the door almost immediately. He had his clothes on which suggested to me he was still up. And I gave him a report, that there was no security that I could see whatsoever around Lee Harvey Oswald, around the jail.

Joseph Civello

And he said, if you would, I want you to go out and have “The Man”—he called Joe Civello “The Man”—and have him come over to Mount Vernon. That was the name of his home. And I did that and I went home.

(Joseph Civello was the leader of the Dallas crime family 1956-1970.)

GD: You called Civello in the middle of the night?

JC: Yep.

GD: Just called him in the middle of the night?

JC: It was about 2 o’clock in the morning.

GD: He’s not angry at being called in the middle of the night?

JC: No. Civello, although he had a pretty bad reputation in the Mafia circles, look, all in all he was a pretty nice kind of a fellow. As far as I know I never saw him take a drink of whiskey, I never heard him use a word of profanity, he tipped his hat to the ladies. Outside of shooting one or two people he had a pretty fair background.

GD: So there was a meeting of Hunt and Civello set up—

JC: Yeah.

GD: You were not at that meeting?

JC: I was not at that meeting.

GD: So that was Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the security situation?

JC: Yes.

GD: And he couldn’t wait until the next day to set up the meeting?

JC: No. He asked for that meeting right then.

Jack Ruby (from TexasMonthly)

GD: Did Fritz know that you were coming to the police station? I mean, did you contact—

JC: No, no.

GD: So that was an accidental meeting?

JC: Accidental, just a random accidental meeting. I couldn’t have timed it, and he couldn’t have timed it. Nobody—we just happened to get on the same elevator at the same time.

GD: Did Civello know Jack Ruby?

(Jack Ruby, 1911-1967, operated the Carousel Club, a Dallas strip club. He cultivated relationships with the Dallas police. On Nov. 24, 1963 Ruby shot and killed accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.)

JC: Yeah, they would have had a—I don’t know that they would have had a close working relationship, but Jack Ruby would have certainly known Civello and Civello did know Jack Ruby.

GD: Would you say that Ruby was Mob connected or was he Mob himself? read more »

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK / 2 —

This is part 2 of the interview with John Curington. See Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK for the introduction and background this series. (Greg Doudna has posted a link to the full interview on his academia.edu page.)

It is interesting to compare today’s events with “fake news” and its correlation with criminal violence.

~ ~ ~

GD: So then we come to—Kennedy is assassinated.

Mercantile Bank, Dallas

JC: Yeah. At the time Kennedy came to Dallas in November ’63, our offices—when I say our I mean Hunt Oil company offices—were in the Mercantile Bank Building there in Dallas. And the Mercantile Bank Building had windows that were about four by six foot in dimensions, and you could raise them up and be exposed without a screen or anything. And when the Kennedy caravan passed our offices on the day of the assassination, Mr. Hunt and I were in the window looking out, and John Connally was in the front seat of the limousine in which Kennedy was a passenger. He turned up and looked at our building and recognized Mr. Hunt, and he turned around and made a comment to Jack Kennedy. And Kennedy in turn turned up and waved to Mr. Hunt there. So I think there was a recognition of Mr. Hunt on the parade route looking out his office window and being recognized by both John Connally and John Fitzgerald Kennedy there.

GD: You were standing right there with Mr. Hunt?

JC: Yeah, he and I were—in fact I’ve seen one clip, that I can recognize myself in that window and Mr. Hunt is standing by me there. But it has to be <unintelligible> personal recognition, which was more of an important issue there.

He and I were looking at—then I received a telephone call, I would say within three or four minutes of the shooting. And the person that called me stated that they had just heard that there had been a shot fired at John Kennedy. And I told that person that was impossible, because I had just seen him pass the window three or four minutes before, and that was impossible. But I had a TV in my office, and I did go over to my office and turn the TV on. And after a few minutes there was an interruption in the program, and it, the interruption, stated that yes there had a been a shot fired, and they at that time did not know where the shot was fired, who was hit, or what was involved with it, but as the story unraveled it became clear that yes, Kennedy had been shot, and yes, it was a fatal shot.

GD: Do you recall Mr. Hunt’s reaction to the news?

JC: I don’t think there was any visible reaction. He shared the same view that I did. He did not have a TV in his office. But after the program began to get interrupted with the story, then Mr. Hunt did come into my office and did sit down in a chair and watch the news. But I don’t remember him making any comment one way or the other, as to what was happening or not happening.

GD: But you said he did not make comments very much on things—

JC: No, no.

Officer J.D. Tippit

GD: Then—Officer Tippit was shot, and Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the movie theatre, and this was on a Friday afternoon—

(J. D. Tippitt, 1924-1963, was a Dallas police officer who was shot to death in another part of the city an hour after the Kennedy assassination, by an assailant described as matching Oswald’s description near to and immediately prior to Oswald’s arrest in a movie theatre.)

JC: Yes.

GD: And then the Dallas police—he was being questioned by Captain Fritz—

JC: Yeah. Will Fritz, he was Captain, head of the Homicide Division of the Dallas Police Department.

GD: Did you know Captain Fritz?

JC: Yes. I knew him, was on a first-name basis with him.

GD: Did you know others in the police department pretty well?

George Butler

JC: Well, I guess my best contact, we tried to keep pretty good contact with all the law enforcement people, but I guess my best contact would have been Lieutenant George Butler. He was a frequent visitor to our office, and I was able to do some things for George Butler that he was appreciative of me being able to do, that—nothing illegal or unethical about it—but we just developed a pretty close working relationship. And I was able to call upon him for information, or his assistance on anything that I needed a little help on.

8 Ray Zauber, “George Butler: His Word Was Law,” Oak Cliff Tribune, Jan. 10, 1980, 1-2.

(“A friend of the late H. L. Hunt, Butler was a confidante of the famed oil tycoon and handled personal investigative assignments for Hunt Oil.”8 Butler is said to have been the officer in charge, under Captain Fritz, of the Oswald transfer in the basement of the Dallas Police Department in which Oswald was killed on Sunday morning, Dec. 24, 1963.)

GD: Then there’s the story that’s been partly reported in the past, that Mr. Hunt asked you to go to the police station and check on the security of Oswald.

JC: Well, there’s a little bit more to that story than just, you know, going down to check on security. Of course at that time Mr. Hunt was a very well-known person, in wide circles, but was well known in the Dallas area, and was well known by a lot of people who listened to his political views. And when the accident happened with John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mr. Hunt immediately started getting threatening, what I would call threatening telephone calls, in the sense that they would be badmouthing Mr. Hunt for badmouthing the President on previous Life Line programs. Nothing more than what I would say random calls from people who shared different political views. But after you get several of those over a short period of time you become a little bit concerned with what their next step might be there.

GD: So Mr. Hunt was getting threatening calls—

JC: Yeah.

G: And did that have anything to do with him asking you to go check the security of Oswald?

JC: Well, I think so. Because immediately after the assassination, everything started off in slow motion, as far as publicity and information being distributed. On a minute-to-minute basis that information was being upgraded, changed, altered, but presented in a different light. So I think that continuous new information just encouraged people to more and more call Mr. Hunt, expressing their frustration that, one, could he have been involved in the assassination? And two, did he feel any remorse by putting out programs that were detrimental to the Kennedy political agenda there? So Mr. Hunt was nothing more than a person that people could and would express their indication, you know, their concern over him being involved in anything that could have affected the president there.

In my opinion it was nothing more than a normal reaction, you know, to any given set of an event that had worldwide exposure, and of interest to almost every person in the United States.

GD: In Mr. Hunt’s view did he maybe wonder if his Life Line program had incited the assassination?

read more »

Billionaire Logic and the Death of JFK

I am going to post in installments an interview that relates to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Since reading the interview I have followed up some of the information and names mentioned and the more I learn the more questions I have. The interviewer, Greg Doudna, has kindly agreed to write an introduction. (I have previously posted on some of Greg’s work — a totally different subject from this interview.)

John Curington

The following is an interview with John Curington, former right-hand man of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas, concerning the John F. Kennedy assassination.

In June 1977 the American tabloidNational Enquirer published a story reporting unusual information related by Curington relevant to H. L. Hunt and the JFK assassination. Despite its significance and relevance to an understanding of the JFK assassination, Curington’s story attracted little further notice. Curington himself did not seek further publicity, living quietly in the intervening decades in rural Texas in obscurity as a small rancher and country lawyer. As an illustration of how under-the-radar Curington has been, the most encyclopedic compendium of JFK assassination information available, former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s The Assassination of President Kennedy (2007; 1632 pages print plus an additional 1125 pages of footnotes on an attached CD-ROM), does not mention Curington’s name, according to the index. 

My interview with Curington came about by accident, through a long-time acquaintance who I belatedly learned is a friend of Curington’s. I had read the National Enquirer article about Curington long ago and recognized who he was. I was surprised to learn he was still alive. This interview is the result.

By the time I met Curington he had prepared an unpublished manuscript of memoirs of his years with H. L. Hunt, which went well beyond the brief account inNational Enquirer of 1977. Curington’s manuscript is now published (John Curington with Mitchel Whitington, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H.L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa, 2018, available on Amazon).

This interview is appearing first onVridar, and to my knowledge is the first publication of a full interview with Curington. Many view the current political climate in the United States with foreboding. I believe it is instructive to recall an earlier time in American history with, in certain respects, parallel issues.

–Greg Doudna

 

Billionaire Logic and the Fate of JFK

Interview with John Curington,

Right-hand Man and Attorney to H. L. Hunt of Dallas, Texas

(the Richest Man in the World in 1963),

Concerning the Assassination of President Kennedy

by

Gregory Doudna

H. L. Hunt

Texas oilman H. L. Hunt (1889-1974) of Dallas, Texas, was the richest man in the world in the 1960s—oil, natural gas, land, companies producing food and energy, worldwide.

Mr. Hunt was also America’s pre-eminent producer and purveyor of conservative, anti-communist ideology, through a daily radio program broadcast, at its peak, on over five hundred radio stations across America called Life Line. Hunt backed politicians who held political views he thought were best for business and for the country, and he was a close associate of J. Edgar Hoover, the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Hunt had a special phone line to Hoover and they talked frequently back and forth, on matters affecting the nation’s business.

Hunt’s Life Line program was relentlessly critical of President John F. Kennedy—for “creeping socialism,” for being soft on America’s enemies abroad and their fellow-travellers domestically, for cozying up to the satanic United Nations and the one-worlders behind that organization intent on America’s destruction.

One of Hunt’s sons, Bunker Hunt, helped pay the cost of a black-bordered full-page newspaper ad accusing Kennedy of traitorous actions. Its headline was: “Welcome Mr. Kennedy: Why Are You a Communist?” The black borders were like a funeral notice. This ad appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Friday, November 22, 1963. It was seeing that ad which prompted Kennedy to remark to Jacqueline at their hotel that morning, “We’re heading into nut country.”

November 22, 1963 was the day President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visited Dallas, overriding futile private pleas of people like Adlai Stevenson and Sen. William Fulbright to Kennedy not to make that trip, out of concern for his safety. But the trip had been planned and was regarded as politically necessary in the runup to the 1964 presidential elections. H. L. Hunt’s political ally and fellow Texan, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson—at that moment under investigation in Congress for a corruption scandal with a growing likelihood of being dumped from the Kennedy ticket in 1964 and ending up in disgrace—had spent the preceding month at his Texas ranch preparing for Kennedy’s visit to Texas.

And so it was that the President and First Lady waved to the crowds from their open limousine as it took its fateful slow hairpin turn in front of the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. Moments later shots rang out and part of Kennedy’s head was blown off. The motorcade sped to nearby Parkland Hospital but it was hopeless; Kennedy was dead. Texas Governor John Connally also was shot but survived. Two hours later Vice President Johnson, riding in the same motorcade two cars back, was sworn in as the new President of the United States as a nation reeled in shock and grief. To this day, every American of a certain age and unimpaired memory remembers where they were when they heard the news.

An hour after the assassination, Texas School Book Depository employee Lee Harvey Oswald, an ex-Marine and returned defector to the Soviet Union with professed communist sympathies and associations (but oddly not a single known communist friend), was arrested and later that evening charged with the murder of a police officer and of President Kennedy.

1 In 1997 handwritten notes of Will Fritz from his Oswald interrogations were conveyed by an anonymous donor to authorities and released publicly after the donor had been in possession of them since Fritz’s death in 1984. Fritz’s claim to have taken no notes is in his testimony to the Warren Commission (“I kept no notes at the time”).

Oswald was denied a lawyer despite repeated requests heard by reporters. When a delegation of attorneys from the Dallas Civil Liberties Union appeared at the police station intent upon ensuring that Oswald had access to counsel, they left without seeing the prisoner after being told that Oswald had made no specific request to see them (Oswald had not been told they were there). Veteran Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz questioned the accused assassin of the President for twelve hours over two days without recording any of it (there was no tape recorder handy in the police station, he later explained) and also, he claimed, without taking any notes.1 Oswald’s story would not come out in court. Less than 48 hours after his arrest, on Sunday morning, November 24, 1963, Oswald was shot and killed while in police custody by Jack Ruby, a Mob-connected Dallas strip club operator friendly with Dallas police.

Veteran Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz – image from Mary Ferrell Foundation

Within hours of the assassination the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover, in consultation with the new president, took over control of the investigation from the Dallas Police Department. The FBI immediately assured the nation in definitive terms that the assassination had been done by Oswald acting alone, following which the investigation got underway.

Others however, such as some U.S. intelligence insiders seeking a cause of war for a desired invasion of Cuba, wanted it to be believed—and privately Johnson himself let it be known to a few trusted friends and media sources on a strictly confidential basis (such as CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite), that he too believed—that Castro and/or the Soviet Union were behind Oswald’s action.

But publicly Johnson appointed the prestigious President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, better known as the Warren Commission, to investigate. The Warren Commission relied in large part upon the FBI’s investigation. One of the Warren Commission’s seven members, Congressional Representative (and future president) Gerald Ford, secretly informed Hoover’s FBI on an ongoing basis via a back channel of the activities of the Commission and the thinking of its members. Another member of the Warren Commission, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Allen Dulles who had been fired by Kennedy, is believed to have functioned on the CIA’s behalf to shield certain areas of inquiry from the Warren Commission’s attention, such as a covert assassination program directed at (foreign) heads of state, which had been run by Dulles, that would later come to light in 1970s Congressional investigations.

Evoking a threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, President Johnson and members of his administration persuaded Commission members—most notably Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and respected liberal icon Earl Warren who headed the Commission—that it was imperative for the noblest of motives to find sole and complete responsibility for the JFK assassination began and ended with the dead Oswald.

And so it was that the lone-nut explanation of the JFK assassination became the conclusion of the Warren Commission in its final report issued on September 24, 1964, signed unanimously by all seven Commission members, even though at least three of those seven disagreed with the lone-assassin-without-assistance conclusion (Boggs, Cooper, Russell). Meanwhile, the question of Oswald’s motive was left unexplained: it was a “mystery.”

2 Interview in “Richard Russell: Georgia Giant,” a documentary aired Feb. 11, 1970 on WSB-TV, Atlanta, Georgia. Donald E. Wilkes, Jr., “Sen. Richard Russell and the Great American Murder Mystery” (2003). http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_pm/133.
Richard Russell

One of the seven Warren Commission members, Senator Richard Russell, said in a television interview in 1970, the year before he died, that he “never believed that Lee Harvey Oswald planned that altogether by himself … [T]here were so many circumstances there that led me to believe that you couldn’t just completely eliminate the possibility that he did have some co-conspirators … I’m not completely satisfied in my own mind that he did plan and commit this act altogether on his own, without consultation with anyone else. And that’s what a majority of the Committee wanted to find.”2

A majority, he said? Disagreed with their own unanimous conclusion? They wanted to find differently than they did? Welcome to the surreal world of American politics of the 1960s.

~ ~ ~

The “lone nut” conclusion of the Warren Commission was not the assessment of intelligence services of some other nations. Within the first months following the JFK assassination, the KGB (intelligence agency of the Soviet Union) as well as some European intelligence agencies concluded that the assassination appeared to have been a coup and that the deed had been pinned on the former USSR resident Oswald for the purpose of blaming the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

3 Christopher Andrew and Vasali Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 225.

[Soviet Premier] Khrushchev seems to have been convinced by the KGB view that the aim of the right-wing conspirators behind Kennedy’s assassination was to intensify the Cold War … The choice of Oswald as Kennedy’s assassin, the KGB believed, was intended to divert public attention from the racist oil magnates and make the assassination appear to be a Communist plot.”3

~ ~ ~

Attorney John Curington (1927- ), whose interview follows this introduction, was H. L. Hunt’s right-hand man from 1960 to 1969. Curington’s office immediately adjoined Hunt’s office in Dallas’s downtown Mercantile Bank Building.

Curington grew up in Farmersville, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, followed by law school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. In 1954 he began working as an attorney for Hunt Oil. By 1960 Curington was working directly for Mr. Hunt, doing things ranging from (as described by Curington) “running HLH Products (the ‘food division’) to covering up tax-evasion schemes, collecting gambling debts, handling matters involving Hunt’s secret family [of which Hunt had two in addition to his public family in Dallas] … and carrying out covert political operations.”4

4 Harry Hurt, Texas Rich: The Hunt Dynasty from the early Oil Days through the Silver Crash (New York: Norton & Co., 1981), 188-89.
5 For fuller details see Hurt, Texas Rich, 276-308. After years of legal wrangling, Curington and another aide were convicted on three federal counts of mail fraud with a suspended sentence (“Hunt Aides Plan Appeal,” San Antonio Express, April 19, 1975, p. 6).
6 Martin Waldron, “Family Fight Texas Style,” New York Times, April 15, 1973, p. 173.

In 1969 during acrimonious disputes between Hunt’s public family and his two other families, Curington left Hunt’s employ. As the family feud escalated, Curington and other aides, having sided with one branch of Hunt heirs, were charged by rival family members with embezzlement.5 To give an idea of the world in which Curington operated in that era, here is a description from a 1970s legal brief:

The attorneys said that the two men [Curington and John K. Brown] ‘have been H. L. Hunt’s closely associated subordinates all through such periods during which, at his instance, or at the instance of members of his family authorized by him, they have engaged in many confidential and clandestine transactions for him with other persons such as holders and seekers of public office, labor leaders, actual or potential competitors, influential job holders in commercial contracts, professional sports figures and nonbusiness social persons.’”6

In this context a President was killed in Dallas. Five and a half decades later Curington has a story to tell.

Curington’s story comes in the form of a new book, written with Texas regional author Mitchel Whitington, entitled Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H. L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa (2018, published by 23House, available on Amazon). In addition to vivid day-to-day portraits of what it was like to be the right-hand man to H. L. Hunt and how billionaire power worked in the 1960s, Mr. Curington maps out his firsthand account of H. L. Hunt’s political dealings, and how and why he believes his former boss was involved in the assassinations of JFK (1963), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), and Robert F. Kennedy (1968).

Thanks to having a mutual friend in common and after he had seen a book I had written with a Texas theme, Mr. Curington granted me a rare recorded interview.

Although Curington is ninety, one would not know it in meeting him. I found Curington to be alert and active, of sharp and sound mind. In person Curington is lean, with a mustache and ten-gallon hat, looking like he could have just walked off the set of an episode of the old television show Bonanza. He walks unaided, no walking stick or cane or slow movements, and his hearing and vision are good. Before I met him I returned a phone call from him. A woman who answered said Curington could not come to the phone “because he is out hauling hay.” Was that just Texas or was it genes? In favor of the genes theory: Curington told me his grandmother lived to age 116.

The interview that follows took place March 1, 2018, in east Texas, and focuses on the JFK assassination. I have added a few notes to explain names and contexts. Mr. Curington has seen and approved this transcript. Here is this living voice of history, Mr. Curington.

~ ~ ~

GD: Good morning Mr. Curington. I have read the manuscript of your book written with Mitchel Whitington, Motive and Opportunity: The Means by which H. L. Hunt Influenced the Assassination of JFK, King, Bobby & Hoffa. I would like to focus on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. You were Mr. Hunt’s right-hand man in those years, right?

JC: Yes. My story goes back to 1960 at the Democratic convention in Los Angeles, California. At that time Lyndon Johnson was going to run for President of the United States. Lyndon was the most powerful politician in Washington. But he was under the guidance of Sam Rayburn, who was a Congressman from Texas and also Speaker of the House for many years.

(Sam Rayburn was a Democratic Representative to Congress from east Texas 1913 to 1961. He holds the record for longest tenure as Speaker of the House, over seventeen years.)

Sam Rayburn thought he had complete control of the Democratic convention. Lyndon Johnson thought he was completely in charge of the election and would be nominated. But after two or three days—uh no, I’d say within a half a day—of Mr. Hunt and I being at the Democratic convention, I reached the conclusion, and Mr. Hunt reached the conclusion, that Lyndon Johnson was not going to receive the nomination.

Lyndon Johnson would not accept that explanation from Mr. Hunt or anybody else. If you mentioned it to him there would be a loud cussing tirade, that, you know, we were wrong and he was right, and he was going to get the nomination. After a few hours period of time it became obvious to Lyndon Johnson that he would not get the nomination, and that John F. Kennedy would. At that time Mr. Hunt came up with the idea or the suggestion that for he, Mr. Hunt, to salvage his own business empire he had to have Lyndon Johnson in office, even if it meant him accepting the Vice Presidency. And the reason for that—Mr. Hunt had enough confidence in Lyndon Johnson, that he, Lyndon, could influence John Kennedy as president and still get what Mr. Hunt wanted, and protect Mr. Hunt’s interests in all government activities there.

But at that point the situation is, Lyndon Johnson didn’t want the vice-presidency, and the Kennedys didn’t want Lyndon Johnson to accept it. But politics make unusual bedfellows, and to convince each other that both were needed, it was necessary to sell and convince Lyndon Johnson that he had to take the vice presidency. Mr. Hunt’s selling point on that was, without making any direct accusations or finger-pointing, that there were a lot of things that could happen to John Fitzgerald Kennedy while he was in office. Kennedy’s health was not good. He had medical problems. He was in a high profile situation where he would be subject to people that wanted him out of office for one reason or another.

But without assuring Johnson in direct words that Kennedy would not live through the first four years, it was certainly put in a language that Lyndon Johnson could understand.

And that was an acceptable explanation as to why he finally agreed to take the second spot, on the theory that Mr. Hunt, I think convinced him that he could still pretty well run Washington, and that he, Johnson, could control Kennedy, and in the event if something did happen to Kennedy, then in that event Johnson would move into the presidency. And if it was late in the presidency, then Johnson would by all means be elected for four more years. In 1964 that would ensure Mr. Hunt of having control of his business activities through a Washington contact for the next several years.

GD: And you were there at those discussions in 1960?

JC: Yes, I was present there when those discussions were made. read more »

Why Anti-Muslim Hostility is Comparable to Anti-Semitism

Justifying a view of Muslims as essentially untrustworthy and potentially violent by quoting the Koran has an interesting historical analog.

Johann Andreas Eisenmenger

In 1700 Johann Andreas Eisenmenger collated and published a comprehensive account of the reasons Jews posed a threat to Christian society. Translated, the title was Judaism Unmasked. The Jewish religious texts, Eisenmenger warned, were the evidence that the Jews hated and sought the harm of non-Jews. He brushed aside contemporary Jewish intellectuals who interpreted their own writings more in accord with modern values and went straight to the sources themselves.

. . . casting aside the interpretations accepted by his contemporary Jews in his quest to reconstruct the world of Judaism by studying the sources themselves.

From a range of Jewish texts he set out

to prove the worthlessness of the Talmud to which the Jews attribute religious authority close to that of the Bible. Five chapters are devoted to Jewish beliefs regarding the Messiah and to eschatology and resurrection. All this is intended to prove that the Jews are ingrained with superstitions and illusionary conceptions.

However, Eisenmenger attacks Judaism principally for its attitude toward other religions and their adherents. The point of this attack is to show that the Jews are commanded by their religion to abuse that which is sacred to all other religions, and above all that which is sacred to Christian­ity. The Jewish tradition prohibits robbery, deceit, and even murder only in relations between Jews, while the property and even the life of the Christian are as good as outlawed. If that is the tenor of the tradition into which Jews are initiated from childhood, one should not be surprised by their actual behavior should they be found abusing articles of Christian worship, that is, desecrating the host, or be caught in deceit, robbery, or even murder. (Katz, 17-18)

He supported his belief with Jewish texts saying that the Jews were commanded by their religion to commit the very crimes he accused them of.

Eisenmenger . . . wanted to demonstrate that everything derogatory or discriminatory that appeared in the Jewish tradition regarding any people whatsoever was seen by the Jew as applicable to his Christian contemporaries. The Christians are identified with the minim of whom it had been said, “Lowering down, but not raising up”; with Amalek, whose memory the Jews are commanded to blot out; and even with the seven nations whom the conquerors of Biblical Canaan were commanded to destroy. In the future, in the Messianic age, the com­mandment of destruction would apply to all mankind save the Jews. As the Jews awaited their redeemer every day, it stood to reason that they would carry out the commandment of destruction even in the present on those whom it was within their reach to injure and harm.

Eisenmenger’s point of departure was the belief that the Jews were habitually robbing and murdering their Christian neighbors. He believed the tales of ritual murder, of the desecration of the host and the like, regardless of whether they stemmed from folklore or from medieval chroniclers who failed to distinguish between fact and fancy. He supported his belief with Jewish texts saying that the Jews were commanded by their religion to commit the very crimes he accused them of. In his attempt to make this point, Eisenmenger drives his interpretation to the height of ab­surdity. In every case where he found such expressions as “deserves death” . . . he explained them as requiring a death penalty to be imposed by human hands. . . . Jewish scholars would also interpret metaphors and figures of speech literally whenever the conclusions to be drawn from such interpretations corresponded to their views. . . . To anyone who is knowledgeable in traditional Jewish literature, Eisenmenger’s interpretations read like a parody of both the legal and homiletic literature. . . . . [F]or the reader who is unfamiliar with that literature: he may fall for Eisenmenger’s conclusions, not knowing that they are no more than the very assumptions that preceded the writer’s examination of the material. He may accept the image of the Jews as a community of superstitious fools, hostile to those around them and despising whatever is holy to their neighbors. Completely unscrupulous in their behavior toward the stranger outside their community, therefore they cheat and wrong those who have business contacts with them, and this they do by command of their religion. If they are brought to court, their oaths are not to be trusted because they regard lying under oath of little consequence when their fellow litigant is a non-Jew. Their loyalty to the state is no more than lip service; and, in fact, they violate the law with impunity and are willing to betray their king and serve his enemies as spies and secret agents. The Jew cannot even be trusted in matters of life and death, and Christians who take treatment from a Jewish doctor endanger their lives. Eisenmenger fully believed the reports, in Christian chronicles and folk tales alike, that many a child had died at Jewish hands in order to satisfy ritual needs. Eisenmenger tried to gain the reader’s confidence by quoting chapter and verse demonstrating that the absolutely unethical behavior of the Jew derived from that decadent source of his religion, the Talmud and Rab­binical literature.  (19-20)

According to […], Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are. . . .

Edward Said, see How anti-Muslim hostility has replaced the old anti-Semitism

Jewish history was also conceived as a single historical unit both by Jewish tradition and by Christianity, the latter, of course, regarding the ap­pearance of Jesus as a decisive turning point. However, while the tradi­tional concept, Jewish or Christian, was that the unity derived from a divine mission, Voltaire explained it in terms of permanent qualities deeply rooted in the spirit and character of the people. Evidence of these characteristics could be taken from any period in the history of the people: after all, periodization is essentially an external matter, and time creates no barriers between generations. Consequently, Voltaire’s method allowed him to transfer his data from one period to the next and to attribute the basic characteristics of the Biblical people to later generations. Likewise, it is hardly surprising to find the converse: qualities discovered in later periods are attributed to Biblical Jews. That Jews are drawn to money and that they deal in business transactions and usury could be postulated in the light of their occupation in the Middle Ages and modern times, and Voltaire projects this stereotype back to the Biblical age. For example, the Bible does not indicate explicitly any desire on the part of the Jewish people to rule over other nations, but in the Talmudic and medieval periods deluding images of the Messianic era did arise. These were the basis for the Christian polemic contending that the Jews sought world domination. Ex post facto, polemicists found supporting material for this view in the Bible as well; Voltaire accepted their Christian accusations and incorporated them in his rationalistic indictment. (42-43)

Katz describes a list of other prominent names through history who followed the arguments and methods of Eisenmenger and Voltaire, too many to cover here in any sort of detail. The point is clear:

The reference to the Talmudic sources, usually based on Rohling’s Talmudjude, became a steady feature of anti-Semitic propaganda.

Or if not the Talmud, it was the Old Testament that rang out the warning:

Duhring, on the other hand, held, as we have seen, the Old Testament’s teaching responsible for Jewish immorality and regarded the “recent citation of Talmudic instances” to be superfluous. (267)

One dramatic scene . . .

In a gathering of some five hundred participants in April 1882, a speaker named Franz Holubek declared that “The Jews have not shown themselves worthy of emancipa­tion . . . The Jew is no longer a co-citizen. He made himself our master, our oppressor . . . Do you know what gives these people the right to put their foot on our neck? The Talmud, in which you Christians are called dogs, donkeys, and pigs.’’ This invective provoked an uproar in the au­dience, causing the police to dissolve the meeting. Holubek was indicted for interreligious incitement but in the ensuing trial, defended by Pattai, he was found innocent. The line of defense was that the alleged invective conformed to scholarly established truth as stated in the learned treatise The Talmudjude, by August Rohling, professor of Hebrew literature at Charles University in Prague. (285)


Katz, Jacob. 1982. From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700–1933. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


 

How anti-Muslim hostility has replaced the old anti-Semitism

Trying to think through the question of modern antisemitism before writing my previous post I pulled off a shelf my old copy of Edward Said’s Orientalism. I was surprised to see how much I had forgotten, and to discover where some of my views on modern Islamophobia and racist attitudes towards Middle Easterners may have been born. Some extracts:

For whereas it is no longer possible to write learned (or even popular) disquisitions on either “the Negro mind” or “the Jewish personality,” it is perfectly possible to engage in such research as “the Islamic mind,” or “the Arab character” . . . (262)

Further on….

Yet after the 1973 war the Arab appeared everywhere as something more menacing. Cartoons depicting an Arab sheik standing behind a gasoline pump turned up consistently. These Arabs, however, were clearly “Semitic”: their sharply hooked noses, the evil mustachioed leer on their faces, were obvious reminders (to a largely non-Semitic population) that “Semites” were at the bottom of all “our” troubles, which in this case was principally a gasoline shortage. The transference of a popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.

Thus if the Arab occupies space enough for attention, it is as a negative value. He is seen as the disrupter of Israel’s and the West’s existence, or in another view of the same thing, as a surmountable obstacle to Israel’s creation in 1948. Insofar as this Arab has any history, it is part of the history given him (or taken from him: the difference is slight) by the Orientalist tradition, and later, the Zionist tradition. Palestine was seen—by Lamartine and the early Zionists —as an empty desert waiting to burst into bloom; such inhabitants as it had were supposed to be inconsequential nomads possessing no real claim on the land and therefore no cultural or national reality. Thus the Arab is conceived of now as a shadow that dogs the Jew. In that shadow—because Arabs and Jews are Oriental Semites—can be placed whatever traditional, latent mistrust a Westerner feels towards the Oriental. For the Jew of pre-Nazi Europe has bifurcated: what we have now is a Jewish hero, constructed out of a reconstructed cult of the adventurer-pioneer-Orientalist (Burton, Lane, Renan), and his creeping, mysteriously fearsome shadow, the Arab Oriental. (285-86)

The Arab mind . . .

There are good Arabs (the ones who do as they are told) and bad Arabs (who do not, and are therefore terrorists). Most of all there are all those Arabs who, once defeated, can be expected to sit obediently behind an infallibly fortified line, manned by the smallest possible number of men, on the theory that Arabs have had to accept the myth of Israeli superiority and will never dare attack. One need only glance through the pages of General Yehoshafat Harkabi’s Arab Attitudes to Israel to see how — as Robert Alter put it in admiring language in Commentary — the Arab mind, depraved, anti-Semitic to the core, violent, unbalanced, could produce only rhetoric and little more. (307)

The fact about Islam . . .

Lewis’s polemical, not scholarly, purpose is to show, here and elsewhere, that Islam is an anti-Semitic ideology, not merely a religion. He has a little logical difficulty in trying to assert that Islam is a fearful mass phenomenon and at the same time “not genuinely popular,” but this problem does not detain him long. As the second version of his tendentious anecdote shows, he goes on to proclaim that Islam is an irrational herd or mass phenomenon, ruling Muslims by passions, instincts, and unreflecting hatreds. The whole point of his exposition is to frighten his audience, to make it never yield an inch to Islam. According to Lewis, Islam does not develop, and neither do Muslims; they merely are, and they are to be watched, on account of that pure essence of theirs (according to Lewis), which happens to include a long-standing hatred of Christians and Jews. Lewis everywhere restrains himself from making such inflammatory statements flat out; he always takes care to say that of course the Muslims are not anti-Semitic the way the Nazis were, but their religion can too easily accommodate itself to anti-Semitism and has done so. Similarly with regard to Islam and racism, slavery, and other more or less “Western” evils. The core of Lewis’s ideology about Islam is that it never changes, and his whole mission is now to inform conservative segments of the Jewish reading public, and anyone else who cares to listen, that any political, historical, and scholarly account of Muslims must begin and end with the fact that Muslims are Muslims. (317-18)


Said, Edward W. 1979. Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books.


Trying to understand today’s antisemitism

An article in Salon.com caught my eye and initially repulsed me enough to make me deliberately ignore it at first: Ever blamed “the Jews”? You have blood on your hands too.

My first thought was, Hang on, I blame “Australia” and “Australians”, too, for inhumane treatment of refugees and war-loving “all the way with the USA” enthusiasm whenever the US finds another excuse to invade someone. I blame the white British peoples and white Americans for a history of imperialist and even genocidal adventures. And if I speak critically of Israel I am similarly speaking of the nation as a whole for their treatment of black (even though religiously Jewish) races in their midst and of Palestinians generally. Far from my mind is that there is any racial essence in every single Australian, British, American or Jewish person that predisposes them to racist and genocidal (as defined by the United Nations) attitudes and actions. I know I have many like-minded opponents of all these evils among Australians, and I know they exist in the US, UK and Israel, too.

I later did have cause to return and read the Salon article by Matthew Rozsa and learned I had reacted too quickly and ignorantly of what he had written. I should have paid more attention to “the Jews” in the title. No, I have never blamed “the Jews” for the atrocities of Zionism. We have two different terms when it comes to Jews or Jewish people, and I have just used them now, as does Matthew Rozsa. I find it hard to imagine an antisemitic bunch of neo-nazis denigrating “the Jewish people” but I can imagine them spitting out the word “Jew”. I haven’t quite put my finger on the best way to spell out the difference clearly in words but I no doubt will as I think it through some more.

I have been very fortunate to have grown up in a family and in social circles where antisemitism was deplored so I have never been able to personally understand the thinking of antisemites (though I can understand it “intellectually” of course). But recent events I have read and seen in the news have added to my incomprehension.

Trump (sorry to bring him in to the discussion) clearly lent moral support to the antisemitic demonstrators at Charlottesville when he said there were fine people on both sides. I have read and am led to understand that when certain circles speak of “globalists” they are implicitly referring to Jews, to George Soros as a prominent representative, with shades of “world conspiracy” thinking. Recall Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

But here’s the complicating part that I am not quite sure I completely understand. Trump also boasted of his enthusiastic support for the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Stuff the Palestinians. How could one demonstrate any more clearly some sort of philosemitism?

How does that move sit with his respect for the “fine people” of Charlottesville and sinister warning of Soros’s role in “financing” the “thousands of invaders”, a mixed band of criminals and “middle-easterners”, marching to the United States?

I turned back to Edward Said’s Orientalism in a search for some help. I recall he spoke of the bifurcation of anti-semitism since the Second World War: the despised Arab had taken the place of the “ghetto-bred Jew” while the “Jewish people” had become “dehumanized” in reverse — they were now effectively angels who could do no wrong and any faults were merely the side-effects of over-zealous good intentions.

But that was too simplistic. We see here someone who both backs Israel to the hilt and sends derogatory dog-whistles to antisemites at the same time.

It’s the same with that other branch of “semitic peoples”, too, isn’t it. The Arabs. We hear dire warnings of “unknown middle easterners” (hear “terrorists”) joining the invasion caravan on its way to the US. But at the same time we have a devotion that reaches over into subservience to the rulers of Saudi Arabia.

I guess if there is a common point here, it is that Jews and Arabs are on “our side” (or rather we are on “their side”) when they are contained in their state borders and demonstrate an ability to use decisive power to crush the Muslim cum Middle Easterner threat and give us oil. But most of all, the Saudi Arabian elites “do as they are told” by the West — give us oil, support Israel, and keep certain terrorists under check. (We set aside the actual facts for the moment — Israel’s responsibility for launching Hamas and Saudi Arabia’s financing of world-wide extremist Islamism — and confine ourselves to public impressions. Iran also crushes radical dissent and could give us oil but there is a need for vengeance there going back to the humiliating events surrounding the overthrow of the Shah, I think.) When certain Jewish people (“Jews”) and Arabs are “like us” — violent and keeping “Arabs” under the thumb of occupation and imprisonment, and wealth-generating in our interests — they are “good”.

So I returned to read Matthew Rozsa’s article and found some degree of confirmation:

Both sides, of course, will frequently target the state of Israel, which certainly deserves criticism for its treatment of the Palestinian people but has also attracted a certain breed of anti-Semite who embraces Israeli atrocities as a cover for their own bilious views. Here’s an easy tell that distinguishes bigots from legitimate critics: The former will come up with arguments that hold every Jew accountable for the actions of Israeli officials, and are likely to lump Israeli misdeeds into larger diatribes against “the Jews.”

And Edward Said covered that point, too, when he wrote

The common denominator between Weizmann and the European anti-Semite is the Orientalist perspective, seeing Semites (or sub-divisions thereof) as by nature lacking the desirable qualities of Occidentals. (Orientalism, p. 306)

Like us, good. Not like us, bad.

At last — consistency of policy between Obama and Trump

It is reassuring to see that Trump is not totally opposed to all of Obama’s policies and that he is toeing the line of previous administrations in maintaining a strong supportive relationship with “strong leaders who keep the region safe for American business and military interests.” The butchering of a single journalist by Saudi Arabian authorities calls for a response no different in substance from the long-term reaction to the massacre of 600 peaceful protesters and murders of several journalists by Egypt’s godfather five years ago, or Israel’s ongoing killings of Palestinians — all unfortunate events that sometimes get a little out of hand despite the best motives and intent to maintain peace and stability. Trump may be acting unconventionally with traditional allies but at least there is consistency where it really counts.

 

Australians on the looney NRA fringe

Last night I was mystified listening to Bob Katter, a prominent political figure (of a “minor” party) in my state of Queensland, saying the following on a respectable documentary program:

The program is Four Corners; Katter’s comments come in the introductory minute and again from the ten minute mark.

I want more firearms sold because I want more firearms. I want more people involved in protecting our country.

What? How can giving citizens guns help protect our country? Don’t we have armed forces for that? How can my neighbours and I having guns be an assistance to national defence? Unless we are occupied by enemy troops. But it’s going to be a bit late by then.

So I kept listening for his explanation and it soon followed:

I want my nation to be able to protect itself. We’re a tiny little country, 25 million people. And a lot of those people would owe allegiance to other countries that may well be our enemies in any future confrontation. So, I mean, not only have you got the threat from outside, but increasingly, you’ve got a threat from inside. And it may not just be a threat. They might have a majority in this country in within the next 25 years – if you want to extrapolate the number of people coming in. So you’ve got a threat from within as well as from without.

Could the link between wanting guns and racism be any clearer?

One detail that I found curious and troubling was that as soon as Bob Katter launched into the above words his voice suddenly changed. It moved from matter-of-fact normal into a kind of defensive, victimhood, high-pitched whining.

Guns, racism, victimhood.

Just to end on a totally irrelevant note, I suppose we should not be shocked by anything from the guy who pelted eggs at the Beatles when they arrived at Brisbane airport in 1964: I am the egg man: Katter

 

 

Curtain Falling on American Democracy

Christopher Browning

Many of you have read historian Christopher R. Browning‘s essay, The Suffocation of Democracy or at least Chauncey Devega’s interview with him about the essay on sites like Salon or Alternet. Many American readers will be very familiar with what follows. I found it helpful to set out these notes from Browning’s essay and I have (mostly) resisted temptations to intersperse them with any further commentary of my own.

Browning acknowledges broad parallels between what is happening in the United States today with her domestic and foreign courses in the 1920s, and even with 1930s Germany. But the differences are also stark, so stark and dramatic that it is easy to underestimate the seriousness of what is happening in the United States since Obama’s presidency and now under Trump. History rarely repeats, but it does echo and rhyme.

Comparing Foreign Policy

1920s:

  • US was isolationist; shunned League of Nations.
  • High tariffs crippled international trade.
  • Dramatic increase in “income disparity and concentration of wealth at the top”
  • “Congress and the courts eschewed regulations to protect against the self-inflicted calamities of free enterprise run amok”
  • Restrictionist immigration policy, bias against Catholics and Jews (Asians already banned by this time).

Today, President Trump seems intent on withdrawing the US from the entire post–World War II structure of interlocking diplomatic, military, and economic agreements and organizations that have preserved peace, stability, and prosperity since 1945. His preference for bilateral relations, conceived as zero-sum rivalries in which he is the dominant player and “wins,” overlaps with the ideological preference of Steve Bannon and the so-called alt-right for the unfettered self-assertion of autonomous, xenophobic nation-states—in short, the pre-1914 international system. That “international anarchy” produced World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Depression, the fascist dictatorships, World War II, and the Holocaust, precisely the sort of disasters that the post–World War II international system has for seven decades remarkably avoided.

I sat in school learning about those post WW2 structures understanding that they were designed to prevent the a repeat of the chaos of the 30s and 40s. I had naively assumed we all knew the reasons for them and would never think of abandoning them.

Gravediggers of Democracy

Hindenburg

Hindenberg had been elected president in 1925 and given emergency powers to defend German democracy in the event of any crisis.

Enter the Great Depression and the “hyperpolarization of German politics”.

Hindenberg began appointing chancellors “who ruled by decree rather than through parliamentary majorities”, given the impossibility of forming ruling majorities in the fractured political landscape. Enter the appointment of Hitler.

The traditional conservatives believed they would by able to easily control the popular Hitler. And at the beginning they were getting all they could hope for and much more:

  • military rearmament
  • banning of the Communist Party
  • the suspension of freedom of speech,
  • ….. the press,
  • ….. and assembly
  • ….. and then of parliamentary government itself,
  • a purge of the civil service,
  • and the abolition of independent labor unions.

Paul von Hindenburg had been given powers to protect democracy but abused them so that he saw the end of democracy in Germany.

Browning suggests some sort of analogy with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

On February 13, 2016, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. Later that day, McConnell issued a statement indicating that the U.S. Senate would not consider any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Barack Obama to fill Justice Scalia’s vacated seat. “‘The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president,’” McConnell said. On March 16, 2016, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, a Judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court. Under McConnell’s leadership, Senate Republicans refused to take any action on the Garland nomination. Garland’s nomination expired on January 3, 2017, with the end of the 114th Congress. In January 2017, Republican President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to fill the Court vacancy; Gorsuch’s nomination was confirmed on April 7, 2017. (Wikipedia)

If the US has someone whom historians will look back on as the gravedigger of American democracy, it is Mitch McConnell. He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more. Nowhere is this vicious circle clearer than in the obliteration of traditional precedents concerning judicial appointments. Systematic obstruction of nominations in Obama’s first term provoked Democrats to scrap the filibuster for all but Supreme Court nominations. Then McConnell’s unprecedented blocking of the Merrick Garland nomination required him in turn to scrap the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations in order to complete the “steal” of Antonin Scalia’s seat and confirm Neil Gorsuch. The extreme politicization of the judicial nomination process is once again on display in the current Kavanaugh hearings.

Result: judiciary can only be appointed when President and Senate belong to same party. Hence separation of powers (executive, judiciary, legislative) is in jeopardy.

Trump’s personal “idiosyncracies” do not detract from the benefits of his rule for those who have made their alliance with him:

  • huge tax cuts for the wealthy,

    McConnell
  • financial and environmental deregulation,
  • the nominations of two conservative Supreme Court justices (so far) and a host of other conservative judicial appointments,
  • and a significant reduction in government-sponsored health care . . .

Like Hitler’s conservative allies, McConnell and the Republicans have prided themselves on the early returns on their investment in Trump.

Inversion of Previous Political Orientations

Hitler and Mussolini were allowed to take power largely as a consequence of the virulent divisions of the leftist parties:

The Catholic parties . . . liberal moderates, Social Democrats, and Communists did not cooperate effectively in defense of democracy. In Germany this reached the absurd extreme of the Communists underestimating the Nazis as a transitory challenge while focusing on the Social Democrats—dubbed “red fascists”—as the true long-term threat to Communist triumph.

By 1936 in France and Spain

the democratic forces . . . had learned the painful lesson of not uniting against the fascist threat. . . . In France the prospect of a Popular Front victory and a new government headed by—horror of horrors—a Socialist and Jew, Léon Blum, led many on the right to proclaim, “Better Hitler than Blum.”

We are familiar with the Trump lines of defence:

First: claim there was no collusion; the claim is a hoax

Second: collusion is not a crime; Russia’s meddling had no effect read more »

I think this is about right…. (accounting for Right populism)

The ascent of Right populism is a direct consequence of the emergence of a profound crisis of political representation all over the West; the politics of identity erected as a new mantra; and the overwhelming power of social media, which allows – in Umberto Eco’s peerless definition – the ascent of “the idiot of the village to the condition of Oracle.”

Escobar, Pepe. 2018. “Future of Western Democracy Being Played Out in Brazil.” Information Clearing House. October 9, 2018. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50409.htm.

In the same article he refers to a sentence in Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky:

It is only when the threat of popular participation is overcome that democratic forms can be safely contemplated.

And that reminds me of a set of essays I was required to study many years ago, the Federalist Papers. Number 10 by Madison has always stuck in my memory. In order to guarantee the privileged property status of the wealthy elites against the interests of the larger public it was decided that the ideal form of government would be “representative democracy” over a very large population. The idea was to guard against “participatory” democracy. The “system works” as long as the reality or the illusion can be maintained that the “representatives” represent the public rather than those in possession of the wealth and power.

 

 

Trumpism: No, it’s not the economy that’s to blame

Smith (left) and Hanley — The University of Kansas

I posted on Facebook a link to an article that challenged my own “liberal” spirit of wanting to believe that racists and other bigots were fundamentally fearful and that a sure cure was to be found in strategically administered education and information. I had long believed that one reason people were sometimes fearful was that they believed certain their economic future was being threatened by immigrants, or people on welfare, etc. The article that challenged these hopeful views I have long held was based on an interview with a co-author of a scholarly publication that remains hidden behind a paywall but now someone has forwarded me a copy of that work and I can set out some of its details here. It is

Smith, David Norman, and Eric Hanley. 2018. “The Anger Games: Who Voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Election, and Why?” Critical Sociology 44 (2): 195–212. https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920517740615.

The hypothesis that the authors set to test was

that prejudice is fueled more by aggressiveness than by submissiveness, and that it is accompanied by the wish for a domineering leader who will punish the “undeserving.”

Previous studies as a rule had interpreted a desire for authoritarian leaders as an indicator that people loved the idea of submitting and following a domineering figure. Smith and Hanley tested for a new view of authoritarianism — one that derived satisfaction from

forcing moral outsiders to submit. . . Authoritarianism is not the wish to follow any and every authority but, rather, the wish to support a strong and determined authority who will “crush evil and take us back to our true path.” Authorities who reject intolerance are anathema, and must be punished themselves.

(p. 196)

The desire for authoritarian leaders arises not from a submissive spirit but from a wish to see in charge someone who is “punitive and intolerant“.

Authoritarianism and prejudice, two sides of the same coin

Previous studies are cited that appear to make a convincing link between authoritarianism and prejudice. There is a strong statistical correlation between authoritarianism and many forms of bias, “from ethnocentrism to misogyny and homophobia”. It appears that people who support intolerant leaders are not somehow playing down their intolerance because they like something else about them; it looks like they support them because they are intolerant.

17 Variables

The researchers examined 1883 white voters in the 2016 election. Of those 1883 around 52% voted for Trump (979) and of 716 of his supporters (73%) “voted for him enthusiastically”.

The variables they measured were five demographics

  1. gender
  2. education
  3. age
  4. marital status
  5. income

and twelve attitudes. Attitudes towards

  1. Child traits (i.e. desire or propensity for submission to an authoritarian leader)
  2. Domineering leaders
  3. African Americans
  4. Reverse discrimination
  5. Immigrants
  6. Muslims
  7. Women
  8. Personal finances
  9. Health of the economy
  10. Liberalism vs conservatism
  11. General religiosity
  12. Fundamentalism

read more »

So it has come to this?

I have never visited the United States of America and have no plans to do so. (I must add that I have been told by some good American friends that there are certain pockets I would love and where I would feel very comfortable with people I really would like, and that not all Americans are racist, gun wielding, bible-bashing, anti-intellectual, loud-mouth, ignorant conspicuous consumers.) Nor have I ever taken a strong enough interest in sports events to attend major football (rugby, AFL) matches here in Australia. So I cannot seriously compare the following account with what happens here but I would be very surprised (and disappointed) if major Australian sports events were following suit.

To what extent has sports and the military become “increasingly fused” in the US? I ask because of an article by William Astore on TomDispatch about the militarization of sports and the redefinition of patriotism.

Since 9/11, however, sports and the military have become increasingly fused in this country. Professional athletes now consider it perfectly natural to don uniforms that feature camouflage patterns. (They do this, teams say, as a form of “military appreciation.”) Indeed, for only $39.99 you, too, can buy your own Major League Baseball-sanctioned camo cap at MLB’s official site. And then, of course, you can use that cap in any stadium to shade your eyes as you watch flyovers, parades, reunions of service members returning from our country’s war zones and their families, and a multitude of other increasingly militarized ceremonies that celebrate both veterans and troops in uniform at sports stadiums across what, in the post-9/11 years, has come to be known as “the homeland.”

These days, you can hardly miss moments when, for instance, playing fields are covered with gigantic American flags, often unfurled and held either by scores of military personnel or civilian defense contractors. Such ceremonies are invariably touted as natural expressions of patriotism, part of a continual public expression of gratitude for America’s “warfighters” and “heroes.”

. . . . .

Highlighting the other pre-game ceremonies the next night was a celebration of Medal of Honor recipients. I have deep respect for such heroes, but what were they doing on a baseball diamond? The ceremony would have been appropriate on, say, Veterans Day in November.

There is more but you get the idea.

Then there is this:

What started as a post-9/11 drive to get an American public to “thank” the troops endlessly for their service in distant conflicts — stifling criticism of those wars by linking it to ingratitude — has morphed into a new form of national reverence. And much credit goes to professional sports for that transformation. In conjunction with the military and marketed by corporations, they have reshaped the very practice of patriotism in America. 

Now there I do see a synchronicity with Australia. There has never been a repeat of the public insults directed at troops, many conscripts, returning from Vietnam. Now we see what I can’t help thinking is an opposite extreme, equally ignorant: the call for gratitude and honour that must stifle any public questioning of the motives and morality of those who sent them to kill and die. The masters of propaganda learned their lessons well.

I sometimes wonder if what we are witnessing now, but as an outsider it is difficult for me to say too much about America, is a gradual infusion of a type of fascism and militarism by stealth. The ignorant personalities don’t lead the way as they once did; but they do emerge somehow as symptoms or afterthoughts as the tide is changing.

I don’t know. Just thinking, wondering.

Aboriginal Languages, a Repository of Aboriginal Knowledge

When I come across an article like Aboriginal languages could reveal scientific clues to Australia’s unique past I generally find myself ignoring references to ancient astronauts but clicking down a host of other warrens helping me catch up on tidbits of fascinating insights into aboriginal culture and beliefs that I have missed in the past ten or so years. This one was no different. It led to myths about meteorites and variable stars and another look at the following map of indigenous languages

And that map reminds me of a project I was closely involved with as a metadata and open access repository librarian not very long ago and that I helped get kick started, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages. Some years back a certain federal government decided that bilingual education in remote aboriginal communities was not a good idea so many text resources in schools that had been painstakingly produced in local indigenous languages were stacked away to gather dust and creepy crawlies or even dumped in bins. In some cases these books were the only written records of the languages in existence. After an academic from Charles Darwin University (CDU) successfully sought funding to rescue as many of these print resources as possible, an irreplaceable resource for both scholarly linguists internationally and local aboriginal communities themselves, the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages (LAAL) was set up and, since I happened to be working at CDU at the time, I found myself with another very worthy task to assist with.

It was a fascinating project. As a metadata librarian one of my main challenges was investigating ways to facilitate open access to languages and even ideational concepts that had no simple point by point correlation with English; yet more … to find optimal ways to facilitate open access to both linguist scholars and local aboriginal communities.