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Day of Tragedy

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It’s that day again.  November 22, 1963 was Tina’s 13th birthday.  Old lucky 13!  It must have been an awful birthday present for a girl of that age to receive the news that the President had been assassinated.  Tina’s father was in the Navy and by the time of his retirement, he had achieved the rank of Vice Admiral.  The assassination of a Navy hero, who had rescued several of his comrades with a broken back after the sinking of the PT109, must have been a gloomy occasion at Tina’s home.  Tina’s birthday would forever be remembered as a national day of tragedy.

The cover-up of the JFK assassination became a national disgrace.  It became the most extensive and most successful government cover-up since the 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico.  The cover-up of the JFK assassination caused many Americans to become distrustful of their government.  Worse yet, it quickly became apparent that the JFK assassination was just one of many government cover-ups and an industry soon became built around investigating various government-led campaigns to conceal other killings, hazardous conditions and industrial mishaps.

Washington Post journalist Jack Anderson became one of the few figures employed within the mainstream news media to seriously investigate theories involving a conspiracy to assassinate JFK.  His investigation led him to focus on involvement of the Mafia, as a result of the CIA’s efforts to recruit Mafia hit men to kill Castro.  His televised documentary, American Exposé:  Who Murdered JFK? is available on YouTube.

As a kid from Chicago, I was a big fan of a guy named Sherman Skolnick, one of the early proponents of the theory that President Kennedy was killed as part of a joint effort by the Mafia and the CIA.  Although Skolnick was often ridiculed as a “kook” and a  “conspiracy theorist”, his investigations led to the prosecution and imprisonment of many sleazy politicians and corrupt judges.

My favorite JFK assassination conspiracy theory centered around the involvement of Carlos Marcello, who later admitted to ordering the hit. Marcello was the chieftain of the New Orleans mob, with Dallas under his jurisdiction.  The connections between New Orleans and the assassination in Dallas aroused the curiosity of New Orleans prosecutor, Jim Garrison – the central character in the movie, JFK.

The assassination conspiracy theory I preferred, was based on the notion that Joseph Kennedy, who had numerous real estate holdings in Chicago and who had been a prohibition-era distributor of liquor, was no stranger to the Chicago mob.  According to the theory, Joe Kennedy made a deal with Chicago mobsters that if they could steal the election for JFK, the new President would win Havana back for the Mafia.  Havana had been famous for its casinos, prostitution and drugs before Fidel Castro came along and spoiled the party.  When JFK pulled the plug on the Bay of Pigs invasion – after it was already under way– he drew the ire of the Outfit.  Worse yet, JFK and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy had been riding roughshod over Carlos Marcello’s organization and its management the Teamsters Union, through Marcello’s proxy, Jimmy Hoffa.  JFK had double-crossed the mob and people who double-cross the mob get killed.

A number of investigations have revealed that the 1960 election voting patterns in Chicago’s infamous, Mafia-controlled “River Wards” were not any different than they had been in the previous election, when Adlai Stevenson opposed Dwight Eisenhower.

David Greenberg of Slate provided the best take on the idea:

Even before Election Day, rumors circulated about fraud, especially in Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley’s machine was known for delivering whopping Democratic tallies by fair means and foul.  When it became clear how narrowly Nixon lost, outraged Republicans grew convinced that cheating had tipped the election and lobbied for an investigation.

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Completed Dec. 9, the recount of 863 precincts showed that the original tally had undercounted Nixon’s (and Adamowski’s) votes, but only by 943, far from the 4,500 needed to alter the results.  In fact, in 40 percent of the rechecked precincts, Nixon’s vote was overcounted.  Displeased, the Republicans took the case to federal court, only to have a judge dismiss the suits.  Still undeterred, they turned to the State Board of Elections, which was composed of four Republicans, including the governor, and one Democrat.  Yet the state board, too, unanimously rejected the petition, citing the GOP’s failure to provide even a single affidavit on its behalf.  The national party finally backed off after Dec. 19, when the nation’s Electoral College certified Kennedy as the new president—but even then local Republicans wouldn’t accept the Illinois results.

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The GOP’s failure to prove fraud doesn’t mean, of course, that the election was clean.  That question remains unsolved and unsolvable.  But what’s typically left out of the legend is that multiple election boards saw no reason to overturn the results. Neither did state or federal judges.  Neither did an Illinois special prosecutor in 1961.  And neither have academic inquiries into the Illinois case (both a 1961 study by three University of Chicago professors and more recent research by political scientist Edmund Kallina concluded that whatever fraud existed wasn’t substantial enough to alter the election).

On the other hand, some fraud clearly occurred in Cook County.  At least three people were sent to jail for election-related crimes, and 677 others were indicted before being acquitted by Judge John M. Karns, a Daley crony.  Many of the allegations involved practices that wouldn’t be detected by a recount, leading the conservative Chicago Tribune, among others, to conclude that “once an election has been stolen in Cook County, it stays stolen.”  What’s more, according to journalist Seymour Hersh, a former Justice Department prosecutor who heard tapes of FBI wiretaps from the period believed that Illinois was rightfully Nixon’s. Hersh also has written that J. Edgar Hoover believed Nixon actually won the presidency but in deciding to follow normal procedures and refer the FBI’s findings to the attorney general—as of Jan. 20, 1961, Robert F. Kennedy—he effectively buried the case.

So, JFK never breached any “deal” with the mob.  This doesn’t rule out the possibility that Carlos Marcello was involved in the assassination.  He simply may have wanted to put an end to the harassment arising from his management of the Teamsters Union.  We may never know the full truth.

In the mean time, one of the original critics of the Warren Report, Mark Lane, has just written a new book about the CIA’s involvement in the Kennedy assassination:  Last Word.

Despite having her birthday forever overshadowed by the gloomiest event in American history, Tina Weymouth went on to lead a literally upbeat life, playing bass for the Talking Heads and fronting for the Tom Tom Club.  Her niece, Katharine Weymouth, is now the publisher of The Washington Post, Jack Anderson’s old newspaper.

Happy Birthday, Tina!

Sandy Politics

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Was Hurricane Sandy a Democrat?  Two weeks ago, Mitt Romney’s tormentor was a debate moderator named Candy.  This week, Romney’s nemesis is a storm named Sandy.  The latest blow to the Republican’s Presidential campaign came from an actual wind.  Precious news program time, normally devoted to the battle for the White House – which amounts to free infomercial time from the networks – is now being diverted to coverage of the storm’s havoc.  Worse yet, the Benghazi story has become “old news”, bumped back to oblivion.  As Romney’s surrogates complain that Obama cannot be trusted to work with Republicans, news coverage shows the President with Republican Chris Christie at his side so frequently that rest-home-bound geriatrics are remarking about the excessive weight gained by Joe Biden.  Despite the claim that government is the problem rather than the solution, many of Sandy’s victims are finding the opposite to be the case.  FEMA can no longer be described as a government extravagance.  If all that weren’t bad enough – global warming is back in the news  .  .  .  big time  .  .  .

What could likely be a lasting legacy from Sandy will have a bipartisan impact – a painful blow to Democrats and Republicans who remain dogmatically opposed to government-initiated fiscal stimulus programs.  Sandy is about to prove them wrong.  The massive infrastructure restoration efforts, which will be necessary to address Sandy’s damage, could end up providing the financial stimulus which Congress would never have approved if Sandy had not headed westbound.

Duncan Bowen Black has a PhD in Economics from Brown University.  His Eschaton blog presents the liberal perspective on more issues than those related to the economy.  Love him or hate him, his April 30 USA Today article is downright prescient.  Sandy will prove, once and for all, that Keynes was right.  Resistance is futile.  Consider his points:

To suggest that the response to the storm impact might improve the economy is not to suggest that the storm is somehow a good thing, but a quick mobilization of resources to complete necessary repairs could temporarily boost employment and improve business for companies producing and selling construction materials.  There would also be additional multiplier effects of this spending on the economy, as workers and business owners spend their increased wages and profits.

But this could be true even absent widespread storm damage.  Speeding up other infrastructure repair projects would also put people back to work.  For example, many cities have aging water systems that experience regular costly water main breaks.  These projects don’t need costly studies or lengthy environmental impact reports and could be implemented almost immediately. Buy materials, dig up the streets, replace the pipes, repair the streets and pay your workers.  They are truly shovel ready projects in need of funding.

No degree of Austerian opposition will be able to prevent the post-Sandy infrastructure restoration programs from being implemented.  Sandy is about to teach America an important lesson, which could motivate many politicians to repeat what Richard Nixon said in 1971:  “I am now a Keynesian in economics”.