Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Newspapers insensitive? Rubbish! Did the Kennedys get tough to preserve the fairy tale? And two reasons why I might be thought of as quite stupid

In my noble, indeed sacred, quest to encourage greater understanding between newspapers and the rest of the world and counter the widespread impression that the Press are just a load of lazy and cynical hacks who think only of themselves, I offer you the following picture. It appeared on page 46 of the April 12, 2011, edition of the Daily Mail, in the paper’s Good Health section. In its Ask The Doctor column in which a reader

©Kobal Collection
describes the agony he has been suffering because of back pain, and the whole piece is headlined: Is An Op The Best Bet For My Bad Back? The fact that his affliction was obviously shared by Quasimodo will have cheered the reader up considerably, and the Mail is only to be congratulated on its compassion for sufferers of back pain and attempting to bring a little happiness to an otherwise dank and dark world. It is a shining example of just how sensitive newspapers can be when they try. Just forget all that piffle that they are purely interested in the colour of your money.

Then there is this gem: it is a mushroom which looks like a pig. Well, it does, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? Oh well. Try looking at it in a mirror. Or even not at all. The resemblance will suddenly be

obvious. A few months ago, the Mail was kind enough to publish a picture of a chip on the end of a fork which, it proclaimed, resembled a dinosaur. Isn’t it a joy to live in a democratic country which is not afraid of allowing its Press the necessary freedom to be able to publish pictures such as this?

Just think, it would not have been possible in Nazi Germany (despite the fact that they the Germans are fond of both mushrooms and pork) and it is still not possible in many dictatorships around the world. We in the free West should count our blessings? We simply don't know just how lucky we are!

. . .

I’ve just read that America’s History Channel rejected the miniseries The Kennedys for broadcast, despite having commissioned it, on the grounds that it deals in documentaries and The Kennedys ‘is drama’. Sounds like a reasonable justification for ditching a programme – for about a second until you consider that it should have occurred to them long before the filming was completed, indeed long before filming started that it was getting a drama series.

Were not History Channel execs in regular contact with the miniseries producers while it was being made? And did not alarm bells ring when they realised, surely quite early on, that the ‘documentary’ they thought they had commissioned was, in fact, turning out to be a drama? Apparently not, and the only conclusion to be reached is that History Channel execs are quite simply bloody useless. But that is rather unlikely.

What is more likely is that America’s royalty – didn’t know the Land of The Free had royalty, but it does, you know – had several quiet but important words in the ear of the History Channel and explained that what might be shown to TV audiences worldwide if the History Channel went ahead with screening it the miniseries just a little too close to the truth about JFK and ‘Camelot’ for comfort. Caroline et al would rather JFK was remembered as the principled, good-looking, young saint who was America’s great white hope leading the ‘free world’ into a glorious future than as a two-faced serial adulterer who was
hooked in prescription painkillers,was in cahoots with the Mafia, whose administration got up to all kinds of murky dealing and who was quite probably bumped off in Dallas after too many vested interests – including his one-time buddies in the Mafia – decided he was bad for business.

Nor were they too chuffed when, after helping shoehorn Kennedy into the presidency, he and his brother Robert did the dirty and announced war on the Mafia. Oh, Caroline et al did not want it widely known that John Fitzgerald was the Kennedy clan's third choice for the presidency after Joseph Snr was deemed ineligible because of his murky, not to say criminal, business dealings, and Joseph Jnr, JFK’s older brother was deemed ineligible to stand as he died long before a campaign could be launched.

Joseph Snr was essentially a Mick gangster who made his fortune bootlegging and used it more or less to buy the presidency for JFK with the help of his Mafia buddies and the bent mayor of Chicago, one Richard Daley. Caroline et al would not like the world to be reminded that, either. Never mind: it is now being shown on the ReelzChannel, a much smaller outfit than the History Channel and one which probably has less to lose and a lot more to gain.

. . .

It has to be said, of course, that JFK’ shagging history – Marilyn Monroe was one squeeze as was Judith Exner and Ellen Rometsch, who were thought by the CIA to be an East German

Three squeezes (from left): Reputed Communist agent Ellen Rometsch, Marilyn Monroe and Judith Exner
agent and who was deported just as soon as possible once the CIA was able to do so – was common knowledge among the Washington Press corps, but in those days it was not done to publicise such matters, and JFK could shag away with impunity. The only guy taking an interest – and copious notes – was J Edgar Hoover, the poisonous closet drag queen who ran the FBI and was much inclined to blackmailing politicians and such-like. So much for ‘Camelot’.
By the way, there is one conspiracy theory that Ellen Rometsch, who could still be alive, is one reason why the U.S. authorities were (and, according to the theory, still are) reluctant to investigate the assassination of JFK as thoroughly as they might. Rometsch, who has not said a word about her liaison with Kennedy, let it be known that she would spill the beans if the such an investigation got to thorough. Her threat has, apparently, entered legal parlance as the ‘Ellen Rometsch strategy’. But I for one, think it is just a little far-fetched. Whatever secrets she was told during post-coital pillow talk, almost 50 years down the line surely couldn’t be all that damaging. By the way, the most efficient way of clamping down on a conspiracy is to muddy the waters. That’s what happened over Dallas, and the one certainty is that we shall never know what really happened, why, and who gained.

. . .

Incidentally, what exactly did happen in Dallas is still extremely murky, and I doubt we’ll ever know the truth. But as far as I am concerned what did not happen was the Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald working as a lone gunmen. For one thing, the brief 13-second long piece of film made by Abraham Zaprudeer shows Kennedy being hit from a bullet shot from behind the limousine (which would be consistent with the shot being fired from the Texas Book Depository), but the bullet which made his head explode (shown clearly in the film) could only have come from the right side of the limo. It would seem to have come to the right of the limo and even slightly in front of it (on what has become known as the ‘grassy knoll’). That would make at least two gunmen involved in the shooting.

I don’t doubt that Oswald was involved in the plot as some kind of patsy, and until his death a few days later, he might well have considered himself to have been the sole assassin, but it is likyly that he was set up to think he was working alone, and I don’t doubt that he was shot dead by Jack Ruby days later to stop him giving his side to the story.
Ruby was a nightclub owner with links to the Mafia who was dying of cancer. He had nothing to lose. One theory is that the Mafia, who had help the Kennedys a great deal in the election of 1960 were getting cheesed off with the White House reneging on agreements and generally playing everything two ways. Still, we’ll never know the truth. Perhaps it would be best for all if we settled for the fairy tale of Camelot and St John Fitzgerald Kenndy.

. . .

Confession, so one cliché would have it, is good for the soul. And I also believe that going public about a piece of one’s own stupidity will, in an odd, quasi-mystical, not to say thoroughly superstitious way, ensure future good fortune. The thinking is that whatever supranatural entity pulls the strings, whether it is ‘God’, ‘Allah’ (apparently the same being the Muslims inform me, not that I’m particularly bothered), ‘Gaia’ (‘God’ for environmentally aware atheists), ‘Nature’ (‘God’ for environmentally aware atheists who have long gone grey and listen to Radio 2 and Heart when no one else is around), ‘Yin’ (OK, OK ‘Yan’ too, if you insist), he or she or it (or even they - mustn’t forget the Pagans) rather admires your humble honesty, so you get a pass whenever the next piece of bad luck is doing the rounds.

Actually, you don’t all, of course, and it’s complete bullshit to pretend otherwise, but then none of us usually objects to bullshit unless someone else’s, so - Lord, what a long sentence - in the spirit of hope and bullshit I shall confess to two pieces of crass stupidity. And no, I have never - never voted Labour - not even for ‘New’ Labour in 1997 when everyone and his favourite aunt took leave of their senses and embraced the Coming of Tony Blair.

My two pieces of stupidity both involve laying bets courtesy of the good offices of Ladbrokes. com which does a fine line in online betting. Because of Ladbrokes (or William Hill, Paddy Power and Blue Square - oh, yes, know them all, and have accounts with all four, but restrict myself to Ladbrokes) losing money has never been easier. Should you also want to lose money as quickly as possible, all you have to do is to go online and visit Ladbrokes, open an account, register a credit or debit cars, deposit money, start laying the bets of your choice and penury will be within your grasp sooner than you could say ‘you bloody fool’.

My first piece of stupidity came during the recent Six Nations Rugby Championship. Now that television technology has added several dimensions to the ‘viewing experience’, I have rather taken to international rugby.

I first encountered rugby at boarding school and for many years associated it and the puerile behaviour of the game’s followers with abject misery, freezing weather, very cold feet, beer guts and the kind of crassness you only ever encounter at a British public school: it was an ‘offence’ not to carry your fixture card with you at all times, an ‘offence’ which could be ‘punished’ at will and, quite naturally, given the nature of teenage bully boys, often was. I don’t doubt that such utterly pointless discipline was thoroughly character-building, and I shudder to think into what kind of spineless individual I might have developed had I not rather too often - and quite inexplicably - forgotten to carry my fixture card.

So although I have loathed, and still loathe, British club rugby and its ethos, I have taken to watching and enjoying the Six Nations matches on TV and invitably decided to support Italy, in rugby as in much else the underdogs. Just over a month ago, Italy played France, which is a flaky side at the best of times, rather like their international football side, and always being the kind to put his money where his mouth is, I decided to back Italy courtesy of the service offered by Ladbrokes. In the event, and against all expectations, Italy beat France.

The odds were good, I was chuffed at having won, and I checked to see just how much. Well, as it turned out nothing because I had forgotten to place the bet in the first place. Why, I don’t know, but I had. That was my first piece of stupidity.

The second, almost identical, instance came earlier today. Every April a race called the Grand National is run here in Britain at Aintree racecourse in Liverpool (NB Q: What do you call a Liverpudlian in a suit? A: The accused.) and as it as usual I treated my wife and two children to a flutter. My stepmother down the road also asked me to lay on a bet or three for her online, as did her my 80-year-old Bordeaux-based aunt (her sister), my aunt’s 90-year-old Liverpudlian friend (a former colleague of hers who married a Frenchman and has lived in France for the past 65 years) and another friend called Lucy of whom I know nothing at all.

As luck would have it, my aunt backed the winner Ballabriggs at 14/1, betting £2 each way. Except that she didn’t: although I laid all the other bets through my online Ladbrokes account, but inexplicably missed out her - winning - bet. Stupid or what?

My solution is to remain schtumm on the matter (or as schtumm as one can remain while broadcasting to the rest of the world via an internet blog what has occurred) and pay up anyway. I shall send her the euro equivalent of £30.

When I told a work colleague that I intended doing so, she commented: ‘How noble.’ Nonsense, it is just sheer self-preservation. I don’t want to confirm my aunt’s suspicion that I am, in fact, the village idiot she has always suspected me to be. My wife, who will take the opposite stance to me on any matter, irrespective of her true views, on principle (I use the word loosely) says that is silly, that I should tell the truth, say sorry and save myself £30.

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