Archive for June, 2008


Sunday, June 29th, 2008
Politics and Paranoia Book CoverTwo days after Picnic Publishing asked me to do a blog for my Politics and Paranoia I went to Paris. (My brother-in-law works there and his flat is available some weekends when he comes back to London. It’s 7 hours door-to-door by train.) In Paris I had a quick squint at the famous bookshop opposite Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company, which has been supplying English-language books since the days when James Joyce is said to have done some of his writing there. Just before the tourist hordes had made it there from their hotels, in the second-hand boxes on the pavement outside the shop I found two books which I wanted: William Domhoff’s The Higher Circles (1971) and David Brock’s Blinded by the Right (2002).
These books sort of bookend my reading/writing life, the contents of Politics and Paranoia, and recent US politics. Domhoff is an American sociologist who analysed the American ruling class (he called it the Upper or Governing Class and the Power Elite) and, in so doing produced some of the first academic work on what are now known as the elite policy planning groups: in foreign policy, for example, the Council on Foreign Relations. In so doing he moved into intellectual territory which had hitherto largely been of interest mostly to a conspiratorially-minded section of the American Right, centrally the John Birch Society. When I began educating myself in post-war history in 1976 in the University of Hull, Domhoff was one of the names I came across early in my journey through the card indexes on American history. When Domhoff’s earlier book on this subject, his 1967 Who Rules America?, appeared it was seized upon by the conspiracist American Right as support for their theories about having ‘lost’ America to an elite East Coast conspiracy. In the final section of The Higher Circles Domhoff discusses the conspiracist Right’s use of his material. What is interesting now is that the group he discusses was then a very tiny minority to the right of the Republican Party, and of little political significance. By the time we get to Brock’s Blinded by the Right, his account of being a part of the ‘vast conspiracy’ (Hilary Clinton’s expression) on the right which was running against the Clinton administrations, elements of that conspiracist group, especially the Christian fundamentalists, have become a major power in the land. The lunatics had taken over the political asylum.
As well as being an insider’s view of the ‘vast conspiracy’, Brock’s memoir is a fascinating warts-and-all portrait of many of the major players on the Republican Right in and around Congress and the Senate in the 1990s. And what a bunch of screwed-up, hypocritical, intellectual and moral pygmies they were! Brock’s account puts new life into the old world view of the left that those on the right are either stupid, venal or psychologically damaged. I’ve spent nearly twenty years trying my best to shake off that view of the right only to have it revalidated by Brock.
And what has all this to do with my book? Well, the book contains talks I have given from 1986 to 2004 and having put them all together it is clear that the those talks are dominated by Britain’s relationship with the United States and American power. Chronologically the book starts with a talk to a CND conference on the US attempts to destabilise ‘nuclear free’ New Zealand and what potential lessons this might have for a Labour Party which was then still (just) anti-nuclear, has several goes at explaining the Colin Wallace-Peter Wright material on the ‘Wilson plots’ (in which a major part of the conspiracy theories about Harold Wilson-as-KGB came from elements within the CIA), and ends with several attempts to explain/understand the take-over of the Labour Party by the pro-American Blair tendency. In between these sections there are ruminations on the rise in our culture of conspiracy theories – almost all of which come from America. In short, the book is mostly a series of discussions of Britain’s role as America’s poodle; and these begin in the America which Domhoff describes and end in the America depicted by Brock.

Black President: Answers to Comments

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008
Thanks Mr. Landers, for your comment, and getting me thinking about ‘crazy  person’ verses ‘planned assassin’ in the political killings I cover in Black President.  I agree that there hasn’t been a smoking gun proof that these were other than maniacs working independently, but when I wrote my book I was following the stories of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy from the inside of the minds of the planners.  So a certain logic began developing. Through all the static of conspiracy theories came Oswald’s phrase, I’m just a patsy’ or whatever he exactly said as he was being hauled  away.  All the reading I did on the subject (and movies…) urged me to  notate just how a patsy is used — setting up a person to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, to take the blame for something they were only  indirectly involved in (or lured into for $).  After covering JFK’s assassination, and later in Black President giving myself the task of re-thinking/re-writing the horror of MLK Jr. and Bobby Kennedy’s possible scenerios, I let myself build further on the ‘patsy’ approach, with similar perpetrators (or fellow perpetrators) in the mix.  They could laugh to themselves about just how effectively a patsy-in-place had worked previously, and how THEIR patsy, James Earl Ray, WOULD work.  Following the logic, living the experience from the inside (Ray touches the rifle for fingerprints, a second white Mustang found to be identified at appropriate places, fireman relieved of duty at the station across the street from the fateful motel, etc.), it seemed like a workable plan for assassins. Sirhan Sirhan seemed like another ‘patsy’ personality.  Once a second shooter was dropped into thejob it made sense (please let me know what you think when you read BP!)
The arguement could be, amateurs with dumb luck verses professional trained, sharpshooting assassins.  I’ve seen TV documentaries on ‘US sniper schools’ (surely other countries have these…) which I think I heard turn out 5000 trained shooters a year.  Equipped with the latest rifles, loads and scopes (maybe these adjust automatically/digitally for wind conditions and  atmospheric conditions), these trained assassins are a scary proposition for  the future.  I’ll most likely include this horrid trend in my follow up novel to Black President, entitled Black House, which begins after the US election of 2012!  At any rate, I’ll look forward to reading your Empire Apart and Mr. Ramsay’s Politics & Paranoia!

Black President – answer to comments

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Black President coverMr. Ramsay’s comment about the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX brings up questions about the unseen power of economic interests in US and elsewhere. Since JFK may have been assassinated when he tried to derail the beginning of the Vietnam war, it makes me wonder (and worry) about how Barack, if elected, could personally survive his promise to end the war. We in America may think we’re voting for change, but how naïve is that? Can ANYONE stand up to the MIC? They must be earning billions each month with the current US ‘actions.’ The biggest questions are; Who are they, To what extent do they control the destinies of countries around the world, and, How do we wrestle back control of our lives? They must figure we’ll buy the latest logic: IRAQ WAR + FIGHTING TERRORISM = WE CAN RAISE GAS PRICES THROUGH THE ROOF. And now Bush will probably get oil drilling passed for off the California coast and Alaskan wilderness (they’ve been trying to get this through for years…). Now OUR pain at the pumps, which THEY created, is used against us! Not a pretty picture.

On another note, thinking about Mr. Ramsay’s comment, that he could imagine JFK fathering a large number of illegitimate kids, focused me on Marilyn Monroe and her supposed affairs with both the President and his brother Bobby. There’s a slew of current websites discussing various scenerios regarding her involvement, especially with Bobby around the time of her death. Black President has a particularly vivid chapter that places them together on her last night. I have to wonder how our complacent 1960’s world would have been shattered if she had admitted to a Kennedy pregnancy at a press conference (she had supposedly threatened to go public on TV). And what affect would proof of their relationship(s) have on the US political scene /now/? In my book, I describe a variety of agencies and mobsters, almost falling over eachother to terminate the sex goddess before she toppled the government. Certainly, FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover wouldn’t have been happy to lose his stranglehold on the Kennedy’s – her public confession would have rendered his secret cache of Kennedy sex tapes and private files worthless. Lately we’ve heard of an unknown Monroe sex film selling for 1.5 million. What next!


Friday, June 13th, 2008

Rick Schmidt — Hi there. I am tapping this out in California. My novel ‘Black President’ will be published in Britain later in the year. I am an independent movie producer and when not filming or editing usually write non-fiction between teaching gigs. Sorry to sound like the stereotypical boastful yank that I hope I am not, but I wrote a movie-making book, ‘Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices’, some years ago and it is still selling here and there. It helped Kevin Smith create his ‘Clerks’ and he was nice enough to give me a blurb for the cover (Thanks Kev!). So for awhile I actually got royalties :>). Oh yeah, and my Extreme DV came out in 2004, about making digital video features (the $ way to go — what I use now!)

So, why, a novel?

I was between writing my how-to books and wondered if I could possibly write some fiction. After all, I did make up my own movies! Around 1997 or 1998 I got a concept of following the lives of a black family where one child, secretly an illegitimate son of JFK, grows up in America. I figured there must have been at least one woman JFK seduced who decided to keep her child. At some point in the writing it became obvious that the child should rise to be a candidate for the Presidency. And as I wrote out his childhood experiences I decided to also include the US political climate and timelines, re-write all those poisonous historical moments from the 1960’s on that had clogged my consciousness, the assassinations and secret Ops, presidential plottings, imagining it all from the point of view of the perpetrators. Basically, ‘Black President’ is a distillation of my research of forty years of US history, politics and subterfuge right up to the present. ‘Black President’ concludes in the White House 2012.

There have been so many questionable events in American history over my lifetime, including the assassinations -JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and then Bobby Kennedy -which was the last straw for those of us who tried to maintain hope through the 1960’s. I remember walking into my kitchen in Berkeley and hearing the announcement about Bobby’s assassination on the radio. I got a gut ache. That was especially hurtful because he seemed to be representing the needed governmental changes.

As the writing went along I enjoyed creating a new logic that didn’t seem so haywire. How many times do we have to see a diagram of the Kennedy bullet that went sideways, or been told that Oswald fired all those bullets by himself? It felt good to re-write Bobby’s assassination and numerous other dark events, right through to a chapter about the stolen 2000 election and questionable collapse of Building #7. Suddenly I started to sort of own those disturbing moments in history instead of being victimized by them, which is how it had felt.

Around the time I was wrapping up a first draft of what became ‘Black President’, a guy named Barack Obama, who nobody outside of Illinois had ever heard of, was losing a 2000 Democratic run for the U.S. House of Representatives, to four-term incumbent, Bobby Rush, by a two-to-one margin.

He was re-elected to the Illinois Senate again in 2002 and started his historic climb toward the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. So I’m pretty shocked that I somehow imagined all this coming…all pretty mind-boggling from my perspective. Hopefully there will be a new era after Barack gets elected(!). This country has under-performed for so long that we’re all a little dazed, I’m afraid. But we’re now getting hopeful again, that we can come back from the ruin of the last 8 years.