Monday Open Thread

President Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon Johnson on the South Lawn drive of the White House

A week from today will mark the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth. Warren Kozak has some very good observations about that past and this present.

Compared to today, Kennedy actually wasn’t even on television all that much — there weren’t many opportunities. All-news, 24-hour cable channels didn’t arrive until 1980. With no cable and antiquated technology, there were only three networks back then. Their major evening news shows ran just 15 minutes, five nights a week (as if there were no news over the weekend).

The Columbia Broadcasting System and the National Broadcasting Company expanded to the present half-hour format just two months before Kennedy’s death. In Donald Trump’s first four months in office, he has probably surpassed all the television time of Kennedy during his entire presidency.


The budget for the White House staff was 13 million dollars in 1963. It is 709 million in 2017. The number of secret service agents has expanded exponentially and there are more jets available for officials than small countries have in total. When Vice President Lyndon Johnson went to Dallas for that fateful weekend in the tranquil fall of 1963, he flew commercial.

His home telephone number was listed in the D.C. public phone book. Americans never imagined the person “one heartbeat away” really was one heartbeat away. We have since learned otherwise.

Those who did not live through the trauma of Kennedy’s assassination might not understand the demarcation in time it created. There is an America before and an America after November 22, 1963. To them, the date is no different than April 12th (Lincoln) or December 7th (Pearl Harbor). In other words, it means nothing.

Wednesday Open Comments

Riva Aquarama

The Riva Aquarama was a luxury wooden runabout built by Italian yacht builder Riva. Production of it and its derivatives (the Lungo, Super, and Special) ran from 1962 until 1996. The hull was based on the Riva Tritone, an earlier model speedboat by Riva, which in turn was inspired by the American mahogany Chris-Craft runabouts. The boat’s speed, beauty, and craftsmanship earned it praise as the Ferrari of the boat world.  The company was founded by Pietro Riva in 1842, and run by Carlo Riva through its 1969 sale to the American Whittaker Corporation.

Monday Open Comments

Israeli Flag at Masada

On May 14th, 69 years ago, President Truman recognized the State of Israel at 6:11 P.M. against the strident opposition of Secretary George Marshall and his State Department.  The entire American delegation and staff at the United Nations in New York threatened to resign. Harry Truman essentially told them all to go to hell.

On May 15th, the first full day of Israeli Independence, the armies and air forces of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan attacked the new nation, itself armed with small weapons, a few pieces of artillery, no tanks, no personnel carriers and no airplanes.