NOVEMBER 2017

NOVEMBER  2017
The Rise of the Billionaires Leaves the Middle Class Stranded

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Friday, December 15, 2017

A ROMANTIC CHRISTMAS

I find it curious that Ernst Theodore Hoffman (above) is considered a romantic. I think of him as a manic depressive, and justified at that, considering that Napoleon spent most of Ernest’s life turning Europe into a slaughterhouse. As a young man Ernst did fall in love, but the lady was married. And when she turned up pregnant Ernest’s family shipped him off to Poland, where he labored as a petty bureaucrat.  But he spent his free time composing classical music and writing vaguely creepy stories. One of his more successful tales was a sort of 19th century “Jaws”, except instead of a 25 foot Great White Shark, Ernest’s villain was a mouse bent on revenge. In Hoffman's story seven year old Maria receives a mechanical doll as a Christmas present, which her older brother Fritz promptly breaks. She sits up late trying to repair the toy, until an army of mice attack her doll.  She saves the toy by throwing her shoe at the rodents.  Now, maybe I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I think this idea has ballet written all over it.  Interestingly, that idea never occurred to Ernst.
Nor did it occur to Alexander Dumas (above), the vulgar and prolific son of a French nobleman and a Haitian slave woman. See, Alex liked the Parisian good life a lot more than he liked writing. He had at least 40 mistresses, but he made enough to afford his profligate lifestyle by out doing Andy Warhol at marketing his art. Alex kept a warehouse full of writers who ground out stories under his direction, such as “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers”, and its sequels. And one of his minor best sellers was a direct steal of Ernst's hallucination, which Dumas changed just enough to avoid a lawsuit – like changing Maria's name to Clara.
Then, seventy years after Ernst died of syphilis (the ultimate romance disease), and 12 years after Alex died of a stroke in 1870, the ballet idea finally did occur to Marius Petpa (above), celebrated head of the Bolshoi Ballet Company in Russia. In 1882 the Imperial Theaters hired Marius and Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky to create the “Sleeping Beauty” ballet. This was such a critical and financial success that it established the Bolshoi as the world's premier ballet company, and Marius as a world class genius. And then like a modern Hollywood producer looking for a project to fit the marquee talent, in 1890, the theatre brought the pair together again.  But this time, having over inflated these two monumental egos, the management merely suggested a sort of theatrical sandwich – a double header, both a serious but short opera and a light, meaning short,  ballet staged on the same night.. Marius would script the story for both, and Pyotr would put them to music for both/ 
The one act opera was clearly intended to be the meat in this theatrical happy meal, and being the foremost Russian composer of the day, Pyotr (above) got first choice of subject matter. He decided on a Danish story of a blind princess named Iolanta.. But then, early in February of 1891, in Saint Petersburg, Marius handed Pyotr a detailed synopsis and bar-by-musical bar outline for a two act classical ballet based the story Dumas had filched.  Pyotr was appalled. He though it childish and unworthy of serious application. But, if it meant he got paid to write another opera, he would somehow make the silly ballet work. After struggling for a month he tried to remain optimistic. He wrote to one of his brothers, “I am working with all my strength and reconciling myself to the subject of the ballet.” But he also admitted “I am experiencing a kind of crisis.” This was good, since Pyotr had a lot of experience with those.
See, Pyotr had a secret that held the potential to turn every problem in his life into a crises. He was approaching fifty, and had reached an uneasy equilibrium with his homosexuality. He had tried to go straight but his marriage to Antonina Ivanova (above) had blown up after little more than a month. This raised again the threat of exposure by envious and bigoted court and church officials, who at any moment could end his career.  Each contract, including this one, could be his last. What little stability existed in his life was supplied by his younger sister Aleksandra and her seven children with Lev Davydov. Pyotr wrote many of his 11 operas, six symphonies and three ballets on their Ukrainian estate near Kamenka. And now, in March, while on his way to a concert tour of America, and still trying to come up with something presentable for Marius's ballet, he learned of Aleksandra's death.
He had just seen Aleksandra (above) over the Christmas holidays, so he must have known how ill she was. Still, Pyotr was hysterical. And then, pausing in Rouen, France, he managed his agony by putting it to work.  His genius was always his ability to combine the Russian musical themes with Western ones, and to subjugate his true identity into the restraints of his art. And in the “grand pas de deux” for the lead dance character of Clara, he weaved in threads from the Russian Orthodox funeral service  The musical themes of the entire ballet became darker and more nuanced. As one critic has put it, “In Clara, he found a parallel for his sister.”  A ballet about wealthy Victorian children, became, with the talent of Pyotr's genius, a work for people of all ages and for all time.
When Pyotr returned from his wildly successful 25 day American tour (he inaugurated Carnegie Hall in Manhattan) he delivered his musical score to Marius in St. Petersburg, to be animated.  But as the opportunity approached, the world renown genius, Marius, suffered his own crises of self confidence. The primary symptom of this understandable panic was an attack of Pemphigus vulgaris, a debilitating skin disease, usually afflicting Ashkebazi Jews – of which Marius was one. Scratching his itching skin produced open sours, which made it impossible for Marius to concentrate on the ballet. So his assistant, Lev Ivanov, took over.
Lev (above) had been with the Bolshoi since he was eight, and had a natural talent as a musician, as well as being an excellent dancer. But where Marius was a classical ballet master, Lev was, like poor Ernest, a romantic. He followed Marius's general guidelines. He had to, the music had already been composed based on them.  But Lev also arranged his dancers like an impressionist painter, throwing patterns of sugar plumb fairies and swirling lines of snowflakes on point, about the stage. It was the shape and flow of the dance that interested Lev, and somehow the combination of all these hearts and souls, the romantic Ernst and the hedonist Alexander, the classicist Marius and the dark Pyotr, and now that other romantic Lev, they all gave birth, on 15 January, 1890, to the premier of “The Nutcracker” ballet at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The audiences seem to have been enthusiastic, giving five curtain calls to the Sugar Plum Fairy. The next morning Pyotr wrote to his brother, “The opera in particular was to everyone’s liking ... The productions of both...were superb” But it was a very long evening, with the Nutcracker not ending until well after midnight. 
The weary critics took it out on the dancers, calling the lead ballerina (above) corpulent and pudgy. The battle scene between the mice and the nutcracker confused them: “Disorderly pushing about from corner to corner and running backwards and forwards – quite amateurish.” The Grand Pas de Deux, so inspiring to the composer, was labeled ponderous and “completely insipid”. A week later Pyotr wrote to another brother, “Once again I am not embittered by such criticism. Nevertheless, I have been in a loathsome spirit, as I usually am...in such circumstances.” After 11 performances the double bill was closed.
Less than a year later, in October 1893 Pyotr would die during a cholera outbreak, his secret still secure. Although many have suggested he committed suicide, he did not. Lev Ivanov followed nine years later. Finances forced him to work until his death “in harness”, in December of 1901. About the same time the Bolshoi brought in the upstart Alexander Gorsky to replace the aging Marius (above) as director. While watching his intended replacement rehearsing on his stage, Marius was heard to shout, “Will someone tell that young man that I am not yet dead?!.” Within a year it did not matter; Marius was quietly retired. He did die in 1910, at the age of 92.
A year after its premier the opera Iolanta would be preformed by itself in Hamburg, Germany. But although still performed occasionally, it is now largely forgotten. The Nutcracker, on the other hand, had to wait almost 20 years before it would be performed again, staged this time by the Bolshoi's new director Alexander Gorsky, in Moscow. He saved it.  Alexander savaged Marius choices, paring away minor roles, replacing the children cast as Clara and the prince, with adults, thus adding a romantic story line for them.  Standing alone, the ballet was now far better received, and short enough for modern attention spans. And after the Second World War, it became the classical Christmas season production for every ballet company in the world, responsible for up to 40% of their income.
It just goes to show you – those silly romantics may be naive simpletons, but their ideas grow stronger with time because they are positive and simple, and keep being reinvented. When in doubt, we are always inspired by the romantics within us.
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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

VICKSBURG Chapter Forty-Six

I can only imagine the shock felt by Major General John Gregg when an officer walked into the capital building (above)  just after seven on Wednesday evening of 13, May 1863, to announce the arrival of full General Joseph Eggleston Johnston across the street at the Alabama and Ohio railroad depot. Gregg was conferring with the commander of Jackson, the fearless Brigadier General John Adams. Together they were trying desperately to cobble together a defense for the city. What they needed was more cavalry, more infantry and more guns, not another general, and lest of all one who outranked them both. Neither man had received so much as a hint that Johnston was coming to Mississippi. The flabbergasted generals had just minutes to adjust to the new reality before the slight thin gray haired Johnston made his appearance.
They had all met the previous December, when Confederate President Jefferson Davis dragged Johnston (above) with him on an inspection of the new Mississippi theater of operations. But now the 34 year Gregg was meeting his 56 year old commander in the midst of a full blown crises. The punctilious Virginian, always a stickler for formalities, calmly exchanged salutes and with no small talk, asked for a full tactical update. Johnston sat and closed his eyes as he received it, having spent the last 4 days and nights bouncing across three states and five separate railroad lines.
Gregg began by sharing his last message from Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton. “The enemy is apparently moving in heavy force toward Edward’s Depot...With my limited force, I will do all I can to meet him.” Gregg explained that Pemberton had 2 divisions, 40 miles to the west at Bovina, along the Southern railroad. General Loring's division was 10 miles closer at Edward's Depot, along with Wirt Adam's cavalry regiment. All together Pemberton had immediate command over 17,000 men. He had 2 more division in Vicksburg, but President Davis's order to hold that city at all cost meant those men would remain behind their fortifications. In any case, Pemberton had ordered Loring to probe south, to find out exactly where Grant's army was.
The day before, Tuesday, 12 May, 1863, Gregg's 4,000 man brigade had been mauled by a 7,000 man division of Yankee General James Birdseye McPherson's Corps, 21 miles to the south west at Raymond. Gregg had been forced to retreat, but the Federals did not seem to be advancing and Gregg assumed the Yankees had been hurt and were regrouping. But this afternoon there had come reports from Clinton, 10 miles due west of Jackson, of what seemed to be a brand new Federal division, which Gregg could only assume was part of Sherman's Corps. Obviously Grant had turned on Jackson, and it seemed obvious the greatest threat was Sherman's Corps at Clinton, just 10 miles from the city trench lines. Before Johnston's arrival, Gregg and Adams had been rearranging their available men to defend against that assault.
General Adams did have some good news to share with Johnston. In the city were a recently arrived Georgia brigade under the competent Brigadier General William Henry Talbot Walker, as well as a regiment from Charleston, South Carolina, under 31 year old Brigadier General States Rights Gist - in total another 3,000 men. In addition at any time Adams expected 38 year old Brigadier General Samuel Bell Maxey to arrive at the head of another 3,000 man brigade. Within 24 hours, there would be 9 or 10,000 men to defend Jackson. Having made their report, Gregg and Adams watched the frail old man sitting, eyes closed. They thought for a moment he might have fallen asleep.
But Johnston was thinking. He was thinking that behind him on the same rickety and broken rail lines he had just spent 4 days on, were another 3,000 infantry and artillery from Braxton Bragg's Army of the Tennessee. Once they arrived, and with the units he had just learned of, he could take on a full Yankee Corps. But Bragg's men would not arrive in Jackson for several days. And when they did, they would be as exhausted as he was. And recent experience taught Johnston to expect similar delays in Maxey's arrival. No, Old Joe had only the remaining 3,000 bloodied troops of Gregg's brigade, and the fresh 3,000 men of Walker and Gist, with which to defend Jackson.
After a long and uneasy silence, Johnston opened his eyes, and now leaning over the map table, he said simply, “I am too late.” Unwilling to sacrifice 6,000 men to slow 30,000 Yankees attacking from 2 directions, Johnston ordered that Jackson would have to be abandoned. It would be only the second Confederate state capital to have fallen to the Yankees. The undercurrent of doom, which had motivated the flurry of defense preparations, now fully descended on the three men and their staff. There was no argument with Johnston's assessment. Only a dark chill.
In the morning, Gregg could take 2 brigades out the Clinton road, Johnston ordered, to delay Sherman's men. Meanwhile General Adams would collect as many supplies and as much ammunition as possible, load it all on trains of the New Orleans and Ohio Railroad, or wagons, sending it all 20 miles northeast to the town of Canton, Mississippi. Johnston ordered that the capital must be evacuated no later than 3:00pm the next day, Thursday, 14 May, 1863.
The the only practicable line of retreat was to the north. So all reinforcements would have to find their way around the Yankees to Canton. Having issued his orders, at 8:40pm Johnston composed a message for General Pemberton. “I have lately arrived, and learn that Major-General Sherman is between us, with four divisions, at Clinton. It is important to reestablish communications, that you may be re-enforced. If practicable, come up on his rear at once. To beat such a detachment, would be of immense value. The troops here could co-operate. All the strength you can quickly assemble should be brought. Time is all-important."
And then, because the telegraph lines had been cut, Johnston asked for a volunteer to carry his message across Yankee controlled territory to Bovina. Captain James Rucks Yeager stepped forward. He was a New Jersey native, who after graduating Princeton in 1859 had moved to Mississippi to become a planter. With the coming of war Yeager had sided with the south, and Johnston recognized him from the 1862 Peninsula campaign. The General accepted Yeager's offer. Recognizing the importance of the message, Yeager picked two more men to carry copies, to ensure the message got through.
Johnston then sent a telegram to the Secretary of War Seddon in Richmond, knowing that President Davis would be reading it as well. It began, “I arrived this evening finding the enemy's force between this place and General Pemberton, cutting off the communication. I am too late." And then he walk across the street to the Bowman House hotel (above) to catch a little sleep. 
There are deep basements in parts of modern day Richmond Virginia, where you can still hear echoes of Jefferson Davis's response to that telegram. Although, what Joe Johnston was supposed to do with the steaming mess Jeff Davis handed him, was never made clear. Like Jesus or Mohammad or even Buddha, if all you ever ask of your heroes is the impossible, they are often going to fail. And that is not their fault.
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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

LIGHT FANTASTIC

I wish I had been in the Alexandrian suburb of Eleusis, in July of 169 B.C. when for a few brief moments the past and future were divided by a single line in the sand.  On one side stood the royal egomaniac Antiochus IV, whose army was just four miles from capturing the Pharaoh of Egypt. Standing in his way was one old man, the Roman ambassador, Gaius Popillius, armed with just a piece of parchment - a decree from “the Senate and the People of Rome”.   It ordered the upstart Syrian to turn his Slecuid army around, and go home.  Antiochus IV was infuriated, and bluntly told the old Roman he had to consult his advisers.  Probably he intended on riding back to his cavalry and ordering them to run the old man down.   But Gaius would have none of that. Grabbing a stick the old man drew a circle around the King and insisted, if Antiochus stepped over the line without first agreeing to turn his army back,  it would mean war with Rome.   It was the original line drawn in the sand, and for one of the few times in history, it actually worked.   Antiochus IV went home. It came to be called the “Day of Eleusis”, and because of that day, we celebrate a holiday – just not the one you're thinking about, probably.
Antiochus IV was King of the Slecuid Empire, centered in Syria and stretching from India on the east and now to the border with Egypt on the west. He was called Epiphanes, “God Manifest” on his monuments, and Epimanes behind his back - “The Mad One”.  And as he sullenly retreated eastward across the Sinai, he got madder and madder.  You see, some jackass in Judea had spread a rumor that Antiochus IV had been  killed in battle.  Maybe the Romans had spread the story to weaken Antiochus in his rear, and maybe Antiochus had spread it himself, to flush out any trouble makers among his conquered peoples.  But whoever spread it, the hottest hot head in Judea, a religious fanatic named Mattathias ben Johanan, was eager to believe the rumor.  With about a thousand of his followers, Mattathias came charging out of the hills to capture the temple in Jerusalem and drive the high priest Menelaus into the wilderness
Now, few people in Jerusalem would miss Menelaus. He had become high priest because his brother Onias had been high priest before him.  But when Onias had sent Menelaus to deliver the yearly taxes to Antiochus IV,  Menelaus had included a little extra from himself, a bribe, and suddenly Onias was no longer high priest,  Menelaus was. So you can see why Antiochus IV tended not to think very highly of the high priests of Judaism, and now, neither did the people of Jerusalem. Menelaus slipped a little more in public opinion when his brother Onias died while cleaning his sword -  bad luck.  So the Jews of Jerusalem were not really sorry to see Menelaus running for the hills.
But King Antiochus IV(above) was sorry.  Menelaus might have been a sniveling bottom feeder, but he was the King's sniveling bottom feeder.  And then there was that whole “got to show them whose the boss” dynamic going on.   And Antiochus IV had an army which  had been expecting a rich sacking of Alexandria, which the Romans had put the kibosh to.  So in the dog days of August 169 B.C., everything was pointing toward a very bad day for Jerusalem. And it came.
It seems – oops - somebody had left the city gates open. So the Slecuid army marched right in, as the trouble maker Mattathias slipped out the back door.  First the Slecuid  soldiers stripped the Jewish temple of everything of value -  everything not already sold to pay taxes to Antiochus IV, or stolen earlier by the Babylonians and the Egyptians when they each sacked Jerusalem.  Really there couldn't have been that much left to steal.  But whatever was left, Antiochus IV took it. And then, according to the holy text, Second Macabbees, “And he commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met and to slay those who went into the houses.”.
The primary non-religious source for what happened was the Jewish radical turned Roman informer, Josephus.  He says that over three days Antiochus IV murdered 44,000 people in Jerusalem,  and sold another 44,000 women and children into slavery.  Antiochus IV then built a citadel right next to the Jewish temple, which he stocked with a permanent garrison.  Then he had the Jewish temple re-dedicated.  On the altar where Menelaus had sacrificed goats to honor Yahweh, the Greek priests now sacrificed pigs to honor Zeus.  Antiochus IV also issued a decree forbidding circumcision - (who was the lucky guy who got to check on that? ). It seemed the Jews had finally ticked off one King too many. Surely they had learned their lesson.
But, a year later human nature, or maybe it was Yahweh,  intervened.  In 168 BC, the rising empire of Parthia captured the Afghanistan city of Heart (Hair-it). This was an important because  the region around Herat was the bread basket of  Slecuid empire, and sat astride their primary  trade route with India. We're talking a major loss of taxes, here.  So Antiochus IV had to turn eastward to deal with the upstart Parthians.  But he did not forget the troublesome Jews.  He ordered his governor of Syria, a nobleman named Lysias  “to conquer Judea, enslave its inhabitants, utterly destroy Jerusalem and abolish the whole nation."
In 167 B.C. Lysias dispatched four divisions to accomplish this task. As they marched on Jerusalem, Mattathias, who had reappeared,  now  organized the faithful.  However, because he was a religious fanatic, Mattathias insisted that all his soldiers strictly adhere to Jewish law - that's what they were fighting for, wasn't it?  Unfortunately the Slecuid army did not recognize the Jewish Sabbath, and on a Saturday they attacked the first Jewish village in their way.  Following the law, and Mattathias' orders, the villagers refused to do any work on the sabbath, even refusing to lift a weapon to defend themselves.  All 1,000 of them were slaughtered. After this Mattathias was replaced as leader of the revolt by his son, Judah. And under him, the Jews decided to compromise on the religious issues and fight, twenty-four, seven.
It turns out the new Jewish leader, Judah ben Mattathias was pretty good at it.  In 166 B.C. Judah fell on the Slecuid supply base at Emmaus, killing its 3,000 man garrison, capturing a huge cache of weapons and food, and forcing half the Seleucid army to retreat.  A year later he beat the other half of the Slecuid army at Beth-zur, forcing them, again, to retreat.  It was battles like this that earned him the nickname of Judah the Hammer, or in Hebrew, Judah Maccabees.   Shortly after this victory, word again arrived that Antioschus IV was dead.  Except this time he really was.  He'd been in Babylon, struggling to prepare a counter attack against the Parthians, when he suddenly dropped dead. He might have been sick, or maybe it was Yahwah's payback,  but I think it even more likely, he'd been poisoned.  In any case, his young son, Antiochus V, now inherited what was left of the empire.
Lysias immediately had himself declared Antioschus V's guardian, which put the Governor in charge of the entire empire. Lysias ordered an end to efforts to retake Heart, and in 165 B.C. he marched for a third time on Jerusalem. Third times the charm, right? This time Lysias came by the southern road, catching the Hammer off guard. This time Lysias actually laid siege to Jerusalem. This time it looked as if the clock had run out for the Jews. This time there was nobody to save them. And then out of nowhere appeared a guy named Phillip, (the royal governor of Babylon, actually), who had been with Antioschus IV when he died.  Phillip claimed that on his death bed Antioschus IV had asked him, Phillip, to raise the king's son, now known as Antioschus V.  That would make Phillip the regent, not Lysias.  Lysias did not believe a word of it. Would you?  But Lysias still had to deal with Philip’s army.  And one morning Judah looked out from walls of Jerusalem, and saw...nobody. The entire Slecuid army had mysteriously disappeared. It was a miracle. As long as you did not notice the whole Slecuid civil war going on.
Judah Maccabees ordered a a new altar built for the temple, and declared 8 days of “sacrifice and songs” for its re-dedication. The pigs were out, Yahweh was back in. There was only one problem. Tradition said in re-dedicating the Temple required the temple's  menorah lamps to burn every night, all night, during the celebration.  But there was only enough oil for one night. What to do?
Now if it was me, I would have ordered the nine lamps on the menorah to be publicly lit at sundown each night, as usual. And then a half hour after sundown,  after the faithful had gone home to bed, the priests would quietly extinguish the lamps. This way, instead of burning through all the oil in one eight hour winter's night, the lamps would burn for a about an hour each night, for eight nights. And I think that maybe that was what the Hammer did. But then, I am a non-believer. And priest are in the business of believing, even in miracles. And the truth is, miracles don't happen without a little help from somebody. Who that help comes from depends on who and what you believe in. Anyway....
It was the first Hanukkah, the first festival of the lights. Two thousand years later it is not a very important Jewish holiday, and about the only one in which women play a leading role. Each of the eight nights a woman first lights the “shamash”, the central candle or lamp, used to illuminate the entire ritual. On each successive night , the shamash is then used to light one candle more each night until all eight are burning. In each Jewish home they are displayed in a window or an exterior door, “to illuminate the house outside” the home. And as they do so, the women recite the Hanukkah prayer.
“We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salivations.”
Lysias defeated and killed Philip in 163 B.C.. But in 162 B.C. Lysias was defeated by Demetrius I, who had been Antiochus IV's older brother and Antiochus V's uncle. Being the older brother, Demetrius was supposed to have been made King first. But when their father died, Demetrius was being held as the official hostage in Rome. So it turned out Antiochus IV had been a usurper, which made his defeat in 162 B.C.,  payback. Demetrius executed both Lysias, and the boy king Antiochus V. Demetrius then tried to reconquer the Jews, but the Fighting Maccabees  held him off for ten years, until Demetrius was killed by a new usurper in 150 B.C. It was the end of the Slecuid empire.
The next empire to come marching down the coast road of Judea would be the Romans. And they and the Jews would have their own problems, strongly reminiscent of the ones the Jews and Slecuid's had shared. They say some people never learn. But I think most people never learn, certainly not in the middle east.
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Monday, December 11, 2017

ANOTHER CRAZY POLITICIAN

I found myself wondering how, over my lifetime,  politicians got so crazy.  And then I was reminded of Representative Marion Anthony Zioncheck,  He toiled for almost a decade in the lumber camps north of Seattle,  to earn his college tuition. When finally in law school he was elected class president, and then campaigned for a new student union building.  His successful tactics so offended the football team they shaved his head and dumped him in a fountain. As a successful criminal attorney he was often cited for contempt, once appealing a $25 fine all the way to the Washington State Supreme Court. Then in November of 1932 the Democrat won a Republican seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by 12 percentage points.
"This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multi-tiered management structure. It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring."
Governor Eliot Spitzer, explaining a Staten Island vice ring
In 1934 Marion Anthony Zioncheck was a freshman in the 73rd Congress, one of 311 Democrats to just 117 Republicans. And while this was the congress famous for the Hundred Days of New Deal legislation, the 31 year old Marion earned his reputation as an intellectual bully, calling his G.O.P. colleges “fools and jackasses”.  He was once invited to “step out into the hall” so Republican William Ekwall of Oregon could “deal with him.”  In a 1934 floor speech he referred to the director of the F.B.I., J. Edgar Hoover, as a dictator and a “master of fiction”.  That was politics as usual, but Marion then had a truckload of manure dumped on Hoover's front lawn. That was not usual politics, and the folks back on Puget Sound loved it.  Marion was re-elected that year by an even bigger margin.
"The attractive lady...dropped into my lap....I chose not to dump her off."
Senator Gary Hart explaining a photo of Donna Rice sitting on his lap
In April of 1935, as part of the normal grease which helps the House to function, fellow Democrat Thomas Blanton from Texas sought to remove from the official record some of Zioncheck's more nasty attacks on Republicans. But Marion refused to allow it. To make a point he suggested, “I want it put in the record that Mr. Blanton is a son of Texas”. Marion then offered to have the offensive word “Texas” removed, and replaced by a blank space.
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country"
Mayor Marion Barry explaining his cities' high murder rate
Fellow Democratic Congressman Blanton called Zioncheck's suggestion “ridicules and asinine”. Marion protested the word “asinine” as “un-parlimentary”. The Congressional staff were forced to look up the exact definition in a dictionary. The interruption only angered Blanton more, and in finishing he slipped and refereed to Zioncheck as the “gentleman from New York”. Anyone else would have ignored the gaff, but Marion pounced, sneering at his fellow Democrat, “I long ago learned not to describe the beauty of a morning sunrise to a cat.” Blanton leapt to his feet, and stormed toward Marion, who met him with balled fists. They were separated by fellow members and Congressman Zioncheck's remarks, now including the ones about Blanton, were removed by vote of 272 to 0. Even Zioncheck did not vote to retain them.
"I actually did vote for the $87 billion, before I voted against it."
Sen. John Kerry explaining his voting record
Just after midnight on January 1st, 1936, Marion stumbled into the lobby of a D.C. apartment building and hot wired the intercom so he could call every tenant at once. He identified himself and then wished them all a happy New Year. His sleepy victims did not appreciate the gesture, but the press did. It seemed some one had begun keeping newspapers notified of Marion's adventures -  as when early in the morning a few weeks later the congressman was stopped by capital police doing 60 miles an hour up Connecticut Avenue. Marion paid a $25 fine. Then in April, it happened again. This time the speed was 70 miles per hour. Marion paid a $45 fine, and the the judge slapped on a $20 fine for contempt. The papers began calling him the 'Salon Congressman” - as in "saloon", and “the House's Bad Boy”. It was even reported he had driven his roadster on the White House lawn. And when the White House did not strongly defend him, Marion mailed President Roosevelt a package of empty beer bottles and some mothballs, with no explanation.
"About this time, the Congressman's  car was stopped by the Park Service and Mrs. Battistella was able to open the door... The next thing I knew she was in the water."
Congressman Wilbur Mills explaining how his date, aka stripper Fanny Foxe, ended up in the Potomac River
In April Marion met a 21 year old Works Progress Administration typist from Texarkana, Texas, named Rubye Louise Nex. Marion explained to Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, "I met her about a week ago, then she called me up one night. She asked me down and so I went down and looked her over. She was OK.” Marion asked the Secretary to officiate at their wedding, but the Ickes demurred. So Marion and Rubye crossed into Maryland, which had no waiting period for marraiges.. Rubye told the papers “excitement and hubbub” just seemed to follow her new husband,  and she was “glad to go along with him”.
"American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains."
Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell explaining why she does not trust science
They decided to honeymoon in Florida, but were stopped almost immediately in Alexandria, Virginia, and charged with speeding. Marion posted a $200 bond, and continued on his honeymoon. Four days later their trip was interrupted again, 2 ½ miles south of Shallotte, North Carolina, when a county sheriff pulled Marion over, supposedly because that morning he had missed his court date back in Virginia. The head line read “Zioncheck Again Arrested”, and though one might wonder how in 1934 a county sheriff  had heard within four hours about a missed court appearance 300 miles away, no one in Washington thought to ask that. When Alexandria refused to pay for Representative Zioncheck's  extradition over a misdemeanor, the couple was released - but for the rest of the trip to Miami, Rubye did the driving.
"The governor is hiking the Appalachian Trail."
Spokesman for South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford
At this moment the Peurto Rician legislature passed a bill applying for statehood status. American congressional leadership asked Marion, since he was in Miami, to check out the situation. Marion and his new bride flew there on Monday, May 7th, and what they found was not what Roosevelt's appointed governor, Blanton Winslip, had been telling the White House. Their car was chased by rock throwing youths, shouting nationalistic chants. But the White House was not prepared to listen, telling Marion the governor “is the sole and competent authority to carry out this government's policy”. So Marion went public, warning the Associated Press, “The United States ought to either get in or get out of here. This thing is like a snowball. It grows.” But Marion had under rated the damage already done to his reputation, and his report was dismissed as the ravings of a drunken lunatic.
"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under...President Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence."
Representative Michele Bachmann, attempting to explain the 2011 flue outbreak.
On his return to New York, two weeks later, Marion entertained several reporters in his hotel room, even inventing a new drink -  cough syrup, honey and rye, which he dubbed a “zipper”, as in 'zip your lip'. But if Marion thought this meeting was off the record he was sadly mistaken. The alcoholic invention was duly reported, and afterwards the couple were dared by photographers to wade into a fountain. Which they both did. The headlines shouted, “Zionchecks Go For A Paddle”.
"How's my favorite young stud doing?"
Congressman Mark Foley, e-mailing a 16 year old male page
Back in Washington at the end of May, Marion found his apartment occupied by the woman he was subletting from, Mrs. Benjamin Young, who thought he was unfit to be either a Congressman or rent her property.  Despite the Zioncheck's lease having another five months to run, she refused to leave. So all three occupied the one bedroom together. Marion returned to work the next day, riding a bicycle to the capital as a publicity stunt and to avoid any further traffic tickets. But as a pedestrian he was arrested by Alexandria police Sargent George Helmuth, for that missed court appearance. He was only in jail long enough for a few more press photos to be taken , which made the front pages from D.C. to Seattle.
"PETA is not happy that my dog likes fresh air."
Governor and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, explaining why he strapped his dog on the roof of a station wagon
A few days later, after yet another confrontation with Mrs. Young,  Marion dragged the screaming and kicking woman out into the hallway, where he dumped her. Luckily the press was on hand to snap more photos. These headlines read, “Zioncheck Puts Woman To Rout”, and “Zioncheck Checks Out Landlady”.  Mrs. Young claimed a broken hip, but refused to be examined. Reporters quoted her as saying, “We've got to see whether this country is going to be run by Bolshevism or Americanism” Mrs Young insisted the police report her as 92 years old.  Her driver's license said she was 42.
"Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn't breathe and four guys jumped on top of me."
Congressman Eric Massa explaining his boisterous lifestyle
Rubye could take no more of the circus, and walked out. And while she was gone, Marion threw a temper tantrum, tossing dishes and furniture about the apartment. Eventually the police were called again, and Anthony was arrested again. This time a friend bailed him out, but warned him the Democrats would offer no further public support. From this Marion became convinced that his 21 year old bride had been kidnapped by the 66 year old Vice President, fellow Democrat John Nance. The next time the police responded to his bizarre behavior, Marion was committed to a hospital for "mental observation".
"I said a little prayer before I actually did the fingerprint thing, and the picture."
Congressman Tom Delay, explaining why he is smiling in his mug shot
They locked him up in the Gallinger Municipal Hospital Psychopathic Ward, aka the Washington Asylum. Rubye came to the hospital, but only to speak with Marion's doctors.  During his three week evaluation, Marion announced he would not run for re-election. Just as a grand jury was convening to consider his sanity, Marion's friends got him shipped to a clinic in Baltimore, Maryland. He stayed there for a few days, before climbing a fence and disappearing. He surfaced a week later with Rubye in Chicago, fresh and seemingly recovered, and boarded a train for Seattle.
"I wish we lived in the day where you could challenge a person to a duel."
Senator Zell Miller explaining how much he disagreed with interviewer Chris Matthews
On his return home, Marion's mother urged him to run for re-election, saying it was the only way to prove he was not crazy. And on Monday, August 3, 1936, Marion paid the $100 fee and filed papers to run again in November. That night he told a Seattle radio station, “I have been pictured as a vicious wide eyed radical ever since I was president of the student body at the University of Washington. Now I'm going to go back to congress...I'm going to clear up of things that were falsely said about me.” He opened a campaign office on the 5th floor of the Arctic building (now a hotel) in downtown Seattle, at the corner of Third Avenue and Cherry Street. But Rubye insisted Marion see a psychiatrist, which he finally did on the afternoon of Friday, August 7th, ,  when he was evaluated by Dr. Edward Hoedemaker.
"First of all it happened during a period after she was in remission from cancer."
Senator John Edwards, explaining the timing of his infidelity while his wife' was suffering from cancer.
Doctor Hoedemaker warned Rubye and Marion's brother-in-law, Bill Nadeau, who were to drive him to a political meeting that night, that they should keep a close eye on the congressman. After leaving the doctor's office they stopped off at Marion's headquarters in the Arctic building  so Marion could pick up some papers before addressing a postal workers banquet. When he did not come out after a few minutes, Bill went in after him. He found the office locked. A janitor opened the door, revealing Marion writing at his desk.
"If you are not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."
Congresswoman Katherine Harris, explaining her reasons for being a Republican
Bill looked at what Marion was writing, which he assumed were remarks for that night's meeting. The note read, “"My only hope in life was to improve the condition of an unfair economic system that held no promise to those that all the wealth of even a decent chance to survive, let alone live." The note made no sense to Bill, so he told Marion, , “Come on, kid. We'll be late. Forget it”. As his charge stood up,  Bill held up Marion's suit jacket for him to put on. But instead Marion made a dive for the open window.  Desperately Bill reached for the Congressman's feet. By the time he reached the window, Marion was already dead on the sidewalk five floors below.
"I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."
New York City Mayor David Dinkins, explaining why he did not pay his taxes
Marion Anthony Zioncheck tumbled 60 feet past the cream white terra cotta exterior of the Arctic building, and landed on his head, spattering a passing loan broker, W.H. McFarlane, with his blood and brains. Rubye was the next to reach the body. She fainted on the sidewalk. Two thousand attended Marion's funeral, at which the Reverend Fred Shorter called him “a shell shocked comrade who died at the barricades, fighting to the very last for the poor and dispossessed.” It might be added,  with hindsight, that Marion was at least a manic-depressive who was self medicating with alcohol, or at worst a victim of schizophrenia, which often onsets during the late twenties and early thirties. But whatever his illness, he was certainly not helped by the soulless cut-throat nature of Washington politics. But it makes me wonder why so many of those drawn into politics are so freaking nuts, to begin with. And why we keep electing them.
"If God had not intended for us to eat animals, how come he made them out of meat?"
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
(All clippings from Marion Zioncheck Papers, University of Washington Libraries.
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