AUGUST 2014

AUGUST  2014
MONEY AND POLITICS - 1884

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ITS NEVER JUST A JOKE

I recently came across an old English music hall joke. A young Irish lad was warmly welcomed into an English pub , but after a few drinks the boy got a sad look about him. He explained he appreciated the comradeship, but missed his corner pub back home. “The first time you set foot in the place”, he explained , “they'd buy you a drink, then another, all the drinks you like. Then when you've finally had enough, they'd take you upstairs and make sure you get laid.” The English patrons were skeptical, and the barkeep asked how many times the Irish lad had experienced this welcome. “Never”, he admitted.“But it happened to my sister quite a few times.” Is that a racist joke?
After almost thirty years of successful publishing in Glasgow, Scotland, Belfast, Ireland, and Manchester and London, England, James Henderson finally hit the mother lode in a penny tabloid weekly magazine, “Our Young Folks Weekly Budget”. Its 16 pages of action art work and adventure fiction dominated the youth market through various incarnations for 26 years.( Henderson paid Robert Louis Stevens a pound per column for “Treasure Island”, which he serialized in “Young Folks”). And each noon, the savvy capitalist would meet with his editors, issuing detailed instructions for the flurry of newspapers and magazines – even a line of picture post cards - that cascaded from 169 Red Lion Court, Fleet street, each seeking to replicate “Young Folks” profit. Henderson had stumbled upon the concept of a speciality market.
A London Bobby asks two drunks for their names and addresses. The first answers, “I'm Paddy O'Day, of no fixed address.” And the second replies, “I'm Seamus O'Toole, and I live in the flat above Paddy.”
Beginning in 1831 royal taxes on newspapers were lowered by three-fourths. The response was instantaneous. New papers popped up like mushrooms after a rain. The industrial revolution was bringing people into the cities, and putting coins in their pockets. For the first time in history, that created consumers, which made advertising profitable (i.e. capitalism). More papers encouraged more people to read. By 1854, out of a population of 28 million, weekly newspaper sales in England had topped 122 million a year. In 1857 the last newspaper taxes were finally eliminated, triggering yet another wave – daily newspapers. It was this new customer vox populi that James Henderson and Sons were riding to success.
Paddy: Is your family in business? Seamus; Yes, iron and steel. My mother irons and my father steals
In December of 1874, Henderson created the first humor magazine in England, a sort of Victorian Daily Show in print, called “Funny Folks, The Comic Companion to the Newspaper”. The cover art for the first issue was drawn by John Proctor, who signed his work, “Puck”. “Funny Folks” proved so successful that Henderson released an entire line of humor magazines - “Big Comic”, “Lot-O-Fun” “Comic Life”, “Scraps and Sparks”. In 1892 came Henderson's most popular humor magazine, “Nuggets”
Bobby: “Madam, I could cite you for indecent exposure, walking down the street with your breast exposed like that.” Irish lass: “Holy Mary and Joseph, I left the baby on the bus.”
Like “Funny Folks”, Nuggets had its own featured artist, T.S. Baker, and his most popular creation was an Irish family living “in contented poverty” in South London - the Hooligans. The father, P. Hooligan, was a would-be entrepreneur, a member of the Shamrock Lodge. And his every scheme in some way involved his wheelbarrow, and the family goat. Mrs. Hooligan was fashion conscious, but always copying far above her economic station. And there were, of course, a hoard of unnamed ginger haired children about. It seems impossible to believe that the current term for violent law breakers, practitioners of practical anarchy, had its source with this gentle Irish family imitating proper Victorian society, but indeed, this is where the word originated - in the nine year run of a cartoon Irish family, drawn by an artist of ingenious and subtle talents. In person the Hooligans don't make an obvious racist image. But what did the intended audience see in this cartoon, that a hundred plus years later, we might not? And how is being called a Paddy in 1890, different from being hit with the “N” word, today?
Whats the first thing an Irish lass does in the morning? She walks home
The bigotry towards Ireland seems to have started about a thousand years ago, with Gerald of Wales, the ultra-orthodox chaplain to the English King Henry II, who joined his monarch in the church endorsed invasion of Ireland, and with his observation of the locals. “This is a filthy people, wallowing in vice. They indulge in incest, for example in marrying – or rather debauching – the wives of their dead brothers.” One would think a clergyman who had studied logic in Paris would have remembered Deuteronomy 25:5 - “...her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.” I guess it's easier to butcher people, if you can manage to despise them for whatever reason.
What do you call an Irishman with half a brain? Gifted
Illogically the English originally justified their oppression of the Irish because they were bringing them Catholicism. Then after their own Protestant reformation, the English used Catholicism to denigrate the Irish, calling them “cat licks” and “mackerel snappers” who ate fish on Fridays. With time the insults came to include local terrain (bog trotters) physical characteristics (carrot top), perceived laziness (narrow backs) and diet (potato heads, spud fuckers and tater tots for the children). Irish jokes (read insults) were standard fare in English music halls from the 1850's on, and always good for a laugh. And it was from this racism that the sophisticated simplicity of the Hooligans achieved something approaching an art form.
“What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake? One drink.”
James Henderson, and his son Nelson, may have been racists. History has failed to record their opinions outside of the business decisions they made. And it may be valid to label them with the black mark because of the Hooligans. And they did publish worse. But then they were publishers, not social activists. And like a music hall comic who told Irish jokes, they provided the public what the public wanted, or else they could not remain in business. Morality is an affect, not an effect. So were these purveyors of racist anti-Irish humor racists, or were they merely businessmen? And did the Hooligans transcend racism because it was so well done? You might as well ask Norman Lear if Archie Bunker made life easier for African Americans by calling them “jungle bunnies” on national television. In fact that question has been asked
“Paddy, he said you weren't fit to associate with pigs, but I stuck up for you. I said you most certainly were.”
Its hard for me to dismiss the Hooligans because they make me smile, and because they were a loving respectful family, and because they were always striving. But mostly because they make me smile. Why I laugh at them, tells a story about me, not them. It is a lesson every artist must learn at some point, the sooner the better. What is put on the page, is rarely what is seen there. It is the job of the artist to limit confusion. But you can never be completely understood. The most you can consistently hope to achieve is to entertain. Enlightenment is the responsibility of the reader, not the writer.
Bobby; "Where were you born?" Paddy; "Dublin". Bobby; "What part?"   Paddy; "All of me."
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Part Five

I think it was very clever of James Reavis to choose tiny  Saford, Arizona, capital of Graham County, to file his first claim related to the Peralita grant. The entire county had less than 5,000 residents in October of 1882 when James Reavis chose this as the spot to start his game. The collection of bars and stables built around water wells sat in a fertile nook of the barren Sonora-Chihuahuan Desert, at the foot of the isolated Pinaleno Mountains, 165 miles east of Phoenix. But it was only 30 miles west of the New Mexico territorial  border, and just 100 miles north of the border with old Mexico.  In short, it was not near anywhere else, except an exit should anyone react strongly..
Reavis filed his papers with the probate court, laying claim to George Willing's ownership of the Peralta grant. But other then stamping the date on his paperwork, the probate court lacked authority to judge the validity of the Peralta Grant itself. And Reavis did want them to. The town was now  within the confines of the grant, which ran into New Mexico, but could it be that the master forger was nervous? Or had he been traversing the empty dessert, leaving false clues to the grant's validity, and was now anxious to get started? It did not matter for long, because his next move made a very large and well publicized splash.
It was Tuesday, March 27, 1883, when an odd trio of villains stormed into the Tucson offices of Joseph W. Robbins, Surveyor General for the Arizona territory, and demanded service. First came the bewhiskered well dressed James Reavis (above), followed by Cryil Baratt, a dis-bard California lawyer and alcoholic, serving as James' legal adviser. One story says that Reavis found Cyril in a San Francisco gutter and the kindred spirits had formed an immediate bond. Bringing up the rear was a fire plug named Pedro Cuervo, carrying in three large trunks of documents, one after another. Pedreo was Reavis' new body guard and  enforcer. And once those trunks were opened, Reavis would need all the protection his wealthy California backers could afford.
His filing began boldly; “The petition of James Addison Reavis respectfully sets forth: That he is owner, by purchase from the legal heirs and representatives of the original grantee, of a certain tract of land (12 1/2 million acres - roughly from Phoenix, Arizona to Silver City,  New Mexico),  granted on the third day of January, 1758, by the Viceroy of New Spain to Don Miguel Peralta, Baron of the Coloradoes under royal decree of the King of Spain, directing such grant to be made to the said Peralta in consideration of and as a reward for distinguished military services rendered to the Crown in the war of Spain...”
Now, Joseph Robbins, might be the Surveyor General for the Arizona territory, but he was a political appointee, with no experience with a theodolite, .and he knew almost nothing about Spanish or Mexican history. He'd been a newspaper owner in Wichita, Kansas and a good Republican before receiving his current position. But as he watched his staff notarize the seemingly endless series of documents, many with what looked like the official stamps and seals of Spain and Mexico, a panic began to build in this throat. These men were laying claim to an area larger than the combined states of Maryland and New Jersey, with the District of Columbia thrown in as well..
Second of the documents was the typed translation of Phillip V's royal credula, dated December 20, 1740. This was followed by the report of the Mexican Inquisition favoring the grant, and the 1758 Mexican Viceroy's confirmation, then a statement written by Don Miguel Nemecio Silva de Peralta de la Corboda himself, describing the exact location he chose for the grant. Then from the trunk was drawn the petition from Peralta to Carlos III of Spain, requesting confirmation of the grant, followed by that confirmation, granted January 20, 1776,. in Madrid. Next Reavis produced a letter to Don Meguel's son, signed by Santa Ana, President of Mexico. There were even three photographs of pages from the record book of the Mission of San Xavier del Bac, showing the originals of the previous documents. Then Reavis and Cryil Baratt, produced a copy of Miguel Peralta's will, dated January 1788, and the 1864 quick claim bill of sale signed in Black Canyon, selling the entire grant over to George Willing . Last but not least, came the power of attorney from May Ann Willing to James Reavis. All of that was in the first trunk. And there were two more trunks of documents to go.
Public notice of the claim was now filed in newspapers in Tucson, Phoenix and Prescott. The reaction was strongest in Phoenix, the largest town which fell within the claim. Suddenly every business owner, home owner, mine owner and farmer knew their property rights were in question. The town's two newspapers, the Herald and the Gazette, both declared war on James Reavis. Both papers questioned the validity of the grant, urged their readers not to sign any agreements with Reavis, and condemned the practice of "quit claim" sales. It looked for a time that the territory would present a untied front. But almost immediately there were three serious defections.
The first to cut a deal with Reavis was Col. James M. Barney (above). He had bought the Silver King Mine a few years earlier, paying over half a million dollars. That mine was now digging on an 87 foot wide vein of silver ore, on three levels, the deepest 110 feet down, and was producing over $6 million of silver a year. In June of 1883 the old cavalryman paid Reavis $25,000 for a quit claim on his mine. It was chump- change to Barney, and just good business. But it sent a shiver down the spines of every other property owner in the territory.
This was followed by word that the Southern Pacific Railroad, which was building its way eastward toward Phoenix, had also bought a quitclaim for a right-of-way into the territory for $50,000. What the terrified residents did not know was that the owners of the S.P. -  Huntington, Crocker and their partners, were also the men who were funding Reavis and his vultures. In essence, the S.P. was paying itself for the right of way into Phoenix.
The next major defector was an even harder blow to resisters. Homer H. McNeil was a significant property owner in Phoenix, and the owner and publisher of The Gazette. When notice of the Peralta Grant had first appeared, his paper had joined the Herald, in urging residents to remain united in opposition. But rumors started when the Gazette began to tone down its editorials, and in November word was leaked to the Herald that McNeal had indeed paid a quit claim for all his property, including the Gazette's office. McNeal was threatened on the streets, and even his friends stopped speaking to him. The newspaperman tried to return his quit claim to Mr. Reavis, and get his money back.  But Reavis was no longer in town..
James Reavis and his lawyer Cryil Baratt were down in Guadalajara, looking over the shoulder of the man
Surveyor General Robbins had sent down to Mexico to investigate the claim -  Mr. Rufus C. Hopkins. But Rufus would prove to be a terrible choice as an investigator.
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Friday, August 22, 2014

RUNNING AGAINST SOCIAL SECURITY

I would say that Bertrand Snell is a shinning example of the “Peter Principle”. Bertrand (above, with his ideological opponent, FDR) started out life as a bookkeeper. Then he successfully ran a cheese factory, and then a lumber company in upstate New York. He was well qualified to fill all of those positions. For awhile he was the president of a small college. This success led, in 1915, to Bertrand being elected to congress. In 1931 he became the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. That led, in 1932, to his being elected Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. And that made him one of the primary architects of the disaster which befell the Republican Party the first time they ran against the brand new Social Security program of the New Deal in 1936. In short, it was Bertrand Snell’s fault. Of course, he had some help.
Herbert Hoover had not only lost the 1932 Presidential Election, he lost it by almost 18 percentage points. His ineffectualness at dealing with the Great Depression (the stock market crash had occurred just 6 months after he first took office) was so obvious that Herbert won only 6 states – Pennsylvania, Delaware, R.I., Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. And yet Herbert still had hopes he could engineer a come back. Yes, FDR’s New Deal had already created six million jobs, and had doubled industrial production and sent corporate profits from a $2 billion loss under Hoover to a $5 billion profit under Roosevelt. But there were still 8 million Americans unemployed, and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was charging that the new Social Security Administration was part of a fascist/communist take over of the federal government. Does any of this sound familiar?  Anyway, back to our story...
On June 9th, 1936, Herbert addressed the Republican National Convention in the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, and did his very best to rally the faithful to his cause. As Time Magazine detailed, “After 15 minutes (of) yelling, shrieking (and) hooting, (Hoover) was allowed to begin."
He warmed up quickly. According to Time, Hoover told the faithful, "Fundamental American liberties are at stake. Is the Republican Party ready…to cast your all upon the issue?" "Yes!" roared the crowd….".. have you determined to enter in a holy crusade for freedom which shall determine the future and the perpetuity of a nation of free men?" "Yes!" roared the crowd in ecstasy.” The faithful went on chanting “Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver,” long after Herbert had left the stage.
Noted Time; “The demonstration could not be stopped for half an hour, even when Speaker Snell tried to introduce a little old lady, surprisingly pert for her 77 years, the widow of President Benjamin Harrison.” Finally Bertrand banged his big gavel and informed the crowd that Herbert had already boarded a train for New York. Stunned, the floor demonstrators paused for a breath, and in vague confusion the demonstrations petered out. 
Except, Herbert had not even left the building. He was in fact, just off stage, waiting to be recalled by the carefully prepared demonstrations, and proclaimed the nominee by acclamation. That was his plan, anyway. But Bertrand had already determined that the party nominee would not be Hoover. It would be Governor Alf Landon, known affectionately to the faithful as “The Kansas Coolidge”. The party chairman had cut the ground out from under Hoover.
Alf, was the only Republican governor re-elected in 1934. He had a reputation as a fiscal conservative who cut taxes and balanced the state budget. That made him the Republican wonder-kid, the perfect man to oppose the “tax and spend” Roosevelt.
Alf's candidacy had a few problems, of course. What candidate does not? First; Landon had balanced the Kansas budgets because Roosevelt's New Deal had kicked in millions of dollars to offset the state's deficits. Second; Alf publicly supported so many parts of the New Deal, including Social Security, that he was at odds with the Republican party platform. Third; Alf was a terrible public speaker. He mumbled. And like any good mid-westerner, even when speaking clearly he didn’t blow his own horn very much. As H. L. Mencken noted, he "simply lacks the power to inflame the boobs."
The party platform that Alf was going to have to stand on had been engineered by Chairman Bertrand and forty-four year old John Daniel Miller Hamilton (above), the “crinkly haired” “jut-jawed” G.O.P. general counsel, who reeked of “animal vigor.” Hamilton was paid $15,000 a year to be the parties’ attack dog. He was described by one fellow Republican as having, “…a seven-devil lust to live and shine under the blessings of the rich”.  Both Bertrand and Hamilton were Af’s front men, and Hamilton had nominated the Kansas Governor. And to seal the deal, in his speech Hamilton read a telegram from Governor Landon promising to support the anti-New Deal anti-Social Security platform. 
Said the Republican platform; “For three long years the New Deal Administration has dishonored American traditions…has been guilty of frightful waste and extravagance, …has created a vast multitude of new offices, …set up a centralized bureaucracy, and sent out swarms of inspectors to harass our people. It has bred fear and hesitation in commerce and industry, thus discouraging new enterprises, preventing employment and prolonging the depression…We pledge ourselves: To preserve the American system of free enterprise, private competition, and equality of opportunity...We advocate: Abandonment of all New Deal policies that raise production costs, increase the cost of living, and thereby restrict buying, reduce volume and prevent reemployment. …”.  Sound familiar? It should. Basically, this has been the Republican Party Platform for the last seventy years!
But the platform saved its most vicious criticism for that newest New Deal program, Social Security. It was Social Security that had "energized the base".  As it was initially passed the program did not cover farm workers, the self employed, state, federal or local government workers, railroad workers, or domestics. There was no aid for the disabled, and there were no cost of living alliances. Still,the Republican platform for 1936 charged, "The New Deal policies, while purporting to provide social security, have, in fact, endangered it", and claimed that "the fund will contain nothing but the government's promise to pay" and is "unworkable".  Again, does any of this sound familiar? 
 
Bertrand had a master plan for victory, funded by a $14 million war chest (equal to $207.5 million today), with over a million of that coming from just three families – DuPont, Pew and Rockefeller – and the rest almost entirely from business leaders anxious to prevent further Federal regulations of their business. 
And then there was “The Liberty League,” described by one historian as “…the best-financed and the most professionally run…anti-big-government organization ever to come down the pike.” The League was the original "Astro-turf" pesudo-grassroots organization. It raised and spent as much cash as the two established parties combined (30% of it coming from the Koch brothers of the day,  the DuPont family). The League's  national headquarters occupied 31 rooms in the National Press Building, and there were 20 state branches. Hamilton confessed later, "Without Liberty League money we (the GOP) wouldn't have had a national headquarters."
The campaign that followed saw the constant repetition of the extremist scare tactic. The New Deal became “The Raw Deal”. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt became “Stalin Delano Roosevelt”. William Randolph Hearst asserted in a pro-Landon editorial, “The Bolshevist tyranny in Russian has ordered all Bolshevists, communists and revolutionaries in the Untied States to support Roosevelt!" It all sounds so familiar in the Obama Care World of 2014. Or the Republican attack on Social Security in 2012. The term "repetition" leaps to mind.
In late October 1936 the Republican National Committee sent checks for $5.00 to 400 black pastors in Maryland, along with a letter, which began, “Dear Brother,” and then argued that the G.O.P. had always done more to help blacks than the Democrats had - Not since the Civil War, but its the thought that counts, right?
The Young Republicans were founded during this election to get out the "youth" vote. And to encourage women to vote Republican, fashion shows were staged.  Every show would start with a woman wearing a wooden barrel on suspenders, marked, “If The New Deal Wins”, followed by lovely models in Paris designs, marked “If Landon Wins." Women were expected to be swayed by such "fashion politics".
A few weeks before the election, tens of thousands of workers opened their paychecks to find what looked like an official government notice. In fact it was from their bosses and the Republican Party, warning workers that if Roosevelt were re-elected, come January they would all suffer a 1% pay reduction. This prompted the head of the Social Security Board, a life long Republican, to issue an immediate response, asserting that ""Any political message in a worker's pay envelope is coercion. It is a new form of the old threat to shut down the mill if the employer's candidate isn't elected. We're supposed to be beyond that in this country."  Well, we are approaching a century later and we still aren't!
Finally, Landon himself was coaxed into actually speaking out against Social Security, and joining the anti-Social Security bandwagon. In a Milwaukee speech, he called the program ""unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted and wastefully financed."  It was socialism, communism, and an attempt at the redistribution of wealth. And it would bankrupt the nation in a year. Or maybe two. Almost a century later, and the Republicans are still predicting its immanent demise.
However, it appears that most Americans saw all of this Republican effort in the same light as that expressed by the voter,  who said that Roosevelt was "the first man in the White House to understand that my boss is a son-of-a-bitch"  In 1936 the Democrats came out swinging, including FDR, as illustrated in a speech he delivered in Boston, and which he wrote himself. “In the summer of 1933", said FDR, "a nice old gentleman fell off a pier. He was unable to swim. A friend ran down the pier, dived overboard and pulled him out. But his silk hat floated away with the tide. After the old gentleman was revived he was effusive in his thanks. He praised his friend for saving his life. Today, three years later, the old man is berating his friend because the silk hat was lost.”
The election of November 3, 1936 was the most lopsided since James Monroe ran unopposed in 1820. Eighty-three percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls and Roosevelt won almost 61% of their vote. He carried every state in the union except Vermont and Maine, giving rise to the Democratic twist on the old adage, “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont”. 
Roosevelt won 532 electoral votes to Landon’s 8. Seventy-one percent of Americans of African decent voted Democratic, as well as 57% of women, 63% of men, 76% of low income voters, 80% of Catholics and 86% of Jewish voters. After the election the Democrats held the Senate, 75-16, and the House, 332 to just 88 Republicans.
Landon would admit that his attack upon Social Security had been a mistake, and henceforth he publicly opposed any attempt to dismantle this New Deal program. John D. Hamilton would say after the election, "The Lord himself couldn't have beaten Roosevelt in 1936, much less the Liberty League." Maybe; but the election was the death knell of the Liberty League. They lingered into 1940, when the DuPont family finally pulled their funding, and the group then quietly died. Long before that John Hamilton had his own reactionary reckoning. 
In 1937 Hamilton's wife sued him for divorce, on the grounds of “gross neglect of duty, abandonment and extreme cruelty.” That same year Alf Landon had Hamilton removed as Party Chairman, as Landon tried to rebuild the party in his own Midwestern less reactionary less-ideological image.
Under Landon's non-red baiting non-FDR hating conservative guidance the party stopped trying to overturn all of the New Deal and began to climb its way back. The Republicans would gain strength until 1948 when it looked like they were certain to regain the White House. But late in that campaign they gloated too publicly about finally eliminating Social Security,  and that handed Harry Truman his come-from-behind re-election. It was not until Ronald Reagan in his 1981 inauguration speech that the G.O.P again openly called for overturning substantial parts of New Deal programs. But even Reagan knew better that to attack Social Security. 
The 1936 election left Bertrand Snell, the leader of smallest Republican Minority in the House of Representatives since the Civil War. He was one of the few Republicans re-elected in 1936. But he did not run again in 1938. Instead, he went into the newspaper business. He published the "Potsdam, New York Courier-Freeman" and ran it until 1949. He also became the owner of the New York State Oil Company. He was ably qualified for both of those jobs. He died in 1958, while a Republican occupied the White House. That Republican was Dwight D. Eisenhower, He was a national hero, and a product of the Landon influence. But the conservative wing of the GOP charged that "Ike"was a Republican In Name Only, and his administration was nothing better than a "little New Deal" administration. 
It seemed that with time, the Grand Old Party is determined to forget the lesson Bertrand Snell had sacrificed himself to teach them, and which Alf Landon had given so much to drive home to the party faithful. Running against Social Security is political suicide. And now so is the Affordable Care Act.. 
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