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The Capitalist Crucify the Old Man - 1880's


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Friday, December 05, 2008


I once despised Bill O’Reilly. It was exhausting. Nowadays repetition has reduced Bill (in my mind at least) to a boring Muzak for imbeciles. As an example, there was his November 18th program where he hosted "Faux News” "anchor” John Gibson in their joint return to the ancient happy ratings hunting grounds of his “The War On Christmas”. First O’Reilly read a list of those store chains he claims are no longer telling their customers, “Merry Christmas”, including "Toys R Us", but only because they are, “…simply not going to answer our questions, so we assume that means they’re not using “Merry Christmas” – as opposed to "Toys are Us" not being willing to engage in any of Bill’s reindeer games. Mr. Gibson parroted O'Reilly, “We don’t call it the Christmas break. It’s the winter break, as if people worship winter.” Sigh. Okay, once more into the breach, dear friends.

First, I am sorry to inform Mr. Gibson, but the facts are that first we celebrated winter, and later Christmas was grafted on. Passing over (pun intended) the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia, Juvenalia and the birth of Mithra, because all three of those gods predate Jesus by hundreds if not thousands of years, it must be noted that the birth day of all three of those gods was celebrated on December 25th., long before any angels had been harkened to Bethlehem. And besides, for the first 300 years after the crucifixion, the birth of Christ was not celebrated at all. The Christian writer Origen of Alexandria pointed out that only sinners like Herod and the Pharaohs of Egypt celebrated their birthdays. And Arnobius the Elder of Sicca, argued around 300 A.D., that it was foolish to even think of any god, let alone "The God", as having a “birth” day at all. After all, the implication of birth, is death.But are Bill et al discussing a war on the birth of Christ or war on the birth of Christmas? Ah, there’s the rub. According to some, such as the De Pasch Comutus, c. 243 A.D., Christ was born on the 19th or 20th of April, or perhaps as early as March 28th or as late as September 29 (Rosh Hashannah?) sometime about 5 B.C. The interpolations of New Testament passages supporting all of these dates is supported by Luke, Chapter two verse eight: “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night”. No shepherd in their right mind is going to be sleeping outside in December, not even in Palestine where it is common for the nighttime December temperatures to fall below freezing.On the other hand we actually know the day and year that the Christ’s Mass was first celebrated: January 6, 354 A.D. This date was not the birth date but the circumcision date of Jesus, relabeled as either the Epiphany or the “Adoration of the Magi”, to avoid reminding Christians that Jesus started out life as a nice Jewish boy. (In the Catholic calendar the circumcision is now assumed to have been on New Year’s Day.) Any way, you back up 12 days from the circumcision, as is Jewish custom, to give any newborn ample opportunity to die after the birth, and you arrive at December 25th, God's birthday. Merry Christmas, Bill, you self centered popinjay.Now, given Mr. Gibson’s level of alleged ignorance, perhaps we should start his education with the late December Norse celebration of Yule, or the mid-winter games celebrating the birth of the god Oden, or the hanging of Holy to celebrate the birth of the god Saturn, or the gift giving to children that celebrated the midwinter birth of the god Jove. Or maybe we should celebrate a Pilgrim Christmas, when to repeat the phrase Mr. Gibson professes to love so much would have earned him an arrest and a fine of 5 shillings, or about a weeks’ earnings. Now that was a real war against Christmas, Bill.

Our Pilgrim forefathers considered Christmas a display of “popish” extravagance inspired by Satan, and not without some justification. Until the 19th century Christmas was usually celebrated by drunken riots. The city council of New York finally voted to pay for a special uniformed Christmas day police force after a particularly deadly Christmas evening riot in 1828. But that didn’t stop a repeat in 1851 when the New York Tribune noted the “…musketry and firecrackers, the bacchanal songs and noisy revels, which for two hours after midnight made sleep not a thing to be dreamed of.”

And, if you really needed any more of an excuse to riot on Christmas day there was always religion. In 1853, on Christmas day, a largely Irish Catholic police force for Cincinnati did battle with a largely German (Protestant) mob that had started out marching to celebrate the purity of the Protestant view of Christmas over the Catholic view of Christmas. So, by all means, Bill and John, let us rabble rouse another riot between religions. It ought to be great for your ratings. Or maybe you ratings- tramps already knew that little piece of American religous history and were counting on it, the way a pyromanic counts on gasoline.You see, this is why I no longer take Bill O’Reilly seriously. Either he is an idiot, which make his idiotic pontifications infuriating because they are so widely spread, or he is well educated enough to know his pontifications are idiotic, which makes him all the more infuriating because his hypocrisy is so widely repeated as faith. It doesn’t matter which line of logic you follow about Bill O’Reilly, because they both lead nowhere. It is important to remember that Bill O’Reilly is just the latest in an endless line of rabble rousers selling nothing more substantial than their own egos. When a statue of a great man or woman erodes it at least leaves behind pebbles, which become soil which can support new life. When Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson erode (and they will) they leave behind nothing that can support life. They are both of them, intellectually, morally and figuratively, dead ends

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Thursday, December 04, 2008


I believe that the term “governor” and “corruption” have been synonymous since at least 70 B.C. when Cicero (above) made the legal case against Caius Verres, the Roman governor of Sicily. Amongst a host of other allegations, Cicero charged that Verres had famously stripped the interior of that contented island of everything of value, and then forced the city of Syracuse to build and crew a new ship each year to transport Verres’ plunder back to Rome, where he kept the plunder and sold the ship. And kept the money. Before the prosecution had even finished its case, on the advice of his own lawyer, Verres fled Italy with a fair part of his wealth still intact. We know this because years later Mark Anthony had Verres executed, in order to steal what Verres had stolen from Sicily. The murder of corrupt Roman officials by other corrupt Roman officials had, by then, become part of the circle of life.
Fifteen hundred years later the image of the corrupt governor had changed very little, except in nationality. A prime example was William Crosby (above), who was English governor of Minorca (the name means “the lesser island”). The strategic little island is 200 miles off the coast from Barcelona, Spain and 300 miles west of Sardinia. The British Navy had just seized the island from the Spanish in 1708, and the Treaty of Utrecht had not officially awarded it to England until 1713, leaving the Spanish population far from resigned to British rule. So in 1718 the British government could not afford to just look the other way when Governor Crosby seized a shipload of snuff, valued at nine thousand pounds sterling. The problem was that Crosby had just mugged a local power broker. His name was Bonaventura Capedvilla, a Portuguese merchant and it had been his snuff that had been filched by Crosby. Capedvilla contended that he had paid the import duties on the snuff, and when the local authorities began to ask questions, Governor Crosby simply refused to allow them access to government documents. But Capedvilla was wealthy enough and powerful enough to fight back against Crosby. Besides, Portugal was an English ally in their war against Spain, and the British government really could not afford to offend one of Portugal's richest citizens. So SeƱor Capedvilla appealed directly to the Privy Counsel in London, and eventually, in 1722, they requested a look at the documents themselves. When Crosby eventually responded, (in 1724) it was immediately clear that the importation papers he offered as proof had been “tampered” with. In other words they had been forged. The Privy Council finally (in 1728) ordered Crosby to pay Capedvilla ten thousand pounds sterling. He did but it did great damage to his personal bank account. The Coouncil also decided that perhaps it would be better if Crosby were governor of some other island not quite so vital to the security of Great Britain. And that could end up hurting his bank account even more.In 1730, as Governor Crosby packed his bags to take up his new posting to the Leeward Islands off the north coast of Venezuela, he received word that John Montgomerie, the royal Governor of New York and New Jersey in America, had just dropped dead of a stroke. Immediately William Crosby made his way to London to pay a little visit to Thomas Pelham-Holles, the duke of Newcastle. Newcastle had been the secretary of state for the Southern Department, which included everything in America south of Canada. He was also a first cousin to Grace Montague, who was Cosby’s wife. And Newcastle was ever happy to see another relative doing well in government service.And that was why, in 1731, William Crosby arrived in New York armed with the royal seal of approval and carrying his own particular brand of insensitive and clumsy avariciousness still intact. To quote one of Crosby’s staunchest critics, "The Government of New York by the death of Coll Montgomerie came seasonably in (Crosby’s) way to repair his broken fortune." When a New Yorker later pointed out that one of Crosby’s actions was illegal, he answered directly, “How, gentlemen, do you think I mind that: alas! I have great interests in England, of the Dukes of New Castle, Montague and Lord Halifax." Now that is arrogance with its mask off.When Montgomerie had died, 71 year old Rip Van Dam (above) was asked by the colonial council to step in to manage the colony. Shortly after his arrival in New York, William Crosby asked Van Dam to turn over half of the salary he had collected since Montgomerie’s death. That was actually a fairly common practice in the British Empire, but Van Dam was a survivor of the Dutch power structure (they had founded the colony) and he did not take kindly to the rude manners and uneducated brashness of the new royal governor. He told Crosby that by his calculations Crosby actually owed him four thousand pounds. Crosby did not find that very funny, and in August of 1732 he sued Van Dam for half of his salary.Crosby was of course, not going to allow a jury to tell him what was legal. So he instructed the Colonies’ three judge Supreme Court to hear the case. Van Dam challenged the legality of that order, and his challenge was argued before…the three judges of the Supreme Court. Their vote was two-to-one, in Crosby’s favor. Crosby then ordered the dismissal of Chief Justice Lewis Morris, the only court member with the courage to vote against the governor. Justice Morris laid out his reasons for opposing Crosby’s actions in a letter he had printed up by the “second” printer in the colony, Mr. John Peter Zenger. The success of that broadsheet in rallying the citizens against Corsby convinced certain wealthy citizens to start an opposition newspaper, the weekly “New York Gazette”, again using the printing press operated by Mr. Zenger. Crosby paid little attention, as he was busy stealing land from the Indians, from the original Dutch settlers and from recent English immigrants. But finally, after certain colonists complained about him to London, Crosby decided to take action. In November of 1734 he ordered Zenger arrested.And that is how a lowly German immigrant - Peter Zenger - who could barely spell in English, became the center of the first great confrontation between Americans seeking “Liberty and Justice” and the caprice of a Royal prerogative. In the trial on August 5, 1734, an American jury decided that the truth of an allegation was a valid defense against libel, and found Zenger not guilty.
"Truth" was not an accepted legal argument against libel at the time, and it would be some years before it would gain acceptance. But long before that happened Governor William Crosby had answered to a higher court. In early March of 1736 the pompus jerk died of tuberculosis at the Governor’s house, in New York City. He was buried in St. George’s Chapel (below), but in 1788 the post-revolutionary American governor of New York had the last word on the old royal governor, when he ordered Crosby's remains be moved to the graveyard at St. Paul’s Church, and dumped in an unmarked grave.And good riddance, to him.
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I admit I smiled when it turned out that Martin Eisenstadt, the McCain campaign staffer who admitted being the source behind the “Sara Palin is an idiot” leaks, turned out to be Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin, two idiots who actually took the time to “Punk” the media. But I smiled at the adolescence of the thing, not the inventiveness. This is like claiming credit for inventing the “Get the Ball-Where’s the ball” game with your dog. It’s been done before; a lot.
In August of 1835 the “Penny Dreadful” New York Sun published a series of articles entitled “Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel…” John Herschel was a famous astronomer who was the son of a famous astronomer and using a new telescope he reported that he had observed on the moon “…nine species of mammalian …” including tail-less beavers that walked on two legs and lived in huts, unicorns and four foot tall people with bat wings.
Of course Sir John Herschel had made no such report because he wasn’t nuts. But neither was Richard Adams Locke (above), who was grandson to the philosopher and the actual author of the moon-beavers story. He was a one time editor of the Sun, and an acquaintance of Edgar Allen Poe - who claimed he knew of “…no person possessing so fine a forehead as Mr. Locke”. The “Punked” story of the moon-beavers sold an additional thousand copies of the Sun, which gave it a temporary advantage in its sales war with its rival New York Herald. Like I said, it’s been done before.In fact, in an age of unlabeled Corporate Video News Releases (VNRs) padding out local news programming from sea to shinning sea it’s gotten easier to fool the fools, not harder. In Edgar Allen Poe’s day fake news had to be an inside job. Even Poe himself did it. Poe had already written “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Murders in the Rue Morgue” but when he moved to Baltimore with a sick wife he had just $5 in his pocket. And as a hungry writer who has produced articles for such distinguished men’s publications as “Velvet” and “Velvet Talks”, (back in the 1980's they paid $125 for 1200 obscene words and $25 for three accompanying obscene “letters”) I can sympathize with Edgar.Now, Edgar Allen Poe was “odd”. Both his parents died when he was young. He was adopted by a wealthy manic depressive patriarch who was alternately loving and vicious toward him. The result was that Poe became an un-socialized morose alcoholic who as a college student confided to his roommate that he had “joked” that he was going to murder their landlord, and the landlord had believed him: ha, ha. Poe was married in 1835, when he was 25, to the sickly Miss Virginia Clemm, who was just 13 years old. Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with this guy.Faced with imminent starvation Poe undoubtedly sought out Locke’s advice, and probably based on what Locke told him, Poe wrote what later would be called “The Great Balloon Hoax of 1844”, or as I like to call it, “72 Hours of Hot Air”. The headlines in the Sun read, “Astounding News by Express, via Norfolk! The Atlantic Crossed in Three days! the Steering Balloon “Victoria”, after a passage of Seventy-five hours from Land to Land! Full Particulars of the Voyage!” According to the 5,000 word front page story, the plan had been to cross the English Channel suspended beneath a silk dirigible filled with 40,000 cubic feet of coal tar gas, but once airborne above Wales, and impressed with their “Archimedean Screw” propeller, the decision was made “on the fly” to sail to North America instead.“We soon found ourselves driving out to sea at the rate of not less, certainly, than 50 or 60 miles an hour…as the shades of night have closed around us, we made a rough estimate of the distance traversed. It could not have been less than 500 miles…The wind was from the East all night…We suffered no little from cold and dampness…Sunday, the 7th, this morning the gale…had subsided to an eight or nine knot breeze, and bears us, perhaps, 30 miles an hour, or more…at sundown, we are holding our course due West...Monday the 8th, the wind was blowing steadily and strongly from the North-East all day…Tuesday, the 9th One P.M. We are in full view if the low coast of South Carolina. The great problem is accomplished. We have crossed the Atlantic – fairly and easily in a balloon! God be praised!”According to Poe’s unbiased reporting, the day of publication the Sun’s offices were besieged from soon after sunrise till two o’clock in the afternoon. “As soon as the first copies made their way into the streets, they were bought up," wrote Poe, "at almost any price. I saw a half a dollar given, in one instance, for a single paper…I tried, in vain, during the whole day, to get possession of a copy.” And Poe was there, telling anyone who would listen that he was the author of the story, and…that it was false. Now why would he do that?Poor old Poe had a number of personality traits that confused most people who liked him. For instance, he could not stop himself from maintaining contact with the writer Elizabeth Ellet, a carnivorous little “pot-stirrer” who made passes at Edgar in German. I mean, German has always been the language of love, hasn’t it? “Halten Sie mich schlieben, meine little Turtle Dove?” Doesn’t that make you feel all romantic? And then when Poe cut off all contact with her, she "sic’ed" her brother on him. Poe asked a friend to loan him a gun for the duel, and the friend bluntly said he didn’t believe Poe. They ended up beating each other up, over a woman who clearly didn’t think much of either of them; men. Sigh.
The point of all this is that it seems to me that idiots who spend their time and energy perpetuating a hoax on the public are hoping the public will not make a note to never-ever trust the idiots again, ever. As an example, the very next day after the balloon hoax, there appeared on the back page of the Sun the following notice; “…the mails from the south…not having brought confirmation of the balloon from England…we are inclined to believe that the intelligence is erroneous”. Well, that’s one way to maintain journalistic integrity. NOT!Me, I’m willing to bet that Poe was paid $25 for writing the back page mea culpa. The publishing business hasn’t changed much in 200 years. And neither has the life of writers. Poe’s wife died of tuberculoses in New York, three years after the Balloon Hoax. And two years later the New York Sun, which sold for a penny a copy, was bought for $250,000 (more than $6 million in today’s dollars). That was the same year that Edgar Allen Poe died in Baltimore, flat broke as usual. Sigh.

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