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FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

THE PRACTICAL USE FOR TIME MACHINES.

I know nothing practical about automobiles. So if I had to build one I would climb into my time machine and ask Henry Ford; the man who conceived of and built the Model “T”. But if I had questions about Judaism, the American publisher of the ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ would be the last man I would waste my time with. Of course the engineering genius, and the adherent of the anti-Semitic “Protocols” (actually written in 1902 by the Czar’s secrete police) shared the same brain tissue. And that illustrates the trouble you can into trusting experts outside of their area of expertise. Take Mr. James Rand, Jr., who started an office supply company in 1915 and turned it into Remington Rand, which dominated the market by the mid-nineteen twenties. In 1933 Rand co-started The Committee for the Nation, which lobbied President Roosevelt and his “Brain Trust” of advisors, to take the U.S. off the gold standard, a decision that helped America climb out of the depression. So far Mr. Rand sounds like a genius. He also pulled three drowning girls out of the ocean off Long Island, so he was also a hero. But then Mr. Rand publically endorsed some ideas of a Dr. William A. Wirt, and overnight he went from hero to zero. William Wirt was a Hoosier farm boy, who had made a name for himself as superintendent of schools in Gary, Indiana. He espoused a return to teaching traditional family values, or what a modern sociologist might call educational nostalgia. What: you thought nostaliga was something invented in 1980? What Wirt called for was “'the ennobling of daily and common work” which he proposed to achieve via his “platoon system”. He was not espousing bad ideas, they had value and they made him famous. But what got him into trouble was a little fifty page document he wrote and mimeographed called “America Must Lose” and which had nothing to do with education. Basically it was Wirt’s addition to the arguments against the gold standard in foreign exchange, a subject you might think was a bit esoteric for a superintendent of schools. But the real trouble came when Wirt sent a copy of his tract to Mr. Rand. Mr. Rand liked it so much that in March of 1934 he brought it to the attention of Republicans on the House Interstate Commerce Committee, and they latched onto just 12 pages of the wisdom from Dr. Wirt, and turned those pages and Dr. Wirt, into a political cause-celeb. I will rely on Arthur Schlesinger, from his book “The Coming of the New Deal” to explain. “In the summer of 1933, according to the manuscript, Dr. Wirt had asked a group of ‘brain trusters’ how they planned to bring about their proposed overthrow of the social order. They replied that by holding back recovery they could prolong the countries troubles until people would realize that the government had no choice but to take over everything. What about the President? Wirt asked. Roosevelt, the brain trusters said, was in the middle of a swift stream, with current so strong he could not turn back. ‘We believe we can keep Mr. Roosevelt there until we are ready to supplant him with Stalin. We all think Mr. Roosevelt is the Kerensky of this revolution.’ But would Roosevelt not see through their schemes? “We are on the inside’, they told Wirt. We control the avenues of influence. We can make the President believe he is making the decisions for himself.’ Now, Kerensky was the guy who overthrew the Czar, and the Communist revolution of 1917 had overthrown Kerensky. This was all still recent history in 1934, and there were still plenty of people who thought Communism might yet work. The harsh reality would set in for them over the next decade. But everybody knew in 1934 that calling Roosevelt a 'Kerensky' was calling him a fool and the tool of the real revolutionaries behind the curtain. Now, in the summer of 1934 the Republicans, having just been drubbed by Roosevelt in November of 1933, were throwing a lot of spaghetti against the wall, hoping some would stick, (sort of like today). And Mr. Wirt had just become some of that spaghetti. Time Magazine wrote, on April 23, 1934, “In the big caucus room, while flash lamps winked, newsreel cameras purred and squads of radio engineers and reporters elbowed through the jam packed spectators, a special committee of Representatives sat down to investigate charges of the utmost gravity: that the President's intimate advisers were plotting to overthrow the Republic… Impatiently the audience waited while the committee of three Democrats and two Republicans haggled along strict party lines over the rules of procedure…with 60-year-old Dr. Wirt nervously chewing his index fingernail...Chairman Alfred Lee Bulwinkle of Gastonia, N. C. put the epic question: "Doctor . . . you stated . . . that you 'asked some of the individuals in this group what their concrete plan was for bringing on the proposed overthrow'. . . . Who were those persons?” And it was right there that the revelation of treason, so trumpeted by the Republicans, began to fall apart. It turned out that none of the attendees were members of Roosevelt’s brain trust. The gathering had been a dinner party thrown on Friday, September 1st, 1933, by Miss Alice Barrows, “a curly-headed blonde...a school building expert in the Office of Education.” (ibid) The other two women, Miss Hildegarde Kneeland and Miss Mary Taylor, were both“…bright, obscure incumbents of small Government jobs” (ibid). Also at the dinner party were Mr. Richard Bruere, a specialist in industrial relations, and Mr. David Coyle “… a theoretical writer on business & finance...(who had) just finished planting a nut farm in New Jersey.” (ibid) But the most interesting person at the dinner (to the conspiracy believers) had been Mr. Laurence Todd, a correspondent for TASS, the Soviet news agency. But then, of course, Todd was the only person at the party who had no connection to the government, and was certainly not a member of Roosevelt’s “Brain Trust”. “To the nation, which had been waiting…the names of Dr. Wirt's "brain trusters" meant a little less than nothing”.(ibid) Worse was to come, for Republican hopes; “Dr. Wirt, the glare of Klieg lights pitilessly burnishing his baldish brow, confessed that he had "done a great deal of the talking” (ibid) at the party. And, on that issue, the other attendees agreed Miss Barrows recalled, “As a dinner it was not a success. Dr. Wirt talked practically all the time.” According to Miss Kneeland, “It was impossible for either myself or anyone else to take a considerable part in the conversation.” Miss Taylor said, “Dr. Wirt really had no conversation. The monologue continued.” Said Mr. Breure; “I listened to Dr. Wirt for several hours discoursing on money.” And according to Mr. Todd, the reporter for Tass, Dr. Wirt had “…talked for nearly five hours continuously”. So Dr. Wirt's memory of the fateful dinner party had been faulty. He thought he had been the life of the party. He had killed the party. He thought others had said frightning things. He had said them. And his ego had reconstructed events to his own benefit and to confirm his own opinions; what a typically human form of behavior. And this was how the Republican party spent their summer of 1934, throwing poor Dr. Wirt against a wall, to see if he stuck. The outcome was that Dr. Wirt (and Mr. Rand, who was now associated with him) now became fodder for the Democrats. And they were as merciless as the Republicans. Roosevelt observed that the Republicans had gone from Wirt to Wirt. Donald Richberg was moved to poetry. “A cuttlefish squirt, Nobody hurt, From beginning to end, Dr. Wirt.” The San Francisco Chronicle editorialized, “Dr. Wirt opened that basket containing that famous catch he has bragged so much about and, as suspected, it contains nothing but Minnows. Not a fish in the lot worth talking about.” Said Time magazine; “Thus, flatter than a crepe Suzette, fell the Red Scare of 1934.” But perhaps the strongest response, and the one most needed, to the Republican noise machine of 1934, was a speech made by the poet, Mr. Richberg “'There are a great many stuffed shirts who have access to avenues of great publicity”, he said, “and so they pour their hysterical fears and their warped views of economic recovery into the public ears. They cannot use facts, even if they recognize them, so they create myths and hobgoblins and repeat nonsense over and over again. . . . We are not in the slightest danger of a political revolution so long as we preserve our national sanity….When any man ventures to scoff at the use of brains in government, he should be asked to explain by what part of the anatomy he believes human affairs should be conducted.” Dr. Wirt received a telegram of support from the Klu Klux Klan, but the Republican party had little use for him now that his story had deflated and he had become unstuck. It is what happens to all amatuers from the right or the left who get to close to politics. Quietly Wirt returned to Indiana and wrote no more on economic affairs. In 1938 he died of a heart attack, and his visions of education were gradually discarded, the good with the bad. Mr. Rand’s business achievements after 1934 were, in many ways, even more impressive than those which preceded his involvement in politics. But after the summer of 1934 he avoided publicity and politics, and died in 1968, a wealthy and powerful man. Even today, If I were assembling a corporation I would use my time machine to ask his advice. But I would certainly not seek out his opinion about plumbing.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protocols_of_the_Elders_of_Zion
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