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Friday, June 10, 2011

FUNDAMENTALIST CREED

I began reading “The Fundamentals; A Testimony to the Truth”, the seminal work of Christian fundamentalism, because I wondered how such a document had come to exist. The very first sentence of the very first of the 90 essays sought to explain it all. “In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith…” Of course, being a skeptic, that explained nothing to me. But, upon further investigation, I discovered that the two anonymous Christian laymen were Lyman Stewart and his younger brother Milton. And their personal history provided some insight into the movement they had fathered.
Lyman Stewart was the deeply religious eldest son of a tanner. He hated his father’s business and wanted to be a missionary. But, as Jesus before him, Lyman found he would need funds to support his ministry. Then, on the morning of August 28, 1858, almost in Lyman’s own backyard, the foreman of the Pennsylvania Oil Company spotted fresh oil standing in the 69 foot drill hole he had decided the night before to abandon. Within a few weeks this once abandoned well, outside of Titusville, Pennsylvania, would be producing the unheard of  bounty of 20 barrels a day. Jonathan Watson, the man who had leased the site to Penn Oil, became the first oil millionaire. In that sudden wealth, Lyman  Stewart saw the hand of God.
Yet, it was a risky business, looking for oil. The towers of Ancient Babylon had been constructed in part with asphalt, but even by 1859 there was no explanation of how petroleum, or “rock oil”, was created, nor why it was found where it was. Even today, three out of every four oil fields are discovered because of surface “seeps” of asphalt. Searching for oil beneath the ground remained in 1859 a matter of pure luck - and, if you asked Lyman Stewart, divine intervention.
On December fifth 1858, Layman used his life savings of $125 (equivalent to $3,000 today) to buy an option on a section of land not far from Penn Oil’s big score. But alas, Lyman’s lease proved to be a dry hole. It took this man of faith two years of had work in the oil fields to save up enough cash to finance a second try. In 1861 he joined with other investors in buying another lease. This time Lyman hit oil. But by then over-production had driven the price of oil down to ten cents a barrel, and Lyman and his partners lost their oil stained shirts.
By now chemical analysis had determined that oil had once been living plants and animals. From this it was theorized that oil would never be found in the rocks in which it had formed, the “source rock”.  Instead it was theorized that once having formed (some how) it then flowed into a permeable “reservoir rock”, and might be trapped beneath an impermeable “cap rock”.
If there were no cap rock and the oil made it to the surface, it formed a seep. But geologists still had no way of gauging how old oil was. But connecting the work of Scottish geologist James Hutton and the English Naturalist Charles Darwin, whose “Origin of Species” had been published in 1859,  it seemed it might be unimaginably old, hundreds of thousands or even millions of years old.
In 1866, after serving in the Civil War, Lyman Stewart returned to the oil fields. This time, however, he opened an office in Titusville, helping other wildcatters negotiate leases from local farmers. On some of the better looking leases, Lyman waved his fee in exchange for a share of any oil found. By 1868 he had amassed a small fortune on the gambles taken by others, and from that he had somehow aquired a reputation as a savvy oil man. Still, by 1869, he was broke again. But he remained convinced that God would not let him fail.
In 1877 Lymen teamed up with a roustabout from the Pennsylvania and California oil fields, named Wallace Hardison. Hardison had made enough money in California oil to fund Lyman for one more try. And Layman hit the black gold again. This time, when they were on top, the pair sold out to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Indiana. In 1883 the Stewart brothers and Hardison packed their bags and moved to California.
The desperate search for oil drove capitalists to take a hard look at the only emperical evidence they had, the
pulverized rocks drawn up from both dry and successful drill holes. In that broken and shattered rock they found the fossils of single celled aquatic creatures called Foraminifera. There are some 4,000 species of Formaminifera in today’s oceans, living from the surface to the bottom mud, from the artic to the tropics. But the fossils of 275,000 different Foraminifera species were found in the drilling cores.
Obviously the vast majority of these little creatures and plants had gone extinct. By studying which species  had been found the past wells that had produced oil,  these practical capitalists could better judge their chances of finding oil in any new drilling hole. Eventually, oilmen found they could depend on Foraminifera fossil species in the cores, to lead them toward unseen oil.
The move west did not change Lyman Stewart's core beliefs. He forbade his normally profane roustabouts from cursing on the drilling site, which earned his first drilling site in California the title of “Christian Hill”. Still, even with the Lyman’s piety, it took seven dry wells before Lyman and Harding produced their first gusher in Santa Clarita, California. But by 1886 the Hadison and Stewart Oil Company was producing 15% of all the petroleum in California.
In 1890 they merged with three other local oil companies controlled by Thomas Bard, to form the Union Oil Company of California. Bard was named President of the new company, Lyman was named Vice President, and Hardison became the treasurer. The company’s headquarters was established in the pretty little town of Santa Paula, at the corner of Main and Ojai streets, surrounded by the nodding mechanical donkeys, pumping oil.
Success and wealth merely confirmed Lyman’s faith in his own righteousness. He had no doubt that God meant him to be wealthy and wanted him to expand his empire. Wallace Hardison was not so certain, and in 1892 he sold out. In 1894 Bard resigned over fights with Lyman. And finally Lyman Stewart had reached the top of the mountain. He kept drilling new wells, to feed the growing demand for his product. He built pipelines and refineries. He built a fleet of tankers to carry Unocal oil up and down the West Coast. He opened a string of service stations, to sell his gasoline. Company profits went from $10 million in 1900 to over $50 million in 1908. California wells were now producing almost 78 million barrels a year. The following year, Wallace Hardison died in Sun Valley, California, when his car was struck by a train. It seemed that God was eliminating all of Lyman's competition.
Now at last Lyman Stewart had the fortune to fund his ministry. Lyman and Milton endowed $300,000 for the publication of 12 volumes (90 essays) in defense of what they believed were the five fundamental tenets of the true faith; the total absolute accuracy of the bible, the divinity of Jesus, his death for humanities’ sins, and his second coming, which was expected soon, perhaps in the lifetime of people then living.
However there were a few other points made in The Fundamentals, in particular a listing of the enemies of Christianity. These enemies included “…Romanism (Catholicism), socialism, modern philosophy, atheism...Mormonism, spiritualsim,...and Darwinism, which appeared to undermine the Bible's authority.”  Formed originally as a response to "modermism", the foundations of Fundamentalism are primarily negative, insisting upon what they are against, rather than what they seek to build.  It is impossible to decipher early 21st century conservative politics without an understanding of “The Fundamentals; a Testimony to the Truth”.
The first target of the Fundamentalists was the growing acceptance of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. William Riley, writing for the World Christian Fundamentals Association in 1922, declared “We increasingly realize that the whole menace in modernism exists in its having accepted Darwinism against Moses, and the evolutionary hypothesis against the inspired word of God." There are hundreds of teachers, Riley argued, who were pouring the poison of Darwinism into youthful minds where their evil teachings could "take root in the garden of the Lord.”  Except....
By the 1920’s Union Oil's own  geologists had come to realize that the various species of extinct Foraminifera could be used to measure ancient ocean temperatures, and the amount of oxygen present in the ancient seas. And by mid-20th century they came to understand that the multi-billion dollar petrochemcial industry depended upon a detailed understanding of the anceint pre-historic,  pre-biblical, fossilzed shells of extinct microscopic creatures found in drilling cores. It was upon the evolutionary lines of those long dead life forms that the profits of the  big oil companies, including Union Oil, were founded.
And thanks to Layman Stewart’s largess, millions of dollars in those profits from this oil provided for the Los Angeles Mission, which has helped to feed and shelter tens of thousands of homeless and lost souls, and a Fundamentalist Christian collage, which explicitly taught its' graduates that evolution, such as that exhibited by those microscopic creatures used to find all that wealth, had not occured.
 It is that conflict at the core of Fundamentalism which renders it a schizophrenic philosophy.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

FEET OF CLAY


I consider it the most important two feet of clay in the entire world. Without those two feet a great city never would have existed, Teddy Roosevelt would very likely have remained a one term president, and the American Century would have maybe never happened.
The two feet had to be clay because clay is impervious to water, which is ironic since clay is created by soaking limestone in the black acidic waters of a quiet lake, one probably surrounded by a forest, such as today’s Wisconsin Dells (above). If the clay had been less than two feet high, the clay would not have mattered. If it was much more then two feet high then Lois Jolliet would have returned from exploring the Mississippi by a different route and the Mississippi would have been a different river. Fourteen inches of clinging, grasping clay is what made the American nation what she is today, because they had to be overcome, and they could be overcome. And the lakes that produced that clay were the remains of Lake Chicago, predecessor to today’s Lake Michigan.In 1818 fur trader Gurdon Hubbard, working for Roosevelt’s American Fur Company, made his first trip following the south fork of the ‘Shikaakwa’ (or slunk weed) River from the village of “Chicago” on Lake Michigan, up river, southward until the stream gave out. From there Hubbard was forced to  “portaged” for another seven miles.“Our empty boats were pulled up the channel," wrote Hubbard, "and in many places, where there was no water and a hard clay bottom, they were placed on short rollers, and in this way moved along until the Mud Lake was reached, where we found mud thick and deep, but only at rare intervals was there water….” Fighting off swarms of leeches and clouds of mosquitoes, it took Hubbard three days to reach the clear flowing water of the Des Plaines River -  three days to cover seven miles. But the Des Plaines ran into the Illinois River which carried Hubbard and his bateau’s 12 tons of trade goods into the very hinterland of the Continent, beyond the reach of the glaciers.Three times over the last 300,000 years glaciers have ground across North America, successively scrapping the landscape bare and then recreating it on their retreat. When the last of the Wisconsin glaciers paused 20,000 years ago, they left behind a north-south trash heap ridge of sand and clay called the “Valparaiso Terminal Moraine”.North of that ridge, a melt water lake formed, one day to be named Lake Michigan. The moraine blocked the drainage from this lake into the Mississippi River system to west and south, so the waters sought another new path to the ocean , heading east for the Saint Laurence River, and giving birth 12,000 years ago, to Niagara Falls. The dream of breaching that moraine was first achieved by the 96 mile long Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848. It drained the Mud Lake and provided locks to lift the narrow canal boats and their 100 ton loads 35 feet up to the level of the Des Plaines River at Joliet. From there another series of locks provided an easy journey so Michigan apples could be sold in St. Louis and New Orleans. The canal created Chicago as a transportation hub.But the growth of Chicago presented its own challenges. By 1867, the 300,000 citizens of Chicago had so fouled their Lake Michigan shoreline, that to reach clean drinking water they were required to tunnel two miles out under the lake. The success of these big government projects, the water tunnel and the canal,  encouraged the dream of breaching the moraine in a more grand fashion and converting Chicago from a mere lake port into a seaport. To sell the plan to conservative investors, sellers also pitched the idea of reversing the flow of the Chicago River, so that it could be used to carry Chicago’s waste water away from the lake, which was the source of the cities’ drinking water. On Saturday, September 3, 1892, Frank Wenter, President of the new Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago, turned the first ceremonial shovel of earth in the village of Lemont, Illinois, which was to be the central point of the Sanitary and Ship Canal.The new canal, built in the name of progress and “clean water”, would excavate 44 million cubic yards of clay and stone to create a passage 28 miles long, 202 feet wide and 24 feet deep, which would terminate, for the time being, in a dam at a new town  named Lockport, Illinois. It would take eight years to finish the work and the final cost would prove to be $45 million.The New York World newspaper examined the social changes this ‘progress’ brought to the sleepy village of Lemont(below). Out of the town's 9,000 residents “…4,000 are gamblers, thieves, murderers or disorderly women. There are 100 saloons, 40 gambling houses, 20 dance houses and three theaters…Everything is running wide open and licensed...Within three months 30 dead bodies have been found…and no one has been punished…Every Sunday excursions of the worst classes go to Lemont from Chicago.”Businessmen in Missouri were not slow to awaken to the threat the new canal posed to their wallets, should locks later be installed to allow ocean going ships to follow the canal all the way to the Mississippi. St. Louis had lost the race with Chicago to become the rail center of the nation even before they realized there was a competition. They did not want the Mississippi to become a secondary trade route as well. So as the Chicago Sanitary Canal approached completion, St.Louis businessmen began to raise concerns about Chicago sewage, now flowing south, befouling the drinking water of towns along the Mississippi. In response, in 1899, the Metropolitan Sanitary District launched a study which claimed that the Illinois River had cleared itself of Chicago’s sewage before it reached Peoria, where the Illinois joined the Mississippi. Besides, the study alleged, St. Louis drew most of their drinking water from the Missouri River, not the Mississippi. Still, on Wednesday, January 17, 1900, the state of Missouri formally asked the United States Supreme Court to grant an injunction to stop the canal from being filled and opening. To forestall the Supreme Court, on Sunday, January 21, the directors of the Sanitary District tried to quietly and quickly make it a fait accompli. The Chicago Tribune explained why that did not prove a simple thing to achieve.“…B.A. Eckhart was the first to reach the narrow watershed at Kedzie Avenue and Thirty-filth Street. He jumped out of his carriage, dragging with him a set of new shovels for the trustees…."I had an awful time getting these shovels at this time of day."…a dredge was already hard at work throwing up the clay from the cut…. Less than eight feet (of ice and frozen clay) separated the waters of the lakes from the waters of the Mississippi…It was exceedingly slow work, for the clay was like a rock…Four large charges of dynamite were placed in the ridge…A few fugitive pieces of clay did fly into the air. But as a grand opening it was a failure…."Then the ambitious trustees, armed with their shovels, descended into the cut and began to push away the pieces of clay and ice which held back the lakes…With the regularity of a pendulum the arm of the dredge swung back and forth….The ice from the river rolled in and blocked the channel…"Push the ice...away with the arm." shouted the foreman…The (dredge) arm dropped behind the ice gorge and then with resistless motion swept the whole of it into the Mississippi Valley. .... "It is open! It is open!" went up from scores of throats as the water at last (flowed)…Like school boys on a vacation, the drainage officials waved their arms and shouted.”It was done. On May 2, 1900 Admiral George Dewey, hero of the battle of Manila, dedicated the official opening. But it would not be until 1907 that a lock would be built (above) to control the 36 foot drop from the canal level at Lemont to the Des Plaines River, and complete the dream of ocean going ships reaching the Mississippi via Chicago.Soon after the canal opened the construction techniques, such as the locks used to raise and lower ships over the Valparaiso Moraine, would be used by many of the same engineers in the construction of the Panama Canal (above). It was that endeavor, championed by Teddy Roosevelt, which ushered in the American Century. The lesson here is that no human endeavor, be it the creation of the Sanitary and Ship Canal, or manned space flight, is ever truly a wasted effort, even if the future profit is not immediately apparent.And the Chicago canal proved something else as well. As recorded by William C. Alden in the 1902 “Chicago Folio” for the U.S. Geological Survey Atlas of the United States (volume #81), excavations for the canal and its locks unearthed the story of the entire continent. Beneath the clay and beneath the limestone was the bedrock of Chicago; “Potsdam Sand stones”. That sequence explained the history of the place. Chicago ultimately sits upon beach sands, the bottom of an ancient shallow sea. We know it was shallow because above the sandy bottoms corals grew, and left their lime rich skeletons hundreds of feet thick atop the sand stones. And then the sea had been replaced with a freshwater lake, surrounded by forests, whose leaves fell into the waters, turning the waters acidic, and converting the top layer of the limestone to clay.And then the glaciers had come, and scrapped across the clay, piling it up in a terminal moraine, which prevented the waters of the lake from finding their own way to the Mississippi river, until humans arrived and stood upon their two feet of clay and thought, "I can do this. I shall do this". And it was done.
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Sunday, June 05, 2011

LITTLE GREEN HOUSE ON K STREET PART SEVEN

I guess it must have been like awaking from a dream. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the revolution demanded by the Great Depression was suddenly unleashed. Federal spending rose from $9.4 billion in 1940, to $13 billion in 1941, to $30 billion in 1942, and $65 billion by 1943, and from just 9% of the total Gross Domestic Product in 1940, to almost 50%. Unemployment was still at almost 10% in 1941, but by 1943 it had dropped to less then 2%. And the Federal District had gone from less than 1 million residents in 1940 to 2,100,000 in 1943. The dreamer awakened to discover the America of 1933 had been a dream.
"Lobbying is part of a larger process of social and legislative change. To be successful, it should be just one part of a strategic campaign that includes working with the press, grassroots activism, letter writing, and litigation. Each of these elements should be integrated with direct conversations with legislator."
Milo Public Affairs LLC
Emblematic of this change was the Pentagon, which was built in only 15 months (on land once occupied by some of the Bonus Marchers shantytown), and officially opened on January 15, 1943. It was the largest office building in the world (at the time) with some 6 ½ million square feet of space, but only four stories tall to save on steel. The joke around town was that the building was so big that a teenage Western Union Messenger got lost amongst the endless corridors and by the time he made it out, he was a Lt. Colonel. Early on, a member of the 42,000 man army of clerks, the vast majority of whom were women, went into labor. As he dialed for an ambulance the guard chastised the woman for even coming to work in her condition. She explained, “When I came in here, I wasn't in this condition.”
“Fifteen million people in the United States are represented by lobbyists. The other 150 million have only one man who is elected at large to represent them – that is the President of the United States”
Harry Truman 1947
In comparison, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (above) was begun in November of 1938 took  3 ½ years to complete. And upon its opening, on April 13, 1943, the centerpiece statue was painted plaster. The intended bronze likeness of Jefferson would not be cast and put in place until in 1948, when bronze was no longer a vital war commodity. Later that same year, 1943, the new 11 story office building at 1625 K street, built on the site of the Little Green House, would be also be completed.
The little Green house had been demolished in May of 1941, after the lot was purchased by developers. The firm of Singletary Rueda designed an 11 story, 108,000 square feet of floor space, 1,260,000 cubic square feet of “living” space, building. It opened in 1943. It cost $500,000 ($6.5 million today). The developers got a building fronted with a limestone and with a polished granite lobby. The less visible side and rear of the building showed a cheaper brick veneer. They named it the Commonwealth Building. And although it was described as a general use Office building, because of its location, just three blocks from the White House and the Executive Office Building, it was a prime location for lobbyists.
“You know, the only trouble with capitalism is capitalists, they're too damn greedy.”
Herbert Hoover - March 1934
In 1950 the British Medical Journal – The Lancet – published a study indicating a close link between drawing cigarette smoke into your lungs and and cancer. In 1954 a 20 year study of 40,000 smoking English doctors was published, which confirmed that relationship. It was estimated that between 1930 and 1959 11 million smokers worldwide would die of smoking related cancers and strokes. The British government issued advice that people should stop smoking.
Meanwhile the United States Tobacco industry managed to deny reality for another seven years. In the spring of 1963 the big six tobacco companies - R. J. Reynolds, American Tobacco, Brown & Williamson, Liggett & Myers, P. Lorillard, and Philip Morris - hired as their chief lobbyist ex- Kentucky Governor, ex-Senator and ex-majority Whip of the House of Representatives -  and close personal friend of President Lyndon Johnson -  Earl C. Clements (above).
“Lobbying, like all persuasion, is story telling....When you lobby, tell a good story. Put a face on the issue, preferably a face from the legislator's home district. Also put the story in a larger context - your example is but one story among many. Talk about a world in which your problem doesn't exist, lay out the existence of your problem, and why the target is the key to the solution.”
Milo Public Affairs. LLC
On Saturday, January 11, 1964 the Surgeon General's report was released to 200 reporters. The ten doctor panel was unanimous in finding a direct link between smoking and lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cardiovascular diseases and cancer of the larynx. Within three months consumption of cigarettes dropped 20%. And then Clements swung into operation.
“I earn a living fronting an organization that kills 1200 people a day. Twelve hundred people. We're talking two jumbo jet plane loads of men, women and children. I mean, there's Attila, Genghis... and me, Nick Naylor. The face of cigarettes, the Colonel Sanders of nicotine.” 
“Thank You For Smoking”. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2006
Tobacco in 1962 was a $7 billion industry. That year Americans smoked on average 4,300 cigarettes apiece. The industry paid $3 billion in taxes and spent $250 million in advertising. What is amazing is that with this much at stake, Clement convinced the Big Six not to deny the dangers of smoking. Rather, he urged them to not only accept warning labels on each pack, but to insist that they should write the labels themselves. In fact, suggested Earl Clement, those labels could be powerful defense against wrongful death lawsuits. His strategy worked so well that tobacco use actually increased, as did the cost of smoking - almost $100 billion in lost productivity each year and $22,000 in additional medical cost over the shortened lifetime of every smoker. But even today, while smoking "weed" will get you jail time, smoking tobacco is still legal. 
“Nick: Okay, let's say that you're defending chocolate and I'm defending vanilla. Now, if I were to say to you, "Vanilla's the best flavor ice cream", you'd say …?
Joey: "No, chocolate is."
Nick: Well, I need more than chocolate. And for that matter, I need more than vanilla. I believe that we need is freedom and choice when it comes to our ice cream, and that...is the definition of liberty.
Joey: But that's not what we're talking about.
Nick: Ah, but that's what I'm talking about.”
Thank You For Smoking. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 20006
For his amazing work, in 1966, Clements was named to the well paid position of president of the Tobacco Institute He died in 1985 and was buried in his hometown cemetery, in Morganfield, Kentucky. His cause of death is, oddly, given  nowhere in his obituaries.
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