NOVEMBER 2017

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The Rise of the Billionaires Leaves the Middle Class Stranded

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Friday, March 02, 2012

SOUR MILK


I'm amazed that more people in 1892 did not heed the observation of steel mill owner John Metzlaff. He summed up the entire summer of acrimony and fear mongering over whether English should be the only language used in Wisconsin schools, in a single world - “ridicules”. As impossible as it might have been to believe at the time, this ultra-conservative capitalist asserted that in “10 or 20 years, almost nobody in Milwaukee would even be speaking German”. Republican Secretary of State Jerry Rusk agreed, calling the campaign year a “blundering business”. But the idea that the crises then gripping the state was not really a crises, does not seem to have occurred to many others in authority, which is fairly depressing, if you stop to think about it.
William Dempster Hoard saw the world as his Methodist minister father had seen it, as the minister “Demp” might have become, had he not argued with his instructors over church doctrine. Even as a young man Dempster already “knew what he knew, and was not to be deflected,.” as Robert Nesbit has put it. Instead, Hoard built a small newspaper empire in rural Wisconsin, promoting his ideas about politics and agriculture with that religious fervor he might have directed toward religion. In the pages of “Heord's Dairyman” he invented the modern dairy farm, from the alfalfa forage to silos for storage to breeding that produced bountiful milk and sweet cheese. He counseled his farmer congregation to “Speak to a cow as you would to a lady.” Then, at 56, in his 1888 campaign for governor. the Republican “Cow Candidate” preached to the voters his second great secular passion – education. “The child ...has a right to demand of the State”, he said, to be “provided with the ability to read and write the language of this country....I would recommend to require that reading and writing in English be daily taught” Such political theology led to Hoard's victory in 1888, winning with a 21,000 vote majority.
But Wisconsin was no longer the homogenized Anglo-America it had been in Hoard's youth, which contained, he a admitted, “no foreign element but the Irish”. By 1890 over 70% of the million and a-half residents of Wisconsin were either foreign born or first generation Americans. Four out of ten Wisconsinites spoke German in their homes and in their Lutheran and Catholic churches and parochial schools. And they were already having an impact on state politics. Since 1874 it had been legal for Milwaukee factory workers to enjoy a beer with their Sunday meal. But that change tasted sour to the temperance leaning Methodists and Episcopalians across the rolling farm districts that were Governor Hoard's base. It wasn't that the Anglo-Americans descendants were any more bigoted than the the newly arrived German-Americans. But it is human nature to mistrust strangers.
Early in 1890, as Governor Hoard's re-election campaign was just gearing up, he was visited by five Lutheran ministers. The men of the cloth warned Demp not to enforce the objectionable portions of Bennett's Law, or he would be a one term governor. According to his own account, Governor Hoard chose to lecture the petitioners. “If you plant your church across the pathway to human enlightenment,” he warned, “you will lose the respect of the young men in your church.” The offended Lutherans, who believed they WERE on the path to enlightenment, stormed out the Governor's office, determined to do battle. This is what happens when ministers think they are politicians.
It was named Bennetts law, after Assemblyman Michael Bennett from the farming village of Dodgeville. But Governor Hoard had written it, and inspired it, and forced it through the legislature with a minimum of debate on April 18, 1889. The bill required daily school attendance for all children between seven and fourteen, and it required that all instruction be in English. To meet the first requirement, the law mandated all schools, public and parochial, report attendance records in the public press. And to insure this, the law levied fines for school officials and parents who failed to ensure their children met both requirements.
Lutherian clergy saw Bennett's Law as over reaching by the government, and an usurpation of parental rights. And, they pointed out, of the 346 Lutheran and Catholic schools in Wisconsin , just 139 did not teach in English. And in those school that taught in German, most of the students also attended public schools. The alliance of Democrats and Church groups was strengthened when the Republican claim of 40,000 to 50,000 children in the state not attending any school at all was shown to be mere hyperbole. However, the proof did not prevent the bogus number from being repeated.
In his stump speech that year, William Hoard proclaimed, “The parents, the pastor, and the church have entered into a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, who are denied by cupidity and bigotry the privilege of even the free schools of the state.” He also claimed he possessed “as friendly a feeling towards our German-American population as any man in this country;...I want the little German boy and girl...to have the same chance in life as my children. Without a knowledge of the English language they can not have this chance.”
A German language newspaper responded, “It is not sufficient for them that we should become Americanized...but they want us to become de-Germanized. And they think that can be accomplished first by destroying German schools.” U. S. Senator, Democrat William Vilas, pandered by asking, ““What is the difference if you say 'two and two make four' or 'zwie und zwei machen vier?” And then on April 1st, 1890, the Republican incumbent mayor of Milwaukee was handily defeated by a Democratic newcomer, newspaper man and humorist George Peck. A month later 100 Republican bigwigs met in Madison to endorse Bennett's Law, and the best Hoard's people could get from them was a no comment.
At their state convention in August, the Democrats sounded like winners. They nominated Peck to run for Governor, declaring Bennett's law “unwise, unconstitutional, UN-American, and undemocratic.” The Republicans met the same month (and in the same city) and renominated Hoard, while promising to modify the law. They also raised a red flag over their Milwaukee headquarters bearing the image of a one room schoolhouse. The words on the flag read, “Stand by it”.
Hyperbole became the favored language of public discourse. The Chicago Journal call Hoard a “giant armed for the war against bigotry, ignorance and ...pestilent foreign-ism.” Hoard warned that those who stood in his way were “like cows in front of a locomotive”. The Republican Stevens Point Journal suggested that Governor Hoard would rather die than abandon Bennetts Law. Democrats called Episcopalian clergymen liars. A Catholic Bishop claimed from the pulpit that Bennetts law had been secretly written by the anti-religious Freemasons. And a Freemason newspaper seemed to confirm this when it trumpeted, “give us ten years under the Bennett Law and we will in each town where English is now spoken, have a lodge...The Bennett Law will be the keystone of a higher civilization.”
It was, in fact, not. On Tuesday, November 4, 1890 Hoard's cows came home. His 21,000 vote majority in 1888 became a 30,000 vote minority, as he lost 43% to 52% to Peck. The Democrats won every seat in the executive branch, and control by a 2-1 advantage in both houses of the state legislature. Wisconsin's congressional representation went from 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats, to 8 Democrats and 1 lone Republican. That year Wisconsin voted for a Democratic President for the first time since 1852. And everybody blamed William Dumpster Hoard (above, left).
On February 3. 1891 the new Democratic Wisconsin legislature repealed Bennett's law. It was replaced a few months later with an almost identical law, but without the English only requirement. But, as John Metzlaff had predicted. just seven years later the Democrats in Wisconsin passed a law requiring English only be used in even parochial schools, and this time there were no mass protests. It seemed as if the citizens of Wisconsin did not so much object to the language requirement, as they did not trust preachers like William Demptser Hoard to make that decision for them. “Demp” might be able to energize his base, but his inability to respect his opponents lead the Republican party to an electoral disaster. It was the dawning of the Progressive era.
“Demp” would have done well to remember his own advice, from the pages of “Hoard's Dairyman”. “Happiness”” he observed, “doesn't depend on what we have, but it does depend on how we feel toward what we have.”
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THE PETER PAN PRINCIPLE


I suppose you have heard of the most famous work by Dr. Laurence Peter, “The Peter Principle.” It states that in any hierarchy “every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”. Well, I have observed a related behavior in human males which I call “The Peter Pan Principle”. Peter Pan was the theatrical boy who never grew up, and my theory postulates that males achieve only that level of maturity they achieve by the age of 12 – after which time they will mature no further. The prime example of such a life long adolescence is Arthur Brown , second cousin to Calvin Coolidge, and a man whose dramatic life reached its pinnacle on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and its nadir ten years later and a block away, on the floor of a hotel bedroom. To put it another way - Arthur Brown slept his way to the bottom.
Arthur grew in up in the 1840's on a Michigan farm, with two older sisters -he was a baby Moses floating in an estrogen sea. Family friends generously described him as possessing a “keen intellect” but less perceptive on “moral issues”. When he was 13 his progressive minded parents dragged him to the center of Ohio so that his older sisters could attend the Unitarian funded Antioch College. As was to be expected given its provenance, the academic standards at this institute of higher learning were high, while the standards of discipline were a bit fuzzy. The students did not pass or fail, they instead received a “narrative evaluation” for each class. It was the perfect environment for Arthur, altho he seems to have been confused as to the advice of the schools first President, Horace Mann; “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
After graduating from Antioch, Arthur earned a law degree and spent the Civil War years back in Kalamazoo Michigan, building a successful criminal law practice, marrying, and fathering a daughter. And when his mid-life crises came, Arthur's response was almost per-ordained. He fell in love with Ms. Isabel Cameron, daughter of the powerful Republican State Senator, David “The Don” Cameron. Arthur bought his new mistress a new horse and buggy, and rented her a house. Now, no rational person would have expected to keep such a high profile romance secret in a town of just 20,000. And one night in 1876 Arthur's offended spouse surprised the loving couple in his law offices. Mrs. Brown was armed with a loaded revolver, but luckily she proved a poor marks-woman. The entire town sided with the wife, who threw Arthur out. The man-child Cassanova now moved to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.
Arthur was expecting to be appointed the U.S. District Attorney for Utah, but the pall of smoke from the bridges he had burned in Kalamazoo obscured his prospects. So he opened a law office at 212 South Main Street in Salt Lake City (above), where he quickly duplicated his Michigan success. The local newspaper judged Arthur to be “a good hater,.” and described him as “Gentile in faith, but a Mormon in practice.” By 1879, when he was rejoined by the still smitten Isabel, Arthur was a millionaire. And the instant his Michigan divorce was finalized, Isabel became the second Mrs. Brown. The happy couple bought a fine house in the fashionable section of South Temple Street, and, in time produced a son , whom they named Max. In 1894 Arthur was sent to Washington as one of Utah state's first two senators. The New York Times described him as “an intense, bitter partisan...Always pugnacious...” His honorary post ended after only one year, and he did not run for re-election. He returned to his law practice and his family, in that order. In 1896 Arthur was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in St. Louis. And it was there he met his new mistress, a secretary for the local Republican party, Mrs. Anne Maddison Bradley. He was 53, and she was 23.
Annie was the editor of the Salt Lake City Woman's Club magazine, a member of the Woman’s Press Club and the Poet's Roundtable. She was also a charter member of the Salt Lake City Unitarian Church. She was everything a rich Unitarian might seek in a mistress, if you overlooked her husband and two children. But wouldn't that just make her more likely to be discreet? The convention nominated William McKinley on the first ballot, allowing Arthur and Anne to consummated their affair so quickly that Arthur overlooked yet another impediment to his new mistress - a vine of insanity intertwining around several branches of Annie's family tree.
Back in booming Salt Lake City (above), Annie separated from her husband, Clarence. He started drinking to excess, and then gambling to excess. A couple of years later Clarence conveniently ended up in jail. Anne testified later that Arthur then “began coming to my house at very unseemly hours, and I told him it must stop, but he answered. 'Darling, we will go through life together. I want you to have a son' and after several months we did.” Arthur Brown Bradley was born February 7, 1902. Shortly thereafter Arthur took a suite at the Independence Hotel. He informed Isabel he was going to file for divorce. He even took Annie on a trip to Washington, D.C, staying at the Raleigh Hotel, just behind the Capital, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 12th street.
When the divorce papers arrived, Isabel was finally spurred to action. And when hitting Arthur with a horse whip did not dissuade him from seeing his mistress, Isabel had both Arthur and Annie arrested and charged with adultery - four times in six months. The Salt Lake City “Desert News" was present at the last arraignment. Said the News, “Arthur Brown On the Rampage...Says He Was Knocked Down By an Officer.” Arthur accused the police of notifying the newspapers, and denounced the arrest of Annie, in a very loud voice. “They dragged her through the streets", he shouted, "one on each side of her. Armed to the teeth. Cowards! Cowards! Cowards!” Judge Christopher Diehl asked Arthur, “How do you expect to keep such things out of the papers when you yell so you can be heard for two blocks?” Eventually the headlines would read, “Arthur Brown Goes Scot Free.”  But all the dramatics took a toll on poor Arthur.
His last arrest forced some reflection and re-evaluation upon Arthur. He moved back into the house on South Temple (above) with Isabel. Annie was offered a house of her own and $100 a month to stay a way from Arthur. She turned it down. And a few months later Arthur slipped away to meet Annie in room 11 of the Pacific hotel in Pocatello, Idaho. Their passionate reunion was interrupted by Isabel banging on the door. Arthur admitted his wife, at the same time asking his law partner to please, “Come in, I don't want to be left alone here with them.”
Annie began civilly enough. “How do you do, Mrs. Bradley? I have wanted to talk to you.” But Isabel's instinct was not for conversation. She clamped her hands around Annie's throat and began throttling her. The men separated the combatants, and the women spent the next several hours screaming accusations at each other, while Arthur cringed in the corner, the center of attention. Come the dawn, Isabel returned home and Arthur gave Annie a .32 caliber revolver, should Isabel seek a second confrontation. It seemed Annie had won.
But upon Annie's return to Salt Lake City, Arthur's law partner informed her that Isabel and Arthur had “reconciled”. The offer of a house and weekly stipend was renewed, and Arthur pointedly denied his paternity of Annie's son, Arthur Brown Bradley. And being three months pregnant, Annie reluctantly agreed. She gave birth to her second child by Arthur, Martin Montgomery Brown Bradly, on November 24, 1903. Despite promises to his wife, Arthur maintained a discreet contact with Annie, at least until August of 1905, when Isabel died of cancer. Abruptly the path seemed cleared for Annie and Arthur to marry. But they did not... that is, Arthur did not.
He was 63 years old now, and already had another mistress, someone closer to his own age for a change, Annie Adams Kiskadden (above, left). She was the mother of Utah's famed actress and creator of the role of Peter Pan, Maude Adams (above, right). If she did not know about the new mistress, Annie Bradley must have suspected it. She was now 33 years old herself, divorced, the mother of four, and had no income. Swallowing a little more pride she asked her millionaire boyfriend for $2,000 to start a new life. He ignored that request, but did present her with a one way train ticket to California. Then he left for Washington, D.C. This slap in the face snapped something in Annie, just the way something had snapped in the two Mrs. Browns. Annie traded in her ticket to California for one to Washington, D.C
Annie arrived in town on Saturday, December 8, 1906. As she expected, Arthur was registered again at the Raleigh Hotel (above). She registered as Mrs. A. Brown, and took the room next to Arthur's. Conning the maid into opening the connecting door, Annie searched Arthur's room until she found letters from Annie Kiskadden, which discussed marriage plans. No one should be surprised that after waiting for Arthur's return, Annie shot him with the gun he had given her for self defense.
What can you say about a man who keeps inspiring the women in his life to shoot at him? Once might be an accident,. twice might be an unlikely coincidence - but three times? When the hotel manager bent down over Arthur (above), he said only, “She shot me.” It turns out,  it was inevitable. Judging by the powder burns on his hands Arthur was reaching for the gun when Annie pulled the trigger. The Unitarian giggilo died six days later – December 13, 1906. His obituary in the New York Times noted with faint praise, that Arthur had been “intensely loyal to his male friends.” As proof of his lack of moral character, Arthur's will renounced both of his sons by Annie. “I expressly provide that neither or any of them shall receive anything from my estate.” It almost makes you wish he had lived, so she could have shot him again.
The jury agreed. Annie had entered a plea of “temporary insanity” but almost on the first anniversary of the shooting, and after nine hours of deliberations, the jury instead found Annie simply not guilty. The misdirected Juliet walked out of the court room a free woman. She went back to Salt Lake City (above) and opened an antique store called “My Shop” And she made a success of it, running her own business, on her own, until her death on November 11, 1950 .
Thus the life of Arthur Brown, who never seemed to get any older than he was at the age of twelve. And don't we all know a guy like that?
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Sunday, February 26, 2012

ET TU Part Six OVER THE EDGE

I don't wish to overstate things, so speaking conservatively, the year 45 B.C. was one of the most revolutionary years in all of human history. To begin with it was a last year of the old Roman calender, and the year in which Julius Caesar was elected dictator of Rome for life. Could it have been a coincidence then, that this revolutionary year was also the last year of Julius Caesar’s life?
When Cesar conquered Gaul the minute had yet to be invented, the second was a useless abstraction, and the hour a generality. The Romans marked time using the moon. The new moon was the first day of every month, on which bills were to be paid, known as the accounting book day - in Latin, the Kalends. Five to eight days later, on the half moon, was the Nones, and every day between was numbered as 'so days before' the Nones Eight days after the Nones came the full moon, which was called the Ides, or the half. The Ides was followed by a count down to the next Kalends.
The biggest problem with this seemingly simple system was that the months were of equal length, and the year was only 355 days long.  Even two thousand years ago the earth took 365 days to orbit the sun, and those ten missing days caused season creep. This was supposed to be addressed by adding a 13th month, the Mensis Intercalaris, every other year, usually in the dead of winter. But the decision of when and where to add the Mensis Intercalaris was left up to the Counsels, who were the executives who ran Rome and were elected to serve for one year each. And being politicians, most managed to justify stretching out their terms in office for that extra month. So, Rome was soon suffering from additional seasonal creep. By the time Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, on January 12, 49 B.C., instead of that date happening in the winter, it was just the middle of autumn. Something ought to be done.
The story goes that late in 48 B.C., at a party in Alexandria, Cleopatra 7 introduced Julius Caesar to her court astronomer, Sosigenes. And it was during their conversation that Sosigenes suggested the Romans dump the moon and start telling time by the sun. Well, Caesar agreed in theory, but he was first and foremost a politician, and not that interested in theory. But he filed it all away for future reference. After defeating the Senate aristocratic forces in Asia Minor, Tunisia and Spain in 46 B.C., Caesar finally turned his attention to fixing things in Rome.
First he swamped the Senate with 300 new Senators, including some from outside of Italy. This gave him the votes to do just about anything he wanted. He wanted to be elected dictator for a year. This position had been created before, but Caesar immediately used his new majority to make the jump to Sosigenes's new calender. Now, his reason for doing this was of course purely practical. In order to bring the seasons into harmony before switching to the new calender Caesar inserted two adjustment months; Intercalaris Prior and Intercalaris Posterior. Adding these 66 days meant that Caesar's year as dictator lasted 445 days, giving him lots of time to get the Senate to vote him dictator perpetuo - dictator for life - which they did in in February 44 B.C. And if as of January 1st, 44 B.C., instead of an intercalaris month inserted every other year, the new Julian calender required only one extra day be inserted every four years, that was merely a happy side effect
For the poor little rich boys, like Senator Marcus Junius Brutus, and his brother-in-law Senator Gaius Cassius Longinus, the changes were not so happy. So many aristocratic Senators had been killed trying to stop Caesar, that the blue blood in the Senate was running thin. Then Caesar had diluted the Senate membership by 50%, by appointing a bunch of rubes and boobs - at least it seemed so to Brutus and Cassius. The  Senate chambers had now acquired all the unpleasant aspects of the audience at the Red Neck comedy tour.
And then, even worse, Caesar cut the welfare rolls by half. Those tossed off the public dole were offered the chance to live overseas in new cites, like New Carthage in Africa and New Corinth in Greece, or Seville in Spain. You would have thought the aristocrats would have cheered this development, but they had gotten so used to denouncing the angry mobs of poor people right outside their doors, that now that the angry mobs were reduced, they missed complaining about them. Almost in reflex they denounced the expense of building all these new “welfare” cities. Caesar was doing this, they said, just to increase his popularity.
But what Caesar did with the banking system in 45 B.C. really ticked off the aristocrats. The country was drowning in debt, mostly owed to the aristocrats in the Senate. They were about the only people with money, and they were getting even richer because of it. In a typical example, Brutus had made a loan to the town of Salamis in Sicily, charging 48% interest. They could never pay that off. But in 45 B.C. the dictator Caesar had wiped out all interest due on any principle already paid. With that one decree, one quarter of the amount owed by the 99% of the population to the top 1% was wiped out. The economy took a big breath of relief. But the 1% were outraged. Caesar was a tyrant, they said. He wanted to be King, they said.
Caesar also rebuilt the Roman forum, including starting a new Senate House to replace the one burned down in 50 B.C. Nearby he built a new market that spurred business investment and profit in the city. He cleared out the vast wooden Subura slums and rebuilt them in cement, which put an end to the fires which regularly threatened to burn down the entire town. Caesar rebuilt the port of Ostia into a vast grain store house, to stabilize the price of bread in Rome. This ticked off the aristocrats in the Senate who had made money manipulating the price of wheat. He set term limits for Roman governors, and established new rules to reduce graft in the provinces. This ticked off the aristocrats who had made profited from that graft. He granted Roman citizenship to millions in Italy, Spain and North Africa, which made Rome something they would all fight for. But that also gave these people rights and protections under the law against rapacious money lenders – also known as the aristocrats in the Senate. Caesar the tyrant not only wanted to be King, he wanted to be made a god, the aristocrats said.
And then Caesar did the one thing which sealed his fate. As election day 45 B.C. approached, Cassisus, Brutus' brother-in-law, was expecting to be nominated for Praetor, mayor of Rome, for 44 B.C.. Instead, Caesar nominated Brutus again. Cassisus was insulted, infuriated and frightened. His veiled hatred of Caesar was well know in the Senate chambers, but he had not thought Caesar knew. Now he must have suspected that Caesar suspected. And Cassius knew what he would do if he were in Caesar's position. Something had to be done.
Cassius knew if he struck back at Caesar himself, he would have little support. Even his brother-in-law
Brutus (above) knew how much he hated and feared Caesar. But Cassius also knew who Brutus was. Cassisus knew Brutus could be led to act if an abstract argument could be justified in concrete terms. So he took a coin out of his purse.
The design of Roman coins was determined by three men,  called the “tresviri monetales”, the 'three money men'  who decided what face or images would be carved into the molds used for the aureus (gold), denarius (silver) and the as (copper) coins used in every transaction from buying political office in Judea to a loaf of bread in Britain. One denarius was roughly the equivalent of fifteen U.S. Dollars, and traditionally they carried the images of gods and demigods representing traits the politicians wanted to be seen as embodying. But in February of 44 B.C. a new denarius was released, bearing the face of Julius Caesar (below).
It was the first coin ever created carrying the head of a living Roman. The coins were being stockpiled for Caesar's coming attack on Parthia. It had been almost ten years since Caesar's mentor and ally, Crassus, had been killed on the field of Carrhae. And it had been his death that destroyed the balance of power in Rome and brought on the civil war. It was common knowledge that Caesar was to leave Rome in a few short weeks to avenge Crassus' death by invading Parthia. And the coins bearing his face, would remind the local “barbarians” of the images of Alexander the Great who had swept aside the Persian Empire, three hundred years before. The coins were a bit of political-economic theater, and their intended audience was in Parthia, where the coins were going to be distributed. .
But, to a Roman audience, such coins spoke of arrogance and presumption. Worse, it spoke of stupidity.
No Roman politician would dare to release such coins and then leave town.  Only a fool or a child would not realize Caesar's intended use for these coins. But remember it was Brutus, who had been described as having the mind of a man but the emotions of a child.
When Cassius pressed one of Cesar's new coins into Brutus palm, his argument for the elimination of Caesar was easy to make. He just had to avoid giving Brutus time to think things through.
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