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Friday, August 03, 2012


He's the kind of man a woman would have to marry to get rid of.
Mae West
I wish William Bright (above) had been more of a hero. In reality he was racist, and with such bad timing that he struggled his whole life against being irrelevant. First, he was a Democrat, which in the late 1860's was the definition of political irrelevancy. In 1867 he emigrated westward, to South Pass City, the rest stop astride the 7,500 foot high wagon route through the Rocky Mountains. The transcontinental railroad was in the process of making the town and the pass irrelevant. What had drawn the 44 year old William and his new wife, along with two thousand other miners, to South Pas was the discovery nearby of gold. Not that William was not much of a miner, but the next year he used what little he had made trading in mining claims to buy a saloon...just as the gold was running out. By the end of the year South Pass City had a total population of 60 people, and a disturbing number of them were temperance supporters, making even Mr. Bright's saloon irrelevant..
The only good woman I can recall in history was Betsy Ross. And all she ever made was a flag.
Mae West
Nationally, by 1869 the Democrats were an endangered species. The party of Lincoln dominated the 41st congress, controlling the Senate 57 Republicans to just 9 Democrats, and 150 Republicans to just 65 Democrats in the House of Representatives. Thus it was no surprise that when newly sworn in Republican President Grant chose the first governor for the new Wyoming Territory, he would be a good Republican – Ohioan John A. Campbell. Arriving in the railroad town of Laramie the new Governor called for an election for a two tier Territorial Legislature on Tuesday, August 3, 1869. and shortly thereafter the newly appointed U.S. Attorney for the territory, Joseph Carey, issued a legal opinion that because of the new 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, no person could be denied the right to vote because of their skin color. And that was the start of all kinds of Wyoming insanity

Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly
Mae West
The turnout on election day was disappointing. Only 5,266 men showed up to cast ballots. More might have voted but for the gangs of drunken Democrats armed with guns and knives guarding the polls to make certain no blacks or Asians or people who thought blacks or Asians should be allowed to vote, tried to vote. Still, it seems unlikely better order at the polls would have significantly changed the outcome. The census taken the following year found only 6,107 men in the entire territory. So it was that when the new legislature convened in Cheyenne in October of 1869 it consisted of 12 Representatives in the lower house and 8 Councilmen in the upper house, and they were all Democrats.
A man in the house is worth two in the street
Mae West
One of the most prominent Democrats elected was the racist from South Pass City (above), William Bright. He was so respected by his fellows that he was named President of the Council (the upper house) before the legislature got down to work. And they were very busy, passing 86 laws and 13 memorials and resolutions by mid-December. One law ensured that male teachers should not be paid more than women, while another guaranteed that wives would retain property rights after separating from their husbands. And then there was the  “Act to Prevent Intermarriage between White Persons and those of Negro or Mongolian Blood,” which was self explanatory. Governor Cambell vetoed that one, but the legislature passed it over over his veto. And then, wrote the Wyoming Tribune, “amid the greatest hilarity, and after the presentation of various funny amendments and in the full expectation of a gubernatorial veto, an act was passed enfranchising the women of Wyoming.”
Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.
Mae West
William Bright introduced the measure, labeled Council Bill (CB) 70 on November 30th.  It read, in full, “Section 1. That every woman of the age of eighteen years, residing in this territory, may at every election to be held under the laws thereof, cast her vote. And her rights to the elective franchise and to hold office shall be the same under the election laws of the territory, as those of electors. Section 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.” And according to his supporting speech, William's primary reasons for introducing such a revolutionary measure – there were only about 1,000 females over the age of ten in all of Wyoming - was that, as an unnamed Councilman said, “if you are going to let the n--gers and the pigtails (Chinese) vote, we will ring in the women, too.”  Three members of the council disagreed on grounds that even as a joke neither women nor Negros nor Chinese should be considered intellectual or moral equals to white men. But CB70 passed the same day, 6-2 with one abstention.
Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.
Mae West
When things got to the other side of the Rollings House hotel, where the legislature was meeting,  Benjamin Sheeks, also from South Pass, led the opposition. He tried to permanently table the bill, and when that failed he and his allies tried adding “poison pill” amendments, such as the addition of the phrase,  “colored women and squaws” to section one, and substituting the word “ladies”, as in “ladies of the evening” for the word “women”. That produced some laughter, but it was defeated. Then Sheeks moved to temporally table the bill, so the House could consider more “pressing matters” first. That passed, but it bought the opponents only two days to lobby against the measure.
Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can't figure out what from.
Mae West
When the debate was resumed, opponents tried moving to adjourn three times in a row, hoping to catch somebody in the outhouse or off sneaking a drink of whiskey. All three attempts failed. Then it was moved that CB70 should be reconsidered on July 4, 1870 – seven months after the house permanently adjourned. Amid all the laughter and snickering, that maneuver was also defeated . But Sheeks did finally amend CB70, raising the voting age for women from 18 to 21. After all a joke's a joke, but let's not go crazy here. And then, finally, at 8:20 that night the house approved CB70, 7 to 4. It was immediately moved to reconsider the issue, but that was just as quickly defeated. And with that, finally, the issue of female suffrage was dumped into the lap of the Republican Governor.
The score never interested me, only the game
Mae West
Governor John Cambell was a bit young, but he was nobody's fool. He knew this bill was intended to mock Republicans like himself for giving the vote to African-American males, and because Edward M. Lee, the appointed Republican Territorial Secretary, was an ardent supporter of female suffrage. As the measure had moved through the legislature, Cambell had asked everybody he could, looking for the least embarrassing option. And in the end, he decided the best thing to do was not take the bait, not fight the issue as he had the  mixed race marriage bill. After considering the matter for a few days Governor Cambell decided to simply sign it, which he did on December 10, 1868. In Wyoming, females now had the right to vote.
His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork
Mae West
Back in South Pass City, Justice of the Peace R.S. Barr decided to deliver the punch line to Mr. Bright's joke. On Valentine's day 1870 he placed an ad in the newspaper, offering to resign his position “whenever some lady elector shall have been duly appointed ti fill the vacancy.” Ha, ha, and no lady appeared. But they did serve on a grand jury, and they did vote at the next territorial election, in 1871. And the world did not dissolve into an estrogen mush 
I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it
Mae West
William Bright would not stand for re-election. His bar went bankrupt in 1870, and he moved to Denver, and from there back to his hometown, Washington D.C. On May 3, 1912 the Cheyenne State Leader ran his obituary. “Mr. Bright was 86 years of age, and had been for twenty years past an employee of the government printing office...(he) moved to Wyoming and...drew up and fought through the bill for woman suffrage which was the first law of its kind ever presented to a law-making body in the United States.” And often, that is how you become a hero, in retrospect and with heavy editing
I use to be Snow White, but I drifted
Mae West
In 1871, at the next meeting of the Territorial Legislature, the male politicians, led again by Mr. Sheek, passed a bill to overturn female suffrage. Governor Cambell vetoed it, and the attempt to override by a two third margin failed, but only just barely. Women in Wyoming retained their voice in their government by one slim vote.   But it would be 1910 before a woman would be elected to serve in the Wyoming legislature, and into the 1950's they were routinely blocked from serving on juries. And yet, Wyoming insists on calling its self the “Equity State”. It seems to me, that is something of an gross exaggeration.
To err is human - but it feels divine
Mae West
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Wednesday, August 01, 2012


I come home in the morning light,
My mother says "When you gonna live your life right?"
Oh ,mother,dear, We're not the fortunate ones,
And girls, They wanna have fun.
I am not sure how to describe the Pharaoh's women. Collectively they were called a harem, but today that title   conjures up Victorian images of sex starved coquettes waiting impatiently for the a few moments attention from their sugar daddy -  a male Egyptologist's fantasy if ever there was one. It also seems an inefficient use of resources, what with years of housing, feeding and clothing so many sperm receptacles when, in the end, only one really counted. Surely these ancient women, like modern women,  had to be multi-taskers. For example, we know the Pharaoh's harem had a very nice choir.
But besides harmonizing, the ladies of the harem must have earned their keep between reproductive sessions by cutting ribbons at temple openings, encouraging teenagers to just say no to drugs and reminding stone masons of their vital role in the Pharaohonic economy. Proof of the importance of women in Ancient Egypt can be found in events which occurred some 4,200 years ago, at the end of what is called "The New Kingdom" - which gives you some idea of how old Egyptian civilization really is. In the spring of 1167 B.C.E. Ramses III sat down to talk with his wives, and he almost did not get up again
Usimare (Ramses III's real name) was a good example of the vagaries of picking a Pharaoh. He looked the part. He was tall for the age - about 5.8", smart, competent and dedicated. His reign should have been as successful as his idol's, Ramses II, who during his 67 years of rule (according to tradition) threw those freeloading Israelites out Egypt. But Usimare was also a really unlucky guy.  Just before he became Pharaoh a volcano in Iceland blew its top, and the shadow of its ash cloud damaged Egyptian crops for twenty years. The price of wheat skyrocketed. Outside of Egypt entire civilizations of farmers and fishermen became hobos, stealing that they could not buy, be it food or and new place to live. The new vagabonds In the Middle East they were called Philistines, and they spent a couple of hundred years bringing "tsuris" to the wayward Israelites. In Tunisia they established Carthage, and a thousand years later became the Roman Republic's worst enemy. In Egypt they were called the Sea Peoples, and fighting them off left the treasury flat broke. That distant volcanic eruption wasn't Ramses III's fault, but he got the bill. He just wasn't lucky. He wasn't even lucky in his death, in that he did not die fast enough.
The phone rings in the middle of the night,
My father yells "What you gonna do with your life?"
You know you're still number one,
But girls, They wanna have fun
By the spring of 1167 B.C.E., poor, unlucky and broke Ramses III was about 65 years old and had been Pharaoh for thirty-two years. He had dragged his entire court to Thebes for the five day celebration of his Heb-Sed, or Feast of the Tail of the Jackal. This was a cross between Victoria's Diamond Jubilee and the carnival in Rio. There were parades, dinners, banquets and lots of drinking, and on the fourth day the Pharaoh had to "run" a course and shoot arrows to prove he was still fit enough to be Pharaoh. What they would have done if the old boy had not been up to it, I don't know. But in the Old Kingdom they used to kill him if he was too feeble. 
As I said, Ramses III's harem had of course come with him, headed by his new Great Wife Isis-Ta-hemseret. The harem had given Ramses III ten sons, of whom six were still living including Isis' boy, 22 year old newly crowned Prince Heqamatre, but also Prince Pentaweret, who was Ramses's son with Queen Tey aka Tiy. Tey's two eldest sons had already died, and Penatweret was just a few months younger than Heqamatre. But that slight seniority had moved Heqamatre next in line to be Pharaoh over Pentaweret. That meant that Hegmatre's mother Isis had replaced Tey as the new Great Wife. Ramses III could have overridden these automatic adjustments in his royal household if he had felt one heir more suited than the other, but for whatever reason he did nothing. And that would prove to be a fatal choice because Tey was the kind of a girl who carried a grudge. She could have stared in the "Jersey Shore".
Well, she wasn't a girl, she was a grown woman who had given birth to three sons, and she was at least forty years old by now. Still, Tey must have been an impressive broad, because six of the other wives sided with her in this matter. And they were all the daughters of powerful families.
In addition, Tey had considerable support from the bureaucracy which maintained the harem. Chief of the Chamber, Pebekkamen, and his assistant were down with her plan, as well as Peynok, Overseeer Of The Harem and his scribe and seven royal butlers, who were all titled members of the bureaucracy. Tey also managed to draw the army into her conspiracy. The sister of an officer in the Nubian Archers, who was one of the "harem six", urged her brother to "Incite the people to hostility! And come thou to begin hostility against thy lord." Well, I suppose, she could have been more circumspect. In any case, Tey even had conspirators working inside the local cops, the Thebian police force. She was also attempting to seduce the head of the Egyptian Treasury, which was called The White House. And Tey even managed to enlist Iroi, Ramses III's personal priest-physician. But it appears he was the only priest who joined the conspiracy. And that made all the difference.
Some boys take a beautiful girl,
And hide her away from the rest of the world.
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun.
Oh, girls, They wanna have fun.
See, ancient Egypt was peppered with temples, large and small, and each had their priests and their grain fields to support them, and slaves to work those fields. They were like corporations are today. By the best estimates, 14% of the irrigated land and 2% of the population were owned by the temple priests. The temples also owned 500,000 head of cattle, 88 large ships and some 53 workshops and shipyards. And in 1167 B.C. all of this was tax exempt, which shifted more of the tax burden onto the nobles and peasants. Does any of this sound familiar?
Ramses III tried to reduce his expenses by replacing his bureaucrats and large parts of the army with slaves, supplied by independent contractors, a practice in current vogue with the American government. But Ramses III also contributed to this power shift to the priesthood by continuing the practice of donating large sums to the temples. Gold and silver went straight out of the government coffers and into the collection plates. Ramses III boasted on a temple wall, "I did mighty deeds and benefactions...for the gods and goddesses of South and North." Those benefactions hastened the bankruptcy of the national treasury. Familiar again, right?
Just three years before this original "Year of the Woman" the artisans working in the royal tombs had stopped work because their pay had stopped. Ramses crushed this first worker's revolt in history as if he were the Governor of Wisconsin. But that wildcat strike indicated what was at stake. Tey was not just trying to make her son Pharaoh, she was trying to reverse the decline of the power of The Pharaohs.  The whole thing came to a head, say the ancient accounts, when Ramses III decided to spend a night with the girls. He did get up, but he was not waking steady when he did, and he died a few days later. And the feeling at the time was, somebody killed him.
Since Ramses III's mummy was discovered in 1886 we know that the Pharaoh received no knife or spear wounds. And his skeleton reveals no broken bones. I'll bet that Usimare  (Rasmes III) was poisoned, not killed but weakened enough that within a few days after setting down to spend some time with the girls, he died, perhaps of heart failure or dehydration. A hint is that in later centuries, Egyptians invoked Ramses III's name when seeking divine assistance in the case of snake bite. And like a snake, Ramses III lashed out from his death bed against those who had stepped upon him.
In three scandalised trials conducted after Ramses III's death, twenty-seven men and six women were convicted of treason, including Tey's boy, Pentaweret.  Poor Pentaweret was forced to drink poison. Every one else, including Tey herself  was slowly simmered to death on a barbecue, cooked until the flesh was just falling off their bones. And then their bones were ground up and their ashes were scattered to the four winds, condemning the immortal souls of these original resurectionists to wander the after-life without a body. Tough, I know. But if you are going to shoot at the Pharaoh, you had better not miss. And even if you do hit him, it had better be someplace vital, so he goes before he can order his guards to cut off your head. 
And it is a shame Tey did miss. In his will, Ramses III donated 86,400 slaves to the estates of the god Amon's temples. His son and heir, Isis' boy Heqamatre, became Ramses IV, but he ruled for just six years. And after his demise Ramses followed Ramses with such rapidity that the High Priest of el-Kab who had helped Ramses III celebrate his Heb Sed, was still in office when Ramses IX died in 1111 B.C.E. By then the priest were openly the dominant power in Egypt, and the country was run for their benefit, sort of like the bankers run America today. Egypt slipped into a centuries long dark age.  
When the working day is done,
Oh, girls, They wanna have fun.
Ah, if only Tey aka Tiy had been quicker, then the New Kingdom might have lasted a few hundred years longer, and women might have played a bigger part in history, and history might have been more fun. After all, the girl just wanted to have fun.
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Sunday, July 29, 2012


“You people with hearts,” he said, “have something to guide you, and need never do wrong; but I have no heart, and so I must be very careful.” - The Tin Woodsman. 
1900. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” L. Frank Baum
I must begin by pointing out that all good jokes have no prologue. “Two men” may indeed walk into a bar, and before they did, they had to be somewhere else, doing something else. But if you knew what they had been doing, it would, in all likelihood, deflate the punch line. Prologues all define drama's, not comedies.The reality is that everything comes from something else, and every beginning is actually the coda for another story.
As an example, Jacob Sechler Coxey came from Massillon, Ohio, a village founded by 150 Utopians, inspired by a similar effort at New Harmony, Indiana. But where the Hoosier experiment in perfection stagnated, Massillon was energized because the Erie Canal ran right through town. That infrastructure attracted industry, which brought in more infrastructure, specifically railroads. It was not much of a utopia, but it was a successful town. So much money was being made there, that the optimistic little town became known locally as the Port of Massillon. However the port was closed by the Panic of 1893. And that did not arrive from nowhere, either.
The 1849 California Gold rush proved so rich that by 1873 the U.S. government stopped issuing silver coins. Silver mining was still profitable, but corporate interests convinced Washington that silver needed price supports. So the politicians passed the Sherman Silver Act of 1890, which committed the nation to buy and stockpile silver. Silver shot up from 84 cents an ounce to $1.50. But the attendant inflation caused banks to cut back lending. That hurt troubled railroads. Over the next four years, failing railroads (156 of them) led to failed banks (almost 400 of them), which produced failed small businesses (almost 5,000 of them). And then incoming President Grover Cleveland made things even worse. He repealed the Sherman Act.
In just four days silver lost a quarter of its value. And the attendant deflation destroyed what little credit remained. Unemployment rose from an estimated 3% in 1892, to 11% in 1893, and, after repeal of the Sherman Act, to 18% in 1894. In Pennsylvania the level was 25%. In Michigan it was 44%. In Chicago 100,000 homeless men were sleeping in the streets. Editor John Swinton wrote, “…we have seen the growth of a horde of paupers, beggars and tramps.” Minister George Herron, noted that the richest nation in the world now “finds a vast population face to face with famine”.
The captains of industry, who had created this mess, expected the government to aid them with tax cuts and tariffs to restrict competition. But they were opposed to similar aid to workers, to the very idea of a safety net or by government investing in infrastructure. However that solution seemed obvious to those who had worked with their hands, men raised to believe that a better world could and ought to be built; specifically, men like Jacob Coxey.
At thirty-six years of age, this wing-collared revolutionary could have been the physical twin to Japanese Emperor Hirohito, with a round face framed by rimless spectacles and accented by a thin mustache. Jacob Coxey did not smoke. He did not drink to excess. He was the most successful businessman in Massillon, a millionaire. But he was working on his second marriage and rumor had it that his gambling had ended his first. To finance his addiction, Jacob owned a sandstone quarry outside of Massillon, which, by the way, carried two mortgages, the second held by his first wife, Carrie Coxey.
Jacob Coxey was a visionary, and like most, sometimes he was also a bit myopic. For while his “Good Roads Association” sought to mitigate the endless capitalist cycle of boom followed by bust, his belief in reincarnation sought to minimize the trauma of life itself. And then in the summer of 1893, at the Chicago World’s Fair, Jacob found a kindred spirit for both of his visions, in a lunatic named Carl Browne. 
Carrie Coxey called Browne “a deep-dyed villian” and it is easy to see what she saw. He was a natural born huckster, a salesman in the extreme. He stood over six feet tall. His hair hung down his back and clustered about his face like a heavy snowfall. Carl dressed like Buffalo Bill, in a fringed buskin coat, buttoned with Mexican silver dollars and set off with thigh high cowboy boots. He rarely if ever bathed. His voice has been described as a foghorn. He had worked as house painter, a cartoonist and a snake oil salesman, and now he was a labor organizer. And five minutes of talking with Jacob Coxey convinced Carl Browne that while he personally was the partial re-incarnation of Jesus Christ, Coxey was the re-incarnation of Andrew Jackson. And Jackson just happened to be one of Jacob Coxey’s heroes. What a lucky coincidence, their meeting 
It was the meeting of these two personalities, the shy, confident thinker and the bombastic and profane huckster, which gave birth to the idea of a “petition with boots on”, a march on Washington to petition the government for a response to the staggering unemployment. It came to Jacob in a New Year Eve’s dream that the march should begin on Easter Sunday, March 25th, 1894. Jacob wrote a treatise on the subject, and Carl drew impressions of the glorious out come to come. And it was extremely unlikely that anyone would have paid any attention to the march whatever had not the editor of the Massillon Independent posted notice of Jacob Coxey’s grand plan on the national wire services. And just about every editor in America agreed, it would make a really good story . 
“The north and south winds met where the house stood, and made it the exact center of the cyclone. In the middle of a cyclone the air is generally still, but the great pressure of the wind on every side of the house raised it up higher and higher, until it was at the very top of the cyclone; and there it remained and was carried miles and miles away as easily as you could carry a feather.”
1900. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” L. Frank Baum
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