NOVEMBER 2017

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The Rise of the Billionaires Leaves the Middle Class Stranded

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Friday, January 25, 2013

ITS JUST A JOKE


I recently came across an old English music hall joke. A young Irish lad was warmly welcomed into an English pub , but after a few drinks the boy got a sad look about him. He explained he appreciated the comradeship, but missed his corner pub back home. “The first time you set foot in the place”, he explained , “they'd buy you a drink, then another, all the drinks you like. Then when you've finally had enough, they'd take you upstairs and make sure you get laid.” The English patrons were skeptical, and the barkeep asked how many times the Irish lad had experienced this welcome. “Never”, he admitted.“But it happened to my sister quite a few times.” Is that a racist joke?

After almost thirty years of successful publishing in Glasgow, Scotland, Belfast, Ireland, and Manchester and London, England, James Henderson finally hit the mother lode in a penny tabloid weekly magazine, “Our Young Folks Weekly Budget”. Its 16 pages of action art work and adventure fiction dominated the youth market through various incarnations for 26 years.( Henderson paid Robert Louis Stevens a pound per column for “Treasure Island”, which he serialized in “Young Folks”). And each noon, the savvy capitalist would meet with his editors, issuing detailed instructions for the flurry of newspapers and magazines – even a line of picture post cards - that cascaded from 169 Red Lion Court, Fleet street, each seeking to replicate “Young Folks” profit. Henderson had stumbled upon the concept of a speciality market.
A London Bobby asks two drunks for their names and addresses. The first answers, “I'm Paddy O'Day, of no fixed address.” And the second replies, “I'm Seamus O'Toole, and I live in the flat above Paddy.”
Beginning in 1831 royal taxes on newspapers were lowered by three-fourths. The response was instantaneous. New papers popped up like mushrooms after a rain. The industrial revolution was bringing people into the cities, and putting coins in their pockets. For the first time in history, that created consumers, which made advertising profitable (i.e. capitalism). More papers encouraged more people to read. By 1854, out of a population of 28 million, weekly newspaper sales in England had topped 122 million a year. In 1857 the last newspaper taxes were finally eliminated, triggering yet another wave – daily newspapers. It was this new customer vox populi that James Henderson and Sons were riding to success.
Paddy: Is your family in business? Seamus; Yes, iron and steel. My mother irons and my father steals
In December of 1874, Henderson created the first humor magazine in England, a sort of Victorian Daily Show in print, called “Funny Folks, The Comic Companion to the Newspaper”. The cover art for the first issue was drawn by John Proctor, who signed his work, “Puck”. “Funny Folks” proved so successful that Henderson released an entire line of humor magazines - “Big Comic”, “Lot-O-Fun” “Comic Life”, “Scraps and Sparks”. In 1892 came Henderson's most popular humor magazine, “Nuggets”
Bobby: “Madam, I could cite you for indecent exposure, walking down the street with your breast exposed like that.” Irish lass: “Holy Mary and Joseph, I left the baby on the bus.”
Like “Funny Folks”, Nuggets had its own featured artist, T.S. Baker, and his most popular creation was an Irish family living “in contented poverty” in South London - the Hooligans. The father, P. Hooligan, was a would-be entrepreneur, a member of the Shamrock Lodge. And his every scheme in some way involved his wheelbarrow, and the family goat. Mrs. Hooligan was fashion conscious, but always copying far above her economic station. And there were, of course, a hoard of unnamed ginger haired children about. It seems impossible to believe that the current term for violent law breakers, practitioners of practical anarchy, had its source with this gentle Irish family imitating proper Victorian society, but indeed, this is where the word originated - in the nine year run of a cartoon Irish family, drawn by an artist of ingenious and subtle talents. In person the Hooligans don't make an obvious racist image. But what did the intended audience see in this cartoon, that a hundred plus years later, we might not? And how is being called a Paddy in 1890, different from being hit with the “N” word, today?
Whats the first thing an Irish lass does in the morning? She walks home
The bigotry towards Ireland seems to have started about a thousand years ago, with Gerald of Wales, the ultra-orthodox chaplain to the English King Henry II, who joined his monarch in the church endorsed invasion of Ireland, and with his observation of the locals. “This is a filthy people, wallowing in vice. They indulge in incest, for example in marrying – or rather debauching – the wives of their dead brothers.” One would think a clergyman who had studied logic in Paris would have remembered Deuteronomy 25:5 - “...her husband's brother shall go in to her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother to her.” I guess it's easier to butcher people, if you can manage to despise them for whatever reason.
What do you call an Irishman with half a brain? Gifted
Illogically the English originally justified their oppression of the Irish because they were bringing them Catholicism. Then after their own Protestant reformation, the English used Catholicism to denigrate the Irish, calling them “cat licks” and “mackerel snappers” who ate fish on Fridays. With time the insults came to include local terrain (bog trotters) physical characteristics (carrot top), perceived laziness (narrow backs) and diet (potato heads, spud fuckers and tater tots for the children). Irish jokes (read insults) were standard fare in English music halls from the 1850's on, and always good for a laugh. And it was from this racism that the sophisticated simplicity of the Hooligans achieved something approaching an art form.
“What's the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake? One drink.”
James Henderson, and his son Nelson, may have been racists. History has failed to record their opinions outside of the business decisions they made. And it may be valid to label them with the black mark because of the Hooligans. And they did publish worse. But then they were publishers, not social activists. And like a music hall comic who told Irish jokes, they provided the public what the public wanted, or else they could not remain in business. Morality is an affect, not an effect. So were these purveyors of racist anti-Irish humor racists, or were they merely businessmen? And did the Hooligans transcend racism because it was so well done? You might as well ask Norman Lear if Archie Bunker made life easier for African Americans by calling them “jungle bunnies” on national television. In fact that question has been asked
“Paddy, he said you weren't fit to associate with pigs, but I stuck up for you. I said you most certainly were.”
Its hard for me to dismiss the Hooligans because they make me smile, and because they were a loving respectful family, and because they were always striving. But mostly because they make me smile. Why I laugh at them, tells a story about me, not them. It is a lesson every artist must learn at some point, the sooner the better. What is put on the page, is rarely what is seen there. It is the job of the artist to limit confusion. But you can never be completely understood. The most you can consistently hope to achieve is to entertain. Enlightenment is the responsibility of the reader, not the writer.
Bobby; "Where were you born?" Paddy; "Dublin". Bobby; "What part?"   Paddy; "All of me."
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

BANG, BANG, YOUR DEAD


I believe I have stumbled upon a way to spot a deranged maniac with a gun before they get the gun, and it ain't their choice of video games or violent movies that gives them away. Simply criticize their poetry, and the unbalanced individual is instantly revealed. Case in point, in early 1910 Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough once again had “insisted on inflicting his home-made poetry and epigrams on all who would listen", according to William Mossman, manager of the Pittsburgh Orchestra. Now, the experienced members always listened politely to Fitzhugh, and kept their spit valves firmly closed until the maudlin verse was over, but on this day, brass section member Otto Kegel could no longer resist trumpeting his opinion that Fitzhugh wrote the worst poetry ever written  Fitzhugh's response was to grab his own $400 violin and smash it over the critic's head. Fitzhugh then fled screaming from the building. He sulked for 72 hours, and when he returned he was not a better poet. That, I believe, is a certain indication of a lunatic destined to kill somebody.
His story began inside 1331 K Street Northwest, Washington, D.C..The row mansion stood just across the street from Franklin Square Park, on the corner lot with 13th Street. In this wealthy abode resided the imminent Dr. Edmund K. Goldsborough, his wife Julia and their children - two sons, Fitzhugh, the eldest, and Edmond the youngest child, - and two daughters in-between – Francis the older and Ann the younger girl. Julia doted on all her children, and denied them nothing, But Fiitzhugh was her favorite. He showed real talent with the violin and he loved poetry, which he produced in prodigious quantity. He composed, by his own admission, a new ode to Venus about once a week. And his mother assured him every line was sheer genius.
In 1898 Dr. Goldsborough decided his son needed a profession. And that year the would-be poet was dispatched to Harvard College, to become an attorney. After just one year however, he withdrew and returned home. Tensions in the house on K Street began to rise. Fitzhugh  (above) told his diary that he was being followed by private detectives, and increasingly, they volitile young man would intervene when his father tried to discipline Francis or Ann, eventually even threatening violence if the doctor “so much as laid a hand” on either girl. After two years of this, in 1901, and by mutual consent, Fitzhugh  left home again, this time for Europe, to study the violin. Here he met with considerable success, and he did not return for four long years, coming home briefly during the winter of 1905-06. That spring he left again, first to Montreal, Quebec where he worked as an instructor, and then in 1907 he followed a Berlin acquaintance, Karl Pohlig, who had been hired as the new conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The city of brotherly love offered Fitzhugh his best chance for normality, and he became first chair. However, at the same time he took to signing his name with a multi-pointed star, with his name forming all the spokes. But then in 1909 he followed an offer of more money, when half the Pittsburgh orchestra quit in a dispute with their cold intellectual conductor, the Frenchman Emil Paur. The labor tensions had an impact upon Fitzhugh, as shown by his attack upon the head of the unfortunately outspoken Mr. Kegel. As the orchestra teetered on the verge of bankruptcy early in the 1910 season, the 31 year old Fitzhugh learned his little sister Ann had become engaged to William Stead, and the pair intended on moving to England. Shortly there after Fitzhugh Coyee Goldsborough disappeared from Pittsburgh, leaving behind only a note of explanation. “The Pittsburgh smoke has driven me crazy”, he wrote. “You will never see me again.” He confided to his diary that he had decided to murder a man he had never met, the journalist, social novelist, and affected eccentric, David Graham Phillips.
The tall, handsome and beryl eyed Phillips once said he would rather be a journalist than President. His 1906 series “Treason in the Senate”, serialized in the magazine “Colliers”, was such a scathing indictment of political corruption that it led by 1912 to the 17th amendment to the Constitution, requiring the open election of senators. Phillips was a workhorse, writing late into the night while standing at his desk (above), grinding out 6,000 words a day. He said, “If I were to die tomorrow, I would be six years ahead of the game” And beginning in 1901 he also produced six popular pot boiler novels like his 1909 best seller “The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig”.
His characters were little more than caricatures, but because Phillips (above) told interviewers he based them on living people, readers were intrigued. Phillips described his female protagonist in “Craig” , the wealthy “noodle-head” Margaret Severence, in venomous terms. “To her luxurious, sensuous nature every kind of pleasurable physical sensation made keen appeal, and she strove in every way to make it keener.” In reality Phillips wrote from his fertile imagination, and what he knew his readers wanted. The hint of slander was a marketing ploy, like the white suits with a mum in the lapel Phillips always wore in public, or his crumpled alpine hat. The problem was, Fritzhugh fell for the ploy.
And when the mad young Mr Goldsborough read the “Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig” he was convinced the unflattering character of Miss Severence (above)  was based upon his own younger sister, Ann. Fitzhugh wrote to Phillips, claiming libel and asking for an apology. However, since he did not sign his name and failed to provide a return address, Phillips could not apologize, even if he had wished to. Fitzhugh took the lack of response as arrogance, and wrote a series of increasingly angry and threatening letters, eventually signing them in Phillips' own name, convincing the novelist his mysterious correspondent was a lunatic - which he was. Clearly this miss-communication could not continue.
With his sister Ann's wedding day scheduled for February 25tth, 1911, Fitzhugh rented a top-floor rear room for $3 a week at the Rand School on East 19th Street in New York City. His check in date was November 2, 1910. He informed no one of his new address. His family thought he was still in Pittsburgh. In fact he was now just a block away and just around the corner from the brownstone National Arts Club at 16 Gramercy Park South – where David Graham Phillips lived. And almost directly across that small private park was the Yale Club, where Phillips received his mail. Fitzhugh spent the next two months stalking his victim.
As was his usual habit, the 42 year old David Phillips rose late on Monday, January 23, 1911. He had been working the night before, grinding out his six thousand words, and after breakfast and dressing, it was well after one before he took the elevator to the first floor and hurried down the front steps of the Arts Club (above) . He carried with him the corrected proofs of his new short story, “Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise”, ready to be mailed to the Saturday Evening Post magazine
Rather than cutting through the gated park, Phillips turned left and walked the few steps to the corner of Gramercy Park West, and then turned right. It took him less than a minute to cross 21st Street, or Gramercy Park North, where he turned right again, walking the half block toward Lexington Avenue, which “T”ed into Gramercy Park. At the corner was the mansion that housed the Princeton Club (above).
As Phillips approached 115 East 21st Street a man stepped away from the cast iron fence he had been leaning against, and blocked Phillip's way. From his coat pocked the assassin pulled a ten shot .38 caliber pistol, and was heard to announce, “Here you go.” Then, with a sweep of his arm he fired six shots, each one hitting Phillips, once in the right lung, once in the intestines, the left forearm, the right hip and both thighs. Phillips staggered backward against the fence, almost falling into the arms of John Jacoby, a passing florist. Then, according to two other wittiness who had just come out of Princeton Club, and without bothering to look at his victim,  Fitzhugh stepped into the gutter and, announced, “And here I go”. Fitzhugh then shot himself in the head.
The Princeton Club's paper recorded the incident as follows. “David Graham Phillips, (class of ) '87, editor, publicist and novelist,  was shot six times today as he approached the Princeton Club, by Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, a Harvard man...”
The three witnesses carried Phillips into the club's foyer and laid him on a settee. There the victim said he had no idea who his assassin was, and begged them not to tell his mother of his shooting because “the shock might kill her.” Out in the gutter Fitzahugh's body lay under a sheet for hours while police tried to understand. In Fitzhugh's pockets they found two short story manuscripts, and a membership card for the American Federation of Musicians. Now they knew the who and what, and after they read Fitzhugh's diary found in his room at the Rand School, they understood the why. He was a lunatic.
Three days after the shooting, David Graham Phillips died in a fever of septicemia. He was survived by his sister Caroline, who had been sharing his apartment at the Arts Club after leaving her abusive husband. She finished up her brother's final short story, and it was published posthumously. And in 1931 it was made into a motion picture, staring Clark Gable and Greta Garbo. The Goldsborough family sent their sincere regrets to the Phillips family. The Goldsboroughs held the mad man's funeral service in the family home at 1331 K Street Northwest, and a month later Anne's wedding in the same rooms. After the wedding, Mr and Mrs. William Stead moved to Nottingham, England, where he served as the United States Counsel.
The only positive outcome from the shooting was the passage of gun regulation, named after its co-author, State Senator Tim (Big Feller) Sullivan, which went into effect in August, just seven months after the shooting. To this day, the Sullivan Act requires a license to carry a hand gun in New York State, and allows each county to set their own limits on handgun licenses. Possession of an unlicensed gun in New York City results in an automatic one year in jail. Similar murders have occurred since, of course, but then crime prevention does not have to be 100% effective. Every life saved is of value, even if it is the life of an arrogant obnoxious lunatic like Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DOES YOUR COW POINT NORTH


I am certain that some will think this story is much a moo about nothing. But I think it behooves us to consider the implications of what at first blush seems like a simply grazy observation. Zoologists Sabine Begall and Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany have made the startling discovery that at any given instant on any given day, two out of every three cows standing in fields all over the earth have steered themselves along North-South magnetic lines, as if they were over sized leather covered compass needles. We don’t yet know for certain if they are headed for the North Star or aiming with their dairy-air south, but we now know that those of us with frontal mental lobes, single chambered stomachs and just two teats apiece have been missing the meat of this story for the last 10,000 years.The word “cow” derives from the Latin word ”caput”, meaning the head, which is the ancient way of counting cows, as in “Me and Tex are driving five hundred head to Abilene”. Clearly it was the head of the living cow that Gandi was thinking of when he wrote, “The cow is a poem of pity…She is the second mother to millions of mankind.” She is also, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the source of 18% of the world’s methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. And almost one third of the world’s oversupply of cow burps (the primary source of methane) comes from India’s 280 million sacred cows. Cows belch so much because they re-chew their cuds, regurgitating and re-digesting the cellulose over and over again. So the first secret of cows is that every cow is bull-limic.The emotional life of the average Daisy or Bessie has been described as comparable to a potato on sedatives. But complexity was always hidden just beneath the hide. The American Humane Society has taken note that if one herd member is shocked by an electric fence, the entire herd avoids the wire. English linguistic bull artists have noted that cows moo in local dialects and inflections. And it has long been common knowledge that ungulates form their own bovine breakfast clubs. Three or four females establish lifelong bonds, a cow herd within the herd, or a “curd” if you will. Daisy actually enjoys a rich emotional life, nurturing animosities against her fellows, developing friendships and even mulling over the bovine equivalent of the Stephen Sondheim conundrum, “Is this all there is?"This shared arrogance of our two species matches the obsession of Bessie with a subject familiar to many obsessive humans; sex. Eric Idle has described cows as the “…librarians of the animal world; mild by day, wild by night." And John Webster, a professor of animal husbandry at Bristol University in England, describes cows as “gay nymphomaniacs”. The “curds” constantly cowlick one another. And a single Bessie in “heat” can set off a Daisy chain of cow girls “mounting” herd mates in a riot of bovine dominatrix behavior. Unseen by inattentive humans, a pasture of grazing Gurneys is in reality a seething mass of bored libidos on steroids. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “pasteurization”.Few have ever denied that individually cows process a certain personal magnetism. Their sheer bulk demands respect, if not religious devotion. These are not cuddly creatures. The one point three billion cows alive at this moment are ponderous moovers and shakers, and udderly unimpressed with humanities’ crème-de-la-crème, logic. Every dairyman has herd that cattle tend to face uphill, into strong winds or turn their flank steak to the sunny side on a cold morning; and that all seems plausible. But the idea that these cow hides might be sharing some kind of mystical, new-age ferris sensitivity seemed until recently to be an oxymoron. But scientists seeking out the magnetic orientation of hills created by the European ground mole (Talpa europaea), stumbled over the realization that perhaps larger mammals might also be influenced by something other than human magnetism.German researchers examined Google Earth photographs taken at the same local time of day, observing some 8,510 individual cows in 308 separate herds on five different continents, at essentially the same moment. And the humans stumbled upon this udderly amazing fact; cows got magnetism. Generally, at any given moment, 70 % of the cows in any herd are standing about five degrees off of true North-South orientation. In Oregon State, closer to the North Pole, the deviation of cows is all of 17.5 degrees. In the southern hemisphere (Africa and South America) the alignment was slightly more north-eastern, south-western. Still, adjusted for latitude, 70% of all cows point toward the magnetic pole, and this is much too large a percentage to be a mere homogenized coincidence. The next question is, of course, why have cows got magnetism?Cows are not migratory, but they once may have been. Cows share a common ancestor with whales, the “Pakictids”, which 53 million years ago had a whale’s ear and a cow’s teeth in a really ugly little dog’s body, sort of a Mexican hairless meth addict with hair. Could this ancient mongrel have been the source of the current magnetic deju moo? It could.So it seems, upon rumination, that we owe cows an apology, that to err might be human but to forgive could be bovine. But stop the stampede for animal rights. My guess is we could be apologizing to Daisy and Bessie “auf die Ewigkeit warten”, as they say in Germany, and it would make no difference because Daisy and Bessie are not particularly interested in our moo-tivations, because cows are just as conceited as we humans are. And in the final rendering the squeaky veal always gets the oil. Holy, cow!P.S. Photographs are from “The Secret Life of Cows” by Glen Wexler.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

PEACE - Opening American Eyes


I was stunned to discover, reading the "Potsdam statement", issued in July 26, 1945,  issued in triumphant from amidst the rubble of a vanquished and occupied Nazi Germany, that it was pure politics - part a political initiative, part boastful victory display, and part pure posturing for the voters back home. It was not a diplomatic document. It was not written by or for diplomats. It was signed by the U.S., Great Britain and China, but it had been written by and for the Americans.
The Pacific was America's war, beginning on December 7, 1941, the "date which will live in infamy...".  And in the statement you will find none of Lincoln’s wise magnanimity. It began with a warning, “The might that now converges on Japan is immeasurably greater than that which, when applied to the resisting Nazis, necessarily laid waste to the lands, the industry…of the whole German people…” .  The Americans had reason to boast.
In the 44 months since Pearl Harbor the United States had largely supplied the allied victory in Europe, and at the same time had built eight new battleships, 13 heavy cruisers, 2 large cruisers, 33 light cruisers, 18 heavy aircraft carriers, 76 light or jeep carriers, more than 600 destroyers and destroyer escorts, plus 4,000 large landing craft and 79,000 small landing craft. The Marine Corp had grown to over half a million men and the U.S. Army to one million men in fighting divisions. And it was this force, supplied in abundance and seeking revenge, which was descending upon Japan in August of 1945.
It was this sense of moral outrage, the thrust for justice and revenge that explained the haughtily tone in which the U.S. informed Japan that the “Following are our terms. We will not deviate from them. There are no alternatives. We shall brook no delay. There must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest. Until such a new order is established and until there is convincing proof that Japan's war-making power is destroyed …Japanese territory…shall be occupied…Japanese sovereignty shall be limited….as we determine…(and) stern justice shall be meted out to all war criminals…We call…(for the) unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces,…The alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.” It could almost have been written by an American political speechwriter; In fact, it was.
The Japanese, reading this statement, noted two things; first, the Russians had not signed it; and two, there was no direct mention of the Emperor. But they had also noticed that American propaganda often included hateful images of the Emperor. And the section about removing “...those who have deceived and misled” seemed to the Japanese, and to most Americans, to refer directly to the Emperor. And in 1945 the Japanese leadership was prepared to destroy the entire nation to prevent Hirohito from standing trial like a mere mortal.
From the 1890’s on, all Japanese children were indoctrinated in the belief that the nation and the Emperor were synonymous, that Japan began and ended with the Chrysanthemum Throne. According to the Imperial Cult, the Emperor was a spiritual leader, closer to a pope than a king. His subjects fought “for the Emperor” but they took orders from mortal men who ran the government, men like Tojo.
Hirohito certainly approved of their wars against China, England and America, but they were not "his" wars. He had not ordered them and was often a mere prop for the war makers. He was not expected to speak at meetings of his "Big Six" cabinet. (the meeting ending the war was the first at which he did speak). Besides, Japan had a long and ancient history of ignoring or “working around” inconvenient imperial wishes; which was the problem the Emperor now faced in ending the war.
 Like all Kings and Presidents, he was a prisoner of his office, be it Edo Palace or the White House. Without a free press Hirohito only knew what his staff and advisers told him. And he could only act through them. He, like everyone else in Japan, believed the nation could not survive without the Emperor. And he had come, finally, to believe his throne could not survive unless the war was ended quickly.
The Americans agreed, for their own reasons, mostly to keep the Russians out of Japan. And on August 11, just one day after the Swiss communicated the Japanese note to the Americans, the American leadership replied, again speaking through the Swiss to the Japanese. The Americans were still firm and still boastful. After all they were the winners of this war. “From the moment of surrender the authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government… shall be subject to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Nations. The Emperor will…authorize and ensure the signature by the Government of Japan…of the surrender terms…" 
And there, hidden in all that brash macho braggadocio lay the compromise that ended World War Two in the Pacific. The U.S. was telling the Japanese (for the first time), that if they wanted the Emperor, they could have the Emperor, as long as he had no direct authority - something he had never really had; problem solved. The Americans had done the calculations in their heads and decided that removing the Emperor was not worth another one million casualties, not worth letting the Russians occupy any more of Asia, not worth spending any more on a war that had been won over a year ago . 
To which the Japanese Government replied as quickly as the stilted etiquette and security of the Palace, politics and diplomacy would allow, on August 14th, and again via the Swiss: “His Majesty the Emperor…is prepared to authorize and ensure the signature by his Government…of the necessary terms for carrying out the provisions of the Potsdam declaration. His Majesty is also prepared to issue his commands to…surrender arms and to issue such other orders as may be required…”  The Emperor would issue orders, the Emperor would issue commands....Hirohito would play the American figure head, instead of the Japanese figure head.  
Done and done. Now all they had to do was separate the opponents, which would be a bit like separating two amorous porcupines - a very delicate procedure.
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