MARCH 2017

MARCH  2017
The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

Translate

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Friday, January 10, 2014

THE FAULT IS IN THE STARS

I suggest that if you a member of that half of Americans who believe there is some validity in astrology, you contemplate the chart for December 30, 1867. It falls under the sign of Capricorn and the double influence of Saturn. Astrology predicts a person born on this date should be practical and realistic, with “entrepreneurial talents”. Our particular birthday boy, Henry Simpson Johnston, was a respected Biblical scholar, a “frail, bookish” lawyer who sought the numerological balance of the “5” in all things, believed he had lived three lives before he'd been born outside Evansville, Indiana, and adhered to esoteric Christian mysticism known as a Rosicrucian. He believed in astral-projection. He practiced hypnotism. He was active in the Klu Klux Klan, a Grand Mason, a founding father and the seventh Governor of Oklahoma, and the second Governor in seven years to be impeached.
Capricorn: The stars say that you're an exciting and wonderful person, but you know they're lying”
Al Yankovic Poet and Social Commentator
Until 1907 it looked as if there would be two states between the Arkansas Plateau and the Great Plains along the 35th latitude: Sequoya in the east for the 60,00 “Native Americans”, and a separate state for the 1.5 million “European Americans”, mostly in the center and west. That year the Federal government forced a compromise, and on November 16, admitted the single whole as Oklahoma. That date made the oil rich Sooners, Scorpios: resolute, secretive, passionate, insensitive and stubborn to a fault. Which may explain why, in 1924 another ex-Hoosier became Oklahoma Governor. Jack Walton had the support of prohibitionist farmers, Masons, Catholics and progressives in central and western Oklahoma. But his active opposition to the Klu Klux Klan led to his impeachment after less than a year into his four year term.
I don't believe in astrology; I'm a Sagittarius and we're skeptical.”
Arthur C. Clarke Scientist and Author
In November of 1926, Henry Johnston (above) won the Governorship with 56% of the votes. He was a “slim, long-nosed lawyer, with dark-rimmed spectacles”, a bookish moralist, given to long rambling speeches on Biblical proverbs and reincarnation. He was “intolerant of opponents, (and) seemed blind to weak friends” .Henry and his wife Ethel attended seances with his close friend, appeals court Judge James Armstrong, who Governor Johnston put on the public payroll in January of 1927 to provide the new Governor with astrological advice on all things political, such as the most prescient hour to sign bills into law. And then Henry hired Judge Armstrong's niece as Oklahoma's first gubernatorial confidential executive secretary.
“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.”
John Kenneth Galbraith Economist
Her name was Mrs. Oliver O. “Mamie” Hammonds. The “small, attractive, dark-haired” and “formidable” Mamie had been a Democratic worker for years, and a successful oil well wildcat-er in her own right.. As the Governor's secretary, she took dictation, typed, screened the Governor's visitors and, to save money, astral-projected across the state's 68,595 square miles to do background checks on job applicants. She was also in the Klan's woman's auxiliary,. But it was not Mamie's affection for the supernatural which initially drove the legislature batty, but according to a reporter for the Daily Oklahoman, it was because “She controlled the door to the governor. Legislators, friends, and supporters...found themselves unable to see the governor unless she acquiesced.” This irritation simmered during the first legislative session, and then rose to a boil during the summer break because of the deep systemic corruption of Oklahoma's government.
“Millionaires don't have astrologers, billionaires do.”
J.P. Morgan. Banker, ego maniac
Under the state's compromise constitution, each of Oklahoma's 77 counties was ruled by an elected three member council, with absolute power, setting salaries and awarding contracts for construction and maintenance for all county property. The graft was so ingrained that a county commissioner who required only a 10% kickback on contracts was hailed as “a model public servant”. To protect this system, Oklahoma violated their own constitution by refusing to redraw Congressional districts for sixty years. Graft and lethargy was part of the reason the state Capitol building (above) in Oklahoma City, still lacked a dome a decade after all other construction was completed. It would not get one until 2002.  Of course none of this prevented Oklahoma hypocrites from asserting their moral superiority over the rest of America.
“Horoscopes are nothing more than a mass cultural delusion that the sun's apparent position relative to arbitrarily defined constellations at the time of your birth somehow affects your personality.”
Dr. Sheldon Cooper Sitcom physicist
Above this swamp of graft the state created a five member commission to build highways. Both of the new commissioners Governor Johnston appointed were members of the KKK, and they hired further Klan members. That weakened Johnston's support from Catholics, making him vulnerable. He was not helped by his procrastinating. He almost seemed bent on self destruction, “by turns spectacular and pathetic.” But it was Johnston's insistence that concrete be used in highway construction - as opposed to asphalt, which Oklahoma was swimming in - Oklahoma oil hit its peak production level in 1927 (above), at 278 million barrels – that really set the boil to roiling.
"Everybody has a birthday and almost everybody has a palm."
Kurt Vonnegut Author
Sensing the Governor's weakness in the fall of 1927, the few Republicans in the legislature and rebellious Democrats signed a petition asking the Governor to call them into special session so they could impeach him. When he refused, they decided to meet anyway. Led by their leaders “The Four Horsemen”.  legislators labeled Mamie Hammonds as the Shadow Governor, and the “She-svengali” of Oklahoma. She was put under oath and freely admitted her astral-travels, but denied she had done anything without Johnston's specific orders. Still, the legislature demanded Mrs. Hammond's resignation.
“Astrology, or when the stars enlighten illuminated who dazzle a bunch of lunatics.”
Paul Carvel Belgian Author
When questioned if he was willing to fire his executive secretary, Governor Johnston (above)  typically responded with a parable. “If you came to me with a thousand sheep, and I had only one ewe lamb and you wanted me to destroy that, do you think I would be so base as to destroy it? I repeat, gentlemen, it would be yellow, it would be unjust to Mrs. Hammonds to sacrifice her and her character on false charges.” Henceforth the impeachment became known as the Ewe Lamb Rebellion. Then Governor Johnston decided to strike back. When the “Horsemen” legislators showed up on Monday morning, Christmas day of 1927, they found seventy National Guardsmen blocking the door to the capital building. So they took testimony in the nearby Lee-Huckins Hotel, until the state Supreme Court ruled the legislature could not call themselves into special session. Wrote the Oklahoman, “Unhorsed, unhonored, unpaid and hamstrung, the rebel leaders and insurrectionists returned to their home".
Pisces: Try to avoid any Virgos or Leos with the Ebola virus
Al Yankovic Poet and Social Commentator
But the battle was merely postponed, until early 1929, when the House of Representatives filed 11 charges against Governor Johnston. The only new issues concerned Dr. Oliver O. Hammonds, who had been appointed Governor Johnston's Secretary of Public Health. He was the “disarming and dimpled” Mamies' husband. Her brother Scott sold machinery to the state highway department. And Governor Johnston's closest political adviser, Judge Armstrong, was Mamies' uncle, who was also an attorney for an insurance company that bonded the state highway department. The thinking seemed to have been there must be fraud somewhere in all those relative connections. But nothing was ever produced.
“In many ways, astrology, numerology and palmistry...have attempted to make a practice out of something that is essentially imaginative.”
Isaac Bashevis Singer Author
After a two month trial the state Senate acquitted Governor Johnston of ten of the charges, agreeing with Oklahoma founding father, William “Alfalfa” Murry (above), that conversing with “nymphs, gnomes and newts", was not an impeachable offense. “You must remember”, he told the Senators, “the people have a right to elect a fool.” However, that March, even after Mrs. Hammonds resigned, the Senators convicted Governor Johnston of the eleventh charge; general incompetence.
All Virgos are extremely friendly and intelligent - except for you.
Al Yankovic
Henry Johnston and Ethel packed their four adopted daughters into the family car, and drove the 40 miles north to his hometown of Perry. To his surprise he was met on the outskirts by hundreds of well wishers (above), who escorted the family to the county courthouse. There he gave one more speech. “I have lost the office of governor. I have retained my honor and integrity. I retire with a clear conscience. I retain the public confidence” And he did, as he was quickly elected to a four year term in the state Senate . Then he returned to Perry again, to practice law until his death, in January of 1970. Then we can only assume, he started it all over again.
I know that astrology isn't a science... It's just to do with people thinking about people.
Douglas Adams Author
- 30 -

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

DEAD WRONG

I am not suggesting that Tycho Brahe's parents wanted to get rid of him, but when a rich uncle kidnapped the terrible two year old, they did not ask for him back. Smart people. Brahe was the most argumentative, disputatious and opinionated astronomer in the entire 16th century, maybe of all time. While attending University of Rostock the belligerent Brahe got into an three day argument a cousin over a mathematical formula. They finally settled it with a sword duel – in the dark. Brahe had to wear a metal nose for the rest of his life, brass for every day and silver for special occasions. But he still insisted he had been right. Seriously, he insulted so many people, historians have been arguing for the last 500 years over who finally murdered him.
One biographer noted Brahe (above) “tongue-lashed kings (and) tormented peasants”, usually when he was drunk, which was often. But he was also “a measuring maniac, a fussily precise man”  But the nicest thing I can say about Brahe was that he was willing to lie to protect his moose. When the Duke's moose died, William IV, of Hess-Kassel, ordered  Brahe to turn over “Rix the Moose”.  But rather than part with his own sweet faced seven hundred pound ungulate, Brahe stalled for time and then made up a story about Rix getting drunk at a party, falling down a flight of stairs and breaking his leg. It might have been true. Brahe was too unpleasant to have many human drinking buddies. But I think it more likely that Brahe was just being an arrogant jerk – again. Which is why I have always secretly suspected it might have been William who murdered Brahe – from beyond the grave.
Most of the people who hated Tycho Brahe were residents of his private three square mile island (above) in the middle of the straight between Sweden and Denmark, 15 miles north of Copenhagen. Hven was a gift from Frederick II of Denmark-Norway to support Tycho's work as the royal astronomer.  The island's fishermen and farmers were required to join the natives of 10 mainland villages in giving two days work a week to build Tycho a castle on Hven..
He called his Flemish gingerbread castle Uraniborg, and it was a combination home and observatory, with everything an ego maniac could dream of,  including a large portrait of Brahe (below) explaining life the universe and everything. Uraniborg had heated rooms and running water, at a time the King's own castle did not. Construction was so elaborate and expensive, it swallowed up more than 1% of Denmark's entire state construction budget. Brahe's excuse was that before telescopes, astronomers spent their nights sighting stars along quadrants and sextants. And Brahe insisted his sextants had to be bigger than anybody else's sextants. But even as the towers of Uraniborg were constructed, Brahe realized they swayed so much in the wind, his instruments would be almost useless.
A large part of the problem was the boorish Brahe did not inspire dedication in his unwilling workers.
Brahe's court jester (yes, he had one) suggested the Lord -of-the-island might at least provide beer for the workers. But Brahe mostly just demanded they work harder. And he punished any who complained by throwing them into the new castle's dungeon and torture chamber. 
And after two years, just as they saw an end to their burden, Brahe demanded the islanders build him a second observatory (above), Sterneborg (“castle of the stars”). “My purpose,” explained the didactic Brahe, “was...to have...some of the most important instruments...(not) exposed to the disturbing influence of the wind”. So having built the towers, the islanders now had to dig five large holes in the ground so Brahe and his assistants would be warm, snug and firm while cataloging the exact positions of a thousand stars. Brahe expressed no interest in how cold the islanders got while digging his new laboratory. They must have been very glad to see him go in 1597.
Brahe left Denmark because the new King, Christian IV, was not willing to placate his touchy “enfant arrogant” any longer. The 19 year old monarch stripped Brahe of most of his inherited fortune, and threatened to treat Brahe as Brahe had treated his peasants. Brahe slipped across the border into Germany, taking with him all his star charts, which technically belong to the King. Christen had satisfy himself with having the white elephant of Uraniborg torn down brick by brick. Christian became another member of the “I hate Brahe” club.
After searching for a year for any royalty willing to put up with his arrogance, in 1599 Brahe got a job offer from Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor. Rudolph gave Brahe his choice of castles, but as soon as the first bills arrived for the extravagant rebuilding of Benatky Castle, Rudolph ordered Brahe and his instruments back to the capital of Prague (above). Not used to being told “no”, in 1600 Brahe went sullen and started looking for a new fly whose wings he could remove.
As his new assistant/victim Brahe picked a Polish mathematician who was just as arrogant as he was, but was poor and a Lutheran, meaning he had few friends in high places - in other words someone Brahe could safely humiliate: Johannes Kepler (above). Not only did Brahe pocket Kepler's promised salary, he forced the Pole to help work out the math supporting Brahe's view of the solar system, which Kepler thought was pure horse poop.
The Catholic Church had said Corpernicus' sun centered system was heresy. Brahe could not argue with Copernicus' math, although he wanted to because “...it ascribes to the Earth, that hulking, lazy body, unfit for motion, a motion as quick as that of the ethereal torches...”. So in Brahe's design (above) the sun and moon orbited around the earth, which sat still in the center of the solar system, while the other five known planets orbited the sun, just as Corpernicus' unarguable math said they must. It was such a convoluted, complicated design, requiring wheels within wheels to function, the very idea infuriated the logical Kepler. But did being forced to become just another wheel in Brahe's self publicity machine drive the Pole to murder?
The arguments about who hated Brahe enough to kill him became more than academic on Saturday, 13 October, 1601 (Gregorian calendar), when the perverse Dane was invited to the home (above) of Prague's 17th century Hugh Hefner, Baron Peter Vok von Rosenberg. Like Brahe, Rosenberg had inherited his wealth, but the astronomer was merely celebrity eye candy at the Baron's party. And it was there, if we are to believe the hypochondriac Pierre Gassendi, the fifty-four year old Brahe took his first step to the grave, by not walking to the latrine. “During the dinner lots of wine was consumed, and Tycho noticed that his bladder was tense...Out of respect for the host, he waited however, but finally he had to get up from the table and get home.”
A wine soaked Brahe had never shown respect to anybody, King, Queen or Baron, before, so why start now? There is no doubt that when he got home the arrogant jackass was sick. According to both Gassendi and Kepler, “Hard pains followed and for five days.” Then for another five days Brahe “had a strong fever and dizziness.” According to Kepler, who had to nurse his torturer, Brahe kept repeating, “May I not have lived in vain” - in Latin. On the eleventh day, the fever broke, and he told Kepler that what was left of his fortune should be given to his wife and children, and his distant nephew Erik Brahe, who had just shown up in Prague. There was no mention of Brahe's long suffering sister Sophia, who had endured decades of her brother's insults while recording his data, nor of Kepler, who was writing all this down. A few hours later, at 9 in the morning of 24 October, 1601, Brahe died, in Erik's arms.
So was the great pain-in-the-azimuth murdered by his opportunistic nephew, working for King Charles back in Denmark? A good argument has been made for that. Or did Kepler slip a knife in his back. (above)? It was Kepler who had just been told there was no reward (and no back pay) for having put up with the arrogant jackass for over a year. Or is it possible Brahe poisoned himself, acting as his own doctor? The only important thing was that this most unpleasant man died, and that Kepler stole his data. Twenty years later Kepler used Brahe's detailed records to finally prove that Copernicus was right, and that Tycho Brahe was dead wrong. Again, the important thing, was that Brrahe was dead.  And a great many people slept soundly because of that.
- 30 -

Sunday, January 05, 2014

HAVING FAITH Part One DROWNING

I believe the watch made the lady a liar. She vanished into the surf of a California beach attired only in a modest one piece green bathing suit and cap.  She miraculously  reappeared five hundred miles away, dry as a bone. She said she had been kidnapped. But in the intervening five weeks the lady had somehow acquired shoes, a dress and a corset...and a wrist watch. Now, why would a kidnapper provide their hostage with a wrist watch? The miraculous time piece is proof to me that the popular evangelical radio minister Aimee Semple McPherson (above) had not been kidnapped. But that remains just my personal opinion, because the Los Angeles County Prosecutor in 1926 was a major league sleaze ball.
“Through green-white breakers swift I leap,
Sun-sparkled seas by body keep;
Bearer of Gospel-Glory I
With singing angels in my sky...”
At just about 3:30 in the afternoon of Tuesday, 18 May, 1926, Miss Emma Shaffer (below) walked up to the front desk of the Ocean View Hotel, at Rose Avenue and across Ocean Front Walk from Venice Beach, California. The young woman was the private secretary to the popular evangelical preacher Aimee Semple Mcpherson, and the pair had rented a room earlier in the afternoon, where they changed into their swim suits. Aimee carefully left her wrist watch on the dresser in the hotel room. And after reaching the sand, she had immediately gone into the ocean for a swim, while Miss Shaffer remained under their rented beach umbrella. When Aimee returned, she dried herself, sat on the sand next to Miss Shaffer, and began making notes for her next sermon. She teased her secretary about Shaffer's refusal to brave the 50 degree water. Then, just before three she sent Miss Shaffer into the hotel to phone her church and check in. When the secretary returned, Aimee was gone. Assuming her employer was taking another swim, Emma waited perhaps twenty minutes, before running into hotel, looking for help.
“The cripples to my temple crowd,
I heal them, and they shout aloud.
A thousand miles my raptures go
Upon my magic radio.”
Hotel staff searched the beach and the surf, but there was no sign of Aimee. The police were called. A police dog had no trouble finding the missing evangelist’s towel, but there was still no sign of Aimee. It was too late to make the evening editions of the newspapers but the battling dailies, The Los Angeles Times, and Hearst Herald American assigned most of their reporters to the story. Adding in the national press, within 24 hours 500 reporters would be pushing this story. This was going to be big news. Ran the morning headlines back east, “Evangelist Feared Drown.”
“What's this? A terror-spasm grips
My heart-strings, and my reason slips.
Oh, God, it cannot be that I,
The bearer of Thy Word, should die!...”
It is hard to overstate Aimee Semple's influence in 1926. One in ten of Los Angeles' one million citizens claimed to be a member of her evangelical Pentecostal Church of the Four Square Gospel (above), with perhaps three quarters of a million adherents nationwide, thanks to her radio broadcasts. That Tuesday evening Aimee's mother, Mrs Mildred Kennedy (known as Sister Minnie), preached in Aimee's stead at the Temple on Glendale Avenue, delivering the same muscular vibrant faith healing fundamentalist theology, and presented with all the theatrical flair you would expect from Hollywood.. The first public acknowledgment of Sister Aimee's absence came at the end of the service, when Sister Minnie told the congregation that “'Sister went swimming this afternoon at 20 minutes to three, and she has not come back. Sister is gone. We know she is with Jesus.”
“My daughter's voice, my mother's kiss!
My pulpit-notes on Genesis!
Oh, count the souls I saved for Thee,
My Savior-wilt Thou not save me?”
The next morning, two air planes crisscrossed the stretch of sand (above), a half dozen life boats scoured the waters. A Coast Guard Cutter even sent down divers. By noon the crowd was reported at fifty thousand.
The Los Angeles Times reported in its Wednesday evening edition, “To the hundreds of men and women who wait in a huddled and silent mass beneath the open sky...Through the fog-bound, chilling night and then through the weary scorching hours of the day, the followers of the evangelist have kept their places on the sand..."She can't be dead. She can't be dead....God wouldn't let her die. She was too noble. Her work was too great. Her mission was not ended. She can't be dead."...
“Ten thousand to my aid would run,
Bring me my magic microphone!
Send me an angel, or a boat…
The senseless waters fill her throat.”
“In some manner word was spread about,” reported the Times, “that promptly at 2:30 p.m. Mrs. McPherson (above) would arise from the sea and speak to her followers. The appointed time came and many arose to look further out to sea. But it passed without the miracle... At noon, search of the sea was halted as hopeless. The long seine nets stretched from boat to boat which had dragged the ocean floor since Tuesday night were taken in. A boat containing life guards continued the search alone for a little while longer and then also gave up. The tide was left to do its own work....Only an occasional swimmer ventured into the water near the spot where Mrs. McPherson is supposed to have been drowned during the day. The place seemed to be shunned by bathers...”
“Ten million tons of waters hide
A woman's form, her Faith deride;
While thousands weep upon the shore,
And searchlights seek…and breakers roar…”
That Wednesday, a teenage girl saw Sister Aimee struggling in the waves, and raced into the surf to her rescue. But there was no Aimee, and the girl drown. After that the desperate amateurs were replaced by professional hard hat divers, who walked the sea bed from the Santa Monica Pier to the north, to Ballona Creek, three miles to the south. One of the hard hats, a diver named Ed Harrison, succumbed to exhaustion and died, but still no body was found. By the first of June, the desperate Minnie (above) was defying the Fish and Game Commission, and set off four dynamite charges, hoping to free Sister Aimee's remains from the bottom sands. But nothing floated to the surface except a few fish. The faithful lined the bay for weeks, spaced a hundred yards apart, walking back and forth, waiting for the sea to give up her dead. And then, 33 days later, Aimee's body appeared, five hundred miles away, in the middle of the Sonora desert. And almost as miraculously, she was alive.
“Oh, gallant souls that grope for light
Through matter's blind and lonely night!
Oh, pity our minds that seek to know
That which is so—
And piteously have forgot
That which is not! “
Upton Sinclair, “An Evangelist Drowns”
The New Republic, June 30, 1926
- 30 -

Blog Archive

Amazon Deals