SEPTEMBER 2017

SEPTEMBER  2017
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO - STANDARD OIL. Still dominating strangling the nation, a century later.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

THE POPE OF NEWARK

I believe that morally, the American economy and politics rests on a series of contradictions. For example, it is legal for the most profitable industry in the world (oil) to skim off $ 4 billion in profit before taxes, but if an individual should protest this “depletion allowance” by refusing to pay for a $40 fill up, the police will rush to arrest them. The real crime in America is to not stealing enough. 
Consider the rise and fall of Hugh Joseph Addonizio (above). When asked why, after twelve years as a respected congressman, he decided to run for mayor of Newark, New Jersey, the short, bald, bullnecked blunt talking man they called “The Pope” explained, “There's no money in being a congressman, but you can make a million bucks as mayor of Newark" Over two terms, from 1962 to 1969, Mayor Addonizio made more than a million dollars. But that was still not enough.
At the end of February 1959, when Jewish mobster Abner Zwillman, was found hanging by the neck in his West Orange apartment - just after receiving a subpoena to testify before a grand jury, a 60 year old Genovese crime family capo named Richie-”the-boot”- Boiardo (above) was given sole permission to plunder Newark. Richie earned his moniker because he avoided wiretapping prosecutors by using public pay-phone booths. In Jersey parlance, Richie was always “in da boot”. It was a very profitable place for Richie to be.
During the late 1040's and early 1950's, Newark invested heavily in urban renewal, replacing thousands of substandard single family homes with 46 huge impersonal apartment blocks. Their construction proved a gold mine for organized crime. 
 The new white elephants were badly built, but the graft from their construction allowed Richie the Boot to build a "Transylvanian traditional." mansion and estate in Livingston, New Jersey. He adorned the gated entrance with a garish statue of himself astride a horse (above), towering over a row of busts of his children,  resembling, to my mind, clowns in an amusement park game. And in a position of honor was the effigy of Richie's eldest son Anthony, aka Tony Boy.
Tony Boy (above) took over the family business just as the long planned Southside Sewer project was finally getting started. The primary contractor was Paul Rigo, who had founded his company after winning $65,000 in the Irish Sweepstakes. He pleaded with The Boot to lower his required kickback to 5%, but Richie insisted, “You'll pay 10%, or I'll break both your legs.” Then Tony Boy offered a solution, He had set up a shell company called Kantor Supply. The subcontractors all paid their kickbacks with regular business checks. Kantor would then issue invoices to match those payments. Rigo could use his construction company to launder that cash before distributing it to Richie, Tony Boy and “The Pope”, Mayor Addonizio. For this service, Rigo could keep 10% of everybody's kick, making a profit for himself.
There were just three problems with this gravy train express. First, there has never been honor among thieves. That's why they are thieves. Tony Boy was seeing a psychiatrist, and some of his soldiers were calling him “a nut case.” Another of Tony Boy's soldiers, Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo (above), even called him a “weasel”, and referred to “The Boot” as “the most treacherous fucker in the world”. Secondly, there was a real Kantor behind Kantor Supply. Plumber Irving Kantor took a 5% cut for running the shell company, but he was not a healthy man. And unhealthy men are prone to soul cleansing confessions. And thirdly, Newark was not a healthy city.
By 1965 Newark was half Italian and half African American, and burdened with an astronomical tax rate, thanks to the kickbacks. The manufacturers in Newark, who had once paid middle class salaries, had moved south to find lower taxes. The local unemployment rate was over 8%, and among young black men in Newark it was almost 40%. Ten percent of the city residents survived on welfare. Of the 136,000 apartments in the city, over 40,000 (mostly those (above)  built by Richie Boiardo ) were substandard or dilapidated, and Mayor Addonizio had just announced a plan to replace several public housing blocks with a medical school, proving that in Newark “urban renewal” had become synonymous with “Negro removal”. And finally, of the 1,400 officers in the police force, only 150 were African-American. This all came to a head about 9:40 pm on the evening of Wednesday 12 July, 1967
On that hot, humid night, two Newark Police Officers, John DeSimone and Vito Pontrelli, pulled over a taxi at the corner of 15th Avenue and South 9th Street. According to the officers, the cab had illegally passed them on the right side. According to the taxi's African-American driver (above) the police car was double parked. 
Half an hour later, when a crowd saw the bleeding driver dragged into the 4th Precinct station, it set off six days and nights of looting and burning that left 26 people dead, and $10 million in property damage. The root cause of the Newark Riot, said a Governor's commission, was a “pervasive feeling of corruption” in Newark. The most common phrase heard around town was “Everything in city hall is for sale.”
The Essex county prosecutor now empaneled a grand jury to investigate the new summer home Mayor Addonizio had just bought with a loan from Paul Rigo. But the minute that happened, Richie and Tony Boy were aware of it. One of Tony's soldiers, John “Big Pussy” Russo (above), bluntly warned Paul Rigo “Keep your mouth shut.” And when Rigo was served with a subpoena, Rigo found a note in his car which read, "This could have been a bomb. Keep your mouth shut." Not surprisingly Rigo lied to the grand jury. Then the IRS subpoenaed the books for Kantor Supply.
Caught in a three way squeeze between the mob,. the feds and the grand jury, Paul Rigo asked his lawyer to cut a deal with the feds. Almost immediately, Rigo received a phone call, telling him bluntly, “Keep the hell away from the federal building!”. When he realized there must be a leak in the prosecutor's office, Paul Rigo was on the next plane for Acapulco.
From Mexico Paul Rigo called a high powered lawyer in Washington, D.C.. and through him revealed to the feds that he had a diary, recording in code every sub contractor who paid, when and how much, and every mobster and politician who received cash, dates, and amounts. Addonizio (above) was dragged back in front of the grand jury. This time, “The Pope” took the fifth amendment. It didn't help. Addonizio was indicted along with 11 others, for 65 counts of money laundering, extortion, tax fraud, and perjury. 
Even that didn't stop him from mounting a campaign for a third term as mayor. He would eventually lose his seat, but even while on trial Hugh Addonizio won 45% of the vote.
The trial began with Irving Kantor, testifying from his hospital bed. The dieing man recounted his phone conversations with Richie “the Boot”, and how he handed the cash over to Paul Rigo, for distribution.. Rigo testified for two straight weeks, detailing many late night meetings in empty offices. It was during one of those meetings that Rigo told Addonizio, I don't know why in the world you ever left Washington and a nice job in Congress to come up here in this mess.” Addonizio (above) had replied, “Simple. There's no money in Washington, but you can make a million bucks as mayor of Newark.”
The case was handed to the jury just before 5:00 pm, 22 July, 1970. They were back by midnight. Their verdict was guilty for all the defendants. Two months later the judge sentenced Addonizio and Richie the Boot to ten years in prison and $25,000 fines.
It wasn't a bad outcome for the mayor, really. Convicted of “literally delivering (Newark) into the hands of organized crime”, and for the bargain basement price of a million dollars, Hugh Addonizio could almost pay the fine out of petty cash. It was the tax penalties that broke him.  
But after just five years The Pope of Newark was paroled. He returned home to raise and race homing pigeons, and died of a heart attack at 67 years of age, in February of 1981. On the day of his funeral, all the flags in Newark were lowered in his honor.
Anthony “Tony Boy” Boiardo also died of a heart attack, on April 20, 1978. Just a year later, the big mouth, Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo, was found in his bathrobe and slippers, with three bullets in his brain. He'd been killed by three members of his own crew, who shot him and then stole cash and property from his house. A day after his body was discovered and removed, the assassins broke back into the murder scene, and returned the property. But they kept the money.
The longest living of the conspirators was Richie-”the-boot”- Boiardo (above) . After Tony Boy's death he rarely left his Livingston estate, tending his tomatoes under a sign that read “The Godfather's Garden”, as Richie was convinced he had been the role model for the infamous literary and movie gangster, Vito Corleone. The Boot suffered a heart attack and died in November of 1984, at the age of 95 -  just another crook who had not stolen enough to become a hero of capitalism.  Crime, you see, does not pay. But politics does, and well enough to make it legal.
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A REPUTATION FOR VIOLENCE

I think, maybe, if Wallace Wilkerson (above)  had known a little of the history of the game of cribbage, then William Baxter might have died of old age, instead of in his forties when two metal balls were forcibly inserted into his brain. Honestly, the scoring in cribbage is so complicated, it seems to have been invented by a card shark. Which it was. So a little information, and a little self awareness, might have saved Wallace himself from a very painful, and slow death. Maybe. But then, people are not their intellect, but their personalities. And Wallace's personality was that of a foul mouthed, short tempered alcoholic.
The charming and witty Sir John Suckling (above), who invented cribbage, quickly dissipated his substantial inheritance on gambling, wine, woman and poems. He rebuilt it by investing in elaborate decks of marked playing cards. Suckling sent these Trojan gifts to several of the wealthier landed gentry. Then, when he later dropped by for a visit, his hosts invariably brought out his gifts for a friendly game of cribbage, with a friendly wager, of course. And that was how John Suckling amassed his new fortune of twenty thousand pounds, even tho “no shopkeeper would trust him for sixpence.”
On 11 June, 1877 the 100 odd denizens of Homansville, Utah were living at 6,000 feet, up a canyon two miles north east of Eureka. That Monday afternoon there were nine or ten men talking, smoking and drinking in James Hightower's general store and saloon, mostly teamsters who carted potable water to the 120 mines in the surrounding Tintic Mountains. As the temperature struggled to take the chill off the air, and the water tanks at the wells were slowly re-filled, the primary entertainment was two men seated at a small table, playing cribbage.
Cribbage is usually played by just two players, each dealt six cards. They retain four, their joint discard forming the “Crib”. The top card in the remaining deck is turned over, becoming the starter. . All face cards are worth ten, the ace just one. The non-dealer begins by laying one of his cards atop the starter, while announcing the cumulative value of the two cards. Players alternate, adding the numerical value of the cards, up to thirty-one. Why thirty-one? I can find no explanation.
The popular William Baxter, who normally tended bar in Eureka, was seated on an upturned beer barrel, his cheek resting in his right palm as he was recovering from a previous night of drinking. He was a “pleasant and peaceable man” - when he was sober. Drunk,. he was a violent bully, according to Wallace, and prone to pulling a gun to get his way, although he does not seem to have ever shot anyone. One of William's best customers in Eureka had been the tall, thin 43 year old Wallace Wilkerson, who now sat across the small table from him in Hightower's store . But William had previously pulled a gun on Wallace, and even insulted him by calling him a “California Mormon”. Or so said Wallace. And yet, here they were, playing a cribbage. And Wallace was losing.
When a player cannot lay down a card without going over “31”, the opponent scores “1” point, called a go. Once all eight cards have been played, the dealer picks up the “crib”, and adds those points to his or her  total. After the score is recorded by moving pegs in a cribbage board, the deal then passes to the second player.
It is unclear why Baxter was in Homansville. Wallace was there to visit his brothers, who worked at the wells in the four year old town. None of Wilkerson's or Baxter's relatives were in James Hightower's establishment that Monday, and I don't think the witnesses had any influence upon the the events, which began when Baxter observed that Wallace had moved his peg in the cribbage board too many spaces.
Beyond the single point awarded for coming closest to reaching “31”, an additional point is awarded for hitting “31” exactly, and “2” for hitting “15” exactly. If a player lays down a card matching the suit of the previous card, they call out, “That's “1” for the go, and “2” for a double.” If the next card by either player also follows suit, that player says, “That's “2” for a double and “3” for a triple.” A fourth matching suit card, even if played in the next “31” is called as a quad and counts for a total of “10” points. All of these are cumulative, as in “1” for the go, “2” for fifteen, “1” for the “31” and “2” for the double, etc. Adding in the many sometimes obscure additional points that can be called out in the flush of the contest, almost always without a pencil and paper tally, makes the game quick, meteoric, exuberant, confusing and tension filled. In other words,  the scoring seems to have been designed by a card shark. The first player to reach 121 points is declared the winner. Why 121, I have no idea.  I do know that the first player to be shot is the loser.
Hearing William's accusation, Wallace pushed his chair back from the table, stood up and claimed he was being cheated. As Wallace started to take off his jacket, preparing for a fight, the unimpressed William Baxter merely said “Sit down, Wilkerson, and don't make a fool out of yourself.” At that, Wallace drew a small pistol from his jacket and shot William in the face. The victim fell backward, against the flour bags. Wallace strode through the black powder smoke and grabbed a hand full of William's hair, lifting his head. Wallace pressed the gun's muzzle against William's right temple, and fired again, literally blowing William Baxter's brains out. Then Wallace ran out of the store.
The inventor of cribbage, Sir John Suckling, should have died like a character from a Felding novel, an ancient retired reprobate, safely ensconced in his estates, surrounded by dutiful if not respectful servants. Instead, his mercenary morality finally drove him to plot too obvious a crime. Escaping just ahead of the authorities, Sir Suckling fled so quickly he had to leave his fortune behind. Within a few weeks he realized that life without his 'raison d art', his one true love, his money, was not worth living, and he self administered poison. He died alone in May of 1641 at 32 years of age, flat broke, vomiting away his life in a dingy Paris apartment. But, unfortunately for Wallace Wilkerson, first Suckling had invented cribbage.
Wallace Wilkerson was arrested and taken north to the village of Goshen, to avoid a lynching party. His defense was that William Baxter could have been carrying a gun. The only problem was, he wasn't. The only weapon found on the victim was a small pocket knife. Wallace seemed indifferent to the outcome of his November trial, but after his conviction he told Judge P. H. Emerson, “When I did the shooting I supposed my life was in danger.” He also claimed the witnesses had lied. Judge Emerson was no more impressed by the theatrics than Baxter had been, and ordered that Wallace was to be executed in December. At the time, the Territory of Utah had a choice in killing Wallace: he could be hung, shot or beheaded. Unfortunately for Wallace, the court chose the firing squad.
The results were delayed for over a year when Wallace's lawyers appealed his sentence to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying execution by firing squad was a cruel and unusual punishment, denied by the U.S. Constitution.. During his time in jail in Salt Lake City, Wallace as deemed to be “the most foul mouthed and profane man” in the prison. In March of 1878 the Supreme Court held, by an unanimous vote, that death by a firing squad was  not a cruel or unusual punishment. So, at about noon on 16 May, 1879, Wallace was led into the yard behind the Provo, Utah county courthouse and jail (above). Wallace was wearing a black suit, topped with his habitual white ten gallon hat, and smoking a cigar, donated by a sympathetic family member. And he was swaggering, because he had been drinking since his long suffering wife Amilia had left him an hour earlier.
The sheriff led Wallace to a chair, set out away from the courthouse wall. Wallace insisted he not be tied to it, and he refused a blindfold, saying “I give you my word, I intend to die like a man, looking my executioners right in the eye.” Except he could not do that. Thirty feet away a barricade had been constructed, pierced by four rectangles, just large enough to accommodate the protruding rifle barrels. The gunmen were hidden from Wallace's drunken challenging stare. But they had a clear view of him.
After the sentence was read, Wallace was asked if he had anything to say. In a slurred speech, he assured the 20 men present within the yard that he bore them no ill will, but insisted again that the witnesses at his trial had lied. The sheriff pinned a three inch square piece of white paper above Wallace's heart, as a target, and then stepped aside. Wallace called out, “"Aim for my heart, Marshal!" The four riflemen aimed at the white target, and their commander quietly gave the order. Four men pulled the triggers, and four bullets raced toward Wallace Wilkerson's chest.
At the impact of the lead, Wallace jumped “five or six feet” from the chair, screaming in pain. After staggering a step, Wallace shouted, "Oh, my God! My God! They've missed it!", as he pitched over, face first into the dirt. Four doctors rushed to the condemned man's side. Wallace was moaning in agony. On examination the doctors found that one round had shattered Wallace's left arm, and the other three had pounded into Wallace's chest, all missing his heart. They now faced a quandry. What do you do if the condemned man survives the execution? Do you minister his wounds? Do you shoot him again? While these discussions continued, Wallace lay in the dirt, moaning and writhing for almost 30 minutes. Some timed his death throes at 27 minutes, others at twenty. Finally, Wallace did the right thing. He died.
Wallace Wilkerson was as dead as William Baxter. The only difference was that while the reprobate Wallace was solely and fully responsible for the death of William Baxter, the entire territory of Utah, and the nine judges on the U.S. Supreme Court were all responsible for the botched execution and slow painful death of Wallace Wilkerson.
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Sunday, June 15, 2014

COXEY'S ARMY - FIRST STEPS

I am glad I was not there on that Easter Sunday, March 26th, 1894, when what the press would call “Coxey’s Army” set out from Massillon, Ohio. It would have been a depressing sight. It was raining and it was cold, and only 86 men showed up to begin a march which was intended to change the course of American democracy. On the plus side, they were joined by 42 reporters from various newspapers, just about one reporter for every two marchers. The press corps was further augmented by four Western Union telegraphers and two line men. At any time or place they could tap into a telegraph line, and begin sending urgent dispatches about the progress of the army. William Stead, from the magazine Review of Reviews, noted that “Never in the annals of insurrection has so small a company of soldiers been accompanied by such a phalanx of recording angels.” It would quickly develop that he was one of the more sympathetic angles.
"The road to the City of Emeralds is paved with yellow brick," said the Witch, "so you cannot miss it. When you get to Oz do not be afraid of him, but tell your story and ask him to help you. "
1900  L. Frank Baum  "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
History records that they were singing new words (written by Carl Browne) and set to the tune "Marching Through Georgia", sung as Sherman’s Army burned its way to Savanna.  “Hurrah, Hurrah, we’ll sing the jubilee, Hurrah, Hurrah, for the flag that makes you free, So we sing the chorus now, Wherever we may be, While we go marching to Congress.” But if they did sing,it was not for long. At least they waited until after noon for it to warm up before they even began their trek.
First there came a man on foot carrying an American flag, who the press dutifully identified as a “negro”, thus mocking Coxey’s determination to treat all races in his army with equal respect. He was followed by Carl Browne, mounted on a white stallion, and bedecked in his buckskin jacket and a huge western hat. Behind him came the financial supporter and ideological inspiration for the march, Jacob Coxey, ridding in a Pheaton buggy, drawn by a matched pair of magnificent white horses. And behind him came the “army”, all 86 of them on foot or bicycle. But who were “them” really?
Professor Hourwitch from the University of Chicago actually tried to find out. Later, when the marchers had grown in number and in fame, he polled 290 of them. Their average age was 31 years old and on average they had been unemployed for five months. Almost two thirds were skilled mechanics, but less than half of those were union members. There were 88 Democrats in the army, 39 Republicans and 10 who declared themselves to be members of the Populist party. One in four had needed charity to survive the winter just passed. The study also noted that five or six were of “questionable character”. 
"After a few hours the road began to be rough, and the walking grew so difficult...The farms were not nearly so well cared for here as they were farther back. There were fewer houses and fewer fruit trees, and the farther they went the more dismal and lonesome the country became." 
1900  L. Frank Baum  "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
The New York Times noted in their dispatch that by the end of the first day’s march of just eight miles, ending outside of Canton, Ohio, twenty-five men had “dropped out”. Another paper noted that of the “seventy-five stragglers” who had begun the march, several had spent the previous night in the local jail, and were released just before the march had begun. And calling the marchers “stragglers” was one of the kinder characterizations. Routinely they were identified as “bums”, or “tramps”. 
But four days before the march began the magazine “The Coming Nation” noted, “There is to be a presidential election this year; in view of which it may be well to remark-- That workingmen will not be taxed less under a Republican president than they have been under a Democrat. That there will be no more opportunities open to labor in the next four years than there have been in the past four…That there will be no more flour in the bin with a McKinley in the White House than there has been with a Cleveland….We admit that this is rather a gloomy forecast; but experience warrants it and events will justify it.” They certainly did.
What Coxey wanted from the Federal government was not charity. He wanted half a billion dollars to be spent on building and improving roads. We know today, as the beneficiaries of the interstate highway system, that the investment in infrastructure Coxey was promoting would improve the nation, would create new wealth by creating new opportunities for business and in the short run provide honest work for the unemployed. But the tired, old, plaintive ideological repetitions were heard just as loudly in 1894 as they are today - that surface roads built by the government were somehow less “moral” than the railroads, privately owned, but each built and run as government endorsed monopolies. One was moral, but the other was not, in the eyes of the wealthy, who, of course, owned and had invested in the current technology - the railroads.
Put in such stark black and white imperatives the argument may seem absurd to us today, and, in fact there are indications it seemed just as absurd to the citizens of 1894. But at issue was not what the average American thought, but what the bought and paid for politicians in Washington and the various state capitals were willing to publicly consider. For, much as they are today, the press and the politicians, to their mutual advantage, avoided any honest and open discussion of middle ground, preferring instead to debate positions that most people considered absurdest extremism. 
But the cause of the common man, championed by Coxey and Browne, was not helped by the men Browne had brought in to be his Marshals, the second tier leaders of the group. David McCullaum was an economic author who, under the no de plume of “One of the Dogs”, a supposed Cherokee Indian, had written a pamphlet entitled “Dogs and Fleas”. Mr. One also claimed to subsist only on oatmeal. Then there was Cyclone Kirtland, an astrologer who predicted the army would be “invisible in war, invincible in peace.” Beside him loomed Christopher Columbus Jones, who always wore a silk top hat, which merely accented his five foot tall frame. There was also the trumpeter named “Windy” Oliver. Together they all more closely resembled a circus side show than the managers of a political movement.
But the most disturbing of all them all was a man known only as “The Great Unknown”. It was not a name chosen at random, but self promoted. “The Great” was always followed about by a woman who always wore a veil and never spoke. But the catch was that Carl Browne knew who the Great Unknown was. He was an ex-circus barker and a current patent medicine “faker” named A.B.P. Bazarro. 
Before the march, The Great (and his wife) had concocted their “blood purifyer” in a makeshift lab and mass production line on the near West side of Chicago. In this earlier life, like a traveling infomercial, Bazarro had  made his living providing a show, featuring testimonials and a protracted sales pitch. And once the crowd was captured, and while they were resting their buying muscles, Browne would make his appearance and pitch his ideas of going off the gold and silver standards, and union organizing. Bazarro knew the monetary possibilities of mixing politics with a sales pitch. He was also the self elected “Great Wizardo” of the “American Patriots”, a self created political organization. But politics seems to have been, to “The Great Unknown”, much as it is to FOX News, just another marketing ploy.
Oh; and to make it easier for the newsmen, The Great Unknown let it be known that he would also answer to the name of “Smith”. So he became known as the Great Unknown Smith. The newspaper men might be forgiven then, for treating these desperate men as if they were members of a sideshow confidence game. Some of them had been, and recently.
Except. of course, that required that at the same time they belittle and dismiss the millions of their desperate fellow citizens whose plight the march was trying to publicize.The crime was that the news media of 1894, like the media of today, were perfectly willing to ignore the drama, and instead portray the march as a joke.
"Am I really wonderful?" asked the Scarecrow. 
"You are unusual," replied Glinda"
1900  L. Frank Baum "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"
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