NOVEMBER 2017

NOVEMBER  2017
The Rise of the Billionaires Leaves the Middle Class Stranded

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Friday, July 01, 2016

FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN

I hate to disappoint you, but Betsy Ross did not create the American flag. The creator was the lawyer, songwriter and New Jersey author Frances Hopkinson, who, a year earlier, had signed the Declaration of Independence. We know it was Hopkinson because he actually submitted two bills for his design work – the first one for about $18. But the stingy Continental Congress balked at paying that. So he lowered his price to “A quarter cask of Public Wine”; meaning, the cheap stuff. I think he was trying to make a point but even then he didn’t get paid. The bureaucrats argued that Frances was already on salary, which meant they had already paid him for the design. He failed to pursue his case because he died in early May of 1791, during an epileptic seizure. But then, I don’t want to write a treatise on the vexillology of the American flag. I want to talk about the pledge of allegiance to it.
You see, the pledge was written as a sales gimmick to sell flags. This is pretty big business today, considering about 100 million American flags are currently sold every year. That’s enough profit to justify the formation of the “Flag Makers Association of America”, a lobby group required because American-made American flags are 30% more expensive than Chinese-made American flags. But I digress again because my point is that faith in capitalism requires a certain amount of rationalization , and profiting from the symbol of our nation is just another one of those. And it was that particular rationalization that was part of the job description for another Frances.
In 1892 Frances Bellamy (above), who was a fired Baptist minister, was working as the publicity director for a Boston magazine called “The Youth’s Companion”, He was also responsible for planning the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s “discovery” of America,  for the National Education Association. And since the magazine had a nice side business going,  selling American flags to schools (their goal was to have one in every classroom),  Frances thought that a pledge for this special occasion would be an inexpensive way to increase the sale of flags. After all, you can’t pledge allegiance to the flag unless you have a flag.
His pledge, published in the 8 September, 1892 issue of the magazine (above), was just 23 words long and could be recited in less than 15 seconds - about the attention span of the average eight year old child - then. Today its about half that long.  It went just like this -  “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  On 29 October that pledge was first recited in American classrooms,  and at the opening of the Chicago Columbia Exposition. Like the Gettysburg address, Bellamy’s pledge was eloquent in its simplicity. But even Frances could not resist tampering with perfection. He added an unfortunate salute.
Well, it was called the Bellamy Salute, but he did not invent it. It was the brainstorm of  James Upham, junior editor of "The Youth’s Companion".  But it was Frances who laid out instructions for what I would call "a salute too far".  They read. “…At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation.” Forty years later the extended arm salute would be preempted by Adolf Hitler, and thereafter tactfully dropped from the American pledge.
Not that people ever stopped trying to improve upon the pledge. In 1923 the America Legion, then made up mostly of veterans of World War One, the Spanish American War, and the Philippines Insurrection, decided that the phrase “my flag” was too open to interpretation. So they added an entire phrase, so there would be no confusion about what country we were talking about. The pledge now began, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” I guess calling it "my country" was too ambiguous.  In 1940, with a World War once again looming, the Supreme Court ruled that even Jehova’s Witnesses could be required to stand at attention and recite the pledge in school, which the Witnesses had argued violated their faith.  On 22 June, 1943 Congress made the pledge the official pledge of allegiance to America - by law.  Because of the new law, the Supreme Court reversed itself, and the "official" pledge was no longer compulsory for Jehovah Witnesses.
Then in 1951 the Knights of Columbus decided the words “Under God” were desperately needed in the pledge, and on “Flag Day”, 14  June, 1954, Congress made that addition official, as well.  The oath now officially reads “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. The pledge was now 31 words long. And to be honest with you, I don’t think the longer version is any clearer. As a kid I always thought it was God that was indivisible, not the country. The pledge became something closer to the old joke about a camel being a horse designed by a committee.
Consider the oath, just as a piece of language. If the oath were to stop after the word “stands” we would have a simple sentence (“I pledge allegiance to the flag) with two modifying phrases (“of the United States of America”, and, “and to the Republic for which it stands”.) In this case the Republic is the modifier of the flag, which makes sense because the original intent was to sell flags; remember?
But that was not good enough for all those who honestly wanted to improve on the oath, to make it clearer, and avoid confusion and misunderstandings. I'm not sure how many misunderstandings there were, but you know what they say about cooks and broths - the more the better. Right? And this  kind of thinking produced four modifying prepositional phrases on top of the two we already had – making six in all.  How is that clearer?
Besides, is love of country really that complicated? Does the detail actually make things clearer, or more confusing? It sounds as if those seeking more detail, are looking for an iron clad contract they can sue somebody over. Isn’t it enough if your lover says “I love you”?  Does adding a pre-nup increase or decrease your odds of ending up in divorce court?
I guess the basic question is, are you looking for an affirmation of love, or an affirmation of suspicion, giving your heart, or getting protection against having your heart broken? Because, you can’t have both, particularly when you are talking about love of a democracy.  You can't force people into heaven. And you can't force them to love the same country you do. Somethings you just have to take on faith. Sometimes that's the whole point.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Twenty-Three

I think the people of Whitechapel were some of the hardest working citizens of London. Consider the ambitious John “Jack” McCarthy. He chose to live in Whitechapel, starting by renting a tiny storefront at 26 Dorset Street where he ran a grocery. 
That did well enough that in 1877 he married, and after a few years he bought the 2 story brick building, and the identical structure at Number 24, the other side of the four foot wide arched entrance to Miller's Court. He moved his family – 4 children by 1888 - into the top floor of Number 26, and re-opened his grocery on the ground floor. He kept Number 24, renting 2 rooms on the second floor to tenants, using the ground floor front for storage, and subdivided the ground rear into a 10 foot by 12 foot room, which he gave the address of 13 Miller's Court. “Lucky” 13 provided Jack with 23 pence a week in rent. That was how you made a profit in Whitechapel.
Plowing such profits back into his business, Jack McCarthy bought the doss house at number 30 Dorset street, and his business became known as McCarthy Rents. In March of 1882 he partnered in staging a prize fight at St. Andrew's Hall. But a dispute over profits lead to another fight, this one with fists, which lead to an arrest, and a fine for Jack. It is unclear if any money's were made, but Jack did not repeat his venture as a fight promoter. But it did show that Jack McCarthy was always on the look out for a profit.
On Friday, 9 November, 1888, Jack McCarthy was in his store at 24 Dorset Street, going over his books. About 10:30 that morning Jack ordered his employee, Thomas Bowyer, to walk 10 feet back to 13 Miller's Court, and collect the rent - which was 2 weeks in arrears. And he reminded Bowyer that if there was no answer at the door, to look in the window, to confirm if the couple renting the room, Mary Kelly and Joseph Barnett, were inside, hiding or sleeping off a drunk.
That same morning, in the House of Commons, Home Secretary Henry Matthews rose to announce the resignation of Sir Charles Warren as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. It would be a tricky giving this a positive spin, given how recently Matthews had voiced unlimited support for Warren.
The liberal press hated Warren as a reactionary martinet who had crushed the “Bloody 13 of November 1887 Trafalgar Square” demonstration. But the Conservative press saw Warren as a hero, and rumors were already circulating that Warren's one time Assistant Commissioner James Munro, had been colluding with the Home Secretary, to undermine his old boss.
Although Henry Matthew's boss, Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil (above), was not permitted to sit in the Commons – as the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, Gascoyne-Ceicil sat in the House of Lords – Matthews knew the Prime Minister was watching him closely. 
So after reading the exchange of letters with Warren from the day before, in which Warren had resigned – again - , Henry Matthews (above) assured the Commons, “...the differences of opinion between Sir Charles Warren and Mr. Monro, had nothing to do with...parting with an officer so distinguished and so zealous in the discharge of his Office...I wish to add...The advice which I have sought from Mr. Monro was confined to the general question of the organization proper for the Department...”
It was doubtful anyone in the Commons believed that lie, but nobody had proof. So only Liberal M.P, Robert Cunninghame-Graham (above) rose to question Matthew's statement. Cunninghame-Graham had spent six weeks in jail for his part in Bloody Sunday, and he asked what Warren's use of the word "again" refereed to. “Do I understand that it is not the first time that his resignation has been placed in the hands of Her Majesty’s Government?”  The Home Secretary dodged the question saying only, “There have been previous differences of opinion which led to Sir Charles Warren tendering his resignation.” But the Home Secretary refused to provide details.
Liberal M.P. Henry Labouchere (above), who had tried as recently as march to eliminate the House of Lords entirely, asked, “What is the precise position which Mr. Monro holds now?” 
Matthews now lied to Labourchere as smoothly and as easily as a politician – which he, of course was. Matthews said, “Mr. Monro fills no office of any kind, and is in no way connected with the Department.” 
Above all, Matthiews avoided any mention of the “Special Irish Branch” of the police, which James Munro (above)  had headed while Assistant Commissioner under Warren, and which he still headed. His use of spies and political sabotage campaigns in Ireland and even in Whitechapel, must not even be hinted at. Nor could there be any whisper of Matthews' instructions to Mr. Munro and his replacement Mr Anderson , to “consult” with Matthews behind Sir Charles' back. So the lie was not revealed.  The scandal, such as it was, would end with Sir Charles' resignation.
Jack McCarthy's employee, Thomas Bowyer, was called “Indian Joe” because he had served in India. He was surviving on a pension now, and reduced to living on Dorset Street.
At about 10:40 that same morning, “Indian Joe” walked out the front door of McCarthy's grocery at 24 Dorset Street (above, left), and turned right into the narrow 4 foot wide 5 foot long alley leading to Miller's Court (above, center archway). 
The Court was a small space, little more than 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, the ground floor whitewashed and the courtyard cobblestoned.   On the left side, as you entered, was Number 1 Miller's Court, with number 2 directly above it, each the standard Whitechaple 8 foot by 8 foot room. Numbers 3 through 8 finished the left side of the court. On the right side were numbers 9 through 13, as well as a water tap, a privy toilet and a dustbin. Opposite Number 13, on the ground floor, stood a single gas lamp
Thomas Bowyer did not know the 25 year old woman who rented Number 13 (above)  as Mary Kelly, which was not surprising. Among her many aliases were Marie Jeanette Kelly, Mary Jeanette, Black Mary, Ginger and Fair Emma. 
Jack McCarthy described her as “noisy” when drunk, but  “otherwise she was a very quiet woman.” A friend described her as “ a good, quiet, pleasant girl, and was well liked by all of us." “She was not a notorious character”, said another friend. Born in Ireland and raised in Wales, Mary Kelly spoke fluent Welsh, no small accomplishment. She was handsome and well spoken, and “much superior to that of most persons in her position in life." But she was, like so many, an alcoholic.
Indian Joe” said later, “Knocking at the door, I got no answer, and I knocked again and again. Receiving no reply, I passed round the corner by the gutter spout where there is a broken window - it is the smallest window. There was a curtain. I put my hand through the broken pane and lifted the curtain. I saw two pieces of flesh lying on the table...The second time I looked I saw a body on this bed, and blood on the floor.”
Thomas Bowyer ran back into McCarthy's shop, where he told him, “"Governor, I knocked at the door and could not make anyone answer. I looked through the window and saw a lot of blood." Looking into the man's face, McCarthy's reaction was understandable. He said, “You don’t mean that, Harry.” Both men returned to the room, where Jack McCarthy pushed aside the curtain. “The sight that we saw I cannot drive away from my mind. It looked more like the work of a devil than of a man...I hope I may never see such a sight as this again.”
One writer described the discovery this way. “The wall behind the bed was spattered with blood. On the bedside table was a pile of bloody human flesh. And there on the bed, barely recognizable as human, lay the virtually skinned down cadaver of Mary Kelly.” McCarthy told Thomas to go straight to the Commercial Street police station. Pausing only to lock up his store, Jack McCarthy followed him.
At the Commercial Street Station (above), Detective Inspectors Walter Dew and Walter Beck were on duty when Thomas Bowyer ran in. Drew wrote later, “The poor fellow was so frightened that for a time he was unable to utter a single intelligible word. At last he managed to stammer out something about "another one. Jack the Ripper. Awful. Jack McCarthy sent me."” A moment later Jack McCarthy arrived, and all 4 man ran back to Dorset Street.  
Beck looked into the room, and then told his partner, "For God’s sake, Dew, don’t look."  Drew looked anyway. 
Fifty years later he wrote, “...the old nausea, indignation and horror overwhelm me still… No savage could have been more barbaric. No wild animal could have done anything so horrifying...…the poor woman’s eyes. They were wide open, and seemed to be staring straight at me with a look of terror."
The Government may have made peace with the Sir Charles Warren scandal, but Jack the Ripper had made no truce with his own demons. And he was intent up sharing them with the entire world.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

YOU CAN'T SAY THAT!


I contend that democracy is a caveat emptor proposition, and if more voters realized that going into the voting booth, there would be a lot fewer jaded voters coming out the other end. Allow me to provide an example. In January of 1921, the Committee on Elections of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, chaired by the appropriately named Loyd Makepeace, from Malden, took up the case of Republican challenger John Callahan verses incumbent Democrat James Sweeney. The prize in this election was the Eleventh District in Hampden County, comprising sections of the 5th and 7th wards of Holyoke, Massachusetts, where the Irish names of both Sweeney and Callahan fit in well. For sixty years the state legislature, also known as the General Court, had been controlled by the Anglo-Protestant Republican party. The industrial revolution was beginning to change that, but the transition was not proving comfortable for anybody.
Located just north of Springfield, Holyoke (above) was one of the first planned industrial communities in America. The town drew power for her textile industry and 25 paper mills from the falls of the Connecticut River. That year the town's population topped 60,000, the vast majority of them first generation Irish Catholic emigrants. And in 1920 first term state Representative Democrat James Sweeney had sent out an aggressive campaign mailing to his constituents.
Most of it was pretty standard propaganda. “After serving you honorably and faithfully for the past year”, wrote Representative Sweeny, “I am a candidate for re-election, and seek your consideration at the polls Tuesday, November 2”.  Sweeney went on to take credit for getting state money for a new bridge across the Connecticut River, and for supporting aid for expectant mothers. But then, in bold black type, he turned to “Chamberlain's Sex-Hyiegne and Birth Control” bill.
The proposed law's namesake was Republican State Senator George Dudly Chamberlain. He was, by all accounts, the kind of a man who gave politicians a good name. An accountant, in his spare time he had created a “playground association” in his home town of Springfield, obtaining and constructing safe places for all of Springfield's children to play. He volunteered untold hours at the Boy's Club and the Young Men's Christian Association. He was a deacon of the Episcopal Church. He had recently gotten into politics because he wanted to improve education statewide, and was pushing for free kindergarten classes for all children.. But in the eyes of many Catholic voters, all of those marvelous things were marks against George Chamberlain.
The Catholic Church simply did not trust a Protestant power structure to educate Catholic children. Irish emigrants, with fresh memories of the charnel house the English had turned Ireland into, did not trust a man who could trace his blue blood back to tenth century English nobility, to John Saukerville, the Lord Chamberlain to King Henry I of England. And having tithed to their own Church schools, Irish voters felt put-upon to be taxed again to support the public schools as well. Sound familiar?
It did not matter to the Irish working classes that the bill was actually a compromise, nor did it matter that in section one of the bill the state department of education was instructed to, “...establish minimum rules and regulations...for the practice and education of health education in public schools...This shall include instruction in personal and community health...” In section four the bill required “School Committees in cities and towns...(to) appoint a supervisor of health education and necessary associates who shall...supervise and direct courses of instruction in health and of physical activity”
The bill had been voted down in the house, but James Sweeney warned his constituents that it was likely to come back, and would be supported by John Callahan . This bill, Sweeney told the Catholic voters,  meant “compulsory teaching of sex-hygiene and birth control to children, ten and twelve years old, against the parents' wishes....(it) would take the child away from the parent and put them under the direct supervision of the State....(and) would disrupt the morals of your children.”
The mailer ended this way; “My opponent is also a (in italics) sexagenarian, and in my opinion would not be able to serve your district properly. And so I make this personal appeal to your reason,...Yours very truly, Representative James F. Sweeney.” To modern, and disinterested, eyes, the mailing may seem to be crude, but it was effective. The results of the election were 3,497 votes for James F. Sweeney,  and 3, 091 for John A. Callahan, with 214 ballots either blank or unreadable. Sweeney was declared the winner by 399 votes.
Mr. Callahan was outraged. He saw Sweeney's mailing as false and malicious. First, the actual title of Chamberlin's bill had been “To provide Physical Training in the Public Schools...”. It said nothing about birth control, let alone sex.  In 1920, most Protestants felt the same way about birth control as most Catholics. And secondly, Mr.Callahan felt the use of the term “sexagenarian” was meant to imply to the uneducated and unsophisticated citizens of Holyoke, that Mr. Callahan was some kind of sex fiend, which he was probably not. So, since, under the Massachusetts Constitution, “The house of representatives shall be the judge of the returns, elections, and qualifications of its own members”, he appealed to the House to over turn the election.
A simple reading of the names on the committee would seem to have given the Republican Callahan the edge. Beside Chairman Makepeace, there was Brimblecom, Rolander, Hale, Whiting, Gradt and Winnett, with barely a hint of Ireland in the bunch. But besides being Protestants and Republicans all, the committee members were also, first and foremost, politicians. And on 27 January, 1921 the Committee, issued its findings.  First it found that since John Callahan was 62 years of age, he was, by definition, a sexagenarian. If the voters were too stupid know that was what the word meant, that was their problem - not the politicians. And as far as the other exaggerated claims made in the circular, the committee decided that to assume the voters had been mislead by the rabble rousing clap trap in Sweeney's mailing would “constitute a denial of the possession of ordinary intelligence on the part of...voters of the Eleventh Hampden District. The committee have therefore come to the conclusion that the election....was...the will of the majority of the voters...(and) thus manifested should prevail. The petitioner is therefore given leave to withdraw” which was a political way of telling the outraged Mr. Callahan to grow up and get on with his life.
The press, of course, turned the entire affair into a farce. The Boston Herald headline read, “Complains He Was Called Sexagenarian – Candidate Says Many Voters Thought It Had to Do With Sex.” A month later the Wall Street Journal got most of the details of the election right, except for the location, which it moved to downtown Boston. Thirty years later, the joke about sexagenarian was about all that remained of the story, and was even adapted to the Pepper-Smather Florida Senate election of 1950.
But this contested 1920 Massachusetts election is not a story about a quasi-maledictive phrase, its about the freedom to be stupid. Without that right, there can be no democracy - small "D".  If voters, for whatever reason, are dumb enough to elect Donald Trump, that is still a good thing -  because whether a monumental mess is made by the money class or the working class, its the working class who have pay for it and clean up any mess he makes. So  at least they should be the ones responsible for making the mess.  Look, it there aren't times when democracy scares the living hell out of you, you aren't doing it right.
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