SEPTEMBER 2017

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

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Twenty - Five

I consider it one of the most gruesome crime scene photographs ever made, and it was one of the first. Taken inside Mary Kelly's sad little room at 13 Miller's Court on the cold Friday morning of  9 November, 1888,  it is grainy, blurry and more than a century after it was taken, it still chills the soul.  It is the only photo of a “Jack the Ripper” victim “in situ”. It is invaluable, because a mere description of the horror which had escaped this killer's mind may disturb you intellectually, but only when you look closely at this photo do you comprehend the emotional violence unleashed. And it would never have been made if Sir Charles Warren's Metropolitan Police had been the well oiled machine he kept telling the public they were. 
Inspectors Beck and Dew had arrived in Miller's Court (above) a little after 11:00 a.m.  By 11:30 police surgeon Dr. George Bagster Phillips had arrived, along with most of the Whitechapel brass, and even a few officers from the City of London police. But still no one had entered the room. There were standing orders from now ex-Commissioner Sir Charles Warren not to disturb the crime scene at the next Ripper murder until the bloodhounds – Burgho and Barnaby – had arrived to collect the killer's scent. And just peaking in the window, nobody had any doubt that his was another Ripper murder.
However, the accountants at Scotland Yard and the accountants at the Home Office could not agree on who was going to pay for the dogs, and eventually their owner, Mr Edwin Brough, had grown so disgusted that Burgho was now in Brighton, competing in a dog show, and Barnaby had been returned to his home kennel, where he was, in all probability at that moment licking his own private parts and dreaming of chasing Irish politicians seeking self rule.
Evidently, Sir Charles had been doing the human equivalent of the same thing - too busy defending himself in magazines and threatening to resign to have taken the time to tell the Constables and Detectives of Whitechapel Division that the dogs were not coming. So the officers were left holding back the crowds outside of the crime scene in Miller's Court for 2 hours, waiting for the dogs which were not coming, while inside number 13, Mary Jane Kelly's corpse was starting to decay.
It was not until 1:30 that afternoon that Whitechapel Division Superintendent Thomas Anderson got fed up with waiting and asked Jack McCarthy for permission to knock the door down. The exasperated McCarthy said yes, do it, for God's sake. But Anderson still dare not disobey Warren, so he quietly asked the London Police, who were on scene, if they wouldn't mind. And they did not. So it was a City of London Police Constable who went at the flimsy door with a sledge hammer, or an ax. 
The blaze was going in the fireplace. Mary Jane Kelly's clothing was neatly folded on the room's only chair. Her boots had been placed to dry in front of the fire place. The rest of the room looked like an abattoir.
The London Police justified breaking down the door because they wanted to photograph the scene. Sir Charles Warren had stopped them from photographing the “The Jewes are not the ones...” message just above the bloody apron found on Goulston Street. But Warren was not here. He was finally gone. 
The London Police took two images of the scene, a close up of the lumps of breast and organs left on the table (above)....
...And the second image of the victim's corpse sprawled on the bed (above). Several Whitechapel Detectives ordered their own copies of the photos, and those -   in private hands -  eventually ended up the Scotland Yard files. But it was only because Sir Charles Warren had resigned that morning,  that the photographs were even taken.
On Tuesday, 13 November, 1888 the young and ambitious Robert Gent-Davis, representing the Kennington section of London,  rose in the House of Commons (above) to ask a public question of his party's leader, Home Secretary Henry Matthews. 
Supported by his recently acquired South London Standard newspaper, the 27 year old Conservative had burst upon the political scene in 1885  like a Guy Fawkes sky rocket   Liberals had immediately challenged Robert's election under the new campaign finance law. Gent-Davis had won the case, but the testimony hinted his wealth was all bluff and bluster. This was confirmed in February of 1888 when a court ordered Robert to pay a client 1,500 pounds owed him from an escrow estate Robert had managed. When Robert failed to produce the funds, the judge ordered him jailed for contempt of court. Robert then claimed immunity because of his position in Parliament, but that bluff was sure to fail, and without support from the Conservative Party leadership he was going to jail. So Robert decided to save himself by running yet another bluff.
Robert asked if Mr. Munro (above) had resigned as Assistant Commissioner of Police back in August because the Criminal Intelligence Division had been taken away from him  Of course, Munro had resigned because his boss, Commissioner Sir Charles Warren, had wanted him to give up his command of the super-secret and illegal black ops Section “D”  of the C.I.D. - the Irish Section. And when Matthews brushed the question aside, Robert raised his bet. He now asked that all correspondence between Munro and the government “be laid upon the table”, meaning the opposition Liberal Party could read it. That would blow the whole game up.
Of course Robert Gent-Davis didn't know what the whole game was. He was a “back bencher” and the leadership would never have entrusted him with knowledge of smear campaigns against Irish politicians, or secret payments to London newspapers and Liberal politicians. Because that was all illegal. So Home Secretary Henry Matthews (above)  looked dismissive, promising to release the papers - eventually. Gent-Davis smirked his reply, “Then I am afraid, Sir, we must get them to-night”. He then sat to cheers from the Liberal party. 
But he did sit. Because he was bluffing. He had no proof. The brains behind the Conservative Party had judged Gent-Davis as a bluffer.  And Matthews never did lay the papers on the table. And on 27 November, 1888, Robert Gent-Davis went to jail for contempt of court, and was forced to resign his seat. Once again the Conservatives had weathered a storm that threatened to sink their boat, not because of their own strength, but because of their opponents' weaknesses.
It seemed to have very little to do with Jack the Ripper. But the politics is what had made a sad homicidal madman into a legend
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

THE DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

I know we like to think our nation was founded by political geniuses armed only with the best of intentions. But the truth is, if the vast majority of the founding fathers were to somehow magically reappear in today's political arena, they would probably be most comfortable as members of the Klu Klux Klan – sexists and white supremacists. Under the first constitution for South Carolina (signed in 1778) Catholics were not allowed to vote. Delaware's first constitution denied the vote to Jews, and Maryland did not permit the sons of Abraham to cast a ballot until 1828. And, of course, women and both sexes of African-Americans either were already or shortly would be arrested if they tried to cast a ballot anywhere in America. But the most fundamental bigotry in America was and is not racial or religious. It is monetary. The most disenfranchised group in America has always been anyone who was “not rich”.
In ten of the 13 original United States you had to own at least 50 acres of land or $250 in property before you were judged qualified to vote. The official price for uncleared land along the frontier was set at just ten cents an acre, but was sold by the government in lots no smaller than a section of 640 acres. So a section of land cost $640. At the same time the average yearly income for a laborer in the north was about $90.  Few working people could ever hope to save enough to afford a section of land. So the land speculators stepped in. They already owned land (usually large plantations) which they could use as collateral. This gave them access to credit, to acquire hundreds of sections of land at a time, survey, subdivide and resell the property in plots down to five or ten acres each. It was a system rife with legal and illegal corruption. The speculators' profit margins tripled or quadrupled the price per acre to the yeoman farmers who usually borrowed to buy the land. One bad crop meant they could not make the payments and had to return the land to the speculators and were forced to move even further west to try again, still without the right to vote on the legality of such monetary rules.  It was why Daniel Boone kept moving his entire life, as did Abraham Lincoln's father.
This explains why, forty years after the revolution, only half a million out of the ten million Americans could qualify to vote, and why, in 1824 less than 360,000 actually cast a ballot. The debacle of the 1824 presidential election being thrown into the House of Representatives, resolved by the so called “corrupt bargain” between Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, leads to the realization that the first objective of fair elections must be to keep the powerful from limiting the right to vote. That was why, beginning in the new states beyond the Appalachian crest, the wealth restrictions on voting were dropped. And slowly this influenced the politics back in the original 13 states.  Very slowly.
On 7 October, 1825, with John Quincy Adams ensconced in the White House for less than 8 months, Senator Andrew Jackson (above) rose in the Senate chamber. Nominally he was to comment on a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent another “corrupt bargain” from ever happening again. But, “I could not”, Jackson assured his fellow politicians, “consent either to urge or to encourage a change which might wear the appearance of being ...a desire to advance my own views” (He meant unlike Henry Clay, and President Adams, of course.) And "reluctantly" he added, “I hasten therefore to tender this my resignation.”  It wasn't that Jackson was clearing his schedule for the upcoming 1828 rematch. Oh, no. He was resigning so “my friends do not, and my enemies can not, charge me with...degrading the trust reposed in me by intriguing for the Presidential chair.” As he walked out of the Capital that afternoon, it's a wonder his trousers did not burst into flames. The proposed amendment was then quietly allowed to die, in part because Jackson knew he might have to avail himself of the same technique in 3 years.  And he did.
On the same day, on the west fork of the Stones river, meeting in St. Paul's Episcopal Church on East Vine Street in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (where their capital had burned down two years earlier), the state legislature unanimously nominated Andrew Jackson to be the next President of the United States – three years hence. What a happy coincidence of timing, with those two events occurring over a thousand miles apart, and on the same day – proof positive that no one could accuse Andrew “Jackass” of “intriguing” for the Presidency. And if any of you reading this are offended by modern pundits theorizing about the next election almost before the last one is completed, welcome to the brave new world of 1825
Of course, if you were looking for more hard evidence of intrigue you might journey to the 9th Congressional District of Virginia, tucked away in the south-western corner of the Old Dominion. The two term representative for this last gasp of the Shenandoah Valley and its encroaching mountains was a transplanted Pennsylvanian, a graduate of William and Mary named Andrew Stevenson (above).  He had been the Speaker of the House of Burgess, where he was considered a member of the “Richmond Junta” which ran Virginia politics. And now the dapper Congressman had tied his horse to Andrew Jackson's cart. So why would a member of the Richmond Junta decide to join forces with a Yankee from the Albany Regency, to support Andrew Jackson from Nashville, Tennessee, for President?
First, the south had something that New York Democrat Martin Van Buren (above) wanted – electoral votes. The institution of slavery was indeed peculiar because although those humans were treated as property with no rights, each slave did count as 3/5ths of a person for determining congressional districts and votes in the electoral collage. After the census of 1820 this gave the south 22 additional congressional districts – and 22 additional electoral votes – which their white population alone did not entitle them too. This was the deal with Satan the founding fathers from New England had been forced to make in order to form a “more perfect union.” Those 22 electoral votes were more than enough to throw an election in whatever direction Martin Van Buren, and the New York banking inetersts he represented,  wanted .
What Stevenson and other Southerners wanted in exchange was a guarantee that the economy of the south would be protected from the growing power of the North.  Practically this meant low tariffs. The slave states produced few of the machines that were increasingly vital to modern life,  largely because slaves had no incentive to invent or invest of themselves more than was required. Meanwhile, a little over two weeks after Jackson's resignation from the Senate, the Erie Canal officially opened, connecting the produce of  Ohio to the markets of New York City. It was visible evidence of the economic giant the workers and consumers of the "Free States" were becoming.  But in a nation without an income or a sales tax, a tax levied on imported goods, or a tariff, was the only way to support projects like the canal, or a national highway, then approaching the eastern Indiana border.
The Bank of the United States was a vital part of the infrastructure which Federalists were  advocating, financing  the National Road and canals connecting the great lakes with the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. But what Adams saw as government preforming the unprofitable investment in infrastructure so that business could use it as a base for their future profits, Stevenson and Van Buren saw “Big Government”, supported by tariffs, as a multi-head snake (above), big enough to regulate business and tangentially  a threat to slave state economics.  And they were right.
In 1831 (six years hence) a young French official, Alexis de Tocqueville, would journey to America to observe the young nation.  And in perhaps his most famous passage he touched upon the effect of slavery on the south.  “The State of Ohio”, wrote de Tocquville,”is separated from Kentucky just by one river; on either side of it the soil is equally fertile, and the situation equally favorable, and yet everything is different...(In Ohio the population is) devoured by feverish activity, trying every means to make its fortune...There (in Kentucky) are people who make others work for them...a people without energy, mettle or the spirit of enterprise...These differences cannot be attributed to any other cause but slavery. It degrades the black population and... (saps the energy of) the white.”
So, a hundred years before the Republican Party adopted its infamous “Southern strategy” to convert segregationist “boil weevel” "Dixie-crats"  into a southern Republican voting block, the Democrats, at very the moment of their party's birth, made a much more vile  bargain – agreeing to protect real slavery in all its foul existence,  in exchange for gaining national power to protect the money interests of Wall Street.  
Jackson's  only real interest was seeking the Presidency in 1828 was in defeating those who “cheated” him out of his victory in 1824.  Jackson was a slave owner, and his natural inclination was to support slavery. But because of the support offered by Van Buren,  he also opposed the national bank, and Adam's program of “big government” investments.   The hard work of forming the party that carry him to victory he left to men like Van Buren and Stevenson, who were binding Southern ruling elite to Northern ruling elite. That accommodation would be the foundation of the new Democratic Party for the next 100 years.
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