AUGUST 2017

AUGUST  2017
FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

AIR HEADS Part One

I suppose it seemed like a good idea in the beginning. There were three serious contestants, and a $50,000 first place prize.  But in retrospect, it should have been obvious that nobody was going to collect a dime of that money.  It was 1911; flying was still brand new and the world’s first two pilots were still flying - Wilbur and Orville Wright - and still learning to fly.  The world's third pilot was Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, and he had died on 17 September, 1908, in a crash that also badly injured Orville. The second pilot to die was Charles Rolls (of Rolls-Royce fame), in a 1910 crash. Considering there were only about 100 men (and one woman) with flying licenses in America in 1911, two percent was an appalling death  rate, bad enough to make you wonder why anybody would have wanted to even try flying, let alone try it from coast to coast.
The world’s 49th licensed pilot was a shy, cocky, 6’4” thirty-something, cigar smoking, playboy and adrenaline junkie with a hearing loss and a speech impediment named Calbraith Perry Rogers (above -right). He was a romantic who favored action over words, as proven by the way he met his wife, 20 something Mabel Groves (above, left).  He saw her slip off a dock and fall into the water.  So assuming she was drowning,  he jumped in and pulled her to safety. Within a few months he married her, despite the hat.   He approached flying with the same spontaneity, but it was a passion which quickly developed into a mission..
Having seen his first airplane on a visit to Dayton, Ohio, in June of 1911,  Cal took the full Wright Brother’s flight course (above),  all 90 minutes of it.  Mabel explained that flying filled the hole in his life left by his deafness which had excluded a military career.  It was, she said "the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle". 
Then Cal talked his mother, Maria, into loaning him $5,000 so he could buy a Wright Model B Flyer “E-X”. The "X" was for experimental – which was a joke because every “airplane” was experimental in 1911.  But Cal may also have been the origin of the phrase to “take a flyer”,  because just two months later, in August, he entered his new Wright Flyer in an air show in Chicago and took home third prize, worth $11, 285.   Not bad: Cal had been a pilot for 60 days and already he had made six grand profit.  He suspected there might be money in this flying thing.
And this was confirmed in October of 1910 when the Hearst newspaper chain had offered $50,000 to the first pilot to make it across the continent in 30 days or less.  The offer was set to expire on 10 October.  So with his self supplied confidence,  Cal decided to go for it. Orville Wright tried to warn him. "There isn't a machine in existence that can be relied upon for 1,000 miles,  and here you want to go over 4,000.  It will vibrate itself to death before you get to Chicago."   But Cal refused to give up the idea.  He explained, "It's important because everything else I've done was unimportant."  Faced with that level of stubbornness,  Orville tried to look at the bright side. At least the Wright B Flyer was so light, said Orville "six good men could carry it across the country."
 What Cal needed, as any NASCAR driver can tell you, was a sponsor.  He found his ‘sticker sucker’ in  Mr. J. Odgen Armour, owner of Armour Meat Packing Company, and his new soft drink called “VIN FIZ”.   Allegedly it was grape favored soda water, but one critic thought it tasted more like  “a fine blend of river sludge and horse slop”   With a product like that Mr. Amour was going to need a heck of an advertising campaign. Enter Cal and his flying bill board.
With a guarantee of $23,000 from Amour, and a bonus of $5 per mile east of the Mississippi River, and $4 per mile to the west of the "big muddy",  and a corporate three rail car support train complete with a reservoir of spare parts, fuel and mechanics, and sleeping car accommodations for Mable, Cal’s mother Maria,  his cousin, his head mechanic Charlie Taylor, two other mechanics, two general assistants and assorted reporters from the Hearst news service, the flight was starting to look possible..
Armour even threw in an automobile (above) to track down Cal whenever he crash landed . With that much corporate funding behind him, Cal figured he had it all figured out. The first problem was that, before Cal even got airborne, his "Vin Fiz" was already in third place.
First off, from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, was motorcycle racer Bob Fowler (above). There were 10,000 cheering people there at 1:35 P.M., on Monday, 11 September,  1911 to see Bob takeoff.  Like Cal, Bob was piloting a Wright “B” Flyer, except his sponsor was Joseph J. Cole, founder and owner of the Cole Motor Company, of Indianapolis, Indiana.  Cole supplied Bob with one of their engines and $7,500.  The Cole engine was more powerful than the Wright engine, but it was also 200 lbs heavier. J.J. also gave Bob a support train, with spare parts and his own mother.  But "The Cole Flyer" lacked the publicity support that accompanied the "Vin Fizz  Flyer..
Making an average speed of about 55 miles an hour, Bob reached Sacramento in just under 2 hours, and after schmoozing with California Governor Hiram Johnson, Bob flew on to the foothill town of Auburn, for a total distance on the first day of 126 miles. Impressive. And on a Monday.  On Tuesday, 12 September,  he reached Alta, California, where he crashed into some trees.  Bob was now out of the race until repairs could be made.
Second to start was James J. (Jimmy) Ward (above),  pilot's license #52, and previously a jockey.  He was flying a Curtis Model D,  with floats, so he could land on any lakes and or rivers he happened to cross.  Jimmy took off from Governor’s Island in New York harbor on Wednesday, 13 September, 1911. He immediately got lost over New Jersey, and made only twenty miles before crash landing. Then he too had to wait for repairs. The basic tempo of the race had thus been set right from the start; take off, crash, wait for repairs, take off, crash, wait for repairs, and repeat as necessary for 4,000 miles. It was going to be very hard to finish this race, let alone win it.
Before starting himself, Cal Rogers tied a bottle Vin Fiz to one of his wing struts (white circle on the left), “for luck”.  For reality, he tied a pair of crutches to another strut, in case he needed them later. He would.
Before a paying crowd of 2,000, a chorus girl poured a bottle of grape soda over the landing skids and proclaimed, “I dub thee “Vin Fiz Flyer””. Cal actually called his plane “Betsy” but he recognized the value of naming fees even back then.
Cal took off from the race course at Sheepshead Bay, Long Island at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, 17 September. And if anybody noticed that it was the third anniversary of the crash that had killed Lieutenant Selfridge, they were polite enough to keep it to themselves.
After take off, Cal buzzed Coney Island and dropped coupons for free Vin Fiz soda (above). Then he flew across Manhattan as the breathless reporters breathlessly reported, “…with its death-trap of tall buildings, ragged roofs and narrow streets”.  Cal landed safely in Middleton, New York that night to a cheering crowd reported as 10,000 – not to be bettered by San Francisco. He had made all of 84 miles that first day. His plan was to average 250 miles a day.
That night the reporters wrote that Cal claimed he would be in Chicago in four days. But Cal  rarely talked to reporters because he barely heard their questions, the byproduct of a scarlet fever attack in his childhood.  And he spoke in the clumsy monotone of someone who never heard a human voice, clearly.   So it was easier if the the reporters just made up heroic quotes for Cal. They invented more heroic quotes for him the next morning when, on take off,  the "Vin Fiz" hit a tree and ended up in a chicken coop.  The bottle of Vin Fiz was "miraculously" undamaged, as proved because it would have been impossible to find another bottle of Vin Fizz aboard a train car named "The Vin Fiz Special".   But now it was Cal’s turn to wait for repairs.  The race was on!  It just wasn't going anywhere very quickly.
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Friday, June 09, 2017

BLAMING GOD

"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
KJ Bible, Genisus 2:17
I admit it is a little unfair to blame 53 year old Boston Puritan Increase Mather (above) for the 4,000 deaths in Jamaica. The Reverend did not actually kill those people - unlike the 25 he helped murder in Salem, Massachusetts. But he was so damn certain in his ignorance, that his certainty ran over a lot of honest doubts that might at least have given those 4,000 deaths meaning. An Anglican minister and the son of a preacher, "The Godly" Increase always pontificated from the pulpit of solid moral bedrock - even as the sand beneath his feet liquefied and swallowed his soul. The Reverend Mather was certain, for example, that what Yehaweh said about the Port Royal earthquake of 1692 was "All of those people were sinners and deserved their fate!"  And that seems a little arrogant, doesn't it?
"God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand."
Richard Feynman Nobel winning American physicist
As the 17 million square miles of the South American Tectonic Plate drove west at just over an inch a year, it elbowed aside the 1 million square miles of the Caribbean plate, shoving it at half an inch a year into the southeastern edge of 29 million square miles of the North America plate. These large collisions accommodated the curvature of the earth by cracking like a plate of glass dropped onto a concrete slab. For example, Cuba rested firmly on the North American Plate. 
But just off its southern shore was the 25,000 foot deep and 250 mile long Cayman trench, which was consuming the 73,000 square miles of the Conave micro-plate, driven north.  Ninety miles to the south the island of Jamaica was being shoved inexorably toward that trench. But Jamaica was also being pulled apart by the Walton fault, moving west at half an inch a year, connected by transverse faults to the Plantain Garden Fault, slipping west at a full inch a year and running 300 miles from the island of Hispaniola to the once volcanic Blue Mountains in Jamaica's interior. As the waxing quarter moon set on the evening of 6 June, 1693, the delicate balance of all this intricate geological machinery was on the verge of breaking.
"Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah...Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities..."
KJ Genesis 19:24 - 25
Dawn of Wednesday, 7 June, 1692 greeted Port Royal - the second largest English city in the New World and "the richest and wickedest city in the world"- with the continued promise of unending wealth. 
Approaching Jamaica from the Caribbean Passage any Spanish or French threat had to first navigate the mile wide entrance between the eastern heights of Salt Pan Hill, defended by a row of cannon called the 12 apostles, and the 14 guns in the star shaped brick edifice of Fort Charles, perched on western tip of the 18 mile long sand spit called the Palisadoes.
Protecting the 60 full rigged transports, slave ships, schooners and cutters anchored safely in Cagway Bay this morning were the 26 cannon in Fort James and Fort Carlisle.  
Blocking any land assault across the narrow neck of the Palisadoes was Fort Rupert with another 22 guns. And for good measure defending the south sea side of Port Royal were the 26 cannon of Fort Morgan, named to honor the 4 year deceased Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and infamous privateer, Sir Henry Morgan.
"Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped."
William H. Bragg 20th century British Nobel physicist, chemist, and mathematician.
During the first 50 years of English occupation, Jamaica's income had come from stealing what the Spanish had stolen from the Aztecs and Incas - piracy. But within the last decade the economics had shifted. Jamaica's Royal Governor, the Earl of Inchiquin, was no longer the unquestioned lord, and the dominant arm of the British government was no longer the Royal Navy, Both of those powers had been superseded by  the corporate-like Board of Trade and Plantations. 
Civilian lawyer and businessman John White, the new Vice President of the Jamaica Council, was the regional head of operations, directly responsible for the 4,000 Europeans in Port Royal that June morning, men, women and children, who were all employees one way or another, of the Board of Trade. There were also 2,000 to 2,500 Africans - but they were not people, but property
"Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."
KJ Bible Judges 1:7
Port Royal was a company town - a slice of London transplanted to the Caribbean, 2,000 Tudor brick and mortar multi-story homes and shops tightly packed into 51 sandy acres between the sea and Cagway Bay, where Puritans, Catholics, Episcopalians, Jews and Muslims labored with one purpose - to get rich. The venal sins of the sailors and pirates were tolerated since they were making so many so wealthy. 
In the words of observer Edward Ward, Port Royal was “...as sickly as a hospital, as dangerous as the plague, as hot as Hell, and as wicked as the devil”.  Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck saw, "The parrots of Port Royal gather to drink...ale with just as much alacrity as the drunks that frequent the taverns that serve it."  
As Rector of St. Peter's Anglican Church near the junction of the High and Lime Streets, the Reverend Doctor Emmanuel Heath was God's official representative to this den of hypocrisy. Before ten this morning he walked the few yards south to the Merchants' Exchange, to have coffee with Vice President White. The Reverend would later credit Mr. White's lively conversation with delaying his luncheon date with the garrison's Captain and his family, on Queens Street along the harbor front - and thus saving Dr. Heath's life.

"I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance."
Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan author
Some 20 minutes before noon, on 9 June, 1692, the rocks which restrained one of the faults to the north or west of the Jamaica snapped.  As it did the primary compressing wave of energy raced away from the epicenter of the break at 4 miles a second, like a giant hammer, slamming each successive molecule of rock in to the next. Just behind it came the Secondary wave, "...perpendicular to the direction it is traveling" and moving at 3 miles a second. The combination of the 2 waves produced the shaking, which lasted for about 4 minutes - estimated as the equivalent of a magnitude 7.3 on the standard Richter scale. 
In that brief time the over 4 million square miles of Jamaica jerked a foot or more closer to Cuba, dropping parts of the southern shore of the island as much as thirty feet. A pocket watch found on the harbor bottom 260 years later recorded the time of doomsday as 11:43am.
"Let death steal over them...for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart."
KJ Psalm 55:15
Seated in the tavern, Emmanuel Heath and Vice President White felt the earth begin to "heave and roll". "Said I, “Lord, Sir, what’s this?” He replied, very composedly, “It is an earthquake, be not afraid, it will soon be over.” But...(when) we heard the church and tower fall...we ran to save ourselves." In other words, they did the one thing you should never do in an earthquake - run outside where your head has no protection and all the heavy things are falling to the ground. 
Another survivor described the scene which greeted them. "The sand on the street rose like waves at sea, lifting up all persons that stood upon it....And at the same instant water rushed in...Some were seen catching hold of beams and rafters of houses."
"It is only our conception of time that makes us call the Last Judgment by this name. It is, in fact, a kind of martial law."
Franz Kafka, 20th century writer
It seems likely John White was hit by some of the falling debris, and in a panic the Reverend abandoned him, running south for the safety of Fort Morgan. But as he reached it, "...I saw the earth open and swallow up a multitude of people, and the sea mounting in upon us over the fortifications." The sea did not so much rush in as rise up from the sand. The vibrations released the water table bonded to the sand grains a few inches below the surface, which could no longer support weight. Forts, buildings, animals and people simply sank into the quicksand. 
A Frenchman, Lewis Galdy, was swallowed by it.  But as the street that swallowed him dropped thirty feet into the harbor, his buoyancy sent him bobbing to the surface of what was abruptly the enlarged bay. Half an hour later he was picked up by a rescue boat.
"For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain."
KJ Bible Isaiah 26:21
"Careened" at the docks - tilted so barnacles could be scrapped off her elm wood bottom - the HMS Swan, a 74 foot long fifth rate warship, snapped her lines and plowed into the sinking homes and shops along Queen street, perhaps killing Captain Rudend and his family. In a primeval fit, the Reverend Heath chose to run home. "The houses and walls fell on each side of me; some bricks came rolling over my shoes...When I came to my lodging, I found all things in the order I had left them." Emmanuel Heath was lucky. His home was one of the 10% of buildings not destroyed, in the one third of Port Royal not swallowed by the bay. He lived. His breakfast companion, John White, would also survive the shaking, but die of his injuries a few hours later.
"Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things."
Richard Dawkins, 20 century British evolutionary biologist
There were 2,000 dead in 4 minutes, and another 3,000 who would die over the following year of broken bodies, hearts and minds. The brick forts of James and Carlisle disappeared into Cagway Bay. Fort Rupert flooded. The least damaged was Fort Morgan. More morbid, among the 33 acres dropped into the harbor was the graveyard, leaving the recently dead floating with their ancestors. Quaker John Pike later wrote his brother, “Great men who were so swallowed up with pride...now lie stinking upon the water, and are made meat for fish and fowls of the air” - and the target for human scavengers, “...their Pockets picked, their fingers cut off for their rings, their gold buttons taken out of their shirts."
And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me. For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
KJ Isaiah 66:24
The survivor Samuel Bernard dealt with directly with the trauma. "We shall be unworthy of God’s mercies if we be not by His judgments taught to learn righteousness.” John White's survivors on the Council declared themselves "an instance of God Almighty's severe judgment." But distance made the ignorant more certain, and mercenary. Wrote one, "A God of limited patience had punished a wicked people." 
London Presbyterian minister John Shower used the deaths as pulp for his first publication: "Practical Reflections on the late Earthquakes in Jamaica”, blaming the disaster on "Atheism, and infidelity...and barefaced deism..." He denounced those who thought there must be a rational cause for such horrors, because, "...the Hand of God is not to be overlooked in such things", and warned his readers, "If you do not truly repent...your judgment is near, your destruction is at hand." 

And in the largest English city in the new world, Boston, the Reverend Cotton Mather wrote to his uncle John, in terms that were almost jubilant. "Behold, an accident speaking to all our English America." He was looking for a victory, as that summer his father had executed five "witches" in Salem, but this only led to more witch trials.
"For the belief in a single truth is the root cause for all evil in the world."
Max Born, Nobel physicist and mathematician
Increase Mather was busy that summer, and would not set down his reaction to the Port Royal Quake for decade - by which time his reputation was suffering because of the witch hunts. But disaster tales are always popular, and time had moderated the old Puritan's views. He now acknowledged  "...many times, earthquakes proceed from natural causes."  But then he asserted they were "...usually, a sign that men have sinned, and that God is angry.  Certain it is, that if men had never sinned, they had never been terrified with earthquakes...Whole towns...with all the people in them...(have) gone down alive into the pit.  Would such a thing be, if God were not infinitely displeased by the sins of men?"
"Early the next morning Abraham...looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah...and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace."
KJ Genisus 19: 27-28
But Increase, now over 60 years old, was just warming up, reminding his readers, "...Was it not so with the Sinners in Sodom? An earthquake swallowed up their houses, and all the bodies in them. But what became of their souls? Does not the scripture say, that they are suffering the Vengeance of eternal fire?...Shall we that call our selves Christians be worse than the heathen Romans, of whom it is said, that when they saw the earthquake they feared greatly...have we forgotten what God did in Jamaica thirteen years ago, when two thousand people (whites and blacks) perished by the earthquakes there."
"Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."
J.R.R. Tolkien writer
The people of Jamaica had not forgotten. Almost half a century after the earthquake, in solid ground across the bay in the new city of Kingston, they buried the mortal remains of Lewis Galdy. He had experience a religious rebirth after the earth spit him back up, but had used his time not to preach faith but live it, for better and for worse.  He remained a businessman, and in Jamaica. If he left little of value behind, that was not an act of God, it was an act of Galdy.  And when he died at 80 years of age - 16 years after and ten years older than Increase Mather when he died - Lewis's tombstone would read, "Beloved by all and much lamented at his Death".  If he was, he was more loved than bitter old Cotton
"Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone."
KJ Bible John 8:7
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