This Day in History

May 19th

 

1897 – Oscar Wilde released from Reading Gaol. Novelist, poet, and man about town in London, Wilde had served two years at hard labor for indecency. His crime? Homosexuality.

Homosexuality is still a crime in some parts of the world, probably to the envy of some in the U.S., 

1960 – Payola scandal results in eight arrests. Disc jockeys from rock and roll radio stations were charged with accepting money for playing certain songs. Among those arrested was Alan Freed who was widely credited with coining the term “Rock and Roll.”

Both Freed and Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame were suspected of taking bribes. Most of the focus was on Freed. “Why did the committee single him out? Freed was abrasive. He consorted with black R&B musicians. He jive talked, smoked constantly and looked like an insomniac. Clark was squeaky clean, Brylcreemed, handsome and polite.”(1)

Although Freed only received a fine and a suspended sentence his career was ruined and he died destitute five years later. Whereas Clark went on to become an industry icon.

I was in high school when the scandal broke and didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about.

“1960 was also an election year and the Congressional Subcommittee was eager to be seen on the right side of a highly visible “moral” issue.”(2)

Ah, yeah, now I get it.

1979 – Armed uprising begins on Red Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Disturbed by what many felt was a corrupt administration under tribal chairman Roger Jourdain, a group led by Harry Hanson seized the B.I.A. building and burned it. Three days of rioting and sniper fire ensued with 4 more buildings burned to the ground, 45 others damaged, as well as many cars destroyed.

B.I.A. police, local county police, a special law enforcement task force and the FBI finally quelled the uprising. Harry Hanson was sentenced to 26 years in prison and his followers received sentences ranging from 10 to 16 years. The presiding judge said: “Mr. Hanson, you led a revolution of blatant lawlessness. Your oath as an Indian person is not now to be respected.” Unlike the oaths of the U.S. Government in the form of treaties.

In a prior post I noted that a German SS commander received a 12 years sentence for killing 15,000 Jews while Hanson received 26 years. I guess destroying property in the U.S. is more heinous than killing Jews in Europe.

That summer I went to northern Minnesota with a girlfriend. There was nothing political about our trip, just a weekend getaway. My girlfriend’s grandfather was from the Philippines and she had dark hair, brown eyes and olive skin. Pat grew up white in a small town and her partial ethnic background was in the far recesses of her mind.

We came across a small bar and grill in the middle of the northern woods and the idea of a beer and burger appealed to us. I realized later that we weren’t far from Red Lake and tensions were still high. At the entrance a beefy bouncer blocked our way. He shook his head. “Nope, you’re not coming in.” I was confused and argued. “We just want to get something to eat.” With the practiced benign malevolence of a seasoned bounced he looked at me and said, “If you want to get something to go, she can wait in the car.” Now I understood. He took her for an Indian. Pat laughed and said, “I didn’t really want to be in your crummy dive anyway.” The bouncer appeared to be offended. At what I’m not sure. That his establishment had been insulted or more likely because a member of a lesser race had lipped off to him. Showing our own disdain we walked away but, even though it was second hand for me, I felt the sting of racism.

Birthdays:

1795 – Johns Hopkins. A philanthropist after whom the famous hospital was named. Hopkins grew up on a plantation in Virginia and was 12 years old when his Quaker parents emancipated their slaves and Hopkins became a lifelong abolitionist. As an adult he resided in Baltimore, became a shrewd businessman and amassed great wealth. He fell in love with a first cousin but Quaker law prevented them from marrying. Both remained single their whole lives. Hopkins was a strong supporter of President Lincoln and aided the Union cause during the Civil War. He appears to have been a man ahead of his times. He started an orphanage for African-American children, advocated equal health care for black and white and created medical schools for women. He believed there should be no discrimination due to sex or color and stood in opposition to the racial practices that began after the Civil War. Baltimore was a southern city and many of his prominent peers shunned him but Hopkins remained firm in his beliefs and deeds.

I never realized that Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins University were named after such a great man.

 1812 – Felix Zollicoffer. A newspaper editor, U.S. House Representative (1853-59) from Tennessee, and a general in the Confederate Army. In 1862 while fighting in Kentucky he was killed by Union forces.

Nothing to do with his achievements, I just included him because it’s a wonderful name.

 1891 – Oswald Boelcke

1897 – Frank Luke

Both were aviators in The Great War. Boelcke German and Luke American. Oswald Boelcke was regarded as the father of the Luftwaffe and the man who trained the more famous Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen. Frank Luke had the second most “kills” for the Americans, behind only Eddie Rickenbacker and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Both were dashing, daring WWI aces. Neither lived out the war. Boelcke died in 1916 and Luke in 1918.

The Wright brothers made their first flight in 1903. It took only a little more than a decade to turn this magnificent achievement into an instrument of death, and create a new class of heroes, and victims.

(1) performingsongwriter.com/alan-freed-payola-scandal/

(2) www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-payola-scandal-heats-up

Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com

http://www.history.com

onthisday.com

performingsongwriter.com

http://www.civilwarhome.com

http://www.dailymail.co

acepilots.com

This Day in History

May 15th

1252 – Pope Innocent IV issues Papal Bull Ad Extirpanda. A decree that allowed torture to be used. This was during the Spanish Inquisition and the Pope basically said that church law superseded civil law. It was rationalized as a way of arriving at the “truth” for when the victim went to trial.

I wonder if Dick Cheney was somehow related to Pope Innocent IV?

 1829 – Joseph Smith ordained by John the Baptist. Smith founded the Mormon religion and the Church of Latter Day Saints. “John [the Baptist] held the Aaronic Priesthood, and was a legal administrator, and the forerunner of Christ, and came to prepare the way before him.” (1)

Previously Smith was visited by God and Jesus Christ and told he should start a new religion. He was praying in the woods with his scribe Oliver Cowdery when, also according “While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us.” (2)

Smith is now viewed as a prophet and millions hold him in high esteem.

I initially was going to comment with something snarky. Something along the lines of why do some people, when they have a “vision”, get to start a religion, while others are derided or institutionalized for life? But Smith was confronted with much conflict, derision and hostility. He had to fight for control as others had competing visions, including scribe Oliver Cowdery. The people of Ohio, where they settled, were not happy with the Mormons. Smith was beset upon, tarred and feathered at one point, and eventually killed by a mob. So Smith did suffer the plight of many who claimed to have had a vision or visit from God.

I think I’ll keep my visions to myself. A religion with a membership of one is good enough for me.

 1869 – National Women’s Suffrage Association founded. The 15th Amendment allowed black men to vote. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton opposed it because it did not also allow women to vote. They split with the National Women’s Party who believed it was at least a fundamental step in the right direction. They also thought the old association had too many men in control. It took fifty years, and with the two factions reunited, before the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote was passed in 1919.

I imagine there are some who harken back to the greatness, the terrifically, unbelievable greatness of America before the passage of those two amendments.

Birthdays:

1902 – Richard Daly. Mayor of Chicago for 21 years. He ran the city with an iron-handed efficiency, and some say, a corrupt hand. A staunch Democrat, he helped John Kennedy win Cook county and Illinois in the 1960 presidential election. He is famous for his quote, “Vote early, and often.” It helped create the myth that Daly stole Illinois, and the election from Richard Nixon. In reality even if Nixon had won Illinois, JFK would still have had 277 electoral votes and he needed 269 to win.

Daly was also mayor during the tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. There was mayhem both on the streets and in the convention hall. There is a famous close-up of him shouting what appeared to be profanities at a speaker. And he also presided over what is sometimes called a “police riot” as police beat demonstrators in the streets. He made another famous quote at that time. “The policeman is not here to create disorder. The policeman is here to preserve disorder.” A slip of the tongue that captured the moment perfectly.

I was watching the chaotic events unfolding on TV with an uncle. He was in his seventies and had been a Doughboy in France during WWI. He shook his head sadly and said, “This isn’t what America is supposed to be.” Now I’m old and find myself watching TV, shaking my head, and thinking, “This isn’t what America is supposed to be.”

 1936 – Anna Maria Alberghetti. Italian singer and actress who appeared on the Ed Sullivan show 53 times.

I grew up in a small town that was still heavily influenced by the Germans who had settled there. So in a town full of guttural sounding surnames it was fun just to say Anna Maria Alberghetti. As kids it made us feel more cosmopolitan. I remember her name more than her career or talent.

 1937 – Madeleine Albright. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Albright, a naturalized U.S. citizen, became the first female Secretary of State. At the time it was the highest appointment a woman had received in the U.S. government. Earlier she had been the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Although in 1998 she did argue for U.S. military action in Iraq, in an interview given to Newsweek International published July 24, 2006, Albright gave her opinion on current U.S. foreign policy. Albright said: “I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid that Iraq is going to turn out to be the greatest disaster in American foreign policy – worse than Vietnam.”

No comment. History will decide.

(1) lds.org › manual › teachings-joseph-smith

(2) lds.org › manual › teachings-joseph-smith

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org

ocp.hul.harvard.edu

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_M._Daley

Newsweek International

This Day in History

May 10th

1267 – Jews forced to wear horned hats in Vienna.

1276 – Jews in England are imprisoned.

1427 – Jews are expelled from Berne, Switzerland.

When did it all start?

From http://www.religioustolerance.org › Laws & religion “1205 Pope Innocent III wrote to the Archbishops of Sens and Paris that ‘the Jews, by their own guilt, are consigned to perpetual servitude because they crucified the Lord…As slaves rejected by God, in whose death they wickedly conspire, they shall by the effect of this very action, recognize themselves as the slaves of those whom Christ’s death set free…’” I’m not sure Pope Innocent III chose the correct name.

The religious tolerance website noted above lists a horrid litany of Jewish persecution. It wasn’t like Hitler came up with some new idea. Year after year, century after century, the atrocities continue. How can such hatred continue on so unabated? The feeling I got as I read the list was that those in charge, the rulers, found it convenient to have a scapegoat. A convenient deflection of their own deficiencies by shifting blame to someone else, and it also was an easy way to unite the populace behind them. Castigate many for the sins of a few. Kind of like branding all Muslims as terrorists.

 1775 – 2nd Continental Congress convenes. This was the body that eventually produced the Declaration of Independence. Initially the majority of the delegates did not favor independence, rather they sought a solution to work with England, but the radicals, led by John Adams, convinced them otherwise. One of their responsibilities was to create and fund the Continental Army.

We are purported to be a Christian nation but at this momentous assembly alcohol was more in evidence than any mention of Christ. Partly because drinking was prevalent in that era, and partly because local drinking water supplies were unsafe. So these men traveled with their own casks of wine, beer and whiskey. Plus I think the dudes also liked to get it on. Here’s an account of a party from www.neatorama.com/…/George-Washington-Knew-How-to-Party “The bar tab from a 1787 farewell party in Philadelphia for George Washington just days before the framers signed off on the Constitution. According to the bill preserved from the evening, the 55 attendees drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight of whiskey, 22 of porter, eight of hard cider, 12 of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.”

In the spirit of patriotism and the tradition of our Founding Fathers, I’ve been trying to do my part.

 1941 – Rudolf Hess parachutes into Scotland. Hess, one of the Third Reich’s top officials, behind only Hermann Goering to succeed Hitler, perpetrated one of the strangest acts of WWII. Under the cover of darkness, he took a Messerschmitt fighter, flew to Scotland, and parachuted. His stated mission was to offer acceptable peace terms to England and avoid more war. Whether it was a sincere but misguided effort, or somehow duplicitous, the whole incident remains mysterious. Was he a spy, did he have Hitler’s permission, or was he simply deranged? The latter seems obvious since he was a Nazi. Given the massive egos in the upper echelon of that regime maybe he did believe he could singlehandedly end the war. Hess spent the remainder of his life, and he lived to age 91, in captivity. For his last 20 years he was the only prisoner at Spandau prison.

Nazis who were guilty of far more hideous atrocities were given lighter sentences, or released, such as fellow prisoner at Spandau, Albert Speer. So why, even as his mental capacities eroded, was Hess kept in prison? He committed suicide at age 93 and some suspect that was staged, that he was murdered. Everything from the night of his ill-fated flight on remains shrouded in mystery.

 Birthdays:

1838 – John Booth. Assassin of President Lincoln.

Or as history referred to him: John Wilkes Booth. Why do assassins need middle names? Lee Oswald, like most people, never used his middle name yet the world knows of him as Lee Harvey Oswald. If that had been a path chosen for me at least my name would have been out there with a poetic rhythm to it. Gary Lee Jenneke (pronounced Jen-eck-kee). My mother was a poet and didn’t even know it.

 1902 – David O. Selznick. Producer of one of the most successful movies of all time, “Gone With The Wind.”

He was also co-producer of “The Third Man” which in my opinion is a better movie.

 1903 – Otto Bradfisch. When the German Army invaded Russia, Bradfisch was part of a SS unit that was to act as a police force. Their orders included rounding up Jews and executing them. His commander, understanding what they were being ordered to do was illegal, resigned. Bradfisch had no such qualms and took over command. He carried out his orders efficiently. The exact number is uncertain but he was responsible for the execution of an estimated 15,000 Jews and Russian prisoners-of-war. The actual amount is probably higher.

After the war he concealed his identity and escaped capture until 1958. He was then sentenced to 13 years in prison. He was released early in 1965.

That’s about one year for each 2,000 murders. It’s appalling to read about Nazis who escaped with light or no punishment. In comparison to Rudolf Hess he got off light. Although Hess’s continued imprisonment was more than likely symbolic. A top Nazi official could not be released. Even at that there is a contradiction. Albert Speer, part of Hitler’s inner circle, was released after 20 years in the same prison as Hess. I’ve read Speer’s autobiography and he was a master liar, I suspect Hess was more guilty because he told the truth.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.religioustolerance.org

http://www.scout.com

http://www.ushistory.org

http://www.neatorama.com

onthisday.com

https://en.wikipedia.org

military.wikia

This Day in History

May 6th

1861 – Arkansas and Tennessee secede from the Union. Jefferson Davis approves a bill declaring war.

Some speculation. What if a weaker President, not Lincoln, would have said, “Ah, what the hell, go for it. We’ll be two nations, one slave and one free.” Where would we be now? And also intriguing, where would we have been at various stages of our development? The Industrial Revolution, the beginning of the 20th Century, World War Two.

Even avoiding a civil war, I fear there still would have been a massive bloodletting. When territories became states, whether they joined the Union or the Confederacy would likely have created a scenario similar to Bloody Kansas. Pro and anti slavery forces would have migrated there to battle for control. There would have been more slave uprising with dire consequences for both slaves and slaveholders and the Underground Railroad would have been even more traveled. Economically, because of its industry, the North more than likely still would have flourished. How would the agrarian South survived? At some point world pressure (economic sanctions?) would have forced the South to abandon the idea of an enslaved work force. Would the fabric of the South then been as severely rendered apart as it was after the Civil War? Would they have become a poverty stricken nation? And would the remaining Union states have become the world power it now is without the aid of the South? Interesting to think about. I’m surprised there hasn’t been an alternative historical novel on the subject.

 1833 – John Deere makes 1st steel plow. A blacksmith by trade, Deere made a steel polished plow that could cut through clay-like soil. An American success story and the company is still in operation today.

I spent many of my boyhood summers working on my grandmother’s farm. I don’t know much about plows but in my humble opinion, I thought the International Harvester tractor was superior to the John Deere.

 1994 – Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) opens. A 31 miles railway tunnel under the English Channel, it links France and England at the Straits of Dover. At its deepest it is 250 feet beneath the sea bed. Construction began in 1988 and took only six years.

An amazing engineering feat and a fast, practical way to cross the Channel. Not as much fun as a ferry however, and you miss out seeing the White Cliffs of Dover from sea.

 Birthdays:

1856 – Sigmund Freud. Father of psychoanalysis. He urged patients to talk “freely” to uncover deep repressions that were causing their problems. “Freud’s lexicon has become embedded within the vocabulary of western society. Words he introduced through his theories are now used by everyday people, such as anal (personality), libido, denial, repression, cathartic, Freudian slip, and neurotic.” (1)

In 1933 Nazis burned his books. He fled to England in 1938 to escape Nazi rule.

It seems to me that there were a whole lot of people in the Third Reich in desperate need of his psychoanalysis.

 1856 – Robert Peary. Perhaps the first man to reach the North Pole. Perhaps not. In 1909 Peary, along with his African-American assistant, Matthew Henson, and some Inuit guides, claimed to have reached the Pole. Due to difficulties from floating ice floes and navigational miscalculation he may have been 30 to 60 miles off. Also, a former expedition mate, Edwin Cook, claimed to have reached the pole a year earlier. Cook was later discredited but Peary’s reputation also suffered. There was gossip he fathered Inuit children along the way. To this day it is uncertain which, if either, was the first person to reach the North Pole.

Who knows, maybe it was Matthew Henson, or one of the Inuits. No, no, that wouldn’t do. It has to have been a white man.

 1915 – Orson Welles. Even as a child Welles was a talented musician, painter, actor and writer. He acted in and directed stage plays in the early 1930’s. Welles was involved in a play “The Cradle Will Rock” in 1937 as part of the WPA’s artist program. For political reasons the WPA locked the theater the night before its opening to prevent the play from being performed. Director John Housman and Wells rented another theater and the actors performed their roles while seated in the audience. There is a good 1999 movie “Cradle Will Rock” based on that event.

Welles produced, directed or acted in such great films as “The Magnificent Ambersons”, “Touch of Evil,” “The Third Man”, and “Citizen Kane”, which some claim is the best Hollywood film ever made.

Rosebud.

(1) https://www.simplypsychology.org

Sources:

onthisday.com

wikipedia.org

http://www.simplypsychology.org

http://www.biography.com

www.britannica

This Day in History

May 2nd

1335- Otto the Merry becomes Duke of Corinthia.

I hope he then became referred to as the Duke. It has to be unsettling to the populace to have a ruler known as Otto the Merry.

1945 – Battle of Berlin ends. Russian forces take Berlin in the last major battle of WWII. The Russian Army lost 30,000 killed and the Germans 12,000. Stalin’s goal was to push westward as far as possible in order to retain that land when the war ended. Eisenhower did not advance on Berlin because he was trying to avoid sustaining more casualties and he was wisely concerned about combat between American and Russian units if they entered the city at the same time. Russian officers allowed their soldiers to go on a drunken rampage after Berlin surrendered with widespread rape and looting.

The civilians of the Fatherland suffered payback for the killing and carnage the German army had spread across Russia. Anybody who advocates war as a solution, and willing to accept a certain amount of military losses, should study what it does to a civilian population.

 2009 – 135th running of the Kentucky Derby. Mine That Bird, at 50-1 odds, with Calvin Borel riding, swept down along the rail on a muddy track and surprised the 153,000 in attendance by winning. It was the second biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history.

I was one of the 153,000 that day. Quite a memorable experience. When the horses parade onto the track with a band playing “My Old Kentucky Home” and 150,000 people singing along, if you don’t feel something you don’t have a heart. The day is one third horseracing, one third fashion show, and one third binge drinking. I had one mint julep and that was enough. There were some people who thought the purpose of the event was to see how many they could consume.

It had rained hard overnight and the sky was cloudy but the rain held off during the day. Our seats were pretty good, part way down the stretch run. The crowd was predominantly white and those around us were mostly Kentuckians. There was a middle-aged black couple sitting directly behind me and the mother of one of them was along. She must have been eighty-five years old and looked a bit bewildered at the size of the crowd and the noise. During the course of the day I talked to them and learned that despite having lived in Louisville her whole life, this was her first Kentucky Derby. Her kids wanted her to see it. Also near us were some drunks. White, male, mid-forties loudmouths who were devouring mint juleps like they were M&M’s. Based on their accents they were locals. They had the comportment of successful men and acted like the day was as much about them as the horses.

Everybody was on their feet as the “most exciting two minutes in sports” approached. Not only on their feet but standing on the seats, the benches. I got up on the bench to watch. Then I looked behind me and with a sinking heart realized the very small elderly woman would not be able to see anything. I joined her daughter in trying to convince her to stand on the bench. I said I’d help support her. Too frail, too wobbly, she shook her head. Then the loudmouth drunks saw what was happening and took over in a way I never could have. This was their place, their scene.

“Hey,” one of them shouted, “Grandma’s gonna see the Kentucky Derby.” That became their rallying cry as they, while gently supporting her, bulldozed their way through the crowd. Four large white men forming a protective cordon around an elderly African-American woman. They got her down to the rail where she had a clear view of Mine That Bird winning the race. When she returned to her seat her eyes were shining with excitement.

Every once in a while I believe in the world.

 Birthdays:

1750 – John Andre. Major in the British Army who was complicit with Benedict Arnold’s traitorous plan to turn Fort West Point over to the British. Arnold escaped capture, Andre did not. General Washington had him executed as a spy on October 2nd, 1780.

More often than not spies and traitors come to no good end.

 

1779 – John Galt. English writer. “John Galt was a Scottish novelist, entrepreneur, and political and social commentator. Because he was the first novelist to deal with issues of the Industrial Revolution, he has been called the first political novelist in the English language.” (1)

Not to be confused with John Galt, the protagonist of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.”

Having read neither John Galt nor Ayn Rand I don’t know if there’s a connection between John Galt the writer and John Galt the fictional character. Perhaps I should put both authors on my reading list.

 

1903 – Dr. Benjamin Spock. Baby doctor who revolutionized the care of infants. He became controversial when he joined the throngs of young people protesting the Vietnam War. Some correlated his permissive child-rearing advice with the legions of spoiled, undisciplined protestors filling the streets. He countered that he was merely being attacked for his left-leaning politics.

Not being into either babies or war, I stayed out of that argument.

 

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Galt_(novelist)

Sources:

Onthisday.com

wikipedia.org

http://www.legacy.com

This Day in History

April 28th

1376 – English Parliament demands supervision of Royal spending.

Maybe the US Congress should do the same.

1944 – Exercise Tiger. A training exercise staged at Slapton Sands, England to simulate the D-Day landing at Utah Beach. The exercise was a terrible, ill-planned disaster. For morale, security and publicity reasons it was also a well-kept secret. Only two English destroyers were assigned to protect the American landing ships, LST’s. One of the destroyers had to return to port for repairs and due to being on different radio frequencies the LST’s were not aware of this. German torpedo boats took advantage of this defensive lapse and attacked. Three LST’s were struck by torpedoes with two of them sinking. 750 sailors and soldiers aboard those ships died from explosions, drowning and hypothermia. The ships were ordered to scatter to avoid further attacks. One LST captain disobeyed and rushed to the scene and rescued over 100 men bobbing in the icy water.

Other ships continued with the plan, landing their troops on the beaches. Eisenhower wanted to harden the men to the sight, sound and smell of real battle so he had live ammunition used. Due to another mix-up warships began shelling the beach after the troops had landed. Another 250-300 men were killed by “friendly fire.” There were more casualties during Exercise Tiger than in the actual invasion at Utah Beach.

The men storming the beaches at Normandy, or Iwo Jima, or wherever, are heroes. What are you if you die in training? Not much glory in it but I guess it doesn’t matter, dead is dead.

1994 – Aldrich Ames pleads guilty. Ames was a CIA operative turned KGB mole. Multiple CIA “assets” were exposed by Ames and subsequently executed by the Soviets. During his career Ames received anywhere from excellent to poor job performance ratings. He was known to be a heavy drinker, had extramarital affairs and once left a briefcase of classified material on a subway. He lived in high-priced house, drove a Jaguar and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, all on a modest CIA salary. In addition he had a $6,000 a month phone bill. He was also under a heavy burden of alimony payments to his first wife. His second wife was from Bogota, Columbia and he claimed his new-found wealth came from her. Her family instead was impoverished and he was also sending money to them. He collected about 4.6 million dollars from the Soviets for his efforts. Despite knowing they had a double agent in their midst, it took the CIA years to catch him.

I wouldn’t think you would have had to have been a master sleuth to look in this guy’s direction. Or maybe he didn’t stand out because the agency is filled with similar characters. I had a college buddy who went on to become a CIA agent. A wild man, full of reckless bravado and one of the more insane drinkers I’ve ever met. Alcohol inspired bad ideas landed him in the drunk tank more than once. Yet the CIA was happy to have him. Maybe that’s the profile they seek. But it doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence in our “Intelligence” agency.

 Birthdays:

1758 – James Monroe. 5th President of the United States. Monroe was a young soldier in the Continental Army and was the last of the Founding Fathers to become President. Monroe was one of the envoys President Jefferson sent to France to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase. He is most famous for promoting the policy known as the Monroe Doctrine.

“Not only must Latin America be left alone, he warned, but also Russia must not encroach southward on the Pacific coast.”…the American continents,” he stated, “by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European Power.” (1)

1889 – Antonio Salazar – Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932-1968. Dictator would be a more accurate term. He stabilized the country when it needed it so some would argue a benevolent dictator. Others would disagree because of a secret police system that jailed any opposition.

1937 – Saddam Hussein. Dictator of Iraq. I doubt any would argue he was benevolent but an argument might be made that his iron-fisted control provided stability. Some clever confusion over Weapons of Mass Destruction undid him.

April 28th has produced some powerful rulers, for better or for worse. And all had a significant impact on the future of their country. Monroe and Salazar left their countries in better shape. Sad as it is to say, and as brutal as he was, maybe that whole region would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in place.

(1)https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/jamesmonroe

Sources:

http://www.npr.org

onthisday.com

wikipedia.org

www.whitehouse.gov

 

This Day in History

April 23rd

1925 – The Rifi begin their revolt against French Colonization. The Rifi were 5 Berber speaking tribes in Morocco. Led by Abd el-Krim and his brother, Mhemmed, they already had defeated a Spanish colonial force. Alarmed, the French sent an army of 250,000 to suppress the uprising. They also resorted to using chemical weapons against the civilian population. Using guerilla tactics against a numerically superior force, Abd el-Krim fought effectively. Nevertheless he eventually was forced to surrender. His success was noted however and his strategy studied by Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Mao Tse Tung.

Dating back to the American Revolution colonial powers always seemed to be amazed, and miffed, that people weren’t thrilled over being colonized “subjects.”

 1939 – Ted Williams hits his first major league home run.

1954 – Hank Aaron hits his first major league home run.

1958 – Gil Hodges hits his 300th major league home run. Pee Wee Reese plays in his 2000th major league game.

April 23rd was a significant day for milestones in the world’s most wonderful sport. Spring brings another new baseball season and another season for the Minnesota Twins to dash my hopes.

 1984 – AIDS virus identified. “The discovery of a virus which may cause Aids, the fatal disease sweeping through America, has been hailed as a “monumental breakthrough” in medical research. The development was announced in Washington by US Health Secretary Margaret Heckler.” (1)

“Three years earlier, in the spring of 1981, a ghastly new disease had exploded in the gay communities of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It eviscerated people’s immune systems, allowing normally harmless pathogens to consume them. Though initially dismissed as a “gay plague,” it had begun killing hemophiliacs and injection drug users, as well as their partners and newborns, and it was spreading worldwide.” (2)

Some conveniently saw the disease as God’s retribution against homosexuality. To me that’s akin to looking at accidental gun deaths as God passing judgment on the NRA.

There’s a very good book about the AIDS epidemic entitled “And The Band Played On” by Randy Shilts.

 Birthdays:

1564 – William Shakespeare. Without a doubt the greatest writer of all time. Not a surprise that he is the bestselling author of all time also. There is some controversy whether Shakespeare really was the author of the works attributed to him. The argument being how could someone of his low-class origin be capable of such great genius. It upset and challenged the perceived world order so therefore he had to be a fraud. Other more notable men have been suggested to be the true writer. “The most popular being Sir Francis Bacon; Edward de Vere, 17 Earl of Oxford; Christopher Marlowe; and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby. Supporters of alternative candidates argue that theirs is the more plausible author, and that William Shakespeare lacked the education, aristocratic sensibility, or familiarity with the royal court that they say is apparent in the works.” (3)

There is even some vagueness regarding the record of his birth. Who knows, maybe he was born in Kenya and not even qualified to be a true English scribe.

“When we are born, we cry that we are come / to this great stage of fools.” William Shakespeare

1918 – Gordon Hirabayashi. Japanese-American civil rights activist and conscientious objector. Hirabayashi refused to register for the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. A statement of his at the time. “If I were to register and cooperate under these circumstances, I would be giving helpless consent to the denial of practically all of the things which give me incentive to live. I must maintain my Christian principles. I consider it my duty to maintain the democratic standards for which this nation lives. Therefore, I must refuse this order of evacuation.” (4)

He filed a lawsuit and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled unanimously against him with Justice William O. Douglas writing, “We cannot sit in judgment of the military requirements of that hour.”

Fear and racism went hand in hand during that sad hour of American history. What troubles me is that two men I’ve always admired, FDR and William Douglas, subscribed to the political expediency of that time.

 1936 – Roy Orbison. Singer and songwriter.

Listen to “Only the Lonely.” Nothing more I can say.

 

(1) news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/23/newsid

(2) www.msnbc.com/msnbc/the-day-they-discovered-the-aids-virus

(3) ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question

(4) https://www.afsc.org/story/gordon-hirabayash

Sources:

wikipedia.org

onthisday.com

news.bbc.co.uk

http://www.msnbc.com

www.historylink.org

Washington, DC

Instead of This Day in History, today’s post will take a different historical journey to the past.

I’m very old, almost history myself. I’m old enough to write about two different trips to Washington, DC fifty-five years apart.

I just recently returned from a trip to our nation’s capitol. I had been there before, as a young sailor on liberty. I was stationed on the East Coast, going to school to become a radioman, and I had the weekend off. Traveling alone I hopped on a bus to DC. Lost, uncertain how to proceed, I wandered into a USO. I sat on a couch and thumbed through a LIFE Magazine. Oddly enough there was a pictorial article on a town where I had lived in Minnesota. Glenwood was a hotspot for ice-fishing and there were photos of ice houses scattered across Lake Minnewaska. Fighting off a brief surge of homesickness, I set the magazine aside.

“Hey buddy.” A soldier sitting across the table from me said, “Want to go on one of these tours?” I looked at the pamphlet he shoved to me. It would take us to various memorials, the Smithsonian Institute, Arlington National Cemetery, and ended with a tour of the White House.

He seemed friendly enough so I agreed. Don was his name and he had an outgoing personality. “Cold,” he said, as we stepped outside. He was from somewhere down South, I forget where. It was a gray, drizzly day in January, and being from Minnesota I thought it pretty mild.

At some point during the day, I don’t know when, a photographer, unsolicited, took my picture as I walked alongside the White House. Being very naïve at the time, I imagine I paid too much for it but I’m happy I have it now.

We did the tour, seeing the memorials dedicated to Presidents Lincoln and Jefferson, and we took an elevator up the Washington Monument. Because we basically were still kids, I had barely turned eighteen, we raced down the steps of the monument. At the castle-like Smithsonian museum I saw the Spirit of St. Louis and Alan Shepard’s space capsule. We were at Arlington National Cemetery for the changing of the guard, and it made me uncomfortable. Because we were in uniform instructions were given to Don and I on standing at attention and when to salute. Forced to become part of the pageantry, I felt conspicuous and on display myself.

The last stop was the White House. There was no security, we were simply led in through a side door. I don’t know if the President and Jackie were even in the house at the time. Understandably their living quarters were not part of the tour. About all I remember is peeking into various rooms, looking at ornate furniture, and listening to the guide talk about how Jackie was redecorating the place. That is until Don leaned over and whispered “Hey.” I looked at him. “I just saw Danny Thomas and Rosemary Clooney down that hallway. I bet they’re visiting the President.”

Maybe a lot of people now don’t know who he was but at the time Danny Thomas was one of the biggest stars on television. And Rosemary Clooney was a famous singer. She was also an aunt to current actor George Clooney. I can’t say I was overly excited by Don’s sighting of them. Just a couple of big-time celebrities who lived in a far different world than mine. In fact I was tired of the tour, wanting to go off and do something else. “Let’s wait outside, maybe we’ll get a chance for an autograph.” Don suggested. I said nothing but my internal reaction was somewhere along the lines of “big deal.”

The tour ended and Don and I stood on the sidewalk at the side the White House. A big, black limousine was parked on the street and Don was convinced it was waiting for Thomas and Clooney. He was right. We waited only a few minutes before they came out and headed for the limousine. “Excuse me, can we get your autographs?” Don boldly walked toward them. I reluctantly followed, expecting a rebuff. They stopped and Danny Thomas turned toward us. Rosemary Clooney gave an off center smile in our direction and without making eye contact climbed into the back of the limousine.

I expected the same from him but what happened next totally surprised me. Danny Thomas stood on the sidewalk, in the cold, and talked to us. Not the perfunctory “Where are you boys from and thank you for serving blah blah blah crap.” He actually engaged us, for ten minutes, maybe even longer. He apologized for Miss Clooney, saying she wasn’t feeling well. He asked if we enjoyed the tour, inquired about our duty and where we were stationed, and his interest seemed genuine. That’s the impression I was left with, that he was a genuinely nice man. He gave Don his autograph, and then looked at me. I’ve never collected an autograph in my life, it seemed like a strange pursuit to me. So I just shrugged, and gave him a little, apologetic smile. He looked at me, then a big grin crossed his face, and he clapped me on the shoulder. I took it that he understood.

Fifty-five years later I was in DC again. The world has changed immensely since then. The spot where Don and I stood and talked to Danny Thomas is no longer accessible to the public. Barriers and security personnel keep citizens from meandering that close to the executive mansion. And there’s no signing up for a tour and getting into the White House on the same day. It is necessary to sign up months in advance in order to get security clearance. The Smithsonian has expanded greatly with eleven museums in proximity to the mall. Tourists now flock to DC whereas in 1962 it was not a cottage industry. There are more memorials now with more probably coming. To me the most significant addition has been the Vietnam Memorial.

I hadn’t planned it that way but I was in DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Me, a couple of hundred thousand other tourists, but the cherry blossoms were a no-show. So there were crowds of people, too many people, when I visited the Vietnam Memorial. Nevertheless I found it a sacred place. I read names as I moved at a slow pace along the black granite wall. Anger and sadness engulfed me. It helped to pick out a name and then say it out loud. It felt like a bridge to the spirit of someone, someone I didn’t even know, who had died in that unfortunate war. A name, a person, who for a moment wasn’t forgotten.

But there were too many people there. Kids running and screaming, tourists having their pictures taken in front of the wall, it wasn’t right, it wasn’t the solemn experience I had been seeking. I gained no peace or understanding. Maybe someday I’ll go back, go there at night when it’s quiet. I never did know Don’s last name. My last thought upon leaving was I hoped it wasn’t carved somewhere onto that wall.

Here are two photos, one from each visit, with the White House visible in the background of each shot. I was obviously pretty much a squared-away “boot” in the first photo and would become much “saltier” later.

 

 

Scan 22.jpeg

IMG_0821 (4).jpg

Postscript.

The next day, Sunday, I went to the Capitol. My father said I should introduce myself to the Representative from our district and he’d show me around. Except the only time I could get liberty was the weekend and of course nobody was at the Capitol on a weekend. I rattled the locked door anyway and tried to peer inside. I can’t imagine getting away with that act in today’s world either.

I walked back down the nearly deserted steps of the Capitol. Halfway down there was a family, the father taking a picture of his wife and two kids. I don’t know what mischievous impulse seized me but just as he snapped the photo I jumped into the frame next to his family. He initially frowned but his wife and kids began laughing. They insisted he take a couple of more pictures with me included. So somewhere in Indiana there might  still exist a family photo album with me in it.

This Day in History

April 13th

837 – Haley’s Comet makes its closest approach to earth. The comet’s orbit brings it close to our planet about every 75 years. Its last appearance was in 1986. 2062 is the next scheduled appearance.

I better clean up my act if I intend to see it. But then again I anticipated its last coming in 1986 for decades. And it was a complete bust, nothing could be seen. Heck with it, why bother, think I’ll just go and crack a beer instead.

1556 – Pope threatens to burn at the stake Marranos who convert back to Judaism. “Marranos or Secret Jews were Jews resident in the Iberian peninsula in the late fourteenth through seventeenth centuries who adopted Christianity, either through coercion or for convenience, publicly professing Roman Catholicism but secretly adhering to Judaism. The conversion of these Jews to Christianity soon became suspect, resulting in several waves of severe persecution against them, in which thousands died. The Spanish Inquisition was instituted in the late fifteenth century to expose Marranos whose Christianity was insincere, and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 resulted in part from accusations that Jews were tempting the Marranos to sin by reverting to Judaism.” (1)

While godlessness had contributed to much of the horror and savagery in the world, the Nazis and the Killing Fields of Laos two fairly recent prime examples, religions certainly have done more than their share. From the Crusades to the Spanish Inquisition to Christianity putting its genocidal stamp on indigenous people to the current wave of bombings and killing in the name of Allah. Not to condemn all religions, I just think that most of them need something akin to a governor on an engine that limits speed. A governor that tells then that killing in the name of God is exceeding the limit.

 1861 – Fort Sumter surrenders. After 34 hours of unequal battle Major Anderson and his force of 85 soldiers surrendered. The first salvos of the Civil War had been fired and the South was victorious.

This wasn’t the start of a religious war but I imagine both North and South thought God was on their side.

 Birthdays:

1743 – Thomas Jefferson. Author of the first draft of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States. He had an innovative and creative mind and contributed greatly to the founding of our country. He managed to write the words “All men are created equal” while also owning slaves. He once stated that he opposed any tyranny over the mind. (Tyranny over the body apparently was a different matter.) Jefferson also favored the rights of states and opposed a strong centralized government.

There is nothing inherently wrong with States Rights, other then so many in support of it seem to be doing so in defense of a truly bad idea. Even Jefferson who in every other capacity was a great man.

 1930 – Sir Jeremiah Harman. Senior High Court judge in England. Other judges and lawyers nicknamed him “Harman the Horrible.” He was a bully on the bench and was also known as “The Kicking Judge” because he once kicked a taxi driver who he thought was a reporter. “His unpopularity was reflected in being voted as one of the worst judges on the High Court bench in all three surveys of 100 solicitors and barristers by Legal Business magazine. One interviewee said: ‘He has reached unparalleled depths of awfulness. It is nothing short of an uncomfortable adventure to appear before him, and in terms of delivering justice he is nowhere. He is impolite. He is the judge I least want to appear in front of.’” (2)

If he were an American I suspect he would be a candidate for the next Supreme Court vacancy.

 1931 – Jon Stone. An award-winning writer for Sesame Street, a widely popular children show. He is known for helping develop some of the notable characters for that show. Stone died of ALS in 1997.

With the new administration, maybe funding will be cut to the propaganda tool known as PBS and there will be no place in our society for such subversives as the Jon Stones of the world.

 (1) www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Marrano

(2) www.independent.co.uk/…/few-regrets-over-departure-of-harman-the-horrible

Sources

http://www.space.com

newworldencyclopedia.org

http://www.whitehouse.gov

www.independent.co

wikipedia.org

onthisday.com

This Day in History

April 3rd

1043 – Edward the Confessor crowned king. He passed the crown on to his son, Harold, after having promised it to his cousin, William, Duke of Normandy. The cousin, William the Conqueror as he became known, invaded England and at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, took the crown.

I think our leaders should follow in the tradition of more descriptive names. Say Trump the….Nah, that’s too easy, I’ll let it go.

 1860 – The Pony Express begins delivering mail and other communications between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California. It was in operation for only 19 months before the telegraph eliminated its need.

Some kids grow up wanting to be a fireman, or doctor, or astronaut, or whatever. Me, all I ever wanted to be was a Pony Express rider. Being born a hundred years too late put a severe crimp in that career goal.

1963 – The movie “Mondo Cane” is released in New York City. A documentary, or shockumentary as some called it, the movie depicted bizarre rituals from around the world. Gross and exploitive, it was an international success, mostly because of hype and not good filmmaking. It featured bad taste rather than political correctness and such a film would more than likely meet with much opposition today.

Spring, 1965. I was living temporarily in the Southern California area after my discharge from the Navy. Saving money for a trip to Europe, I was renting a cheap apartment in North Hollywood. An elderly woman lived in the apartment below mine. She’d dress up in a gown, long gloves and garish makeup, and head out to who knows where. She reminded me of the delusional Gloria Swanson character in “Sunset Boulevard.”

I had read about “Mondo Cane” and one Sunday afternoon I went to it. It was showing at what once had been an elegant opera house in Los Angeles. With two balconies, ornate handrails, box seats on the side, it was of magnificent design. Now it was fading into decay with torn, dirty seats and sticky floors. Turns out it was an appropriate setting to view “Mondo Cane.”

Afterwards, disgusted with myself for having sat through it, I started to drive home. I had a small, red Renault, a tinny French four-door. Suddenly a woman ran out into the street in front of my car, waving her arms frantically. I stopped and she ran up to the car. “My friend, my friend, she needs help!” She was a very large woman and she spoke with a British accent. Thinking medical emergency I indicated I would help and tried to form a mental map of where a hospital might be. She ran off and quickly returned supporting her friend. Both women were tall and while the first was merely husky, the second was massively obese with mounds of flesh threatening to explode from a too tight dress. I also realized, with dismay, that they were drunk, the second woman helplessly so.

They both climbed in the passenger’s side of the car. Now I’m a small man. So with close to five hundred pounds of drunken womanhood on one side and just me on the other, the poor little Renault tilted at rather a pronounced angle. And when I started driving the car had a tendency to pull to the right. Woman #1 gave me directions and I deduced that we probably weren’t going to a hospital. Both women were Brits, and both had about twenty years on me. Woman #1 became giddy, and then to my horror, flirtatious. Woman #2, jammed into the back seat, laughed hysterically for a while before it dissolved into a crying jag. I felt that somehow I had been dropped back into the middle of “Mondo Cane.”

“Here, we’re here,” the first woman said to my relief. She opened her purse and showed me a bottle of Canadian Club and in a coy voice that didn’t work for her at all, asked if I wanted to come up into their apartment. The second woman was still sobbing uncontrollably. I could be adventurous at times but this was way out of my comfort zone and I declined. Now the problem became how to get the crying woman, who showed no inclination of wanting to move, out of the car. It occurred to me that maybe she was stuck. I was to leave for Europe in two weeks and had to sell the car because I wasn’t returning to California. The car wasn’t worth much and I thought about just walking away. Leaving it sit on the street with a large, drunk, crying woman in the backseat and let somebody else deal with it. Eventually however she was persuaded and pried out and I made my escape.

And then when I got home I saw the Gloria Swanson character again. Dressed up in a lacy gown that swept the ground, gloves up to her elbows, lots of makeup, she paraded past me down the dirty, trash-strewn alley as if she were walking on a red carpet to a movie premier. I thought about following her to see where it was she went but then thought it would probably be too sad to know. All in all, it had been a Mondo Cane Sunday afternoon.

 

Birthdays:

1858 – Matthew Ricketts. 1st African-American in Nebraska State Legislature.

1927 – Wesley Brown. 1st African-American graduate of U.S. Naval Academy.

1928 – Earl Lloyd. 1st African-American player in the National Basketball Association.

April 3rd, it seems, was a good birthday date for African-American pioneers. It’s sad that we as a people have to mark these milestones. It is also sad that there are still those in our midst, even in our government, who lament these achievements, and are busy promoting language of exclusion that help some justify their hate.

Note: There will be a short hiatus in this blog as I am going on a trip. The next posting will be around April 12th or 13th.

 

Sources:

http://www.on-this-day.com

http://www.nps.gov

wikipedia.org