Wednesday, July 31, 2013

75. Boss Tweed: How About a New Sewer?

     This post is the first of three about Boss Tweed, the first of the big city bosses.  Tammany Hall, founded in 1789, was the Democratic political organization that dominated New York City politics well into the twentieth century.  By the mid-nineteenth century it championed the Irish immigrants, who encountered much prejudice on the part of WASP gentility.  The name "Tammany" derives from Tamanend, a chieftain of the Lenape people.  The organization adopted many Native American words and customs.  The hall itself, then on East 14th Street, was referred to as the Wigwam, its head was the Grand Sachem, and its members were the braves.  These posts are fictional in part, mostly as regards dialog, but they adhere closely to historical fact.

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William Magear "Boss" Tweed (1870).jpg
Minus the shirtfront diamond.
   William Marcy Tweed, president of the Board of Supervisors, Grand Sachem of Tammany Hall, city street commissioner, and senator of the state of New York was a mountain of a man, tough-skinned, tough-gutted, with big shoulders, big hands, big feet, a domed skull where hair grew like weeds from a rock, and a close-cropped red-brown beard over a massive shirtfront with a cherry-sized diamond in the middle like a meteor in a white sky. All the Tammany leaders sported diamonds, but his was the biggest and the blaziest.

     A master of men who once had been called “Big Bill,” but now (and he loved it) “Boss,” he had a ruddy tint of prosperity, a handshake that always gripped too tight, and a bold laugh, deep and booming, that rumbled in his guts, shook his frame, pulsed others till the whole room quaked with mirth. In a good mood, his voice was plumed and downy and stroked you to his ends. When angry, he smashed his fist in his palm, iced you with his eye.

     His office at 59 Duane Street, just north of City Hall, had a glazed glass door that announced in gold lettering  WILLIAM   M.  TWEED,  ATTORNEY-AT-LAW.  His pal Judge Barnard had admitted him to the bar; he knew no law. But the railings were nicked, and the doorknobs smoothed, by visitors who tapped his wisdom or besieged him with requests. Within a few busy minutes one morning he might patch up a quarrel between two aldermen; approve a contract for plastering the new county courthouse; and with a stroke of a pen create a deputy tax commissioner, a distributor of corporation ordinances, and an inspector of weights and measures – smokers of expensive cigars who thereafter would each be seen often amid the black walnut furnishings of Tammany Hall, but rarely on the job.

File:Ball at Tammany Hall 1860.jpg
 A ball at Tammany Hall on January 9, 1860, to commemorate the 1815 battle of New Orleans.  
Too genteel and formal to be one of the Tammany balls where Tweed's double shuffle was a hit.

     To that same office came Councilman Hinkidink O’Toole, complaining that a court clerkship he wanted for his son had gone to Jim “Maneater” Cusick, a burly graduate of Sing Sing. Tweed consoled him: “C’mon, Hinkidink, shake off that blue funk. As street commissioner I can pave streets in your district.” Then, engagingly, putting an arm around the man’s slumped shoulders: “How about a new sewer?” Grudgingly, Hinkidink brightened.

File:Americus Engine Co No 6 Soiree crop.jpg
Ticket for an Engine Company No. 6 soirée at Niblo's
Saloon, 1859.
     Slipping a fiver and the promise of a job to an old pal from Engine Company No. 6 who had fallen on hard times, he remembered how years before, red-shirted and sprinting over cobbles, he had shouted through a silver trumpet, “Jump her, boys! Jump her!” as his company of volunteer firemen hauled Big Six toward the swirling smoke of a blaze – maybe the happiest time of his life.

     City Comptroller Slippery Dick Connolly, a jovial, clean-shaven ward boss, dropped by once to announce that Peter “Brains” Sweeny, the city chamberlain, known to his friends as Squire, was forfeiting votes because he couldn’t smile. “For one whole evenin’, Boss, I slapped him on the back till he was sore, shook his hand till his fingers and mine too ached, and made him smile and smile till every muscle in his mouth was twitchin’. ‘That’s it, Squire,’ I told him. ‘Go out among the lads like that, and you’ll be a roarin’ success.’ No use: he went out glum as ever. He’ll cost us a deal o’ votes.”

     “Well Dick,” said Tweed, “he’s not called ‘Brains’ for nothing. No glad-hander, but in his quiet way he gets things done. Twists a lot of arms in corridors.”

File:A Oakey Hall, Cabinet Photo, c1870.jpg
A. Oakey Hall, mayor of New York 1869-72.  
This photo gives only a hint of his elegance.  
The pince-nez were characteristic of the man.
   Then “Brains” Sweeny himself, a short, solid man with a mass of unkempt jet-black hair and a bushy walrus mustache, came in complaining that District Attorney A. Oakey Hall was a popinjay. “Darts and bounces around like a pixie, wearing those droopy pinch-noses with a fluttering cord, while quoting Shakespeare and spouting bad puns. He writes plays, for God’s sake! And a dandy to boot – has fifty vests and twice as many ties!”

     “Now Peter,” said the Boss, “I know he wears velvet collars and embroidered vests, and cufflinks that he designs himself, but he’s our bridge to the bluebloods, gets invited into fancy parlors where we can’t set foot and maybe wouldn’t want to. Oakey’s all right; all he needs is ballast. He’d make a damn good mayor.”

     In the realm of power the Boss knew everyone: Commodore Vanderbilt, who conferred with him about railroad rights of way; Justice George G. Barnard, Tammany’s brandy-sipping beau ideal of the bench; mayors and ex-mayors; governors and ex-governors; and toward election time assorted gang leaders and thugs, including Pegleg Gordon, who in scuffles at polls unscrewed his leg and swung. Consulting, smiling, joking with them, he retained every name, every face. To all he pledged, “My word is my bond,” and meant it. Greeted by him, not one of them forgot his clear blue eye, his gentle, crushing hand.

A carpetbag of the 1860s.  Associated with Northern 
adventurers in the post-Civil War South, but common 
throughout the North as well.

     Seeing how power nested in Albany, the Boss got himself elected state senator. At the start of each legislative session he traveled there on the Hudson River Railroad's special 10:30 a.m. express in a palace railroad car, leaving his private compartment at intervals to greet Sweeny and Connolly and the boys, who were playing poker in a series of smoke-filled parlor cars, their carpetbags stacked nearby. Twice each trip he walked the full length of the train, knowing that a first-name greeting and a handshake could bring joy to a Tammany man’s heart.

     In Albany he held forth in a seven-room suite in the Delavan House, keeping two inner rooms for himself, guarded by sturdy doorkeepers, and the other five accessible to callers, who marveled at potted palms, at porcelain cuspidors festooned with painted roses, and sideboards offering decanters of whiskey, brandy, and gin. There he might keep a powerful Republican senator waiting in an outer room two or three days, while attending to the needs of “Oofty Gooft” Phillips, a water register clerk turned journalist, or other lowly Tammany suppliants. Yet small-time Republicans from upstate rural districts, desperate for a bridge repair or the dredging of a waterway on which their reelection depended, were welcomed with a smile: “Don’t worry, Nat, your project’ll go through.” Meanwhile, in quiet moments in an inner room, he and Sweeny scanned every bill up before the legislature, lest they include some hidden grant of property or power for which the price had not been paid. Observers might well wonder where true power lay – in the governor’s office at the capitol, or among the cuspidors and cut-glass decanters of a certain suite in the Delavan House.

     Rarely seen with his hearth-clinging wife, whom he had lodged in a palatial Fifth Avenue brownstone, the Boss dined out often with cronies. When he hobnobbed at the upper end of the social scale, his speech was trimmed and neat; toward the lower end, it grew weedy with ain’ts. Joining in every toast at Tammany banquets, he barely sipped his wine, let others get drunk. At Tammany balls he led the boys, all of them spruced up in blue coats with brass buttons, in a grand march around the hall with their ladies while the band played “Hail to the Chief,” then frisked with a series of partners in a polka or mazurka, his huge frame surprisingly agile, his double shuffle the hit of the night. He was ravenous at clambakes, where juices dripped from his beard, but just as often, donning a pleated shirt with pearl buttons, he dined with the Elegant Oakey at Delmonico’s, where after a creamy potage and lobster in mayonnaise, he savored the crackle of woodcock as he crunched through delicate bones.

     The son of a chairmaker of the Seventh Ward on the Lower East Side, he had come far, at last had money to burn. With a heart as big as a courthouse he gave to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and to hospitals, orphanages, the poor in winter, and one-legged veterans of Gettysburg hawking shoelaces from wooden trays on the street. “Give,” he told his cronies, “always give.”

      When reformers stiff in starched collars suggested that he had given too much to too many, that his marble company, printing company, and stationery company had milked the city of millions, he bristled. At the William M. Tweed Club of the Seventh Ward, where weary manure inspectors and assistant health wardens could relax at billiards and brandy, he told the assembled members: “Them croakers got scrubbed fingernails and shiny boots, they holds their nose and preaches. They ain’t never gonna know this city. It sprawls, it stinks. The streets is horseshit. But there’s more life in one sweaty block of tenements in this old Seventh Ward than in all their brownstones together. I love this city – it’s my steak, gristle and all!”

     The club members mounted three rousing cheers for the Boss that rattled the grand piano and bounced off the bronze chandeliers. The next night, in a white waistcoat, he might dine with Judge Barnard amid the damasked elegance of Delmonico’s on truffled quail.

File:Copy of painting, group of Tammany Hall members - NARA - 526236.tif
A Matthew Brady photograph of a painting of Tammany Hall members, early 1860s. 
 The second seated figure to the right of the table looks very much like Tweed.
     In the 1868 elections he put District Attorney Hall up for mayor, Mayor Hoffman up for governor, and backed a score of other candidates as well; to elect them, Tammany mounted rallies and torchlight parades. As election day approached, Judge Barnard, white topper cocked at an angle while he sipped from a flask of brandy, naturalized up to nine hundred citizens a day by scrawling his initials on piles of blank applications. If witnesses to vouch for the applicants were lacking, he sent a bailiff to haul strangers in from the corridors and street. Thus certified, throng after throng of applicants took the oath intoned by the clerk, crowding round the only Bible in the courtroom, so packed together that each could barely graze it with a fingertip. “Vote early and often,” one veteran repeater urged them. “First yer votes with a mustache an’ whiskers, then quick to the barber an’ off with the chin fringe. Vote agin, then off with the sideburns. Vote agin, then off with the mustache, so yer votes plain-faced at last.  That’s four votes sure an’ simple.”

     On election night, long before the results were final, men and boys were piling up tar barrels, fences, cellar doors, and even wooden Indians that cigar store owners had failed to secure, to make bonfires in the street. The Boss and his cronies watched with smiles as in street after street of the Seventh Ward the dancing flames licked skyward, while boys danced and howled, and men discharged pistols and rifles in the air. To no one’s surprise, all his men got in. Throughout the city a deep gloom settled over reformers in brownstones, while joy crackled in tenements and shanties. City and state were his; not even he knew how far his ambition might reach. There were even rumors that he hankered, at least in fantasy, to be named ambassador to the Court of Saint James, where he would bow graciously, though with republican simplicity, to Victoria Regina, Queen of England and soon-to-be Empress of India.

     William Marcy Tweed, a humble son of the city, was a man for whom the world had opened like a split rind; he tasted of its juices.

    City of Wonder:  What is it about New York?  In the last several days I have encountered two memorable encomiums of the city of New York.  In the Sunday Review section of the New York Times (7/28/13) Jan Morris, a Welsh author and traveler who has been coming here annually since 1953, comments on how the city has and has not changed.  When she first came here, it was the City That Never Sleeps, the Never-Finished City, the Wonder City.  Its architecture was the most exciting, its culture the most vibrant, its banks the richest, its slang an influence on how people talked across half the world.  On her first evening in New York, a waiter said to her, "Just ask, ask for anything you like.  Listen, in this city there's nothing you can't have."  Today, by way of contrast, the city is more modest, gentler, older, wiser, subtler.  And yet, it is still the Never-Finished City, a concentration of buildings that she sees as a concentration of character.  And she proclaims it the most decent of the great cities of today, its truest icon the Statue of Liberty, expressing the truest purpose of the city and the nation.  All this, from a foreigner who lives, not in some foreign metropolis, but in Wales!  To her, we should be deeply grateful.

     The other praise came from a Facebook friend living in London, but who longs for her native New York.  Since she has published photos showing her disporting blithely in the vales of Albion, I told her  she was obviously having fun over there, proof that New York wasn't the center of the world.  Her answer: "Baloney!  How can any place replace the beauty of the thriving, exciting, exhilarating, creative, energetic, and diverse mind-blowing city like NY?  Don't ya know once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker???"  And in a second message she added, "Can't you see the grimace through my smile?  What kind of New Yorker are you who can't see the pain of being away from one's soul home?"  At which point I acknowledged she was a true New Yorker and there was peace between us.

     I only hope this city can live up to the image its friends abroad have of it.  Yes, it's special, very special.  That's what this blog is all about.

     Wienie update #2:  Mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner, he of the ongoing sexting scandal, is now besieged with demands that he abandon the race, but he persists.  In the latest poll he has dropped from first to fourth place, with Mistress Quinn now again in the lead.  (See Wienie Update in the previous post: #74, July 28, 2013).  Meanwhile an unlikely alliance of business interests, women's groups, and labor unions have united in an effort to stop ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer, our other scandal-tainted candidate, in his bid to become city comptroller.  The farce continues.  (See Election Note in post #72, July 13, 2013.)

     Coming soon:  Next Sunday, How America Goes to War: 1861, New York (how we did it then and how we do it now).  Wednesday, August 7: Thomas Nast and the Power of the Pen (how a clever cartoonist brought down the most powerful man in the city).  In the offing: the Hercules of Parks, and Battling Bella and the Queen of Mean.

©  2013  Clifford Browder

©  2013  Clifford Browder

Sunday, July 28, 2013

74. Go Ahead: The Mania and Disease of Progress

     New Yorkers walk fast.  When our friend Barbara from Maine came here, knowing Boston and Washington already, her first remark was, "The pace of New York!"  Yes, we don't stroll, we scurry.  God help the visitor who gets between a New Yorker and his train or bus; the result will be mayhem -- not intended, not sadistic -- but mayhem nonetheless.  Other big cities are no different, as for instance Paris and Rome.  But in this country no one surpasses New York in fast walking.  And it was always so.  By 1830 visitors were observing the a New York merchant walked as if he had a good dinner ahead of him and a pack of creditors behind him.

     Why this hurry?  Many reasons, no doubt.  Above all, New Yorkers are doers and they want to get on with it.  This too goes way back.  Nineteenth-century New Yorkers -- like nineteenth-century Americans generally -- were infatuated with Progress, with the idea of marching ever onward toward More, toward Bigger, Better, and Faster.  They called it Go Ahead, and it was in their blood and bone.  The founding of the United States was seen as the launching of a new form of government better than  anything the Old World could offer; wonders were anticipated.  And our early history coincided with the appearance of steamboats and locomotives, the telegraph, and machines to do just about anything.  No wonder New Yorkers worshiped Go Ahead and applied it to every aspect of their lives.

     Go Ahead was the poor grocery clerk who started out buying a keg of beeswax and ended up with a fortune.  It was the fabricator of dyspepsia pills spreading out into real estate, and the dapper doctor who (sequentially) married three ladies of property.

     Go Ahead was clipper ships fighting their way around Cape Horn to California or Canton, their black hulls topped by clouds of sail, beating into blizzards, keening winds, and flying gray shrouds of water.  Or agents of commission merchants sent out to hot distant places and often dying of yellow fever, their bodies shipped home in hogsheads of wine.  No matter; Go Ahead meant that clippers and agents would keep on going out.

     Go Ahead was flint-willed Cornelius Vanderbilt grumbling about weak-kneed subordinates and going all the way to Nicaragua to bounce, scrape, haul a steamboat up a rock-filled jungle river and open a new route to the Pacific.  And Dan Drew and Isaac Newton, graduates of the cattle yard and freight barge, constructing for their People’s Line floating palaces the like of which the world had never seen: gas-lit saloons curtained in French satin damask and topped by a stained-glass dome, Corinthian columns flanked by Gothic arches, and over the bed in the bridal room a painted altarpiece with Cupid holding two doves – vast, swift palaces for Everyman that were hailed the length of the Hudson by cheering crowds, tolling bells, and a lusty little cannon in Albany.  So what if this was a mishmash of styles?  It was a stunning mishmash such as New Yorkers had never before seen, and nothing was too good for Everyman; there were palace hotels already, and soon there would be palace railway cars as well: democracy in action.

File:Isaac Newton (steamboat) 05.jpg
The stateroom saloon of the Isaac Newton,
a palace steamboat.

File:Pullman car interior.jpg
A Pullman palace car.  Upholstered seats, ample lighting,
ornate decoration.

     Go Ahead had nothing to do with pretty sunsets, quiet reflection, tact.  It was thundering omnibuses, rattling wagons, the smite of horseshoes on paving stones, drivers’ oaths, jams, locked wheels in the eye-stinging, teeth-gritting dust or juicy black mire of Broadway.  It was flux: Wall Street banks reaching out for old brick residences that became offices, as women and greenery vanished and new buildings blocked out the sun, while in the cellars of old ones, instead of sacks of potatoes and fine wines, pudgy brokers sat beside skinny ones, getting rich.

Broadway, 1860.

File:New York City Rush Hour (6033798581).jpg
Broadway today.  Cars instead of carriages, 
but otherwise is there any real change?
Alex Proimos


     Go Ahead was the dry goods trade bursting its seams on Pearl Street, spilling out to the north and the west, tearing down seedy boardinghouses and elegant homes to put up white marble warehouses crammed with flannels and muslins, succeeding where moralists had failed by driving the whores out of Church Street.

File:Grid 1811.jpg
The Commissioners' Plan of 1811
(a provisional 1807 version).  The
darkened lower part indicates
the city at that time.  Central
Park was not anticipated.

     Rectilinear, it didn't like curves.  As it pushed the city's frontier northward (the only direction it could go in on this cigar-shaped island), it chopped down orchards, obliterated ponds, filled in valleys, and lopped off hills.  Why?  Because in 1811 the City Fathers in their infinite wisdom had decreed for all the island of Manhattan a gridiron of flat, rigid rectangles, fixing forever the pattern of the city's streets.

     And it was messy.  Digging up old cemeteries for development, it shoveled out onto pavements shreds of graveclothes, bones, and as one shocked bystander reported, bits of half-fleshed skull with tufts of bright blond hair.  At building sites it coughed up clouds of plaster, sent avalanches of timbers, brickbats, and slate down upon walkways hopefully now denied to pedestrians, and when blasting rock outcroppings, dropped a four-hundred-pound boulder through the roof and three floors of a mansion to lodge between two ceiling beams in a gentleman’s parlor.  (No, I'm not making this up.) 

     Did New Yorkers complain of all this flux and to-do?  No, they applauded it.  They applauded the spirit of Young America, and wasted no tears on the loss of a few trees -- two hundred, more or less -- when St. John's Park was cleared to make room for the Hudson River Railroad's freight depot.  And if the last of the old Dutch buildings got demolished, they shed no tears for them either, or for anything that could be labeled Old Fogey.  This was a new land with new ideas, new streets and buildings, new inventions, new territories, new customs, new religions.  Yes, Go Ahead even spilled over into sermons delivered in the city's most fashionable churches, where there were fewer and fewer exhortations of "Repent, ye sinners," and more and more evocations of humanity's endless rise to beautiful proportions.  Coming to want religion without God or sin, Americans embraced a brisk, forward-looking brand of faith that seemed less Old Fogey, more vibrant and cheery, more attuned to Young America and all it was up to.  After all, they were told, New York was a locomotive pulling the rest of the nation into the dazzling world of tomorrow.

     Nineteenth-century New York did have three stellar accomplishments, still with us, that embody the age of Go Ahead: the initiation of a modern water supply system in 1842, the opening of Central Park (though still unfinished) in 1859, and that of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, all of them financed by the city without outside aid (though Brooklyn helped with the bridge).  Thanks to the first two, respectable citizens could romp in shower stalls and baths sleek as eels, and disport in an urban Arcadia free of fast drivers, hucksters, and hurdy-gurdy men.

File:New York City. Plan for Entrance to Central Park (3678964534).jpg
Entrance to the Park at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, 1863.
Cornell University Library
     And thanks to the marvel of the Bridge, Brooklynites could surge over its arched span to markets, shops, and jobs in Manhattan, and New Yorkers could make excursions by foot or carriage not to Brooklyn (what was Brooklyn to them?) but into space, calm, and light.  And if, soon after its opening, crowds pouring over the Bridge from either end met in the middle in a tight jam, and people screamed and were trampled, and twelve people died, no matter: there was nothing like it; they called it the Eighth Wonder of the World.

File:1883 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper Brooklyn Bridge New York City.jpg
Building the Bridge, 1883.

File:Brooklyn Bridge Postdlf.jpg
The Eighth Wonder of the World.

Our present and our future?
     Today we still embrace Go Ahead, want More, Bigger, Better, and Faster.  Yes, the new World Trade Center won't be quite so high, and we'll let other nations like Malaysia, China, and Dubai vie for building the tallest structure in the world.  But our whole economy is based on growth.  We want to produce more, sell more, earn more, consume more, even if the world's resources are shrinking.  Here in Manhattan, even as foreclosures and homelessness soar in the outer boroughs, luxury towers are being planned and built in record numbers.  An 84-story high-rise at 432 Park Avenue near 56th Street is going up, but already, with only ten floors completed, buyers are snapping up apartments for astronomical prices in what will be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere; the top penthouse, with six bedrooms and seven baths and a library, not to mention ten-foot-square windows offering breathtaking views, is under contract for $95 million.  And who are the buyers?  Their identity is confidential, but half are reportedly foreigners:  Russian and Latin American tycoons, Arab sheiks, Asian billionaires.  So Go Ahead today isn't just the obsession of New York and this nation, it has been embraced by the world, or more accurately, by the world's superrich and all who cater to their needs and caprices.  Go Ahead is global.

     Furthermore Mayor Bloomberg, fearful lest New York fall behind Shanghai and Chicago in development, is advocating a rezoning proposal to replace aging commercial buildings with giant new office towers in East Midtown, a 73-block area around Grand Central Station up to 57th Street between Madison and Third Avenues.  Critics point out that the proposed new towers would overwhelm beloved monuments like Grand Central Station and the Chrysler Building, and do nothing to make the city more livable; what is needed to make the city more competitive, they insist, is not more tall glass towers but improved mass transit, pedestrian-friendly streets and parks, and vibrant neighborhoods.

     But is Go Ahead feasible today?  Two hundred years ago we had a whole continent to explore, claim, settle, and exploit, but today our continent and all continents are environmentally threatened.  We can continue on our merry way or we can change, but the change would have to be comprehensive and profound.  Will we do it?  So far, I hear a lot of talk but see very little meaningful action; people resist change, when it impinges on their habits and comfort.  Our President has embraced nuclear power and fracking, dreams of reducing our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.  A delicious dream, but at what cost?  Will we summon up the political will to try alternatives?  I'm not an optimist but would love to be proven wrong.  Time will tell.

     Gas in the subway: The S.O.B.'s are at it again.  Speaking of progress, or the lack of it, consider this notice from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to its subway riders:
Thank you for riding the MTA.
At this time we would like to thank you for participating in a joint study conducted by the NYPD [New York Police Department] and Brookhaven National Laboratory, sponsored by the Department of Defense.
During the month of July riders will be randomly exposed to Per-fluorocarbon gas in five boroughs and on 21 subway lines in an effort to study airflow throughout the MTA subway system.
Per-fluorocarbons are colorless, odorless, and powerful man-made greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. They are emitted as a by-product during aluminum production, are used as solvents in the electronics industry, and as refrigerants in many cooling systems.
We still do not fully understand the health effects of Per-fluorocarbon gas exposure, though exposure to Per-fluorocarbons are linked to the early onset of menopause. Studies in animals have found these gases significantly alter liver and thyroid function, increase the risk for tumors, and cause failure in reproductive organs.
These gases are being dispersed as a test for your protection against an unwanted chemical attack.
Thank you for riding with the MTA and have a safe day.

     So for their own protection subway riders were exposed on July 9 to a gas that may cause an early onset of menopause, and that has had deleterious effects on animals in lab tests, and they will be (or already have been) exposed to it two more times in July.  Once again, the public is being used as guinea pigs by our government.  I am aware of this thanks to (who else?) WBAI, though it was first announced last April, and numerous blogs and websites are also covering it.  I'll say no more for the moment, except to remind viewers that this is not the first time we've been used as guinea pigs by our government and the military without voluntary and informed consent.  See post #60, Is America Becoming a Fascist State? (May 12, 2013).  If this isn't itself an "unwanted chemical attack," I'd like to know what is.  But have a safe day.

     Wienie update:  Mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner (so aptly named!) has now admitted that he sent sexually explicit e-mails to at least three women after he resigned his seat in the House, thus repeating the very transgressions that provoked his resignation.  Standing loyally beside him at the press conference was his wife, that necessary appendage to all confessions by repentant sinners.  He obviously has a high opinion of his private parts, since he shares photos of them so eagerly with women he knows only online.  And now he wants voters to give him a third chance, which for me is one too many.  I cannot vote for a candidate who so consistently exhibits adolescent behavior and lack of judgment.

     A humorous aside:  I once knew a woman who worked for a man named Weiner (no relation to Anthony).  One day he received a serious business letter mistakenly addressed to "Mr. Frankfurter."  She thought it hilarious; her boss did not.

     Coming soon:  Next Wednesday, Boss Tweed: How About a New Sewer? (the first of the big city bosses, and how he made this city work).  Next Sunday, How America Goes to War: 1861, New York (feverish and compulsive patriotism, plus thoughts about how we do it now).

©  2013  Clifford Browder