Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lulu the Flapper

People who know me know I have an unhealthy love of century old music. Ragtime, early jazz, the Roaring 20s and Depression era music are gifts to my ear.

Don't Bring Lulu (1925)
Louise Brooks
Johnny White is hosting a party. You can bring Rose with the turned up nose or Lil even though she's an awful pill but whatever you do, don't bring Lulu.

It seems Lulu always wants to do what the folks don't want her too. There was the time she came to a party and started acting wild. When she danced the Charleston and all the boys just stopped and stared. When she struts her stuff around it's like London Bridge is falling down. Truth is, Lulu is the kind of smartie who breaks up every party.

Problem is, poor Johnny got to thinking about her too much. He concludes don't bring Lulu 'cause he's going to bring her himself.

Lulu's Back in Town (1935)
Clara Bow
Lulu's back in town and Mister Otis has problems. The chambermaid has misplaced his razor blade, his tuxedo is wrinkled and the vest is missing a button, his hair is messy, his shoes are dull, and his boutonniere is wilted. Damn, he even needs to find fifty cents someplace. And it's important because Lulu's back in town.

The song doesn't explain why Lulu left town to begin with although I suspect a consortium of wives and girlfriends chased her out. Anyway, Mr. Otis wants the listener to tell his other "pets" - Harlem coquettes in one version, blonds and brunettes in another - that he's not going to be around anymore. He also wants the mailman notified that he won't be home until at least the fall, maybe never.

Mr. Otis has a bad case of needing to go strutting with Lulu.

Miss Otis Regrets (1934)
Colleen Moore
Technically, the previous song is an homage to this song written by the great Cole Porter. But in telling a story the song belongs here.

Miss Otis regrets she is unable to lunch today. It seems she woke up last night and discovered her man, the love of her life, the man who had led her astray, had run out on her.

Miss Otis tracked him down to lovers lane where he was canoodling, and probably very much more, with some unnamed floozy. I think we can all guess her name was Lulu.

Miss Otis drew a gun from under her velvet gown and shot her lover down. It's not stated but probably true that Miss Otis also plugged Lulu with several rounds.

She got arrested and thrown into jail. Because she shot Lulu, a mob of outraged men came and dragged her out of the jail. They hauled her to a nearby willow tree where they lynched her.

Anyway, that's why Miss Otis regrets she is unable to lunch today.

Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1925)
Joan Crawford actually was 5 foot 2.
I like to think that the girl in this song is named Lulu. I learned it in elementary school. I didn't know then what a flapper was. I didn't know that "turned down hose" referred to a thing that loose women did with their silk stockings. I thought "could she coo" meant she was ticklish. And I certainly didn't realize "what those five feet can do!" might actually mean.

It took years for me to discover how my second grade teacher had corrupted me with this song.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Presidential Tout Sheet

Opinion poll are worthless until about two weeks before an election. They suggest a vacation dalliance is true love and they are about as accurate as a blind dart player. I prefer  the predictive powers of online betting parlors. My sources is Irish bookmaker Paddy Power (odds as of today in Blue) and my own analysis (in Red).

Democratic Race
Hillary Clinton (1 to 3.5) - (even money)
Real money wagerers figure Hillary has a 77% chance to be nominated. I thing she has no better than a 50% shot. She is the choice of the moneyed establishment but she has enough extra baggage to break an elephant's back. While momentum means little this early she also doesn't have much.
Bernie Sanders (5.5 to 1) - (5 to 1)
I love Bernie and in the privacy of the voting booth he is my choice. But as the anti-establishmentarian he is swimming against a strong current of cash. The romantic in me believes that passion can defeats capital; the cynical realist believes the power of the purse always beats the power of love.
Joe Biden (9 to 1) - (3 to 1)
Bettors stay away from someone who hasn't even decided to run yet. The truth is if Hillery's campaign crashes then the power brokers are going to turn to the Vice-President as their second choice.

Martin O'Malley (40 to 1) - (20 to 1)
You'd think an Irish betting parlor would think more kindly than to give one of their own a 5% chance at the crown.

Republican Race
Jeb Bush (1.6 to 1) - (4 to 1)
Like Hillary, Jeb is the establishment favorite so the smart bettors like him. He has lots of money but, God, do Republicans hate him. If Donald Trump is the summer fling then Jeb Bush is the maiden aunt your parents want you to take to the party instead.
Donald Trump (3.5 to 1) - (9 to 1)
Bettors are starting to believe in him. Me, not so much. Donald reminds me of a supergiant star, both eventually "become unstable, pulsate, and experience rapid mass loss." He is a wild summer affair that, come winter, will look more like a sleazy whore. Of course, a lot of Republicans prefer fucking whores.
Scott Walker (5 to 1) - (10 to 1)
Another case where I disagree with the bettors. Walker has proven himself the quintessential Not Ready for Prime Time Player. It's possible that he has been learning something these past few months but learning is not a skill Walker excels at.
Marco Rubio (7 to 1) - (5 to 1)
He's my number two in the race. If Bush fails to gain any traction by December then the Republican moneyed establishment will likely turn to Marco as a marketable commodity easily controlled.
John Kasich (12 to 1) - (12 to 1)
Running third in the Koch primary. If Jeb blows up and Marco continues to look like a child then the establishment will look to Kasich. He's an experienced politician with even less charisma than Jeb.
Rand Paul (14 to 1) - (25 to 1)
Ben Carson (14 to 1) - (25 to 1)
Paul looks tiny. Carson may be doing well in polls today but he lacks both gravitas and outrageousness.
Chris Christie (20 to 1) - (25 to 1)
Carly Fiornia (20 to 1) - (25 to 1)
Rumors are that Christie will be dropping out of the race soon and Carly will be stuck on the kiddie table for the CNN debate.
Ted Cruz (25 to 1) - (5 to 1)
God do I hope the bettors are right here and I am wrong. I rank Cruz third, behind Rubio, in the race. Cruz is the natural recipient of the anti-establishment white supremacist vote should Trump flame out. And Cruz is second only to Bush in the fundraising race. He can stay in the field long after poverty forces out others. Trump plays at being a fascist. Cruz actually is one.
Mike Huckabee (25 to 1) - (50 to 1)
Bobby Jindal (33 to 1) - (100 to 1)
Rick Perry (40 to 1) - (50 to 1)
Rick Santorum (40 to 1) - (100 to 1)
Adding them all together, I give them a 6% chance at the prize and that is being generous.
Mitt Romney (no odds) - (12 to 1)
Paddy Power doesn't list Romney but if there is a deadlocked convention then there is a possibility that Mitt will be drafted as a compromise candidate. It's the kind of thing that happened a century ago (Warren Harding, 1920) but its unlikely today. Still wackier things have already happened this election cycle.

Monday, August 24, 2015

China Phony Panic

The Chinese stock market has crashed to a level it hasn't seen since six months ago.
Its big boom started in February, 2015. In four months it climbed by over 60% then, in two months, lost all it had gained. Like a roller-coaster, it was a wild ride that just gets you back where you started.

This doesn't mean there weren't losers. Idiots who bought stocks at the peak of the rally have received a haircut deep into their frontal lobe. There were also winners who saw the bubble forming and sold their stocks to the aforementioned idiots in May.

Over a full year (August to August) Chinese stocks are up 45%. And stop calling China "communist," what we are seeing here is unfettered feral capitalism.

But, hey, let's all panic and sell our American blue chips.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Candidate Positions

Presidential candidates used to publish "White Papers" detailing their political ideology. But that is so 20th century. Today, even sound bites are too long, if it can't be Tweeted the position is too complex.

Bobby Jindal
If I had been President I wouldn't have allowed me to be a citizen.
Jindal is the text book definition of an "anchor baby." His mother was pregnant with him when his parents first arrived in the United States. He is eligible for the office because of "birthright citizenship." Yet Jindal hates the constitutional provision that granted him citizenship and wants to do away with it.

Scott Walker
I stand with you, just tell me where you want me to stand.
If you don't like Walker's stance on an issue, wait a few minutes and he'll change it. Pick an issue, any issue. Ethanol subsides - hates them in New Hampshire, loves them in Iowa. Immigration - tells billionaire donors he pro-amnesty, tells Tea Partiers he'll stop immigration. Gays - tolerant in private, hateful in public. Walker's political compass is a roulette wheel. Round and round he goes, where he stops nobody knows.

Ben Carson
I'll bomb the United States.
I kind of pity Carson. His poll numbers have never looked better but he has no actual political position on anything. So, he signed onto a wacky immigration proposal to use Predator drones to bombard the US-Mexico border.

Jeb Bush
I love minorities. I speak Spanish at home and my left hand is black.
While other candidates are immigrant bashing, Jeb claimed in an interview that Spanish is his principle language at home and English is his second language. A mailer sent out by Bush's super PAC clearly shows Bush has an African-American left hand. I'm waiting for claims of Bush having a Chinese character tattooed on the small of his back.

Donald Trump
Some of my best friends are thugs.
In Boston, two Trump supporters attack and beat a Hispanic and Trump's initial comments were to praise the passion of his supporters. A Trump supporter in Alabama suggests a $50 hunting bounty for the scalps of immigrants.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Killer Beauties: History's Prettiest Outlaws

It's hard to keep up a killer beauty regiment and a thriving career as a criminal yet some women manage to do it.

Old West
Etta Place ~ The Wild Bunch Gang, Companion of the Sundance Kid.

Whether a soiled dove or a schoolmarm, it's damn near impossible to be beautiful in the Wild West of the 19th century. Have you ever seen a photo of Belle Starr or Calamity Jane? Yet Etta prettied up very well in this photo taken at the DeYoung studio in New York 1901. One could make the case that Etta was prettier than Katherine Ross who played her in the movie.

Etta is known to have lived with the Wild Bunch in their southern Utah hideout and to have participated in robberies while living in South America.

Rose Dunn ~ aka, Rose of the Cimarron

Far less famous than Etta but perhaps more beautiful given her life in the rough, lawless town of Ingalls, OK. She was taught to ride and shoot by her outlaw brothers and by the age of 14, Rose was the lover of George "Bittercreek" Newcomb. The story is that everyone in Doolin-Dalton Gang, which Newcomb rode with, worshiped Rose and that no man dare insult her lest he face the gang's wrath.

In 1893, the gang got into a ranging gun battle with US Marshals. Rose grabbed a rifle and raced into the street to join the battle and rescue her badly wounded lover. Rose's lover was killed two years later by her own brothers who had turned from outlawing to bounty hunting.

Gangster Molls
Bonnie Parker ~ the Clyde Barrow Gang

Let's see if I can find a few facts you don't know about Bonnie Parker.

She was tiny. Standing 4'10" tall and weighing only 90 pounds.
In 1933 her right leg was badly burned in an auto accident either by fire or battery acid. For the remainder of her life Bonnie couldn't walk and either hopped or was carried by Clyde.
Bonnie Parker was only 23 years old when she was shot 26 times by Texas lawmen who ambushed them in Louisiana. The first bullet that struck her had probably killed her.

Virginia Hill ~ lover of mob bosses Joe Adonis, Frank Costello, and Bugsy Siegel

Virginia had movie star looks and slept her way to the very top of the Chicago Outfit. In 1934, she was sent to New York to seduce both Adonis and Costello and thereby spy on the Lucky Luciano crime syndicate. She added a fiery affair with Siegel just for the fun of it.

Bugsy Siegel named his Las Vegas casino "The Flamingo" after his nickname for the long-legged beauty. The rumor is that Bugsy gave the entire $2 million he skimmed from the mob building the casino to Virginia. And that Virginia set Bugsy up to be assassinated.

Gertrude Lythgoe ~ The Bahama Queen

After Prohibition passed Gertrude's boss, a London liquor importer, sent her to set up an importation (i.e. smuggling) network into the US. In short order she had an operation running rum to speakeasies from Long Island to New Orleans. Heaven help any mobster who thought her a helpless woman as sexual advances would be met with gun in his ribs and a threat to leave his body for the reef sharks.

She was arrest once but never convicted but her pictures often graced the glamour sections of US magazines and newspapers during the Roaring Twenties.

Marllory Chacon Rossell ~ Drug Kingpin, aka "Queen of the South"

Operating out of Guatemala, Rossell provided the drugs to the notorious Mexican drug cartels and then expertly laundered there money. She started a massive private lottery that moved tens of millions of dollars drug profits every month.

Rossell surrendered to US authorities last year and was sentenced in May. The curious thing is that the entire court case is under seal for five years. Maybe she's ratting out her former partners or, if you are of a conspiratorial mind, maybe the Feds need that long to cover their collective asses.

Serial Killers
Myra Hindley ~ The Moors Murders, aka "the most evil woman in Britain"

Not really beautiful but the truth is women serial killers are a decidedly ugly bunch. For two years in the 1960's Myra and her partner Ian Brady captured youths aged from ten to seventeen years old, sexually assaulted them, murdered them, and buried their bodied on Saddleworth Moor near Manchester. Evidence at trial included a recording they had made of them torturing ten year old Lesley Anne Downey.

So hated was she that when she died 35 years after the last murder twenty undertakers refused to touch her body.

Karla Homolka ~ The Schoolgirl Killers, "Deal With the Devil"

Canada is not known for serial killers but at the top of the short list is Karla and her husband Paul Bernardo. The pair kidnapped, raped, and murdered three teenage girls. The last of these was Karla's own younger sister.

Karla batted her baby blue eyes and convinced prosecutors that she was as much a victim as the girls who died and had been terrified of her husband. She got a plea deal of manslaughter in exchange for her testimony.

But the couple had video taped the rapes and murders and the tapes showed Karla was a willing, active, and brutal participant. But the deal had been done and Karla Homolka was released from prison after only 12 years confinement.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Chaos Is Funny

Note, I didn't say "fun." The Iraq War was a clinical definition of chaotic but it was the least fun had in Mesopotamia since the Mongols sacked Baghdad in 1258.
Although I'm sure the Mongols had fun.
Neither is Chaos the same thing as anarchy. Anarchy is the absence of law and order. Chaos can have a shitload of laws (Nazi Germany) and stifling order (Stalin's purges). What chaos has is an infinity of uncertainty where nothing makes sense. Chaos is a comedy of the absurd.

The man who is still the odds on favorite for the nomination (Jeb! Bush) is polling in the single digits while the runaway leader in the polls is a sentient baboon.
Every week the wise men of the Party declare that the baboon has gone "beyond the Pale" only to find that he is even more beloved by the unwashed masses of the Party. The Republican professional class are having their minds blown so often it sound like an Orville Redenbacher party. The only people not laughing hysterically at this are Scott Walker's paid consultants.

My second biggest fear is that I will not live long enough to witness the most devastating effects of climate change. God, what a hoot it will be. Preachers standing on a Texas beach praying to God to stop the tide. Rick Scott explaining in a press conference how Miami flooded under ten feet of sea water is no way his fault. The comedy has started, last Spring Republicans blamed environmentalists for the lack of rain in California.
San Diego burning, 2007. I was there.
My biggest fear is that I will live long enough to witness the most devastating effects of climate change. Fires and drought battering my home every year. Trillions spend globally to defend major cities like New York and Tokyo from the rising oceans. The destruction will certainly be funny in a horrible way while the satisfaction at being able to say "I told you so" will be tempered by the need to scrounge for drinking water.

Funny, but not fun.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Historic Port Explosions

The massive explosion in Tianjin, China got me thinking about three other port explosions.

Halifax, 1917
It was World War I and the French ship SS Monte-Blanc was transporting munitions from New York to Bordeaux with a refueling stop in Halifax. Halifax harbor is squeezed in the middle by the Narrows. Inching through the Narrows at just one knot, the Monte-Blanc collided with a Norwegian ship carrying relief supplies to the war zone. The collision started a fire that grew out of control. The Monte-Blanc crew abandoned the ship to burn. It exploded.
It was the largest man made detention in human history, not to be exceeded until the invention of the atomic bomb. Its three kiloton yield leveled large parts of Halifax up to a half mile away and tossed the 3,000 ton steamship over 1,000 feet out of the water. Over 2,000 people died but the French crew survived except for one man struck by flying debris.

Texas City, 1947
The largest non-military explosion in human history. Another French ship, the SS Grandcamp, was loading ammonia nitrate. Berthed next to her was another ship, the SS High Flyer, holding ammonium nitrate and next to both of them were warehouses full of the explosive chemicals. The fertilizer in the Grandcamp caught fire. Firefighting efforts failed so the captain ordered the hold sealed and steam injected. This was stupid as steam will not douse an ammonium nitrate fire but it will convert the chemical into the even more volatile nitrous oxide.

The fire was burning so hot the water in the harbor was boiling. Eventually, the ship exploded with a yield of nearly 3 kilotons, sending super heated shrapnel into chemical plants, refineries, and warehouses along the waterfront. The shockwave was so strong it tore the wings of two planes flying over the scene. And the explosion set the High Flyer on fire. She exploded 15 hours later completing the devastation.

Port Chicago, CA, 1944
Port Chicago is a few miles east of San Francisco and was the location of the US Navy's main munitions depot. All the explosives that were blowing the Pacific to hell passed through the port. The Navy was a solid bastion of segregation during World War II so the workforce at Port Chicago was 100% African-American.

The men had no training as stevedores. Their officers had no experience running a port. When the longshoremens union learned how unsafely the port was operating they offered to train the men. The commanding officers curtly refused help because military operations are always secret. Besides, working safely might mean working slower and the only thing the officers cared about was speed, speed, speed.

Now we can finally get to the night of July 14. We are approaching midnight and the SS E. A. Bryan was already fully loaded with fuel oil. Its hold were holding various munitions including live incendiary bombs and shock sensitive depth charges. Something happened, there was a small explosion followed by a massive explosion. The only people in a position to know exactly what happened were vaporized in the explosion.

The E. A. Bryan was obliterated and two others ships sunk. Nearly 400 people died, 202 African-American. A Navy board of inquiry laid the blame of the dead folk. None of the unsafe practices were changed so three weeks later 258 workers decided they would stop working until safety protocols were in place.

Remember, these were black folk so the Navy called it a mutiny and threatened to execute the workers. Fifty men were charged and found guilty of mutiny.

Ports are dangerous places to live and work. Also, stay away from French cargo vessels as they have a nasty habit of blowing up.