Wednesday, August 26, 2009

FDR's Grassy Knoll

I used to believe that infamy was its own reward, that the grandiose madmen of our society enjoy a certain level of macabre immortality by committing acts so brazen that their names are forever burned into our subconscious. The Jack Ruby's and John Hinckley Jr's of our world will never be forgotten, their deeds will remain ingrained in the national psyche for generations to come.

There are those rare souls, however, who defy this rule. They are the Milli Vanilli's of infamy, those who shone for a brief moment only to be discarded and forgotten on the ash-heap of history. Can you still recall the name of the serial killer who murdered Versace? At the time everyone knew it was Andrew Cunanan, though not many people can recall the name now without taxing their memory. Such is also the case of FDR's would-be assassin, Guiseppe Zangara. Zangara, like Cunanan, is one of those odd historical figures who just didn't have staying power.

On Feb. 15th, 1933, at Miami's Bayfront Park, an unemployed Italian immigrant, armed with a .32 revolver, stood atop a wooden chair and fired 5 rounds at FDR, who was seated at the back of his convertible, talking with supporters and guests. Zangara - apparently a bad shot - managed to hit everyone and everything, but FDR. Three of the shots lodged into the car, the other two bullets hit flesh, seriously injuring the wife of a prominent Miami doctor, and fatally wounding Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak.

Zangara was immediately tackled by secret service agents and brought in for questioning. The national media quickly descended on Miami to cover the story. Was it a communist plot? Was there a conspiracy bubbling beneath the surface? One paper submitted that mayor Cermak was the actual target of the shooting. Cermak was a fervant anti- prohibitionist who had made enemies with the Chicago mob. Another paper opined that it was the work of a renegade band of socialists. The actual motive would prove to be far less ulcer.

Hollywood itself could not have created a more colorful or bizarre character as the 5'2" Zangara. During the weeks that followed the shooting he would baffle the FBI and the local Sheriff’s Dept. with his blunt, and often times bizarre answers. Reading the transcripts and press accounts of Zangara's statements to the FBI is surreal and often times comic.

In one interview, Zangara is asked to explain his motivations for wanting to assassinate President-Elect Roosevelt. It would the first in number of times he would make reference to his stomach pains.

"I shoot kings and presidents, capitalists got all-a the money and I got bellyache all-a the time."

Trying to probe the mind of the mind of Zangara for further information on his background, his affiliations, and politics would also prove to be futile. Zangara hated anarchists, socialists, capitalists, and probably even puppies. He belonged to no special group, and seemed to have no friends. During his trial, he would defiantly shout to the judge;

"I kill capitalists because they kill me, stomach like drunk man. No point living. Give me electric chair."

Zangara would eventually get his wish. On May 6th Mayor Cermak died from his injuries and the presiding judge sentenced Zangara to death. 14 days later, he was strapped into the electric chair - a quick execution, even for the time. Bouncing into the chair like a hyperactive child, Zangara continued to display his trademark brand of defiance;

"Viva Italia! Goodbye to all poor peoples everywhere! Pusha da button!!"

All media interest and coverage of Zangara ended with his death. The press packed up and went home, Roosevelt was inaugurated, the doctor's wife recovered, and the scrawny, unemployed brick layer who had almost killed an American President over a tummy ache was quickly forgotten. The difficulty I encountered researching this article serves as a testament to Zangara's obscurity. Articles on the internet about the shooting were scant and often inaccurate, confusing dates and names. Many websites devoted to FDR made little, if any mention of the incident. Perhaps the fact we entered into a war shortly after, is the reason Zangara was so quickly forgotten. Perhaps it was simply because he missed his mark. Maybe his lack of a grander political motive doomed him to irrelevancy. In the end, I think Zangara's life can best be summed up in his own words;
"I don't like-a no peoples"



Editor's Note - I wrote this article nearly a decade ago and information about Zangara is much easier to come by these days with the dawning of such things as Wikipedia. Several new books have since been written about the incident, yet this failed presidential assassination attempt continues to remain an odd historical blind spot.

Reference material for this article was drawn from "The Five Weeks of Giuseppe Zangara" by Blaise Picchi and "A Date Which Should Live in Infamy" by Florence King.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Anderson Cooper Pooper Scooper

There's a crazy homeless guy who panhandles near my home. I know it's rather impolitic to refer to him as such, but anyone who mutters incessantly about knives and Donna Summer has pretty much paid his dues to the nutter-butter country club. He's harmless enough, and Claire and I give him food, and occasionally money if we are in a position to do so (liberals talk about helping people, conservatives actually help them). That's not the point, though. This guy, we'll call him Charlie, has an uncanny ability to predict the weather. It's probably an intuition that homeless people develop from being at the mercy of the elements on a daily basis. It could be a beautiful balmy day, but if Charlie says "rain is a-comin'" you can be sure that rain is about to "a-come". He's like the Weather Network, if the Weather Network lived under a bridge and smelled like old Doritos and rotting fish. Thing is, I trust this rambling, possibly schizophrenic homeless fellow to convey more accurate information to me than CNN and MSNBC combined.

Our old friend Anderson Cooper is at again. No rain forest trekking in pre-wrinkled designer cargo shorts warning of the upcoming enviro-Apocalypse for the Coop these days. No indeed! He seems pretty busy right at home lately, playing the role of fear-monger in chief to the President.

"Right Wing Militias On The Rise", screamed the headline below Cooper as he interviewed Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which recently published a paper supposedly confirming this phenomenon. CNN calls the group a "non-partisan organization that monitors hate groups" - a claim I'm sure even crazy Charlie knows is blatant intellectual dishonesty of the worst kind. The SPLC is a left-wing attack group that is so extreme even die hard liberals like journalist Alexander Cockburn characterized them as “...frightening elderly liberals (into believing) that the heirs of Adolf Hitler are about to march down Main Street.”

This is tantamount to running a story claiming that smoking is healthy and delicious based on a report published by Phillip Morris. But what has CNN and the folks over at MSNBC in such a state? Everyone knows they ceased parading the pretense of objectivity long ago, but even this is laying it on a little thick. You see, things aren't going very well for President Obama as of late, and his lackeys in the press will have none of it.

No one much cares for the President's new health care proposal. Republicans don't like it, Democrats don't like it, the liberals down at the AARP don't like it - I don't even think homeless Charlie cares much for it. This has the media in full attack mode, and the cannon balls are flying. So what does the left do when things aren't going according to plan? You call in the media and create a crisis, and believe me, the "C" in CNN stands for crisis.

All over America, discouraged citizens are showing up at town hall meetings to express their displeasure at their elected representatives - both Democrat and Republican. They want to keep their family doctor; They want to keep the insurance provided by their employer; And most of all, they don't want to throw away more of their hard earned money to fund another expensive pipe dream that promises to be an even more dismal failure than the President's last massive spending project. They are not feeling stimulated.

In the weird and distorted looking glass world of the media, these people are dangerous zealots ready to torch the White House. Yep, those senior citizens who criticized Rep. Steny Hoyer at a town hall meeting are heading straight to the nearest compound to stock up on canned goods, bibles, and semi-automatic rifles. They're going tear up their "Scoot-About" licenses and hunker down for the next armed rebellion. I joke, but this dangerous little game the media is playing with public opinion is deadly serious.

Americans are exercising their most basic and cherished first amendment right in a peaceful and legal manner, but are being portrayed as dangerous wing nuts by the media because they're not coming down on the right side of this debate.

Remember the eight years President Bush was in office? People took to the streets protesting in large numbers with signs depicting him in Nazi paraphenalia; They camped out for over a year in front of his Crawford Ranch; They threw things at him -they even made a movie shot in "cinema verite" style that was aired in American theatres in which he was assassinated. No one seemed to be concerned then. I don't remember anyone in the MSM warning that this was going a step too far. Now ordinary Americans of all political stripes are simply demanding that their elected officials explain themselves and CNN would have you believe that they are ushering in a Mad Max society where rules will be thrown out the window, and people will be eating soup out of their neighbors' skulls.

As a Canadian looking in from the outside and a scholar of American politics, I find this alarming. Woodrow Wilson used the media skillfully and even had his own goon squads to intimidate the public when they weren't buying Wilson's "change" inspired by his admiration of European fascists.

The next time you see Anderson Cooper trying to pass off a left-wing radical nut job from a shady activist group like the Southern Poverty Law Center as an unbiased authority on "extremists groups", shut off the T.V. and go for a walk. Some spare change and the rantings of a homeless guy will at least get you a fairly accurate weather forcast.



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Capitalists of Convenience

Nicolas Sarkozy wants the French to work on Sunday. I probably lost you between "French" and "work", but if you can compose yourself for a moment and stay with me, the ambitious young playboy President wants the smell of over-priced wine and fromage wafting through the air and mimes in striped shirts and berets to punch in for a normal work day on Sunday at their employer's discretion. Perhaps if the French could be made to work during the normal work week this little dust-up wouldn't have started in the first place.

Debate will begin today in the National Assembly to overturn a 1906 law declaring Sunday a day of rest, with the exclusion of some fresh food providers that can still remain open until noon. A small side note to this story, which I find wonderfully delicious, is that special arrangements had to be made for the Obama's during a recent visit so they could do a little high-end shopping at an exclusive luxury clothing store. Apparently, the horrors of unabated capitalism don't apply to it's most ardent detractors.

All jokes about 3 hour lunch breaks and neglectful personal hygiene aside, Sarkozy deserves some credit for trying to inject some desperately needed deregulation into France's nightmarish economic labyrinth, but the fallout West of the pond has produced some curious insights into the left's knee jerk politics.

On various political message boards and comment sections of internet editorial pieces, America's liberal foot soldiers were strangely silent, until some thoughtful folks interjected the most dreaded word in America's political lexicon into the argument - God. Once that happened, any sympathies they may have had for the "workers of the world" in their battle against "the soulless capitalist corporations" were quickly thrown out the window. The left often defines themselves by using what they are "not" as a guideline. When Al Gore, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry believed deposing Saddam Hussein by military means was a National Security priority, I don't remember the crowd mobilizing their code-pink protest brigades into the streets. When a Republican President decided to act instead of simply paying lip service to the idea, the same cast of characters went nuts.

When I first shared my observations about Sunday shopping in another forum I frequent, a progressive friend of mine went absolutely apoplectic. To be fair, his argument was simply that he was annoyed at being "inconvenienced" when in France on a Sunday, which was all the more disconcerting to me.

There is a non-religious argument for keeping shops closed on Sunday. Sunday shopping is pretty much the norm, at least in Eastern Canada. When Sunday shopping legislation was first introduced in Nova Scotia, pompous government employees who still enjoyed a regular 9 to 5 work week complained "When are we supposed to shop?"

Many retail workers were infuriated by this. Government employees could shop after 5 every day of the week and all day Saturday. The folks on the lower rung of the economic ladder just wanted some time to spend with their families - one day out of the entire week. This is a similar argument to what trade unions and those on the left in France are making.

But in North America, it's strange how liberals become capitalists of convenience when God comes into the equation. Because there is a religious element for some people in this debate, the left has suddenly become Adam Smith incarnate.

Aren't these the people who are supposed to stick up for the little guys? The poor single mother who wants to know she can have at least one day of the week to spend with her kids? I guess not at the expense of sharing political elbow room with conservatives, or the horror of having to eat stale bread because they couldn't be bothered to get to the bakery before noon.

This seems like a rather small blip on the radar, but it's opened my eyes to an entire array of issues where the left adopts a more right-leaning stance when it directly affects their lives. Over the weekend, I witnessed one of the most astounding examples of this, which we'll explore more broadly in the coming weeks. This is definitely a phenomenon, and I think we may be on to something.

In the meantime, I guess my European friends will have to wait until Monday to buy that 211EUR purse they had their eye on, and suffer the indignity of having to munch on a baguette they bought at 11 am.



Monday, August 10, 2009

How Gauche!

Good afternoon loyal Hypesters! I get lots of interesting emails from readers every day. Some are from gracious fans sending kind words of encouragement - some are from less enthusiastic readers telling me to stick things in places where things shouldn't be stuck. Lots of people new to the blogosphere write in to ask for advice on the craft, and how to get started. I also get lots of emails from people purporting to be from The Bank of (insert third world country here), asking me to send a few grand so they can collect their inheritance and in turn richly reward me for my trouble.

While I was pecking away at two new blog pieces for the week, our good friend Bob from Texas sent along an interesting article from Yahoo's Rita Mauceri and Elycia Rubin on etiquette. Seeing that we at the Hype live by James Bowman's axium that manners are the last remaining vestige of the Western Honor Culture, I thought you might enjoy Madams Maurceri and Rubin's article from their Foxy Festivities blog. Enjoy, and thanks Bob!

Hang tight readers. New stuff is on the way!

Terrible Etiquette Mistakes From Around the World

Coffee Break We may gulp lattes all day long, regardless of what time it is here, but in many European countries cappuccinos and other coffee drinks made with milk are enjoyed during the morning hours only. Espresso is what's consumed in the afternoons and evenings. So, don't be surprised when you get a funny look from the waiter after ordering your double latte with extra cream after that pesto pasta lunch.

No Ketchup Please Many French chefs are appalled if guests add condiments like ketchup and mustard to their culinary masterpieces before taking the first bite. They think it masks the true taste of the food -- so get used to your "pommes frites" without that dousing of ketchup.

Oops, All Gone Here in the States, it seems we've been taught to always clear our plates. In China on the other hand, if you gobble up every last morsel it could be insulting to the host as it means that he/she hasn't provided enough food. Keep things on the up and up and leave a few bites left. We're guessing it's probably best not to ask for a doggie bag, either!

Heads Up In Thailand, no matter how adorable someone's child is, resist the urge to give them a friendly pat on the noggin. It's taboo to touch the head, which is a revered body part.

No Sharing No matter how mouthwatering your palak paneer is, offering someone a taste from your plate is a big no-no in India, since it's considered unclean. Enjoy your dinner and rave about it all you want, but keep it to yourself.

A Few Pointers In India, if you want to call someone over, never use your finger to point or wag -- it's seen as condescending and insulting. Instead, hold your hand out, palm down, and scoop with your fingers. You'll get much better results!

Better Than Butter While dining out in Spain, get used to the idea of bread without butter. Ask for it at a restaurant and you'll most likely be told they don't have any. The preferred practice is to dip bread in olive oil -- and if you ask us, it's much yummier anyway!

A - O - K Never give anyone in Brazil the "OK" hand signal (using your thumb and pointer finger to make an O)... it's an obscene gesture that's likely to get you labeled both ignorant and extremely offensive!

Meat 'n' Milk In Israel, unless you know otherwise, assume that a household keeps kosher. That means mixing meat and dairy is not allowed. So no milk in your coffee after a belly-busting beef dinner (and no cheese on that burger, either!).

Sticky Splinters We're all familiar with the wooden chopsticks you get at Asian restaurants. They come stuck together, and you snap them apart which usually leaves a few stray splinters on the end. If this happens in Japan, holding the chopsticks between your palms and loudly clattering them together is a big insult to the waiter or sushi chef because it indicates that his utensils are cheap. Instead, rub one chopstick against the other gently.

Throw In The Towel In a Japanese restaurant, if you're given a hot rolled towel, use it only to wipe your hands. It's generally considered rude to wipe your face with (although at more informal restaurants, people may occasionally be seen doing it).

Service With A Smile Here in the US, many of us are used to serving ourselves and digging in family style at meals. But in China it's common for the host to place food on the guest's plates, so resist the urge to scoop up another helping of rice -- practice sitting back and relaxing, and enjoy letting the host put you on a pedestal.

Sole Purpose Think twice before sitting too casually in Egypt, or even stretching out your gams. Showing the soles of your feet or shoes is considered to be terribly rude -- yes, even if you're sporting Jimmy Choos!

Lip Service No matter how parched your lips may be, when traveling in Zimbabwe, never lick your lips while looking at someone of the opposite sex. While it may seem innocent enough to you, they consider it an obscene gesture.

Baby Steps Have a friend in Russia who's expecting a babe? Go ahead and browse all you want, but don't give them anything until after the little one arrives. It's considered bad luck to do so sooner.


Joe (with thanks to the gals from Foxy Festivities)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Why So Serious? - Blogging By Numbers

Oops. I know I'm rather late. Not late as in honey we need to talk and go to the pharmacy - don't have the anatomy for that - but late in delivering a fresh blog. I strive to post a new blog twice a week, but I also strive to exercise, eat healthier, and lose 25 pounds before the wedding - which is approaching faster than Al Gore's enviro-apocalypse (sorry honey, poor choice of analogies).

Anyway, excuses are for late husbands and Robert Gibbs' press conferences, so let's get right to the heart of things - It's blogging by numbers time!

1 - It seems my associate editor, the lovely Miss Claire, has been gripped by a passion for cyber farming. It appears to be a wide-spread phenomenon amongst Facebook users, in the form of a game called "Farm Town", and something I believe is called "Farmville". Fans of these cyber crop-keeping games say it's addictive, like some kind of rural "World of Warcraft" with corn and sheep. I have a theory that this game has become so popular because deep down, people have a weird longing for a return to the time of Jeffersonian-style agrarianism. I have always been wary of Jefferson worship. Anyone that enamoured with the French should automatically be treated as suspect.

2 - Many readers, mostly those who remember when TSH was The Rant, a website, long before there were such things as blogs, Myspace, Twittering, and Facebook, have asked me to be a little more aggressive, to "take off the white gloves", as the fascists were fond of saying. Aside from the fact that fascism is the expertise of the left, and white gloves are the stuff of cartoon mice and decomposing pop stars, 1997 was a very different time than 2009. President Clinton's tenure in office was a daily train wreck, the first lady was already playing the role of Junior Senator from New York, and both of their volatile tempers made them easy targets to lampoon. Not very many alternatives to CNN and CBC existed back then, so I felt an obligation to cover stories that were being distorted or blatantly ignored by the media. The site became an instant hit, and was ranked among the top 5 conservative sites on the Internet by the end of 1999 - the fact that I was a Canadian made it all the more exotic, and we picked up an enormous American following.

In the late 90's, when people still thought Hootie and the Blowfish were cool, and god awful sitcoms like Home Improvement were on their way out, I inherited the nickname "Piranha Joe". Anyone who wrote into the site with a left-leaning opinion would be mocked, spit on, set on fire, and have their ashes pissed on. I don't want to be that guy anymore. We are still unapologetically conservative, hard hitting, and relentless. We stick to attacking policy and corruption in the Obama administration, and try and steer clear of personal insults. Don't try to push me too hard though - Piranha Joe is not gone, he's just on a leash, which still has it's fair share of slack.

3 - It seems I've upset a lot of apple carts as of late. I was puzzled as to why so many people were suddenly writing indignant emails that contained little substance and lots of nasty insults. Stranger still were the passive aggressive messages, comments, and innuendo sent to me via Facebook. My two-part gay marriage piece was a fairly benign and respectful exploration into the constitutional mess that such things can create, and I avoided making any jokes about black leather chaps and handle bar moustaches. Everyone seemed fine with it. Then came the Body of Lies piece, and it was like dropping a match into a dry powder keg. I have attacked the President before, and much more ferociously than in the previous post, so "why so serious"?

A few readers from both sides of the political spectrum ventured the following guess: I didn't call President Obama names like bam-bam or "the ObaMessiah"; I steered clear of the whole birth certificate nonsense; And I stuck to policy and facts, using the administration's own words against them and invoking obscure pieces of legislation. The left are masters at taking unwarranted cheap shots at us when we hold protests like the now famous Tea Parties, but when a Canadian conservative starts delving into things like the Waxman/Markey "Cap and Trade" bill, or the Five Days of Sunlight pledge, they don't have the stomach to come out of the shallow end of the pool, because they would have to do too much googling to get even a peripheral understanding of such things. Keep sending me petty insults - I'm loving it.

4 - There was much speculation as to why it took over a decade for Bernhard Schlink's inflammatory novel "The Reader" to be adapted into a screenplay. I have my own suspicions, and long time readers of this site can probably venture a fairly accurate guess. The Reader purports to be an insightful and intelligent look into the generational gap between Germans who participated - both actively and passively - in the atrocities of Nazi Germany, and the blameless generations that followed. I have no problems with subject matter that explores this moral and emotional combustion that has haunted Germany for over half a century. In the case of David Hare and Stephen Daldry's screen adaptation, it is mere window dressing for this morally bankrupt and disgusting movie. Here is what Messieurs Hare and Daldry expect us to swallow:

Hanna (Kate Winslet), a 32 year old trolley ticket attendant, seduces a 15 year old boy named Michael (David Kross), having him read to her each night during the course of their lengthy "affair" (we call it molestation outside of Hollywood). The first 45 minutes of the film is nothing short of soft porn with lots of full frontal nudity. Hanna leaves Michael's life after a promotion of sorts, only to re-appear later as a lady on trial, as Micheal - now a German law student - watches on as part of a class project. Hanna is actually Hanna Schmitz, an unrepentant SS guard who not only selected the weekly list of who was to die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, but also allowed 30 Jewish women to burn alive in a church during an evacuation of the death camp in the midst of an air raid. A regular peach of a gal, this Hanna! But wait, here's the kicker - The movie expects us to sympathize with poor little Hanna because she's illiterate!! You see, that's why he read to her all those years ago! Aren't those liberal artsy types clever! The movie even has the gall to make her inquisitors seem insensitive for being so hard on Hanna. Hey, she may have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Jews, but give her a break, the poor thing can't even read! A movie that asks us to stretch our sympathies to such a level might at least try to redeem itself at the end, but sadly it does not. When Hanna is asked by a grown Michael (Ray Fiennes) whether she feels any remorse for the atrocities she committed, she responds " doesn't matter what I feel, the dead are still dead." Indeed. Isn't that just the tops. This movie is offensive trash masquerading as deep intellectual fodder. Don't even bother renting this garbage.

5 - On a brighter note, Michael Mann's latest epic, Public Enemies, is a beautifully shot and wonderfully acted period piece that is pleasing to the eye, though lacking any sort of moral backdrop. Johnny Depp is pitch perfect as the roguish and charming John Dillinger, a man whose free wheeling days of bank robbing, immaculate suits, fast cars, and beautiful woman are quickly coming to an end. As Hoover's nascent "Federal Bureau" begins to erase the protections of state boundaries, Depp masterfully portrays all the nuances of a man trying to keep his bravado as the mob, his associates, and his safe houses begin to erode around him. Christian Bale is less impressive as South Carolina lawman Melvin Purvis, seemingly sleep-walking through the role and losing his accent a third of the way through the film. It's a fun evening at the movies, and worth seeing for the breathtaking cinematography and remarkable wardrobe and costume design alone.

6 - Have a good week, and enjoy a little "Be Good Tanyas" as you struggle through hump day.