March 5, 1770 The Boston Massacre

The officer ignored the insult, but Private Hugh White, on guard outside the State House on King Street, said the boy should be more respectful and struck him with his musket. Soon an angry crowd began to gather.

France and Great Britain have been allies throughout most of modern history, both in times of war and peace. This wasn’t always the case. From the Norman Invasion of 1066 to the Napoleonic Wars of 1802-1815, England and France have been in a state of war at least forty times. Throughout most of that history, the two sides would clash until one or the other ran out of money, then yet another treaty would be trotted out and signed.

New taxes would be levied to bolster the King’s treasury, and the cycle would begin all over. The change in this cycle which began in the late 17th century can be summed up in a single word: Debt.

In the time of Henry VIII, British military outlays as a percentage of central government expenses averaged 29.4%. By 1694 the Nine Years’ War had left the English Government’s finances in tatters. £1.2 million were borrowed by the national treasury at a rate of 8% from the newly formed Bank of England. The age of national deficit financing, had arrived.

chartIn one of the earliest known debt issues in history, Prime Minister Henry Pelham converted the entire national debt into consolidated annuities known as “consols”, in 1752.  Consols paid interest like regular bonds, with no requirement that the government ever repay the face value.  18th century British debt soared as high as 74.6%, and never dropped below 55%.

The Seven Years’ War alone, fought on a global scale from 1756 to 1763, saw British debt double to the unprecedented sum of £150 million, straining the national economy.

American colonists experienced the conflict in the form of the French and Indian War, for which the Crown laid out £70,000,000.  The British government saw its American colonies as beneficiary of their expense, while the tax burden on their colonists remained comparatively light.  townsend

For the colonists, the never ending succession of English wars accustomed them to running their own affairs.  The “Townshend Revenue Acts” of 1767 sought to force American colonies to pick up the tab for their own administration, a perfectly reasonable idea in the British mind. The colonists had other ideas. They didn’t object to the amount of taxation as much as whether the British had the right to tax them at all. They were deeply suspicious of the motives behind these new taxes, and were not about to be subjugated by a distant monarch.

The political atmosphere was brittle in 1768, as troops were sent to Boston to enforce the will of the King. Rioters ransacked the home of a newly appointed stamp commissioner, who resigned the post following day. No stamp commissioner was actually tarred and feathered, a barbarity which had been around since the days of Richard III “Lionheart”, though several such incidents occurred at New England seaports.  More than a few loyalists were ridden out of town on the backs of mules.

The Massachusetts House of Representatives sent a petition to King George III asking for the repeal of the Townshend Act.  A Circular Letter sent to the other colonial assemblies, called for a boycott of merchants importing those goods affected by the act.  Lord Hillsborough responded with a letter of his own, instructing colonial governors in America to dissolve those assemblies which responded to the Massachusetts body.

The fifty gun HMS Romney arrived in May.  Customs officials seized John Hancock’s “Liberty” the following month, on allegations the sloop had been involved in smuggling.  Already agitated over Romney’s captain’s impressment of local sailors, Bostonians began to riot. By October, the first of four regular British army regiments had arrived in Boston.

On February 22, 1770, 11 year old Christopher Seider joined a mob outside the shop of loyalist Theophilus Lillie.  Customs official Ebenezer Richardson attempted to disperse the crowd.  Soon the mob was outside his North End home.  Rocks were thrown and windows broken.  One hit Richardson’s wife.  Ebenezer Richardson fired into the crowd, striking Christopher Seider.  By nightfall, he was dead.  2,000 locals attended the boy’s funeral, the first victim of the American Revolution.

bostonmassacrebychampneyOn March 5, wigmaker’s apprentice Edward Garrick taunted British Captain-Lieutenant John Goldfinch, claiming he had not paid a bill owed to his master.   The officer had paid the bill and ignored the insult, but Private Hugh White, on guard outside the State House on King Street, said the boy should be more respectful, striking him with his musket.  Garrick’s companion Bartholomew Broaders argued with White, as an angry crowd began to gather.

The shouting mob soon had White backed up to the State House steps, as Officer of the Watch Captain Thomas Preston dispatched a non-commissioned officer and six privates of the 29th Regiment of Foot, bayonets fixed, to back up Private White.  The crowd began to throw stones and snowballs. Private Hugh Montgomery was knocked to the ground, and came up shooting.  Then they all fired, killing three outright, and wounding six more.  Two more lay dying.

Future President John Adams and Josiah Quincy defended the troopers in the following trial, in what would be the first time a judge used the phrase “reasonable doubt.” Two were convicted, but escaped hanging by invoking a medieval legal remnant called “benefit of clergy”. They would be branded on the thumb with “M” for murder. The others were acquitted, leaving both sides complaining of unfair treatment. The only conservative revolution in history, was fewer than six years in the future.

There is a circle of stones in front of the Old State House on what is now State Street, marking the site of the Boston Massacre. British taxpayers continue to this day, to pay interest on the debt left to them, by the decisions of their ancestors.

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March 4, 1789 Founding Documents

On September 25, the first Congress adopted 12 amendments, sending them to the states for ratification. The states got rid of the first two, and so the Congress’ original 3rd amendment became 1st, of what we now call the “Bill of Rights”.

Early discussions of the American experiment in self-government began 20 years before the Revolution, with the Albany Congress of 1754, and Benjamin Franklin’s proposed Albany Plan of Union. The 2nd Continental Congress appointed a drafting committee to write our first constitution in 1776, the work beginning on July 12. The finished document was sent to the states for ratification on November 15 of the following year.

articles-of-confederation_grandeTwelve of the original thirteen states ratified these “Articles of Confederation” by February, 1779. Maryland would hold out for another two years, over land claims west of the Ohio River. In 1781, seven months before Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown, the 2nd Continental Congress formally ratified the Articles of Confederation. The young nation’s first governing document.

The Articles of Confederation provided for a loose confederation of sovereign states. At the center stood a congress, a unicameral legislature, and that’s about it. There was no Executive, there was no Judiciary.

In theory, Congress had the authority to govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and to regulate currency. In practice, these powers were limited because Congress had no authority to enforce the requests it made on the states, either for money or for troops.

The Union would probably have broken up if the Articles of Confederation were not amended or replaced. Twelve delegates from five states met at Mann’s Tavern in Annapolis Maryland in September 1786, to discuss the issue. The decision of the Annapolis Convention was unanimous. Representatives from all the states were invited to send delegates to a new constitutional convention in Philadelphia, the following May.

The United States had won its independence from England four years earlier, when 55 state delegates convened in Philadelphia to compose a new constitution.

Delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies, (only Rhode Island abstained) met on May 25, 1787 atconstitutional_convention_1787 Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House. The building is now known as Independence Hall, the same place where the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation were drafted.

The assembly immediately discarded the idea of amending the Articles, instead crafting a brilliant Federal system of checks and balances over three months of debate. The Federal Republic crafted by the framers delegates specific, limited powers to the Federal Government, with authority outside those specific powers devolving to the states.

Even at the convention, there was concern about the larger, more populous states governing at the expense of the smaller states. The “Connecticut Compromise” solved the problem, creating a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate).

signingThe Constitution was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates on September 17, 1787. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.

Five states: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut ratified the document in quick succession. Some states objected to the new document, especially Massachusetts, which wanted more protection for basic political rights such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press. They wanted it specified that powers undelegated to the Federal government, were reserved to the states. A compromise was reached in February, 1788 whereby Massachusetts and other states would ratify the document, with the assurance that such amendments would be immediately proposed.

The Constitution was ratified in Massachusetts by a two vote margin, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify on June 21. The new Constitutional Government would take effect on March 4, 1789.

On September 25, the first Congress adopted 12 amendments, sending them to the states for ratification. The states got rid of the first two, and so the Congress’ original 3rd amendment became 1st, of what we now call the “Bill of Rights”. Today, the United States Constitution is the oldest written national constitution in operation in the world.

It’s interesting to note the priorities of that first Congress, as expressed in their original 1st and 2nd amendments. The ones that were thrown out. The first had to do with proportional representation, and would have led us to a 6,000 member House of Representatives, instead of the 435 we currently have. The second most important thing in the world, judging by the priorities of that first Congress, was that any future Congress could not change their own salaries. Any such change could affect only future Congresses.27th-amendment

That original 2nd amendment, reading that “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened”, took effect in 1992 as the 27th amendment, following a ratification period stretching out to 202 years, 7 months, and 12 days. We must not be too hasty about these things.

February 26, 1993 World Trade Center

Ramzi Yousef is said to have considered adding cyanide in the bomb, and later regretted not having done so

Ramzi Yousef arrived at JFK International Airport on September 1, 1992, traveling under a false Iraqi passport. His companion Ahmed Ajaj tried to enter with a forged Swedish passport, and was arrested. Though his entry was illegal, Yousef was claiming political asylum. He was given a hearing date before an INS magistrate, and admitted.

After setting up residence in Jersey City, Yousef connected with the blind Muslim cleric Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman at the Al-Farooq Mosque in Brooklyn. There he was introduced to his co-conspirators, immediately beginning the assembly of a 1,310 lb urea-nitrogen hydrogen gas enhanced explosive device.

Yousef was injured in a car crash in late 1992, and ordered many of the chemicals for this device from his hospital bed. It’s surprising how easy it was for these guys.

img_0422The plan was to attack the north tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, toppling it into the south tower and taking them both down.

The conspirators believed they’d kill 250,000.

The yellow Ryder van entered lower Manhattan on the morning of Friday, February 26, 1993, driven by Ramzi Yousef and Eyad Ismoil. The pair pulled into the B-2 underground parking level under the north tower, lit the 20′ fuse, and fled.img_0423

As with the device used in the Beirut barracks bombing of 1983, this was a fuel-air explosive (FAE), designed to magnify and sustain the blast effect by mixing fuel with atmospheric oxygen. The main charge was surrounded by aluminum, magnesium and ferric oxide particles and surrounded by three hydrogen gas cylinders, to intensify the fireball and afterburn of those solid metal particles.

The US Defense Intelligence Agency conducted a study of fuel-air explosives, reporting: “What kills is the pressure wave, and more importantly, the subsequent rarefaction [vacuum], which ruptures the lungs…. If the fuel deflagrates but does not detonate, victims will be severely burned and will probably also inhale the burning fuel. Since the most common FAE fuels, ethylene oxide and propylene oxide are highly toxic, undetonated FAE should prove as lethal to personnel caught within the cloud as most chemical agents”.

Ramzi Yousef is said to have considered adding cyanide in the bomb, and later regretted not having done so.

img_0424The terrorist device exploded at 12:17:37, hurling super-heated gasses from the blast center at thirteen times the speed of sound. Estimated pressure reached 150,000 psi, equivalent to the weight of 10 bull elephants.

The bomb ripped a 98-foot wide hole through four sub-levels of concrete, killing five Port Authority employees and A dental products salesman, who was parking at the time. The real death toll was seven, if you’re inclined to include secretary Monica Rodriguez Smith’s seven-month pregnancy. She was killed with her unborn baby, while checking timesheets.

Another 15 were left with with traumatic blast injuries. 1,042 more were injured, many inhaling the thick, acrid smoke filling stairwells and elevator shafts.

Power went out instantly trapping hundreds in elevators, including a group of 17 kindergartners, on their way down from the south tower observation deck.

Engineers believe that the terrorists would have accomplished their purpose of toppling the building, had they placed their explosive device  closer to the building’s concrete foundations.

300 FBI agents combed through the rubble of the underground parking garage, finding an axle fragment containing the Ryder van’s VIN. Mohammed Salameh, who had rented the vehicle, reported the van stolen and was arrested on March 4, when he came to get his deposit back.

Mahmud Aboulhalima, Mohammad Salameh, Ahmed Ajaj and Nidal Ayyad were convicted of carrying out the bombing, in March 1994. Mastermind Ramzi Yousef and van driver Eyad Ismoil, were convicted in November, 1997. Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was deported to Jordan.

Abdul Rahman Yasmin, the only person associated with the bombing who was never prosecuted in the United States, was interviewed for a 60 minutes segment in 2002. He was being held prisoner in Baghdad at that time. He has not been seen or heard of, since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “The Blind Sheikh”, Omar Abdul Rahman, was convicted in October 1995 of seditious conspiracy, and sentenced to life +15 years. He died in prison last week, at the age of 78.img_0426

A granite memorial fountain was erected above the site of the explosion and dedicated in 1995, bearing the names of the six adult victims of the attack. Under the names appear this inscription. “On February 26, 1993, a bomb set by terrorists exploded below this site. This horrible act of violence killed innocent people, injured thousands, and made victims of us all.”

The fountain was destroyed with the rest of the World Trade Center, on September 11, 2001.img_0425

February 25, 1921 Red Scare

In the 1930s, many believed that International Communism was “winning”. That the Soviet Union was deliberately starving millions of its own citizens to death during this period, seemed to trouble relatively few.

In the wake of WWI and the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, American authorities became increasingly alarmed at the rise of foreign and leftist radicalism.  Most especially the militant followers of anarchist Luigi Galleani.

This was not meaningless political posturing.  Anarchists mailed no fewer than 36 dynamite bombs to prominent political and business leaders in April 1919, alone. In June, another nine far more powerful bombs destroyed churches, police stations and businesses. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer had one hand delivered to his home by anarchist Carlo Valdinoci, who did something wrong and somehow managed to blow himself to bits on the AG’s doorstep.

Palmer attempted to suppress these radical organizations in 1919-20, but his searches and seizures were frequently illegal, his arrests and detentions without warrant, his deportations questionable.
Lookinganarchism over the international tableau of the time, there appeared great cause for concern.  The largest nation on the planet had just fallen to communism, in 1917.
The Red Army offensive of 1920 drove into Poland, almost as far as Warsaw. The “Peace of Riga”, signed in 1921, split off parts of Belarus and Ukraine, making them both parts of Soviet Russia. On this day in 1921, Bolshevist Russian forces occupied Tbilisi, capital of the Democratic Republic of Georgia.
In the 1930s, many believed that International Communism was “winning”. The capitalist west was plunged into a Great Depression that it couldn’t seem to control, while the carefully staged propaganda of Stalin’s Soviet Union did everything it could to portray itself as a “workers’ paradise”.
That the Soviet Union was deliberately  starving millions of its own citizens to death during this period, seemed to trouble relatively few.
Whittaker Chambers was one who saw communism as winning, and joined the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) in 1925. For a time he worked as a writer at the Party’s newspaper “Daily Worker”, before becoming editor of “New Masses”, the Party’s literary magazine.
Through the early to mid-thirties, Chambers delivered messages and received documents from Soviet spies in the government, photographing them himself or delivering them to Soviet intelligence agents to be photographed.
By the late 30s, Chambers’ idealism was replaced by the growing realization that he was supporting a murderous regime. By 1939, he joined the staff of Time Magazine, where he pushed a strong anti-communist line.
A series of legislative committees were formed between 1918 and the outbreak of WWII to investigate this series of threats.  It was in this context that HUAC, the House Committee on Un-American Activities was formed in 1938, becoming a “standing” (permanent) committee in 1945.img_0416
Chambers warned about communist sympathizers in the Roosevelt administration, as early as 1939.  Government priorities changed during the course of WWII.  Chambers was summoned to testify on August 3, 1945.
In his testimony, Chambers named Alger Hiss and others, as communists.  A graduate of Johns Hopkins and Harvard Law School who had clerked for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alger Hiss seemed an unlikely communist. He went on to practice law in Boston and New York before returning to Washington to work on President Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, winding up at the State Department as an aide to Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre, former President Woodrow Wilson’s son-in-law.
alger-hiss-public-servant-i-am-amazed-until-the-day-i-die-i-shallHiss flatly denied Chambers’ charges, filing suit that December for defamation of character.  Chambers doubled down in his 1948 deposition, claiming that Hiss was not only a communist sympathizer, he was also a spy.
Before his defection, Chambers had secreted documents and microfilms, some of which he hid inside a pumpkin at his Maryland farm. The entire collection became known as the “Pumpkin Papers”, consisting of incriminating documents, written in what appeared to Hiss’ own hand, or typed on his Woodstock no. 230099 typewriter.
Hiss claimed to have given the typewriter to his maid, Claudia Catlettimg_0415. When the idiosyncrasies of his machine were demonstrated to be consistent with the documents, he then claimed that Chambers’ team, including freshman member of Congress Richard M Nixon, must have modified the typeface on a second typewriter to mimic his own.
Hiss’ theory never explained why Chambers side needed another typewriter, if they’d had the original long enough to mimic it with the second.
Alger Hiss’ first trial for lying to a Grand Jury ended with a hung jury, 8-4.  A second trial began on November 17. He was found guilty on January 21, 1950, still proclaiming his innocence. He appealed his conviction but lost, and served 44 months in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary before being released in 1954.
Hiss would go to his grave protesting his innocence, though Soviet era cables, decrypted through the now-declassified “Venona Project”, seem to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt of being a soviet agent. Venona transcript #1822, sent in March 1945, from the Soviets’ Washington station chief to Moscow, describes subject codenamed ALES as having attended the February 4–11, 1945 Yalta conference, before traveling to Moscow. Hiss did attend Yalta on those dates, before going to Moscow with Secretary of State Edward Stettinius.
41facggulzl-_sx306_bo1204203200_Historians John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr report that the Venona transcripts tied 349 Americans to Soviet intelligence, though fewer than half have ever been identified.  The Office of Strategic Services alone, precursor to the CIA, housed between fifteen and twenty Soviet spies.
In 1992, former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin defected to Great Britain, taking with him 30 years of handwritten notes. The Mitrokhin Archive revealed that Soviet moles went as high as President  Roosevelt’s most trusted aid, Harry Hopkins. Equivalent to finding that, at any point during the last three administrations, Karl Rove, Valerie Jarrett or Steve Bannon was an agent for the other side.

February 23, 1862 Floating Cathouse of the Cumberland

Certain that Nashville’s prostitutes were the source of the venereal plague, Union officials decided it was easier to get rid of them, than it was to keep their men from paying for sex

The Federal invasion of Tennessee began in early 1862, when Union forces under Ulysses S. Grant moved against Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland.  Both fortifications fell in February.  Another Federal army under Don Carlos Buell captured Nashville on the 25th.
Confederate presence in Tennessee essentially ceased to exist by June.  West Tennessee would remain in Union hands for the remainder of the war.
Robert E. Lee wrote to his wife on February 23, “The news from Tennessee and North Carolina is not cheering and disasters seem to be thickening around us”.
Union commanders declared martial law, posting garrisons in major towns including Chattanooga, Memphis, and Murfreesboro. Nashville in particular became a major military center, permanently occupied by thousands of Federal troops and support personnel.
According to the 1860 Census, Nashville had 198 white prostitutes and 9 described as “mulatto”, plying their trade in the two block red-light district known as “Smoky Row”. By 1862, the number of these “public women” had grown to 1,500.  It was barely enough to go around.

Major General William Rosecrans saw this sex trade as an issue and ordered Georgesyphilis_slogan Spalding, Provost Marshal of Nashville, to get rid of them. Though a Catholic, “Old Rosy’s” objection wasn’t based on moral grounds.  He was afraid of disease. 8.2% of all Union soldiers were afflicted with syphilis or gonorrhea in 1862, over half the battle casualty rate of 17.5%  Venereal disease was a major problem, and the only available treatments at the time involved mercury.  Without getting into details, that could take a man out for weeks.  Advanced cases were nothing short of grotesque.

tertiary-syphilis
Tertiary Syphilis Victim
Certain that Nashville’s prostitutes were the source of the plague, Union officials decided it was easier to get rid of them, than it was to keep their men from paying for sex.  Spalding had all the prostitutes in Nashville gathered up by July, (I wonder what that sounded like).    The Nashville Daily Press reported  “A variety of ruses were adopted to avoid being exiled; among them, the marriage of one of the most notorious of the cyprians to some scamp. The artful daughter of sin was still compelled to take a berth with her suffering companions, and she is on her way to banishment”.
John Newcomb was the owner of a brand new steam powered riverboat, the “Idahoe”. (I swear I didn’t make that up). To Newcomb’s horror, Spalding ordered him to take 111 of Nashville’s most infamous hookers out of town, on Idahoe’s maiden voyage. Giving him three days’ rations, authorities didn’t care where he took them, so long as he got them out of Nashville.
It took a week for Idahoe to reach Louisville, by which time news of the unusual passenger list had already reached that city’s law enforcement. Newcomb was forbidden from docking there, and ordered to continue on to Cincinnati. Ohio didn’t want Nashville’s hookers any more than Louisville, so the steamboat was ordered to dock across the river in Kentucky.
Some of the women swam ashore but nobody was permitted to leave. Holcomb was desperate, finally returning to Louisville once more, only to be turned away again. Defeated, John Newcomb returned to Nashville 28 days later, with 98 of his original passengers and six children.
With Idahoe’s owner demanding to be compensated, a staffer inspected the vessel on August 8, finding the ship’s staterooms “badly damaged, the mattresses badly soiled,” and recommending that Newcomb be paid $1,000 in damages + $4,300 for food and for the “medicine peculiar to the diseased of women in this class”.
hospital_nashville
Civil War Nashville Hospital

In the end, it proved easier to manage the world’s oldest profession, than it was to eliminate it. A scheme was devised, by which each prostitute in Nashville would register and pay a $5 license fee, entitling her to ply her trade. A doctor would examine these women once a week, a service for which she would pay another 50¢. Women found to have venereal diseases were sent to a hospital, paid for in part by the weekly fees. The result of the program, according to one doctor, was a “marked improvement” in licensed prostitutes’ physical and mental health.

Altogether, the program cost about $6,000, on revenues of $5,900. Venereal disease was cut to one or two cases among the soldiers, compared to 3,000 or more without it. Today, the system practiced in Lyon County Nevada, closely resembles this system established in 1863.
As for John Newcomb, he waited almost two years for his money, finally writing directly to Secretary of War Edward Stanton before receiving any reimbursement. The Idahoe never again cruised in Southern rivers. “I told them it would forever ruin her reputation as a passenger boat”, he said. “It was done, so she is now & since known as the floating whore house.”

February 22, 2005 Little Pink House

For newly divorced paramedic Susette Kelo, the house overlooking the Fort Trumbull waterfront was the home of her dreams

In 1775, Connecticut Governor Jonathan Trumbull proposed a fortification at the port of New London, situated on the Thames River and overlooking Long Island Sound. The fort was completed two years later and named for Governor Trumbull. During the Revolution, Fort Trumbull was attacked and occupied by British forces, for a time commanded by the turncoat American General, Benedict Arnold.

By the early 20th century, the Fort Trumbull neighborhood consisted of 90 or so single and multi-family working class homes, situated on a peninsula along the fringes of a mostly industrialized city center.

In 1996, chemists working at Pfizer Corporation’s research facility in England were studying compound UK-92, 480 or “Sildenafil Citrate”, synthesized for the treatment of hypertension and heart disease resulting from a restriction in blood supply to heart tissues. Study subjects were expected to return unused medication at the end of the trial. Women showed no objection in doing so but a significant number of male subjects refused to give it back. It didn’t take long to figure out what was happening.  The chemical compound which would one day bear the name “Viagra”, was going to be put to a very different use.

little-pink-houseFor newly divorced paramedic Susette Kelo, the house overlooking the Fort Trumbull waterfront was the home of her dreams. Long abandoned and overgrown with vines, the little Victorian cottage needed a lot of work, but where else would she ever find a waterfront view at this asking price?  It was 1997, about the same time that Connecticut and New London politicians resurrected the long-dormant New London Development Corporation (NLDC), charging it with developing a plan to revitalize the New London waterfront.

Susette Kelo sanded her floors on hands and knees, as Pfizer Corporation was looking at a cataract of business based on their newest chemical compound. The company was recruited to become the principal tenant in a “World Class” multi-use waterfront campus, including high-income housing, hotels, shopping and restaurants, all centered around a 750,000 sq. ft. corporate research facility.  Connecticut College professor and NLDC President Dr. Claire Gaudiani liked to talk about her “hip” new development project.  Fort Trumbull residents were convinced that stood for “High Income People”. With an average income of $22,500, that didn’t include themselves.

Most property owners agreed to sell, though not exactly “voluntarily”.  There was considerable cap_nfs_keloharassment of the reluctant ones, including late-night phone calls, waste dumped on property, and tenants locked out of apartments during cold winter weather.

Seven homeowners holding fifteen properties refused to sell, at any price. Wilhelmina Dery was in her eighties. She was born in her house and she wanted to die there. The Cristofaro family had lost another New London home in the ’70s, taken by eminent domain during yet another “urban renewal” program. They didn’t want to lose this one, too.

Susette Kelo came home from work the day before Thanksgiving 2000, to find an eviction notice taped to her door.

Letters were written to editors and rallies held, as NLDC and state officials literally began to bulldoze homes. Holdout property owners were left trying to prevent property damage from flying demolition debris.

KELO BULLOCK

Facing a prolonged legal battle which none of the homeowners could afford, the group got a boost when the Libertarian law firm Institute for Justice took their case pro bono. There was cause for hope. Retired homeowner Vera Coking had faced a similar fight against Now-President Donald Trump in 1993, when the developer and Atlantic City New Jersey authorities attempted to get her house condemned to build a limo lot.

Eminent domain exists for a purpose, but the most extreme care should be taken in its use. Plaintiffs argued that this was not a “public use”, but rather a private corporation using the power of government to take their homes for economic development, a violation of both the takings clause of the 5th amendment and the due process clause of the 14th.

Vera Coking won her case against Trump, the casino later failing and closing its doors. New Londonkelo-decision District Court, with Susette Kelo lead plaintiff, “split the baby”, ruling that 11 out of 15 takings were illegal and unconstitutional. At that point it wasn’t good enough for the seven homeowners. They had been through too much.  All of them would stay, or they would all go.

Connecticut’s highest court reversed the decision, throwing out the baby AND the bathwater in a 3-4 decision. The United States Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, argued before the seven justices then in attendance on February 22, 2005.

SCOTUS ruled in favor of New London in a 5-4 decision, Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer concurring. Seeing the decision as a reverse Robin Hood scheme that would steal from the poor to give to the rich, Sandra Day O’Connor wrote “Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms”.  Clarence Thomas took an originalist view, stating that the majority opinion had confused “Public Use” with “Public Purpose”. “Something has gone seriously awry with this Court’s interpretation of the Constitution”, Thomas wrote. “Though citizens are safe from the government in their homes, the homes themselves are not”.  Antonin Scalia concurred, seeing any tax advantage to the municipality as secondary to the taking itself.

kelo-2014In the end, most of the homes were destroyed or relocated. State and city governments spent $78 million and bulldozed 70 acres.  The 3,169 new jobs and the $1.2 million in new tax revenue anticipated from the waterfront project, never materialized.  Pfizer backed out of the project and moved away, taking 1,500 existing jobs with them.  Just about the time when existing tax breaks were set to expire, raising the company’s tax bill by 400%.

The now-closed redevelopment area became a dumping ground for debris left by Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Its only residents were feral cats.

In reaction to the Kelo v. City of New London decision, a group of New Hampshire residents proposed a hotel to be built on the site of Justice David Souter’s home in Weare, New Hampshire.  Calling it the “Lost Liberty Motel”, an on-line petition was created to quantify the public benefit of the taking, generating at least 1,418 signatories committing to stay there at least a week. Supporters claimed to be serious, but the measure was defeated three to one in a ballot referendum. The two candidates for Selectman backing the measure, were both defeated.

To this day, New Hampshire license plates bear the slogan “Live Free or Die”.  Those in Connecticut say “Constitution State”.  In neither case is it at all clear, why.

February 20, 1942 Ace

O’Hare’s Medal of Honor citation calls it “…one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation…”

We’ve all read the story of “Easy Eddie” O’Hare, the mob lawyer who had everything but a good name, who gave it all up to show his son that personal integrity was more important than all the riches of the underworld. Easy Eddie went on to testify against Al Capone and lost his life for it, Eddie’s son “Butch” going on to become a WWII flying Ace.

The story is true, kind of, but it lays the morality play on a little thick.

Edward Joseph O’Hare, “EJ” to friends and family, passed the Missouri bar exam in 1923easy-eddie and joined a law firm.  Operating dog tracks in Chicago, Boston and Miami, O’Hare made a considerable fortune working for Owen Smith, the high commissioner for the International Greyhound Racing Association, who patented the mechanical rabbit used in dog racing.  EJ and Selma Anna (Lauth) O’Hare had three children between 1914 and 1924, – Edward (“Butch”), Patricia, and Marilyn.

EJ developed an interest in flying in the 1920s, once even hitching a ride on Charles Lindbergh’s mail plane.  For a time he worked as pilot for Robertson Aircraft, occasionally giving his teenage son a turn at the controls.

One day EJ came home to find 13 year old Butch sprawled on the couch, munching on donuts and banana layer cake.  He enrolled the boy in the Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois.  The kid was getting way too lazy.

easy_eddie_with_caponeEJ and Selma divorced in 1927.  He left St. Louis for good, moving to Chicago while Butch attended WMA.  It was there that the elder O’Hare met Al Capone, later earning his second fortune working as the gangster’s business manager and lawyer.

In 1930, O’Hare approached John Rogers, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, asking that he arrange a meeting with the Internal Revenue Service, which was then after Capone on grounds of tax evasion.  It may have been to restore his good name, or maybe he saw the writing on the wall.  Possibly both.  The two are not mutually exclusive.  Whatever the motivation, an Agent Wilson of the IRS later said “On the inside of the gang I had one of the best undercover men I have ever known: Eddie O’Hare.”

Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion in 1931 and sentenced to Alcatraz, becoming easyeddieohare02eligible for early release in 1939 due to syphilitic dementia. On November 8 of that year, EJ left his office at Sportsman’s Park racetrack in Cicero in his black ’39 Lincoln Zephyr. Two shotgun wielding gunmen pulled alongside, firing a volley of big game slugs and killing O’Hare, instantly. No arrest was ever made.

Butch had graduated from WMA and the Naval Academy at Annapolis by this time, receiving his duty assignment aboard the USS New Mexico.  Shortly after his father’s assassination, the younger O’Hare began flight training at Naval Air Station in Pensacola.
Assigned to the USS Saratoga’s Fighting Squadron, Butch O’Hare made his first carrier landing in 1940, describing it as “just about the most exciting thing a pilot can do in peacetime.”

butch-ohareIt was February 20, 1942, when Butch O’Hare became the first American flying Ace of WWII. The carrier Lexington was discovered by Japanese reconnaissance aircraft, 450 miles outside of Rabaul.  Six Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters and Lexington’s anti-aircraft guns were engaged with an incoming formation of nine Japanese bombers, when nine more bombers were reported incoming.

Six more Wildcats roared off the flight deck of the Lexington, one piloted by Butch O’Hare.  He and his wingman Marion William “Duff” Dufilho were the first to spot the V formation, diving to intercept them and leaving the other four fighters too far away to change the outcome.  Dufilho’s guns jammed and were unable to fire, leaving Butch O’Hare alone on the unprotected side of his flotilla.  One fighter against nine enemy bombers flying in tight V formation, mutually protecting one another with their rear-facing machine guns.

O’Hare’s Wildcat had four 50-caliber guns with 450 rounds apiece, enough to fire for abouthagel-butchohare 34 seconds.  What followed was so close to the Lexington, that pilots could hear the carrier’s AA guns.  Full throttle and diving from the high side, O’Hare fired short, accurate bursts, the outermost bomber’s right-hand engine literally jumping from its mount.  Ducking to the other side and smashing the port engine on another “Betty”, O’Hare’s Wildcat attacked one bomber after another, single handedly taking out five bombers with an average of only 60 rounds apiece.

O’Hare’s Medal of Honor citation calls it “…one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation…”

Butch O’Hare disappeared in a confused night action on November 26, 1943.  Some say he was cut down by friendly fire, mistakenly shot down by TBF Avenger gunner Alvin B. Kernan.  Others say it was a lucky shot by a gunner aboard his old adversary, a Rikko (Betty) bomber.  A third theory is that his Hellcat caught a wingtip on a wave, and cartwheeled into the ocean.

The Orchard Depot Airport in Chicago was renamed O’Hare International Airport in tribute to the fallen Ace, on September 19, 1949.   Neither the body, nor the aircraft, were ever recovered.  butch-ohare