Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Sipping sweet, sweet whiskey with H. L. Mencken and the Bourbon Democrats

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I discovered an excellent post on “Open Left” about H. L. Mencken the other day.  The author, John Emerson, puts Mencken’s both elitism and allegiance to the Democrats in the context of a wing of the party I’d never heard of: the Bourbon Democrats:

…Mencken was a Bourbon Democrat. The Bourbon Democrats ruled the South and most of the big cities of the North. They (and their “stand-pat” Republican frenemies) were uniformly corrupt, cynical, elitist, anti-labor, and segregationist. During the 1890s they succeeded in destroying the Populist Party, and in the succeeding era they were under continual attack by progressives within the party, and they and the stand-pat Republicans fought to the death against reform. The Bourbons didn’t lose their power within the party until 1965 or so, and during the New Deal they supported FDR only grudgingly, if at all.

Emerson cites Mencken’s encomium to Grover Cleveland, “the most famous and most successful Bourbon Democrat.”  Cleveland, students of American history will recall, sent troops to Chicago to put down the Pullman Strike.

Surveying today’s political landscape, Emerson remarks that

[T]oo many of the Democratic rank and file – what I call the “wonk demographic” — have bought into the anti-populism, cultural elitism, and administrative liberalism of the machine Democrats, and this cripples the party. In many contexts, becoming a liberal is a way of making yourself a better class of person, the same as buying a nicer pair of shoes or a better kind of cheese.

There’s truth to the that, but there’s another truth that’s even uglier to consider.  Most of the American masses don’t want to hear about progress.  They despise uplift.  Anything that opposes their masters–the corporations, the State (especially the military), and the church–is evil and unpatriotic.  Look at the response to health care reform.  Look at how “socialist” has become a pejorative word.  (Actually it’s been pejorative for decades, but now it’s on a level of “Satanist.”)  Look at the cults of creeps like Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh.

It’s hard, very hard, to fight for people who don’t want to be liberated.  To quote a passage from Notes on Democracy, what the common man mistakes liberty for, “nine times out of ten, is simply the banal right to empty hallelujahs upons his oppressors.  He is an ox whose last proud, defiant gesture is to lick the butcher behind the ear.” 

Bring back the Wobblies, I say.

What I Found at BEA!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

In the spirit of going to press (or to pixels) while the story is still hot, for the next week or two I’ll be telling you about interesting books and programs I learned of at BEA this past week.  (Yes, yes, I know could’ve begun writing of them sooner, like the very minute was told of their names!  But you have to understand, BEA was frantic!  But more to the point, I need to get into a Web 2.0 frame of mind.  That was my take-away from BEA.  Soon we’ll be speaking of Web 3.0, and even of a post-Web world.  Yikes!)  I’ve not read any of these books yet: I’m simply telling you about them because from what I’ve read on their covers (forget the proverb) and flipping through their pages they look compelling.

The Official Heavy Metal Book of Listsby Eric Danville, illustrations by Cliff Mott, and foreward by Lemmy, US$19.95, BackBeat Books, release date September 2009.  I met Eric at the booth of his publisher, Backbeat Books.  He was wearing a “Venom/Welcome to Hell” tee-shirt and I immediately exclaimed “Great band!  Great album!”  Eric is a wonderful conversationalist about all things metallic.  And his book?  It’s fantastic!  Who can resist a tome with entries like “Rock Bottom: Metalheads Arrested for Being Drunk in Public,” “The Song Retains The Name: 15 Unusual Metal Cover Bands” (I especially like “Cookie Mongoloid,” a band that plays speed metal versions of Sesame Street songs), and “Phil Campbell of Motorhead’s List of Six Things You’ll Never See in a Motorhead Dressing Room” (No. 1:  “A coffee machine.”)  See http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0879309830 and http://www.myspace.com/theheavymetalbookoflists.

Torture at the Back Forty: The Gang Rape and Slaying of Margaret Anderson, by Mike Dauplaise, $12.95, TitletTown Publishing LLC, released dated August 7, 2009 and Run at Destruction: A True Fatal Love Triangle by Lynda Drews, $15.95, TitleTown Publishing LLC  I met Tracy C. Ertl, publisher of true-crime house TitleTown, at the booth of our mutual distributor, Midpoint Trade Books.  She and I immediatley hit it off.  We agreed that readers of Don’t Call Me a Crook! A Scotsman’s Tale of World Travel, Whisky, and Crime should know about TitleTown’s offerings and vice versa.  I gave Tracy a copy of Don’t Call Me a Crook! and she passed to me a Torture at the Back Forty sampler and a finished copy of Run at Destruction.  They both look like very intense books.  Torture in particular looks harrowing:

The true story of the murder of Margaret Anderson, raped on a pool table and left for dead on a manure pile.  Though nearly beheaded, the single mother fought hard for her life, but in the end Margaret died….  Author Mike Dauplaise practically makes the reader feel Margaret’s breath as he recreates the night she was killed….  Dauplaise even interviewed Margaret Anderson’s convicted killer, and exposes the motorcycle-gang culture of the 1980s to reveal what was done to Margaret….

Run at Destruction seems to offer a similarly intimate, horrifying read.  Pam and Bob Bulik were teachers and long-distance runners.  Bob began an affair.   Pam ended up dead.   The book is penned by her best friend.  See http://titletownpublishing.com/shop/article_3/Torture-at-the-Back-Forty.html?shop_param=cid%3D3%26aid%3D3%26 and http://titletownpublishing.com/shop/article_4/Run-at-Destruction.html?shop_param=cid%3D3%26aid%3D4%26

Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mobby Jeff Coen, US24.95/CAN27.95  I was so jazzed Chicago Review Press gave me a copy of this Sunday afternoon.  As someone who loves Chicago and is fascinated by crooks, this book beckoned to me like a painted woman to a sailor on leave after a two-month voyage.  Or something like that.  From the front flap:

Even in Chicago, a city steeped in mob history and legend, the Family Secrets case was a true spectacle when it made it to court in 2007.  A top mob boss, a reputed consigliere, and other high-profile members of the Chicago Outfit were accused in a total of eighteen gangland killings, revealing organized crime’s ruthless grip on the city throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Painting a vivid picture of murder, courtroom drama, and family loyalties and disloyalties, journalist Jeff Coen accurately portrays the Chicago Outfit’s cold-blooded–and sometimes incompetent–killers and their crimes in the case that brought them down.

Sounds fascinating.  As some of you might know, Bob Moore, author of Don’t Call Me a Crook!, spent a lot of time in Chicago in the 1920s, and speaks about gangsters and the city’s rampant crime.  He even spots Al Capone’s car escorted by two “speed cops” to clear the way for the great man! 

See:  http://www.amazon.com/Family-Secrets-Case-Crippled-Chicago/dp/1556527810/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244078423&sr=1-1 and http://chicagoist.com/2009/05/19/interview_the_tribunes_jeff_coen_re.php