Friday, May 27, 2016

Wish I'd Said That

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

– P. J. O’Rourke

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Casablanca Begins Production

(AP Images)

One of Hollywood's most beloved movies, watched by THC countless times, and the source of countless quotable lines like, for instance, this one:

 began principal photography on this date in 1942.  Casablanca starred Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.  Watching it today with the knowledge of how World War II turned out is a different experience from what it must have felt like during the shooting, which wrapped on August 3.  We'll take a little time today to set the scene in the late spring and early summer of 1942, when the outcome of the war was very uncertain and then tell the story of the large group of emigres who had fled the Nazis and had roles in the the film.

By May 1942, the United States had been at war for five months.  It had been a bleak start to the war.  In the Pacific, Japan destroyed the American battleship fleet with its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and was continuing its rampage on land and sea.  In Southeast Asia, Japanese forces had overrun Malaya, Burma, the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and forced the humiliating surrender of 75,000 British Commonwealth troops at Singapore.  Allied naval forces in that region had been destroyed at the Battle of the Java Sea, and Japanese carriers had raided as far afield as Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and bombed the town of Darwin on Australia's northern coast. China, the British colony of Hong Kong had been overrun and Japanese forces continued their advance into the interior of the country.  On December 22, 1941, Japan had invaded the Philippines and by the date filming began the entire island chain had been conquered except for the small island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Harbor, which was to surrender on May 8.  The prior month saw the Bataan Death March in which up to 10,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war died due to brutal treatment by their Japanese captors.

The island chains of the central Pacific had also been occupied and Japanese forces were advancing on Port Moresby in New Guinea and southward down the Solomons Island chain with an eye to severing communication links between Australia and the United States.  Earlier that month came the first glimmer of good news when, at the Battle of the Coral Sea, American naval forces fought the Japanese to a draw, causing them to temporarily put their plans for capturing Port Moresby on hold.

Nor was there much good news in the European theater.  Much of Europe lay under Nazi occupation or controlled by their allies.  Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and France were under direct Nazi control, though part of France was governed by the collaborationist Vichy regime.  Italy, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Finland were Nazi allies.  Franco's Spain was nominally neutral, though leaning towards the Axis.  Only Britain still stood defiant in western Europe.

In the East, the Soviets had managed to stop the surprise Nazi attack of June 22, 1941 before the gates of Moscow during the winter of 1941-2.  By spring the front had stabilized, deep within the former Soviet borders and million of soldiers and civilians lay dead.  During May, Soviet offensives around Kharkov and on the Crimean peninsula misfiring leaving 470,000 of its soldiers dead, wounded or captured at a cost to the Germans of only 29,000 casualties.
Mass shooting of Soviet Jews had begun with the invasion of June 1941, but it was only with a 90 minute conference at a home in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942 that final agreement was reached on the logistical details for the killing all 11 million European Jews, and by May 25, 1942 the Nazi extermination camps in Poland were either under construction or already operating (for a chilling theatrical account of the Wannsee meeting watch Conspiracy, a 2001 film starring Kenneth Branagh as Reinhard Heydrich, the SS officer who chaired the conference).

In North Africa, the Vichy collaborationist regime controlled Morocco (including Casablanca). Algeria and Tunisia and the German army under the command of General Erwin Rommel was advancing in Libya against British, Australian and New Zealand forces.

And closer to the United States, the Battle of the Atlantic was not going well.  German U-boats were roaming the ocean, taking a huge toll on allied shipping, particularly that of the U.S. which was ill-prepared to protect its merchant ships.  From January to August of 1942, 609 Allied ships were sunk in the Atlantic, including a number right off the east coast of U.S.

By the time filming wrapped on August 3, 1942 there had been some good news from the Pacific, where the outnumbered American fleet sank four Japanese carriers at the Battle of Midway, thwarting Japanese plans to lure the remnants of the American navy to its destruction.  Though not immediately apparent, the battle spelled the end for Japan's Pacific onslaught.

The news from Europe though was almost uniformly bad.  In the East, the German army launched a huge offensive on June 28, designed to bring all of southern Russia and the oil fields of the Caucausus under its control.  By early August, German panzers were advancing quickly, headed for a large, and symbolic, city on the Volga River - Stalingrad.

In Libya, the Battle of Gazala began the day after filming started and raged until June 21.  At one point, it looked as though the Allies would defeat Rommel but the tide turned and led to a catastrophe, the fall of Tobruk and the surrender of 25,000 Commonwealth soldiers.  Churchill later called it the most shocking moment of the war and it triggered a Parliamentary no-confidence vote regarding the Prime Minister (which he survived).  Rommel pursued the shattered Allied forces and by early August was in Egypt, only sixty miles from Alexandria.,_Nordafrika,_Rommel_im_Befehlsfahrzeug_%22Greif%22.jpg
 (German armored vehicles, including Rommel's command vehicle on right, Battle of Gazala, from wikipedia)

By the time Casablanca had its premiere in New York City on November 26 and was released nationally on January 23, 1943 the global situation had brightened some.   The premiere was accelerated because of major news - on November 8, American and British troops landed in North Africa, and one of the three landing places was Casablanca!  And the national release took place while President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill were in Morocco meeting at the Casablanca Conference (January 14-24).  By that time Axis forces had been thrown out of Morocco and Algeria and Rommel had defeated in Egypt and began his long retreat across Libya to Tunisia.

In the Soviet Union, a massive surprise attack on November 19 by the Soviets had succeeded in surrounding the German 6th Army at Stalingrad (where it would surrender at the beginning of February) while in the Pacific, the Marines had landed on Guadalcanal and survived ferocious Japanese land, air and naval assaults.  The future was beginning to look better.

The cast of Casablanca reflected the world's turmoil.  Many had fled Europe.

The last surviving cast member, Madeleine Lebeau died earlier this month at the age of 92.  Born in France, she fled Paris with her Jewish husband just before the Nazi occupation began in 1940.  They made it to Lisbon and from there to Mexico, where they were detained when it was discovered that their Chilean visa was forged, finally making it to America on a temporary Canadian passport.  In this, her third Hollywood film, she played Yvonne, who can be seen singing during the Marseillaise scene. Madeleine Lebeau(From Deadline Hollywood)

Madeleine's husband was a Romanian Jew, Marcel Dalio, who plays Emil the croupier at Rick's Cafe. from Wikimedia)

Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo) emigrated from Austria in 1935, after a fascist government came to power. from Pininterest)

The villainous Nazi Major Heinrich Strasser was played by Conrad Veidt who had been a major film star in Germany, achieving fame as the murderous Cesare in 1920's The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.  He fled Germany with his Jewish wife in 1933 when Hitler came to power.  Strasser's adjutant, Colonel Heinze was Richard Ryen, a Hungarian actor expelled from Germany by the Nazis. from filmspectrum) from lockerdome)

Another former German film star was Peter Lorre (Signor Ugarte), who became famous for the title role in M (1931).  He also left Germany in 1933.

The actor playing Carl, a waiter at Rick's, was SK Sakall, a Hungarian Jew, who had been a popular actor in Germany and Austria.  Forced to return to Hungary in 1933, he emigrated after Hungary became a German ally in 1940.  Three of his sisters and many other family members were killed in the camps.  The bartender at Rick's, Sascha, was Leonid Kinsky, who'd fled Russia in the midst of its revolution in 1917.  That's Kinsky in the photo above with Ms Lebeau.
(Sakall from natedsanders)

The pickpocket you see in one of the early scenes of the film was played by Curt Bois, a German Jew who fled the country in 1934. weary sloth)

Helmut Dantine - Jan, the Bulgarian boy, whose wife comes to Rick for advice, grew up in Vienna, where he was an active anti-Nazi.  After the German takeover of Austria in 1938 he was briefly detained in a concentration camp before his parents were able to obtain his release and send him to America. weary sloth)

In the first scene of the movie an actor can be seen muttering "waiting, waiting, waiting....I'll never get out of here....I'll die in Casablanca."  That's Louis V Arco (real name - Lutz Atschul),  who left Germany in 1933 and then his native Austria in 1938. 

The actress who asks Carl the waiter  "Will you ask Rick if he will have a drink with us?", to which Carl responds, "Madame, he never drinks with customers. Never. I have never seen it.", setting up that wonderful moment when Rick sits down to drink with Victor Laszlo and Ilsa, is Trude Berliner.  Berliner was a famous cabaret performer in Berlin and appeared in four German movies with SK Sakall, who plays Carl.  Berliner left Germany in 1933., asking for Rick)

A well known German Jewish actress, Ilka Grunig also left Germany after 1933.  She plays part of a husband/wife combo who have one amusing scene in which they are practicing their English.  Ludwig Stossel, who plays her husband, fled Germany in 1933 to return to his native Austria, where, as a Jew, he was imprisoned several times after the Nazi takeover before escaping Vienna.  Here they are as Herr & Frau Leuchtag.

The man with expired papers shot by Vichy police at the beginning of the film is Wolfgang Zilzer, another Jewish actor who fled Germany. movie dude)

Given the times and the people involved it is not surprising that the "battle of the anthems" scene was an emotional highpoint for many in the cast.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Colfax County War County,

Methodist Reverend Parson Franklin J Tolby was well-liked in the Cimarron area of northeast New Mexico so a lot of folks were shocked when his body was found in Cimarron Canyon on September 14, 1875.  He'd been shot in the back.  Suspicion fell on Cimarron's new Constable, Cruz Vega.  On the evening of October 30, a masked mob led by Clay Allison (today remembered as one of the most deadly gunfighters of the 19th century West), seized Vega and lynched him.  Two days later, Allison gunned down Vega's friend, Francisco "Pancho" Griego, during a confrontation in a local saloon.  More violence was to follow.  A lot more.

On our road trips, THC and Mrs THC enjoy learning about the history of the areas we drive through.  Often, as we pass a town or site of interest, whomever isn't driving will look it up on Wikipedia.  While traveling I-25 in New Mexico and Colorado (and, by the way, the stretch of Interstate from Santa Fe to Denver with the Rockies on your left and the Great Plains on the right is gloriously scenic) a small reference in the Wikipedia entry on the town of Cimarron, New Mexico (present day population, 1021)  led us to discover the tale of the Colfax County War, a violent, 15-year confrontation between landowners and squatters that took up to 200 lives and culminated in a decision by the United States Supreme Court.
Map of New Mexico highlighting Colfax County
Map of Colfax County, NM margolisandmoss)

The origins of the war go back to the days when Mexico governed the province of Nuevo Mexico.  It starts with Charles H Beaubien, born in Quebec in 1800, who emigrated first to the United States and then to New Mexico, arriving there in the early 1820s, shortly after Mexico gained its independence from Spain.  Settling in Taos, he applied to become a Mexican citizen and in the process his first name was recorded as Carlos, a name retained in all of his future records.  Beaubien married Maria Paula Lobato .  Scrambling to make a leaving during the governorship of Manuel Armijo, who placed discriminatory taxes on non-native Mexicans, Beaubien was able to enlist the governor's secretary, Guadalupe Miranda, in a scheme to obtain a land grant in northeast Nuevo Mexico.  In 1841 the partners were successful in obtaining a grant of 1.7 million acres on the Great Plains, east of the Sangre de Christo Mountains (various sources claim that grants of more than 90,000 acres were not permitted under Mexican law).

Settlement of the grant was delayed by several years.  First, by invasions from the new Republic of Texas, which claimed that its western border extended to the Rio Grande.  The largest of these, while "unofficial", resulted in a Texian force being captured by Mexican troops.  Second, by the American-Mexican War of 1846-8, in which Nuevo Mexico was conquered by the American army.

Beaubien weathered the transition, being appointed to the new American territory's Supreme Court and having his grant confirmed by the peace treaty.  As for Miranda, after the war he left the territory and became mayor of Juarez in Mexico.

Lucien Bonaparte Maxwell was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois in 1814.   At a young age, he went west and became a fur trapper and trader.  He also served as chief hunter for John C Fremont's 1841 expedition of exploration through the Rockies, a journey on which he met and became fast friends with Kit Carson. Kit and Lucien settled in Taos and in a dual ceremony in 1844, Maxwell married the daughter of Carlos Beaubien and Carson the daughter of another prominent local family.

In the 1850s, Lucien Maxwell took on the active management of the land grant (now referred to as the Maxwell Land Grant) and, when Beaubien died in 1864, he inherited his share of the grant (in 1858, Miranda had sold his share of the grant to Maxwell for $2,745).  According to most sources the Maxwell Land Grant was one of the three largest contiguous property holdings in American history.

In 1870, Maxwell sold the grant to financiers from Chicago representing British investors  for the sum of $1,375,000 and retired  to Fort Sumner, New Mexico where he died in 1875 (six years later, Sheriff Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy the Kid at Maxwell's Fort Sumner home, then owned by his son). Maxwell from legends of america)

What did the new investors find when they took possession?  Lucien Maxwell, moved to the settlement of Cimarron sometime in the 1850s (the town was formally chartered in 1859).  While he sold some parcels, there were an increasing number of squatters; miners and farmers of Anglo, Spanish and Indian origin and given the size of the grant, Maxwell was pretty casual about enforcing his property rights.  The number of squatters accelerated with the 1866 discovery of gold on Baldy Peak which quickly led to the founding of the boom town of Elizabethtown which had a population of 7,000 within a year.  Both the town and the gold fields were within the land grant.  In 1869, Colfax County was created by carving off an portion formerly belonging to Taos County and Elizabethtown became the county seat. usgwa archives)

Unlike Maxwell, the new owners wanted to establish their property rights.  The initial attempts by the Maxwell Land Grant and Railway Company to assert its rights were a failure.  With the assistance of the Territorial Attorney General, eviction notices were served but mostly ignored.

Before going further, let's take a moment to sort out the players on the ownership side.  While the original investors were British, the company was eventually taken over by Dutch investors.  At some point, Stephen Benton Elkins was installed as president of the company.  Elkins was a big figure in New Mexico history.  From 1867 to 1877 he served as Territorial Attorney General, US District Attorney, Territorial Delegate to Congress, as well as maintaining a law practice and becoming president of the Santa Fe National Bank.  Along with a couple of associates he formed what became known as the Santa Fe Ring, which, through its manipulation of the territorial judicial process was able to control some of the old Spanish and Mexican land grants and play a major role in triggering both the Colfax Country and Lincoln County Wars (it was the latter, taking place from 1878-81 in which Billy the Kid attained national fame).  In later life, Elkins moved to West Virginia, became Secretary of War in President Benjamin Harrison's administration and served as Senator from the state from 1895 until his death in 1911.  [Note:  The ownership trail and the role of Elkins and the Santa Fe Ring remain disputed; if you read ten accounts they will give you ten different versions of the story - THC has chosen to simplify it as best he can].
Stephen Benton Elkins Restore.jpg(Elkins, wikipedia)

The Territorial Attorney General to whom the land company turned for assistance was a friend and business associate of Elkins.  The attempts to serve eviction notices in the squatter stronghold of Elizabethtown backfired, provoking a riot and leading the Territorial Governor to call for federal troops to restore order, a request that was ignored. grain on the Maxwell Land Grant, from tumblr)

However, other means were available.  The first was in 1872 to transfer the county seat to Cimarron where the land company was headquartered.  A further round of eviction notices followed and, like the first, were mostly ignored, along with more complicated maneuvering, summarized by one source as follows:
At this point the land grant company elected as vice president and COO the chief construction engineer of the Santa Fe Railroad, one William Raymond Morley. Morley was aware that the grant company controlled the key right-of-way over Raton Pass and he took a leave of absence from the railroad to try to strengthen the relationship between the land grant and the railroad. Aware of the impasse between the land grant company and the squatters, Morley requested his friend, Frank Springer, of his native Iowa, to come and help sort out the problem. Springer was a brilliant, analytical and honest attorney. He became one of the most respected of the territorial pioneers. He and his brother Charles founded the CS Ranch, which is still owned and operated by their descendants.

In 1874, ignoring the 1860 Act of Congress, the Federal Department of the Interior declared the land grant to be public domain. At about the same time, the Maxwell Land Grant Company defaulted on their property tax obligations. A public auction was held and Melvin Mills, an associate of Thomas Catron, bought the property for $16,479 in back taxes, intending to sell it to Catron for $20,000. When this plan was exposed, the Dutch owners raised enough money to redeem the property. And exposure of this plan shed light on the “Santa Fe Ring,” a secret Republican coalition designed to control public offices in New Mexico, especially the judiciary.

Widely suspected as members of the Ring were Stephen Elkins, Dr. Robert Longwill, Melvin Mills and Thomas Catron (who, by then, was no longer the Territorial Attorney General). When they became aware of possible hidden motives, Morley and Springer founded The Cimarron News and Press, a newspaper which regularly criticized the Santa Fe Ring. This got both men marked for assassination.
Scattered violence was already taking place, but it was the events of 1875 that ignited the War.
Rev. Tolby had arrived in Colfax County and ministered to its population, becoming an advocate for many against the land company and the Santa Fe Ring.   In July 1875, letters were published in the New York Sun, denouncing the Ring and naming Elkins, Catron and local judge Joseph Palen as key members.  Tolby was suspected to be one of the authors.  In early September, Rev Tolby publicly criticized Judge Palen and a local grand jury for failing to indict Pancho Griego for the killing of two soldiers. Later that month, while riding from Cimarron to Elizabethtown, Tolby was shot twice in the back in an ambush.

As related above, Cruz Vega was suspected of the murder, seized and hanged, but before that he was tortured and implicated Manuel Cardenas as an accomplice (Cardenas was killed on November 10) followed by the shoot out in which Clay Allison killed Griego.
Clay Allison, 1875(Clay Allison from legends of america)
Clay Allison already had a reputation as a dangerous man.  In 1870 he led an Elizabethtown mob in attacking a jail and seizing and lynching a prisoner and in 1874 had killed another well known gunfighter, Chunk Colbert.  The year after shooting Griego, Allison shot and killed Constable Charles Faber of Bent County, Colorado.  Eventually relocating to Dodge City he is also alleged to have had a confrontation with Wyatt Earp, though that may just be a piece of Western myth (for more on that legendary cowboy town read The Dodge City Peace Commission).

The violence and legal maneuvering continued over the next decade.  At one point, the land company recruited Bat Masterson's brother, James along with 35 enforcers to handle evictions and even got the governor to briefly give them militia status!  In the meantime, the county seat was transferred yet again in 1881 to the new town of Springer..  In 1885, the lawn of the new country courthouse in Springer was the site of yet shootout that left two men dead.

The legal aspect of the dispute reached the Supreme Court in 1887 with the court hearing four days of oral argument.  The case centered on whether the land grant was valid since there was evidence that the size of the grant far exceeded that allowed under Mexican law at the time.  At the same time the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago, ending the Mexican-American War, as well as the 1860 Act of Congress declared the grant valid.  The Court, Justice Miller writing on its behalf (United States v Maxwell Land Grant Co., 122 U.S. 365), found that the grant was indeed valid and noting in conclusion :
The case itself has been pending in the courts of the United States since August, 1882, and, on account of its importance, was advanced out of its order for hearing in this court. The arguments on both sides of the case were unrestricted in point of time, and were wanting in no element of ability, industrious research, or clear apprehension of the principles involved in it. The court was thoroughly impressed with the importance of the case, not only as regarded the extent of the grant and its value, but also on account of its involving principles which will become precedents in cases of a similar nature, now rapidly increasing in number. It was therefore given a most careful examination, and this petition for a rehearing has had a similar attentive consideration. The result is that we are entirely satisfied that the grant, as confirmed by the action of congress, is a valid grant; that the survey, and the patent issued upon it, as well as the original grant by Armijo, are entirely free from any fraud on the part of the grantees, or those claiming under them; and that the decision could be no other than that which the learned judge of the circuit court below made, and which this court affirmed.
With the Court's decision most of the remaining squatters settled with the company or left.  The last casualty was rancher Richard Russell, killed by company enforcers in 1888.

The gold was running out in Elizabethtown by the 1890s.  Today it's a ghost town.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Glory Of Love

From Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958).  Composed by Billy Hill and first recorded by the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1936, the Broonzy version was done sometime in the 1940s or 50s.

Broonzy was a blues and folk singer, born in Arkansas or Mississippi.  Moving to Chicago in 1920 he took up the guitar and soon gained a following though his career was limited by the racial barriers of the time.  The folk music revival of the 1950s led to a career resurgence and he toured England, where many British musicians who became famous in the 60s, including John Lennon, cited him as an inspiration.  With The Glory of Love, Big Bill took an insipid song and made it a joy to listen to.

It's also the version of the song the Coen Brothers chose to have playing over the credits of their 2003 film, Intolerable Cruelty, starring George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones at her most lovely.  Intolerable cruelty.jpgTHC recommends it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The (Not So) Old Days

. . . well, not that old - it's a Best Buy flyer from October 23, 1994 (via Twisted Sifter).

You can get a Compaq laptop with 256 MB hard drive and 4 MB of memory for only $2598!   And it's got a Intel 14.4 fax/modem!  We thought this was revolutionary.  This was the year THC purchased his first computer for the family - it was a Gateway.

This Best Buy Flyer from 1994 Shows How Fast Technology Has Changed (7)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Google's Disgrace

Yuri Kochiyama's 95th Birthday

Today's Google Homepage features the image above.  When you run your cursor over it you find out that it is honoring Yuri Kochiyama's on what would have been her 95th birthday (she died in 2014).  Ms Kochiyama was born in San Pedro, California and during World War II was interned in a detention camp as part of the unjust imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during the war.

Ms Kochiyama is often described as a "Japanese-American human rights activist".

This is also Ms Kochiyama:

Interviewed in 2003 she stated: "... I consider Osama bin Laden as one of the people that I admire. To me, he is in the category of Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Patrice Lumumba, Fidel Castro, all leaders that I admire.... You asked, 'Should freedom fighters support him?' Freedom fighters all over the world, and not just in the Muslim world, don’t just support him; they revere him; they join him in battle. He is no ordinary leader or an ordinary Muslim."

In addition to supporting bin Laden, the racist, gay-hating murderer Che Guevara and the dictator Fidel Castro, Ms Kochiyama was also a vocal supporter of the mass murdering Maoist lunatics of Peru's Shining Path and of Mao himself (hey, didn't THC just write about Mao?).  In fact, according to Wikipeida: "Kochiyama in the mid-1960s joined the Revolutionary Action Movement [a self-described urban guerilla warfare movement], a clandestine revolutionary nationalist organization which was one of the first organizations in the black liberation movement to attempt to construct a revolutionary nationalism based on a synthesis of the thought of Malcolm X, Marx, Lenin, and Mao Tse Tung".

She supported Puerto Rican terrorists and the Japanese Red Army, which in the 1970s conducted killing operations in Japan, as well as doing a favor for their Palestinian terrorist friends and slaughtering 26 people and wounding 80 others in the Lod Airport massacre in Israel.

This is only a partial account of the murderers, dictators, thugs and enemies of human freedom that Ms Kochiyama endorsed over the years.  It is a corruption of the English language to describe her as a "human rights activist" when she was an enemy of human rights.  For Google to honor her, parading in front of an equality sign, when she fought for the most unequal societies of the past century is a disgrace and dishonors the tens of millions killed and imprisoned by the very people Ms Kochiyama most admires.

If you would like to read a whitewashed version of her bio you can read Google's tripe.

UPDATE:  Some more from Ms Kochiyama on bin Laden and the U.S.:
He was fighting for Islam and all people who believe in Islam, against westerners, especially the US--even when he was fighting against the Russians…I do not care what the US government or Americans feel--I think it’s shameful what this government has done from the beginning of its racist, loathsome history. 
Way to go, crack Google team!!

SECOND UPDATE:  Turns out Ms Kochiyama was honored by the White House in 2014!
Given that Google executives and lobbyists have had 427 White House meetings since President Obama took office, far more than any other company, one would expect White House staffers would actually know how to do a Google search - or perhaps they just don't care, which is even more disturbing.