March 22, 2010
March 19, 2010
A rumor has been circulating that the money Martin Peretz used to fund The New Republic was inherited by his wife Anne Labouisse Farnsworth from a fascist gold bug grandfather who tried to overthrow the U.S. government during the 1930s. This is incorrect; the fascist in question was Peretz’s wife’s great-uncle; based on what we know at this time, the grandfather from whom she inherited the money was not an active fascist.
It has also been rumored that the money inherited traces back to the inventor of the sewing machine, Isaac Merritt Singer. While the money does trace back to the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Isaac Singer did not invent the sewing machine, and Peretz’s nest egg traces back to Edward Clark, Singer’s patent lawyer, who was granted a full partnership in return for wresting the sewing machine patent away from the actual inventor, Elias Howe.
It is also not true that Peretz is a grandson of the Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer. The Yiddish author of whom Peretz is the grandson was Isaac Leib Peretz. No Isaac Singer of any description has been implicated with TNR.
Peretz and his wife are now separated, and Peretz has sold TNR. It is not known whether Peretz dumped his wife when the money ran out, or whether his wife dumped Peretz when the money ran out. If you run into Martin, I’m sure he’d appreciate it if you bought him a meal and lent him a couple of bucks.
(Since the coup d’etat story has already been disappeared from Robert Sterling Clark’s Wiki front page and has been relegated to the discussion page, I’m saving the discussion page here just in case)
The Art Collector Who Wanted to Stage a Fascist Coup Against FDR By Nicholas Fox Weber
Nicholas Fox Weber is the author of The Clarks of Cooperstown, on which the following article is based.
It sounds like a fabrication whenever I mention that, in researching the great art collector Robert Sterling Clark—proud owner of thirty-nine Renoirs and of the only significant altar piece by Piero Della Francesca in America, and founder of a fine and well-known public art museum in Williamstown, Massachusetts—I discovered that, in 1934, he apparently devoted considerable energy to an attempt to have President Franklin Delano Roosevelt overthrown and replaced by a Fascist dictator. The evidence, however, is clear; the only real mystery is why more attention has never been given to the attempted putsch in the White House. Sterling—as everyone called him—had approximately thirty million dollars at the time, in addition to a valuable art collection, sumptuous houses in America and France, and vast holdings of silver, rare books, vintage Burgundies, and other collectables. He was a bon vivant who took great pleasure in acquiring things and in living well; he was also a man given to intense and consuming rages. A lot of his fury was directed toward his three brothers, with whom he had had a violent dispute concerning family trusts; Sterling was enraged that he could not secure more of the family’s fortune for his wife and her daughter.
The problem was that only direct descendents of his parents could eventually inherit the bulk of his wealth, which consisted mostly of Singer Sewing Machine stock (the Clark brothers’ grandfather had been Isaac Singer’s lawyer, and had, in the middle of the 19th century, taken leadership of the company and made his fortune with it.) Sterling’s vitriol toward his siblings had begun in the early 1920s; a decade later, a lot of his rage was directed at the president he privately referred to as “Rosenfart,” who infuriated Clark because of his attitude toward the gold standard. Sterling was heard to say more than once that he would “spend half of his fortune to save the other half.”
The fifteen million dollars he was apparently willing to spend would go toward payments for an army of retired soldiers—half a million of them—whom he hoped to hire with a number of other rich and prominent Americans. The story behind the plot is complex, but its essence is that Sterling, through intermediaries, had hoped to persuade a retired U.S. General, Smedley Darlington Butler, to head the coup, and that he had indeed funded a lot of research into the formation of Fascist armies abroad. The example that most impressed the man whose trip to Europe he financed was the Croix de Feu, a group of French soldiers who had succeeded in ousting a president.
The story was told in the pages of the New York Times and Time Magazine. The accounts often have a mocking tone, especially about Butler, who was the man who spilled the beans at hearings held by the U.S. House of Representatives in private sessions, where Congressman John McCormack skillfully, and often in outrage, investigated the matter. Names of people associated with the Morgan bank, members of the DuPont family, and the well-known politician Al Smith were also linked to the attempted coup. It became clear that many of these people really thought that Roosevelt, his vice-president, and the secretary of state could all be coerced into stepping down, and then a hand-picked replacement would take charge.
That the putsch did not come about is not itself astonishing. But that it is such a neglected chapter of American history—in spite of books and films devoted to the subject—remains the great surprise. Roosevelt himself wanted to hear little about it; it was as if taking it to heart would make it too real. Perhaps that is still the fear behind the relative silence.
March 16, 2010
People used to say that the media weren’t really right wing, but were just sucking up to Bush because they worship power and success. But if that were true, we should be seeing them sucking up to Obama and the Democrats now. They aren’t. Instead, what we’re seeing on TV these days is more of the same: President McCain, and President Boehner, and President Lindsey Graham, and President Snowe, and President Gingrich, and a couple of dozen other Republican Presidents. The slant has scarcely changed at all.
One of the reasons I gave up on America is the feebleness of the Democratic and liberal response to the increasingly conservative slant of the media. We’re long past the time when it made sense to be surprised by anything they do, and we should understand by now that they know what they’re doing and are going to keep on doing it. Squeals of rage about their egregious dishonesty, incompetence, and nastiness just make them laugh.
CNN just hired the loathsome Erick Erickson and Steve Benen dutifully went through the drill, but that isn’t news. It’s a dog-bites-man story. Seven or eight years ago I hoped that media criticism on the web would lead to improvements, but it didn’t happen. Instead, things are getting worse.
Liberals love “shit happens” / “quagmire” / “shades of grey” explanations of events, and they call people like me conspiracy theorists, but liberals are jellified morons. Corporations are run top down, management manages, and right now management likes what it sees. The media have chosen sides, and it’s not our side.
At this point we should either be thinking about how to create new media, or else we should be asking ourselves what we’ll have to do to win in the face of a determinedly hostile media. We shouldn’t waste any more time expressing surprise and indignation whenever a media organization does the same thing one more time.
As for the things that we should be doing, I don’t really see much energy going into developing progressive major media, and since I seriously doubt that we can win against the media we now have, I think that we should be considering the possibility that we’ve just plain lost.
I don’t know why I bother. Charlie Brown will always be Charlie Brown. For me politics is apparently an incurable disease, highly debilitating but not actually fatal.
March 12, 2010
On the New York Times “Why Oh Why” front, the Times just appointed science reporter Carl Zimmer’s brother Ben as the language maven replacement for William Safire. Both Zimmers are excellent and highly competent reporters, exactly the kind of reporter that the Times is reputed to have but usually doesn’t.
What can we conclude from this, other than that the Times should hire more Zimmers? (I’m sure that there’s a good economics writer named Zimmer somewhere.)
The lesson is that the Times is willing to publish good reporting as long as the topic written about does not have critical day-to-day, life-and-death importance for our lives. So for topics the Sulzbergers regard as peripheral and fluffy, we get good stuff. But when the chips are down and the rubber hits the road, on war and peace or unemployment and depression, other considerations intervene, and the Times becomes the propaganda organ of an unexpressed neo-con, neoliberal, non-partisan, “centrist” agenda.
The media have chosen sides, and it’s not our side. We have to recognize this before we can deal with it. Even if all of the Democrats and liberals magically wised up about this overnight, I still doubt that we’d be able to overcome the systematic media opposition. But they haven’t wised up; they’re still hoping and praying that their holy fathers, Czar Sulzberger and Czar Graham (or maybe Czarina Weymouth) will hear their pleas.
Fortunately for the Czars, their Cossacks are loyal and up to the job. Expect more of the same.
(Part of an intermittent series, “Reasons to Quit”)
March 5, 2010
Alan Grayson is what the Democrats needed more of:
Representative Alan Grayson calls ’em as he sees ’em and he doesn’t see the Republicans in a favorable light. But it looks like he may have a pretty easy election because even though he’s a Democrat he may win the Republican primary in Florida’s 8th Congressional District.
In the poll, Grayson won the support of 27.8% of registered Republicans. None of Grayson’s 13 opponents scored higher than 3.7%. Their combined performance was only 14.5%. The remaining 57.7% of registered Republicans were undecided.
It’s probably too late, though. Grayson is just one guy, and because of corruption, miseducation, and bad character, most Democratic pros would rather lose as mercenary centrists than win as populists. (Josh Micah Marshall’s crew predictably used Grayson as the Democratic crazy to balance their list of Republican crazies.)
Furthermore, a big chunk of the Democratic electorate wets their pants every time they hear someone like Grayson talk, and not in a good way. He doesn’t turn them on, he terrifies them, and what they say is “I’d rather lose than win that way.”
Yes, I’ve really heard Democrats say that, and more than once. Their wish for defeat is often briefly satisfied, but they always want more.
As for me, I’m preparing myself for post-democracy. But if we’d had more Graysons I probably wouldn’t have to be doing that.
(Another installment of my intermittent post-political grumbling series, which will probably continue)