Friday, December 28

2012 is Almost History - The Year in Poetic Review

Just when I thought I'd put the whole year to bed as far posting new stories is concerned, along came this unexpected poem in my email this morning. I shouldn't be surprised that Art Cashin  has poetry in his little bag of literary talents but I had never really thought about it. So it was a delightful discovery at the bottom of the stocking I thought I had already emptied on Christmas morning. I hope you all enjoy this entry as much as we did over our morning coffee today. 

Regular posting will resume after the holidays. Thanks for reading our offerings all year, we hope to continue to find interesting historical popcorn for you to snack on during 2013.
Happy New Year from Cheeky History.

By Art Cashin   

'Tis four days yet to New Year 
    but despite what you’re hopin’ 
The folks in the Board Room 
    say “the full eve we'll stay open” 

So we'll buy and we'll sell 
  as the tape crawls along 
And though "Bubbly's" verboten 
  we may still sing a song 

 Two Thousand and Twelve 
    had some spots of high hopes 
They may get fumbled away 
    by those Washington dopes 

The Prez and the Speaker 
    called each other a stiff 
Then went home for Christmas 
  as we slid toward that cliff 

But hold it a minute 
  they're all rushing back 
Yet a sense of good feeling 
  they still seem to lack 

We lost special people 
  as we seem to each year 
It just makes us treasure 
  each one that’s still here 

   Jack Klugman's messy Oscar 
  finally picked up his stuff 
Even Dick Clark, thought eternal,   
  said that he'd had enough 
Andy Williams, "Mr. Christmas", 
  took his act up on high 
And now Vidal Sassoon   
  just blows angel's hair dry

Neil Armstrong who once gave us 
  a great leap for mankind 
Joined Sally Ride for a trip 
  to the deepest space they could find 

Whitney Houston joined angels 
  to sing a heavenly song 
Rodney King followed after 
  we're sure he'll just get along 

Larry Hagman, of Dallas 
  who dreamt of Jeannie before 
Joined McCale's Ernie Borgnine 
  on that celestial shore 

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gee's 
  and the Monkees Davy Jones 
Left behind their gold records 
  and ascended some thrones 

Now Mayberry's Sheriff 
  Andy Griffith is gone  
And Fang's wife, Phyllis Diller 
  has also moved on 

Harold Hill – a "Goodfella" 
  has pulled his last job 
He's in eternal protection 
  far away from the mob 

As Joe Paterno departed 
  his great record was stained 
Gone were decades of glory 
  just his silence remained 
There were whackos with weapons 
  temples and theaters they defiled 
And in a New England first grade 
  a madman murdered each child 

We all stood in horror 
  none could full comprehend 
We each hugged our kids closer 
  saying this madness must end 

We had droughts and wildfires   
  storms and floods by the score 
Seemed no region was spared 
  "climate change" claimed Al Gore 

The Prez got re-elected    
  not as close as some thought 
Donald Trump and some others 
  claimed the whole thing was bought 
YOLO is a text slogan   
  means you only live once 
But some folks abuse it   
  to act like a dunce 

All over the nation   
  women hurried to pay  
For three little volumes     
  about some Shades of Grey 

A Korean Rapper 
  got WEB hits by the pile 
As he waved and wiggled 
  in what he called Gangnam style 
Clint Eastwood debated 
  a small empty chair 
As most delegates wondered 
  just why he was there 

Facebook finally went public   
  its debut was a flop 
Nasdaq spewed out sell orders  
  that systems just wouldn't stop 

Shuttles went to museums 
  but we still reach for the stars 
We landed a Rover 
  quite safely on Mars  

Mitt went after Big Bird 
  Greek yogurt's a craze 
Taylor Swift and Adele 
  Keep young fans in a daze 

The Supremes threw a curve ball 
  on some Obamacare facts 
Where some saw a mandate   
   Roberts saw just a tax 

Prince Harry in Vegas 
   played strip Billiards, he said 
Friends quickly took pictures 
  but they were not of his head 
Lance was stripped of his titles   
  and Petraeus resigned 
Our heroes keep falling   
  and few new ones we find 

Let not this year's memories 
  of sadness or sleaze 
Disturb you this day 
  just give your heart ease 

Have faith that this New Year 
  will bring a new sign 
And believe in yourself 
   it will all work out fine 

Just lift up your spirits 
  and some fruit of the vine 
And kiss ye a loved one 
  and sing Auld Lange Syne 

And late Monday evening 
  as you watch the ball fall 
Wish yourself all the best  
  Happy New Year to All!!

Wednesday, December 19

Poor Richard, the Guy had No Talents

Image = American History Now
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1732, a 26-year-old Bostonian transplant, living in Philadelphia published a helpful calendar and counselor, which he called "Poor Richard's Almanac."  The publication, containing pithy wisdoms like - "Early to bed early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" - or (Washington, D.C.'s favorite), "A penny saved is a penny earned" - became an instant success in the colonies.

The revenues allowed Benjamin Franklin to retire at age 42.  Since golf was not available in the neighborhood, he squandered his remaining years by discovering electricity, inventing the lightning rod, the iron stove, bifocals and the glass harmonica.  The next week he developed still-standing theories on meteorology, heat absorption, electricity, and ocean currents.

In his spare time he founded the first insurance company, fire department, public hospital, public library, night patrol and  first militia.  Seeking a break he became colonial postmaster and civil defense chief for the French and Indian War.

Tiring, he was chief delegate at the Albany conference, which organized the colonies and then was appointed chief negotiator with the British crown in London. When negotiations failed he returned home to help draft, and then pass the Declaration of Independence.

He was then sent to Paris where he won the support of the French, which event won the Revolution for the colonies.  He returned home and helped draft and again pass the Constitution of the new nation. After that he did little that was important aside from a few inventions and a couple of immortal publications.

To celebrate take a high school graduate out for a flagon of ale and explain the team concept, consensus thinking and why little can be accomplished by one man alone.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, December 18

Who Really Killed Abe Lincoln?

Image = aboutpresidentaberahamlincolnblogspot
By Grant Davies

The month was May, not April, and the assassin of Abraham Lincoln was not named Booth. In  fact, history has never been able to identify the assassin by name.

"Whoa! That can't be right", you say. Your teachers always told you that Lincoln was killed on April 14th at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth, who ended Abe's life with a single shot from behind and escaped afterward. The murder was part of a conspiracy. Abe's wife Mary was left a widow with children to raise. And all the history books back that up. 

But they only had some parts of it correct. He was shot from behind and killed by a single shot all right, and it was part of a conspiracy, but most of the rest is wrong. You see, his son Tom was there, witnessed it, and told his own son all about it later.  He told it carefully and included all the details. And at the time, nobody disputed the facts as they had been recalled by the multiple witnesses. 

Now, as famous radio host Paul Harvey used to say, "Here's the rest of the story."

The year was actually 1786. The assassin was a native American who snuck up behind Lincoln as he chopped wood with his three sons on their homestead in Kentucky. The Indian (as he was called before it became politically incorrect to describe him that way) had a long barreled firearm and shot Abe from a distance. One shot, goodbye. 

As the Indian came forward from the cover of the woods to make sure he had finished the job - and perhaps even dispatch Abe's son Tom - he himself was sent to the "not so happy" hunting grounds where Indians went after they were no longer breathing. Abe's son Mordicai had fetched the family weapon himself after the fracas began and shot the assassin dead.*

By now you have figured out that what we have here is a case of mistaken identity. The Abe Lincoln in this story is not the same one who was President. But the similarities are remarkable. Both Abrahams had sons named Thomas and wives named Mary. And in fact, they were related. Our Abraham and Mary were the President's grandparents and our witness, Tom, was Honest Abe's father.

The unnamed Indian was sent there to kill Lincoln as part of his tribe's conspiring to rid themselves of a man and his family who they regarded (perhaps correctly) as trespassers on their land. In fact, they had driven him off once before, so from their point of view, he had been warned already.

The moral of the story is..well..there is no moral to the story. It's just a cool story because of the way history sometimes repeats itself.

* Not every account of the event agrees on every detail. Some have the perpetrator escaping. But I like the version where the killer gets his just reward. So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. (Actually, it's Wikipedia's version of the story. And you know if it's on Wikipedia it's always correct.)

Monday, December 17

The Price of Tea in Boston

By Art Cashin

On this day (-1),  in 1773 (as you surely recall from Sister Herman Joseph's fourth grade class), a group of Colonists, disguised as Indians, boarded three British ships at dockside in Boston Harbor.  And, as you probably also recall, they threw tons of British tea into the Harbor.  And, you probably learned, this was all done to protest the outrageously expensive British tea. Well, you can't be right about everything.

The tea was not expensive; it was cheap - - too cheap.  That was the problem.  The good people of Boston had been making quite a living smuggling Dutch tea into the Colonies.  Now the Brits had cut the price of tea to undercut the smugglers.  So, a guy named John Hancock, who just happened to be making a fortune in duty free imports....(the Brits called him the head smuggler)....funded this little "tea party".

Sure, Americans have historically hated tyranny and taxation but if you really want to get them ticked off -- try a dose of deflation.

Many thanks to Art Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Wednesday, December 12

You're a Good Egg, Tom Dewey

By Grant Davies

On this day (-5), in 1941, the Japanese executed a sneak attack on the US Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The world war that ravaged the rest of the globe had finally came to the US.

But this story is only peripherally about that event. This story is about a man who put his own advancement and interests beneath the interests of his country.

Such things were common in those times. Most citizens and virtually every person in the armed services fell into that category. But if you can fathom this, the man in the story was a politician. Crazier things have happened, but not often.

So let's fast forward a few years. The year was 1944. The man was running for President. His name was Tom Dewey. And Tom knew a secret. The secret he knew was explosive. It would almost certainly assure that he would defeat his opponent, a guy named Franklin D Roosevelt, in the upcoming election.

Tom had it on reliable information that the US had broken the Japanese code prior to the attack on Pearl. The implications were obvious. FDR knew of the plan to attack before it happened and had purposely ignored it so the US could enter the war. FDR wanted to join in, and knew it was inevitable anyway. But people were standing in his way. And it naturally follows that once he knew, all our sailors had died so FDR could get his political way.

The secret was true. The code had indeed been broken, and a pretty important guy named George C. Marshall found out that Dewey knew. Marshall was the US Army Chief of Staff and the situation at the time was desperate. He feared that Dewey might do what almost every candidate today would do with that kind of information, so he sent him a sealed message via a courier named Colonel Carter Clark. Clark caught up with Dewey at his hotel during the campaign.

When he opened the letter from Marshall and read the contents, Tom was initially furious. In the letter, Marshall reminded him of the damage that would be done to the war effort if the Japanese learned that we had broken their code. Based on his own information, and now the admission by Marshall that it was true, Dewey not only thought FDR should be defeated in the election, but that he should be impeached.

But Dewey kept his mouth shut and lost the election without using the only thing that would have insured that he would win. In fact, he never revealed it and took it to his grave. He died in 1971.

But wait a minute. Ten years later some secret documents from the time were declassified. In one of them something was revealed that Dewey never knew. Namely that the code that was cracked was the Japanese diplomatic code, not the military code. The military code wasn't cracked until after Pearl Harbor. FDR hadn't known after all.

So drink a holiday toast to Tom Dewey, who, like Danny Noonan from Caddy Shack, was a good egg and did the right thing even though he had bad information.

Source material for this story was taken from "Destiny", by Paul Aurandt.

Monday, December 10

A Small Accident Kills a Larger Than Life General

Image = Wargodpatton
By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1945, the colorful but controversial American general, George S. Patton, was trying to take his mind off  his troubles.  Although the war was over, Patton continued to say politically incorrect things that beclouded his brilliant military reputation. Papers in the U.S. began to call him a one trick pony.

When he was stripped of his Bavarian command for refusing to remove every government leader who had been even a minor Nazi Party member (he publicly argued the Communists were the new threat), he told friends he might resign from the Army.

His decision, he said, would come after he went home for Christmas. And, there were rumors of a political committee being formed.  (President Patton?) The plane was not due to leave until the 10th.

So, perhaps to stay away from the press, or maybe just to say goodbye, he invited his chief of staff to go pheasant hunting.  As the two men sat in the back seat talking, Patton's driver missed a left turn signal on an on-coming "deuce & a half".  The truck turned and the staff car smashed into it.  Everybody in the truck was okay.  Patton's driver was okay, as was his chief of staff.  Patton said he was okay but couldn't feel his legs.

Eleven days later, on learning he would never be able to ride a horse again; a depressed Patton went to sleep never to awaken.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Wednesday, December 5

Sinte Klaus is Coming to Town

Image = Abbey-Roads

By Art Cashin

On this day (+1) in about 705 A.D., the Nordic tribes of Europe, recently converted to Christianity, began to adopt a theologically un-definable affection to an Archbishop who had existed three centuries before in an area east of Greece.  Legend says he was as wise as they come.  And certainly he was devout. But was that enough to make him a big hit?

He did have the added benefits of being the designated patron saint of scholars (ain't we all); merchants (a popular Nordic pastime); sailors (the other Viking pastime) and children.  He had gained the latter role through the legend that he had saved three dowry-less young girls by dropping jewels into their home through an open window.

So, over the next thousand years, these Nordic tribes would recall his love of children and his generosity by giving gifts to their children and the poor on Saint Nicholas’s feast day - December 6th.  When the Dutch came to America, they brought their gift giving "Sinte Klaus" with them.  America moved the gift giving day to Christmas and mispronounced his name to Santa Claus.

Of course by this time Nordic and American winters had made open windows rather impractical in December.  So the chimney  became the logical point of entry.  And since cold floors tended to make you reach for your stockings (hung to dry by the fire) they became the logical place to hide the jewels (gifts).

To celebrate the feast of good old St. Nick go to the Rooftop Inn and sip enough well-laced eggnog to make your nose look like Rudolph's.  But don't get out of line or they'll put coal in your stocking.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, December 4

Washington and the Quaker Cannon

William Washington at the battle of Cowpens
Image = Wikipedia
By Grant Davies

On this day in 1780, while engaged in an armed disagreement (later known as The American Revolution), a high ranking officer named Washington prevailed in a small battle by using a big cannon.

The officer in our story was not the one you might have assumed. Our guy's name was William Washington, and he was a Lieutenant Colonel, not a general. He was also second cousin (once removed, if you keep track of that sort of thing) to the more famous Washington, a guy named George, who went on to become the first, and maybe the last, great President of the United States.

The battle came to be known as "the capture of Rugeley's Mill." As it happened, William had "treed" a Loyalist Colonel by the name of Rowland Rugeley, and his 112 men, in his own house and barn. The property, near Camden, had been heavily fortified. But even so, one big cannon was all that was needed to blow the barn and its inhabitants to smithereens. And Rugeley, who was inside, knew it.

Trouble was, Washington didn't have a big cannon. Or actually, any cannon at all. But since ole Rowland didn't know that, William decided to build one. He settled on the design. It was to be a "Quaker Gun."

A "Quaker Gun" was so named because it was the same design used by the pacifist Quakers. They had a lot of success scaring the hell out of anyone who had thoughts of attacking their encampments by making fake cannons out of tree trunks.

So William had the place surrounded by some of his 60 men while the rest fashioned the phony cannon out of a real pine log and propped it up on some wagon wheels. It must have looked pretty intimidating from a distance because once Washington informed Rugeley that he intended to pulverize him if he didn't come out with his hands up, Rugeley came out with his hands up. (History doesn't record if he was quaking or not.)

So the Colonel won the day without firing a shot from a cannon that couldn't shoot. And Rowland's military career was over because he had been "treed" by an old Quaker trick.

To celebrate the victory, hoist a brew to bluffing the next time you join your buddies for a poker game. But just be sure someone else doesn't have a trick up their sleeve before you throw in your cards.
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