Wednesday, June 26

Custer's Last Charge

By Art Cashin

On this day in (-1) 1876, an aging Boy Wonder tried his best tactic one time too many. Fourteen years earlier he had become the nation's youngest Brigadier General at age 23. But that was the Civil War.

Some even said he was "Grant, in a saddle." His opponents said, "The damn fool doesn't know when he's beaten, all he knows how to do is attack." In several charges he had his horse shot out from under him only to find a new mount and lead a new charge.

But when the war ended, the Union Army decided to prune its ranks, bloated with officers. He became a captain but soon rose to Lt. Colonel in the Indian campaigns. This would be a chance to recoup his former glory (and an outside shot at high political office, maybe even the presidency).

So, when the order came to move the Sioux out of some potential gold territories, he sensed his chance. And, when Crazy Horse defeated Gen. Crook at the Battle of Rosebud River on June 17th, the chance for fame loomed larger than ever. He split his force in three and moved his unit into Southeast Montana. There, a scout sighted a small Indian village. The scout had not been to an ophthalmologist in some time, unfortunately, and had clearly flunked out of "census school." The small village was almost the size of Chicago and looped all around the Little Big Horn.

Nonetheless, Lt. Col. Geo. Armstrong Custer decided not to wait for the expected reinforcements. He chose to go with his signature tactic, the frontal charge. Unfortunately, Crazy Horse had read Custer's press reports and therefore, surrounded this unit of the 7th Cavalry - forcing them to dismount and stand.

Thus the man who had been the Nation's youngest Brigadier General and all 265 of his men died at this last stand. (Ironically the only survivor was a horse belonging to an aide to Custer. What made it most ironic was the horse's name….."Comanche.")

To celebrate drop by the Little Big Horn Lounge and talk to a couple of ticket scalpers and sip some "Three Feathers" on the rocks. But bring cash - they don't like people who charge.

Editors note: For more about this event you may want to revisit an earlier offering; How Curley Kept His Hair.

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.

Monday, June 24

Theoretically, It's a Conspiracy

By Grant Davies

On this day, the American people are making plans to mark a recent day when their leaders were caught red-handed in multiple lies concerning spying secrets. And since there is more than one person who agreed to lie about things, it qualifies as a conspiracy. At least that's my theory.

I'll probably be writing about that history 50 years from now. But only if I live to 113, which seemed more likely before the government took over responsibility for my healthcare. However, that's just a theory, too.

So let's take a look at what happened on this day in 1997. Back then, preparations were in the "hectic" mode for an extravagant celebration of the 50th anniversary of the uncovering of a different government cover-up.

It was only about a week before the gathering was to be held that the government decided it didn't like being uncovered, so they were making their own preparations. They decided/conspired to throw some cold water on the participants of the upcoming meeting.

Anyway, today was the day they released their newest comprehensive report (231 pages) on the subject. The paper was titled "The Roswell Report, Case Closed." Roswell of course was the nearest town to the events that inspired the whole mess. (On a per capita basis it may be one of the most well known places on the continent.) The previous report, a mere 1000 pager released in 1994, had worked so well in discrediting the conspiracy theorists they went back to the same tactic. Same results, what a shock. So what was the big conspiracy hiding? Why, nothing less than little green men! Or maybe gray men, but you get the idea.

In July, 1947, a rancher had found multiple metallic objects, indicative of some kind of serious aerial crash, scattered across parts of his land. Of course, he called in an expert to study the wreckage. The expert, the local sheriff, sensed that he was in the deep end of the science pool without any flippers and called in the US Air Force. They might not have been the best group to call, but heck, they were right there in the neighborhood and it gave the sheriff a good punting target. (Don't try mixing your metaphors at home, kids; I'm a professional writer on a closed track.)

Anyway, it didn't take that group long to declare that they had recovered what remained of a "flying disk." Later the disk became a weather balloon and the gray alien spacemen bodies that were theoretically/allegedly recovered had become test dummies from recent parachute tests. And that's how conspiracy theories get started. All you need is some mixed up stories and a little secrecy to make conspiratorial history.

But there is a bright side, an entire industry sprang up in its wake. It put the town on the map and inspired annual UFOlogist conventions. Countless TV shows, movies and books have been produced. Not to mention the millions of alien toys and memorabilia that have been sold. So it looks like in some cases government actually can stimulate business.

To celebrate the day...oh, never mind. The 50th anniversary celebration is what got this whole story started in the first place.

Friday, June 14

Stars, Stripes, and Francis Hopkinson

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the concept of a flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes. It had been designed by Francis Hopkinson, a designer of naval pennants (who apparently was never paid by the government for his efforts).

Many decades later a grand nephew of Betsey Ross would claim that she had designed and sewn the first flag but as popular as the theory became there are no records of an order, delivery or payment.

Hopkinson's case is reinforced by records that indicate that a certain G. Washington and the Board of War thought Hopkinson's design was a naval pennant. They requested a new standard or "colors" for the Army. (P.S. Gen. G. Washington got his colors at war's end - 1783 - no records show what they looked like.)

Anyway, proving that the Founding Fathers were good at Constitutions but as bad as their current heirs at loopholes, the flag law was vague. Soon there were flags with vertical stripes and even gold stars (quite popular into the civil war). And, like today's accountants they found fudging numbers didn't hurt. The stars and stripes mentioned in the Star Spangled Banner flew over Fort McHenry with 15 stripes and 15 stars.

Not to worry though, your government would not let a problem linger - the flag was finally defined - in 1959.

To celebrate Flag Day have a couple of shots at the Old Glory Lounge. But remember to stop before you see stars and be sure not to drive after, or you may end up wearing stripes.

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.

Thursday, June 6

Churchill, Ike, and the King of England

By Art Cashin

(Author's Note: The following historical note was originally presented by an old friend on the floor who is a military history buff. We didn't have time to research it ourselves but he swears it's true and, on the floor at least, your word is still your here goes a remarkable story.)

On this day (-4 approximately) in 1944, Winston Churchill called Dwight Eisenhower. The conversation went something like this: "Ike, I want you to put me on one of the ships to observe the invasion. We've waited so long for this moment. It will be a turning point in the history of all mankind. And, I can not send so many brave boys to meet danger or death without showing them I share some risk."

Ike replied something like - "Mr. Prime Minister, I understand your feelings completely. But you are such a symbol of the Allied cause that I cannot allow you to take the risk. If something happened to you, it would be a setback to the war effort no matter what fate we met on the beach."

Churchill threatened to call FDR but Ike said he would resign before letting Churchill board the invasion fleet. Churchill then reminded Ike that he (Churchill) had once been First Lord of the Admiralty. Therefore, he said "I think I still have enough friends in the British Navy to get aboard some vessel whether you like it or not." The reply - "Perhaps, Mr. Prime Minister...but I assure you I shall do everything I can to prevent it."

Later that day, Ike took the unusual step of calling Windsor Castle. He asked to speak to George VI, the King of England. After excusing his own impertinence, Ike told the King that Churchill was being foolish and stubborn and that if anything happened to Churchill the war effort would suffer regardless of other events.

The King listened sympathetically. He agreed with every point Ike made. Then he said that after working with the Prime Minister for months, Ike must know that Churchill was clearly a very stubborn Englishman, who might well ignore an order even from his king on this matter.

Late that night the King called Churchill. "Winston, what's all this tomfoolery about you being on board the invasion fleet?" A stunned Churchill replied - "It's no tomfoolery, Your Majesty! We've worked so hard...suffered so much...historic moment in the history of mankind...brave boys at risk...etc, etc. It is no tomfoolery, Your Majesty; it is my solemn duty as Prime Minister!!"

The King paused a moment then replied - "You're right Winston! But if it is the solemn duty of the Prime Minister to be aboard, it is ten times that duty for the King to be there...what ship do you suggest we sail on, Winston?"

It probably took Churchill a second or two to realize he had been outfoxed. Then he said, "You've made your point very well Your Majesty. We'll both await the news at home."

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, June 5

It's as Good as Gold

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1933, the Congress of the United States passed a law, (HJR 192), that took the country off the gold standard.

Ho hum, just some legalistic, monetary, mumbo jumbo that doesn't affect the common man, you might say. In fact, it might help the common man because it's designed to stop those evil rich guys from hoarding gold. And everyone knows that's what's causing the depression.. right?

Anyway, what's the big deal? The little guy doesn't have any gold so who cares what happens to the fat cats?

The law was just the rubber stamp that FDR's puppets applied to his "executive order 6102", which had been signed just three months earlier by the king, er, President. That order was the one that made every citizen in the country a criminal if they didn't turn in their gold by May 1st of the same year.

Oh, I forgot to mention, these laws and executive orders were preceded by, yep you guessed it, a Presidential Proclamation. "Proclamation 2039" to be exact. (It does sound a bit like what a king might do, but it's not like what the Wizard of Oz did when he gave out hearts, brains, and courage. But I digress.)

What all this meant was that the government took away all your gold coins and bullion. (Silver was included too. We'll leave that for a future story.) But not to worry, these nice men were allowing you to keep grandpa's gold watch and mom's wedding band. And what's the big deal? They will pay you $20.67 per ounce for it; it's not like they are stealing it from you.

So you get the paper, the government gets the gold (and the power to make the paper worth anything, or nothing, it wants) and all is right with the world. Surely this will fix the depression, so it's worth the minor inconvenience.

Before I forget, it should be mentioned that just a short time after they took all the gold they could get their hands on, they arbitrarily raised the price of gold to $35 an ounce. It was a stroke of genius for the Federal Reserve who was able to realize a 69 percent increase in the value of what they had just stolen, er, bought. It wasn't such a good deal for the home folks though because it made the value of their currency worth 40% less.

Another way to devalue the money would be to print it like crazy, but don't worry, they would never do that. After all, ever since the Fed began defending the value of the dollar it has lost 95% of its value, and who can argue with a track record like that?

To celebrate the day, stop down at the Yellow Rock Saloon and have a shot of Goldschlager schnapps. But just because it's about 40% alcohol don't assume you broke even on the deal.
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