Wednesday, October 16

The Day the Bartender Gave Teddy a Shot

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By Art Cashin

On this day (-2) in 1912, former President Teddy Roosevelt was out on the stump trying to regain the highest office in the land. He was trying to unseat Taft, his handpicked successor. Since the Republicans decided to stick with the incumbent, Taft; Teddy had to form his own party - the Progressive. But the press renamed the Progressive's - The Bull Moose Party after Teddy had said he felt as fit as a bull moose.

Anyway, this day found Teddy in Milwaukee on his way to deliver a speech. Quietly, through the crowd, moved a certain John Schrank, a New York bartender. He reached between two people trying to shake the candidate's hand, and fired a bullet straight into Teddy's chest.

The force of the shot knocked Teddy back against a parked car as the crowd wrestled Schrank to the ground. His aides ran to Roosevelt and urged him to go to the hospital. He pointed out there was no blood around the bullet hole in his lapel and damn-it he had come to give a speech.

He walked to the podium and pulled his speech from his inside jacket pocket. Only then did he notice that the bullet had gone through all 100 pages of the double folded speech. What he didn't know was that the bullet had gone four inches into his chest. And the reason there had been no blood was that the speech had compacted around the wound.

But Teddy meant to give a speech and a speech he gave - for over 50 minutes. Then, as the crowd cheered, he bowed and finally agreed to go to the hospital, where he was treated for shock and extreme blood loss.

To celebrate stop by the Rough Rider Lounge and have an ice-worm cocktail or two. And toast the fact that public officials today are probably as plucky and gritty as Teddy (try to say it with a straight face).

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, October 7

In the Land of the Blind the One Eyed Man is King

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By Art Cashin

On this day (-1) in 1014 A.D., the course of human relations and communications took yet one more step - in the wrong direction.

The war between Byzantium and Bulgaria was drawing to a close. The Byzantine Emperor (Basil II in your program) was not just ahead on points; he had won hands down in the slaughtering and pillaging categories. Just two days ago, he had overrun the forces of Bulgaria's Czar Samuel (Sam the Inept) and captured 15,000 prisoners. Now came the dilemma. Basil pondered how he could use the victory to warn Czar Sam out of further adventures and also intimidate some neighbors upon whose harbors Basil cast covetous eyes.

Some advisors suggested killing all the captives. (Too easy! Done before!!) One or two suggested releasing the captives. (The rarely used mercy ploy!) Basil rejected them all. He wanted to really send a message. And he sent a lulu.

On this day (-1), he had his men gather the 15,000 prisoners and put out both the eyes of each man. Well let me correct that. Realizing that 15,000 totally blind guys might have a tough time getting home, Basil ordered that every 100th man should lose only one eye so that he could assist in leading the others back to Bulgaria. Basil assumed that once home, these 150 "one-eyed men" would help in telling the tale of the punishment and the horrible journey back, and the totally blind would be a burden and a fearsome reminder to their nation and their Czar.

Despite bad weather, bad terrain and bad directions, many of the captives actually made it home. And their tale of terror and woe was so fierce that the story lives on for a thousand years in legend and folk saying - Did you ever hear that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king? And if you have any doubts you could look it up....but don't look under Basil the Good or Basil the Great or...even Basil the Sauce.

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, October 3

Sayyids Not So

By Grant Davies

On this day (+3) in 1889, a new school opened in the town of Greeley, Colorado. (More on that town in a moment.) It was a two-year college that sought to train new teachers who were qualified to teach in the government school system. The name of the college was State Normal School but after changing names three more times it became the University of Northern Colorado.

The town of Greeley was named after the guy who inspired it, a certain Horace Greeley. You might remember him from the "Go west young man" lesson we all learned in elementary class on the days we weren't daydreaming about a Utopian life where there was no school and the girl next to us in class thought we were something other than the little dweeb we actually were.

But what most of us weren't taught was that Greeley was a Utopian himself. He helped to found several Utopias which were nothing like what would pass for a perfect place in most peoples eyes. And I'd tell you all sorts of other interesting things about Greeley, except this story is not about him. Maybe on another day.

The person who our story is mainly about was an Egyptian student named Sayyid Qtub. Practically unheard of in this country, Sayyid is known in certain circles very well, but more on that later.

The year was 1948 and the place was New York City. Qtub was traveling through that hotbed of morality on his way to (Utopian) Greeley, Colorado to attend the above named school. As one author* describes it, Qtub was a shy and quiet fellow who was traumatized by the whore houses, drug houses, gin joints, and gambling dens.

So he should have been delighted with the relative difference of the Greeley lifestyle where "Classical concerts, free public lectures, sock hops and potluck suppers were the main entertainment."*  Booze was illegal and virtue was all the rage in Greeley. But Sayyid wasn't happy there either; the place seemed like hell to him. He thought the uncovered legs and hand to hip dancing at the church socials was insanely evil.

What he had to say about American Jazz was even less complimentary. He opined that it was "created by Negroes to satisfy their primitive instincts, their love of noise, and their appetite for sexual arousal."* 

Anyway, Sayyid attended school there for only six months before returning to the Middle East where he spent most of his time railing against the depravity of the West. His legacy was in the movement he inspired, something that translates in English to "The Base."

Most of us know it better by it's Arabic translation. It's called al-Qaeda.

*the author is Andrew Carroll. The information for this piece (excepting some background on the school) and all the italicized quotations above were taken exclusively from his excellent book titled Here is Where.
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