Still Hung Over?

Well, you probably had a more exciting New Year’s celebration than I did. Not that things didn’t happen, saw Star Wars and Sherlock, and had 4 great meals, just that I’ve been having enormous problems with insomnia and I barely made it to midnight and New Year’s Day I was all kinds of cranky.

I also ran across these two stories that are instructive.

The first points out that “Progressivism” as defined by the movement that took that label between roughly the turn of the century and the late 1920s was, in many respects, hardly progressive at all as we think of it today.

Modern ‘Progressives’ consider themselves kind of a continuation of the ‘New Deal’/’Great Society’/’Civil Rights’ movements. Classical “Progressives” had a kind of lingering Victorian belief in the perfectibility of mankind through scientific advancement.

They were bigoted, racist, Puritans and embraced heinous policies like Eugenics.

They also pushed Alcohol Prohibition and Drug Criminalization. They felt, like Social Conservatives today, that they were sinful and encouraged sloth and violence in the underclasses. You know, Catholics (Irish and Italians mostly, but all of them), Jews, and especially African-Americans, who, as we all accept today, are made so superhumanly scary, strong, invulnerable, and violent by their very blackness that any Cop pretty much has to shoot them dead on sight to save their own life and protect the community.

You’ll never drink again: Sex, race, science and the real story of Prohibition
by Lisa McGirr, Salon
Friday, Jan 1, 2016 11:00 AM EST

For politically astute reformers, the drive to rein in the saloon was also linked to the saloons’ and urban proletarians’ role in politics. Ethnic working-class saloons were often informal political institutions, serving as the lowest rung and neighborhood hub of the local urban political party machinery. The saloonkeepers tended to be active in the local Democratic and Republican parties—and in industrial cities where socialism gained traction saloonkeepers were active in the Socialist Party as well. In Milwaukee’s vibrant center of “sewer socialism”—so named for its pragmatic brand of left politics focused on providing sewers, paved streets, and parks in working-class neighborhoods—saloons served as important havens for the party. Victor Berger, who served as an alderman in 1910 and who one year later was elected as a Socialist to Congress, dominated the lively discussions at John Doerfler’s establishment, where the local Socialist organization held its regular meetings. One former Milwaukee Socialist saloon owner later recalled that his place, for all intents and purposes, was an “educational institution.”

The goal of “cleaning up” proletarian-based clientelist machines contributed to Progressive support for the saloon’s eradication. Historians of the United States have labeled the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the “Progressive Era,” after the energetic group of Protestant and largely elite men and women, self-identified as Progressives, and the reform wave they launched. These policy-oriented men and women were a diverse bunch. They included businessmen, social scientists, reform ministers, settlement-house workers, and labor advocates who sought to grapple with the problems wrought by urban industrialization. They worked to improve health, hygiene, and urban sanitation, to beautify their cities, and to provide social centers for immigrants. One central concern of these reformers was ending the municipal power of urban political machines. Meshed in networks of graft, kickbacks, and patronage, and providing routes for upward mobility for ethnic political brokers, this form of politics offended reformers’ sense of the civic public good.

The eradication of saloons, then, was also a political question. For some Progressives, this effort was imbued with a deeply antidemocratic impulse: Frances Willard, founder of the WCTU, made the linkage explicit as early as 1890: “Alien illiterates rule our cities today; the saloon is their palace; the toddy stick their scepter.” Close to a quarter century later, congressman Richmond Hobson deployed these arguments in favor of constitutional prohibition: “It is the degenerate vote that has in the past overwhelmed the liberties of free people. And it is the degenerate vote in our big cities that is a menace to our institutions.”

If the local political practices of those northeastern and midwestern working-class men who held the vote (many of the newest immigrants did not) and saloons as spaces for politics drove support for the war on alcohol in the north, a related but distinctive set of concerns inspired the antiliquor crusade in the south. Below the Mason-Dixon line, prohibitionist crusaders also attacked the saloons of “illiterate whites,” but their sharpest animus centered on “negro dives.” The specter of the collective gatherings of African-Americans, many recently disfranchised, in “colored only” saloons, beyond the eye of white surveillance, haunted white Southerners. Anywhere such saloons thrived, Prohibitionists warned, they posed a “deadly menace,” threatening the safety of women, of children, and of the home. Dance halls and “colored only” saloons, declared one Georgia reformer, were “veritable centers of vice, schools of iniquity, and hot-beds of crime.” Another Georgia commentator, in what became a common refrain across the south, averred that “the saloon was the ravager of the negro people. It plundered them at all points, robbed them of their wages,” and “fed their animalism.”

In the aftermath of African-American disfranchisement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the contest for tight control over politically dispossessed populations heightened the drive for prohibition. Atlanta Baptist minister and antiliquor crusader John E. White in 1908 referred to the “feeling of insecurity” in the rural sections of the south that had become a “contagion” because of roaming “drunken negroes.” A host of selectively applied laws and ordinances for petty violations, from loitering to vagrancy, already policed and criminalized African-American leisure and coerced their labor. A wave of novel and unevenly enforced dry laws in the south layered on top of these ordinances served as an additional means to target and discipline African-American as well as poor white leisure. The “dives” of “illiterate whites,” claimed southern reformers, threatened at any time to light the tinderbox of racial and class animosities into violent “racial disorders.” Race riots, racial pogroms, and lynch terror were an endemic feature in this system of racial domination. By scapegoating the saloon, white southern reformers explained such violence as an aberrant characteristic that might be controlled through saloon eradication. “Race war,” White warned, “is a perilous possibility” in “any Southern community with a barroom.”

Along with concerns over the destabilizing effects of intoxicating liquor on the South’s less civilized “dangerous” classes, a parallel alarm over the use of other narcotic substances snowballed at the same time. In southern states such as Tennessee and Georgia, state policing authorities between 1900 and 1914 warned of African-Americans “crazed by cocaine” who went on superhuman rampages of violence. “Many of the horrible crimes committed in Southern States by colored people can be traced directly to the cocaine habit,” charged Colonel J. W. Watson of Georgia in 1903. Such fantastical claims, including the rumor that the effects of cocaine shielded the user against gunshot wounds, fueled the adoption of state antinarcotics legislation and buttressed southern support for the first federal antidrug law in 1914.

Bold and frightening posters, graphs, charts, and pamphlets distributed by prohibition forces linked alcohol, above all, to the bête noire of all progress-loving moderns: “degeneracy.” Late nineteenth-century popularizations of Darwin’s theories of evolution emphasized the application of natural selection to society. “Each generation must be an improvement over the previous generation if the nation is going to comply with the law of evolution,” cautioned Richmond Hobson. As the United States lurched onto the global imperial stage, anxieties over threats to the survival of the white race by the world’s “colored” populations permeated social purity campaigns, social hygiene, eugenics, and the war against alcohol. “Alcohol,” one scientist warned, “leads to race suicide.” Another antiliquor crusader decried the perilous “wave of degeneracy . . . sweeping the land . . . so appalling in magnitude that it staggers the mind and threatens to destroy this republic.” Abolishing the saloon was essential to combating that threat. Should they fail in this “mission,” warned E. W. Davis, the superintendent of the Chicago district of the Illinois Anti-Saloon League, “Anglo-Saxon civilization would ultimately disappear.”

Now tell me, do these people sound like what you would normally think of as ‘Progressives’ or your average Trump voter? I knew all this of course which is why I started out just a plain old Liberal and am now an Anarcho-Sydicalist (institutions should be as small as possible and highly regulated and directly controlled by the Proletariat).

Speaking of Government Institutions and regulation of same-

The Chemist’s War
By Deborah Blum, Slate
Feb. 19 2010 10:00 AM

Frustrated that people continued to consume so much alcohol even after it was banned, federal officials had decided to try a different kind of enforcement. They ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols manufactured in the United States, products regularly stolen by bootleggers and resold as drinkable spirits. The idea was to scare people into giving up illicit drinking. Instead, by the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people.

Although mostly forgotten today, the “chemist’s war of Prohibition” remains one of the strangest and most deadly decisions in American law-enforcement history. As one of its most outspoken opponents, Charles Norris, the chief medical examiner of New York City during the 1920s, liked to say, it was “our national experiment in extermination.”

(T)he U.S. government’s controversial decision in the 1970s to spray Mexican marijuana fields with Paraquat, an herbicide. Its use was primarily intended to destroy crops, but government officials also insisted that awareness of the toxin would deter marijuana smokers. They echoed the official position of the 1920s—if some citizens ended up poisoned, well, they’d brought it upon themselves. Although Paraquat wasn’t really all that toxic, the outcry forced the government to drop the plan. Still, the incident created an unsurprising lack of trust in government motives, which reveals itself in the occasional rumors circulating today that federal agencies, such as the CIA, mix poison into the illegal drug supply.

During Prohibition, however, an official sense of higher purpose kept the poisoning program in place. As the Chicago Tribune editorialized in 1927: “Normally, no American government would engage in such business. … It is only in the curious fanaticism of Prohibition that any means, however barbarous, are considered justified.” Others, however, accused lawmakers opposed to the poisoning plan of being in cahoots with criminals and argued that bootleggers and their law-breaking alcoholic customers deserved no sympathy. “Must Uncle Sam guarantee safety first for souses?” asked Nebraska’s Omaha Bee.

By mid-1927, the new denaturing formulas included some notable poisons—kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, ether, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone. The Treasury Department also demanded more methyl alcohol be added—up to 10 percent of total product. It was the last that proved most deadly.

The results were immediate, starting with that horrific holiday body count in the closing days of 1926. Public health officials responded with shock. “The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol,” New York City medical examiner Charles Norris said at a hastily organized press conference. “[Y]et it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible.”

Norris also condemned the federal program for its disproportionate effect on the country’s poorest residents. Wealthy people, he pointed out, could afford the best whiskey available. Most of those sickened and dying were those “who cannot afford expensive protection and deal in low grade stuff.”

And the numbers were not trivial. In 1926, in New York City, 1,200 were sickened by poisonous alcohol; 400 died. The following year, deaths climbed to 700. These numbers were repeated in cities around the country as public-health officials nationwide joined in the angry clamor. Furious anti-Prohibition legislators pushed for a halt in the use of lethal chemistry. “Only one possessing the instincts of a wild beast would desire to kill or make blind the man who takes a drink of liquor, even if he purchased it from one violating the Prohibition statutes,” proclaimed Sen. James Reed of Missouri.

Anarcho-Syndicalists put Aristocrats and Corporations in the same category as Government. They need to be highly regulated (and taxed!) and should be as small as possible so they can be controlled by the Proletariat. I am not necessarily against big institutions, building and maintaining a national infrastructure, administering a national pension and welfare system, and providing national health care and product, pollution, and food safety standards require a big government to do it. One might say the same about national defense if we didn’t already have a distinct surplus in that department, spending as much as the next 15 or 20 countries in rank combined.

1 comment

  1. Vent Hole

Comments have been disabled.