Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Barack Obama, we hardly knew ye!

Ah, gentle readers ... the travails of living in Barack Obama's neighborhood! Occasionally I must display legal identification to the police in order to reach my home; the excellent local restaurant Medici now requires all its wait staff to wear shirts that say, "Obama eats here". Let's hope Obama rises above the record set by previous Chicago politicians such as Rod Blagojevich. (What's your favorite Blagojevich quote? Mine is, In a Nov. 11 conversation, Blagojevich acknowledged that Obama wanted an unnamed "Senate Candidate 1" for the seat but "they're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. [Expletive] them.")

This week we learn that Blagojevich is in a fine, established legacy of evil. For instance, let's look at this Affordable and Interesting item:


This little book-shaped matchbox-holder was used to promote P.J. Carr in his 1926 campaign for Sheriff. "If elected Sheriff," the matchbox-holder promises, "I will make all of the highways of Cook County absolutely safe for every man, woman and child." Highways? What did a 1926 Chicago highway look like, I wonder? Carr is mentioned in a study by Carroll Hill Wooddy, "The Chicago Primary of 1926" (click here to read it on Google Books), which thoroughly explains that he was just another small cog in the corrupt machine we love so well. $12.50 buys you evidence of Chicago's grand old tradition ... and a cool place to keep your matches, to boot!

Our Collector's Item is rather more informative and straightforward than that little matchbox:

This scarce First Edition "history of Chicago crime and politics" was written in 1952, and the Preface notes, "From the 1951 fall election returns, it was evident that everywhere in America the people were revolting against criminal-political alliances. ... Generally overlooked, however, was the fact that these conditions are not of recent development." Now there's a lesson of which we could remind ourselves today. This copy of the book belonged to Raymond J. Hederman (who was once Chief Clerk in the Circuit Court of Cook County), and I wonder if he would agree with my immediate reaction to the title -- "What a funny editorial choice, to separate crime and politics into two different concepts like that!" They do say that power corrupts. Learn how much, for only $70.00!

This week's Favorite goes a bit afield from our subject: it is not specifically related to corruption in Chicago. Still, it does at least have a section on the Chicago World's Fair, and I bet there's lots of information on general wickedness:

"This book aims to present as many opinion poll results as possible, in a convenient and useful form. The material presented has been collected from 23 organizations in 16 countries and covers the period from 1935, when George Gallup and Elmo Roper began publishing results obtained by this sampling method, through 1946." If that sounds large in scope, well, that's because it is. Look at the index section around the Chicago World's Fair:

Chemistry, technical. See Synthetic products.
Chiang Kai-Shek. See Persons.
Chicago -- World's Fair, 1933-34. See Exhibitions.
Chickens. See Poultry.
CHILD LABOR ... page 97; see also Hours of labor, Labor supply, Agricultural, Wages.

I opened to a random page and found sections for Habeas Corpus and Happiness:

Then I opened to another random page and found the Black Market section! I love this bit:

13. (Denmark, Nov. 12 '44.) Have you ever bought anything directly or indirectly from the black market? -- Yes: 10.3%. No: 89.7%.
14. (Denmark, Nov. 12 '44.) Have you any sympathy for any form of black-market transactions? -- Yes: 7.3%. No: 92.7%.

One wonders what that 3% of people thinks of themselves -- you know, the ones who have had black-market transactions but don't sympathize with them. These and many other intriguing questions come up every time I flip through this book, which you -- yes, you -- could own for $60.00. Hours of entertainment, and a remarkable historical snapshot to boot!

As our first Black President, Obama has already shattered one stereotype. I'm rooting for him to break with Chicago's legendary corruption, too! Let's keep history in mind as we watch his presidency. I can't wait to see what happens!

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