Archive for May, 2008

Is Hillary Clinton the next Mrs. Satan?

Posted in Rotten with tags , , on May 24, 2008 by davehurwitz

Victoria Woodhull as Mrs. SatanDespite the sensationalist title, these two women do share certain qualities. Hillary is far from the first woman to run for President, though she is arguable the closest to win the brass ring thus far. No, the first candidate was Victoria Woodhull in 1872, also dubbed Mrs. Satan by her detractors.

So what? you say. There must have been several other female candidates? Why align Mrs. Clinton with someone bearing the devil’s surname? Historically, there have been 26 candidates for President and 74 for Vice President. (9 also ran, but did not succeed in securing a nomination. This category includes Mrs. Clinton because as of this post, she has not secured a nomination.) The only notable stand outs from this bunch are Geraldine Ferraro (with 37,577,352 votes running as VP with Mondale in 1984 — also the only major party candidate), Winona LaDuke (with 2,883,105 votes running as VP with Nader in 2000), Charlotta Bass (the first African American candidate with 140,023 votes for VP in 1952) and finally Grace Allen (wife of George Burns who ran for President in 1940 as a publicity stunt, garnering 42,000 votes).

Compare these records with Victoria Woodhull. She received a whopping 2,000 votes (which seem to have not been counted). Standing against Hillary’s already 16,691,283 votes (Clinton’s sources, not mine), the two are polar opposites. What draws them closer is the appearance of a black man also running for office. In Victoria’s case it was her running mate, Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave and abolitionist. He apparently wanted nothing to do with Ms. Woodhull, neither acknowledging his nomination nor campaigning. This was probably due to the fact that no one notified him of the nomination.

This is where the similarities end. Throughout her life, Victoria Woodhull lived as a psychic, magnetic healer (which is how she secured millionaire husband Cornelius Vanderbilt), and prostitute. She advocated short skirts, spiritualism, woman’s suffrage, vegetarianism, homeopathy, licensed prostitution, birth control, Marxism and free love. It was the last point that got her the most flack.

In a scandal as big as the Monica Lewinsky affair of the 1990s, Victoria printed information about the Beecher-Tilton Affair between Elizabeth Tilton and Henry Ward Beecher (brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). Beecher was a prominent Protestant preacher, who denounced free love from his pulpit and attacked Victoria Woodhull personally. The affair had taken place in 1870, and Henry had convinced Elizabeth that she was blessed in God’s eye. However, she soon confessed to her husband, Theodore Tilton, one of Beecher’s closest disciples. He agreed to do nothing about the affair, thinking that Beecher had hypnotized his wife into it (he was also guilty of running around).

The whole thing finally broke loose when Theodore Tilton told his dear friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a noted feminist of the day. Stanton of course told Victoria Woodhull and she printed it up as an example of the sexual double-standard between men and women. You can’t blame Victoria. She suspected that Beecher had spread rumors that led to her being evicted from her home. For a time, the Presidential hopeful was homeless. No one would rent to the “Wicked Woodhull.”

Although Beecher was guilty, he was exonerated of all crimes. The public couldn’t accept that a pious man such as he could be a hypocrite. However, they could believe that Victoria Woodhull had viciously slandered the poor man. She was arrested for sending “obscene material” through the mail, spending election day, 1872, in jail. Her votes were not counted. Apparently a woman telling the truth was a greater threat than a preacher telling a lie.

Is it any surprise then that the next female candidate for President wasn’t for another twelve years. The government did all that it could to teach “Mrs. Satan” a lesson, one that future candidates, like Mrs. Clinton, I’m sure have noted. In Victoria’s time, women could not vote. Moreover, they were not even considered citizens. So if Victoria had won, she would not have been allowed to serve as President. All this while Great Briton had already enjoyed 35 years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

The major source for this post came from the article “Mrs Satan Goes to Washington” from issue 236 of Fortean Times.

Chris Kalidor

The Worst Auto-Accident I Ever Saw

Posted in Rotten with tags , , on May 17, 2008 by davehurwitz

Dedicated to J. G. Ballard

I have seen some pretty wild things out on the road over the years. In Nevada, my wife and I came a across a U-haul truck that had lost control and gone off the highway into a deep ditch. Furniture and packed boxes had literally exploded out the roof of the vehicle, strewing the golden desert sand with torn books, snapped chairs, and shattered dishes. Both Tim and I saw a bicyclist who’d been hit by a drunk driver. One of her shoes had lodged in bush thirty feet from the point of impact. I’ve seen tires blow, vehicles burn, motorcycle riders flung to the street. An aged Chevy jumped the curb and plowed into the side of a house right before my eyes. But when I saw this accident, or rather its aftermath, last autumn, I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at.

I first learned to drive in a small town in Illinois. Many times since I have been grateful for that fact. In addition to learning the ropes in light traffic populated by courteous drivers, I also learned to drive in weather. This is not something your average Southern Californian ever learns. We get accidents every time it rains, even just a little. Water soaks into the freeway concrete. Eight or nine months worth of accumulated motor oil floats and rises, coating the road surface with a layer slick, invisible ooze. Turn too sharply or break too abruptly, and your vehicle becomes a gliding weight, unsteerable, unstoppable, the plaything of physics, destined for impact.

This is surely what happened to the big-rig that veered suddenly out of the number two lane of the 805 South just shy of the 43rd Street off-ramp, slewed through the fast lane without touching any of the smaller traffic, and slammed into the support pillar of an overpass. It hit so hard that chunks of concrete flew into northbound traffic, smashing the wing mirrors and shattering the windshields of early commuters.

Of course, I saw none of this. All I knew was that southbound traffic was crawling along at an hour of the morning that usually assured clear sailing, and that I was crawling with it. It hadn’t been raining when I left the house, but I had seen the wet pavement. Stupidly, I had not gone back inside and checked the Caltrans website. Equally stupidly, I decided not to take any of several alternate routes, believing that things would clear up shortly.

More than twenty minutes later, the source of the congestion still nowhere in sight, I began to seriously regret this decision. The jazz album in the cassette deck cycled back to the beginning as I scanned the cup holders for something I might be able to piss in. Finally, one of those giant Cal Trans arrows closed off the fast lane. Several minutes later, another closed a second lane, the one immediately to my left. Traffic merged again, angry horns sounding while the Andrews Sisters sang to me about the lures of Trinidad.

The sight of empty, sunlit highway to my left was wrong, eerie, post-apocalyptic. Something bad, something two lanes worth of bad, had happened up ahead, and in a minute or two I would have a front row seat. I wanted to see. No, I didn’t want to see, but I knew that I would look with wide-open eyes when I got there. I rode the brake and watched the car in front of me. I hoped nobody had died.

The dump truck parked beneath an overpass came as something of an anticlimax. I didn’t know it, but it blocked the view of the support pillar’s shattered base. I wondered, briefly, if this was some ill-timed construction project. Then I noticed the dust winding along the tarmac in the light breeze, half construction grit, half glittering chips of metal and paint. The concrete of the median wall was scraped and scared for yards, the remainder of the accident zone a surprisingly long distance from its origin.

A wad of metal sat in the number two lane. That is the only way to describe it. It looked exactly like ball of crumpled paper, except that it was made of red-painted metal, and was nearly the size of my car. There were no windows, no doors, not a single machined curve, nothing that even remotely suggested that this was once a motor vehicle. For a few stunned seconds my mind utterly failed to understand. Then it did, and almost immediately, a more horrible realization followed. No blood was visible, but somewhere inside that shapeless heap of scrap were the remains of a human being.

A few yards beyond, a smaller wad straddled the number one and two lanes. Further on, CHP officers supervised the loading of a third onto a flatbed tow-truck. All three were the same red color, the same smashed and shredded steel. As I passed by the second piece, I recognized what must have been the cowling over a front tire, though the tire itself and even the wheel were nowhere in evidence. It was not until I read a news account of the accident later on that I learned that what I had seen had been a truck. The remains of the trailer, which had been the only recognizable piece of debris, had been hauled away before I passed by.

When I finally got clear of the blockage, I could not resist the urge to speed. Given what I had just seen, it was monumentally foolish, illogical, and somehow necessary. I pushed my little car until the chassis shook, balding tires skimming along the slick concrete, finally free.

Dave Hurwitz

Sicko: The Real Horror Movie

Posted in Cinema with tags , , on May 4, 2008 by davehurwitz

I had been intending to write about Korean director Chan-wook Park, but last night I watched a film by another man who makes scary movies, Michael Moore. Very little of what I saw surprised me. Not the men and women whose insurance companies allowed them to die of treatable diseases. Not the children who died because the closest hospital wasn’t covered by their health plan. Not even the taxi that dumped a dazed woman in a hospital gown in the middle of the street. The very same thing happens here in my hometown of San Diego. The practice came to light when a local homeless advocate was stabbed trying to break up a fight between two men beneath a bridge. Confused by blood loss and unable to identify himself to hospital personnel, he was given minimal treatment, stuffed into cab, and left half naked on the street, all because it was assumed he was indigent.

Sicko also shows the story of an American who receives free hospital care in England after stupidly injuring himself in the famous Abbey Road crosswalk. Moore doesn’t make this up. I too have experienced the generosity of Britain’s NHS. In the summer of 1992 I flew to London with the intention of working abroad. The day I arrived, I got caught in the rain between the Blackfriars tube station and my youth hostel and caught a cold. As I looked for work over the next week, my cold got steadily worse. After ten days I found myself shivering and hallucinating in a bottom bunk in an unlicensed boarding house in South Kensington. That morning, a naked English girl explained the National Health Service to me. She had spent the evening screwing the Frenchman in the bunk above mine, which I thought I had imagined. She gave me directions to the local clinic as she pulled her clothes out from under the sleeping Gallic Romeo. When I arrived at the clinic, the receptionist asked for my name, date of birth, passport number, and the reason for my visit. Nothing else. The doctor saw me immediately and listened while I explained my symptoms. He diagnosed me with bronchitis and prescribed me some antibiotics. He gave me directions to the nearest chemist (pharmacy), and strict instructions to eat and rest. At the chemist, I was charged nothing for the medication. Nothing at all. Remembering food, I went into the a little grocery store next door. The elderly Irishman behind the counter took one look at me and gathered up a bag of orange juice, fresh bread, and soup. The whole outing took less than an hour.

Back here in the US, I am forever fighting small battles. To get appointments and tests. To get the medication I need at a price I can afford. I drive all over town to get blood work and X-rays that I could easily get in one place, simply because my insurance requires it.  My wife will work until the day she die, so that the kids and I can have insurance. She is reluctant to even look for a better job. I’m not a religious man, far from it. But God bless Michael Moore for bringing the issue of America’s corrupt health care system out into the open. And God help America, the only civilized nation on Earth that still treats health as a business. Now that’s scary.

Dave Hurwitz