Book review

City of Scoundrels

Over a month ago I picked up “City of Scoundrels” as a sale book from the Daedalus catalog. Prior to my sitting down to finally read this book, I finished “Love and Capital” by Mary Gabrielle, Cassandra Clare’s “City of Heavenly Fire,” a book for young adults. And in short order, I had read through Gary Krist’s very excellent book. Make that in about two days time, and I had read through a book involving an: 1. exploding blimp, 2. missing child that is finally found murdered, 3. race riots, 4. further confirmation that in the early post World War 1 American century, AG Palmer was quite the Bolshevik hunter. He was responsible for a number of arrests in Chicago by 1919&mdash1920. But what this book also detailed was the machine politics known to exist among both Democrats and Republicans. Just as the book details, the inevitable corruption that went with it.

But mostly this book details the life and times of Mayor William Hale Thompson, a Republican; during what can be called “The Progressive Era” of American politics. To put it bluntly, “The Progressive Era” was not necessarily all that it was cracked up to be. Prohibition was thoroughly discussed in this book, as part of “reformist era” politics. Mr. Krist took pains to point out, just how this war on drugs made possible the criminal gangs of their day. Corruption in high places, made cops, and the sort of gang violence as the consequence of bootlegging rum, that would equal anything in the illegal drug trade today. Especially of this reformist movement that was supposed eliminate public drunkenness, they always say that the “road to hell is paved with good intentions.” So back to Mayor Thompson and the uses he put to machine politics.

This is a story about Chicago, Illinois and its long history of corruption. For anyone who wished to point certain scandalous fingers in the direction of President Obama; scandals preceded this President by many decades, and affected both parties equally. Would you like to know that Republican pacifism and isolationism was a political fact during the first World War? Mayor Thompson was such a pacifist and isolationist, who even declared [treasonous] how Chicago was a “German” city. Literally, this was a Republican who identified with this nation’s enemies. If you are a Mayor of a major metropolitan city especially during wartime, you’d have to be nutcase on a political level, to identify with the enemy. It should also have crippled Mayor Thompson’s chances for re-election. But with corruption and machine politics, yeah actually, Mayor Thompson continued to maintain the status of mayor. Even more than this, Mayor Thompson worked with “poor Swede” Lundin to put loyalists into all positions of power. That’s all positions of power, inclusive of the Governor’s office. Thus my argument is that it takes reading factual history like this; to come to grips with the fact, that there is not much of the human condition that has changed over the years. Just as it would have to take an enormous ego for a mere mayor, to control who gets to become Governor of the state of Illinois. Me thinks that the Bolsheviks such as they were to this country, were less of a problem to the nation at large, than what we Americans could simply do to ourselves at anytime. A short blog post today, but I do recommend “City of Scoundrels.”


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