One of the great things about the internet is one’s ability to discover and explore nooks and crannies, stumbling upon amazing things. Amazing in every sense of the word.

The other day on my way to look up something else, I wandered into a far-off corner of the Web, a place where reenactors gather. Reenactors as in (mostly) guys who dress up in costumes from a bygone era and build camps and fight mock battles. It all looks pretty healthy but it’s, you know, weird. But weird in a “Wo! I knew this stuff existed, but not  on this SCALE!” kind of way. Interesting way. But NOT in a way that would  tempt me to participate in any way. I just wanted to make that clear.

To me, reenactment is sort of like NASCAR; I don’t know anything about it except what has osmosed into my brain. Because NASCAR has so successfully infiltrated our popular culture, we know stuff about NASCAR even if we have no interest in it whatsoever. Reenactors don’t create that kind of buzz, which is probably a good thing.

In contrast to NASCAR’s TV contracts and product-promotion tie ins; reenactors have the occasional billboard reading: Civil War Reenactment Labor Day Weekend!

So reenactment and reenactors populate the hinterlands of the internet. Once I got into the interlinked websites, I was fascinated. I learned that the Civil War is only a part of the Reenactor Universe, a universe that spans continents. In the UK, they play out the wars of the Empire such as the conquest of India and the wars between the Saxons and the Britons in the 6th century. There are even pirate reenactors!

Once a body has found a good reenactment era “fit” and gotten in touch with some fellow travelers, it’s time to get geared up. Because of the Internet, this is vastly easier than it once was. There are plenty of websites out there willing to help you out.   Some sell historical clothing. Then there is Smoke-Fire.com, the Wal-Mart of reenactor paraphernalia!

OMG they sell stuff for KIDS! Can you imagine being the child of an avid reenactor?

“But Daddy, I don’t WANNA go to the Battle of Shiloh this weekend! They say I can’t text or talk on my phone.”

“You can go two days without that phone!”

“But Daddy…….”

“Don’t make me flog you!”

One thing to be aware of: there are a group of reenactors called “Farbs” that are looked down upon by the more hard core participants. Farbs are reenactors who spend relatively little of their time or money maintaining authenticity with regard to uniforms, accessories, or even period behavior. A ‘Good Enough’ attitude is pervasive among farbs, although even casual observers may be able to point out flaws. Anachronistic clothing, fabrics, fasteners (such as velcro), snoods, footwear, vehicles, and modern cigarettes are common issues.

If you’re interested in starting a group, I’ve taken the trouble of tracking down an article on how to get started.

More “must-have” links:

Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman and British Living History

Ancient warfare (Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, etc)

Skirmish Magazine (multiple eras)

 

 

 

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We continue our series, The Really True History of America.*

While stock car racing’s roots run all the way back to the days of the chariot, in America its history goes back at least to the colonial era. As early as 1760, Earl “Jimmy George” Washington, a cousin of our nation’s first president, was careering through downtown Fairfax, VA in a carriage covered with decals for Boar’s Head Ale Lite, Ye Foxe and Hounde Tavern, Lobsterback Uniforms and Boots, NAPA Buggy Parts, the Colonial Action Army, and Sam’s General Store Clubs.

Colonial racing fan. "Show us thy bosoms!"

Because of his aggressive driving style and pugnacious attitude, he was known as “Ye Olde Intimidator” and developed a devoted fan following. Those fans were known for their penchant for drunk and unruly behavior. They would often stand on street corners, yelling “show us thy bosoms” at members of the fairer sex. The less reputable ladies would comply. Each year, Fairfax hosts a National Stock Buggy Racing Re-enactment. You can see a video clip here.

Andrew Jackson. He once beat a driver to death with a silver-headed cane.

The sport faced an existential crisis when Gen. Andrew Jackson of Tennessee was elected president. Until that time, federal support for wheeled racing had risen and fallen. During the presidencies of southerners, it spiked and when a northerner took office, it plummeted. The thinking going in was that Jackson would be good for racing. Um, not so. As it turned out, Jackson was a big fan of horseracing and he felt that wheeled racing was starting to pose a threat. Jackson revealed his prejudices when he beat a driver to death with a silver-headed cane at a track near Chattanooga, crying “you monstrous cad, you monstrous cad,” as he delivered the rain of fatal blows.

Just before the outbreak of the Civil War/War Between the States, Wayside Chester Garner, a young Iowa bicycle mechanic and tinkerer, invented the first stock car. It was powered by a steam engine, a steering tiller and four wooden wheels. Garner was afraid of the car to drive it. He turned instead to his friend Dale Kenny Petty. Petty was a natural. With incredible vision and magnificent reflexes, he immediately took to the vehicle and was soon playing it like a cello. For two summers leading up to the War, Garner, Petty and their entourage made a comfortable living challenging (and beating) buggies, wagons, carts, phaetons, and even galloping horses pulling nothing at all. Petty and Garner had a falling out over Petty’s demand for more pay and no yellow M&Ms in his dressing room. The Civil War/War Between the States intervened. Neither survived the War. Garner died while being mugged by a gang he had sought out to pay a member $100 to enlist for him in the Union Army. Petty was killed when the heel of his boot caught in a crack in the sidewalk, pitching him directly into the path of an onrushing bicycle with the big giant front wheel. Petty died instantly and the wheel was ruined. It was was repaired by Garner and was the last known bicycle component he ever touched. He climbed aboard the train heading off to his army company and never returned.

Stock car racing maintained an even, if somewhat down-scale presence in the American psyche throughout the last half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. A major leap forward was the invention  of the internal combustion engine in Germany. By World War I, American youth had already begin “hopping up” their cars.

Stock car driver Fireball Roberts in 1933

When the Depression hit in the 1930s, a young man named Bill France headed to Florida to 1) find meaning in his life; 2) look for work; and 3) see how fast old cars could go. He ended up in Daytona Beach, which had drawn dozens of similar young people who were biding their time waiting for surfing to be invented. Before long, the sands at Daytona were littered with blown engines, dropped transmissions and abandoned human body parts. Being unable to find work, France invented the National Association of Stock Car Racing (NASCAR) and settled in to wait for television to come.

It wasn’t until after WWII (AKA, “the Big One”) that racing began to go mainstream. Young people, adrift in the 1950s and with a taste for liquor honed in lonely European and Pacific outposts, began learning the ropes from bootleggers in the piney woods of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia. Before the decade was over, stock car racing (and its poor cousin, demolition derbies) had spread to county fairs across the country.

Jimmy Carter's campaign promise: "A camshaft in every pot!"

NASCAR was officially recognized as an American institution when Jimmy Carter established the cabinet position, Secretary of Stock Car Racing. Carter nominated and the Senate unanimously confirmed Col. Beauregard P. Dayton of Florida as the first secretary. Secretary Dayton, whose great-great-great grandfather had founded the town of Daytona Beach, Florida,  served only five weeks in the position before choking to death on a biscuit at a fried chicken restaurant. His body was placed on a catafalque covered with endorsement decals and placed on train to take him home. Millions of Americans lined the tracks all along the route, paying silent tribute to the Colonel. The entourage took a detour to the Bristol, TN track where more than two thousand former drivers, mechanics and pit crew members actually took showers and put on clean clothes for a moving service.

By 1990, NASCAR had replaced thoroughbred racing as America’s Most Popular Sport Where You Watch Stuff Run Around On An Oval. Discussions were underway to open the sport for parimutuel wagering but once regulators realized the general moral turpitude of the average driver, the conversation was quickly ended. The potential revenue was replaced by convincing advertisers such as Tide detergent to spend millions to have their logos emblazoned across the hoods of the cars. Think about it. What does Tide do? It makes your clothes clean. Do stock car fans care about clean anything? I rest my case.

It’s just three days from Christmas (unless you’re Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or heathen) and you might be panicking about a gift for that Bubba-Who-Has-Everything on your list. Why not give him lessons at the Dale Jarrett School of Stock Car Racing, where he can drive more than 165 mph. It might be a way to cross him off your Christmas list permanently!

In closing, I offer these quick assessments of some prominent stock car figures:

Junior Johnson – The Grandaddy of Modern Racing. Author Tom Wolfe made Junior the subject of one of his earliest Esquire articles. Won the first Daytona 500.

Lee Petty – Richard Petty’s daddy, grandaddy of Kyle Petty. Won the second Daytona 500 and is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Richard Petty — The King. He would have been called The God but that would have been sacrilegious.

Dale Earnhardt -- The Intimidator. Died doing what he did best, which was to be a maniac. Secretly, his peers don’t miss him.

Cale Yarborough – The first driver to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Also appeared in two episodes of the TV show Dukes of Hazzard and also appeared in a movie with Burt Reynolds.

Jeff Gordon — The Mama’s Boy. A wuss. Couldn’t hold The King’s feathered hat. The first driver to earn $100 million. Pretty much hated by other drivers, mainly because he speaks understandable English. Is way overexposed in the media, having hosted Regis and Kelly about 10 times. Also has his own video game.

* We invite you to read the entire Really True History of the USA series:

 

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As we mentioned yesterday, the Framers of the Constitution (which included most of the Founding Fathers, plus Ronald Reagan, Jesus, Moses and a utility infielder picked up on waivers from the Cleveland Indians), realized almost immediately after the Constitution was adopted that they had forgotten to put in a lot of stuff. Thus, they came up with the Bill of Rights, which is what they named the first 10 amendments.

In their defense, it is understandable that they forgot this stuff because, hey, have you ever looked at the Constitution? It’s like illegible! They wrote this thing long hand on brown butcher paper and the substituted f’s for t’s and vice versa. I ain’t naming names but someone should have been held back in penmanship class!

Anyway, today we’re going to talk about the Second Amendment which is one of the most fun and controversial of all the amendments! Let’s goooooo!

The Second Amendment says: A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Scholars and crackpots have long debated the meaning of each word in this seemingly simple sentence. For example, what does the term “well regulated” mean? Does it mean a militia that has is carefully regulated by laws? Does it mean a militia that eats prunes daily and is thus “regular”? And what does “free State” mean? Or how about “militia”? These are hard questions!

After 235 years of debate, careful consideration and thoughtful discussion, the Republican Party, in its guise as the National Rifle Organization, believes this sentence means, “It’s perfectly OK for total nutjobs to have unlimited access to automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of belted ammunition because who knows when the Democrats or minorities are going to break into your home and deny you your freedom and liberty? Huh?”

Democrats, on the other hand, believe that most people should not be able to carry guns. This, of course, would include felons, crazy people and fringe elements who are quite likely to abide docilely by gun control laws. Let’s just say there’s disagreement.

There is also lots of sloganeering. For example, gun advocates say, “Guns don’t kill people.” I agree! Guns don’t kill people! Hunks of lead shot at incredibly high rates of speed kill people! Duh!

And as former NRA head Charlton Heston, whom we met as Moses earlier in this series, used to say, “You’ll have to pry my gun from my cold dead fingers!” But wait! He was cremated and thus deprived us of that very opportunity.

It is also interesting to consider the historical context of the Second Amendment. When the Amendment was written in 1789, the weapon of choice was the flintlock musket. This single-shot weapon was seven feet long, weighed about 30 pounds, took about two minutes to load* and was wildly inaccurate beyond 15 yards. The Founding Fathers were probably pretty confident that even a drunken crazy man couldn’t hold an entire junior high school hostage with a flintlock.

Since then, weapons have become more sophisticated. Why? Because criminals and liberals have become more sophisticated. As our society has changed, so have the weapons needs of our citizenry. If not for the unflinching grit of men like Charlton Heston, American patriots would have no doubt been denied access to weapons like this folding machine gun (keep yourself safe when you walk the dog after dark!) or this fine weapon that will come in handy in case you need to protect your home and family against an intruder a mile and a half away.

Tomorrow: I’ve decided we’ll skip the Third Amendment, since it deals with Protection from forced quartering of troops, although the friend of mine who found his 17 year old daughter in bed with a guy home on leave might want to ask a lawyer about this. Instead, we’ll skip ahead to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Should be a laugh riot!

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* From Wikipedia:

In the 18th century, as typified by the English Brown Bess musket, loading and firing was done in the following way:


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After the US Constitution was ratified (see yesterday’s insightful post), some people actually got around to reading it and said, “Ooops! We left some stuff out!” They then reconvened the Constitutional Congress and set about adding the Bill of Rights which is what we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.

The first of these is called the First Amendment. The First Amendment provides for Freedom of Speech, Assembly and Religion. Let’s take a closer look.

Freedom of Speech, formerly known as Freedom of the Press, is very important to our democracy. Without this Freedom, Congress might very well have passed a law limiting viewer access to the Casey Anthony murder trial or to Dancing with the Stars when Bristol Palin was on. In addition, it protects Fox News’s right to call itself “Fair and Balanced” despite all evidence to the contrary.

This amendment protects the media’s the right to conduct probing, in-depth investigations into matters of significant public importance like the economy and Lindsay Lohan’s shoplifting charge. It also protects Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck who are, of course, the heirs to the legacy of our Founding Fathers.

There are, of course, some limits on free speech. You are not protected by the First Amendment if you yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But if Rush Limbaugh calls the President a “scum sucking lower life form who wants to burn every Dittohead to death by locking them in a theater and starting it on fire,” that’s OK.

You cannot show Janet Jackson’s nipple on TV but you can show Jack Bauer tearing out someone’s fingernails with a garden trowel.  It is pretty clear from the notes of the Constitutional Convention that this is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended.

The First Amendment also protects Freedom of Assembly as long as you aren’t a Muslim or protester in Madison, Wisconsin. So Glenn Beck can get together with 50,000 lunatics on the Mall in Washington, DC to whip them into a paranoid frenzy by equating Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler but don’t even think about trying a sit-in at the State Capitol in Madison. Lucky for us those brave men 235 years ago resisted efforts to force them to join the International Brotherhood of Declaration of Independence Writers, Constitution Framers, and Founding Fathers, AFL-CIO.

The First Amendment also protects Freedom of Religion. Some people think this means separation of church and state but it doesn’t. It means that the government can’t force you to join a certain religion. This is good because it’s unlikely that the government would force you to become a Unitarian. It’s much more probable that you’d be handling snakes, speaking in tongues and gathering at the river.

The First Amendment also enables us to combine Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Religion in creative ways. For example, we can all feel free not only to get together with people who believe, like we do, that abortion is a cardinal sin but we can also parade around with picket signs of dead fetuses and threaten an abortion provider or two. Of course, we can’t really kill any abortion providers because that would violate their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and everyone knows that liberals are never as happy as when they are aborting fetuses.

Tomorrow: The Second Amendment: Your Right to Hunt Doves with a Submachine Gun

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The US Constitution

The US Constitution, which was written on a mountain by Moses, Jesus, Ronald Reagan and George Washington, begins this way:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Constitution then goes on to outline the respective roles of the three branches of government.

The authors of the Constitution (clockwise from top left) Ronald Reagan, Moses, George Washington, Jesus.

The first branch mentioned is the Legislative branch. Its role is mainly to get re-elected but it also performs other important functions: to wear flannel shirts, jeans and boots during the three months prior to an election, to get money from lobbyists, to go on “fact-finding missions” to places like Aruba, to take credit for anything good and to shift blame for anything remotely bad, and to hold “town meetings” where they basically tolerate being in the same room with people who a) might disagree with them and b) don’t give them cash but who might vote for them.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years and members of the Senate are elected every six years. Basically, Senators wear nicer suits and have better haircuts. Representatives, on the other hand, have to raise campaign cash like rats in heat. Despite this fact, the Senate works much more…er, deliberately, since the Senate rules allow any relative of a Senator who is a third cousin or closer to bring the Senate to a standstill. There’s a saying among rich people: “We don’t run for Congress. We own the people who run for Congress.” 

The second branch of government is the Executive Branch. This is basically the President and everyone he can boss around. It also includes the Vice President, who has the easiest job on the planet. According to the Constitution, the Vice President has two duties: be President if the President dies and cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate. Since the Senate never gets around to voting on anything and since Presidents don’t die all that often, this gives the Vice President a lot of time to relax. Historically, vice presidents have been excellent golfers.

Among the people the President can boss around are the cabinet members. Originally, there were just a few: Secretary of War, Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Attorney General. The Secretary of War is now the Secretary of Defense to reflect the fact that our armed forces serve to protect us from people like the Iraqis, the Afghans, and the Libyans who just a few years ago were getting money from the Secretary of the Treasury. See? Government is complicated!

Secretary of Agriculture Winnie...er, Tom Vilsack

Over the years, a bunch of new secretaries have been added: Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Transportation, and so on. Presidents create new cabinet positions when they feel the need which means we will probably soon see a Secretary of NASCAR, a Secretary of No Homos, and a Secretary of Jesus. While cabinet secretaries seem pretty important, the fact that Tom Vilsack can get appointed as one pretty much proves they don’t need to be anything other than a political hack to get the job.

Justice Clarence Thomas

The third (and final) branch is the Judicial Branch which used to be highly respected because of the service on the Court of such towering intellects as John Marshall,  Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Evans Hughes and Louis Brandeis. That was then. This is now, when a mental midget like Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t asked a question during oral arguments in four years, is actually allowed to sit on the same bench once occupied by those justices. Along with his drinking buddies John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, Thomas has helped hand over our political system to the Koch brothers, Wall Street, and other reactionaries on the right. As a result, the current US Supreme Court now has a reputation somewhat lower than Big Eddie’s Wham-Bam Used Car Bonanza. Unfortunately, people still pretty much go along with their decisions, which is how George W. Bush became president. Yay for us!

Tomorrow: The Real True Story of the Bill of Rights

 

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Some people think women didn’t play a role in building our great country until Eleanor Roosevelt got some leverage on FDR by finding some love letters. Not true! Women have played an important, if behind-the-scenes role from Day 1.

George Washington's mother

For example, who taught George Washington not to tell a lie? His dad? LMFAO. I don’t think so! His dad (Augustine Washington whom everyone called “Gus”) used to sit in a bar all day and when George’s mom Mary would call to get him to come home for dinner, his dad always told the bartender to tell her he wasn’t there. No way we could expect that kind of guy to tell a kid not to lie.

A young George Washington and his mom beg his dad to come home from the tavern.

 

Molly Pitcher, wearing her best satin dress, helps on the battlefield.

There were many, many other strong women who helped launch the country we now call USA. Molly Pitcher is a famous one. While her real name has been lost to history, her deeds have been recounted many times. Most historians think Molly Pitcher is a composite of many women who helped on the battlefield by bringing water to the soldiers in pitchers. This is also true for Molly Stein, Molly Glass, Molly Bottle, Molly Canteen, Molly Bota, and Molly Champagneflute. And of course, women also played important roles as nurses, teachers, seamstresses, and mothers.

 

Then, in the middle of the 18th century, a new kind of woman arose: the Suffragette.

Susan B. Anthony. She got better looking at closing time.

Led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, these women were important advocates for giving women the right to vote. Unfortunately, they also thought men were drunken bums and so they founded the Women’s Temperance Movement, which said you shouldn’t drink alcohol. The drunken bums (who, remember, ran everything) said, “No way! And hey, don’t even THINK about voting since the first thing you’ll do is make booze illegal!” They also wrote songs with titles like “The girls all get prettier at closing time” but that’s another story entirely.

In time, women DID get the right to vote which pretty much everyone says was the right thing to do because we’re a much more politically correct country now than we were back then. Well some of us are. The 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, was proposed on June 4, 1919. Within a month, 11 states had ratified it. By the end of 1919, 22 states had done so and within 441 days, the amendment had been ratified by the states. There were some holdouts:

41 Virginia Feb 21, 1952
42 Alabama Sep 8, 1953
43 Florida May 13, 1969
44 South Carolina Jul 1, 1969
45 Georgia Feb 20, 1970
46 Louisiana Jun 11, 1970
47 North Carolina May 6, 1971
48 Mississippi Mar 22, 1984

 

Now THAT’S what I call true conservatism!

Anyway, without the 19th Amendment, we wouldn’t be able to elect women politicians to high office! No 19th, no Hilary Clinton, no Sarah Palin, no Michele Bachmann.

So don’t tell me women haven’t played a big and major role in our country! From handing out water on the battlefield to shooting moose to standing up against communist socialists…you’ve come a long way, baby!

 

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Manhattan Island today

Once upon a time, Manhattan wasn’t covered with buildings. At the time, there were several tribes comprising about 200 people living in what is now all of New York City. The Cuyahoga lived in Soho, the Shinnecock lived on the Lower East Side, the Montauk lived in Chinatown, the Lyanape tribe lived in Central Park West, and the Dodgers lived in Brooklyn.

There wasn’t doodly squat going on in Lower Manhattan. It was mostly covered with woods and some swamps, used mainly by teenage Montauk boys who would sneak off there to smoke cigarettes and play with matches.

Henry Hudson after the Born-Agains turned against him.

The Indians first encountered white men when Henry Hudson stopped by in 1609. He was headed up the river which would one day bear his name looking for a water route to China, where he hoped to get some carryout. When saw some neon casino signs., he figured, “what the heck, I have been on a long, arduous voyage,” and he stopped by to play some keno. Hudson stuck around and partied for awhile with an Indian lass who worked a window in the sports book and then thought, “Wo! I’d sure like some egg rolls,” and he took off. Some of his crew (who were born-again Christians) were really pissed off that Hudson had introduced the Indians to firewater, and the Indians had introduced him to roulette and rose up against him in a mutiny. They took over his ship, put Hudson, his son and some other guys in a boat and set them adrift. They were never seen again. The mutineers, however, went on to live long fun-free, beverage-less lives without music. So you tell me who had the worse deal.

Anyway, a few years went by and in 1626 A Dutch guy named Peter Minuit cruised into town. The King of Holland, Hans Brinker, had recently granted Minuit the RE/MAX franchise for North America and Minuit was out looking for properties to list. After asking around, he was introduced to the chief of the Lyanapes. After the obligatory pleasantries, they got down to business:

Minuit: I am looking for property to list.

Chief: Commercial or residential?

Peter Minuit does some hard bargaining

Minuit: I’m actually interested in raw land with development potential.

Chief: We’ve got plenty of that around here. Two nice rivers, a good harbor, flat land, nice view across the water to New Jersey…and I can guarantee zoning won’t be a problem.

Minuit: I will give you $24 in beads, trinkets, blankets and wampum.

Chief: Toss in a fifth of rye whiskey, some sweet vermouth and some maraschino cherries and you’ve got a deal!

Minuit: Why the cherries?

Chief: I’ll show you after we sign the papers.

Manhattan, straight up

So they had the papers drawn up and notarized. Once they had signed the papers, the chief called for an ice bucket and some glasses and made a drink consisting of two parts rye and one part sweet vermouth. He tossed in a cherry and handed the drink to Minuit. “Hey, this is good!” Minuit said. “What’s it called?

“Doesn’t have a name,” said the chief. “We’re Indians and not into giving booze names.”

“I think I’ll call it a Manhattan!” Minuit said. “I’d like another one, but make this one straight up with less vermouth…oh, and two cherries, please.”

The chief loaded up the wampum and headed back to his tribe. Minuit got a survey crew out to create plats. He then called Donald Trump’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather and set up a lunch meeting.

Over the years, a lot of people have said that Minuit screwed the Indians since Manhattan is now valued at a hair over $8 trillion. A recently discovered recording of a cell phone conversation sheds different light on the subject:

Chief 1: Tony, this is Mike.

Chief 2: Mike! How’s things in Lyanape land?

Chief 1: Doing great, Tony. How are things with the Montauk mafia?

Chief 2: Never better…except for those damn kids sneaking off to smoke cigarettes.

Chief 1: I think I might have solved that for you.

Chief 2: Oh, man, I’d owe you big time! How’d you do it?

Chief 1: I just “sold” that area to some white sucker named Minuit.

Chief 2: SOLD it? LMAO, dude. You don’t even OWN it.

Chief 1: Minuit doesn’t know that and let’s keep it that way, OK? Wanna bring the missus over for a cocktail?

Chief 2: On my way!

 

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Our sacred flag

I know I promised that we’d talk about Reconstruction and the Rise of Capitalization and maybe we will sometime, just not today. Today we’re going to talk about how our flag went from a humble, hand-sewn banner to a mass-manufactured commodity made in Chinese factories by 10-year-olds in quantities large enough so that every Tea Party wacko can wave three of them when Sarah Palin shows up.

Don't Tread On Me Flag

At first, there was no one single flag.

Pine Tree Flag

Everyone had their own ideas for flags. One had a picture of a snake and the words, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Another had a pine tree with the words “An Appeal to Heaven.” Yet another had Alexander Hamilton’s ex-wife’s phone number with the words “For a Good Time Call.” But people started thinking there ought to be one single flag since, hey, E Pluribus Unum, right? But then they had to come up with something everyone liked, which turned out to be a problem. Democrats wanted a blue flag, Republicans wanted a red flag and Southerners wanted a black-and-white checkered flag.

South preferred this one

First they tried having a contest where schoolkids submitted their designs. That didn’t work so well because there wasn’t any drawing paper and so the kids started sending shovels on which they had drawn their designs in charcoal. No one (except Southerners) wanted a black and white flag so that idea was a complete fail. After a whole Revolutionary War spent scratching their heads wondering about a flag, they finally got their act together during the war of 1812. Here’s the really true story.

First, there was a woman named Betsy Ross. Betsy Ross was a seamstress in Baltimore. She also liked to tip a few but that’s not part of the story. I just bring it up because she got a little loose when she’d been drinking and sometimes woke up in the back of a haywagon with some guy she’d met the night before and that IS part of the story either. One time she woke up early in the morning, just the birds were singing and found she was next to a guy named Francis “Scott” Key. Scott was a part-time beer vendor at the Orioles games and was trying to get a break in the music industry. He had just hired an agent, Jose Ruiz, who was friends with a guy who owned the Ramada Inns in the Baltimore area. Jose was trying to book Scott Key into some of the lounges but it wasn’t working out.

Anyway, when Betsy Ross woke up, she couldn’t find her bra, which was a Wonder Woman bra. She’d gone shopping for a Wonder bra but was pretty drunk and ended up coming home with three Wonder Woman bras, all of which made her look like she’d been shot in the back with two rockets. She was really desperate to find her bra since if she went home without it her husband, Jim Ross Lightfoot, would say, “hey, WTF are you coming home without your bra. Something’s not right!”

Wonder Woman

Meanwhile, a British soldier was sneaking back to Fort McHenry with her bra. Turns out, Francis “Scott” Key hadn’t been Betsy’s only amusement in the back of the haywagon. Just as the sun was coming up, Scott Key, who had to work a doubleheader that day, sent a note to his agent asking him to go to Fort McHenry to retrieve Betsy’s bra.

The note read: “Jose, can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly I unhooked at twilight’s last gleaming? That bra’s stripes in the bar, we had a helluva fight.”

Luckily, Jose was able to climb the ramparts, avoiding the red glare and the bombs bursting in air and got Betsy’s bra back. When Scott Key took it to her house, she opened the door a crack and whispered that her husband was very suspicious and that she had to get back to the flag she was sewing.

“I want to see you again,” Scott Key said. “No chance,” Betsy said. My husband is a card-carrying member of the National Musket Association and he’ll blow your sorry ass away.”

When the dejected Scott Key got home, he pulled out his keys, his change and his wallet to put them on the dresser and he found the note Jose had returned to him when he brought back the bra.

“Eureka! I have it!” Scott Key cried. “I will write a national anthem! Since Betsy’s hubby is such a patriot, he won’t dare mess with the guy who wrote the National Anthem!” So he changed some of the words around and called it “The British Bra’d this on Themselves” But Jose talked him out of that and so he renamed it “The Star Spangled Banner” which is actually a reference to Betsy’s panties (see picture above right) but that’s a story for another day.

Next time: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the Raiders

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George Washington, hero

Our country was founded in 1776 when the Founding Fathers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Christopher Columbus, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston and some others) got together in New York City to declare that we weren’t giving up our bare arms. They signed the Declaration of Independence and then broke the Liberty Bell by ringing it so hard. Heston would later found the city of Charlton, South Carolina.

Charlton Heston

The British didn’t like this and, being liberal communists, immediately tried to pass gun control laws, which started the Revolutionary War of 1812. For awhile it looked like we might lose but then they captured Benedict Arnold, Washington crossed the icy Potomac on a fairy and we won.

Liberty Bell

The same guys I mentioned above then wrote the Constitution which ended slavery and ensured the rights of people to go to church but the word “mosque” was never used. You can look that up.

The political parties were soon created. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and Abraham Lincoln founded the Republican Party. The Democrat party was founded by Karl Marx and some Quakers. The Republicans bought the entire rest of the country from the Indians for some beads and a case of Jim Beam and started building railroads. The Democrats immediately tried to surrender to the Spanish when there wasn’t even a war going on. Once they found that out, they all went to Massachusetts, where they invented welfare and started agitating for universal suffrage, which said that illegal immigrants from Mexico could send their kids to school for free and didn’t have to pay taxes.

Karl Marx, Founder of Democrat Party

The Civil War broke out in 1860 when the Democrats tried to raise taxes agains the Will of the People. It was a bloody strife and finally ended when the Confederates surrendered at Applesauce Courthouse in return for a promise that from then on all the military bases would be built in their states and that labor unions would be outlawed. All the South had to give up was a commitment to decent public education and public health, which was very attractive later when they had to compete against Indonesia for low-wage jobs.

Next time: Reconstruction and the Rise of Capitalization.

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