Chester Alan Arthur: The American Presidents Series

Born in Vermont. Raised in New York. Mediocre student. Strong antislavery beliefs. Became a lawyer. 
 
Very much a people person, which led to much of his success. Friend of Roscoe Conkling. Assigned Commissioner of ports in NY. Important position at the time. And very lucrative. 
 
Panic of 1873 lead to the end of moiety system. Hayes made civil service reform the leading cause of his presidency.  Hayes replaced Arthur as part of his reform campaign. 
 
Arthur picked as president primarily because of his likability and his alliance with Conkling and the Stalwarts. Arthur remains loyal to Conkling during Garfield’s/Blaine’s successful scheme to appoint non-Stalwarts to cabinet positions. Led to a break between Garfield and Arthur. 
 
Arthur was really into modernizing the White House. Liked fine clothes, carriages etc…  He was the Jackline Kennedy of his time. 
 
Vetoed the Anti-Chinese Immigration Bill. Signed the second one, knowing his veto would be overturned. 
 
Popular book at the time. Henry George’s Progress and Poverty. 
 
Republicans were crushed in the elections of 1882. During the duck session when they still had a majority, Arthur decided to push Pendleton’s civil service bill. Wanted to be seen as party of reform. Passed and Arthur signed. 
 
Died from problems related to Bell’s Palsey; kidney disease. Was a big eater/drinker,  which probably caused the  issues.  
 
Remember as an “ok” president – not terrible, certainly not  great. Did  better than expected considering. 
 
 

It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It – Robert Fulghum

I read his book All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten a long time ago. I  remembered it as rather cornball, but I did remember it, which is something. I read something about this volume recently and decided to give it a try.

This one is pretty cornball as well, and formulaic, but I can’t say didn’t enjoy parts of it. The title come from a newspaper article, an interview with a guy, who when asked how his matteress got on fire, answers that it was already on fire when he lay down on it.

A couple stories stood out to me. The one about the driver instructor who was loved by his students because he just listened to them and  tried to get to know them.  Another good one was about his time at a Zen monastery.  The head of the place reads to him this:

There is really nothing you must be.

And  there is  nothing you must do.

There is really nothing you must have.

And  there is nothing  you  must know.

There is  really nothing you must become.

However. It  helps to understand that fire burns, and  when it rains , the earth gets wet. 

 

There was also the story about the Hunt Saboteur Association, whose purpose was to break up fox hunting events – often humorously – thereby saving foxes from death. The interesting point was that doing good can also be fun, it doesn’t have to be grim and hard work. 

James A. Garfield – Ira Rutkow

Last president born in log cabin. Born in the Western Reserve. Close to what is now Cleveland. Great student at Williams College. Good at debate. Considered one of the best-educated presidents.
 
Long-time congressman from Ohio. Was a radical Republican, voted for the impeachment of Johnson. Not a Lincoln fan, felt he wasn’t aggressive enough.
 
Elected to Senate. Backed Blaine for presidential nomination. Disputed convention, Blaine supporters eventually threw support to Garfield. Eventually he won out over Grant.
 
Made Blaine Sec. of State. He preceded to attempt to control Garfield. Assignment outraged Conkling, boss of NY politics. 
 
He and his vice-president did not like each other. Author was aligned with Conkling, a Stalwart. 
 
Garfield refinanced the national debt, reducing the interest debt by 40%. Was agressive in bring Hawaii under US influence.
 
The “Star Route” scandal involved post office officials pocketing funds from rural routes that generated additional money do to their rural nature (they  didn’t’ really deliver the mail, just kept the money). To his credit, Garfield did not attempt to shield his campaign  manager or primary fund-raiser when their involvement was discovered.
 
Charles Guiteau shot Garfield at the Baltimore and Washington train depot. Garfield was headed to New England for a two-week vacation with his wife (she was already in the North East, recovering from an illness). Guiteau was a nut-job who had been pestering the Garfield administration for a position. He claimed he acted to save the  republic from Garfield. 
 
The doctors gave him champagne to counter liver hemorrhage. oh boy. The doctor’s fought vigorously about Garfield’s care. Dr. Bliss won out, over the objection of several more qualified doctors. 
 
Book provided a lot of information on the history  of medicine (written by a doctor).  Basically, there were two schools of though: Allopaths, who believed in strong remedies to produce the opposite affect of a disease, and homopaths, who basically believed the opposite. Neither really led to particularly effective treatments. The Allopaths probably did more harm.
 
In the 1860’s doctor Joseph Lister made the connection between sterilization techniques and positive surgical outcomes. His thoughts were well-known by the time Garfield was shot, but not well-accepted by U.S. doctors, especially older ones, such as those that treated Garfield.
 
Author notes that Garfield’s wound was similar to Reagan’s. He would  have recovered quickly with modern medical treatment.  
 

The Made Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld – Tom Folsom

Biography about Joey Gallo, mobster from NYC. Subject of the Dylan/Levy song, “Joey”.  Levy actually new Gallo personally, back in the sixties when  “mobster chic” was popular among the rich white privileged types. Morons.

Didn’t like the book at all really. Written in a hipster beat kind of way, I found the style annoying, and at times it was hard to follow.