Friday, December 14, 2012

Birdman Locates Still

Front page news: "Birdman Ferrets Out Still Skillfully Hidden in Wilds of Marlborough; Jail Owner." The article began "Great are the possibilities of the airplane. It remains for the State police to employ aircraft for detecting crime of the bootlegging brand."
Just a couple years earlier on January 16, 1920, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution instituting Prohibition began. Ironically, the people of Connecticut never ratified that Amendment, but as a nation and a union, we became obliged to recognize and carryout the law. We think of moonshiners as "southern good old boys," but reality is, the illegal manufacturing of alcohol had no state boundary limits. Sounds a bit like illegal drugs today. Enforcing the law in 1923, however, landed Jacob Rogers of Marlborough a 30 day sentence in Hartford County jail and a fine of $434.75. The still was found, by the help of an unidentified aircraft and pilot who sketched a map of the location, pinpointing on a sequestered nook in the wildest part of Marlborough converging near the point where East Hampton, Colchester and Marlborough converge.
Apprehended by State Police and Grand Juror Henry Cordes, they found a full still at work and Rogers bossing the job. The State Police took the still, destroyed the mash and confiscated what little liquor was about the place. Justice was swift. Rogers was taken to a local Justice of the Peace where he pleaded guilty and was immediately transferred to jail. According to police, Roger had so skillfully concealed his movements that the officers could not find his still without the assistance of the birdman whose map directed them to the still.
Last Wednesday, December 5th was the 79th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution - Repeal of Prohibition. As reported in the November 11, 1932 edition of the The East Hampton News, East Hampton citizens voted 560 yes for repeal, 113 no.
The great moral experiment, a failure of monumental proportions, ended with joyous celebration.

The Cost of Running for Office

Our annual ritual is over - election of those who will represents us. Some may question that statement, but that's cannon fodder for another day. Dominating media broadcasts were reports of this, 2012,  being the most costly election in U.S. history, often overshadowing the ideas and platforms the various candidates espoused.
Hundreds of millions spent by candidates and Super-Pac's probably should make us all shutter. Connecticut was not immune with the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Linda McManon,  spending nearly $40 million of personal wealth  unsuccessfully seeking this office - all for a position that pays $165,000 annually.  Democratic Congressman Chris Murphy whose campaign, although well funded, raised probably a tenth of McManon's funding.
I know the barrage of negative or attack ads was sufficient incentive for me to read a good book. We also see the cost of State Senate and Representative races significantly more expensive since the introduction of public funding. A Senate candidate can qualify for approximately $90,000 and a House candidate $29,000.
I think back to my first campaign for State Representative in 1978. Our campaign cost about $2,100, and we raised money in a lot of creative ways.  One of our successful and fun events was a spaghetti dinner - $5.00 a family - all you could eat or drink. 
Looking over some old East Hampton records, various candidates reported their expenditures in the 1935 local town elections. First their were no public funds. At the time were were in the midst of the Great Depression. Makes me wonder why we have all this spending for campaigns while we are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. However, in 1935 the two parties supported their candidates - the Republicans incurred $53 while the Democrats $35.  Personally, unsuccessful First Selectman candidated, N.B.A. Carrier (D) spent no money while winner Ralph G. Sellew (R) spent $19. Raymond S. Thatcher (D), candidate for Town Treasurer spent a whopping $8. His opponent Arnold A. Simonson reported no expenditures. Thatcher won. I guess that's the effect of big money spent in a campaign.