Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Radu-Chaper XIX (A Novel by Patrick Kelley)

Previous Segments:

Prologue and Chapters I-X

Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII

Radu-Chapter XIX (A Novel by Patrick Kelley)
20 pages approximate

Joseph Karinsky was as pissed off as Sierra had ever known him to be, at least at her.

“I see now what you’re all about,” he said bitterly. “Fuck all of us, as long as you get to walk. Is that how it goes?”

“Did I tell you to kill a bunch of high school students,” Sierra demanded. “Did I encourage you to get some stupid kid that thinks with his dick to try to kill a teacher? How the hell was any of that supposed to benefit me, or any of us, can you explain that?”

He looked away, and made no reply.

“So, I was right,” she said. “Spanky has you wrapped around her little finger.”

“Bullshit!” he replied angrily. “I would have done the same for you or any of the others.”

“Well, the others wouldn’t have been that fucking stupid,” Sierra insisted. “Even Spiral Lamont would have had more sense than that.”

She knew she had to keep talking. Any sign of weakness would inflame Joseph much like a hungry bear, roused from her winter slumbers and stumbling upon a wounded deer. He would rip into her if she gave him the slightest such opening.

“Look, I’m not saying I really blame you for trying to make a deal,” Joseph said as he softened his tone. “It all worked out for the best anyway.”

“My faith in you was rewarded, despite everything,” he continued. “When you moved in with that reporter, you made it all work to our benefit. You found the pictures that bitch took of Larceny and Rhino at the farm, and the Leighton’s bodies. We got both copies of the film. Even if there is more, fuck it-we got the original as well as the negatives. Any other copies would be worthless.

“You came through for us when we needed you the most. That’s all I care about.

“Faith, Sierra,” he concluded as he adopted an uncharacteristically soothing tone with her. “Faith is what will keep us all together, and will make things work out for the best, for all of us.”

“So you’re saying you want me to stick around,” she said.

“Of course I do,” he said. “We’ve got to get the fuck out of Baltimore, though. It ain’t going to be safe around here. I just called Sherry, and I think Milo is more than happy to be getting out of here. Just the same, I need you to go around to their places and make sure their asses are in gear. Do that first, and then go to The Crypt. Gus should have everything ready by then.”

“You’re that worried about the 17th Pulse?”

Sierra was surprised Joseph would admit to being afraid of anything or anybody, but the Pulse was not exactly a casual threat to be taken lightly.

“I laid the blame for the poisoned pot off on them,” he explained. “If I was them I’d damn sure be looking to get our asses, wouldn’t you?”

“All right then, so we leave tomorrow night, right?” Debbie was still unsure as to whether she should go off with them. She wanted at times to rid herself of them, especially after they killed Spiral, who had been her best friend for years. Then, there was the influence of Debbie Leighton, who Sierra secretly hated from almost the first time she saw her. At the same time, Debbie was gone for good, as was Spiral, who really brought her fate on her own head with her infidelity with Marlowe, the absolute worse person with whom she could have been unfaithful.

“Where are we going anyway?” She asked Joseph this though her mind was far from made up.

“We’re going someplace where nobody will ever find us, just outside of town, for just a few days. After that, I’m thinking Baton Rouge, maybe in time New Orleans. It shouldn’t be that hard to fit in there once things are back to normal. I haven’t really decided yet, but we’ll all talk about it, and decide as a group.”

Sierra nodded her assent, and then said she would go check on the others’ progress. However, Joseph stopped her at the door.

“There is one other thing I’m curious about,” he said. “That CD, the one you and that so-called band The Mocktones made? I’ve been wondering just how Grace Rodescu ended up with a copy of it. I’m even more curious as to how she found the Leighton Farm. I don’t guess you have any theories about that, do you?”

She knew now she had to think fast. Joseph had taught her well, but for the same reason he knew how to see through her, and was in fact the only person she knew of that could do so. She knew she had to choose her words carefully, but not take too long in doing so.

“I passed out a bunch of those CDs,” she explained. “I purposely gave her one because I hoped she would review us in the Sun articles she was doing on Gothic sub-culture.”

Joseph gave her an exasperated look as he rolled his eyes.

“That would be the last thing you should want,” he said. “You guys were four of the most terrible musicians that ever plugged an amplifier inside a garage. What the fuck were you thinking? And how the hell did that lead her to the Leighton Farm?”

“I don’t know,” she said as she assumed a thoughtful pose. “I’m guessing Debbie said a bunch of shit to people that got rumors started, and since her name was on one of the tracks-“

“You and Debbie wrote a song together?”

“Yeah, it was called ‘Sweet Sixteen’ with Coming Home in parentheses. The crazy bitch wrote the lyrics and came to me one day, wanting me to put it to music. I did, and then the group recorded it. Grace told me it was the best song on the CD. That was really all that was said, that I know anything about.”

“Well, it almost got our asses hung, I hope you know that,” he said critically once more.

“I know that,” Sierra said. “But like you said, have a little faith, and everything will work out for the best.”

She left then and went straight to Milo’s apartment. She was surprised to see him sporting the most absurd Mohawk she ever saw. It was a bright almost neon green, and stood in a tall thin spike seemingly a full two feet from his head.

“Wow, couldn’t you have waited until we left to do that? You’re going to stand out like Michael Jackson in a day-care center.”

She was laughing as she said this, but was serious too. The last thing the group needed was to leave with an identifying characteristic sported by any of them that made them easier to track. Larceny was even getting rid of her moustache and goatee tattoo for this very reason. She was also going to allow her hair to grow back after they left. Now Milo has to go and pull this stunt. Yet, he acted unconcerned.

“Fuck the 17th Pulse,” he said. “They are a group of nobodies outside of Balmer, and what they are here is hyped like hell. So when the fuck is we leaving?”

“Are you sure you can?” she asked. “What about probation?”

“Over as of five days ago,” he said. “No thanks to you, by the way, you almost got me violated-you and your fucked up songs and your big mouth.”

“Yeah, I guess that tight little pussy not being around when you need some has got you kind of tense, huh? Well, you can always fuck her heifer aunt once more before you go. Or, there’s something else you can do”.

She bent down over her former boyfriend and gazed longingly in his eyes as he sat on the love seat and looked up at her expectantly.

“You can always have me back,” she said. “All you have to do is close your eyes, think about me, and jack off.”

“You want to get fucked up real good?” Milo asked her this as though unaffected by her obvious taunting. “It’s been way too long since I felt safe getting high. Now that I can finally do it, I want to get really good and fucked up. I think I am going to just float on out of Balmer when we leave tomorrow. I don’t even want this fucked up place to register in my mind as we go.

“I want to stay straight, at least until we’re out of here,” she replied. “And if you insist on getting fucked up, you damned well better be able to leave here on your own.”

He told her he would be fine. She looked around to see he had packed everything he intended to take with him, all in two suitcases and four backpacks. She looked back at him, and could tell he was in fact already stoned. With Milo, it was sometimes hard to tell. She was sure he would be all right tomorrow, and as ready as the rest of them to get the hell out of Baltimore for good.

She only wished they did not have to wait as long as they did, but Joseph had to be one hundred percent certain it was all clear with their lawyer. He was responsible for clearing it through the courts. It was a matter of their own safety, and frankly, the Baltimore authorities were quite happy to see them all go.

She left Milo’s apartment and made her way to the loft apartment maintained by Sherry “Larceny” Adams under an assumed name. By the time she made it up there, she could hear the agonized screams of her latest victim-and client. The crazy bitch was at it again, she realized.

She had no idea know who the fuckhead loser was, but he was a bloody mess. He was naked, with knife and scissor wounds, and wide, deep scrape marks-raw flesh into which vinegar and alcohol poured in a steady drip from different bottles suspended above him. A table saw rested down the table, between his legs, and was available for use at a moment’s notice. Larceny prided herself on rarely having to use that tactic. She preferred to leave her clients intact and therefore not devoid of some slim hope-at least until she got everything she wanted.

Larceny was nowhere around, which meant Rhino had to be somewhere nearby. She walked down the hall toward one of the other five rooms on this top floor of the old dilapidated apartment building. She listened carefully, but heard nothing, as she opened the door. There was Rhino, sitting with a perplexed and hurt expression on his face.

“It’s no good,” he said. “Everything is fucked up.”

Evidently, Sierra realized, he thought he was talking to a retuned Larceny. She decided to have some fun with him, and so concentrated on lowering her voice several octaves, something she did often in some songs she sung with the band.

“Mr. Dodd? Mr. George Dodd?”

Rhino stiffened, then exhaled as he lowered his head and then turned, not so much terror as something that almost looked like a resigned defeat registered in his eyes, until he saw it was Sierra.

“That’s not funny, Sierra,” he said. “If you had done that a couple days ago I probably would have decked you. Now I just about don’t give a damn if you were a cop.”

“Damn, what the hell is wrong with you?” she demanded. “And where the hell is Sherry anyway?”

“She’s transferring our landlord’s bank account to some island. Don’t ask me where the fuck it is because she won’t tell me.”

“That guy out there is your landlord?” Sierra was appalled at such a betrayal, as their landlord not only ignored all their activities, he did not even charge Larceny any rent, in exchange for a few infrequent sexual favors.

“”No, I don’t know who the fuck that guy is,” Rhino said. “I had to get me a new punching bag.”

As he said this, he pulled a lever on the wall. Suddenly, a door opened, allowing for the advance into the room of a hooded man, bound and gagged, suspended from the floor by a rope attached with hooks to specially fitted thick leather coveralls, the other end of it to a pulley incorporated through a special groove in the ceiling. The unfortunate man squirmed helplessly. He appeared already to be the victim of Rhino’s grueling exercise routine and obviously assumed another was on the way.

“Don’t you think you’d better go a little easy on this one?” Sierra asked.

“Nope,” Rhino answered. “Don’t matter-we sure can’t take him with us. It’s useless anyway. I was turned down for nose-tackle of The Blackbirds, thanks to you. Maybe I ought a put you up here.”

“Rhino, you were never going to get on with The Blackbirds,” Sierra said, a little concerned at the serious manner in which he conveyed the threat. In the meantime, the landlord, Freddie, seemed terrified as he attempted helplessly to beg for mercy, which he must have known was unlikely to come his way. Sierra was almost positive she could smell the scent of both urine and feces emanating from the terrified, pain-wracked man, the third such of Rhino’s toys. The first one lasted only two weeks. He went easier on the next one. He lasted all of four months. Freddie the Landlord knew about all of it, so perhaps it was fitting that he was probably spending the last day of his life in the same predicament as the other two men, both undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico.

Rhino could care less about them, of course, though he did take exception to Sierra’s stated view of his professional potential. He had worked and trained too hard on his strength, stamina, and skill, and built it up to the point where the steroids he had previously used were no longer a necessity. He worked out an average of six hours every other day, and ate only the healthiest foods. No opposing teams quarterback would be safe from him. He would have been the greatest nose-tackle in the history of Arena Football He would have almost single-handedly led the Baltimore Blackbirds to consistent domination in their league, to hear him tell it. Now, he had no chance for a contract. He would be lucky to find work as a parking attendant or towel boy.

“Rhino, it’s just as well, believe me,” she said. “When you were in the locker room and the other guys saw those little marble sized balls from all those steroids that would be it.”

“Bull fucking shit!” he shouted in a rage. Then, he started into a rant about how he would sue them if they did not give him a spot. No one ever proved anything on him, and no one had any right to withhold any opportunity from him.

“I’ll go up to the GM’s office and have a motherfucking talk to him, and if he won’t listen to goddamn reason I’ll rip the motherfucking son-of-a-bitches head off and punt it out his cocksucking window!”

“Wow! That would really show ‘em all, wouldn’t it?” Sierra said. “In the meantime, why don’t you work out your frustrations on ol’ Freddie here? We’re going to have to get rid of him before we go anyway.”

“Freddie” started to moan desperately at the sound of this and quivered in terror, though his bonds were such he had no true freedom of movement of which to speak.

“Nothin’ personal, Freddie,” she said. Indeed, she just wanted Rhino to take his obvious anger and frustrations out on something-anything-besides her.

However, Rhino now suddenly seemed to be back in his previous solemn mood of despair, and with a grasp of the lever, sent Freddie sliding backwards into his previous hiding place.

“Go on, get out of here, Sierra,” he said. “Tell Joseph I’ll be ready whenever he says we go.”

Sierra left. She had never seen Rhino in such a mood. The only other times that came close were when Raven began dating Marlowe Krovell-and the time shortly afterward, when she died. Larceny had latched on to the group by then, and made it her project to get Rhino over the tragedy of his loss. She did it with the whips and chains that were her stock in trade. Rhino was a changed man afterwards, having been granted the punishment he felt he deserved for losing Raven not once, but twice-and he got his rocks off in the process- or, as Larceny put it, “his gravels”.

She and Rhino became inseparable. They were lovers, though not in love, even if Rhino did do everything she told him. She for her part loved Joseph, but Joseph was wholly unattracted to her. The roughly one time a month on average when Joseph fucked her put Larceny into a girlish mindset, which made her look even more ridiculous than she already did. Sierra looked now at the calendar, with the date circled as August 17, with Joseph’s name scribbled in overlapping fashion to the circle. Four days from this date, Larceny would get her monthly fuck from Joseph. She did not care. She wanted to be away from all of them.

Rhino was a child in the body of a man, his testicles being the one physical match for his intellect. His penis as well was considerably shorter than average. Rhino was nevertheless capable of having sex multiple times in one night. If he had sex with four different women in a row, he would tell every one of them he loved them-and would mean it sincerely.

Milo was weak in other ways. He was intelligent enough, and he was better than average sexually, but otherwise had zero drive. He thrived only in the company of other, more aggressive persons, such as Joseph.

Joseph, she realized, was Milo’s polar opposite, and derived his strength through others. He knew how to read people, and how to play up to their vanities, as well as their weaknesses. He was a master manipulator.

He played up to Sierra by granting her the degree of independence she needed. Sierra fell for it but realized in time Joseph had his ways of reeling her in whenever he needed to insure he maintained the proper degree of control over her. He had been the same way with Spiral Lamont. When he realized how treacherous she was, he gave her enough rope with which to hang herself. Sierra was the rope. She was Spiral’s confidant, and Sierra regretted her role in Spiral’s death more every day.

She betrayed her friend for no other reason than to be with Joseph- just as she ended up betraying Grace Rodescu for the same reason. Why had she done that? She could have been free of Joseph, could have began the long, difficult process of putting her life back together. Joseph’s power over her, unfortunately, was way too strong. He was like a drug, one she knew she could never be free of, only in part because he had her hooked. The truth was she never really wanted to lose the addiction.

The only person who had ever openly spoken out against Joseph was Raven Randall. She was positive Raven’s death was no accident. The whole drug overdose scenario did not add up. Raven told her once she was through with the group, and advised her to leave as well, before she got in too deep. Sierra never mentioned anything about this to Joseph. Still, Joseph must have known. He knew them all far too well. Raven changed in those last few days, in which she returned, seemingly as though nothing had ever changed. Joseph as well acted as though nothing had changed. Nevertheless, Raven was dead within two weeks.

Now, as she sat outside Larceny’s loft apartment, on the stairs, she wondered why she did not just leave as well. No one that expressed any real independence from Joseph lasted very long. What made her imagine she would be any different? She lit up a Marlboro, and just sat and smoked, breathing in deeply as she inhaled, hoping to center her thoughts and calm her frayed nerves. She knew it was out of the question to turn back to Grace. She fucked up what could have been a very good thing, all because Joseph called her, boyishly excited and enthusiastic about the news of his release on bond.

She had almost decided to leave and cut her ties from the group forever, when Larceny returned.

“What the hell are you dong out here?” she demanded. “Rhino’s up there, ain’t he?”

“Yeah, but he’s not in a very good mood,” Sierra replied. “Plus, that guy you got tied up in there gives me the creeps. Who is he anyway?”

“An old, old customer, and a very, very rich one,” Larceny replied. “At least he was rich up until about an hour ago.”

“What are you going to do with him and Freddie?” Sierra asked. “Joseph says we might be leaving tomorrow night.”

“Me and Rhino will be taking a little trip to the Leighton Farm early in the morning,” she explained. “We’re going to leave Debbie a little going away present. Can you believe that bitch gets to keep her parent’s farm? The state of Virginia put it in escrow until she is an adult. Seems there is no real evidence she had anything to do with her parents murder.

“Can you believe that shit? The bitch spends two years in juvie, and after a couple years of therapy, she is home free. I guess you know Joseph is planning on us making a little trip back there in two years. He thinks she will be waiting for us with open arms. Hell, who knows, maybe she will.”

“Yeah, that is fucked up,” Sierra agreed. One of the main reasons Joseph wanted to leave Baltimore, outside of fear of recriminations from the Seventeenth Pulse, was his uncertainty as to whether Debbie could keep quiet about their role in her parent’s murder-among other things.

“So, you’ll be ready to go by tomorrow night?” Sierra asked.

“Yep, I’ll be ready,.” Larceny answered. “Somebody’s coming by tonight to get rid of the rest of this fucking tat. Rhino does not want me to get rid of it, but fuck him, I am sick to death of it. This guys good too, guarantees to leave no scars or shadows. He damned well better not, I know that much.”

“Damn, I was wondering about that,” Sierra said. “I can’t tell any difference.”

“Yeah, it’s hard to tell under these lights if you’re not used to it, but it’s more than half gone. I have been getting it erased gradually. It has been four treatments over the last three weeks. Tonight will be the last step. So, as you can tell, I’ve got a busy day ahead of me, and a lot to do if we have to get out of here by tomorrow night. I don’t see what the big rush is myself. The Seventeenth Pulse can’t go the fucking bathroom without the cops holding their cocks. Still, I don’t exactly want to hang around this fucking place any longer than I have to either.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you later then,” Sierra said, making her way down the steps, wanting to leave as quickly as possible. Next to Joseph, she feared Larceny more than any other person she knew. Rhino was not dangerous so long as you knew how to talk to him. Unfortunately, Larceny had him as well trained as any pit bull. Yet, Joseph controlled them both. Joseph was the only person Rhino truly feared, and Joseph was the only person for whom Larceny truly had any kind of affection. Milo was only dangerous to himself. She and Milo were more alike than the rest of them, she realized. The only difference was, Sierra saw what path she was on, even if she seemed helpless to stop.

“So, what did that bitch say about me anyway?” Larceny asked as Sierra made it to the bottom of the steps. “Does she remember I’m the one that shot her?”

“Yeah, but she was fucked up on heroin that night,” Sierra said. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

“Oh, I’m not worried”, Larceny said. “I have another special surprise for that nosy fucking bitch, and it’s coming real soon now.”

“Well, it better be fast,” Sierra said, trying to hide her concern. “You can only do so much in a day.”

She left then, and happily made her way back out on the street. What in the hell was she planning to do to Grace, Sierra wondered. Was she really planning anything at all? Was she testing her loyalty to the group? Surely, that was it. Joseph would not allow-and then she stopped herself.

Joseph controlled all their lives. He controlled where they spent their time and how, and with whom, even down to delegating their sexual conduct. No one ever questioned him. It was baffling. At the same time, it was profoundly the truth, to such an extent Sierra knew full well that if Larceny did have some special plan for Grace Rodescu, Joseph was aware of and agreeable to it. The worse part of it was, she as well should know by now. The fact she did not know, if it were true, did not bode well.

She made her way into the street, and though night had now fallen, she found herself almost overcome by the stifling heat. She had one more stop to make, and wondered if she might be better off hailing a cab. Joseph, unfortunately, lost his job driving a cab, and she herself had no automobile. Joseph had sold his own car, and was now busily at work on the new van he purchased from the proceeds of not only his own automobile, but Larceny’s as well. In addition, he somehow managed to get two thousand dollars from the car stolen from the murdered man at the Leighton Farm who stumbled unsuspectingly into his own horrible fate.

Nevertheless, it was a used van, almost six years old, and Joseph engaged his time in assuring it was in the proper running condition. After all, they did have a long trek ahead of them. As for now, Sierra had one hell of a long walk, almost thirty blocks, to The Crypt, and she was not looking forward to it. Unfortunately, she had less than twenty dollars on her, and was not in the mood to part with any of it for something like a cab ride. Still, it was hot, she was tired, and she was not that crazy about walking alone in this neighborhood-not at this time of the night.

Suddenly, an old stretch limo pulled up beside her, as she thought, damn, what I wouldn’t give to get a ride in that fucker right now. She noticed the black man opening the door and stepping out, but did not really notice at first the dark burgundy colors he wore around his head, or the eerie way he eyed her dispassionately. Then, others got out, and she recognized one of them.

“Hey, Toby, what’s up?” she said. “Hey, can I get a ride?”

“Yeah you can get a ride bitch,” he said. “Get your skank ass in here.”

She looked around nervously, aware now that her friendship with the Pulse hardly made up for their present enmity with her boyfriend, Joseph Karinsky. She nervously started to shout out for help, but Toby had a gun pressed right into her side. How could she be so stupid, she thought. Of course they aren’t going to give her a pass. She had to think fast, let them know she had nothing to do with Joseph’s betrayal. She allowed herself to be ushered into the backseat of the limo, right beside the waiting figure of, to her surprise, newly freed though accused mass murderer and gang leader Spooky Gold.

“Spooky-you’re out!” she said. “That’s cool.”

“Shut your mouth, ho, before I kill you faster than I’m already planning. Who the hell you think you are anyway?”

“Oh, she’s just an innocent little girl, Spooky,” Toby now said, “just like that-what’s her name-Alfalfa, or is it Darla? No, Spanky-that’s it. Yeah, I wonder how that sweet little girl is doing these days? I don’t guess you would know, would you?”

“I heard she was sent back to Virginia yesterday, to some teenage group home for problem kids,” Sierra answered. “Look, guys, I don’t know what the problem here is, but I swear, it ain’t nothing to do with me. Whatever Debbie Leighton has done-”

“Yeah, we need to talk about what Debbie Leighton has done,” Spooky said. “Oh, and Joseph, and Milo, we need to talk about them too, and those other clowns you run with. First though, we need to talk about you.”

“Uh, do you mind if I ask you exactly where we’re going?”

Sierra was starting to become deathly afraid as it finally sunk in to her she might not be able to reason with these men, for very good reason.

“You know, I started to have the world at my fingertips,” Spooky said. “The DA was going to drop the charges on me for killing Marshall, all for me agreeing to the rap for killing George. Ain’t life funny? Marshall offs himself, I kill George, and I go down for just what I done. You know, that’s just the way life should be. I was looking at getting out in four years with good behavior-mitigating circumstances and all, you see. The deal was all set up, and then one day I get a visit to my cell. That’s exactly why we’re here now, Sierra. Oh, you asked me where is it we going? Well, where was it you was wanting to go?”

“Uh, well”-

Before she could continue, Spooky Gold backhanded her across the lip with his closed fist. The sudden pain almost made her black out, and blood oozed from her nose and mouth.

“Uh-well ain’t a place, bitch”-

“The Crypt,” she said as she now began crying and quivering, unable to contain her terror.

“The Crypt,” he repeated. “Good, it just so happens that’s exactly where I’m going. I guess we’ll just go there together. Damn, this time of the night, I’m sure they’re open, just ready and waiting for all the little white ass freaks.”

“Hey, is there any brothers that go there?” Toby asked. “I’ve always been curious about that. If there are, I think they not black at all, just constipated.”

“No, there’s a few,” Sierra said, desperate to try to talk reason to these men, and feeling at the same time they were past all reason.

“Look, Spooky, I didn’t have anything to do with you being blamed for what Debbie did.”

“We’ll see,” Spooky replied. “Not that it matters though, ‘cos you see, there’s a reason I’m out of here tonight. I ain’t supposed to be here. By the time they do the morning bed check tomorrow, I’ll be a wanted man. See, I ain’t planning on being anywhere around. In the meantime, I got some scores to settle. And right here we are at the first scorecard. Damn, what do you know, the fucking place looks closed. Maybe we should just leave, huh?”

Toby got out of the car and gave a series of knocks on the door. In a matter of seconds, the door opened, but Sierra could not make out who was there. Toby returned then and gave the all clear.

“All right, when we get in you take this thing back to the shop and bring Caldwell’s Land Rover back. I’ll drive it out of here. You guys have your own things worked out, right?”

“Got’cha bro,” Toby said, and seemed misty-eyed. “It’s been a wild ride, my man. I’m gonna miss it.”

“Yeah, me too, but what the fuck,” Spooky replied as he clasped the hand of his lieutenant. “I’ll see you whenever. Keep a pina colada ready for me. I can use some sand and surf.”

Spooky looked like a man who knew the end was near, and he was not in nearly as accepting and philosophical a mood about it as he tried to portray. When he once more turned his attention to Sierra, she saw the eyes of boiling anger.

“Me and you are going toward that door,” he explained. “And if you so much as look like you’re going to run or shout out for help, believe me, I’ll shoot you down just like I would a losing pit bull, and not feel half as bad about it. You feel me?”

She nodded her understanding, and they got out. Sierra was shaking so badly, it was all she could do to steady herself as Spooky held her by her right arm as though escorting her to the door, all the while a snub-nosed revolver stuck in her right side. He knocked a series of knocks, whereupon the door opened, and another Pulse member granted them admittance.

There were already more than twenty regular patrons there in all, and Sierra noted the presence of a terrified Marty Evans, as well as others she knew, some vaguely more than others. She then saw another man, a bouncer named Mackie, shot dead on the floor. On one of the pool tables set a mountain of cell phones, all guarded by a Pulse member by the name of Fishbait. Marty was obviously curious about Sierra’s presence and wanted to communicate something, but seemed to know that would not be advisable. Spooky told her to sit at the bar. She did so, about three stools down from Marty.

“What the fuck is this?” Marty demanded. “Are they going to kill us?”

Sierra finally started crying.

“Hey, no talking, you two, unless one of us talks to you first, got it?”

“Hey, fuck you, you’re going to kill us anyway, right?” Marty replied to Fishbait, who glared at them menacingly. “Do it or shut the fuck up. In the meantime I’ll talk to who the fuck I want.”

“Oh, will you now?” Fishbait said as he rose from his seat and walked toward the apprehensive Evans. Before Marty could rise to meet the advancing Fishbait, the Pulse member gave him a savage rabbit punch to the kidneys, which sent the hapless Goth down to the floor in a spasm of unbearable agony.

“You got something you want to say about that, bitch?” he then asked.

Suddenly, there was another knock at the door. Fishbait nodded to another Pulse member, who went to the door, to admit an already returned Toby.

“Tell Spooky the LR is on its way,” he said. “I decided to stay and play with y’all. What the fuck, this is the last dance, right? Don’t seem right to be missin’ out and all. Hey, what’s this, a fucking karaoke machine? Groovy, just what I need, a chance to make my last Baltimore appearance. Hey, anything by Nellie on this piece of junk, or Fittie Cent?”

He now addressed the horrified disc jockey as Marty now painfully pulled himself up to his stool. The DJ affirmed something to the effect that there were some rap songs, whereupon Toby told him to shut the fuck up. He then “requested” a specific number.

“I think I’m going to show these white kids how you really supposed to karaoke.”

“Toby, what the fuck you doing back here?”

Spooky Gold was now standing outside the office of The Crypt, glaring at Toby in surprise at his sudden return.

“Everything’s being taken care of, boss man,” Toby replied. “I figure a little number here will keep it from lookin’ suspicious.”

“With the door locked, and a ‘Closed For Repairs’ sign in the window?”

“Good point. I’ll change the sign to ‘private party.”

Toby was even now getting in position to perform his number at the Karaoke machine, and Spooky just shook his head.

‘Okay, fine, do it. You say everything else is smooth?”

“On the way, Spooky,” Toby assured him.

“Get your ass over here, bitch,” Spooky now commanded Sierra, who warily removed herself from her place at the bar and went hurriedly past the still whimpering Marty Evans. Toby now began a rap version of what was actually a metal version of an old rhythm and blues song, only in his version he was fucking everybody’s mother “cos I’m a real motherfucker.”

“The party ain’t in the office,” Spooky said as Sierra looked past him toward the manager’s office. “We got a date down in the storage basement. We got company coming, you might say. Actually, we be the company. Only you ain’t coming, you’re going.”

“Spooky, please, I’m begging you”-

“Just shut up before I hurt you worse than you’ve ever been hurt,” he warned her.

They moved down the steps into the basement, Sierra almost tripping on the stairs once in the semi-darkness. When they made it to the bottom of the stairs, Sierra could see the form of Gus Rakovski, the owner and manager of The Crypt, guarded by two other Pulse members.

“It looks to me like the end of the line,” Spooky said.

“You are making a big mistake,” Rakovski said. “Do you know who I am? I am not some low-level thug. I have pull. Do you really think you are going to get away with this outrage? You colored people are too much. Do you think my people give a damn about playing up to the vanities and sensitivites of your particular race? We can and will destroy all of you, and everything you care about.”

“So you’re saying I should just forget about you paying Karinski to poison my product so you can take over my territory? That’s really something to think about. Maybe we should make a deal.”

Suddenly, Spooky extended his hand, and fired his Smith and Wesson into the gut of the Russian mobster. The man slumped to the ground in shock and agony.

“Now, here’s the deal. You tell me everything, and speak clearly, and when I leave here, I call an ambulance. Otherwise, I just let your White Russian ass bleed to death. It don’t make no never mind to me. I’m leaving anyway, for good. I do want to leave with my rep cleared though.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rakovski insisted, groaning as the blood pooled around him. He struggled just to stay on his knees.

“Don’t know what I’m talking about, huh? Hey, bitch, what were you coming here for?”

“Joseph said he was supposed to give him a set of numbers to an offshore account. I was supposed to check the numbers and verify the amount. It was supposed to be two million dollars. Then, I was supposed to call Joseph, and he was supposed to transfer the money into his own offshore account. But really, Spooky”-

The gang lord held up his hand, as he addressed the bleeding, dying Russian that now collapsed with a groan upon his basement floor.

“Two million dollars,” Spooky repeated. “Two million dollars and bail, and probably all charges dropped to boot. Sounds to me like Mr. Karinsky sure must be doing something right. I wonder what that might be?”

He then addressed one of the other members.

“Go bring that bitch down here. She’s up in the office.”

The gang member left, and after a brief period of silence broken only by the loud and painful moans of the dying Russian mobster, he returned with Debbie Leighton in tow. Sierra was surprised to see her, but noted she looked more aggravated than afraid. She looked over at Sierra, and then shot her head up in the air.

“Okay, now let me get this straight, bitch,” he said. “You went along with this shit to poison those school kids, but you didn’t know it had anything to do with setting me or my boys up. Is that your position? As far as you were concerned, you just wanted to kill a bunch of people that were giving you a problem in school. Do I have that all down?”

“Yeah, now can I please go back to the group home? Sierra was probably in on it all, I didn’t have any idea what they were up to.”

“You lying little bitch!” Sierra shouted.

“You miss the group home, huh? Funny, seems I hear you was anxious as hell to get away from the place, couldn’t leave fast enough. All it took was Fishbait pretending to be a caseworker whispering he would like to help you get out, and you jumped right to it. Now you want to go back? So why should I take you back, or let somebody else take you back? Come on, I’m waiting for a good reason, not a load of shit about how you’re just an abused, misunderstood teenager.”

“I told you all you needed to know. I admitted this was Joseph’s idea,” Debbie said, now finally starting to show some degree of real concern. “I’ll tell the cops anything you want me to tell them, I swear.”

“Yeah, then you would gladly spend the rest of your life in prison for mass murder? Sorry, that does not add up to me.”

Spooky Gold now made a call on his cell phone, and asked to speak to “Aunt Ellen”. After a brief couple of minutes on the phone, during which he learned the status of some undetermined persons was “the same”, he told his auntie that he loved her, and then terminated the call. He returned his attention then to Spanky.

“That was my Auntie Ellen-a good woman-a good Christian woman. She was kinda upset at me over Rev George, until she heard the whole scoop. Me and her are cool, she don’t even worry none about me being the head Pulse. See, she knows she can count on me to make things right. Like with her little brother Huey, and her kid, Darnell. Yeah, that would be my uncle and my cousin. Come to think of it, though, you know them both-or you did. Darnell, well he’s dead, may he rest in peace. As for Huey, he be laid up in the hospital, fucked up for good, a vegetable for life. Wanna take a good guess why?”

Spanky just looked shocked, and then dropped her head, but her sudden terror was obvious.

“Look at me when I’m talkin’ to you, you little skank!”

Debbie Leighton bolted when he said this, and forced herself to meet his gaze, as he withdrew a hypodermic needle from his change belt.

“See, I think I is gonna send you two on a little trip. It damn sure ain’t gonna be no pleasure cruise either. See, when you own fighting dogs, you are in the position to experiment. Know what I got here? I wondered how you could inject embalming fluid in somebody’s veins in just enough combination with some other shit to really fuck somebody up without actually killing them.

“You know what this shit will do to you? Not only will you be a fucking vegetable for the rest of your life, you’ll be conscious, with no control over your bowel movements or your urine, just like poor Huey.

“Oh, but that’s not all of it, not by a long shot. You is gonna be in perpetual pain, going through frequent convulsions, conscious through all of it-and at the same time, you is gonna stay horny. Nothing would satisfy you. In fact, it will just get worse and worse. Course, I’m gonna show you a little mercy, Sierra. That is, somebody else might show you some mercy and give you a little dick here and there, not that it will do you much good. As for your little bitch friend here”-

Spooky Gold now produced a box cutter and opened the blade as he glared menacingly toward Debbie Leighton.

“By the time I’m through carving your skank ass up, nobody will be able to look at you without gagging, let alone giving you dick. I might send some hommies over to visit you once a year or so, just to torture you that much more with sex talk. Too bad you ain’t gonna see ‘em, ‘cos see, you ain’t gonna have no eyeballs to see with, or a tongue to talk with. As for that stinikin’ cunt, I got that covered too. If somebody does get weak and decide to show you a little mercy, it’s gonna feel like acid the minute somebody sticks a dick in it, or anything else. See, bitch, hell can be here on earth after all. So, if you got any last words, either of you, I advise you to say ‘em now, what few seconds you have left.”

Both of the girls were crying now, and begging, and Debbie for her part was screaming for help.

“Bitch there ain’t nobody that can help you now, and nobody that would want to if they could,” Spooky said as he advanced towards her, box cutter in hand.

Suddenly, there was a loud noise, the sound of a door crashing down, almost like an explosion, and gunshots fired, the sound emanating from upstairs.

“Holy shit, Spooky, it’s the fucking po-po. and there ain’t no way out of here.”

Spooky made his way toward the gangster on the floor.

“Quick, old man, if you want to live, where is the key to the back door?”

However, the old man just stared out into nothing.

“Fuck, he’s dead!” Spooky said, as he grabbed for his keys.

“Spooky we ain’t got time for that, they probably got the back covered anyway. We’re gonna have to fight our way out of this.”

Suddenly, Toby appeared at the door, and then turned desperately to lock it. He then ran hurriedly downstairs.

“The fucking cops, somebody called those motherfuckers, Spooky,” he shouted. “The fucking shits over. We gotta get out of here.”

“We ain’t got no way out of this,” another Pulse member said. “It’s either go down fighting or go down like punks. Which is it going to be guys?”

“We take as many of the pigs with us as we can, that’s what it’s gonna be,” Spooky answered. “They can only come down these steps one at a time. If we try to hide, they’ll be down here like a fucking herd of elk. We gots to face them straight up.”

As the four Pulse members made their way toward the stairs in readiness for the battle they knew they could not avoid, Sierra quickly lunged toward the old man, and went through his pockets. As the police upstairs banged upon the basement door, she found a set of keys, and one thing more-a postcard with a phone number, along with another set of numbers that Sierra figured must be to the offshore bank account. She ran around to the other side of the stacked cases of liquor and beer, hunkering down and feeling her way toward the door.

Debbie now joined her, and told her to hurry.

“We have to get the fuck out of here!” she told her.

“Shut up, Debbie, and stay the fuck out of my way!” Sierra warned her.

She tried first one key and then another, to no effect, trying to keep track of the ones she already tried, as she noted in frustration there had to be more than fifty keys on this one chain.

Suddenly, the basement door from upstairs flew open, and shots rang out, as Spooky God and his fellow gang members tried desperately to return fire, with the exception of Toby, who bolted and made for a refuge underneath the steps. One by one, they went down, until Spooky Gold stood alone.

“Drop the gun, Spooky. It’s over!” commanded the lone voice from the top of the stairs.

Gold dropped the gun, and raised his arms.

“Okay, I give up,” he shouted.

A gunshot then rang out from the one lone policeman at the top of the stairs. Spooky Gold dropped to his knees, and then crumpled forward dead, with a bullet through the heart.

“Sierra, it’s all right, it’s the police,” Debbie said. “We’re safe now”.

“All of you stay up there until I give you the all clear!” the policeman shouted as he walked down the steps.

Suddenly, Toby stepped out from under the steps.

Debbie made her way now out from behind the boxes, as Sierra continued desperately to search for the key to the exit door.

“God, what a mess,” the cop said as he surveyed the carnage. He checked the pulse of the old Russian mobster, dead from the blood loss of a wound to the gut.

“God, I’m glad you’re here,” Debbie said as she approached the lone cop.

“Who are you, young lady?” the cop asked.

“Debbie Leighton,” Spanky replied while pointing toward the now dead Spooky Gold. “He was blaming me for the pot that poisoned those kids, but it was his pot. He’s crazy.”

Shut up, you stupid bitch, Sierra thought to herself as she finally found the key to the exit door. She turned it as quietly as she could as Debbie was now explaining how the Pulse brought her there from her new group home, and how Spooky murdered the owner of The Crypt.

“That’s really too bad,” the cop said as he extracted the gun from the hand of the now dead Spooky Gold.

“Of course, he’s dead now, so we’ll never hear his side of the story,” he observed, as he then put a bullet squarely in the forehead of Debbie Leighton from the gun of the now deceased Spooky Gold.

Sierra almost screamed, but restrained her terror as she now ducked behind a stack of beer cases, one of which now leaked beer, courtesy of a stray bullet.

The cop looked around the front stack of beer and liquor, but saw nothing. He checked the door to see it was unlocked. Sierra tried her best not so much as to breathe. She could hear Toby Da Pimp walking and rapping to himself, and cautiously looked out to see the cop, stepping over the body of the deceased Gold as he approached Toby Da Pimp, apparently for now the lone survivor of the 17th Pulse.

“You guys let the other girl get away,” the cop said now to Toby. “She must have got Gus’s keys. That might not be so good. Really, Toby, I hate to say it, but you kind of fucked up. Of course, I can see where it would be hard to pull your end of the bargain, what with hiding under the steps and all.”

“Hey, I did the best I could under the circumstances,” Toby complained. “It was you who was late gettin’ here.”

Berry ignored Toby’s excuses as he placed Spooky Gold’s gun back in the hand of the dead Pulse leader. Then, he pointed his own gun at Toby.

“Hey, Berry, we had a deal, motherfucker,” Toby shouted desperately.

“Sure we did-we still do”, the cop replied. “In fact, you might say it’s as solid as lead.”

He then sent a bullet flying into the left thigh of the gang member Sierra realized was a police informant all along.

“Oh, fuck, you son-of-a-bitch, what the fuck are you doing?” Toby was obviously in pain as well as shock, and moaned as he cursed the officer, whom Sierra vaguely recognized. He and an older partner had once questioned her and her friends about the vandalism perpetrated by them at the Krovell Funeral Home.

For now, she merely hoped she could get out of this basement storage room with her life. She remained as quiet and motionless as possible, forcing herself to breathe no more than she absolutely had to. Her heart was pounding, and she had to remind herself there was no way anyone could hear it.

“Calm down,” Berry told the gang member. “Instead of Toby Da Pimp, you’ll just be Toby Da Gimp for a while. Besides, you’re going to need the street creds. It’ll look good on your resume if you ever decide to apply for City Manager of Baltimore.”

“Couldn’t you have shot me in the arm?” Toby was furious at the cop, but the cop just sneered at him.

“Yeah, that would look real good, huh? Every one of your gang members in this club shot dead, and you walk away with just a shot in the arm? Nobody’s going to buy that. In fact, we got to make it look real good. A shot in the gut should do the trick, since the ambulance is on the way. Well, it should be anyway. Don’t worry, I know just where to put the bullet, and from exactly what distance and angle. It’s the price of power, my friend. Wish me luck”

“Oh, shit, no, not in the gut, what if you fuck my stuff up? You already come close to”-

However, Berry put another bullet in the stomach of the treacherous gang member, who now howled in agony as a voice shouted from upstairs.

“Berry, what the fuck is going on down there? Are you all right?”

“Yep, I got’ em all. Get that ambulance here now. We got a survivor, Toby Da Pimp. Hurry it up. I want him alive for questioning. Spooky Gold is here, and he’s dead. So is the owner of this piece of shit club. Any casualties up there?”

The other cop was now halfway down the stairs, and another one was behind him.

“Yeah, the Pulse-they’re all dead, what ones are here. Only civilian casualty is a bouncer named Morris Mackey, killed before we got here. Everybody else is all right, just shook up. One kid took a jab to the kidneys from one of them, but he should be fine. Otherwise, everybody else is uninjured.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” Berry replied. “Teenage girl was killed down here, right before we got here too. We just didn’t make it in time. But, you know what they say-you can’t win ‘em all. As soon as the ambulance gets here, we can go over everybody’s statements. Then we can bar the door and shut this dive down, hopefully for good. Otherwise, we can pull on out of here. No need in all these squads being holed up here any longer than they have to be.”

Soon, Sierra heard the sound of ambulance personnel arriving with their stretchers. They lifted Toby Da Pimp up onto one, still conscious, cursing, and moaning in pain. She thought now maybe she should present herself. Whatever Berry was involved in, he would not dare pull anything now, but she was not sure. She was too terrified to think calmly. Worse, he had locked the door back, and so she now had to find the key again. Soon, the EMT’s carried all the bodies out on stretchers, including Debbie Leighton’s. After what seemed to be an eternity, they seemed to have all gone. Still, as she waited, she extracted an undamaged bottle of gin and took a large gulp. She had to steady her nerves. She elt like her skin might pop open at any minute.

She also had the keys to Gus’s car, but feared that by the time she made it outside, the cops would impound it. She dreaded even trying to leave, and wanted to go upstairs, to the front door, but Berry gave instructions to barricade it. The metal door of the basement, with its bolt lock, would make that unnecessary-or so she hoped. She rummaged though the keys, separating the ones she thought might have been the right one based on her skimpy knowledge from before. Luckily, she found the right key with the fourth try, and cautiously opened the door. She stepped outside, and heard nothing. Still, she left the basement door open, but barely so. She then went on up the concrete steps.

Gus’s car was there, and so was Marty Evans. He sat hunched on a curb, talking to three other former Crypt patrons, all of them obviously trying to process the events of this past night. She got Marty’s attention, whereupon he made his way from the group toward her.

“What the fuck was all that about?” he demanded. “I thought you were dead for sure. They killed Debbie, did you know that?”

“Yes, and good fucking riddance,” she said. “Look, Marty, I need a favor. I need you to go with me to Larceny’s Adams’s place.”

“Not me, I ain’t going near that crazy bitch,” he said. “I ain’t got a ride anyway, mine’s in the shop.”

“I got Gus’s keys, we can take his car,” she explained. “You don’t have to go up with me, just drop me off there and wait outside. I’ll give you some pussy, alright? I need you to take me to Milo’s after that, and then home. Please, Marty, you know I give good head. What do you say?”

“Fine, I want a blowjob first, though,” he told her.

Sierra gave Marty the best blowjob she ever gave anybody in her life, but it was more out of desperation than any kind of pleasure. Marty was dirty and sweaty from the heat, and seemed as though he had been out partying non-stop for two whole days. She could not afford to worry about that now.

After she finished, he followed her directions to the loft apartment of Larceny Adams.

“I’m keeping my eyes open and the engine running,” he warned her. “The minute I see one person besides you, I’m bolting.”

She hurried into the apartment, and ran up the steps. She could hear the sounds of somebody screaming in terror, and the sounds of the table saw running. She checked the door, which seemed locked from the inside. She knocked repeatedly as she shouted for Sherry to answer. Desperately, she kicked it repeatedly, until the old door finally gave way. She peered inside.

She screamed at the top of her lungs at the sight of Sherry “Larceny” Adams, bound to the table. Her face was completely gone, dissolved into a hideous mass of melted flesh, as she made her way toward the spinning blade. She was, incredibly, still alive, up until the point where the blade entered between her legs, through her vagina, and continued up all the way through her abdomen. Her blood gushed out, a stream splattering on Sierra’s blouse and face, and for a second, she was transfixed in horror, but suddenly made her way to the exercise room.

Suddenly, a figure bolted out of the room. She screamed as the man ran into her, knocking her down. She screamed again, as the man garbled something unintelligible, and then made his way in seeming desperation toward the stairs. Sierra looked toward the exercise room, and then entered. She then saw a stream of blood oozing from under the panel that contained Rhino’s human punching bags. She pulled the lever in the wall, and watched in horror as the battered form of George “Rhino” Dodd projected into the main room. The chain went through his rectum and out of his mouth, and he hung there, his body and head beaten to a bloody pulp.

Incredibly, even though his brains oozed out of his crushed skull, he was alive, and even seemingly conscious.

“Rhino, who did this, baby?” she said, overcome with pity at the terrifying site of the fate of the man who was really little more than a child at heart.

“Marlowe,” he said weakly, and then breathed his last breath.

“Marlowe?” she repeated. “What do you mean, Rhino? Rhino?

She shook him, shouted at him, trying desperately to revive him, and then sobbed helplessly as she staggered out of the room, and back down the steps. By the time she made it back out into the street, she saw the police, no more than three blocks away, as the ambulances pulled up. She saw the police cordoning off that block, and she saw two of them kneeling by a completely naked, bloody and badly injured man. She saw Freddie in his leather coveralls. She looked desperately around for Marty, and finally saw him, two blocks from where he first parked in the opposite direction from the police. She nervously made her way toward him, trying to hurry, fearful he might well decide to leave without her. As she approached the car, she thought she saw the policeman named Berry, but could not be sure from that distance. She reached to open the door, but Marty had locked it. She pounded on the window and shouted his name.

When he saw it was Sierra, he unlocked the door, and she quickly climbed inside.

“What in the hell is going on down there?”

“Just get out of here, Marty, please!” she said, unable to disguise her fear. She had forgotten all about the blood.

“What the fuck happened to you?” he demanded, obviously concerned. “Where did all that fucking blood come from? It’s all over you.”

“Marty-just fucking leave, please, and I’ll tell you, please,” she said, by now losing her composure completely. “It’s not mine, all right, I’m fine. It’s Larceny’s. She’s dead. Somebody murdered her and Rhino too. Please, get the fuck out of here, now.”

As he drove, in the opposite direction from where the police even now made their way toward the apartment of the late Sherry “Larceny” Adams, she told him the horrific details. She was shaking and seemed to be on the urge of a nervous breakdown. Finally, she started wailing, loudly. Marty said nothing. He just drove, as he considered all the gory details of what he heard.

“We better go to Milo’s place,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re not too late. We’ve got to get him out of his apartment before he gets him too.”

“Before who gets him?” Sierra said.

“Marlowe Krovell,” he answered. “The fucker is alive. He has to be”

“Bullshit!” she shouted. “This was the Pulse, it had to be. They were going to kill me, and they did kill Spanky. They’re after all of us.”

“The Pulse are either dead or in jail,” Marty assured her. “I’ve been hearing all about it on the radio while I was waiting for you. Besides, they wouldn’t go to the extent you said they went through with Larceny and Rhino.”

“For God’s sake, Marty, they were going to inject us with embalming fluid with other shit mixed with it. The cops busted that up just in time, but”-

“Yeah, but that’s because of what Debbie and Joseph did to those kids, especially to two of Spooky Gold’s relatives, and then laying it off on them,.” Marty said. “That’s their idea of justice, but that other shit just ain’t their style. Believe me-I have no reason to defend them.”

“Rhino said Marlowe’s name right before he died, but”-

“Uh huh, see? That fucking settles it. Here’s Milo’s crib, come on, I’ll go in here with you.”

“Marty, if it is the Pulse and they’re here”-

“Shit, it ain’t the Pulse,” he insisted. “I’m telling you, what Pulse members weren’t killed in that bust at the Crypt tonight was rounded up earlier today. Not only are all seventeen of the charter members either dead or in jail, but thirty-one lesser members have been taken in. They’ve even rounding up all the newbies, and they wouldn’t be involved in something that heavy anyway. Plus, they been watching them for months now. People are already saying the bust at The Crypt looks like a set-up.”

“It was, Toby Da Pimp was involved, with some cop named Berry,” she said. “I heard it all go down. But shit, Marty, Marlowe”-

“Toby Da Pimp?”

Marty was more stunned at this revelation than he was at her account of the horrific deaths of Larceny and Rhino, and he wanted to know who in the hell was “Berry”.

“For God’s sake, Marty, it’s not important,” she said. “I just want to get the fuck out of here. If you’re going in with me, let’s go.”

They left the car, and proceeded to the apartment of Milo Richmond. They heard no sign of life or any kind of activity from the door. Marty knocked loudly, and asked if he was there, and if he was all right. Sierra nervously shouted as well, telling Milo to let them in. She added that both Larceny and Rhino were dead.

“Are you going to tell him about Spanky?” Marty asked.

“Milo, please open the door,” she said, ignoring Marty for the moment, as she started to fear for the worse. She finally looked inside her purse, and extracted a set of keys. Finding the one key to Milo’s apartment, which she still had from the days she lived with him, she inserted it into the lock, and opened the door. Nothing but a nightlight and the streetlights from outside provided scant illumination inside the darkened, musty room.

“My God, this place is a mess!” Marty said. “Does he ever clean this fucking place up? There’s books and papers all over the damn floor.”

“Yeah, he wants to make sure people knows he can read, I guess,” Sierra said. “Milo, where the fuck are you?”

“Sierra, Marty, is that you?” a voice responded. “Damn, I was laying here zoned out. What’s the deal?”

“We wanted to make sure you’re all right,” Sierra said, her voice quivering with anxiety but also relief. After all, she did still care somewhat for her bonehead ex-boyfriend.

“Why wouldn’t I be all right? What was that I heard you saying about Rhino and Larceny? Are they really dead?”

“Sierra, something’s not right here,” Marty whispered. “He doesn’t sound like Milo. His voice sounds like him, but”-

“Sierra, I’ve been thinking. I really do love you. I know I never told you that, but it is true. I would give anything if you would take me back.”

“Milo, are you sure you’re all right?” Sierra asked nervously as Marty fumbled for the light switch.

When he finally found it, he flipped on the switch, only to hear Sierra gasp, and then scream in horror. He turned to her, and then to the body of Milo Richmond, stretched out on his recliner, a gaping wound in his stomach and abdomen from which his blood pooled and all his internal organs protruded as he stared outward in what seemed to be his last conscious memory of horrific pain and terror.

“Come on, Sierra,” the voice said, actually seeming to emanate from Milo’s corpse. “I’m spilling my guts here.”

Sierra was now crying frantically as Marty just stared, his eyes transfixed on the horrific scene. Finally, Sierra tugged at him, trying to pull the incredulous Marty Evans back to reality, but he seemed incapable of speaking or responding to her in any way. He just stared, and shook, until they both heard the sound of what seemed to be the flapping of bird’s wings. It was loud at first, and seemed to be coming toward the open window, but it faded within a few seconds, and finally stopped.

Marty now responded somewhat to Sierra’s desperate attempts to engage his attention. He turned, looked at her, walked out the door, into the yard, fell to his knees, doubled over and vomited. By the time he finished, he too was crying, loudly.

“Marty, come on, we have to go, it’s not safe here,” Sierra urged him.

They finally returned to the car, and somehow Marty managed to keep his composure enough to drive away as calmly as possible.

“You’d better not go back to Joseph’s tonight,” he said. “You’d better stay with me.”

“No!” Sierra replied. “You can fuck me, but then I want you to take me to Joseph’s. I have to go there. I have to”-

“You think I just want to fuck you? What do you think would make me want to have sex after seeing that?”

“No, I want you to”, Sierra insisted. “Please, Marty, I’m serious. You don’t know what I’ve been through tonight. I really need it. Please.”

“No! After what I just saw I don’t think my dick will be getting hard for a long time to come,” Marty said in an angry tone of voice. “I don’t give a fuck about Larceny or Rhino-good riddance. I ain’t all that concerned about Joseph either, for that matter. But Milo and Spanky were friends of mine. How can you even think about sex?”

“Milo used to say he was going to take me on a trip to Europe, or Hawaii, sometimes the Bahamas, before we split up,” Sierra said, though it was as if Marty was no longer there. “He still used to say stuff like that, even after”-

Suddenly, she started laughing insanely, manically, all the time staring straight ahead. Marty found it difficult to keep his eyes on the road as he made it finally to Joseph’s apartment.

“Look, I can’t take anymore of that,” he said. “If you decide to get out of here, for whatever reason, you got my cell number.”

“You never told me,” she replied as the tears continued streaming down her face, though she no longer laughed. “What makes you think Marlowe Krovell did all this?”

“Because a few weeks after Raven died, I went to see him, just to see how he was holding up,” he explained. “We both got real good and fucked up, and he went into this long list of things he was going to do to all of you. He was still not over Raven, and wanted back at all of you. He had specific plans for you, all of you, even Larceny Adams, even though she was nowhere around when Raven was alive. He just hated her because she was part of your group. Everything that happened tonight-to Larceny, to Rhino, and to Milo-was exactly what he said he was going to do.

“The only thing that happened tonight he never mentioned so far as I can remember was the little ventriloquist number he did with Milo. I’m worried now he’s after me as well. I know he’s alive, and he has to be crazy as a loon to actually do that stuff.”

“What-was he going to do with me?”

“I don’t remember for sure, ‘cos like I said, we were both wasted,” he replied. “I just remembered it after what I saw tonight, but it’s otherwise still a jumble. I didn’t really take him seriously at the time. In fact, I laughed. We both laughed. I thought he was just blowing off steam. I do remember something though about you and Joseph meeting in a group home, but that’s all.”

“Yeah, Raven must have told him that,” Sierra said. It was true. She, Raven, and Joseph all met in the same Catholic group home. She and Raven were Catholic, in fact, though Joseph just ended up there through the auspices of another agency. Within less than two weeks, he talked the both of them into running away with him, first talking them both into seducing the manager of the home. They eagerly and easily did it, after Joseph explained he would be unlikely to report them after they ran off. When they left, Milo was waiting to pick them up, and afterwards they met Rhino and Spiral, who at that time was Joseph’s bitch. They had been together for all of seven years since that night.

Still, what did all that have to do with Marlowe’s plans for her, and Joseph? She decided she had no choice but to go inside. Regardless of her uncertainties about Joseph and their current relationship, he did not deserve to suffer the grizzly fate of their friends. In the meantime, since all of the others were now dead, Joseph needed her more than ever. Maybe things would be better.

She merely hoped that she could reason with Marlowe. After all, she had left him warning through his uncle Brad about the disgusting things they had done to the food at Marlowe’s place while everyone was away. Surely, that counted for something.

“Sierra, just be careful, all right?”

Sierra assured Marty she would be fine, and then went to the door. The door was unlocked, and she walked inside. There was Joseph, sitting on his recliner, staring out into space. His eyes looked blank, almost expressionless, as she began crying. She turned, and heard a voice ask her what was wrong.

She turned to see Joseph had not moved.

“Joseph, is that you?”

Finally, he moved, and looked up at her.

“They’re all dead. Milo, Rhino, Sherry, all of them. Spanky too, I heard about it on the news, shot dead at the Crypt.”

He now got up and went toward Sierra cautiously.

“Krovell was here,” he said, as though trying to process the information he saw with his own two eyes. “He killed Milo, and Sherry, and Rhino. He bragged about it, and said you and me would be next. He said he just wanted me to know that, and wanted me to sweat it for a few days before it happened. He said what happened to the others would look like child’s play compared to what he was going to do to me.

“I-I shot him and he just stood there and laughed at me.”

Sierra was crying again, and lit into Joseph.

“This is your damn fault, Joseph!” she shouted. “Why did you kill Raven anyway? That is what this is all over. Do you see now what the fuck you caused?”

“No,” he said calmly. “He killed her. He told me that tonight. I thought she really died of a drug overdose. We all thought that. He told me tonight that he killed her because-because she broke up with him and went back to us.”

“That-motherfucker,” she said, now collapsing on the floor beside him.

“Joseph, we got to leave. I got the numbers from Gus. You can call and verify the account, and transfer it, and then we can get the hell out of here. We have to go some place where nobody can find us-not the Baltimore police, the Russian mob, the Pulse, or Marlowe. We have to get out of here tonight.”

Joseph just stared out the window. She had never seen him in such a solemn mood.

“I saw the fucking bullets hit him, all four of them. One of them hit him in the arm, one in the leg, one in the chest, and one right in his forehead. I saw the impact. He just bled a little, jerked some, and then kept walking toward me-laughing. I never saw anything like it in my life.”

“Joseph, please, call the number here and verify the fucking account and transfer it, and let’s get the fuck out of here,” Sierra pleaded, her terror growing more by the second. She was visibly shaking and her arm was jerking as she handed him the recipe card onto which Gus had scribbled all the information. Joseph took it and stared at it for a few minutes, and then finally made the phone call as Sierra made her way to the bathroom.

She threw up as she listened to Joseph make the transaction, and finally made her way to the refrigerator, where she extracted a gallon of tea. She drank down two glasses of it, as if she had consumed no liquids in close to a week.

“Okay, let’s go now,” he almost whispered, the usual commanding tone in his voice a shadow of it’s former self. The van was completely loaded with both of their possessions, what ones they decided to take with them. They got inside, with Joseph at the wheel.

“I’ll never forget the look on his face, or the last thing he said to me before he left,” he said.

“Joseph, really, I don’t want to talk anymore about it,” Sierra replied, already by now well past the end of her rope.

“He said I wasn’t really important to him,” he said. “He could care less personally whether I lived or died, or how I died, but as he put it, Marlowe’s memories wouldn’t let him see any peace until he took care of all of us. After all, he said, it is Marlowe’s brain. That is what he said. Marlowe’s brain will not let him see any peace.”

Sierra tried to process that information as Joseph drove on, soon ending up somewhere far out from the outskirts of Baltimore County, then making their way toward a long, narrow, winding country road that eventually took them somewhere into West Virginia..

“Where is this place?” Sierra demanded as Joseph pulled off to the side of the road, after about a three-hour drive. He did not answer, just got out of the van and walked down a slope. She removed herself from the van and followed his path, until she saw him hunkered down beside what looked like a small river. It was not until she got within about ten feet from him that she saw the body of the middle-aged woman.

“Who is that?” she asked him.

“My attorney-our attorney actually,” he replied. “Luckily, she has no family to speak of. We’re gonna be staying in her place for a few days. I was lying. She got everything settled early yesterday. I just wanted to make sure the money was all set before I said anything. I was afraid everybody would want to bolt too quickly.

“It’s really too bad. She was a good lawyer. She did a real good job, but we don’t need her anymore. We do need her place, though.”

“I thought-we were going away,” Sierra said hopelessly.

“Oh, we are,” he assured her. “We just have one more thing to take care of first. You know, Krovell doesn’t really seem to know who he is now-let alone what he is. Well, I do know, and I know there’s a way to deal with him. If we leave without doing it, we will just have to do it later, or let him play his little cat and mouse game until he decides to pounce. I ain’t made that way.”

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. He made a big mistake not killing me tonight. The next time I see him, I’ll be ready for him, I promise you that. I owe it to the rest of them.”

“What about her? You sure she won’t be found here?” Sierra said, looking back one more time toward the ravine. “We could bury her somewhere around here, it shouldn’t take that long.”

“Too risky being here that long,” Joseph said, “especially around a murder victim. The river will take care of her”

They then heard the shrill sound of a bird somewhere nearby, and Joseph looked up to see the arrival of what looked to be a large black vulture, circling over them, and finally perching on top of a rock on the bank across the river.

“If not, that vulture will.”

Joseph laid the body of the deceased attorney just into the edge of the river. He seemed almost gentle, even respectful, as he pushed her on in. He then stood up, and regarded the waves as they lapped around the body, but only for a minute. He then stood and walked toward the van. Sierra looked at the body, and then over toward the vulture, which seemed to watch her in a bizarre pose of mocking curiosity. She then got up and followed Joseph.

They got in the van and left, as the vulture watched them with baleful eyes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Presidents-From Better To Worse

This is a ranking of Presidents, from one through 40. It was intended as an exercise in objectivity, though I guarded against being artificially objective. Some presidents yet ended up lower than I initially thought I would have them, and quite a few ended up substantially higher.

There were actually 43 Presidents, from Washington to George W. Bush today. However, it is impossible to place in any ranking list William Henry Harrison, the ninth president, as he died from pneumonia a month after taking office, having accomplished nothing by which he might be judged, good or bad.

And, after all, this is a ranking of their presidencies only, not their personal lives or previous and/or later careers, unless there is something that makes that pertinent to their presidencies.

Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and the 24 president. Some historian judge the two terms separately, but I elected to judge him by the two terms together in one spot.

The main problem is James Garfield. He lived for six months into his term before he was assassinated. Though he accomplished nothing, his vice-president carried through Garfield's agenda, in an interesting story that reads like a movie script. I decided to judge the two of them together as a single unit, as one presidency.

I list them beginning from one through forty in ranking, from best to worse. I also list the dates of their presidencies by years in office. Their parties are irrelevant, so I generally don't bother to mention party affiliation, unless in the body of the text it comes out in some relevant manner.

1.George Washington-(1789-1797)

He earned the top spot not so much due to the way he handled a crises, for in his Presidency there were none. However, he did set the standard of Presidential behavior. When he first agreed to accept the office, a good many states governors were insistent that Washington, and any chief executive, should defer to them.

Washington made it plain, in no uncertain terms, that the US President was not their inferior, nor, for that matter, should he be their equal. He also made it plain he would not be a mere figurehead for the US Congress. Had he not acted in the manner he did, the entire country would have taken an entirely different path, more than likely not a good one. He also oversaw the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the union, the first states following the original thirteen to join.

It bears mentioning also, the US had been an independent nation for some five years prior to the adoption of the US Constitution and Washington’s presidency. However, the federal government was weak, and a series of insurrections, most notably Shay’s Rebellion, put the US in danger of becoming just another set of rival feudal states. Had Washington not agreed to oversee the transformation, the future would have been bleak indeed, and he was inarguably the only person at the time with the strength of character and widespread support to lead the way. Furthermore, he wisely kept the nation out of European alignment, something of which he expressly warned the nation.

To this end, he dismissed the then current French ambassador, something previously almost unheard of. Ambassador Genet was obviously in the process of undermining American neutrality. Washington sent him packing, and though this set the stage for Franco-American difficulties to this day, that was at any rate inevitable. Most importantly, he prevented a crisis, one that might have lead to outright rebellion and possibly war with Britain. We would be well advised to return to his wisdom in the matter of foreign affairs, but do not look for it to happen anytime soon.

He also, in a remarkable bit of foresight, warned against the influence of political parties, and their formation and the affiliation with them. That little bit of advice was unfortunately disregarded from the start, and has been the fatal American flaw that will in the end destroy us.

The one and only flaw in Washington’s presidency was the so-called Whiskey Rebellion, which he conducted in a ramrod style. Even it was a mixed bag. The good part of it was it established the right of the federal government to tax, which is of course a necessary evil. Unfortunately, it was an unfair tax targeted toward a specific group, and like everything else in Washington’s presidency, set the groundwork and established the precedent toward other measures. Personally, as Washington made his living to an extent as a distiller, I have to wonder if he was not driven at least in part by a desire to limit competition. Nevertheless, he easily deserves the number one spot, despite the fact that he owned slaves (whom he freed on his deathbed), and was brutal with the Indians, who themselves were savagely brutal at this time.

2Abraham Lincoln-(1861-1865)

Obviously, he saved the Union. He successfully fought the Civil War, and freed those slaves in the Emancipation Proclamation previously owned by Southern slaveholding citizens of rebellious states, “as a military necessity”. It was an act of genius, and lead eventually to the thirteenth amendment to the constitution, which freed all slaves in all states. The following fourteenth amendment conferred citizenship on all former slaves and their descendants, in addition to American Indians who were peace treaty signatories.

Most professional historians put him above Washington. I do not, though he is a close second. The reason I put him second is due to his disregard of habeas corpus. Granted, it was war, and so a state of national emergency, and it might well have been appropriate in some cases, but I have to wonder if it was necessary in all cases. The major problem with it is, of course, the precedent it set. Regardless of his tactics, Lincoln did save the union. He did this, by the way, through the Republican Party, but at the same time in spite of them.

Some Republican factions, the radicals, wanted to impose heavy punitive measures on the South, and sought to do that repeatedly. Lincoln wisely sought to avoid that. Unfortunately, he died before he could take steps to prevent the more egregious abuses of the following decade, the first President known to have died because of an assassination. It remains one of the great ironies of history that citizens of those same rebellious southern states are, by and large, more America-centric and patriotic in at least some respects than their northern and mid-western peers, for the most part. Of course, the major thing about Lincoln is the fact that he fought the war with the intention of keeping the union intact, not of lording it over the South, whereas most of those in his own party would have preferred more heavy-handed sanctions toward the vanquished rebels.

Actually, the Northern people in general did not really give a rat’s ass about the slaves. The wealthy industrialists who were the true power brokers of the party wanted the southern cotton, for which it was impossible for them to compete economically with Britain and France. The slaves were little more than a propaganda tool. What little more than that they amounted to was the desire of northern industrialists to establish manufacturing plants in the south, using that newly freed labor, for which you can be sure they would have paid-well, slave wages.

3.Franklin Delano Roosevelt-(1933-1945)

Another real hero. Saved the nation-saved the world. He was even a great cheerleader. But he was so much more than that. When the Depression hit, he broke ranks with his aristocratic blue-blood compatriots and formulated the New Deal. This not only put Americans back to work and rebuilt the economy, slowly and gradually-therefore steadily and securely-but he gave Americans reason once more to hope. Americans had a reason to smile other than what few times they might get an extra bowl of soup at the local soup kitchen.

Some people criticize him for attempting to stack the Supreme Court. I criticize him for that too. He should have declared a state of emergency and arrested them for insurrection. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and Roosevelt struck a brilliant compromise. He built them their first Supreme Court building, and from that moment on, they gave him few problems.

To be sure, there were problems with the New Deal, mainly of oversight. Many New Deal programs grew and took on their own life. Many of them eventually should have ended after some time. They increased the level of government bureaucracy and corruption. For these reasons alone, I put Roosevelt a few notches below Lincoln.

His conduct of World War II is another matter. One certain person who shall remain nameless has criticized him for waiting too long to enter the war. If anything, I criticize him for engaging the Germans too quickly. After all, even though Germany declared war on us after we rightly declared war on Japan, that did not mean we had to fight them. If we had not, what could they have done about it? Hitler could have destroyed the Soviets, then he would have been so weakened by the effort we could have toppled him easily. Japan would have been defeated faster as well if we had concentrated all our resources just on them. Unfortunately, Hitler in the meantime would have decimated Britain, so maybe Roosevelt did the right thing after all.

He damn sure should not have entered the war early. In fact, if he had he probably would not have been re-elected. There was just no sufficient support for us entering the war before we did. Nevertheless, Roosevelt obviously yet saved Britain, France, and in fact all of Europe. If we had done it earlier, they would not love us now any more, nor if we waited longer would they love us now any less. Fuck them.

I do not even criticize Roosevelt for Yalta, whereby he agreed to give the Soviets hegemony over Eastern Europe. It was probably either that or straight into another war with the Soviets, who were after all our allies in the war. In fact, as it was we could not have won the war without them. Moreover, the US citizens were tired of war and so would not have stood for that, and regardless of what anyone says, it would have been a needless debacle. In fact, I think the country would have collapsed, including the economy.

I do criticize Roosevelt for his push at encouraging the British to give up most of their colonies. This has resulted in a good many blood baths in many of those places which otherwise would not have transpired. It has enabled the establishment of brutal regimes, famines, and constant warfare. It also put the British economy in a real bind from which they have not actually yet recovered, to be frank.

The UN is also one of Roosevelt’s ugly redheaded illegitimate children, and he should have been ashamed of himself. For the most part, I put Roosevelt at number three not because he saved Europe-which I could fucking care less about. I put him there because he successfully took us slowly and steadily out of the depression in such a way that did not result in the runaway inflation and exorbitant interest rates, which a more intense and quick climb, would have resulted in. Had he followed that course, inevitably a collapse would have knocked us right back down. Roosevelt also introduced such innovations as FDICA, which insured bank accounts for up to 200,000 dollars. This helped stabilize the banking industry, for which the American banker should every night prostrate himself to the god Roosevelt. As it is, they would prefer to suck Calvin Coolidge’s dick, so fuck them too.

A lot of people criticize Roosevelt for his internment of Japanese citizens. As bad as this was, however, I have to wonder if it might have actually saved some of their lives. The Japanese were about as well loved in the United States during the war as Arabs are now. I'm not justifying anything now or then, but it is something to think about. For that matter, there was a concern about espionage.

4,Harry S. Truman-(1945-1953)

What can you say? Nobody really took this guy seriously. Prior to becoming a Senator from Missouri, he was a haberdasher. He was overall just a common, crude, everyday kind of guy. However, when Roosevelt died, he decided right then and there he wanted the fucking war over with yesterday and dropped the fist atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Just to make sure they got the point, he turned right around and ordered one dropped on Nagasaki. He saved millions of lives by doing so, including by the way more Japanese lives than was killed by both of these bombs.

He also implemented the Marshall Plan, which saved Europe just as assuredly as our conduct of the actual war did. Those pricks still owe us for that one, in fact, as far as I’m concerned. He also fought the Korean War, but wisely refrained from invading North Korea. Had he allowed Macarthur to go against him on that one, it may have resulted in a third world war not only with the Soviet Union, but with China as well, as this was before the days of the rupture between the USSR and The People’s Republic. Therefore, he was also right to fire Macarthur.

He also integrated blacks into the military, where they previously were relegated to their own segregated units. He also formulated the GI Bill, and was the first president who acted like he really did give a rat’s ass about soldiers and veterans, other than just the lip service you usually hear from your standard political hack. Because of Truman, they could now acquire low-interest college loans and grants, and housing loans.

He did a lot for us, including standing up for minimum wage. Like most good Democrats (yes there have been some) he supported labor unions against big business, though he did put an end to some strikes that would have been disruptive of the economy.

He drops down a few notches mainly for his infatuation with the UN, the illegitimate child of Franklin Roosevelt that he himself fostered and perpetrated on the world. He also should have been a little more forceful in dealing with potentially subversive communist sympathizers in the government. They may have been nothing more in reality than just air headed leftwing crackpots and bureaucrats, but it would have been good for them for Harry to “give ‘em hell.” Another mixed bag for him is his funding of the CIA, which did many good things for us, and though it still does and has that potential, it is in reality little more than just another bureaucracy with an attitude.

5.James K. Polk-(1845-1849)

Because of this President, illegal immigrants try to cross the border from Mexico into the American Southwest to do jobs Americans won’t do for slave wages-not directly from Kansas into Missouri. In other words, the American West is now part of a modern nation, as opposed to a part of the third world. Yep, he started the Mexican-American War, and in my opinion, he had every right to do so.

Texas had recently joined the union, at the end of the first year of his administration. Mexico, unfortunately, still looked on the former Republic as a breakaway province and was determined to one day win it back (and if the truth was known, probably still are). This was another worthwhile war you can thank Kentuckians and Tennesseans for fighting, by the way.

In the meantime, many if not most American classrooms teach this war as an example of crass American imperialism and aggression, or so I hear. While there was a lot of that going on, the reality is that Texas, from 1836, was an independent Republic that declared independence from Mexico, and then decided a decade later it wanted to be a part of the US, mainly for economic reasons. We were more than happy to oblige them. Polk was right to do so. Not only did it secure Texas, but most of the west as well.

Polk also had one hell of a hot first lady, by the way.

6.James Madison-(1809-1817)

A lot of historians gleefully dismiss the presidency of James Madison, mainly for the War of 1812, which in its day was as unpopular and controversial as the Vietnam War and the Iraq War. Still, he had to fight it.

The British, ever since the days of Washington, were in the habit of impressing American merchant sailors and naval crew and forcing them to serve in the British navy. I have an idea advancement in the ranks under those conditions did not come easily. Madison was the first President firmly to demand an end to it.

The US declared war and attacked Canada. As a result, Washington DC was attacked, and the White House burned to the ground in 1812, the last year of Madison’s first term.

So unpopular was he, in fact, I wonder how he ever won re-election. Luckily, he did, and he went on to see the war to a satisfactory conclusion. The only thing I can fault him for is not adequately preparing for the conflict in the very beginning, and in failing to make the case in support of resisting King George III’s second war of aggression, against what he probably still saw as his rightful colonies.

It ended in a compromise, a technical draw, but make no mistake about it, we won. That of course was thanks mainly to Kentuckians and Tennesseans, a lesser extent to some Midwestern states citizens, and not one damn bit to the people in New England and New York, who were mainly concerned about the disruption to their business interests. The Brits established the right to control over Canada.

We, on the other hand, established our domain as extending to the 44-40 latitude and longitude, which was a major victory. It permanently established the northern boundaries of the continental US and southern boundary of Canada. People that denigrate Madison’s presidency, of course, point out that times were hard. Uh, yeah, we were at war on our own territory. Why don’t they just come out and criticize him for writing the Constitution and agreeing to allow the 2nd Amendment or whatever their fucking problem really is, and then go to their basement rooms and jack off and calm down?

7.Theodore Roosevelt-(1901-1909)

The great trust buster, the man who temporarily turned back the move to turn the country into just another giant national corporation owned by stockholders of five or six major “competing” corporations who were setting prices to run smaller companies out of the picture.

Did you ever over the last twenty years or so start a business with loans and make a success of it? Thank TR. Thanks to him providing breathing room, not only did he make it possible for you to have a chance to compete and succeed, the chances are the innovations you use in your business would have never come about if not for him. He also promoted conservation and greatly expanded the national park system.

In his spare time, he settled the Russo-Japanese War.

He promoted the “speak softly and carry a big stick” foreign policy. Since that big stick is now to be measured not in bullets but in megatons, we are perhaps too wary of using it, which is very fucking regrettable. Roosevelt understood all too well that diplomacy not backed by strength-and the willingness to use it-is less than worthless.

He also built the Panama Canal, which greatly increased the prospect of trade for all those thousands of companies and businesses he saved.

Roosevelt also promoted conservation and expanded the national parks system.

It was his great good fortune that the nation never experienced a crisis during his presidency. That was probably because when he was president, nobody had the balls to start one.

8.Thomas Jefferson-(1801-1803)

Thomas Jefferson was a true Renaissance man. He was a genius, a scholar, and a true statesman. He was also a rake, a scoundrel, and a coward. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, yet during the war, not only did he fire so much as not one shot, he ran like a little bitch when the British advanced toward Monticello.

Although he was more responsible than any one else was for the inclusion of the Bill or Rights in the Constitution, he traitorously conspired with Aaron Burr to subvert the government and take it over in a cabal that is currently known as the Democratic Party.

When Washington made him his first Secretary of State, he managed every way in the world he could think of to undermine Washington’s power and position, even going so far as to fraternize with the loathsome little French toad Genet in his attempt to draw us into the conflicts with Britain and France.

Had Jefferson had his way, in fact, the American Revolution would have taken on a decidedly French character. He doubtless would have taken on the role of Robespierre (for whom I confess to some degree of admiration for the way he handled the French aristocrats, who deserved seeing their headless bodies in their last few seconds of consciousness from the vantage points of their decapitated heads).

Yes, Jefferson was a piece of work. Yet, something happened on the way to the White House. Maybe he came down with malaria and almost died, and though he survived, the experience changed his perspective. Who knows? Whatever the reason, for a brief time, he actually became a statesman.

He conducted the first war ever fought by the US against Islamic radicals, which resulted in a treaty that described America as a secular nation-not a Christian nation. Well, in reality, that was the truth anyway. This is the origin of the famous Separation of Church and State argument. That is actually not in the constitution-not in so many words, although the establishment clause of the First Amendment easily and legitimately interprets in that manner.

As this was Jefferson’s brainchild in part, you could easily make the point that Jefferson was not so much agreeing to a compromise as he was clarifying his own already rigidly held position. After all, this was for the express purpose of retrieving kidnapped and enslaved merchant American seamen and sailors. Jefferson would never have compromised his principles for their sake. That is unfortunately one of the brutal realities of life and politics, and war.

In the meantime, he put an end to the banditry of the Barbary Pirates and considerably enhanced the safety of American trading vessels in the Mediterranean.

His major accomplishment however, was the Louisiana Purchase, which doubled the size of the nation. Despite questions and challenges as to its constitutionality, Congress ratified it. It never faced a serious challenge. It provided a strategic expansion of land and invaluable natural resources.

Jefferson only did one thing wrong that I know of during his presidency, and that was in trying to control the courts, specifically the Supreme Court. His conduct with them resulted in passage of the 11th Amendment, which established the Supreme Court and federal court system as an independent branch of government. His feud with his Vice-President, Aaron Burr, also resulted in passage of the 12th Amendment.

Prior to this, second place candidates of a presidential race became vice-president. Though Jefferson and Burr did indeed run as a team, they got the same number of votes in the Electoral College. Burr unwisely did not step aside. Jefferson eventually secured the needed vote anyway, but the rupture between him and fellow cabal co-conspirator Burr was irreparable.

He tried to manipulate Burr’s treason trial (Burr supposedly intended to conquer Mexico and set himself up as a ruler in some capacity, though this was never proven), but was unsuccessful.

Jefferson was also responsible for a great many of the politically motivated pamphlets of his day, exercises in slander and libel published by his lackeys against such political opponents as John Adams. That chicken came home to roost when certain rival publications revealed his own true character, in addition to making him the object and victim of slanders and libels. For example, his enemies claimed he was the lover of a slave by the name of Sally Hemmings, and fathered a child by her. Many at the time believed this and many to this day believe it. However, it was never proven to any satisfactory degree. It is not important, really, save as an example of the derogatory nature of political discourse, which is one illegitimate child that Jefferson is most assuredly the father of.

Nevertheless, I place him at eight, and do not really detract too greatly from him for his court controversies. I am not so sure I completely disagree with him, in fact.

9.James Monroe-(1817-1825)

Was the beneficiary of a quite uncommon occurrence. So popular was he by the time he ran for his second term, he received all but one electoral votes. The reason for the one vote against him? The delegate felt it was not quite right for another person to receive a unanimous vote as George Washington had. Therefore, he reluctantly voted against Monroe, who had no real competition to speak of. The time of his presidency became known as the “Era of Good Feeling”. His first term of office saw the first true time of general economic prosperity and growth in US history. This was probably due more to Madison’s successful conclusion of the previous War of 1812 than with anything to do with Monroe, yet the fifth president ran the country with grace and dignity during this time.

The one dark spot in his terms is seldom mentioned and little known. He held a series of treaty negotiations with the heads of various Indian tribes, many of whom were easily taken advantage of by the hucksters involved on our side. One poor unfortunate chief lost his life when he went out on the town in a state of drunkenness, and allegedly “fell” to his death, after signing a treaty that was grossly unfair to his tribe. He was in fact drunk when he signed the treaty. I point this out as a way of making it clear the Indians were indeed unfairly treated in some instances, and this is one example of such.

Aside from this, Monroe, who may have had nothing to do with the actual negotiations or their planning, was a good president who established the Monroe Doctrine. This made it clear that while we would recognize and respect any previously established European colonies in the Western Hemisphere, we would not tolerate any further encroachments within that domain. Established as it was in the immediate aftermath of the War of 1812, it was the law of the land from then on-a good legacy, and a lasting one, unlike the temporary economic upswing that is generally considered his only other lone achievement.

10.William McKinley-(1897-1901)

The most underrated of all Republican presidents, and perhaps the most underrated period. This despite having fought the Spanish American War and establishing American hegemony over the western hemisphere, over a would-be European colonizer, in accordance with the Monroe Doctrine.

Spain lusted for the re-establishment of its old colonies, and a seemingly accidental explosion aboard the Battleship Maine provided the perfect opportunity to rally Americans behind the cause of the war. As a result, he freed Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from the grip of the newly emergent Spanish Empire and put that dog back to sleep. He also supported a highly criticized tariff, which he may have felt was necessary to fund the war. McKinley also considered it necessary to not only encourage higher wages, but to prevent American companies from being detrimentally affected by unfair international business practices.

Unfortunately, it took his assassination and the ascension of Theodore Roosevelt to put a stop to the just as unfair practices of the most successful American businesses to eliminate competition. In addition, he inadvertently began the push to true American imperialism by being the first President to extend its military might permanently outside the range of the Western Hemisphere. This in itself was ill advised, though it was unfortunately a temporary necessity. Hard to say what he would have done had he lived out the rest of his second term, but from the looks of things, he was not too adverse to the prospect of empire building, on at least a small scale.

11.Ronald Reagan-(1981-1989)

Reagan deserves a great deal of credit for reversing the trends of American politics as seen during the Carter Administration. The gloom and doom of the last part of the decade of the 1970’s did not leave much room for optimism. Reagan was like a breath of fresh air. He ended Carter’s era of double digit inflation and interest rates, and really made it feel like it was “morning in America”. To be sure, many Republicans overrate him.

He doesn’t deserve a place on Mt. Rushmore. Still, there is no doubt that he more than any single politician or other person is responsible for ending the Cold War, and for freeing Eastern Europe from the grip of the Soviet Union, and for the collapse of that entity. He also encouraged the use of atomic energy, and the adoption of the neutron bomb, although he failed in this endeavor. Yet, had a nuclear bomb proven necessary, the neutron would have been preferable, as permanent and even short term damage to the environment and city infrastructures would have been mild in comparison with any other nuclear device. I count it one of his failures that he could never sell it on this level, to people who objected mainly to any form of nuclear device on the grounds-supposedly-of environmental danger.

He also for the first time in history brought the national debt up to the trillion dollars range. Finally, he ran like a scared little bitch when terrorists attacked our Marine barracks in Lebannon. Most of the people that criticize Bill Clinton over his inaction with Muslim terrorism seem to conveniently ignore that fact.

In his defense as regards the debt, that was not entirely his fault. A great lot of this had to do with Democratic insistences on increases in domestic spending on some things the nation could have done without, or at least could have been reduced. Still, he had his share in the process, and the next time you hear a Republican waxing nostalgic over Reagan’s friendship with Democratic House Majority Leader Tip O’Neill, understand that their friendship was actually the foundation for this ballooning debt.

Reagan also came to an accord with Gorbachev in the days immediately after he was criticized for his “evil empire” rhetoric (though he was right) and was an obvious influence with Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost policies. It was a shame that he could not plan for the day to more appropriately help smooth the transition to democracy in Russia. Of course, he was out of the White House by the time it occurred, and had little to no influence then over events. Yet, you would have thought it would be something to consider. It seems never to have crossed his mind.

Nevertheless, his influence is undeniable. Even his SDI (Star Wars) proposal was sound. He merely presented it in such a way as to enable his opponents to make it sound ridiculous. Truthfully, at the time, it was and still is too expensive. There is only so much you can do under a massively growing debt. The most obvious cause of this debt was the increase in military spending in combination with the lower taxes. This too is a mixed bag.

His economic policies successfully lowered interest rates and inflation, and encouraged business growth and new start-ups. He was also a big proponent of deregulation, and though this had some positive effects, there were negative effects as well. For one thing, the “trickle down” theory never quite trickled down to the extent he promised it would, due mainly to the lack of regulations to measure and reward such progress, or to even encourage it.

The only thing that keeps him out of the top ten is his deficit spending, along with Iran-Contra.

My main complaint with Reagan, however, is not actually with Reagan, it is with his followers. Give the poor guy a break and let him rest in peace. Quit dragging that rotting old corpse out on stage with you every time you make a fucking speech. Quit naming every airport and road and bridge and everything else in the world after him. Give it a rest. We get it-you admire him and will not rest until all of us agree he is the greatest president. The assumption we are supposed to make, of course, is you would be similarly great at whatever office you are running for, be it mayor or dog-catcher.

Sorry, but for the time being I have him firmly at number eleven-unfortunately, it would seem there is nowhere to go but down.

Oh, and one more thing. Tomato ketchup is not a vegetable-it is a fucking fruit.

12William Howard Taft-(1909-1913)

Taft was a huge man. When he lived in Cincinnati Ohio, I would almost bet he was a regular customer at Graeter’s Ice Cream parlor. He probably paid their bills to a great extent. When you get stuck in your own bathtub, you are a fat ass.

When he became President, in 1909, he did not have a lot to do, other than, it would seem, eat. Times were good, unless you were a working man. According to Taft, if you were a member of such species, all you needed was a dollar a day and lunch. His beneficence toward the common working man is not, by any means, why I have him so relatively high on this list. No, he is here for the little known reason that he actually filed and won more anti-trust suits against big corporations than even Teddy Roosevelt, whom he served under as Vice-President.

He was a true believer in the competitive spirit of American business, it seems, just as Roosevelt was. Still, Roosevelt turned against his old friend, and ran against him in his bid for re-election. Roosevelt to this end founded the Progressive Party, colloquially known as the Bull Moose Party. Stalwart Republicans, of whom there seemed to be few, voted for Taft, but enough voted for Roosevelt to skewer the election’s results, and throw it to Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

13.Chester A. Arthur/James Garfield-(1881-1885)

Garfield is problematic on this list, as he only lived half a year into his first term, and though he tried to establish his campaign pledge of civil service reform, he never had the time to do anything.

His one accomplishment, in fact, was that he kicked his Vice-President, Chester A. Arthur, out of his White House, and in fact never allowed him to enter. He hated the man Republican Party bosses forced him to accept as a running mate, the former collector for the Port of New York. Chester was corrupt, and a pawn of Republican Party bosses, who tried to force their will on Garfield through Arthur. Garfield was not having any of it. When he was shot, his assailant was heard to shout, “I am a stalwart of stalwarts. Arthur is president now.”

When Arthur heard of this, he did the only thing he knew how to do-he hid until Garfield finally died. Terrified that he would be held responsible for the death of Garfield, he decided there was only one thing he could possibly do. He pushed Garfield’s civil service reforms, culminating in passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. This reduced patronage and corruption to a remarkable degree, and established civil service protections for government employees. He even reduced the tariffs that he understood all too well were a means more of patronage than anything else.

This one major achievement, being a continuation of Garfield’s agenda, makes it sensible of to no one but me to judge these two presidents as a single unit, more by the term involved from 1881 to 1885. Well, Arthur was more of a fashion plate, and somewhat of a dandy. As you might imagine, this did him as much good as a quadruple murderer in criminal court in a three-piece suit. He was denied renomination to his party for the 1884 election-surprise, surprise-being passed up for the notoriously corrupt James G. Blaine. Arthur later died of Bright’s disease, with which he learned he was afflicted sometime during his single term.

14.Andrew Johnson-(1865-1869)

Besides being a drunk, Andrew Johnson had many problems to contend with. A former Tennessee governor, he was considered a traitor by many in his state for his support of Lincoln, whom he ran with on the Union ticket for Lincoln’s 1864 re-election bid. He was actually a Democrat. When Lincoln was assassinated, Johnson was determined to carry out Lincoln’s policies, including those towards the Southern rebel states. To that end, he tried to limit the rapaciousness of the radical Republicans in Congress towards the defeated confederates.

Unfortunately, many in his own cabinet had other ideas, and when he tried to fire the Secretary of War, Stanton, Congress intervened by passing the illegal “Tenure of Office Act”. Johnson fired the man anyway, and consequently he was impeached. He escaped conviction in the Senate by one vote. To this day, Andrew Johnson is considered one of the poorest of all Presidents.

I put him up rather high, for the simple fact that he did successfully fight and win against the Congress’s unconstitutional actions. Had he not resisted, or had Congress succeeded in their drive to convict him, it would have temporarily and perhaps forever ended the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. For this reason alone, Andrew Johnson deserves praise, and a higher ranking than he is generally given by those who seem to be more interested in playing up to anti-southern sympathies than in given an honest assessment of his presidency. He also oversaw the purchase of Alaska, which was denigrated at the time as “Sewards’s Folly”, due to the influence of then Secretary of State William Seward in the affair.

15.John Tyler-(1841-1845)

The first president to succeed to the presidency from the vice-presidency due to death of a former chief executive, he was derided as “his accidency” by his political foes. However, Tyler held firm and used the power of the veto more than any previous president. What is especially notable about this is he used it mainly against his own party, who tried to force high tariffs, which Johnson felt was beyond the needed operating expenses of the federal government.

Such tariffs of course were justified as a means of promoting and protecting growing American businesses from unfair foreign competition and to enable the payment of higher wages. In addition, the government depended on these tariffs for operating expenses in these days before the federal income tax. However, overly high tariffs easily became a method of establishing patronage and bribery with the excess funds. When Tyler resisted his own party, the Whigs, in these attempts, they finally had enough and kicked him out of the party.

All of his cabinet abandoned him, with the exception of Daniel Webster, who remained on as Secretary of State. Tyler remained in office until the bitter end, and thus successfully established the precedent of presidential succession. In an effort to promote statehood for the fledgling Republic of Texas, he encouraged adoption of the Missouri Compromise, which was Webster’s innovation. It protected the rights of slave owners in established slave states, but aimed to prevent any further spread of the slave system.

He also prevented a civil war in Rhode Island. The state government was faced with insurrection over voting rights. They sought Tyler’s aid in putting down the rebellion. Tyler refused, saying he would send federal troops only if there was an actual attack. He then strongly encouraged the state to extend the voting franchise, which they reluctantly did, thereby solving the problem.

16.Grover Cleveland-1885-1889 and 1893-1897)

A hard president to judge, due to the split in his terms. His first term in fact was quite a good one, his second term not quite as good, though not all that bad either. In his first term he had a strong economy, and resisted the call for free silver. At this time, the dollar was backed by gold, and he felt to increase the circulation of currency by also backing it with silver would be inflationary. The prosperity it might encourage would be temporary and illusory. He also fought against increased tariffs. Tariffs of course were necessary for government funding, as there was no permanent income tax or other kind of federal tax at this time. Unfortunately, many at this time wanted to increase the tariffs to a higher level than was prudent, in what amounted to a calculated aim to further patronage and, to put it bluntly, bribery.

He also successfully fought against the Apache Indian chief Geronimo during his first term in office.

He also refused to annex the Hawaiian Islands, feeling he had no constitutional authority to do so. He did, however, recognize the new Hawaiian Republic that had overthrown the monarchy, when the former queen made clear she would execute the insurgents. Cleveland gave her the amnesty he felt she deserved, yet due to her intentions in this regard, he reluctantly agreed to recognize the new republic.

He also forced the return of previously public lands previously ceded to a railroad, due to their refusal to put the land to use, as it had a contractual obligation to do. When he ran for re-election in 1888, he was defeated by Benjamin Harrison in the electoral college vote, though he actually won the popular vote. He came back to regain the White House in the election of 1892.

When he returned to the White House four years later, he faced an economic crash, yet steadfastly refused still to engage in free silver or bi-metalism. In his second term, he ended a Pullman Strike, declaring that if it took the Army and Navy to insure a postcard was delivered from Chicago, that card would be delivered.

I mainly fault him for refusing to sign a veteran’s pension bill. That was pretty fucking cold. Yet, he did modernize the Navy. At the same time, he made it clear that Congress could declare war on Spain if they wanted to, but he would not fight it. I have to wonder about that one too.

For one thing, it raises to me questions as to his intentions to set up a free trade corridor between the US and Mexico, in addition to some other South American countries. It might have worked better during this time than now-but I seriously doubt it. Still, luckily this was one thing he was never able to get passed.

He was also against the women’s suffrage movement, explaining in magazine articles that God-or as he put it, divine intelligence- had already designated the proper place for both men and women, and expressed the view that no prudent woman would desire the right to vote.

I thank him for the laugh I get out of that one. The thought of the potential looks on the faces of some of the more radical women’s rights activists of today almost makes up for the veto of the veterans benefits bill. The sad thing about it is, when I think of some of the reasons a good many women vote the way they do, I have to wonder if he didn’t have somewhat of a point.

17.John Adams-(1797-1801)

This second president of the US accomplished one thing at the beginning of his presidency, and another thing at the end of it. At the beginning, he became the first Vice-President to succeed to the main office. When he lost his bid for re-election in 1800, he became the first President to peacefully hand over the reigns of power to a victorious rival. Although he rode together that day in the capital with victorious Thomas Jefferson-whom Adams at the time legitimately despised-it was a long, hard, cold, and silent ride. Yet, the succession went off otherwise without a hitch.

In the meantime, during his presidency, Adams was notably criticized for his promotion and signing into law of the Alien And Sedition Acts, which was almost certainly unconstitutional. He was influenced mainly due to the so-called “X,Y, Z Affair”, which involved a note detailing espionage in some vague way involving French operatives with high placed American officials. Adams was embarrassed, and beside himself, and determined to ruin anyone who involved himself in the affairs of foreign governments.

Not only did the Jeffersonians turn against him, but many of his own party as well, including the habitually treacherous Alexander Hamilton, who in my opinion may well have engineered the debacle as a means of fostering even greater hostilities between Adams and Jefferson. Hamilton wanted power, of course, but was despised by a good many. He turned on Adams and split the Federalist Party, which only existed as a necessary counterbalance to Jefferson and Burrs cabal, the Democratic-Republicans. They were never a solidly formed party in the way we think of today, and were easily ripped to shreds. When Adams lost his bid for re-election, the Federalists faded into the dustbin of history, never again to be a real factor in American politics.

Yet, all of these facts are somewhat mitigated by the treacherous reality of American politics at this early stage, and Adams did managed to hinder the movement toward outright anarchy that many such as Jefferson could easily have brought about. He also fought against the repugnant nature of journalism of his day, which operated by means of slander and libel as matter of course. His steady hand and determination probably prevented the early American Republic from dissolving into either anarchy, or possibly even civil war, and even potentially becoming a Jefferson managed French puppet.

He also engaged in diplomatic hostilities with the French, due to the X,Y,Z Affair, in what has become known as The French Quasi-War. Toward the end of his presidency, he made peace with Napoleon, thus ending the Quasi-War, and in the meanwhile built up the America Navy into a formidable force.

18.George W. Bush-(2001-

He started out trying to be everybody’s favorite Presidents. He was a little bit of Reagan, a little bit of Truman, a little bit of Teddy Roosevelt, and a little bit of Lincoln. Hell, he was a living, breathing, walking, talking manifestation of Mount Rushmore. He was also the Second Coming of Christ to many, and the Anti-Christ to not a few.

He will be chiefly remembered for the War on Terror and the Iraq War. He will especially be remembered for the strong response he showed to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and his consequent overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Yet, he will also be remembered for the spending of his administration in combination with the deep tax cuts that ballooned the deficit, and for the credit extended by China at his invitation in order to fight the war. He will be remembered as perhaps the most hated man at the time he held the presidency since Lincoln. He will probably be remembered for the way he ended up botching both of the previously mentioned wars to the extent he caused the Republican Party to lose Congress in 2006 partly because of this.

He will be remembered for a lot of serious debacles, too numerous to mention, chief among them being his support for the criminal Immigration Reform Bill which he knew full well would certainly result in yet another massive flow of illegal immigrants into America to at least the same extent a similar bill passed by Reagan did. He had to know the enforcement provisions in his own bill would be as unlikely to actually be enforced as those in Reagan’s bill. To this day, in fact, they are not truly enforced.

I put him up as high on the list as I do chiefly for three reasons. The immigration bill failed. Had it not these three reasons would be worthless. Yet, for now they are considerable.

1. He put judges on the bench that for the most part seem dedicated to the prospect of being judges, not in supporting an agenda. Well, at least not a "progressive" one.

2. His strong response to 9/11 and his determination to prevent a further attack on American soil.

3. Finally, though it drives conservatives nuts, I give him credit for trying to provide a system of health care for the elderly poor. It has benefited many people, even those who inadverdently fall briefly into the so-called “doughnut hole.” The fact that it took a Republican president to accomplish this is irrelevant, except to mention the Democrats have beaten this horse for decades, but never succeeded in passing anything of consequence, with the single exceptions of Medicaid and Madicare. Bush at least deserves credit for trying, and flawed though the program is, it can always be improved. At least the framework is now in existence.

What I mainly fault him for is trying to fight a major war on the cheap, and on credit at that. It will ruin us eventually, if allowed to continue. If it causes us to be losers of one particular war, well, that is just the fucking breaks. We will not be the first major power to lose a war, and we will not be the last. Learn from your mistakes, do not keep repeating them and hope things will work better the next time. They never do.

Besides, Bush has already given us a diplomatic out, and he seems not to realize it. He is always referring to Iraq as a front in the overall “War on Terror”. Well, sometimes in a war, you lose a battle or two. Sometimes you lose more. The loss of a front is regrettable, of course, but the overall war is what is important. End the Iraq War and concentrate on the big picture. Focus on Afghanistan, and make it the model democracy it should be by now. Then, move on from there, using diplomacy when possible. Then, if you get to a point where war becomes the most practical solution, then fight that war in a practical way. Fight the motherfucker to win it.

Unfortunately, Bush is too far-gone, too committed, and in too deep to benefit from such sound advice. I wish I was wrong, but I am afraid I am not. In the meantime, the mood of the country has soured, and paranoia runs rampant. Yet, Americans seem determined that the Disneyworld they live in will go on forever. When gas prices go through the roof, they blame Bush, they blame the oil companies, but they keep on driving like they are back in Eisenhower’s fifties. It does not matter where they are going, or how important it is. You see them at any time of the day-just cruising, from one dead end turnaround to another-just for the hell of it. They bitch about the security at airports, and the long delays, but still they fly, whether it is important, necessary, or otherwise. They know 500,000 dollars is too much to pay for a house that would have cost one tenth as much twenty years ago, but they still buy the house, taking out an extended mortgage with a floating interest rate to do so. Americans want it all, and they want it yesterday. They are immature. They cry and demand that someone else pay the price for their own stupidity.

Nevertheless, when the next presidential election comes along, they will still vote for the person they would most like for a fishing buddy. They want government out of their lives, but they still want to have a beer with the leader of it. Americans are fucking crazy. Is it not only logical to assume they might invariably at some point in time elect a maniac?

Like everything else, Bush’s record is mixed. He signed a needed farm bill and highway bill with some good provisions, but was forced to accept a lot of unnecessary add-ons. His faith-based program may or may not be unconstitutional. His so-called “No Child Left Behind” bill is a lot of shit , but on the other hand, that was one of the few things for which he had bi-partisan support-back in the days when it looked better to be for it than against it. Bush himself has wavered. He wisely supported the tariff on imported steel, but caved to international demands, as well as some domestic objections. I guess you could say he was for the steel tariff before he was against it.

I could care less about his so-called disregard for civil liberties of suspected and actual Islamic terrorists, and the so-called assault on our freedoms. I have no plans to make an overseas call to a terrorist operative. If I do make such a call to somebody that is one, I would like to know about it, as it would certainly be news to me. And, while I am not a fan of torture, I just can’t get that worked up over a pair of panties on somebody’s head-especially when their heads are still attached to their shoulders.

Most of the leaders of most countries of NATO and the UN seem to despise Bush. That right there is enough to tell me he cannot be that fucking bad.

19.John F. Kennedy-(1961-1963)

The space program remains his greatest legacy to this day, and it was this program that, almost more than anything else, is responsible for the advances in American technology that resulted from it in the following decades. He also promoted the rights of workers and labor unions, though one of them, the Teamsters, turned against him due to the Kennedy brothers on-going hostilities with the Mafia and by extension with Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa. His appointment of brother Robert to the post of Attorney General, however, signaled unwavering opposition to the Mafia, and a determination to end their crime and all-pervasive influence. Although he never lived to see the long term results of his organized crime war, the Italian Mafia is now a shadow of it’s former self, thanks in large if not most part to the combative policies his administration initiated and promoted. Although he was never able to secure its passage, he also supported the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act later passed by Lyndon Johnson. Under Kennedy’s temperate economic stewardship, the economy rebounded from the last two years of the Eisenhower Administration, when it started to become somewhat anemic and underwent a period of recession.

Though his economic policies were for the most part good ones, his foreign affairs were problematic at best. He entered Vietnam with a force of ten thousand advisors, who reportedly proceeded to assassinate the corrupt ruling Diem brothers, allegedly with Kennedy backing. Kennedy agreed to an earlier Eisenhower administration plan to overthrow Castro, using exiled Cubans with CIA guidance. He then at the last minute refused to supply air cover, resulting in the deaths and capture of many Cuban exile fighters who made up the main force. Yet, he has been accused of being party to several vain attempts to assassinate Castro that almost read like something out of a Monty Python script. Convinced of his weakness due to a misjudgment of his character based on one summit meeting in Vienna, Soviet Premiere Khruschev proceeded to install missiles in Cuba. Kennedy finally stood his ground, and insisted the missiles be removed, as he blockaded the island.

Even this was not the victory it is made out to be. For one thing, Kennedy’s weakness and indecisiveness brought the matter to a head, and although he did well to correct his mistakes, this did not come without a price. He agreed to remove any bases in Turkey and Afghanistan. This is one aspect of the so-called “Cuban Missile Crisis” that is generally overlooked-avoided, to put it bluntly. Following this, he made a speech in Berlin that is widely heralded as the height of Euro-American anti-communist solidarity, the speech where he said “I am a Berliner” in German. Yet, it was during Kennedy’s Administration the Berlin Wall was built.

When Kennedy was assassinated, probably at the behest of a small cabal of people who will more than likely forever remain unknown, a good many of the investigative papers regarding his assassination were sealed until a specified date far into the future. Yet, the Warren Commission concluded that Kennedy died as the result of one deranged lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. A skeptical public always wondered what was in those papers, and this added fuel to the conspiracy charges that have lasted to this day. When Bill Clinton became president, one of the first things he did was go through some of these papers, and release them to the public for the first time.

As it turns out, the only conspiracy revealed in these papers was the one to protect not the identities of secret conspirators, but the reputation of John F. Kennedy. Not only was there now detailed proof of his dalliances with Marilyn Monroe, but others as well. Many, many others, in fact, including perhaps most ominously, a woman who was the girlfriend of known Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancano. Giancano, of course, was a dedicated enemy of the Kennedy regime.

I wonder how many blowjobs Kennedy got in the oval office? No wonder he is smiling in almost every picture you see of him.

20.Benjamin Harrison-(1889-1893)

Harrison won a narrow electoral vote victory over Cleveland in the 1888 election, despite his also narrow popular vote defeat. He then proceeded to engage in some silver purchases which he used as a means to back the issuance of more currency This was mainly a means of providing an economic stimulus and putting more money in circulation. It worked for a brief while. It proved to have a temporary stimulus effect on the economy, resulting in a boom and general economic growth. Unfortunately, it was an inflationary gesture that lasted just long enough to see him through one term of office, after which Cleveland regained the office in 1892. Cleveland then had to deal with the downside.

Harrison is otherwise remembered for the attempt of someone in his Administration-probably within the Bureau of Indian Affairs-to commit genocide on a troublesome Indian tribe by handing out blankets infected with the smallpox virus. A great many died from this hair-brained scheme. It may well have been accident, unlikely as this seems-and no one was ever prosecuted. There is certainly no proof that Harrison was directly involved. At any rate, it certainly does not look good that no one was ever held accountable.

It was also during his term the Wounded Knee Massacre occurred. There was a phenomenon circulating among various Indian tribes known as the Ghost Dance, which was meant to be a ritual of spiritual rejuvenation and attunement with ancestors. It was also supposed to be peaceful. However, the Lakota Sioux adapted it as an aggressive rallying cry against their white oppressors. It would be hard to fault them for this. They were contained on land they were forced to learn to farm, yet the land was almost useless for farming. They were forced to learn white customs and not allowed to teach their own. It all came to a head at Wounded Knee, and during Harrison’s presidency, the Indian conflicts were finally settled.

Harrison loses points for this, and for the fact that his presidency seems to have accomplished not one thing of substantive value, with the sole exception of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law, which was never enforced until Theordore Roosevelt became president. It is worth noting that he at least was willing to experiment with the concept of bi-metalism. It got him four pretty good years in office, followed by a bust, and that was about it.

21.Ulysses S. Grant-(1869-1877)

Although he was scrupulously honest himself by almost all accounts, his administration was one of the most corrupt in American history, chiefly known in this regard for the so-called Whiskey Ring. Yet, Grant was an effective President during one of the most important periods of American history in terms of population growth, westward expansion, and economic recovery in the aftermath of the Civil War. He oversaw it all quite well, despite the overt crookedness of many of his Administration. He was the first President to consider running for a third term, and was heavily encouraged to do so by a group of supporters known as “Stalwarts”. This however went nowhere.

What did, to lasting effect, was the civilizing of the West, which during his Administration finally showed signs of pacification. People finally started to move west for more reasons than the mere vain hopes of striking it rich and leaving. They finally started moving west to stay, in appreciable numbers at that. Grants support through the stationing of sufficient quantities of troops and forts made that potential at last a reality. His support made possible the necessary railroad expansion that made business in the west practical. For the most part, by the end of his Administration in March of 1877, the Indian Wars were starting to become a thing of the past, though there were flare-ups from time to time.

He also went out of his way to protect the civil rights of blacks in the south, prosecute and in fact declare illegal the fledgling Ku Klux Klan, and did this while yet trying to show restraint in his stationing of troops in southern states.

22.Dwight Eisenhower-(1953-1961)

It was the best of times, it was the worse of times. That is a perfect description of times during the presidency of Dwight David Eisenhower. It was the beginning of civil rights unrest, it was the period of redbaiting and the “red scare”, and it was the time of concerns over the growing communist menace. It was a time for worry over the bomb, and The Soviet Union’s acquisition of it. Yet, it was also the time of Elvis and rock ‘n roll, of American Bandstand, of sock hops and drive-in movies, of scientific development and economic growth. It was a time of peace. It was a time of simplicity. It was a time to dream.

So if things can be so bad, and have the potential to be even worse, how can they possibly be so good? In my opinion, it was because Ike was President. Americans loved Ike, and he made them feel safe and secure, even when they knew they should worry. The first thing he did when he came to office was hammer out an agreement to end the Korean War. The next thing he did was play golf-a lot of it. Some people put him down for that, but actually, that in itself was leadership. When Americans saw Ike out on the golf course, they couldn’t help but see a calm, dignified, strong, courageous, and yet an affable fellow who obviously enjoyed life. What in the hell was there to feel bad about?

Ike’s major accomplishment is still with us today, and it is still growing, though this is unfortunate, and it is in heavy need of repairs, which is just as unfortunate. I am talking about the interstate highway system. Originally conceived as a method of emergency evacuation of cities and towns in the event of a nuclear attack, it morphed from that into a vital aspect of the economy.

The only bad thing Ike did was in allowing Castro to establish a communist government in Cuba, just fifty miles from our shores. That should have been nipped in the bud immediately. Failing that, he should have established diplomatic relations with him. Anything would have been preferable to what he did, which was basically nothing.

Otherwise, the general did quite well for us. In a farewell speech of Washingtonian proportions, he warned us against the massively growing influence of the military industrial complex. I guess Ike was something of a conspiracy nut.

23.Lyndon Johnson-(1963-1969)

His major flaws can be summed up succinctly as follows-
1. Vietnam
2. Vietnam
3. Vietnam

Vietnam, for the shady way he in earnest started the war with the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident which seems now to have been manipulated from the beginning.
Vietnam, for the fucked up way the war was fought , by holding to within certain limits but never endeavoring to take the war to the actual home center of the enemy, on the grounds that this was not really a war, but a police action, i.e., defensive posture.
Vietnam, for the way it was allowed to go on, with no end in sight, ripping the country apart in the process.

Otherwise, Johnson might have been another great president. It is easy to fault him as a big spender, until you realize that the deficit he had never came close to that of the Reagan Era, or for that matter even the Carter era. Moreover, the Great Society, though an obvious government boondoggle and bureaucratic intrusion in a great many respects, did do some good. Head Start in particular was a worthwhile government program, as was Medicare.

I realize people will take exception especially to my assessment of Medicare, but the fact remains that you could probably increase your last doctor or hospital bill by at least ten percent if it were not for the existence of Medicare and for that matter Medicaid, another Great Society program. Ten percent, by the way, is my own very conservative estimate. It may well amount to a great deal more than that, if the costs covered by those programs were instead passed on to the medical consumer.

Welfare too, was one of those programs, started by good intentions, that turned into a government funded paved road to hell. Yet, for all its obvious faults and abuses, even it undeniably did some good for a good many people. The main problem with it was the cycle of dependency it created that seemed to be generational. That, in fact, was the way the program was, if not intentionally set up, then at least that is the way it was enacted. No one was getting off welfare in any sufficient numbers, for the simple fact that too many make work jobs depended on keeping people on the rolls. That was the program’s fatal flaw.

Johnson’s chief accomplishments, however, were the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and The Civil Rights Act. That brings him up quite a few notches. The fact that he knew it would all but decimate the Democratic Party in the South, and hurt it to some extent in the Midwest, just goes more toward demonstrating Johnson’s basic integrity and decency, something for which he is rarely given credit. That is because he basically was a crooked sob, but even a crooked sob that ratchets up a war on false pretenses can be capable of having some basic humanity.

Does it sound complicated? Yeah, I know, but it can possibly be explained. Johnson was merely fulfilling a campaign promise made during his run for Vice-President with Kennedy in 1960. He had to do that to placate the liberal wing of the party, especially the Kennedy faction. See, political convenience makes it easier to do the right things, but it still feels just as good when you do it. At the same time, he had a sure fire vote getter among blacks-or so he thought.

Racial tensions erupted more after the signing of these bills, it seems, than at any time previously. Considering his beliefs as to the damage done to the Democrats by these bills, I have to wonder whether he ever intended to run for re-election afterwards. Some say the strong showing of Senator Eugene McCarthy in the New Hampshire primary in 1968 was his breaking point. I think by that point he was just a tired old man who finally had enough.

24.Andrew Jackson-(1829-1837)

When Andrew Jackson came to the White House, to the average man he was like Christ riding a donkey into Jerusalem. He soon set about the process of dismantling the Second Bank of America, which was the nightmare of farmers and small business owners everywhere. The idea was to control mortgages and lending rates, and to establish a stranglehold over the nation’s currency. Jackson fought them tooth and nail for two terms, and was successful, though his second Vice-President, Martin Van Buren, paid the price during his single term as President when the economy collapsed. It was a necessary evil, though, as this was a financial civil war fought for the economic soul of the nation.

Jackson wanted a system of competitive banks, feeling no one institution should have control of the nation’s currency. For a while, it worked well, and his policy produced a brief period of economic vitality. Unfortunately, he exacerbated the situation by demanding that all public lands should only be purchased by “hard specie”-meaning gold or silver. This resulted in an economic depression of sorts, one of quite a long duration.

Jackson of course is also credited with founding the so-called “spoils system”, which is a lot of rubbish. The spoils system was in effect from the beginning, Jackson just brought in other beneficiaries who previously were uninvited. Jackson was actually the first honest to God democratically elected president. From that time on, if you were a white male of the age twenty-one years or older, and a citizen of the country, you could vote-end of story. No property requirements, no cash on hand necessities, no poll tax, no literacy standards. Okay, you had to be a male and white, so it was not that democratic, but compared to what it was before, it was quite liberal.

People have criticized Jackson for his treatment of American Indians, and his drive to contain them. What they usually do not tell you is the bloodthirsty way they terrorized white Americans, and especially the way they sided with America’s enemies, the British, in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Their participation in these wars, as well as on the side of the French during the French and Indian Wars, and the tactics by which they fought, in some cases would possibly make an Islamic terrorist quiver in revulsion. Jackson fought them in the War of 1812, and knew what they were like, so I do not fault him for this in the least (though I might well find fault with some Americans and British in the decades and centuries preceding this that might have at least in part fostered such savagery).

25.Zachary Taylor-(1849-1850)

Taylor was your typical Whig Presidential candidate, the obligatory military hero, in his case having been a general in the Mexican American War, which he had fought in not so much as two years prior to his election in 1848. He was also a slave owner at a time when the Whig Party was becoming sharply divided over the slavery issue. His main accomplishment was in bringing California into the Union. However, he never lived long enough to see it come to pass, although he agreed to the compromise proposals that made it possible. These included the signing of The Fugitive Slave Law, and The Compromise of 1850, which were actually carried out by his succeeding Vice-President, Millard Fillmore.

If not for a couple of factors, it would be easy enough to judge the terms of Presidents Taylor and Fillmore as a single unit, just as I did the presidencies of Garfield-Arthur. Those factors, however, are significant enough as to make this impossible.

In Taylor’s case, he was involved in a meeting with some southern leaders, who expressed to him the serious desire, if not the outright determination, to secede from the Union. Taylor told them directly that if they did do that, or so much as tried to do that, he would personally see to it that all of them hung, and he would have no more of a problem with that than he would have with the hanging of any military traitor or deserter. They backed down, at least for the time being.

Unfortunately, he died not too long afterwards, after about a year-and-a-half in office, from acute gastroenteritis. To this day, many claim he was poisoned, though even a recent exhumation and modern medical examination turned up no evidence to support this charge. This was despite the fact that his body was so well preserved, even after almost one hundred fifty years of death, he was recognizable.

26.Warren Harding-(1921-1923)

If I were to ever erect a Mount Rushmore of Corruption, this President would be right up there with Grant, Nixon, and possibly a few others as well. There would b a hell of a lot more than four, put it that way. Because of this, I have no problem putting Harding as relatively high as I do on the list. Despite Teapot Dome, and despite the fact that this president spent his entire time in office basically drinking (which was illegal during these years of prohibition) and gambling, he did do some things. He ran on a platform that called for a “Return To Normalcy”, the last word of the phrase being one he coined specifically for his campaign. He ended our brief period of international overseas involvement with the affairs of other nations and returned military spending to previous levels. His actions thus lead to an encouragement toward domestic economic investment at home, which was the initial reason for the resultant boom of the nineteen twenties.

He died on his way back from Alaska, the first President to visit that then-territory. He came down with food poisoning and died. Shortly before this, he expressed dismay that so many of his Administration was caught up in the scandals by which his Administration was widely known, and which evidently took him completely off-guard.

Sometime later, a man by the name of Gaston Means, a former FBI agent and con man, claimed Harding’s wife and doctor murdered the President. He even wrote a book about it, though it has been out of print for decades. Nothing ever came of the charge from this man, who himself served a prison term for the murder of a client that he, as a private investigator, cheated out of money and who threatened to prosecute him. I find it interesting though, as Means was one of the mentors of a reluctant J. Edgar Hoover who, though he held Means in low esteem, followed his footsteps in keeping secret dossiers on powerful figures for advantage.

Harding was considered a handsome man, and an excellent public speaker, though he mangled the English language a good many times (normalcy, instead of normality, being an oft-noted example). That he was previously a newspaper publisher makes this idiosyncracy even more ironic, and some have even postulated he may have suffered from aphasia. Still, he was very likeable in person, an excellent campaigner, and presented the appearance of a president, leading some to describe the theory of “The Harding Effect” as the willingness of people to vote for a candidate based on appearances.

Women certainly liked Harding, and they voted for him in overwhelming numbers in 1920-the first year women could vote. Of course, he supported women’s suffrage, though interestingly enough he could not find the time to make it to the Senate to vote for the measure that would have sent it to the states for ratification as the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

He may have been in his office, having one of his innumerable affairs. He had many such, and at least one illegitimate child by a woman who was presented during the campaign with an all expenses paid trip to the Orient. When Harding was asked by the Republican Party leaders during the 1920 convention whether they was anything in his background that could be detrimental, he replied simply “no.” By the time they found out otherwise, it was too late to change their minds.

Harding was not as corrupt though as his detractors insist he is. One of his o many lovers attempted to blackmail him into voting against entry into World War I, due to the presence of her husband in Germany at the time. Harding voted for entry anyway, and the woman backed down from her threat.

She probably could not bear to part with a good thing. Again, Harding was handsome, personable, and his shoe size was 14.

27.Martin Van Buren-(1837-1841)

The country’s economy fell apart during his presidency, actually at the beginning of it, due mainly to Jackson’s feud with the Second Bank of America. Van Buren resisted calls for a nationalized baking system, even though the pressure on him to do so must have been considerable and all but unbearable. Otherwise, not a lot here. He is faulted for his failure to involve himself with the Amistead Insurrection and with the massacre of Cherokee Indians during the infamous Trail of Tears, both of which also serves to knock him down a few pegs. Nevertheless, he was probably unaware of the latter’s occurrence until it was over, and had no constitutional power to do anything about the first. In reality, though, he knew it would cost him the party’s nomination in 1840 if he dared do anything at all. He got the nomination all right, and lost to the first Whig candidate, William Henry Harrison, who then died in office after about a month.

Van Buren was a political genius who learned the hard way, political ability and leadership does not always go hand in hand.

28.William Jefferson Clinton-(1993-2001)

You ain’t nothing but a dog-a hound dog, bubba. Damn, we know you admired Kennedy more than any other president, but damn, did you have to imitate him in every possible way, including under the sheets? It is amazing that one man could do so much damage to his own legacy, for no more than the simple inability to keep his dick in his own pants, and out of other people’s mouths. The worse thing is, he had actual potential to accomplish great things.

When he first ran, he campaigned as a new kind of democrat, and promised such things as reduction in government spending, and reform of welfare. By the time his first two years were over, all of that was out the window. His worse enemies, however, were not the Republican minority, but his own Democratic Party majority. They fought his spending cuts every step of the way. By the time all was said and done, his accomplishments amounted to-

(1). “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”;

(2).He managed to hammer out some vague compromise between logging interests and environmentalists in Washington State, one that was probably the right course of action, yet which of course pleased no one;

(3) He signed a handful of executive orders, including notably tax breaks for certain companies that purchased heavy machinery.

Otherwise, his spending cuts, aside from some cuts in military spending, amounted to a small handful of his overall proposals, which were opposed not only by elected Democrats, but practically every Democratic interest group in the country-including notably civil service, or government employee, unions. Even “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” pissed off almost everybody-including gays.

Everything in the world that he touched turned to shit, so much to the point that he eventually became known as the “Velcro President”. Unlike the “Teflon President” Reagan, to whom nothing stuck, anything threw in Bill Clinton’s general direction seemed to stick with him, whether it was aimed at him or not. He and his wife were investigated for everything-the Whitewater scandal, for a haircut on an airport runway holding up flights, for the apparent suicide of White House counsel Vince Foster, for “Troopergate”, for almost anything you can think of, and probably a bunch of other stuff you probably never thought of that never saw the light of day.

One more thing never saw the light of day-proof of any wrongdoing. When certain FBI files conveniently turned up, after they were subpoenaed, in a convenient place where they should have been easily discovered much earlier, that was about as close as it got to an obvious sign of wrongdoing. And those files never proved anything either. Bill and Hilary Clinton were even slammed by other politicians for being-gasp-politicians.

In the meantime, Alan Greenspan took Clinton off to the side, and basically told him “look. If you cannot come up with a way to bring this spending under control, I am going to have to raise interest rates. If you cannot lower spending, then you have only one option-raise taxes”. The rest is history. Al Gore, as Vice-President, cast the tie-breaking vote that raised taxes. Although that set the stage for the budget to be eventually brought into alignment with something peripherally like sanity, it set the stage for something else-the Republican takeover of Congress is 1994.

That was not the only reason, of course. That was merely the reason according to Republicans in the days when George W. Bush proposed his first tax cuts, and the following ones. Now that Hillary seems poised to claim the 2008 Democratic nomination, they will tell you she is the reason, especially as it pertains to her involvement in what became known as “Hillary Care”-or, according to some “Hillary Scare”, a massive new proposed entitlement that would afford universal health care coverage, or something very close to it.

Actually, it was both of these reasons, and one more Republican party members never mention, which was Clinton’s honest initial yet futile attempt to control and reduce government spending. A good many of Clinton’s voters remembered the Democratic Party for that, and rewarded them accordingly with an early retirement package.

It was the best thing in a way that happened to Bill Clinton during his presidency. Although it took a temporary shutdown of the government in a feud between Clinton and Republican House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich to accomplish it, they eventually did settle their differences temporarily, to a limited-very limited-extent. Gingrich blinked and the government resumed operations. Then, they finally hammered out a welfare reform bill that was Clinton’s baby. Republicans like to take credit for it, of course, but in truth, they wanted to all but gut the program. Clinton insisted on a more moderate reduction, and in the end, he got the welfare reform bill which he previously campaigned on to begin with.

Clinton also kept his word to hire new police, in a federal program that proposed for the federal government to temporarily cover the cost of hiring up to 100,000 policemen for a period of something like five years. At least partially because of this, there was a dramatic decline in crime in almost all areas, even though the target number of 100,000 was never actually reached. I think it was more like 78,000 or thereabouts.

He also started a controversial program called AmericaCorps, based on Kennedy’s Peace Corps, which utilized Americans as volunteers to help the elderly and be mentors to needy students, and that sort of thing. It was one of the first things George W. Bush promised to eliminate when he became President, though I think in the end he merely cut funding for the program.

That was pretty much the extent of Clinton’s domestic policy success, unfortunately, with the exception of the booming economy he enjoyed, and which was brought about in part by his tax increase. Greenspan kept his word to keep interest rates in line, and this encouraged investment. Economic indicators were good almost in all areas of the economy, and Clinton even reduced the trade deficit with Japan.

In foreign affairs, his one lone success was in brokering a deal for peace in Northern Ireland. His intervention in Haiti was too much of a mixed bag to qualify as a success. As for his meddling in Serbia, that should never have come about, as this was completely a European problem, which they should have handled on their own. At least, Clinton should have limited our role to that of support. Instead, he led the way. The mission was a success, to be sure. I just am of the opinion the Europeans should have handled this problem on their own. Since they seem to think they are so fucking far above us in so many ways, surely they could have done a superior job at that, as well. If not, oh what the fuck ever.

Clinton also fell into George Bush Sr.’s little trap of involvement in Somalia, which he should not have done. Nevertheless, he agreed, and left the area with egg on his face. He also was a disaster in handling the various terrorist attacks that occurred during his presidency, though I for one do not fault him for the attack on the USS Cole, as he was in the process of leaving office by then. His handling of other such matters, however, was pretty weak. Or heavy handed, such as the incident in Texas with the Koresh cult. He did, however, at least set up the infrastructure for tracking Al-Queda, and Bin Laden, and though he perhaps failed to take advantage of several distinct opportunities to destroy this menace, at least he had them in his crosshairs, and gave the incoming Dubya Administration fair notice-which was largely ignored.

His reprisal attacks against Saddam Hussein were especially mortifying. Since when do you decide to bomb a place only when you are sure there in not a single living soul in the building? I think this callous regard for life resulted in the death of one person-an innocent night-shift janitor. In the meantime, not a single day went by that jets enforcing the No-Fly Zone over the Shi’ite and Kurdish sections of Southern and Northern Iraq were not fired upon by Iraqi forces. At no time was one ever hit, and it was probably more of a pastime inspired by boredom than a serious act of war, but it should have been responded to forcefully. Not Bill Clinton, though.

I could go on and on, but I will end it with this. His gun control law (the so-called Brady Bill) banning assault weapons was obviously and blatantly unconstitutional on the face of it, yet he got by with it. He was pandering not so much to the far left (to whom he probably did not go nearly far enough) as to the soccer moms who ended up voting for Dubya when they decided they liked war, until they later realized war usually resulted in some people being killed.

His impeachment was another debacle, and though Congress overstepped its bounds as surely as Prosecutor Ken Starr overstepped the bounds of his charge to investigate Whitewater, this was another Clintonian self-inflicted wound. Yet, Starr, unable to uncover a shred of evidence of wrongdoing in the Whitewater case, manipulated Clinton into perjuring himself under oath. Clinton after his presidency had his law license revoked for this, even though he technically did not so much lie as, appropriately enough, skirt the truth.

It was partisan nonsense, at any rate, and the American people saw through it, and punished the Republicans appropriately. Though Democrats did not regain either House of Congress, they made significant gains in both. Newt Gingrich was ousted as Minority Leader, only to be replaced by fat ass Dennis Hastert.

If Clinton deserved impeachment, it was not over this fiasco, but over his technology sale to the People’s “Republic” of China. What especially looked bad was the accusation that Clinton may have encouraged donations from representatives of the Chinese for his 1996 re-election bid against placeholder candidate Bob Dole. Although Clinton was criticized for this and investigated, nothing ever came of it as far as any evidence of wrongdoing on Clinton’s part. Maybe the Republicans just did not dig deep enough. Maybe they did not dig not because that hole to China was just too deep, but because they were afraid when they finally dug through to China, they would reveal just how deep in China’s pockets they themselves were. Remember, it was not mainly Democrats, but Republicans who supported Clinton’s technology sale to China. This, of course, is another aspect that most Republican critics of Clinton conveniently fail to point out.

Clinton also supported NAFTA. He tried to improve it, but unfortunately, you can only make an ugly assed bitch presentable up to a point, and for a very limited period of time. It usually ends when the lights come back on and/or the booze wears off. Hopefully, even if you do look around and find a marriage contract, you can get out of it. Hopefully, we can get out of this ugly bitch as well.

Clinton lately has become good friends with George H, W. Bush, his predecessor in the White House, and the original proponent of NAFTA. They travel around the world, raising money for various charities and relief funds, notably the Hurricane Katrina disaster. As admirable and heartwarming as that is, I find it curious at the same time, as Bush did not seem to care too much for Clinton up until after 9/11. The last time I saw them together, I could have swore I saw the weirdest stain on Bush’s shirt.

29.Woodrow Wilson-(1913-1921)

One of those Presidents you wish you could bitch slap. He was not so much America’s 28th President as he was its first Prime Minister. His major contributions total two. He stepped in and cleaned up the mess the Europeans made of Europe in World War I in under a years time (thereby proving my earlier point that FDR should have held off engaging in war with Germany in WWII for as long as possible). This was his accomplishment in his 2nd term-the one he won by bragging how he kept us out of the war.

His major first term accomplishment was the Federal Reserve Act. This set up a system where the President would appoint, and the Congress would confirm, appointment of a board of economics and business experts, with a chairman, who would set interest rates by which banks borrowed money from the US Treasury Department. This would enable some degree of stability in the financial markets and enable the use of interest rates as a means of controlling inflation and encouraging investment. The 17t Amendment came into passage during his term of office, and thus the hated IRS.

Wilson attempted to influence the Treaty of Versailles after the end of the war with his “Fourteen Points”. It amounted to a Lincolnesque formula for going easy on the vanquished nations of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey, the three major nations that made up the Triple Alliance. Unfortunately, the Europeans, being Europeans, did not listen to Wilson, and so these great preachers and advocates of humanitarian justice ended up making conditions in Germany so fucking miserable it enabled the later rise of Adolf Hitler.

Unfortunately, Wilson never learned from his mistake of trusting European leaders, and so he entertained the naïve notion of setting up the international body known as The League Of Nations. The US Congress wisely passed up the opportunity for the US to join this august body of international numbskulls, which lead to it becoming pretty much an empty, impotent, worthless debating society that passed resolutions with no real teeth. Not only were its laws useless, what few they got around to passing, it had no real influence over events whatsoever. In other words, it would be an improvement over the current UN, which is every bit as useless, though unfortunately it has considerably more influence.

Wilson had a number of strokes during his Presidency, and was gravely ill for a significant portion of it. He became so ill at one point that his second wife (his first died during his first term) actually signed documents on his behalf. No one knew exactly how ill Wilson became, in fact. He exacerbated his illness by traveling the country in the vain hopes of garnering support for his utopian plan for international world peace. Ain’t that a bite in the ass? The only one of Wilson’s Fourteen Points the Europeans could agree on was the League of Nations, which is the only one for which he could never get Congressional support. In a way, I guess Wilson was way ahead of his time. Too bad he drove himself to an early grave in the process of pushing his vision.

He also tried a bunch of people for treason. This man did not believe in the right to protest his war, and the future FBI, and such stalwart patriots as Herbert Hoover, set about making examples of any who dared oppose our entry into Europe’s vain little slugfest.

Interestingly enough, the New York Stock Exchange was bombed during King Woodrow’s reign. More than a hundred people were killed, but no one was ever prosecuted for the crime.

Many people criticize Wilson as a racist. When the silent movie classic “Birth Of A Nation” was screened at the White House, he was deeply touched by the portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as gallant defenders of white virtue against the malignant forces of the loathsome, lustful blacks who sought to despoil innocent white virtuous women with the aid of evil, greedy white carpetbaggers. He made some remark to the effect that it was so accurate it was like history written with lightning. Aside from this, there is no record of any overtly racist policies or beliefs. Nevertheless, his remarks certainly did nothing to discourage the sudden surge in membership in the newly reemerging Klan, which had lain dormant for some three decades or more.

Aside from this character flaw, Wilson would be more at home in today’s world than in his own. Today he would doubtless be a staunch internationalist. Had he lived in Washington’s time, he probably would have been a dedicated Tory, and more than likely would have remained an unknown one.

As it was, he was merely a mild-mannered intellectual who would be remembered mostly, yet vaguely-if at all-for his tenure at Princeton University, where he instituted many educational reforms. As a politician, he was a mediocrity who could be easily dismissed, were it not for the war that thrust the illusion of greatness upon him, if only for a brief time.

30.Millard Fillmore-(1850-1853)

When Taylor died, Fillmore signed into law those compromises that made possible the admission of California into the Union as our 33rd state. The most important of these were The Fugitive Slave Act and The Compromise of 1850. The first one allowed for federal assistance in tracking and returning slaves escaped into non-slave states. The second one established latitude-longitude 30-33 as the slave state-free state boundary. The entire set of five proposals, especially these two, were unpopular, controversial, and divisive, but it was a practical impossibility to bring California into the union without them.

Fillmore also opened up Japan to western trade, which was also quite an accomplishment, given the island had existed for centuries closed off from the rest of the world to all intents and purposes. I question the constitutional right of Fillmore to forcibly open Japan to western trade with the threat of military force-which was exactly what he did-but there can be little doubt it would eventually have transpired anyway, if not through US coercion, then certainly and eventually through another power perhaps not as beneficent. Japan certainly benefited from the move more perhaps than we did.

Fillmore also opened Hawaii for the first time to American trade. In the meantime, Fillmore was possibly the first beneficiary of the economic boom that first started slowly under President Taylor and was a result of the Gold Rush of 1849. The resultant economic
growth owing to this lasted until the crash of 1857.

At any rate, Fillmore is most remembered for the Fugitive Slave Act. The fact that the divisions within the Whigs were even more sharpened by this caused them to pretty much fall apart. Fillmore was the last President who would wear the Whig label. By the 1856 election, they were no more

31.Richard Nixon-(1969-1974)

Nixon cleaned up the mess perpetrated by Lyndon Baines Johnson. He desperately wanted to end the Vietnam War, yet could not do it quickly enough to suit anybody, it seems. His message was peace with honor. Indeed, he set about during his entire time in office trying to achieve that elusive goal. He knew the war was not winnable at the stage of the game at which he entered the picture. Still, he would not bring himself to be the President who retreated in disgrace.

He also worked hard to try to come to an accord with the Soviets. At the same time, he opened the door to negotiations with the People’s “Republic” of China. These efforts enabled him to gain an advantage in his negotiations with the Soviets. It certainly made the SALT II negotiations go easier. He eventually was able to begin the process of withdrawal from Vietnam. In the meantime, the draft came to an end, after a brief experimental period with a lottery system, which was aimed in part toward eliminated the inherent class based unfairness of the earlier process. By the time all of these things concluded, Nixon was on his way out the door. He faced impeachment and certain conviction for his role in the Watergate Break-in Cover Up fiasco.

As an anti-communist Republican, though, he was surprisingly liberal. He tried a set of Wage and Price Control measures, which failed miserably. He founded the EPA, which turned into just another bureaucratic boondoggle. And, in what some have referred to as Nixon’s good dead, he increased welfare payments to recipients to somewhat above subsistence levels from the barely survivable levels implemented by Johnson.

Despite his many faults and failures, he was a strong, able leader in a time of remarkable social turmoil. Had he been president in less turbulent times, he might well have gone down as one of the great ones. Unfortunately, he was seriously flawed though undeniably brilliant.

Nixon was not really a crook. He was, however, a weasel. If you were a friend, he would break out a bottle of the good stuff. More than likely, however, the good stuff would have been earlier replaced with a cheaper brand before your arrival. Nixon, you see, always saw you coming. He knew who his friends were. He also knew who his enemies were. He had a list of them, in fact. In the end, Nixon’s paranoia was his own undoing. His world-renowned enemies’ list inadverdently left off the name of the worse enemy of them all-Richard Nixon.

32.Franklin Pierce-(1853-1857)

Pierce was a mugwump, a northerner (from New Hampshire) with southern sympathies. When he and his wife were on their way to Washington, a train derailed at the station from which they were embarking. They watched helplessly as their eleven-year-old son was crushed to death by the train, as they themselves sustained only minor injuries. They previously lost both of their other two children at an early age to illness, and they both arrived in Washington, personally destroyed. Mrs. Pierce remained in seclusion, while Pierce, already a drinker, became a habitual drunk and alcoholic. It became widespread knowledge that he was weak, and easily manipulated. Nevertheless, his presidency did contain one notable, and actually quite important, accomplishment-the Gadsden Purchase. This involved the purchase from Mexico of Southern Arizona, as well as a portion of Southern New Mexico. Unfortunately, in order to win congressional approval, he found himself in the position of having to agree to passage of The Kansas-Nebraska Act. This negated the previous Missouri Compromise, and once more opened up the prospect of slavery as a states right issue, open to public and/or legislative voting. As a result, Kansas was admitted into the union as a slave state.

This destroyed the presidency of Franklin Pierce, and the Democratic Party-now itself divided among regional, sectional lines-declined to re-nominate him for a second term.

The reason for the importance to Pierce of The Gadsden Purchase, the pursuit of which destroyed his Presidency-it was meant for the building of a railroad line to the west coast.

33.John Quincy Adams-(1825-1829)

Another stolen presidency. In 1836, there was not enough of an electoral vote total to enable Andrew Jackson, the popular vote winner, to take the Presidency, which threatened a constitutional crisis. Then, suddenly, fourth place candidate Henry Clay of Kentucky delivered his electoral votes to second place John Quincy Adams, which gave Adams enough of a margin to emerge the winner. When Clay was later appointed Adams’ Secretary of State, Jackson supporters were outraged. This led to the formation of the modern Democratic Party out of the ash heap of the old Democratic-Republican party of Jefferson and Burr. Adams’ administration then passed the next four years without benefit of a single accomplishment of note.

This, however, was not through lack of trying. Adams tried to pass an enormous spending bill of a type previously unheard of, involving money for schools, roads, bridges, and canals, as well as the establishment of a university and an astronomical observatory. When some complained the constitution did not give them the authority to appropriate such money, he told them not to worry about it. In the end, Congress agreed to a relatively few of his proposals, resulting in a couple of canals, and a few roads and bridges, though nothing nearly approaching the scale he requested.

34.Gerald Ford-(1974-1977)

Not a single accomplishment to note. He tried to fight inflation with a button that said WIN (meaning Whip Inflation Now). I guess it was impossible to make a one-word slogan out of something sensible, like “Save Money When Possible”. His presidency was the first to experience an energy crisis, with long lines at the gas pumps. He was beset by a number of international controversies, notably the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese, and the resultant thousands of “boat people” who fled the resultant massacres. This was not his fault, of course, other than he was unable to convince the Democratic Congress, already wary of further involvement in another war, particularly in southeast Asia, to fund the defense of the Saigon government. He pardoned Richard Nixon for any crimes relating to Watergate, and as a compromise gesture, extended a general pardon to all past draft resisters and evaders. He was a placeholder President, who would ordinarily not show up this high on the radar screen at all. Nevertheless, his pardon of Nixon probably did prevent the nation from a good deal of further turmoil and trauma it just could not stand at that time, but which it would doubtless have been obliged to endure anyway had he not acted as he did.

35.Rutherford Hayes-(1877-1881)

The first President known to have acquired the presidency by fraud, thereby earning him the sobriquet “Rutherfraud Hayes”. In his contest for Presidency, the democratic candidate should have won, but at the last minute a number of states delegations switched their votes to Hayes. In return, Hayes withdrew all federal troops from southern states of the former confederacy, thereby setting up the Jim Crow laws and culture that lasted for almost a century. It is hard to fault Hayes for this, of course. Had his democratic rival won, after all, it would have resulted in the exact same thing, only possibly worse. At the same time, he did try to protect the civil rights of blacks to what little extent it was now possible. Still, this one blatantly illegal power play cost him any chance he had to establish any kind of legacy. He also used his federal troops to end a strike, an act that resulted in the deaths of many of the striking workers. Yet, in his later years, he revealed himself to have socialist leanings.

To his credit, he did do a fairly good job as mediator of a multi-nation dispute in South America. He is highly regarded to this day in some places there.

36.Calvin Coolidge-(1923-1929)

He expanded the Bureau of Investigation, renamed it the FBI, and gave it the ability under first Director Herbert Hoover to become the most corrupt bureaucracy in the history of the Republic. This, for all the good it did. Otherwise, Coolidge did nothing, and said little. His most well-known saying is perhaps “the business of America is business”. Well, he certainly gave us all the fucking business. He sat back while Wall Street and American banks engaged in a confidence scheme that was unbelievably bold. It basically amounted to a one hundred percent credit. Under this scheme, for every one hundred dollars you plunked down, you could buy ten thousand dollars worth of stock-on credit. This caused a burgeoning stock market, and the resultant economic boom of the Roaring Twenties. All it took for this scheme to go belly-up was for a few major stocks to start a precipitous decline in value, which led to panic sell offs. This increased the plunge, which set off a panic. Banks were forced to close their doors, and there were probably more suicides during this time than at any other time in American history. Of course, by the time all this came about, silent Cal had wisely decided to refrain from seeking a second full term in office. Do you want to bet he did not know the crash was on its way? I think he did. Even if he did not know, he should have. Certainly, nobody put any guns to anybody’s head and forced them to buy stocks on credit. Problem was, they are not the only ones who suffered the consequences. I have a strange idea Coolidge did not suffer too greatly when the crash hit.

Naturally, people insist that Coolidge could not have known the crash was coming, as he was not an economist. I would assume from this that he knew none. I can understand why he felt it necessary to reduce government spending and taxes. Even this, however, is deceptive. He actually did not reduce taxes at all-he retooled them. Most Republicans who worship at the shrine of Calvin Coolidge do not seem to realize that when he lowered income taxes, he turned right around and raised inheritance taxes to make up the difference. Yet, most wealthy people seem to adore him. Bob Novak has called him one of our greatest president.

If anything else, this should go toward illustrating the dangers of laissez fairre government. At the very least, Coolidge’s determination to stay out of the way of business encouraged them to take advantage of naive, gullible investors. It was like children left alone without a babysitter. No grown ups at all were in charge.

He also refused to help farmers, though his own father was one. Someone brought up an idea about the government buying excess American farm produce and selling it in overseas markets. Coolidge outright refused, saying in effect farmers have never been known to be wealthy.

It takes a lot to rank below Jimmy Carter in a presidential ranking poll. Sometimes it just takes nothing at all. The only thing that keeps him lower than that is I am not convinced as to his degree of culpability.

37.George H. W. Bush-(1989-1993)

Sincerely tried to reign in deficit spending through support of a Democratic sponsored tax bill, thus breaking his campaign pledge of no new taxes. Nevertheless, the bill contributed to the economic upswing of the nineties for which the later Clinton tax bill generally receives the most credit. One negative effect of the tax bill was the job loss in certain areas, such as the Boating Industry, followed by a period of deep recession.

Otherwise, he signed into law the first bill to protect disabled Americans as a specific group, called The Americans With Disabilities Act. It was generally a good bill, but like all good bills contained a lot of unnecessary horseshit. It offered tax breaks to employers who hired disabled Americans, but at the same time, it contained a lot of unconstitutional provisions to force private businesses to erect handicapped ramps and establish handicapped parking spots. This put an unnecessary hardship on a good many businesses. For a while, Disabled Americans advocates and groups were so full of themselves they started insisting retarded people not be referred to in such a derogatory manner, but as “mentally challenged”. When they saw that people started using that as a general put down to even greater effect, they pretty much dropped it.

Otherwise, Bush became known as a wuss President, but the wuss turned into a tiger, first by invading Panama and imprisoning dictator Manuel Noriega. He then manipulated former Reagan ally Saddam Hussein into a war. The Kuwaitis were supposedly stealing oil from Iraq lands, and Hussein is supposed to have complained to Bush, and informed him of his intentions to annex Kuwait, which by all rights, according to Hussein, was legitimately a part of Iraq (never mind there was no such entity until after World War I.). Bush offered no objections, or so the story goes, but when the invasion came to pass, he rallied the world behind Operation Desert Storm. After the successful conclusion of the war, he refused to pursue Saddam, on the grounds that his agreement with Arab nations to support the war depended on him leaving Saddam in place and the world withdrawing its forces from Iraq. He did set up a No-Fly Zone over the Kurdish and major Shi’ite areas of the country. However, after he encouraged the Shi’ites to rebel against Saddam, he failed to come to their aid, which resulted in massive slaughter by Saddam’s Republican Guard forces. This of course amounted to a greater dereliction of responsibility and duty than even Kennedy’s betrayal at the Bay of Pigs.

That was pretty much the extent of the presidency of the first Bush, who was there when the Berlin Wall fell and when the USSR collapsed finally. He avoided any kind of involvement with the Russians, possibly afraid of inadverdently propping up the fallen regime and so giving it a new lease on life-and ending with egg on his face. He did at some point make some vague speech about a “New World Order”, which has been the focus of conspiracy theories since it was first uttered.

It probably is indeed a conspiracy to enact a global trade regime, with international bankers and corporations the major players. To this end, he promoted NAFTA. This is of course a terrible idea, which is why he acquired such a lowly position in this ranking. If he had been more successful at promoting free trade, I have no doubt he would be even lower-much lower.

For the most part, his presidency consisted of going around the globe in the vain attempt to topple those same regimes he had been so instrumental in propping up to begin with. Noriega in Panama is one obvious example, as is Saddam. He also maneuvered Clinton into involvement in Somalia, which turned out to be the first fiasco of the Clinton Administration. I have always been of the mind that Bush intended this to happen, with an eye to a possible future political comeback, or just to further some other long-term goal.

Because of the fact that I sincerely believe this, it was hard to actually put him this high on the list. Of course, proof is a funny thing. If you do not leave it lying around, you get a free pass-up to a point.

38.Jimmy Carter-(1977-1981)

the absolute worse President of the modern era, and one of the worse of all time. He is saved from the position of dead last due chiefly to his role in facilitating a peace between Israel and Egypt, which has not only lasted to this day, but led to yet another breakthrough with the nation of Jordan. He also, not Ronald Reagan, was the first president to provide aid to the Mujahadeen rebels in Afghanistan fighting against Soviet expansion, even going so far as to send his national security advisor, Zbigniew Brezhinsky, to meet directly with the rebel leaders. Reagan then increased the aid to a far greater level and generally gets credit for the results. He deserves credit, but so does Carter, who additionally raised minimum wage for the first time in years.

Unfortunately, that is pretty much the entirety of the few bright spots in an otherwise abominable record. Even his raising of minimum wage had a negative economic consequence, coming as it did on top of a variety of tax increases, which made things more difficult than necessary on business owners.

His overall economic performance resulted in double-digit inflation, and double-digit interest rates at the same time, and under Jimmy Carter, the national debt busted the one hundred billion dollar mark for the first time in history. Though that is small potatoes compared to the nine trillion or so it stands at now, in those days that was a formidable obstacle to economic growth, and many fell into a slump that lingered and hurt like a growing abscess. The energy crunch continued and worsened as well.

People started to be turned off in earnest by the Democratic Party during this time. Now, not only did Republicans consider identification with the Democratic Party to smack of sedition-so did a growing number of Democrats. Carter’s party only made matters worse by engaging in an overall policy of rhetoric that would have shamed Joseph Goebbels. The Democratic Party had every chance in the world, with the election of Jimmy Carter, to set a new tone and begin a new national direction. Instead, they made the old Who song “Won’t Get Fooled Again” seem almost like a work of divine prophecy. Free speech started to come under assault by Democratic special interest groups, while the Georgia Mafia reigned supreme.

This was of course the cake. The icing came with the overthrow of the Shah of Iran, which Carter all but encouraged, resulting in the rise of the Ayotollah Khomeini, who took the American embassy and all its diplomats and guards hostage, a situation that continued throughout most, and throughout the remainder, of Carter’s presidency. His insistence in diplomacy having proven futile, he at last made a half-hearted rescue attempt that ended in the travesty of our special forces shot down in their helicopter, or wrecking, or something that was never made exactly clear.

It was the most humiliating experience in the history of the country, compounded by the fact that President Jimmy Carter one, caused it to happen, and two, refused to do anything substantial about when it did happen, and three, was actually helpless to do anything at all about it, other than to engage in useless diplomacy-i.e., beg behind closed doors.

To this day, Iran is a serious problem, due to the actions and consequent inactions of Jimmy Carter, and the whole region was inspired to treat the US as though it was an insubstantial and corrupt bastion of weakness propped up by wealth, posturing, and braggadocio. Every problem we have to this day in the region can be traced directly or indirectly to this period. Sunni radicals and moderates hate us because of the power we handed the Shi’ite theocracy in Iran. Shi’ite moderates in Iran hate us because of the same theocracy whose oppression they are forced to endure. Shi’ite radicals hate us as much as ever because we are as much of a convenient scapegoat now as we were then. Arab and Muslim secular rulers hate us or at least distrust us because they assume that, with just a little encouragement, when convenient to American interests, they would suffer the same fate as the Shah. Israel is dependent on us, but if the truth was known probably also distrust us-and maybe even hate us-for our inconsistencies. In one fell swoop, Jimmy Carter has brought the whole world to the precipice of disaster.

Kind of makes a minimum wage hike somewhat unimportant, wouldn’t you agree? Of course, if you dared criticize the Georgia junta, or the Democratic Party in general, you were probably just racially prejudiced over their Affirmative Action support, or you were probably anti-woman and despised their support for women’s rights. In most cases, you see, those are the kinds of people that would tend to align themselves with warmongers who demand blood as a response to a provocation, instead of trying to reasonably talk things out for the good of humanity and in furtherance of the cause of peace. That is why most of the violent redneck bastards are so against gun control. And on and on and on it goes.

“Meet the new boss-same as the old boss”.

39.Herbert Hoover-(1929-1933)

When the Stock Market crashed, Hoover reacted by going into a panic of his own. While telling the people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and insisting on the values of American “rugged individualism”, he tried to bail the government out of the deep financial hole by passing a new tariff. Instead of solving anything, it made matters worse. Otherwise, Hoover did nothing of value to fight the depression, which he at least exacerbated. Oh, he did make some investments toward relief, and I do give him due credit for this little bit. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, such measures as he provided amounted to taking a Bayer aspiring to try to relieve a migraine headache. He did not do nearly enough, and in the final analysis, only made matters worse.

40. James Buchanan-(1857-1861)

The absolute worse. It was not his fault, of course, that the economy tanked when the previous gold rush boom finally played out. It was not even his fault the prelude to the American Civil War occurred in the same year-1857-between rival factions in Kansas. The fact that he did nothing to end the latter is very much his fault. He also refused to step in and object when one American state after another seceded from the Union during the last year of his presidency.

Earlier, in a vain attempt to show strength in a roundabout way, he sent federal troops upon receiving news of a rebellion by Mormon settlers led by territorial governor Joseph Smith. He telegraphed this punch to such an extent that the Mormons erected barriers and destroyed federal property. In the end, the “Utah War” was settled without a shot being fired. The only loss of life occurred when a group of settlers bound for California were bushwhacked and massacred by Mormons. Buchanan did nothing about this. It was later revealed that the federal agent who reported the Mormon insurrection seems to have made the whole damn thing up. Buchanan reacted precipitously, without a word of verification or any kind of even cursory investigation.

As one southern state after another then seceded from the Union, Buchanan proceeded to act by closing all federal forts within those states, with the exception of Fort Sumpter. He then sent a supply ship to that fort, resulting in an attack on it, as well as the fort, and thus making war a foregone conclusion. His response to the rapidly seceding states was that their actions were unconstitutional, but at the same time, he felt that he had no constitutional authority himself to prevent their departure.

Buchanan was more than a mere protector of States Rights. He was also more-much more-than a supporter of slavery. He was an unabashed fan of the institution. Not content to remain silent on the subject of the controversial Dred Scott decision, he practically all but wrote the majority opinion. He openly expressed the view that slavery was good for the slaves. According to Buchanan’s warped way of thinking, the economic self-interest of slave owners would insure the humane treatment of slaves.

If you ever wondered what the result would be of a Libertarian controlled congress and presidency, you need look no further than here, at fifteenth US President James Buchanan. This is the same kind of drivel they spew out on a regular basis.

Buchanan was never married during his time in the White House. While he resided there, his niece was the official hostess. I will refrain from saying anything further about that, only to point out that the song “Listen To The Mockingbird” was dedicated to her.

Buchanan’s presidency was indeed a joke, and in the end, he supplied his own punch line. When Lincoln entered the White House, the departing Buchanan told him, “If you are as happy to come to the White House as I am to be leaving it, you are a happy man.”

Lincoln, unfortunately, suffered from extreme bouts of melancholia, and so could not have been nearly as happy as those who made up what remained then of the country.