Posts Tagged With: Abraham Lincoln

This and from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 12 Capt. Coast 0003 (April 30, 2014)

“Logic doesn’t have to live in the real world. Logic is too busy planning its escape route.”

Burke, Declan. Absolute Zero Cool. Liberties Press.





I have written before about the giant turkeys that inhabit this area of the foothills (no, I am not referring to Congressman McClintock). Today on the lawn of the Dr.’s office I was visiting I found the big Tom pictured below strutting about.

I spent Easter with my mother and my sister’s family at the nursing home.
Following that, Nikki, HRM and I travelled to Mendocino for a few days at my sister’s home there.
I left my computer back in El Dorado Hills, suffered electronic communication withdrawal and compensated by reading back issues of The New Yorker.

We returned to Sacramento through Calistoga where Nikki had himself a mud bath. On the following Sunday Nikki left to return to Italy.

I plan to go back to Thailand for a month sometime near the end of May.

B. POOKIES DREAMS (continued):

There’s not much to tell about how our affair began. It was night and I was walking by her hut. She stood in the doorway leaning against the frame, gazing at the sky. I walked toward her and directly on into the hut. She followed and we laid down together on the bed.

Most of the beds in the village consisted of a straw mat like they have in Japan at the bottom. On top of that one or two soft blankets or rugs or something like that were layered. Then a cool fitted sheet was placed over it all. In this case the sheet was white. The bed was comfortable if a bit hard, but certainly nowhere near as hard as some of the beds I slept on in Thailand.

After that first evening, when I was in the village, I spent almost every night in her hut. Generally we would sit on the bed our backs pressed against the cool mud wall staring at the night sky through the window on the opposite wall of the dark hut. That window provided a view of the night sky framed by a few black branches of trees. A wide streak of light bisected the night sky. It was as if a huge ribbon hung down from somewhere above the roof of the hut. On that ribbon there seemed to be festooned what looked like an infinite number of blinking Christmas lights, white, yellow, red and blue. So many that it seemed like a single pulsating band of light. Now and then a meteor would flash by. I never saw a moon.

The light from outside that window provided the only illumination in the room. I could just make out the outline of her face and the arc of her jaw line as it curved to meet her earlobe.

I could smell the harsh fragrance of the basic soap we all used in the village and the acrid smell of sweat mixed with the sandalwood aroma of the dust that was always with us. Floating through this melange of aromas was the hint of perfume from the shampoo she used. One of the few indulgences she allowed herself.

Eventually we would shimmy down on to the bed.

In the morning, before dawn, I would leave her hut and return to my own to prepare for the day.

We rarely spent time together during the day, even at meals. I would however occasionally see her walking through the village almost always surrounded by children. Now and then I would notice her meeting with people or escorting them around the village. Some of the visitors had suits, others were dressed in various forms of military uniform. There were also some in more casual dress that I assumed were academics of some sort or engineers.They often seemed to be vigorously arguing with her about something or other.

I began to sense tension and stress in the village and especially in Mama. When I asked her about it one night, she dismissed it as a minor irritant.

At first I thought it was merely the ongoing pressure of budget, funding, personnel and administrative matters that are ever-present in any organization and exacerbated by the lack of staff to handle the endless paperwork that is a way of life for most eleëmosynary organizations.

I had some experience about these things and I could sympathize with what she and the other members of the village were going through. Then, one night I found the young son of Tre and Yu unconscious by the side of the road. He had been severely beaten. (to be continued)


Because I left my computer behind when I went on my vacation and waiting for re-issuance of my debit card for security reasons, (apparently it had something to do with the new computer virus everyone is concerned about), I have not read any books for the past week or so. I can however rant about The New Yorker Magazine with which I have a love hate relationship.

Like most people who pick up the magazine in the doctor’s waiting room or at someone’s home who for whatever reason subscribes, when I read the New Yorker I skip most of the articles and flip first to the cartoons. I do not find them funny. Someone from the New Yorker once told me with a Eustace Tully like sniff, they’re supposed to be amusing not funny.

Most of the cartoons appear to me to depict characters either collapsing into the ground like slowly deflating balloons or hovering on the verge of transparency. The captions often are snide (which I like) or point out one or another character’s social embarrassment, somewhat at the level of releasing a fart in a crowded room.

The poetry is atrocious. It can be described as poetic excrement. By the time I get to the second line I’m usually furious.

No one I know has admitted to me that they actually read the fiction pieces. They are usually written by a relatively famous Northeast alcoholic, sex-obsessed (or repressed) author, or someone who wishes to be. They really need to now and then try something like publishing the lyrics to a rap song. It would improve the poetry too.

The interesting thing about the non-fiction articles other than their length is that they all begin with great topic sentence that makes you believe you will be greatly informed if you read on. Alas, before I have even finished the first page, new themes are introduced or new characters and I either forget why I started reading the article or, if I have not forgotten, hope I will find it on the following page, often a forlorn hope. When I plod on to the end of the article, to the final paragraph, I frequently discover it lacks any sense of the immediacy with which it began. Or to put more or less into the words of T.S. Elliot it usually ends not with a bang but a whimper.

Now do not get me wrong, I like the New Yorker very much. It reminds me of rainy days and snowy nights on the East Coast with a fire burning in the fireplace or a notoriously dangerous exposed coil (glowing orange) electric heater, depending on one’s socio-economic status. Now and then there would be an article that would knock my socks off and I will always remember it. I love the covers. The magazine also always maintained its grammatical and stylistic standards even as it struggled to remain contemporary. And, I can pile them into stacks in my room for dipping into later (like one does with back copies of National Geographic) and it never looks like clutter.

The following are two quotes from the N.Y. Times that I think catch some of the essence of the magazine and the people who read it:

“The New Yorker magazine has announced that its complete 80-year archive will soon be available on eight computer discs. Some people found this development interesting. But to many, many, many others — and you know who you are, hoarders of America — the idea of being able to own eight DVDs containing every page of the 4,109 issues of the weekly magazine published between February 1925 and February 2005 was life-changing.”
Mimi Avins, July 14, 2005,

“Eleanor Gould Packard, the grammarian for the New Yorker magazine for 54 years whose search for logic, clarity and correct usage in sentences won her grateful as well as grudging admirers among the staff, has died. She was 87. She died Sunday. Her family did not give the cause of death. The first, last and only grammarian at the magazine got her start there in 1945 after sending a letter asking about job openings. In it she pointed out several errors she found in a recent issue.”
Mary Rourke, February 18, 2005



During the mid 3rd Millennium BC, Sargon of Akkad wrote the following:

“My mother was a changeling (?), my father I knew not. The brothers of my father loved the hills. My city is Azurpiranu (the wilderness herb fields), which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates. My changeling mother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose not over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me. Akki the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener. While I was gardener Ishtar granted me her love, and for four and (fifty?) … years I exercised kingship.”




A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

“We today owe our intellectual and humanitarian heritage to Franklin Roosevelt. Not because he vindicated principles of easy money or public finance. Not because he vindicated principles of modern liberalism. But – for the first time in the history of our nation and all nations – he demonstrated that government can exist for the great benefit of the many at the minor cost of the few. For almost a century both political parties have lived by this end, if disagreeing on the means.”
This is Ashok (Ashok Rao)

B. An Ethical Focus:

“Today’s Needs

Give me:

Shelter from the Elements
Food for Mind and Body
Love of Family and Friends

Today’s Goals

Let me:

Bring Peace where there is Strife
Be Gentle and Courteous.
Grieve for the Misfortunes of Others
Be Compassionate and Charitable.
Be Patient.
Do no Harm.
Ask Forgiveness of those I have Harmed.
Forgive those who have Harmed me.
Avoid Damage to the Circle of Life.
Restore where I can what has been Damaged or Harmed.
Help those who Need it
Not Disparage Others.
Be Steadfast in the Face of Criticism for Doing Right.
Be Kind to those who Disagree with me.
Be Humble whenever I may be Exalted.”

I found the above while rummaging through my files. I am not sure who wrote it or why. I include it here because I like it since it is a moral bromide without appeal to a Supreme Being and it seems to include protection of the environment among its fundamental moral precepts. Compare those who may choose to live their lives following these rules with Juergen Stroop below.

C. Tales of Inhumanity:

“180 Jews, bandits and sub-humans, were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 20:15 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue…. Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved…. Apart from 8 buildings (police barracks, hospital, and accommodations for housing working-parties) the former Ghetto is completely destroyed. Only the dividing walls are left standing where no explosions were carried out.”
Juergen Stroop. Report to Nazi superiors regarding the extermination of the Jewish Community in the Warsaw Ghetto 1943.




“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Labor was the first price paid for all things. It was not by money, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.”
Adam Smith




Although the length and severity of the drought may be attributed to climate change, the predicted El Niño weather pattern expected to begin this summer may bring increased rain and hot weather to Northern California and Oregon relieving the drought. There is a good chance, however, it will bring only increasingly hot temperatures to the rest of the Southwest.






Categories: April through June 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 2 Jo-Jo 0001 (May 19, 2012)




It rained again today. LM equipped me with one of those umbrellas that cleverly fold up every which way until they are small enough carry in your pocket. When opened it becomes a tiny umbrella, not that much larger than a paper parasol in a Mai Tai. It is just about large enough to keep the rain off of my already hat protected head, but too small to prevent the rest of me from becoming drenched.

I have lost over 25 pounds as a result of my diet and exercise regime as well as about two and one half inches from my waist. I have even begun to see little bumps emerge from my body’s subcutaneous fat that I assume are muscles. Either that or I am sicker than I imagined. Nevertheless, when I look into the mirror to observe the changes, my eyes are inevitably drawn to that persistent bane of the aging male, my man boobs. They stare back at me. Those pendulous D-cup protrusions seeming even bigger than ever.

When I searched the internet for exercises that promise to eliminate drooping man boobs like there are for sagging bellies and those draperies of flesh that dangle beneath your upper arm, I was disappointed to find that there are none.

Is this then the way it is with most men; no matter what we do we will still die with, sagging man boobs? At least with older women those derelict appendages arguably had a purpose (perhaps several purposes) at one time, but what have my boobs ever done for me?

1. We are number one:

Time Magazine reports that the US is the world’s largest exporter of sperm. Hooray for us!

The article goes on to mention that sperm of a growth sector in the American economy, “From just a handful of vials 10 years ago, American sperm exports have grown into a multimillion dollar business.”

Time also reports that in the last decade that Virginia’s Ben Seisler’s frozen sperm has impregnated at least 21 women producing oner 70 offspring. Atta boy Ben! Ben when asked why he did it,  admitted  needing the money for college and added, “I guess I was just dumb.”

Incidentally, Ben is Jewish. Apparently there is a high international demand for Jewish sperm. I do not know why that is or what it means in the greater scheme of things. Should the male children of Ben’s sperm be circumcised? It is times like this when I miss Irwin most. He was my expert in Jewish theology.

Ben’s sperm’s conquests, however, pale in comparison to a donor in Britain who over 30 years has sired more than 1000 children. I do not know if the unnamed Brit is Jewish.

I see a PhD thesis in the making.

2. Don’t cry for me Argentina:

After selling off their national energy company in 1997 during a fit of privatization, the nation found that its oil and gas production was declining, fewer wells being drilled and exploration for new reserves virtually nonexistent. The privatized company, a non-Argentinian conglomerate based in Europe, had prioritized  repatriation of dividends over production, an approach favored and encouraged by the international banking community. In addition the conglomerate valued the Argentinian company not for its production but for its assets since they could be collateralized, borrowed against and gambled with in the derivative market in search of higher returns.

Argentina recently re-nationalized the company they sold off a little over a decade ago in an effort to refocus it on Argentina’s energy needs.

The US, Britain and the EU were furious. Primarily their anger was, not about “free markets,” oil, profits or the bad precedent it may set, but concern over Argentina’s disruption of the chain of securitization anchored in the real world by Argentina’s oil and gas reserves at one end and investment banks in New York and London holding the debt and liabilities of the conglomerate on the other.


Here in Thailand they have a King. I like the King. As Kings go he is great. Most people here love their King. Many of the country’s leaders claim they love the King and are willing to root out anyone they believe does not love him as much as they claim they do.

The problem is that the King believes things like the environment should be protected, poverty eliminated, aid for individual subsistence farmers, management and maintenance of the flood plains to diminish the scourge of floods  and things like that. He spends a lot of his time going around the country doing those things that he says should be done to better the kingdom and the lives of the people.

Those who claim to love the King the most, love him so much so that they are willing to imprison or even kill people they believe do not love the King as much as they do. I have seen these people all dressed up in their white uniforms whenever there is a televised function for the King.

The problem is, although these people love the King a lot, they do not love much of anything he tells them that they should be doing for the good of the kingdom. In fact, other people in the kingdom who believe what the King tells them and try to do those things he advises are often hunted down by the white uniformed lovers of the King and accused of disrespecting the King.

Now why is that?

Jesus calls Levi. From book: The Life of Jesus...

Jesus calls Levi. From book: The Life of Jesus of Nazareth. Eighty Pictures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the US we have a similar situation regarding the good gay messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Many people say they love Him very much.

The problem is Jesus went on and on about things like helping the unfortunate, forgiveness, healing the sick and things like that. He liked women and hung out with them a lot. He did not think they should be punished if they happened to have done things other people did not like, even if it had to do with sex. He even often had a handsome man around him who he called his beloved and they would lay their heads on each others breast. He also said that unbelievers could be better in God’s eyes than believers if they behave kindly toward others. Jesus hated those who used religion to benefit themselves financially. He preached that it is the good things you do, not what you believe that matters to God.

Unfortunately, many of those who claim they love Jesus a lot, also believe that those who like what Jesus said they should do like oh, feed the poor, actually hate Jesus.

This seems to be a common situation among men to claim to love someone for no discernible reason but despise what the object of their adoration tells them to do whenever it benefits someone other than themself.

Yes, this sounds like another screed about conservatives. And yes conservatives tend to behave like this in Thailand, back in Jesus time and even in the US and elsewhere today. And yes, their leaders are often the society’s rich and powerful.

Picture of Jesus with American flag

Picture of Jesus with American flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But liberals have their own problems. Liberals seem to often fall in love with a messiah whose words they agree with. If Jesus were alive today liberals probably would urge Him to run for office. And if He succeeded in getting elected, they would all go home and happily wait for their Messiah to perform His miracles and make everything like they think it should be. When that does not happen, they will become disappointed and would probably go to Him and complain. He would point out that He said that the miracles could happen only if they all changed their ways together and worked at it along with Him. The liberals would not like that and go home. This then would allow those who loved Jesus but not what He told them they should be doing to come in and toss Him into the garbage or worse.

In fact, that was what happened during Jesus time. The liberals, known then as the Apostles and Disciples, urged him to run for King, then when the shit hit the fan they all ran and hid. They only came out again after things quieted down.

Note: Everything written above applies to Men only. Remember, the women did not run and hide. They bravely appeared at the crucifixion and at the tomb despite the danger [and, if I recall correctly, so did the beloved disciple].


Twentieth Century:

According to historian Mark Largent, more than 63,000 people were forcibly sterilized under eugenics-inspired official state programs in the US between 1907 and 1980. It was a horrifying exercise in genetic engineering. The intent was to strengthen the gene pool and reduce welfare rolls. The victims were usually women, including African-Americans, Asians, Jews, Latinos, Southern Europeans, Native Americans, alcoholics, the disabled, epileptics, illiterates, the mentally ill, petty criminals, the poor, the promiscuous, rape victims and “anyone else who did not resemble the blond and blue-eyed Nordic ideal the eugenics movement glorified,” as Edwin Black noted in his book “War Against the Weak.”

In the 1990s a more humane method of reducing the welfare rolls was instituted by simply ending welfare.


A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

Do you trust these men?

They run your country. They can put you out of work. They can destroy the country’s economy. Each one has been either caught at or was responsible for actions that has cost the nation and the nation’s taxpayers trillions of dollars and in some cases were illegal or borderline so. They each make more than 50 times the income of the President of the United States. Yet you collectively cannot remove any one of them from their position of almost absolute power. Nor can you use the traditional free market means of expressing dislike or disapproval by not buying their products. This is neither a democracy nor a free market system. They are the enemy.

As Abraham Lincoln said:

“The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”

B. E.L. Doctorow: “Primer on Unexceptionalism.”


Given corporate control of legislative bodies, enact laws to the benefit of corporate interests. For example, those laws sponsored by weapons manufacturers wherein people may carry concealed weapons and shoot and kill anyone by whom they feel threatened.

Give the running of state prisons over to private corporations whose profits increase with the increase in inmate populations. See to it that a majority of prisoners are African-American.

When possible, treat immigrants as criminals.

Deplete and underfinance a viable system of free public schools and give the education of children over to private for-profit corporations.

Make college education unaffordable.

Inject religious precepts into public policy so as to control women’s bodies.

Enact laws prohibiting collective bargaining. Portray trade unions as un-American.

Enact laws restricting the voting rights of possibly unruly constituencies.

Propagandize against scientific facts that would affect corporate profits. Portray global warming as a conspiracy of scientists.

Having subverted the Constitution and enervated the nation with these measures, portray the federal government as unwieldy, bumbling and shot through with elitist liberals. Create mental states of maladaptive populism among the citizenry to support this view.

C. What thoughtful Republicans think of their party:

“One of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
N. Ornstein (a thoughtful Republican) and T. Mann (unfortunately an ill-informed Democrat who probably grew up in San Francisco and was educated at Berkley.)


“If it is too big to fail, it is too big to manage.”
Trenz Pruca

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their parents fought to obtain”
Thomas Jefferson in an 1802 letter to Secretary of State Albert Gallatin


What this chart means is that in the US private, not public, debt has risen to unsustainable levels. Public debt vs GDP has generally fallen under Democratic administrations and risen under the Republicans. When in 2008 (and 1929) the out of control rise in private debt collapsed as it must, public debt rose to compensate for it in an effort to forestall an even greater depression or recession.

Contrary to the beliefs of both Liberal and Conservative economists, neither the rise in public debt nor its reduction will solve the problem although  the liberal inspired temporary rise in public debt was all that kept the nation from collapsing immediately into financial Armageddon.

Until private debts are readjusted by either massive defaults or inflation and the resulting temporary collapse of the nation’s major financial institutions absorbed, we cannot get out of this mess. Increased public spending on infrastructure without an increase in production of goods and services is at best a temporary, and, in my opinion, necessary stop-gap.

Unfortunately, mature economies with stagnant population growth like in Europe or Japan do not require new production; only replacement production for worn out goods. They must live mostly on exports. Although US population continues to rise, so long-term demand may continue to grow for a while, current demand is stagnant. Alas, the US has catabolized its industrial capacity in favor in an orgy of asset securitization and has replaced its industrial economy with a service economy. A service economy regrettably has a limit to how many hamburgers per person can be consumed or insurance policies acquired.

So, what can the average person do about it? Nothing, except to prepare oneself for a relatively low-income existence. In the foreseeable future, those with the least needs will probably do better than those with the most wants.



Obviously Winston Churchill was equipped with more than just balls [Alternative title: Winnie’s Junk]

Categories: April 2012 through June 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment. July 22, 2010

Daily factoid: 1637 In an effort to prevent anyone from stabbing him while he feasted, Cardinal Richelieu orders that all knives be rounded, inadvertently inventing the first butter knife.

Thought for the day:
“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”
Abraham Lincoln

I returned from my week in Chiang Mai (Paradise in the Mountains) only to receive the news that Hayden was to be removed from school today and brought to BKK in preparation for his move to either California or Italy in September. Many people have commented that most people believe that they are the star in their own life’s drama. To which Franklin Roosevelt wryly observed that you should “[R]emember that you are just an extra in everyone else’s play. However, the bitter truth of the matter is that for most of us we are no more than bit players in our own tragedy.”

Anyway things continue on here in Thailand. The english language newspapers continue reporting on the various political maneuverings of the Red and Yellow shirt factions, missing completely the reality of the jockeying for power amongst the major Thai governing institutions. So what else is new, the news from the US appears no less insipid.

On a lighter note, last night I had dinner with a friend who I had not seen in a while at a wonderful French restaurant in Pattaya called “Mata Hari.” We were joined for dinner by her nephew named “Boy,” a policeman by day and a chef at night.

Now for those of you unfamiliar with the naming conventions in Thailand (I think I explained it in a previous post) they resemble those traditional in Southern Italy and Sicily. There, at some point in one’s youth, he is given a nickname, usually by his friends, by which he will forever after be known. Names like Beefsteak, Tony the Bum, Footer, Mopey Joe are all names given to people I have known. While these names are usually bestowed on males some females are also so graced as we saw in the case of the woman named “Rose ‘Kiss of Death’ Carina” involved in the crime spree of the notorious Petrillo brothers and “Morris’ Louie the Rabbi’ Bolber”.

Anyway, in Thailand shortly after birth, the baby’s father gives the baby a nick-name that becomes that person’s name thereafter or until they change it which they often do. Names like Nong (Boy), Ying (Girl), Daeng (Red), Nok (Bird) and so on are common. For some reason the father of my dinner companion decided to forgo the Thai name and jump directly into the english transaction.

Given the connotations in American english in calling someone “Boy,” I refrained from doing so leaving the conversation somewhat stilted as I sought to deal with liberal guilt that I should not have since my people arrived in the US long after the earlier settlers bequeathed that shame to the nation. Unfortunately, I am sad to say, we rapidly and happily acquired the prejudices and sensitivities of our betters (as they so firmly told us they were our betters).


I just realized that I sent the notorious Petrillo brothers article to only a few of you. So, since the rest of you may not understand the reference, I have attached it below. (As far as I know we are not related)

Malice, Madness, and Mayhem: an Eclectic Collection of American Infamy
The Petrillo Poison Ring
Pennsylvania 1932-1938

For six years during the depths of the Depression, two Italian immigrants and a Jewish mystic sprinkled arsenic through the working-class neighborhoods of Philadelphia like deadly Sandman. Caught up with them were a dozen “poison widows” – and a couple of “poison widowers” – bearing various degrees of complicity in the deaths of their spouses. The victims were mostly Italian immigrants, some illiterate, some with little knowledge of English, all dead. And they all carried an inordinate amount of life insurance.

Cousins Paul and Herman Petrillo were both born near Naples, Italy, and came to America in 1910, when Paul was 17 and Herman was 11. Paul married shortly after arriving in Philadelphia and began production on his large family. His wife, Angelina, was sickly and rarely seen about the neighborhood. Paul opened his own shop, “Paul Petrillo, Custom Tailor to the Classy Dresser,” and by 1929 was successful enough to pay cash for a house.

But the Depression was not kind to “classy dressers,” and Paul began to look for ways to supplement his income. An insurance agent who hung around Paul’s shop, Gaetano Cicinato, told him about the shadier side of the insurance business. The cheap policies he sold required no medical exam. If you knew someone was an ill-health – a
35-year-old who’d been gassed during World War I, for example – the 50-cent a week premium was peanuts compared to the payoff. It was like hitting the lottery. Paul began accumulating such policies. Some were taken out by the insured’s family and assigned to Paul. Others he took out himself, listing himself as “cousin” or “brother” to the insured. But Paul was impatient. He needed a way to improve his odds.

In the Italian neighborhoods of Philly, many immigrants retained the beliefs of the old country – deeply superstitious, they believed in curses and the evil eye, in potions and charms. Paul Petrillo was one such believer. It was said he carried eleven rabbits’ feet in his pocket to ward off demons. He handed out business cards, with the address of his tailor shop, calling himself, “Professor P. Patril – Divine Healing, Private Readings.”

While Paul started out a respectable member of society, cousin Herman took a different path. He was a con artist, an arsonist, and a counterfeiter, but somehow he always managed to slip through the grips of the cops and the feds. It was Herman who first suggested a way for Paul to start collecting on his growing stack of insurance policies. “Send the guy to California,” was Herman’s euphemism for murder. When Paul initially declined, Herman started on his own scheme. His first mark was 50-year-old old Ralph Caruso, a vagrant who was suffering the crippling effects of a trolley accident. Herman installed Caruso in a boardinghouse and built up an insurance portfolio worth $3,000, payable to Ralph’s “brother,” “Herman Caruso.” (For an estimate of current value, multiply amounts by 15. $3,000 in 1935 is worth roughly $47,000 in 2008.) Then Herman took Ralph fishing. With the help of goon Salvatore Sortino, Herman drowned Ralph Caruso in the Schuylkill River.

Unfortunately for Herman, the insurance companies were suspicious and only made partial payments. For all that work, Herman collected a mere $700.
Meanwhile, Herman had a little thing going with a woman named Marie Woloshyn and convinced her to take out insurance on her husband, John. One evening, accompanied by another buddy named Caesar “Jumbo” Valenti, who had spent half of his life in prison, Herman took John for a drive. Jumbo popped John on the head with a pipe and tossed his body in the road. Herman finished the job by driving over the corpse. The police declared it a hit-and-run.

Through his interest in mysticism, Paul Petrillo met Morris “Louie the Rabbi” Bolber. He wasn’t really a rabbi, but Bolber taught Hebrew and prepared boys for their bar mitzvahs. A Russian Jewish immigrant, Bolber claimed to have learned divine healing through the Kabbalah, an ancient book of the supernatural, and from a Chinese witch doctor named Rino. Salvatore Sortino, the thug who’d helped Herman Petrillo send Ralph Caruso to California, followed Louie the Rabbi’s prescription for good luck: “Put an egg under your arm and keep it there for nine days.”

But Bolber’s stock in trade – and which most interested Paul Petrillo – were love potions. Bolber’s incantations could turn a drunken lout of a husband into a prince, or rekindle fading ardor.
Anna Arena worked part-time as a seamstress in Paul’s tailor shop. She came to Louie the Rabbi complaining that her husband, Joseph, ignored their children and showed no interest in her womanly charms. Bolber convinced her of her latent sexuality and paired her with another client in need of sex therapy, Dominick Rodio. With the help of Gaetano Cicinato, Anna obtained a $3,200 double-indemnity policy on Joseph.

To everyone’s frustration, Joseph was healthy, and Bolber’s incantations did nothing to change that fact. Paul called for reinforcements in the form of cousin Herman. Herman and Dominick Rodio took Joseph crabbing, where he had an unfortunate encounter with an oar. The conspirators split the $3,200.

But Herman’s brand of murder was messy and complicated; they needed something easier. The first poison victim was Luigi LaVecchio. Luigi had fallen from a scaffold nine years earlier, in 1923, and had never fully recovered. His wife, Sophie, ran a confectionary store. When Sophie learned of Louie the Rabbi’s healing powers, she sought his help. Again, Paul Petrillo and Gaetano Cicinato obtained life insurance on Luigi. But instead of calling in Herman and his goons to hasten the inevitable, Bolber supplied a packet of powder, which Paul instructed Sophie to mix in Luigi’s food. Immediately Luigi began a tortuous routine of vomiting and diarrhea. It took him three days to die.

Between 1932 and 1938, the bodies piled up. Paul Petrillo’s paramour, Rose “Kiss of Death” Carina, alone dropped three husbands in quick succession, Dominic Carina, Prospero Lisi, and Peter Stea. Most of the victims were husbands; there were Antonio Giacobbe, Guiseppi DiMartino, Antonio Romualdo, Romaine Mandiuk, Pietro Pirolli, and Salvatore Carilli. There were a couple of wives, Jennifer Pino and Jennie Cassetti. Maria Favato managed to rid herself of her common-law husband, Charles Ingrao, and teenaged stepson, Philip Ingrao. Joseph Swartz took out his mother-in-law, Lena Winkleman. With the exception of Ralph Caruso, Joseph Arena, and John Woloshyn, all met with sudden and fatal illnesses. When doctors were called, their symptoms were usually put down to digestion problems. As poor immigrants, their deaths did not attract much attention from the authorities.

In 1935, Maria Favato was 39 years-old, five feet tall, and over 200 pounds. She was illiterate and spoke little English. She too believed in the power of curses and spells. For ten years, she and Charles Ingrao had been living as husband and wife, but Charles had a bad habit of knocking Maria around. Over the years, she had taken out nearly $9,000 in life insurance on her husband.
Maria and Charles housed a border, Raphael Polselli, a short, scrawny man who developed an infatuation with Maria. Distressed over Charles’s abuse of his beloved, Polselli got in touch with his friend Jumbo Valenti. For $300, Jumbo told Raphael, he could procure a magic powder from Herman Petrillo that would take care of their problem. It took Charles Ingrao nine days to die. The doctor listed cause of death as pneumonia.

Pleased with the results, Maria Favato and Raphael Polselli took out insurance policies on neighbors Antonio Romualdo and Guiseppi DiMartino, and obtained more magic powder from Herman Petrillo. Romualdo died on November 13, 1936, and DiMartino on February 7, 1937.

Charles Ingrao’s 16-year-old son, Philip, had been living in a foster home, but Maria took him back after Charles’s death. From various companies she built up more than $6,300 in insurance. By the spring of 1938, the premiums had reached $3 per week while Philip brought home only $5 per week in wages. The teenager suffered for nearly a month before he died on June 25, 1938. By the time she caught the attention of authorities later that year, Maria had accumulated policies on Charles’s younger son, Michael, and on her own son from her first marriage, Joseph Pontarelli.

The poison ring began to fall apart in 1938 with the death of Ferdinando Alfonsi.

Herman and Paul Petrillo had founded a social club, the Italian-American Political and Moral Bocce Club of Paradise, otherwise known as the Paradise Club. Besides offering the locals a place to drink, play cards, and bemoan the world’s troubles, the dues members paid got them a $400 death benefit. Herman found a doctor who would perform 50 to 100 physical exams per day, at 50 cents a head (split with Herman).

Herman also used the Paradise Club to find willing accomplices for his various enterprises. One such confrere was Ferdinando Alfonsi, who helped Herman move some stolen merchandise and counterfeit cash. Ferdinando was unhappily married to Stella, a gregarious, attractive woman with a beautiful singing voice. Ferdinando and Stella mutually neglected each other and their two sons. Stella was also friends with Rose “Kiss of Death” Carina. Herman took a shine to Stella and wanted to take advantage her unhappy union. He took out a couple of thousand more in life insurance on Ferdinando. But Herman and Ferdinando were drinking buddies and business partners. It was tough to send a pal to California.

Enter George Myer (a.k.a. Newmyer), a small-time criminal and police informer. He and Herman concocted various schemes, but Myer had no intention of going through with the murder; he was just trying to finagle an advance. After weeks of delays and excuses, Herman offered Myer an extra $2,500 in counterfeit money if Myer would just get it done already.

The U.S. Secret Service, in charge of tracking down counterfeiters, had had Herman in their sights for years, and now, with informer George Myer’s help, they might finally be able to grab him. Myer arranged for Agent Stanley Phillips to meet with Herman. Myer introduced Phillips as “Johnny,” recently released after doing time for murder. Together, Myer and Phillips would send Ferdinando Alfonsi to California – two assassins for the price of one.

But weeks of negotiation ensued as Phillips tried to get Herman to pay up so the T-man would have hard evidence to make his counterfeit case.

Meanwhile, Myer caught word that Ferdinando Alfonsi was deathly ill. When, in September 1938, Herman finally came through with the counterfeit bills, Phillips inquired about the “job.” Herman replied, “Oh, forget about that part. The man’s in the Stomach Hospital, and he’s not coming out.”

The Secret Service contacted the Philadelphia police. Alfonsi’s doctors found arsenic in his urine. (He died a couple of weeks later, and an autopsy confirmed the arsenic poisoning.) When confronted by Assistant District Attorney Vincent McDevitt, Stella Alfonsi denied all knowledge of and complicity in the poisoning of her husband, but Herman reeled off a staggering list of victims. Although he himself was innocent, he pointed to cousin Paul Petrillo and Morris Bolber as the evil masterminds. Paul, also proclaiming his innocence, added to the list. Morris Bolber and Rose Carina quickly skipped town. (Louie the Rabbi eventually turned himself in; the FBI captured Rose Carina in the Bronx.)

As Vincent McDevitt began building his case, informant George Myer received death threats and was found beaten half to death. Police put him in protective custody. McDevitt exhumed the bodies of Charles and Philip Ingrao, common-law husband and stepson of Maria Favato, and subsequent autopsies found them full of arsenic. On February 17, 1939, Herman and Paul Petrillo, Stella Alfonsi, and Maria Favato were indicted for murder.

Arsenic is odorless, tasteless, and toxic in small doses. Its symptoms – vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle weakness – mimic common illnesses such as food poisoning or stomach ulcers. The victims’ deaths were attributed to, among other things, gastroenteritis, cardiac decompensation, influenza, and diabetes. One telltale effect of arsenic poisoning is a strong odor of garlic on the breath – hardly noteworthy in a community of Italians. Some victims were also dosed with antimony, a more potent cousin of arsenic that produces similar symptoms.

D.A. McDevitt was able to obtain confessions from several of the poison widows. Although their culpability varied wildly, it helped McDevitt’s mission that their English was poor, some didn’t have lawyers, and they couldn’t read the confessions they were asked to sign. Some, like Sophie LaVecchio, were probably largely ignorant of the true nature of the powder they mixed in their husbands’ food. Others, like Maria Favato, knew exactly what was going on.

• Herman Petrillo was found guilty of the firstdegree murder of Ferdinando Alfonsi and sentenced to death. Although his conviction was reversed on appeal, a second trial for the murder of Ralph Caruso produced the same outcome. He was executed on October 21, 1941.

• Paul Petrillo pled guilty to the first-degree murder of Luigi LaVecchio and was executed on March 31, 1941.

• Morris Bolber pled guilty to the first-degree murder of Romaine Mandiuk and was sentenced to life in prison. He died in prison on February 9, 1954.

• Maria Favato pled guilty to the murders of Charles Ingrao, Philip Ingrao, and Guiseppi DiMartino and was sentenced to life in prison; her release or death date is unknown.

• Raphael Polselli also pled guilty to the murders of Charles Ingrao and Guiseppi DiMartino; he died in prison on November 17, 1953.

• Sophie LaVecchio pled guilty to seconddegree murder in the death of her husband and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years.

• Rose Carina was acquitted, as was Stella Alfonsi.

An additional sixteen people pled guilty to or were convicted of first- or second- degree murder, two were convicted on lesser charges, and four were acquitted or released.

For six years, motivated purely by greed, Paul and Herman Petrillo and Morris Bolber took advantage of their friends’ ignorance and superstition and ensnared an entire community in a web of death. All for a couple of bucks.

Categories: July 2010 through September 2010 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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