Tuesday, March 17, 2015

True Crime Roundup VI

It's the early '20s, and Eliot Ness and his "Untouchables" are yet to get into the fray over bootleg liquor in violation of the The National Prohibition Act (the Eighteenth Amendment, popularly known as the Volstead Act, in effect January 1920 - December 1933). That act proved to be a disastrous example of excessive do-gooding, but there were justifiable health concerns. Meanwhile diploma mills were churning out unqualified medicos, and Philadelphia tried to get tough on crime (proving that the safer you are, the less free you are). Brief excerpts:
Ness and the Untouchables were ultimately able to nail "Scarface" Al Capone on income tax evasion.
 ~ "The Bootlegger Triumphant" (The Nation, February 22, 1922, 1 page):
TO THE BOOTLEGGERS we take off our hats. Not only do they, like the operators of the Underground Railroad of yore, successfully defy the militant agents of State and Federal governments, but they have brought to despair one powerful bureau of the Treasury. We mean, of course, that wherein the income-tax officials supervise our financial destinies.  . . .
~ "The Poison in Prohibition Moonshine" (The Literary Digest, November 10, 1923, 2 pages):
PRECAUTIONS TAKEN by the pre-Prohibition moonshiner to insure the purity of his product are now thrown to the winds . . . The poisons always present in raw liquor, which are properly reduced by aging or by redistillation, are retained, owing to haste to market the valuable product . . . The most casual survey of the public press must impress everyone, the writers say, with the vicious if not deadly character of the illicit liquor that is now being dealt in and consumed for beverage purposes.  . . .
~ "The 'Respectable' Criminal in Court" (The Literary Digest, November 10, 1923, 1 page):
STEAL A MILLION and you're safe; steal a dime and you'll go to jail, it has often been said, half in jest and half in earnest. It does seem sometimes that the greater the crime, the slower and the less the retribution. "Bank busting," we are told, is attended with less serious consequences for the "buster" than is the same result accomplished by ruder methods by men whose names have never graced a society column. Which explains to some observers of the times the cynicism with which the courts and legal processes are sometimes regarded. . .
~ " 'Quack Doctors by the Thousand' " (The Literary Digest, December 8, 1923, 2 pages):
. . . "These parasites and their accomplices give pause to the thought that human nature is being purged of cruelty. Plain thuggery and crimes with special motives of enmity are not so sickening as the homicides of these imposters, who set up as physicians and surgeons knowing that they are more likely to kill than cure."  . . .
Quackery in medicine is nothing new, as this Hogarth painting shows: "The Visit to the Quack Doctor" (1743).
~ "Uncle Sam's Chief 'Devil Dog' to Police Philadelphia" (The Literary Digest, December 29, 1923, 1 page):
. . . [Brigadier] General [Smedley Darlington] Butler intends to "remolthe department throughout," and declares, "When I get through with it the criminals and the vicious element will scurry to cover whenever they see a bluecoatI'm going to make my men feel proud of their jobs and proud of their own honesty and immunity to corruption." That, he thinks, is "the foundation of a fine police force."  . . . [For more information about Butler's controversial time as Director of Public Safety in Philadelphia go HERE.]
~ The Rise and Fall of Prohibition: The Human Side of What the Eighteenth Amendment and the Volstead Act Have Done to the United States (1923).
By Charles Hanson Towne.
Nonfiction (220 pages).
Online HERE.
. . . If, in correcting one evil, we bring to life greater evils, are we on the right track?  . . .
- ONTOS's last True Crime Roundup was HERE.

Category: True crime

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