November 25, 2010

Soapy Smith's Thanksgiving

I wish all of you a very pleasant Thanksgiving.

Soapy had his own annual days of thanks. One of his customs, as reported in the Denver Evening Post (see above) was to hand out turkeys to the down trodden. This may very well have been one of the public relations ploys, or it could have come from the heart, or perhaps both. The reason(s) mattered little to the desperate needy in hard times during the Panic of 1893 and other economic bombs that flattened the buying power of the common people. May we all be blessed with good health, wealth and happiness.

Shades of Soapy Smith!
The following recent newspaper article from the New York Times held a reminder of the shady side of Soapy.

N.Y./Region| The New York Times
November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Ritual Gives Rangel a Respite

Last week, he stormed out of a crucial hearing in Washington and nearly broke down when he was found guilty of ethical violations involving his finances and fund-raising.

On Monday, he apologized to his supporters for “the embarrassment I have brought upon you.” Next week, the full United States House of Representatives will decide whether to censure him — the toughest punishment short of expulsion.

But on Tuesday, Representative Charles B. Rangel seemed almost willfully upbeat as he strode into his old Harlem political club to hand out turkeys to needy constituents, a Thanksgiving ritual that allowed him to speak publicly about something other than his political future. If only for a moment.

“I’m putting today in front of me,” Mr. Rangel told reporters curbside at 128th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, as dozens of bundled-up and mostly elderly women — the lucky holders of about 120 tickets that were given out by several community groups — waited inside for the congressman to start loading their grocery carts.

“These people here are not the least bit concerned about anything but how they’re going to get their families together on Thanksgiving,” Mr. Rangel said. “It just seems to me that I have a moral obligation to take care of them — and then, when I get to Washington, take care of me.”

Inside the political club, as photographers captured his forced smiles, Mr. Rangel loudly took charge, herding recipients toward the free groceries and whistling with two fingers to clear a path to the door. For about 20 minutes, he handed out 18-pound Butterballs — donated by the nearby Fairway supermarket, a club member said — and bags of fixings, accepting heartfelt thank-yous, handshakes and expressions of loyalty in return.

“He’s good; I don’t care what they say,” said Mary Reed, who was given a ticket for a turkey because of her participation in the tenant patrol in the Manhattanville Houses, a city housing project. “He does help the people. That’s the important thing.”

Dressed nattily in a brown leather blazer, brightly colored striped tie and a gold, personalized House of Representatives tie clip, Mr. Rangel briefly thanked supporters like City Councilwoman Inez E. Dickens, who, he said, have “been out there since this nightmare all started.”

He also showed flashes of bitter humor.

The Rev. James E. Booker Jr. of St. John A.M.E. Church offered a prayer, asking that all within earshot receive “spiritual, physical and financial blessings.”

Mr. Rangel kept mum during the amens, then quietly asked the pastor: “Does that include the press?”

The political club, named for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., has been distributing turkeys for years, but the giveaway on Tuesday was overshadowed by Mr. Rangel’s problems.

Aides choreographed it to look like a spontaneous show of support; Mr. Rangel called the turnout “a very pleasant surprise.” But the stagecraft suggested a calling-in of debts.

A campaign worker and former House aide, holding a bullhorn scrawled with Mr. Rangel’s initials, got onlookers to chant the congressman’s name as he arrived.

The onlookers and volunteers, too, consisted largely of people who owed something to Mr. Rangel, including more than a dozen loudly chanting construction workers in hard hats from a job-training group called Positive Workforce.

Mr. Rangel, who was the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee before relinquishing that post during the ethics investigation, earmarked $240,000 for Positive Workforce to buy and renovate an East Harlem building this year. The group received $250,000.

Late Monday, Mr. Rangel e-mailed a list of supporters an apology, emphasizing that he had done nothing for his own personal gain, but conceding that “all of this has been brought upon me as a result of my own mistakes.”

But on Tuesday, when asked about the apology, and whether he now regretted having pushed the ethics case as far as it had gone, Mr. Rangel sidestepped.

“Any awkwardness that they feel about this, I feel they’re owed an apology,” he said, referring to his constituents and supporters. “I had really hoped I would have a chance to have witnesses to have an exchange with. That didn’t happen, so this is where we are. I can’t change that. We have to deal with Monday, and I’m prepared to do that.”

At that, a middle-age man walked up and edged his way into the media scrum next to Mr. Rangel. “Keep the faith!” the man said, his hands shaking as he spoke. “Y’all should all look at all the goodness that this man has been doing.”

Mr. Rangel, grinning broadly, turned back to the cameras, saying, “He makes a lot of sense.”


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