High Court's Original Sin; Election Security; Ivy Pipeline; Meter Man
Good morning, it’s Monday, July 16, 2018. Eighty-three years ago today, a maddening -- if functional -- invention appeared on the streets of our country. It was an American innovation and made its debut in Oklahoma’s capital. The new contraption was the parking meter.
During World War I, only 3,000 private automobiles were registered in Oklahoma City and the surrounding county. Two decades later, half a million cars were on those roads. Downtown businesses were suffering because commuters left their vehicles all day on the streets, leaving shoppers and customers of other establishments nowhere to park.
The local Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to study the problem. The answer popped into the fertile imagination of one member of that committee. He was a polymath named
Carl C. Magee, and a colorful one at that.
Magee’s solution, which he asked an Oklahoma State University professor to help him engineer, was an apparatus he dubbed the Park-O-Meter. On July 16, 1935, some 175 of them were installed in downtown Oklahoma City. The fees were affordable even by the standards of the time -- five cents an hour – but parking tickets for noncompliance were steep: $20.
In one fell swoop, multiple problems were solved: addressing the parking woes that hurt merchants; pumping revenue into city coffers during the Depression; and increasing downtown property values, which helped fuel new construction.
But Carl Magee almost never made it to Oklahoma. He’d escaped New Mexico, in the old Western phrase, one step ahead of the posse. The merchants of Oklahoma City were lucky he hadn’t been imprisoned, or even lynched, before he thought of the “Park-O-Meter.”
Then again, if Magee hadn’t tramped through the pages of American history, perhaps we’d remember Warren G. Harding as an honest president. Do I have your attention now? Good. I’ll have more on this guy in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics' front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
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The Supreme Court and Original Sin. In a column, I consider how Roe v. Wade was the case that warped the judicial appointment process in this country.
The Abortion War Will Soon Rip America in Two. Bill Scher worries that a Supreme Court vote to either repeal or affirm Roe v. Wade will widen the culture war chasm.
Let’s Not Paper Over Election Security. Phil Stupak explains why the move to paper-only balloting is no safeguard against potential threats.
America’s Government -- Hooked Up to an Ivy Drip? Bill Whalen considers the academic pipeline that was opened again with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
No Grand Bargain in Helsinki. In RealClearDefense, Rebeccah L. Heinrichs argues that the president must use his summit with Vladimir Putin to plainly state the U.S. position on matters where the two nuclear superpowers continue to clash.
To Solve the Labor Shortage, Focus on Mobility. In RealClearPolicy, Todd Hitt urges lawmakers to work with businesses to incentivize transportation options and attract needed workers.
Nine Unforgettable All-Star Game Moments. Evan Bleier has this compilation of video highlights in RealClearLife.
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Born in Iowa in 1873, Carlton Cole Magee earned two master’s degrees and became a teacher and school superintendent in his home state. Although he was a prominent educator, he was restless for new worlds to conquer.
Magee decided to study the law, and he moved to Oklahoma the first time in 1901 where he became one of Tulsa’s most prominent lawyers. He did legal work in the oil business and was named vice president of the Black Hawk Petroleum Co. He also dabbled in the development of natural gas, helped build an electric light plant, and acquired Tulsa’s first privately owned automobile.
After his wife’s health necessitated a 1917 move to the desert, he decamped to New Mexico, where Carl Magee, as he was known, found yet another calling.
A local newspaper was up for sale, mainly because the owner had relocated himself to Washington, D.C. His name was Albert B. Fall, and he was a powerful Western political figure who’d been one of New Mexico’s first two U.S. senators. He’d been named secretary of the Interior Department in Warren G. Harding’s Cabinet. So Magee purchased the Albuquerque Journal from Fall.
It soon dawned on Magee and some of the journalists who’d recently come into his employ that Albert Fall oversaw a corrupt political machine, and that he’d taken these shady practices to the nation’s capital. The paper’s coverage, to the accompaniment of vitriolic editorials by Magee, resulted in lawsuits, threats of retaliation, and trips to Washington to testify before Congress in what became the Teapot Dome scandal.
Harding was disgraced, Albert Fall was sent to prison, and Magee lost his newspaper. He almost lost his life. One target of the Albuquerque Journal’s exposés was a state court judge and San Miguel County political boss named David Leahy. Judge Leahy sued Magee, tried to have him jailed, and threatened him financially and physically.
If you think the slights directed by President Trump at CNN and its White House reporter Jim Acosta in England were harsh, consider how Judge Leahy described Carl Magee: “a lying, un-American political harlot, fatheaded imbecile, remittance man, dirty cowardly reprobate, wicked, wanton, false, malicious, unscrupulous … worse than the assassin of President McKinley.”
Their feud came to a climax one August day in 1925 when Magee was talking to friends in the lobby of the Meadows Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico and Leahy happened by. Large and powerfully built, Leahy knocked Magee to the floor and then began kicking him viciously.
Desperate, the newspaperman pulled out a .25-caliber pistol and shot Leahy twice in the arm. Unfortunately, Magee’s aim was off: A third shot struck a man named John Lassetter, who had been trying to pull Leahy away from Magee. The victim died on the spot. Judge Leahy soon insisted that Magee be indicted for murder.
The charges were later reduced to manslaughter, and a trial court acquitted Magee. But that was the end of his New Mexico adventure. He returned to the more subdued confines of Oklahoma, this time to the state capital, to fulfill his destiny as a high-level traffic cop.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics