Monday, November 30, 2009
The AAA’s annual meeting discussed the need for new penalties for reckless driving, including “even” the revocation of licenses and jail. In 1909, by the way, people who drove cars were called “autoists.”
Some of the women shirtwaist-maker strikers are now wearing women’s suffrage buttons.
A New York State Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage has been incorporated.
John D. Rockefeller is hiring guards and taking other precautions against a plot to kill or kidnap him which someone claims to have overheard being discussed by some guys in a shack by the railroad track in Alliance, Ohio.
Name of the Day: Honduran not-quite-legitimate-president-elect Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo.
Actually, I don’t think I believe the high turnout figures they’re claiming.
What do you think, does he look more like a Porfirio or a Pepe?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Today -100, November 30, 1909: Of demon rum victorious, presidential prowling, and that despicable creature the New York masher
The prohibition referendum in Alabama failed by a large margin. In Birmingham, “Brass bands stationed around the polling places by the anti-amendment forces were playing lively airs to drown out the prayers and songs and pleadings of the women and children, who gathered early in the morning in an effort to influence votes for the amendment.” There were fist fights at every polling station. Jefferson County, in which Birmingham is located, voted against state-wide prohibition, although the county voted itself dry two years ago. “As an instance of the deep feeling displayed, a clergyman on whose coat a young woman attempted to pin a white ribbon at the polling booth, declined to accept the ribbon, telling her it was improper for young women to speak in the street to men whom they did not know. The girl wept and there was a great deal of excitement until the minister apologized.”
President Taft has taken to “prowling” (surely the correct term is “waddling”) the streets and parks of D.C. at all hours, evidently without Secret Service escort. And yet, oddly, he was never accosted by reality show contestants.
The American consul in Nicaragua (who has been out of contact, presumably due to government interference, for a week) is claiming that Zelaya has threatened him “again.” He also claims that Cannon and Groce were a colonel and lt. colonel respectively in the rebel forces and therefore should have been treated as prisoners of war. And the Red Cross says that, far from attempting to blow up a ship full of soldiers, they were actually lost when captured by the captain of a river boat, who promised not to kill them if they surrendered and who was himself arrested after refusing Zelaya’s orders to shoot them. No particular evidence is given for any of this. The NYT also offers obscurely sourced reports that Zelaya is becoming increasingly unpopular and has considered fleeing. Which may all be true, but the Times is very clearly after Zelaya’s blood.
The Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party has expelled Maxim Gorky for his “tendency to good living and love of comfort”.
A Men’s League for Woman’s Suffrage of the State of NY is formed. George Foster Peabody (of the eponymous award) is president, Max Eastman secretary and treasurer.
A letter from “A Working Girl”: “I rise to ask why I, a girl of 18, only fairly good looking, with the natural feminine love of nice clothes, born and reared in the chivalrous South, should be grossly insulted at least a dozen times a day by that despicable creature ‘the New York masher?’ Unless escorted by a man there is no place day or night (except in my own lodging house room,) that I feel safe from the specimens that pass as men, who prowl your streets... men that I don’t even see until they come smirking up beside me and without encouragement or provocation insult me, and when repulsed slink off to look for another victim. My cheeks even now grow hot with the shame of it all. In New Orleans, where I have lived for eighteen years, I never have been insulted once, no not even by a nigger.”
And now another exciting edition of Here Are Some News Stories, Write Your Own Damn Jokes, I Have a Headache:
Edward Natapei lost his job as prime minister of Vanuatu and his seat in parliament because he forgot to send a note explaining his absence (he was at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting), and if you’re going to miss three sessions of parliament, you need to send a note.
Australian scientists are attempting to breed a sheep that doesn’t burp.
Switzerland, the country that asked Nazi Germany, “Say, could you identify all the Jews in their passports so we can make sure not to let them in?”, votes 57.5% to write a ban on minarets into its constitution.
European nations practiced toleration-as-long-as-you’re-invisible for minority religions long after they ended the torturing-heretics-to-death phase. In France, the Edict of Nantes (1598) forced Protestants to worship no closer than 5 leagues (c. 17 miles) from Paris. Even after restoring political rights to Catholics in 1829, Britain still banned Catholic churches having towers or bells. In Austria under the Patent of Toleration (1781), Protestant churches were required to have “no chimes, no bells, towers or any public entrance from the street as might signify a church.” (Benjamin J. Kaplan, “Fictions of Privacy: House Chapels and the Spatial Accommodation of Religious Dissent in Early Modern Europe,” American Historical Review, October 2002.)
Switzerland doesn’t have an established state religion, but now it has a state non-religion.
The vote came as a surprise to the Swiss authorities (somewhat less of one to me), because the polls showed only 37% in support of the ban. There’s a certain twisted logic of invisibility here: if I have to keep my religious bigotry secret even from pollsters, you have to keep your religion secret too.
Many of Switzerland’s 300,000 Muslims are refugees from religious wars in the former Yugoslavia.
Name of the Day: Swiss Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
The Association to Prevent Corrupt Practices at Elections reports statements of campaign expenses it has received from NY candidates and party county committees. The paper prints the county figures, which range from 96¢ spent by the Niagara County Democratic Committee in the last election (compared to $1,737.92 spent by the Republicans) to $214,558 spent by the Republicans of NY County (Manhattan). The Republicans greatly outspent Democrats in almost every county.
Mrs Thomas Kinney is about to see her daughter for the first time in 26 years, since the daughter was 17 months old. In 1883 she was seeing off her sister’s steamer to Germany, stepped off the ship for a minute and it sailed, taking her child with it. The sister refused to send her back and Mrs Kinney couldn’t afford to send for her. The daughter, now married with two children, is coming back to America to settle in Trenton, so her mother will see her soon. (The cable channels would be all over this one, wouldn’t they? The NYT, never very good at the human interest stuff, didn’t even get the daughter’s first name – or the mother’s)
Headline of the Day (BBC): “Sweden Woman’s ‘Murder’ Committed by Elk Not Husband.” The elk was probably stoned out of its gourd on fermented apples. I guess that’s a problem in Sweden.
The London Times reports that British soldiers are experiencing certain injuries more frequently than American ones because of a certain deficiency in their body armor. So it wouldn’t be right at all to giggle shamelessly at phrases such as “The Ministry of Defence (MoD) refuses to disclose how many soldiers have suffered serious groin injuries” and “‘It’s a very small flap which covers the groin,’ an MoD official said.”
Factoid of the Day: “more than 10 percent of marriages worldwide are between people who are second cousins or closer”.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Today -100: November 28, 1909: Of the demon rum, Halley’s comet’s tail, the white man’s burden, and the shadow of obscurity
Alabama will vote this week on prohibition. One problem: it’s an off-year election, so many people haven’t bothered to pay their poll taxes and will be unable to vote. Opponents of the amendment say it allows the cops to search private homes for liquor.
Astronomer John Brashear predicts that when Halley’s comet next comes around (May 1910), the earth will be submerged in the comet’s tail. However, he reassured his audience at the Outlook Club that earthlings would not be harmed by it and will “know no more of the presence of the tail of the comet than if a gentle breeze distributed the smoke of a campfire over a good-sized country.” However, the dead will definitely arise as zombies and eat the brains of the living. But other than that, it’ll be the gentle breeze distributing the smoke of a campfire thing.
Vice President James Schoolcraft Sherman found that the clerk at a post office in Albany did not recognize him (NY is his home state). Also the doorman of a theater. In a letter to the NY secretary of state, he writes, “in the shadow of obscurity I am unhappy.”
Headline of the Day, That Day Being November 28, 1909: “Does New York Want Woman Suffrage? Interesting Views of Prominent Men Who Discuss the Question.” They’re not kidding about the men thing: they sent a questionnaire out and printed the responses of 15 politicians, theologians and whatnot, all men. Oscar Hammerstein I, for example, approves of women voting in municipal and state, but not national elections.
Teddy Roosevelt, still in the middle of his long post-presidential shooting spree in Africa, writes in Scribner’s that Africans are much better off under colonial rule. While there have been mistakes, they most often arise from zeal to accomplish too much in the way of beneficence. So that’s okay then. Indeed the British colonialists’ error, like that of the US in dealing with Indians, is interfering too little with natives’ customs and practices. Missionaries and colonial officials should work hand in hand.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
The US will participate, along with Britain, France and Germany, in a $30m loan to China to build a railroad. See, in those quaint old days of yore, the United States made loans to China in order to be able to exercise indirect imperialist control over its government and economy, instead of the other way around.
Britain may agree to an international conference on the opium trade, but will not agree to stop forcing China to accept opium (hell, they fought a war for the right) or to confine the trade to medicinal uses. Britain says that while there is growing opium abuse in the US, Canada and China, the people of India are perfectly okay using it recreationally.
The authorities in Paris are considering applications for the establishment of slaughter houses for dogs, for human consumption.
The NYT reports rumors that the US has approached Mexico about it possibly cooperating in overthrowing the Zelaya government in Nicaragua. The US has ordered a gunboat to the region – ships are being sent from both coasts – but would prefer that Zelaya be overthrown “without the semblance of aid from this country.” Which looks increasingly likely. For this reason, the US is dragging its feet on formally recognizing the rebels.
Headline of the Day (yesterday): “Feral Camels Terrorise Australian Outback Community.” The town of Docker River in the Northern Territory is now home to 350 people and 6,000 camels. The Australian government plans to kill them. The camels, that is. Camels, by the way, were imported into Australia in 1840. When they were replaced by cars and trucks, they were simply turned loose in the desert to die, as is the Australian way, but they didn’t, and there are now estimated to be a million “feral” camels. One possible solution: camel burgers.
Obama plans to make his Afghanistan speech at West Point. Well, if you’re going to adopt Bush’s policies, you might as well adopt his practice of announcing those policies in front of captive military audiences.
Part of the pre-Thanksgiving news-dump: Obama will not sign the treaty to ban landmines.
Headline of the Day (today): “BBC Abandons Ballet with Deformed Rapist Pope.” “The BBC has abandoned plans to screen a ballet featuring a deformed Pope who rapes nuns that it had announced as one of the highlights of its Christmas schedule.” Obviously just a rip-off of the plot of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The NYT has taken to referring to Gen. Estrada, leader of the Nicaraguan insurgents, as head of the “provisional government.” The US government is accepting telegrams from the rebels and otherwise treating them as a legitimate government.
A San Francisco divorce story, quoted in its entirety:
Judge Graham has divorced Anita Coover from David R. Coover. The hookworm was the cause.
“My husband was dull, stupid, lazy, languid, slow,” said Mrs. Coover.
“He must have been a victim of the hookworm,” said the Court.
Mrs. Coover expressed some doubt as to this diagnosis, but Judge Graham stuck to his opinion and granted the decree.
Obama has pardoned two turkeys, as is the tradition. They were named Courage and Carolina by their breeders.
During the Bush administration, the naming was done by a poll on the White House website, and whatever interns had to come up with five or six pairs of names every single year was clearly running out of ideas by 2008. But Obama’s break with the venerable naming tradition doesn’t mean we in the WIIIAI-o-sphere have to break with our own venerable tradition of holding an alternative naming contest (it just means I forgot all about it until now). Remember, there are two turkeys that need names. To get you started: Audacity & Hope, Public & Option, McCrystal & Eikenberry, Death & Panel...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years, November 25, 1909: Of scabs, more horsies, Turkey Day, giant possums, and Bernard Shaw
Some of the large NYC shirtwaist manufacturers have been meeting secretly to organize owners against the strikers (and the smaller firms that have settled). One of the larger manufacturers, not identified by the NYT, claims that its employers are perfectly satisfied and calls the strike foolish and hysterical. 17-year-old Mina Bloom, one of the strikers, was fined $10 for hitting a scab.
At the Madison Square Garden Old Glory horse sale, hundreds of horses were auctioned off, along with a single automobile, “led on to the track with a halter attached,” “[a]mid the jeers, laughter, and hoots of a thousand horsemen”. It sold for $1,000, less than some of the horses.
The Wright brothers plan to open “the first are largest airship factory in the country” in Dayton, Ohio, producing four planes per month.
An editorial warns against acting hastily against the Zelaya government in Nicaragua, which risks damaging commerce with other Latin American countries and inclining them to trade more with Europe. Amusingly, the NYT thinks if the US shows it carefully weighed up such factors as whether Cannon and Groce were free-lancing or were part of a legitimate combatant rebellion and therefore entitled to prisoner of war status, our decision to send in the marines or whatever won’t look like an imperialist power grab. “We are a pretty big brother to the nations down there, and some of them, perhaps because they do not understand us very well, are not a little afraid of us.” The ones that do understand us well are very afraid of us, in 2009 as in 1909. “They have not forgotten, they never will forget, the international crime by which we separated Panama from the United States of Colombia.”
Thanksgiving at the Taft White House will feature a large turkey (but I repeat myself), a 50-pound mince pie, and a 26-pound possum “reputed to be the largest that ever came out of Georgia”. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a giant possum.
Now an appearance in Today Minus 100 Years by a guest Times, the NYT’s even snootier older brother, the Times of London, which Today Minus 100 Years printed a letter from George Bernard Shaw (who wrote many witty, cranky letters to newspapers over many decades on a wide variety of subjects – Shaw so needed a blog) about the recently begun forcible feeding of suffragette hunger strikers. Shaw offers to provide Home Secretary Gladstone, who has downplayed the unpleasantness of the practice, with “a banquet which Sardanapalus [the possibly fictional last king of Assyria and a noted party animal] would have regarded as an exceptional treat. The rarest wines and delicacies shall be provided absolutely regardless of expense. The only condition we shall make is that Mr Herbert Gladstone shall partake through the nose; and that a cinematograph machine be at work at the time registering for the public satisfaction the waterings of his mouth, the smackings of his lips, and other unmistakable symptoms of luxurious delight, with which he will finally convince us all of the truth of his repeated assurances to us that the forcibly-fed suffragist is enjoying an indulgence rather than suffering martyrdom.” I pause to remind you that here in 2009, roughly 30 prisoners at Guantanamo are being forcibly fed, also roughly, through the nose. Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!
Barack Obama held his first state dinner tonight (vegetarian, out of deference to the Indian prime minister, but not teetotal) and, oh sure, very dashing and all
(although to Fox viewers, black man + bow tie = Nation of Islam). But Queen Elizabeth visited Bermuda today,
and that’s the governor of Bermuda in his official uniform and all I’m saying is, don’t you think Obama could totally rock a plumed hat?
Monday, November 23, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years – November 24, 1909: Of shirt-waist girls, Gringo conspiracies, horsies, and a bad, bad word
18,000 shirt-waist workers (or as the NYT calls them, “shirt-waist girls,” which sounds naughty) so far are out on strike. 11 employers have already come to terms with the union.
The NYT passes on reports – rumors, really – that the Zelaya government in Nicaragua has been imprisoning Americans. Posters have gone up denouncing the “Gringo conspiracy.”
The Pennsylvania home of Secretary of State Philander Knox was robbed, the thief or thieves taking only documents and leaving all the valuables behind. Very mysterious.
A letter to the Times complains about the title of a play opening at the New Theatre about race relations in the South: “The Nigger.”
A letter from First Lt. William MacKinlay of the 11th Cavalry agrees with a Nov. 10th editorial that “commerce will soon be done with the horse”, but insists that horses will still have military uses for many years to come. He warns that Canada and Mexico have many more cavalry than the US does, and that it’s very hard to build up cavalry quickly once war has already started.
Nick Clegg of the British Liberal Democrats has announced that in the event of a hung Parliament (it won’t happen, but the media love to talk endlessly about the possibility before every single election), the LibDems will support the party, Labour or Conservative, that gets the most votes, dropping the previous long-time policy of making its support contingent on the implementation of proportional representation. Clegg claims that it is his democratic duty to back the top vote-getter. He says, “Whichever party has the strongest mandate from the British people, it seems to me obvious in a democracy they have the first right to seek to try and govern, either on their own or with others.” This is an odd theory for the leader of a third party, one which will be very lucky to break 20%, to hold, since under it, the Lib Dems don’t really have any right to exist. Indeed, the voters whose opinions matter least in Clegg’s formulation are the ones that vote for his party, since the “mandate” will come exclusively from those members of the electorate who vote for either the Tory or Labour party. LibDem voters will be entirely irrelevant in determining what their MPs will do in Parliament. Democratic duty, indeed.
At least when LibDem leaders in the past talked complete crap, you knew it was because they were drunk.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years – November 23, 1909: Of shirtwaists, turkeys, severe ladies, and pistols in Paris
The shirtwaist-makers of NY vote to go on strike at meetings held in five different halls. At Cooper Union, Samuel Gompers of the AFL spoke, and a B. Finegbeim, who spoke in Yiddish, presided. Their demands are for recognition of the union, a wage increase of 25 to 30% over the present rates, which are between $10 and $12 a week, and a 52-hour work week.
Rhode Island turkeys for Thanksgiving 1909 are selling for an unprecedented, outrageous 32¢ a pound. Pumpkins are 3¢ per pound.
The US is sending another ship to Nicaragua, and 400 marines, but still claims to be weighing whether to demand reparations.
19th century meets 20th: There was a duel yesterday in Paris between journalist Urbain Gohier and author Laurent Tailhade, both well-known lefties and Dreyfusards, which was filmed by a movie camera. No one was hurt, only one gun was fired. Details are scanty. A stunt?
A letter to the editor objects to a classified ad in one of the NY dailies, in which a Ray P. Oliver of Rochester advertises for “A LADY wanted, take charge of boy; good inducement to firm, severe party not averse to corporal punishment.” The letter-writer goes on at some length about the moral and practical objections to corporal punishment, without ever mentioning that the “boy” in question is eighteen.
This is the first edition of my new occasional feature, Here Are Some News Stories, Write Your Own Damn Jokes, I Have a Headache:
1) Astronaut becomes a father while in space.
2) Disney is forcing the people being thrown off the land on which it wants to build a Disneyland in mainland China (“a Magic Kingdom theme park with characteristics tailored to the Shanghai region”) to dig up their ancestors’ graves, disturbing their spirits.
3) Sarkozy’s plan to move the remains of Albert Camus into the Panthéon is being denounced as a stunt to associate himself with Camus’s... glamor.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years, November 22, 1909: Of trusts, canals, cyanide pills, and reparations for mercenaries
The NYT is not happy about yesterday’s decision dissolving Standard Oil of NJ, saying such decisions make it impossible to do business on a large scale and anyway sometimes monopolies are just more efficient and result in lower prices.
The Isthmian Canal Commission reports that the Panama Canal is progressing nicely, at only $250,000,000 over the initial budget. They’ve got a whole mini-US going on in the Canal Zone, with a supreme court, district and circuit courts, and segregated schools.
Many recently promoted captains on the Austro-Hungarian General Staff received sample boxes of pills purporting to be for nervous debility but actually containing cyanide. One of them died. The NYT speculates that it might be the work of a disappointed officer or an “Anarchist outrage.”
Secretary of State Philander Knox is threatening to demand reparations from Nicaragua for the execution of the American mercenaries Cannon and Grace (or possibly Groce – the NYT keeps going back and forth), who I’ll repeat were caught in the act of trying to blow up Nicaraguan soldiers. The Times speculates that the US may be preparing to invade, either to “throw President Zelaya into prison” (whose prison?) or seize a port in lieu of those reparations. Some things never change. Except that Philander is probably not going to make a comeback as a popular name.
Rabbi Baruch Chalomish, on trial for the hookers and coke thing, says it all began after his wife died. He felt lonely and “I wanted to stop feeling depressed, to feel normal.” And what feels more normal than hookers and coke? He says he was introduced to cocaine by “an Israeli friend with whom he celebrated the Sabbath.”
Headline of the Day: Man Tied Lizards to Chest at Airport (AP). 15 of them.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years:
The Circuit Court in Missouri orders Standard Oil of NJ dissolved for acting as an illegal combination in restraint of trade. Like that’s a bad thing.
Secretary of State Knox says of the execution in Nicaragua of the Americans aiding the revolutionists, “this Government will not for one moment tolerate such treatment of American citizens.” The mercenaries Grace and Cannon were laying mines to blow up Nicaraguan ships.
Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer writes in Ladies’ World that women’s suffrage will, eventually, come to the US (beyond the four states that already have it, that is). He doesn’t think it will debase the home. However, he says, something that is an abstract right isn’t always wise to implement, suggesting that the 15th Amendment giving the suffrage to black people might have been one such thing. And definitely not in the Philippines or certain other dark-hued places he could name.
Justice Brewer also warns suffragists not to emulate the methods of the “fighting Amazons” of England. Good luck with that: Alice Paul of Philadelphia was even as he spoke (okay, maybe not literally, time difference and all) being force-fed in a British prison during a one-month sentence for breaking a window at the Lord Mayor’s banquet.
William Jennings Bryan is about to mount a campaign to push the Democratic Party to implement prohibition, beginning with Nebraska. Bryan believes that the liquor interests schemed against him in the past and that he can ride a movement against them into the Senate or even the White House. The NYT thinks it is more likely he will tear the party apart. Bryan is writing a series of articles that will be published while he is conveniently out of the country.
The recent Taft tour of the country saw him “eat his way into the hearts of his countrymen,” chowing down on “the most remarkable assortment of meals ever conceived in the brains of chefs,” according to an entire page devoted to the subject in the Sunday paper. The prohibitionist governor of Alabama served a banquet, gasp, without alcohol of any kind. The guests were not best pleased and when Gov. Comer made a joke about becoming ambassador to China, there was a “roar of approval.” Taft himself was evidently teetotal. Attendees of the banquet in Savannah took all the rather expensive plates and silverware and whatnot as souvenirs. Despite all this sumptuous dining, it is reported that Taft did not suffer from dyspepsia during the 57-day tour.
Sarah Palin on the new guidelines for breast cancer prevention: “Obviously the first thought that comes to mind when hearing of these new recommendations from bureaucratic panels is ‘rationed care.’” Oh, obviously. Death panels for tits.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years was a light news day:
The monopoly case against the American Ice Company continues before Justice Wheeler. The Company is arguing that you can’t actually form a monopoly in ice because it’s, you know, ice.
Following some serious injuries and deaths in the sport of football generally, the NY city school district has banned the sport. However, Princeton’s president, one Woodrow Wilson, says that “Football is too fine a game to be abolished off-hand.” He does think the rules should be changed so there aren’t quite so many fatalities.
In other 1909 sports news, “Field hockey was played by girls wearing bloomers on the lawn of the Staten Island Cricket and Tennis Club”. Ah, 1909.
A gang in Peru has been killing people for their fat, which was probably sold to European cosmetics manufacturers. Plan your vacations, and skin care regimen, accordingly.
So not kosher: Rabbi Baruch Chalomish “was so exhausted after three days of constant cocaine-fuelled partying with escorts that his pimp grew worried and cancelled that day’s supply of girls, a jury was told.” He did this “on the ninth day, and after the rabbi had stayed up for three straight days”. And that is why we light the menorah. The caring pimp slash drug dealer, Nasir Abbas (!), “said that he was too scared to attend the trial after the rabbi ‘sent around some heavies’ to threaten him”.
An Alert Reader suggests a Name of the Day: Amy Cunninghis, the legally married wife of federal court employee Karen Golinski. The 9th Circuit judge has ordered that Ms Cunninghis be given spousal insurance benefits, which the Obama admin has been fighting. Fox News will no doubt be claiming that Obamacare will cover cunninghis. I would add that “go linski” also kind of sounds like something lesbians might get up to. If you have any speculations about what it means to “go linski”... well, I wouldn’t be surprised, pervert.
However, my personal choice for Name of the Day: the new president of Europe, Herman Van Rompuy.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years, the Nicaraguan government of José Zelaya executed two American mercenaries named Grace and Cannon, found bringing dynamite to the (US-backed, United Fruit Company-financed) rebels. The US gov. informs shipping companies that it will not do anything against the rebels’ naval blockade.
The NYT editorial page features another of the paper’s hostile screeds against women’s suffrage (it’s clear I’m still talking about 1909, right?). Responding to reports by Harriot Stanton Blatch (Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s daughter) of seeing drunken poll workers, a state of affairs she thinks would be improved by the civilizing presence of women voters, the Times believes that “The great majority of refined, well-educated women do not want to vote. Many of them could not be induced to vote if they possessed the right of suffrage. The idea that all women are refined and that all women exert an uplifting influence on men is preposterous.” Indeed, “If she and her associates have their way we may have drunken women at the polls, and degrade our elections still further, introducing elements in politics hitherto happily lacking.”
Elsewhere in the paper is a report on various offers of help received at the suffrage association’s hq, including a lawyer out West who sent an offer to marry Alva Belmont, the movement’s richest benefactor: “With your money and my brains, we ought to do it.”
The Edison Company arranged a private exhibition by Dr. Louise Robinovitch of the use of a rhythmic electric shock to restart the heart of a rabbit after it was electrocuted (everyone seems to assume the method only works when the cause of death was electricity) (Edison Co. was interested because so many of its workers died of accidental electrocution). An earlier article says she planned to ask NY authorities for permission to experiment with resuscitating the next prisoner electrocuted in the electric chair. A NYT archives search shows that the medical career of the good doctor – who was also experimenting with electricity as a form of anaesthesia (“electric sleep”) – ended rather abruptly in 1910-11 when she got involved in the trial of her larcenous banker brother Joseph Robin (note the anglicization; their other brother goes by Robinson), who had caused the collapse of the bank he ran. At one point their immigrant parents showed up in court, Louise and Joseph denied that those were their parents, the parents showed letters from the kids proving that they were, and Louise was indicted for perjury (unclear what happened with that; her brother did go to jail after an attempt to claim insanity). Anyway, sometimes doing a search on a name you see in an old newspaper produces rather different results than you were expecting, is my point.
Pope Pius said that France is making war on the Catholic Church (the never-ending fight over who should control French schools, the state or the church).
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years Blogging:
The prosecution rests in the trial of the American Ice Company for violations of the anti-monopoly act. I guess they controlled all the ice.
The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that businesses can refuse to serve blacks.
A petition signed by “practically every citizen” of Rising Fawn, Georgia, asks Pres. Taft to pardon Sheriff Shipp and the others: “We view with grave fear the effect that the fulfillment of the sentence will have upon the ignorant and irresponsible negroes, increasing beyond question the danger to the women of the South.”
Meanwhile in the North, women are not menaced but menacing. At a women’s suffrage meeting in Carnegie Hall, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw exhibited what the NYT calls “a note of menace,” asking, “England has driven its women to extreme measures. Do the men of the United States seek the same result in this country?” Frances Squire Potter (1867-1914), who had recently resigned as professor of English lit at the University of Minnesota to devote herself full-time to suffrage work, castigated the trustees and faculty of Harvard which rejected Inez Milholland’s application to the law school. “Some kindergartner ought to lead these gentlemen into the nearest geological museum and show them, pityingly but firmly, the fossilized remains of their Silurian ancestors. These remotely defunct mollusks, after the Silurian age was gone, could not climb up into the Devonian age, and so, squirming themselves into strange shapes, they died, and, turning to stone, became their own monuments. If these sermons in stone cannot teach these gentlemen anything, nature has decreed that they are to stay in the museum to enrich the collection.”
Percival Lowell, astronomer and crap interplanetary weatherman, announces that it is currently snowing on Mars, which he says is unseasonably early for Mars.
Name of the Day: Thanks to one of the oddities of French law, a woman today married her dead fiancé. The ceremony was conducted by the mayor of her village, Christophe Caput. Said Monsieur Caput, “It is a real love story.”
I knew I forgot to post something: pictures from the traditional part of the APEC ceremony where the heads of state dress up in local garb and try to retain their dignity.
Here’s my favorite post from one of these events, 3 years ago.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Quote of the Day: British Major-General Paul Newton: “There’s no point in talking to people who don’t have blood on their hands.”
Even if only moose blood: I recorded the Sarah Palin appearance on Oprah but in the end decided it’s just not worth it to subject myself to that even for the big blogger bucks. Did see somewhere that she said one of her favorite writers was Ogden Nash. Sure, because if she’s challenged on it, it’s not too hard to memorize one of his poems, like little WIIIAI did when everyone in my third grade class had to memorize and recite a poem and I chose:
The FlyAnother of her purported favorite writers: Steinbeck. CONTEST: Translate the “Wherever there’s a cop beating up a guy, I’ll be there” speech into Palinese.
God in his wisdom made the fly,
And then forgot to tell us why.
Also (now she’s got me doing it), she evidently made fun of the father of her grandson as “Ricky Hollywood.” Yes, she went on fucking Oprah and accused Levi of being a media whore.
(Update: I see her Facebook page calls Newsweek sexist for putting on its cover this week a picture of her that features her legs. A picture she posed for.)
A century ago, they were also fascinated by female charlatans. Today Minus 100, the NYT reported at great length on a seance by famous Italian medium Eusapia Paladino, who the paper had been finding reason to write about seemingly every day for quite some time. Okay, just did an archive search, and their enchantment continued for some time, though it will grow increasingly sour, with the headlines evolving like this: “Paladino Does Her Marvels,” “Palladino Again Mystifies Science,” “Dog Didn’t Notice Paladino Spooks,” “Paladino Used Phosphorous,” “Paladino, Tied Up, To Submit to Test,” “Paladino Tricks All Laid Bare.” One of the many experts who chimed in on her credentials was our old friend, Columbia University Professor Emeritus John Quackenbos.
Headline of the Day, That Day Being November 17, 1909: “Business Man, Not Tramp.” A “ragged stranger” who died in a 10¢ lodging house in Cleveland was actually W.C. Lytle, vice president and general manager of the Motor Improvement Comp., who had disappeared four months before, ahead of his scheduled trial for some (unspecified in the NYT) dispute over a diamond ring. No other reference to Lytle appears in the Times index.
Not the Headline of the Day: “Taft Too Busy for Golf.”
Former Chattanooga Sheriff Joseph Shipp, who Yesterday Minus 100 was sent to jail for contempt of the US Supreme Court for failing to prevent a lynching (by the way, my mistake yesterday: Johnson was the name of the lynchee, not the Justice who ordered his execution stayed), is planning to run for reelection from prison. (How confusing would it be if I just used the present tense for the 100 Years Ago posts? The editing is driving me crazy.)
Muammar Gaddafi is also attending that UN summit on food security. He requested a hostess agency send over “500 pleasing girls between 18 and 35 years of age, at least 1.7 meters high, well-dressed but not in mini-skirts or low cut dresses” (only 200 showed up; I’m guessing Berlusconi placed his order first) for an “exchange of opinions” and to receive “some Libyan gifts,” which turned out to be a Koran, the Green Book, and a pamphlet on “How to be a Muslim.”
Gaddafi, dressed – no, not in a mini-skirt or low-cut dress – all in black, spent 45 minutes trying to convert them to Islam. He told them that Islam is not against women (at least not pleasing ones between 18 and 35 years of age at least 1.7 meters high) and offered to pay for a trip to Mecca if they converted. He said that Jesus was not really crucified: that guy was a look-alike. That’s the sort of perspective on religion you can only get from a paranoid dictator.
The only G8 leader attending the summit is Berlusconi, who only went to get out of court. Obama, of course, is in China, and, as is the custom, the Chinese detained dissidents and human rights activists to prevent them getting anywhere near him during his visit. Obama knew this would happen, but went anyway. They always do.
Silvio Berlusconi, in the middle of trying to change the law to throw out trials (such as those he’s about to undergo, but also 100,000 others) that take more than six years to complete (which may not sound unreasonable, but this is, you know, Italy we’re talking about, and it’s not like he’s doing anything about making the judicial trains run on time), is also trying to run out the clock under the existing rules by scheduling foreign trip after foreign trip after foreign trip so he can claim to be too busy to attend his own various trials. He just got a two-month delay on his tax fraud trial because it was very important that he attend a UN summit on food security. You know where you don’t have to worry about food security, Silvio? In prison, where you belong.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years. For the first time in American history, the Supreme Court issued prison sentences for contempt of itself. This was also the first time the federal government jailed people for lynching. The Chattanooga sheriff (a veteran of the Confederate Army), the city jailer and four citizens (two carpenters and two saloon keepers). They were given sentences of 60 or 90 days in relation to the lynching of a negro convicted of common assault, after a stay of execution had been ordered by Supreme Court Justice Johnson. The sheriff and jailer failed to take any action to prevent the lynching.
A new New York women’s suffrage organization was formed at a meeting addressed by Dr. Anna Howard Shaw. One reason she cited was the weak sentences given to men for “brutal crimes” by juries without mothers on them. In fact, women did not serve on juries in NY until 1937, and then it was strictly voluntary until the 1970s (the Supreme Court ruled in 1961 that exempting women from jury duty on the grounds that their domestic duties were more important was not arbitrary but entirely reasonable).
Headline of the Day Minus 100 Years: “600 Quit Work to Hunt Rabbits.” I refuse to click to find out what that’s about.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Today Minus 100 Years was the Sunday after that double lynching, and the people of Cairo, Ill. are being well and truly punished: the saloons are all closed, by order of the governor. But there’s always church, where various pastors gave fiery speeches denouncing... the authorities, who are to blame for the lynchings by not cracking down harder on crime. According to one of the quoted reverends, George Babcock of the Church of the Redeemer, Episcopalian, “The real disgrace...” (in case you thought people being hanged and then shot into tiny bloody pieces, their head displayed on a pole, the bloody souvenirs etc were the real disgrace) “...lies in the fact the city has allowed lawless elements to control civic affairs... This defiance of law and order made the lynchings necessary for the infliction of justice.” The NYT’s editor is not impressed with this argument, saying the town “cannot win pardon for what it has done by accusing itself of previous incivisms” (i.e., the supposed laxness of the town’s juries).
Sadly, the Cairohoovians who did not trust their own legal system did not have the option of simply locking people up in Guantanamo forever. But as Sarah Palin, modern exemplar of the Spirit of Cairo, says, “Hang ‘em high.”
See, you didn’t think I could work a Sarah Palin reference into my 1909 blogging, did you?
There is no credible evidence that endemic abuse was a coherent part of the way our military operated
Headline of the Day (London Sunday Times): “Citizenship Lessons to Teach Children Respect for Worms.”
Respect for Iraqis? Not so much. Responding to new accusations of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqi civilians by British troops, British Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammells says they do not “warrant” a public inquiry, saying, “There is no credible evidence that endemic abuse was a coherent part of the way our military operated.” Well, as long as it wasn’t coherent, that’s perfectly all right.
Updated euphemism alert: the British military in Afghanistan plans to use biometric tests or possibly DNA to exclude people from Afghan villages who they decide don’t belong there. The London Sunday Times says, “After studying counter-insurgency methods employed from the Boer war to the conflict in Iraq, British commanders are drawing up plans for ‘gated communities’ from which the enemy can be excluded by identity checks.” I was going to say that “gated communities” are the new “strategic hamlets” (update: I started writing before finishing the article, which does mention strategic hamlets later), but then the mention of the Boer War belatedly hit me. In that war, the British called them (they coined the term) “concentration camps.”
Somewhere on the web, idiots are complaining about Obama bowing to the miniature Japanese emperor,
but my Yahoo search for “Obama bows” (Yahoo helpfully suggested “Obama bows to Saudi king,” and “Obama bows to no one”) showed that it was even worse than we thought. He also bowed to a Tokyo audience when he finished giving them a speech,
and at Arlington on Veterans’ Day.
Really, when will this obsequious bowing end?
(Update: I titled this post “Bow-Gate” as a stupid joke, a joke! But on Fox, Chris Wallace... oh for fuck’s sake.)
I was going to put up a video of the Gilbert & Sullivan song “Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes” from Iolanthe, but couldn’t find one. Boo, internet. But that search did lead me to this sketch, probably from the Frost Report, with a pre-Python John Cleese and the Two Ronnies.
And a 1999 historical variant.
Friday, November 13, 2009
100 Years Ago Today. Looking back on Taft’s recent long tour of the country, the NYT praises his physical courage: he wanted to tour the Grand Canyon’s trails on a mule, but was over-ridden on safety grounds (his and the mule’s). He crossed a rickety bridge his staff were afraid could not hold him. The Secret Service tried to cancel two visits to college football games, fearing Anarchist attacks, but he insisted on going because tickets had been sold on the strength of his announced appearance.
Taft does, however, seem to have forgotten to issue a proclamation for Thanksgiving. “It was emphatically denied that the President’s gastronomic powers had been so tested on the long trip over the country that he had decided against a feast day so soon after his returning.”
Jewish groups were planning a protest against a seemingly new practice at Ellis Island of physical examinations being applied more rigorously to Jewish immigrants than to others, resulting in many deportations.
A few days ago Gordon Brown laid down the law to Karzai and demonstrated to the British people that he would not just blindly follow American policy in Afghanistan. “I am not prepared to put the lives of British men and women in harm’s way for a Government that does not stand up against corruption,” he harrumphed. Well, today Brown announced that he is perfectly satisfied, the last eight years of evidence to the contrary, that Karzai will in fact stand up against corruption. He told Radio 4, “The question in my view is not his willingness to do it. He is willing to do this. The question is making sure that delivery of it is satisfactory.” Brown’s proof: Karzai told him he would.
Obama is in Japan. At a press conference with the Japanese prime minister, he said that it would be “meaningful for me” to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Sadly, though, there just wasn’t time for it this trip. Funny, that.
A Japanese reporter asked a multi-part question, several unrelated questions really. Obama responded to part of it, then:
OBAMA: You had one more question, and I’m not sure I remember it. Was it North Korea?
Q: Whether or not you believe that the U.S. dropped a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- it was right?
OBAMA: No, there were three sets of questions, right? You asked about North Korea?
Q: I have North Korea as well, yes.
Somehow Obama never did get around to answering that Hiroshima/Nagasaki question the reporter asked, twice.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Yet another CONTEST: Bush Admin intellectual giants Condi Rice and Stephen “Boo” Hadley are forming a “strategic advisory firm,” which they are calling the RiceHadley Group. Surely you, gentle readers, can come up with a better name (and/or motto) than that.
Today Minus 100 Years, the good (but extremely bloodthirsty) people of Cairo, Ill. were still on a lynching spree, hunting for the alleged partner of Will “Froggy” James (the NYT called him The Frog yesterday -100, but at least they attempted to get his name, unlike the black men almost lynched in West Virginia a week and 100 years ago). However the mob was thwarted by a mixture of subterfuge and a show of force by hundreds of militiamen.
A few more details of the treatment of The Frogmeister (marvel at the attention to repulsive detail in the reporting) (that’s a warning to the squeamish to skip the rest of this paragraph): “Of James’s body nothing remained except the head and charred bones after it had been dragged to the alley. It was decapitated and the head was placed on a pole. The torso was cut open and the heart taken out and divided into small bits and passed among the crowd for souvenirs. The rope was soaked in the blood and was also divided among the lynchers. Then the body was burned.” The next day, with the head still on the pole, thousands “swarmed” the streets. “Youngsters too small to see easily were raised above the head of the crowd by their parents.” “It was supposed that the head was buried in the city dump heap.”
The mayor, who claimed to have personally slept through the entire thing, defended the lynchings, saying that “the majority of the citizens are pleased at the turn of affairs, and... they believe that the result will be salutary.” Just the word I was looking for. He blamed the lack of executions in recent year and the failure of juries in several homicides to convict.
The feds are attempting to seize the assets of the Alavi Foundation, which they accuse of being secretly run by the Iranian government and sending money to Iran in violation of sanctions laws. Among those assets are four mosques, located in New York City, Maryland, California and Texas. The feds intend to keep the mosques open. (Not to make a comparison, but remember all those late-night jokes when the IRS seized a Nevada brothel for back taxes and kept it open?)
London Times: “Wife Posed as Schoolgirl to Trap Paedophile Husband.” In an internat chat room, that is. Then she called the cops.
George Bush, we are told, is writing a book about “some of the most important decisions in his life.” Good lord, they let him make important decisions? Things were more dire than I realized.
CONTEST: what were some of those important decisions? Paper or plastic? Chips or pretzels? Run for president or be an astronaut? Sit out the Vietnam War in a bar in Texas or a bar in Alabama?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The Catholic Church is trying to blackmail the District of Columbia into dropping plans to legalize gay marriage, threatening to withdraw from all provision of social services in the city if it can’t discriminate against gay couples seeking to adopt or has to provide benefits to the partners of its gay employees.
Today Minus 100 Years, we have two lynchings in Cairo, Ill. Unusually, one of them was white. Here’s the first sentence, and see if you can spot the subtle difference in the way the two men, neither of them convicted in any court of law, are treated: “A negro who had murdered a white girl, and a white man accused of wife murder, were lynched here to-night.” The former, Will “The Frog” James, was “taken to the most prominent square in the city and strung up. The rope broke and the man was riddled with [nearly 500] bullets. The body was then dragged by the rope for a mile to the scene of the crime and burned in the presence of at least 10,000 rejoicing persons. Many women were in the crowd, and some helped to hang the negro and to drag the body.” There was a long chase through the woods before the mob, which at one point commandeered a train, caught up to the sheriff and the prisoner.
Not sated, some of the mob lynched the white guy, smashing through the bars of his cell with some effort.
A follow-up to the death-during-hypnotism story from 100 years ago reported here yesterday. The November 11, 1909 NYT reports that “Professor” Arthur Everton, in his cell awaiting a bail hearing, “fears that the catastrophe will ruin his reputation, and that he will have to support his family in some other way.” Presumably he was never tried, but he next came to the attention of the paper in July of 1920, evidently trying to support his family in some other way, when Prohibition agents found $6,000 worth of liquor in his apartment, located over a saloon. Everton said that he could have stopped the agents with hypnotism but “I wouldn’t do that. I am a law-abiding citizen.”
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Today -100 years, Taft is back at the White House for the first time in more than three months. “Apparently he was no stouter than when he left in the summer, although it was whispered among his intimates that he had picked up several pounds as a result of his lengthy course of banquets. When asked about it he laughingly spread out his arms and invited inspection.”
Bill Clinton used to laughingly spread out his arms and invite inspection as well, but he usually wasn’t wearing pants when he did it.
At his war crimes trial, Charles Taylor says that the only reason he was captured in 2006 was that the Nigerian president duped him, telling him he was free to leave the country and then arresting him at the border. “We have an old saying: A gift from a wicked man is a trap.” The most deserving victim of a Nigerian scam ever.
Monday, November 09, 2009
Today the Supreme Court discussed whether sentences of life without parole are unconstitutional when applied to juveniles. Alito said some of the little shits just deserve it, describing several cases “so horrible that I couldn’t have imagined them if I hadn’t actually seen them,” such as “raping an 8-year-old girl and burying her alive.” I presume he didn’t “actually see” that. Scalia said, “One of the purposes is retribution... And I don’t know why the value of retribution diminishes to the point of zero when it’s a person who’s, you know, 17 years, 9 months old.” The reports do not say if he drooled a little as he uttered the phrase “the value of retribution” but I think we all know he did.
The rest of this post is 100-years-ago-today news (despite my use of the present tense).
Pres. Taft has completed a 56-day, 13,000-mile road trip that covered 33 states and territories. Today -100, the mayor of Wilmington, NC named Taft an “honorary Tar Heel” for life, which sounds painful. 1,500 Wilmington school children formed the shape of a flag. He also “proceeded to another section of the city, where he reviewed the negro children,” who seem not to have collectively formed any particular shape.
Taft congratulated North Carolina on having the second-highest percentage of farmers. “You do not have large cities, and I do not think that a defect at all in your civilization. The fact is, that the tendency toward concentration of population in the cities is a tendency that ought to be restrained.”
Following the divorce of the Astors, some are condemning the secrecy of certain divorce proceedings in NY (a procedure affordable by the rich but not the poor), but NY Supreme Court Justice Bischoff thinks testimony should remain secret, saying it is sufficient that the name of the guilty party be published: “He is thus condemned among respectable people.” Justice Gerard also opposes “putting a lot of sickening details... before the public.” Justice McCall believes the full publication of testimony, “while bringing the innocent to the deepest humiliation, the notoriety would be actually pleasing to the depraved persons whose conduct and violation of the most sacred vows made divorce possible.”
Robert Simpson died while under hypnosis during an exhibition of that art at the Somerville (NJ) Opera House. It might not have helped that the hypnotist, a “Professor” Arthur Everton, stood on Simpson’s stomach while he was under. Hypnotists and mesmerists from all over the country have been offering advice on how to wake him up (a telegram from someone signing himself simply “Svengali” counseled “Suggest heart action to subject.”) Some of them even traveled to the morgue to try their luck. William E. Davenport of Newark, “an amateur hypnotist of some note” tried “alternately whispering and shouting invitations to him to come to life. ‘Bob, your heart action – attend. Listen, Bob, your heart action is strong. Bob, your heart begins to beat. Bob, [loud] do you hear me? Bob, [whispering,] your heart is starting.’” But nothing. “Professor” Everton was arrested (although they allowed him to try to awaken Mr. Simpson for several hours more) and is likely to be charged with manslaughter. A leading authority on hypnotism, Columbia University Professor Emeritus John Quackenbos (as perfect a name for a leading authority on hypnotism as you are likely to find), suggests that he might argue that Simpson was actually in suspended animation and was killed by the autopsy.
Name of the Day: a London Times business reporter: Peter Stiff. I’m thinking his parents did not love him.
Forgot to mention: LRB personals (old ones) are now on Teh Twitters. And here are a few recent ones. (As always, the complete WIIIAI collection of LRB personals is here.)
In 2004 I was a love machine…now I’m just an affectionate blender. Whirrr. Box no. 18/02
Privately, I will always regard 1987 as my most successful year but publicly I would state that 2003 brought me more happiness than any other. The 16 year gap between these two points in my life represents roughly half of my overall achievements, whilst the square root of 97 is 9.591663046. None of these things are believed to be coincidental. F, 40. Box no: 21/06
I fear packing peanuts possibly more than other man alive. But I never fail to weep at the simple beauty of swans making love. Carl, 36. Box no: 21/09
Like a faithful hound I will fetch your slippers and newspaper in the morning and follow you for walks on beaches on brisk autumn mornings. Of course, if I bite a small child I will have to be injected with sodium pentobarbital and destroyed. But let’s just accentuate the positive for now. Slippers. Newspaper. Beaches. F, 32. Box no: 21/11
Women to 55 who enjoy cabbage will get along just fine with me! Cabbage-enjoying M, 55. Box no: 21/13