Thursday, December 31, 2009

The hammer is his, oh, you know

Name of the Day: National Security Council Spokesman Mike Hammer (picture below). Every morning he stands in front of the mirror, flips open an imaginary badge, and says in his best Joe Friday voice, “Hammer, National Security.” (Alternatively, he may flash an imaginary badge and say, “It’s Hammer time!”, in which case he should be fired immediately.)

A second man has plead guilty to uploading the movie “The Love Guru” to the internet before its theatrical release. Another man was previously sentenced to six months in prison. Mike Meyers remains at large.

There’s been all this talk about how alarms should have gone off when the Underpants Bomber bought a one-way ticket with cash and had no luggage. And they probably should have, though paying in cash and buying one-way tickets are not uncommon in Africa. But what does it say about Al Qaida’s competence and resources? Could they not have sprung for a thrift store suitcase and clothing and a return ticket to make him less conspicuous and increase the chances of success?

Marya Aman

If the NYT search function is correct, today was the first time they ever wrote about Marya Aman, a little Palestinian girl, now 8, who was riding in a car blown up by the an Israeli rocket in May 2006, collateral damage in the assassination on a busy highway of an Islamic Jihad leader on his way to the hospital to see his wife, who had just given birth. Marya is now a quadriplegic, permanently confined to an Israeli hospital (she is also on a respirator). I wrote about Marya in 2007 here, here, and here, but the NYT evidently waited until it could do a sentimental moral-equivalence story about Marya’s friendship with another 8-year-old, an Israeli boy in the same hospital, brain-injured by a Hamas rocket. The Times waits until the 16th paragraph to mention the details of the Israeli attack and that her mother, brother and grandmother were also killed in the blast, and until the 17th to note that Israel tried to deport her to certain death in Gaza. It says that her father still has “no official status.” In 2007 that meant he didn’t dare risk setting foot outside the hospital for fear of being summarily deported; I can’t tell from the NYT story exactly what it means now. Questions like that might have been answered if the NYT didn’t act as if it were the only news source in the world and maybe used Teh Google. At least Marya’s younger brother, also seriously injured by the rocket, is now in the same hospital.

Today -100: December 31, 1909: Of suspicious deaths, the need for speed, and the promised land of feminism

In Britain, Earl Percy, an MP and heir of the Duke of Northumberland, has died in Paris, and the rumor is that it was in a duel, although the official cause of death is acute pleurisy.

A new speed record has been established for the monoplane: in France, Léon Delagrange flew 200 km in 152 minutes, or 48.9 miles per hour.

Mrs. Belmont has received a helpful letter suggesting that the way to win women’s suffrage is for all the women of the east to decamp to a part of the country where women already have full political and legal rights and tell their husbands to either pass a women’s franchise law or join them in Utah.

Little-known historical fact: the first woman ever elected a state senator was a Mormon plural wife in Utah, Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon in 1896. One of the candidates she defeated was her husband; she was a Democratic-Populist, he was a Republican.

And that’s our last blog post from 1909!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

That’ll show ‘em

Reports say Obama is planning military strikes in Yemen in retaliation for the Underpants Bomber. Personally, I am definitely in favor of a tit for tat retaliation: let’s send Joe Lieberman to Yemen and have him set his leg on fire. I say an eye for an eye, a flaming doofus for a flaming doofus.

Today -100: December 30, 1909: Of dangerous admissions, little Jew girls, canals on Mars, and zeppelins over the Arctic

NYT headline: “MRS. GAYNOR ADMITS SHE’S A SUFFRAGIST.” That “admission” is from Augusta Gaynor, wife of the mayor-elect of NYC, at a suffrage luncheon. She notes that few of the men she talks to agree with her.

Alva Belmont told the luncheon of an incident in which she telephoned a Night Court judge asking if she should send her lawyer to defend arrested striking shirtwaist-makers. He told her, “You had better save your time and money; they are nothing but little Jew girls, and their place is the workhouse.” She will hold a meeting at Carnegie Hall to protest the violation of the rights of strikers.

The British Astronomical Association weighed evidence of canals on Mars, and expressed scepticism. Well, laughter.

Prof. Hugo Hergesell of Strasbourg is talking about his and Count Zeppelin’s plans to explore the North Pole by airship.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What’s the Chinese word for irony?

China executes a mentally ill British citizen, Akmal Shaikh, for drug smuggling. The method of execution: lethal injection.

Slapped in the mouth

Quote of the Day, Foreign: Manouchehr Mottaki, the foreign minister of Iran (which has taken to stealing the bodies of dead activists and arresting the relatives of live ones) objects to Britain praising democracy protesters: “Britain will get slapped in the mouth if it does not stop its nonsense.” (Update: The Times translates this as “receive a punch in the mouth”. We eagerly await a definitive translation – high diplomacy requires precision in its use of language.)

Quote of the Day, Domestic: Peter King (R-Under His Bed Until the Bad Men Go Away): “100% of the Islamic terrorists are Muslims”.

Quote of the Day, 1979 version: British official documents released under the 30 year rule show that Thatcher didn’t want her emissary to white-run Rhodesia meeting any of the nationalist opposition: “I have never done business with terrorists until they become prime ministers.” She’d have gotten along famously with Manouchehr “Slappy” Mottaki.

At Thatcher’s her first meeting with Soviet Premier Kosygin, she lectured him about the plight of Vietnamese boat people – and then did everything to prevent them being allowed into Britain, preferring white Rhodesian immigrants, white Polish immigrants, white Hungarian immigrants... She told her foreign and home secretaries that it was “quite wrong that immigrants should be given council housing whereas white citizens were not”. Note the telling, unnecessary use of the word “white.” Evidently she suggested to the Australian prime minister that they jointly buy an island from Indonesia or the Philippines to stick the boat people on. The idea was scotched by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yu, who didn’t want the economic competition.

Today -100: December 29, 1909: Of women of high quality and fugitive senators

NYC Mayor McClellan’s committee on teacher pay recommends against equal pay for women teachers. They simply aren’t worth it in the free market: “the rate of pay which will attract women of high quality does not suffice to attract men of an equally high grade.”

Newly appointed senator for Mississippi James Gordon was a colonel in the Confederate army who was, for a while, believed to have been involved in the Lincoln assassination conspiracy (he was a close friend of Booth’s), and had a $10,000 reward on his head, dead or alive.

(Update: That’s no fun. The next day the NYT printed a War Dept denial that there was ever a reward offered on Gordon. Wikipedia says that while he was not, so far as we know, involved in the assassination plotting, he did discuss with Booth the possibility of kidnapping Lincoln. A United States senator, ladies and gentlemen! For two months anyway.)

Today -200: William Ewart Gladstone was born on this day in 1809.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The time for excuses is over

Oh yeah, you can tell they are totally committed to peace talks.

Ha’aretz: “Netanyahu is willing to accept the U.S. proposal to allot 24 months to talks, but doesn’t want to announce that the goal is to reach a deal by the end of that period.”

Today -100: December 28, 1909: Of recognition

Correction: the former Nicaraguan finance minister was not arrested; he actually managed to escape.

Rear Admiral Kimball, commander of the American warships docked in Nicaragua, met with President Madriz, but without recognizing him as president.

Meetings of striking shirtwaist makers voted down the agreement their leaders negotiated with the manufacturers, because it did not offer proper recognition of their union.

In another exciting post-Christmas news day, there is a front page headline about Andrew Carnegie falling on some ice.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Today -100: December 27, 1909: Of looting and strolling

Former President Zelaya seems to have left behind an empty treasury. His finance minister and his son-in-law, who helped run various state monopolies, have been arrested by order of the new president.

Also, the Tafts took a walk. Not really a big news day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

And who doesn’t like fireworks?

The health care bill does not cut off abstinence programs, although you’d think they’d appreciate being, you know, cut off.

The NYT on the latest attempt by someone to blow up a plane: “Many passengers who were farther away thought the pops were from fireworks”. Are in-flight fireworks standard on Northwest Airlines flights these days? Because that would be awesome, and well worth any minor risk involved.

Dave Barry’s year in review.

Name of the Day

The Senate confirms the first Chinese-American woman to a District Court. She was also nominated by Bill Clinton a decade ago, but was stopped by Republican obstructionism in the Senate. So congratulations, Dolly Gee.

Today -100: December 26, 1909: Of death, payment for MPs, and exile

Mark Twain’s daughter Jean died.

The House of Lords in its judicial capacity rules that it is illegal for unions to finance Labour Party MPs. MPs were not paid a salary at this time and Labour MPs, unlike those of other parties we could mention, tended not to be independently wealthy. And, um, if this needs saying, there were no Labour members of the House of Lords.

Former Nicaraguan president Zelaya goes into exile aboard a Mexican gunboat.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The pope gives tongue to a bagpipe player (not a metaphor!)

Caption con... Oh, you say you’d like a close-up?


Today -100: December 25, 1909: Of racial definitions and mince pies

Booker T. Washington has been proposing a “Negro Exposition” to mark the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1913. The NYT believes that this plan is unwise since “Few of our colored population can afford to travel” and “The assertion that any large number of influential whites in the South look upon the plan with favor lacks verification.” So it would be a financial failure and just stir up that race stuff.

In other racial news, “Dragged by Elevated Train: Man Saved from Death by a Negro Platform Porter.” The NYT felt the porter’s race significant enough to require pointing out in the headline – because heaven forfend you form an opinion of him based on his actions before you know his race. The generic “man” saved from death was of course white.

Elsewhere in the paper, on the front page in fact, is a headline, “Wanted to Wed Japanese; License Refused at New Haven to Miss Dorr and Jullen Kwan.” Kwan was a Harvard student. The reason they were refused was actually that she was too young (18), but race made the whole thing newsworthy.

Sometimes those racial distinctions were disturbingly ambiguous. The US Circuit Court in Boston had to decide whether Armenians counted as white or whether they were Asiatics and therefore excluded from seeking US citizenship. Judge Lowell ruled that there has been so much race-mixing in that part of the world over the last 2,500 years that it is impossible to tell, and admitted four Armenians to citizenship, over the objections of the federal government. Lowell notes that if you accept Hebrews as white, you have to accept Armenians.

You will be relieved to hear that the giant mince pie made it to the White House safely.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Selling human beings

Cambodia deports 20 Uighur seeking political asylum back to China; a few hours later gets $1.2b aid deal from China; denies any connection.

Today -100: December 24, 1909: Of irritating scabs and mince pies

NYC Magistrate Barlow fines a shirtwaist striker $10 for calling scabs “scabs.” “There is no word in the English language so irritating as the word ‘scab.’” Scab scab scab scab scab.

What’s for Christmas dinner at the Taft White House? A 92-pound mince pie. That’s a lot of mince. It’s even large than the 50-pound one Taft was supposed to enjoy over Thanksgiving, which vanished with its two caretakers somewhere between Newark and the White House.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Today -100: December 23, 1909: Of assassinations, ringleaders, dog whips, and bulls at the Waldorf-Astoria

Zelaya issues a statement blaming his having to resign entirely on the United States. Just as his forces were, he claims, about to defeat the rebels, the US severed relations and threatened to send in the Marines under the pretext of the executions of Cannon and Groce, which he compares to the blowing up of the Maine, for which there was no proof of Spanish culpability.

The NYT wrongly reports Korean Prime Minister Yi Wan Yong was assassinated, stabbed to death. Stabbed yes, died no.

Actually assassinated: Col. Karpoff, head of the secret police in St. Petersburg, lured to a building and killed by a bomb (there’s a long story in the 1/16/10 magazine section, with engravings of the bombing and everything), and Arthur Mason Tippetts Jackson, Chief Magistrate of Nasik in the Presidency of Bombay, shot by a member of a secret society while attending the theatre.

Two days ago, we heard of a little racial dispute in Magnolia, Alabama. Today, the authorities claim to have quelled a plan by negroes to attack whites, which they thwarted by arresting 42 “ringleaders.”

NY Governor Charles Evan Hughes met a delegation from several suffragist groups and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, all calling for a referendum on women’s suffrage in the state. Hughes responded, “so far as my personal views upon this question are concerned I have nothing to say at this time.”

From the London Times: Theresa Garnett, a suffragette who struck the president of the Board of Trade, Winston Churchill, with a dog whip at the train station in Bristol in November, is out of prison (the charge was only disorderly conduct rather than assault, so that Churchill didn’t have to testify; she hunger struck in prison and was forcibly fed; she also set fire to her cell). Garnett wants her whip back. It now has historical significance, she says.

“A bull calf late yesterday afternoon suddenly appeared in the throng on the sidewalk just outside the Waldorf-Astoria, at Fifth Avenue and Thirty-third Street, and, more frightened than savage, endeavored to gain admittance to the hotel by climbing over the iron railings on the Fifth Avenue side.” The calf “came at a gallop down Thirty-third Street from Madison Avenue, scampered among the automobiles on the avenue, and bumped unceremoniously into Patrolman Nittel, who was directing the traffic. Before Nittel could recover his equilibrium – the bump was a rear attack and most unexpected – the young bull was headed in the direction of the hotel. ... The bull’s path was cleared as if by magic as he bounded across the sidewalk toward the iron railing. ... Everywhere were seen fluttering veils as women rushed for shelter. ... ‘Get a rope!’ shouted a man who was prepared to climb the electric light post should the emergency arise.” Patrolman Trainor, on his horse, lassoed the bull, which was then led, I regret to say, back towards the abattoir at First Ave & 45th from which he’d escaped.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Hopefully, that’s everything fixed, thanks to my personal IT support system in New York. It would have been easier (and cheaper) to dump Haloscan, but we’d have lost the last 12,000 comments made on this blog, which just wasn’t an option.

I had to set comments to show up in a separate tab instead of a pop-up, which didn’t display properly in Chrome. I had trouble signing in to comment in Opera, but signing in isn’t mandatory. Otherwise it seems to test out in Firefox, Chrome, IE and Safari. Tell me if there are problems, or if the current settings aren’t working for you.

You can use bold & italics, and insert hyperlinks and images.

You can get follow-ups to your comments via email. Some other day I’ll work on figuring out why there is no RSS for each post, like there’s supposed to be.

Features I have not enabled: You cannot “like” comments because this is not junior high or Facebook (but I repeat myself). You cannot use graphic emoticons because this is not the 6th grade.

Echo has a feature where I could send comments that use specified naughty words into moderation. I’m thinking of implementing that for a different random word every day. “Say the secret word and collect $100” sort of thing.

(Update: except, of course, everything is not fixed, and comments go to entirely different places depending on whether you’re commenting on a post in its unique URL, on the front page, or in a monthly archive. Swell.)

Bear with me

while I get the new commenting system up and running. Haloscan’s owners decided to start charging for a more annoying system. All the moving parts aren’t moving yet. Probably better not to add comments to any posts older than this one.

If a blogger on Blogspot with the JS-Kit Echo system installed is reading this, it would be very helpful if you could send me, by email or as a comment, the html code from its gadget box on the Page Lageout page.

Today -100: December 22, 1909: Of the spirit of a good son going to the rescue of his beloved mother

Madriz is sworn in as president of Nicaragua, saying, “I assume the Presidency unmoved by personal ambition, but by the spirit of a good son going to the rescue of his beloved mother, harassed and imperiled.” He announced a political amnesty.

However, the fighting continues, with the Estradists beating the government forces near Rama. The NYT attributes this to the former being “armed with the latest equipment and machine guns”. Huh. Wonder how that happened.

Monday, December 21, 2009


I thought better of titling this post “The President’s shot.” Anyway, Obama got his swine flu shot today. CAPTION CONTEST.

But is it kosher?

The various news stories and blogs talking about a supposedly discontinued Israeli program of secretly harvesting the organs and skin of dead Palestinians (and others) all fail to mention the reason Israel has a chronic shortage of organs: Orthodox Jews claim their religion prevents them being organ donors but not organ recipients.

Today -100: December 21, 1909: Of sick immigrants, lynchings, lynchings, and more lynchings, and all this Santa Claus business

Reading the 1909 papers goes a lot quicker if you don’t bother reading any of the stories about the controversy over whether Cook reached the North Pole.

The Commissioner of Immigration has decided that “physically or mentally unfit” immigrants will no longer be treated by the government but made the responsibility of the steamship companies that brought them.

As in NY, Philadelphia shirtwaist manufacturers are willing to concede pretty much every demand of the strikers – except union recognition.

The NY shirtwaist strikers’ ally, the Woman’s Trade Union League has introduced an innovation into the practice of picketing: the automobile. It will be used to cover all the factories where scabs are working. One striker, the amusingly named Fanny Fireman, has been sentenced to five days in the workhouse for throwing a rotten egg at a scab.

Here’s a picture I forgot to post earlier, I think from the paper 100 years + 2 days ago.

The Nicaraguan Congress has unanimously elected José Madriz, Zelaya’s nominee, to be the nation’s president. Gen. Estrada vows to fight on. US Secretary of State Philander C. Knox has issued a strong note saying that Madriz will have to show he is capable of directing a responsible government and make reparation for the execution of Cannon and Groce. But the US will not yet recognize either Madriz or Estrada.

In your lynching news of the day, a man who fatally wounded a marshal was lynched in Rosebud Texas; the Illinois National Guard is being moved to Belleville to protect another black man suspected of being involved in a fatal street car robbery in East St. Louis; a black man was shot to death by a mob in a jail cell in Devil’s Bluff, Ark.; and a lynch mob in Magnolia, Alabama was searching for 4 black brothers suspected of killing a white man. When the house one of the brothers was hiding in was set on fire, he shot at the mob, killing one and wounding two others, but was fatally shot himself as he tried to escape the blaze. Two others were arrested and narrowly escaped lynching; the fourth brother remains at large. “Nearly every negro resident left Magnolia to-day. The whites are all armed.”

Mark Twain announces “I am through with work for this life and this world.”

More front page news: The 6-year-old grandson of Rep. McMorran (R-Mich.) has been having doubts about “all this Santa Claus business.” So his parents told him to ask President Taft about it. Taft suggested that if he writes a letter to Santa and Santa then brings everything he asks for, that should be proof enough. The boy agreed, and is now busily writing his letter. Probably asking for a monkey-on-the-stick, whatever that might be (this?).

And that boy grew up to be Ben Nelson.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mirror mirror

There is indeed a joke about the warlord running the Ministry of Energy and Water. Given the reliability of the power supply in Kabul, he is called the Minister of Darkness.

Karzai: “We have tried to ensure that the cabinet is a mirror of Afghanistan’s people, a cabinet that all Afghan people can see themselves in.” Evidently the Afghan people are only 4% female.

Would explain why Afghan men always seem so pissed off.

Sir Jean-Luc Picard! Make it so.

This is not renaming the post office

So to make up for the terrible abortion provisions in the health care bill, the D’s will create a Pregnancy Assistance Fund to convince pregnant women and teenage girls that forced childbirth is okay. The fund will provide money for “maternity and baby clothing, baby food, baby furniture and similar items.” The fund will be $25 million per year. Yup, that should cover it.

(Update: Smintheus points out “the most astounding aspect of this provision: It encourages teenage pregnancy by offering financial rewards to pregnant teens.”)

Mitch McConnell: “This is not renaming the post office. Make no mistake -- this bill will reshape our nation and our lives.” Although to be fair, he’d probably bitch and moan and filibuster and obstruct about renaming the post office too.

One of the warlords in Karzai’s cabinet is minister of electricity and water. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere.

Today -100: December 20, 1909: Of late trains

The shirtwaist strike spreads to Philadelphia, which has been getting orders from some of the NY firms being struck.

Another slow December news day, as demonstrated by a NYT headline gracing the front page: “Taft Train an Hour Late.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What is the capital of Nelsonia?

As part of the deal Harry Reid cut with Ben Nelson, Nebraska will henceforth be known as Nelsonia. Adjust your maps accordingly.

Meaningful and unprecedented

Obama called his little deal at the Copenhagen summit a “meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.” Because if there’s one thing that is both full of meaning and totally without precedent, it’s the world’s nations agreeing to “take note” of a non-binding aspirational document with no targets or compliance oversight that even if adhered to wouldn’t come close to averting global environmental catastrophe.

George Monbiot calls the closed-door negotiations among the big states “a scramble for the atmosphere comparable in style and intent to the scramble for Africa.”

Some people, of course, think even this goes too far.

Today -100: December 19, 1909: Of college girls, scabs, and monkey-on-the-sticks

Manhattan’s District-Attorney-Elect Charles Whitman (Wikipedia tells us that he was later governor, that Christine Todd-Whitman is married to his grandson, and that he was not the Texas tower sniper) (I had to look him up to get his first name; the NYT in 1909 was absolutely allergic to using first names) has chosen a deputy assistant, Cornelius McDougald, who is an actual negro, and will appoint a woman deputy to oversee work in the Children’s Court.

The Sunday paper, has a feature on “college girls,” by which they mean recent college graduates such as women’s suffragist Inez Milholland and her Vassar cohort, who have been joining the shirtwaist strikers on the picket line, attempting to prevent arrests, and arguing on behalf of the strikers in court. (The NYT also reports that wealthy suffragist Alva Belmont has been providing lawyers and bail money to arrested strikers.) Seeing the treatment of female strikers by police and Night Court, and hearing from the shirtwaist-makers about their work conditions, has been a radicalizing experience for them. Strikers have been invited to give talks to many middle- and upper-class women’s clubs.

Here’s a helpful tip if you’re ever on a picket line in 1909 New York: the word “scab,” shouted at the scabs, is against the law, and you can be arrested for it. “Strikebreaker” is okay. The scabs can yell pretty much anything they like at the strikers.

A story in the Sunday magazine section has Santa Claus complaining about these kids today: “Years ago children were satisfied with Jack-in-the-boxes, monkey-on-the-sticks, and other inexpensive baubles, but nowadays they’re looking for a whole string of iron cars, miniature automobiles, and flying machines.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Torture is constitutional. It’s official.

Chris Floyd says what needs to be said about the Supreme Court’s decision to let the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling in the Rasul case stand, as the Obama Justice Dept urged. I’d just add a link to my post two years ago on that ruling, which was remarkable for asserting that torture was precisely what was intended when Guantanamo was set up, so the torturers could not be sued because they were just doing the job for which they were employed.

Today -100: December 18, 1909: Of exiles and fish splits

Zelaya plans to leave Nicaragua.

Headline of the Day -100: “Harvard Split Over Fish.” Sadly, the story doesn’t live up to the potential of that headline, although the news day was so singularly uneventful that it was on the front page. The fish in question is not of the piscine variety, but Hamilton Fish III, captain of the football team (and later an isolationist congresscritter, rabid anti-semite and centenarian; not to be confused with the publisher of The Nation), who lost the class election to be First Marshal (I think it’s like class president) to someone who hadn’t made the football team. There are many bitter feelings and Fish fled Harvard for New York, but claims he “didn’t care a rap which way the election went.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

But I think it’s wrong

John McCain, complaining after Al Franken, presiding over the Senate, cut off Joe Lieberman’s 10-minute speech at 10 minutes: “I don’t know what’s happening here in this body, but I think it’s wrong.”

Why is it

that whenever I hear a news story about American drones killing people, I think of Joe Lieberman?

Today -100: December 17, 1909: Of fallen presidents, dead kings, trouble-making tin mills, immigrants’ children’s heads, and lowering standards

Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya resigns. To avoid further bloodshed and to avoid giving the US “a pretext for intervention,” he says, not because he was losing militarily.

The US has graciously decided to postpone demanding payment from Cuba of the $6,509,511 it claims Cuba owes the US compensate it for the expense of occupying Cuba.

US Steel responds to the declaration of war by the unions (2 days ago) by announcing a plan to dismantle its “trouble-making” tin mills (in the words of the president of the US Steel-owned American Sheet and Tin Plate Company) in Pittsburg altogether and build a new one in Gary, Ind. for $4,500,000.

A Immigration Commission report to Congress says that the children of immigrants look more like Americans. Actually, it only looked at Sicilians and Eastern European Jews in New York, but evidently the heads of the Sicilians’ children are no longer so long and those of the Jews are no longer so round and Jewy.

The British general election, called for January 1910, is in full swing, and many Conservative members of the House of Lords have been heckled and shouted down at election meetings. In part this is because it’s traditional for peers to keep out of elections to the other House, and in part because this election is largely about the constitutional position of the House of Lords, which has been screwing with the Liberal government’s bills for years (think Joe Lieberman), but went far beyond what most people considered its legitimate role to be when it rejected the budget, something the Lords hadn’t done for 250 years.

The suffragettes have also been actively heckling candidates, mostly Liberals. One jumped into Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George’s car and “upbraided and shook” him.

Leopold, the king of the Belgians, died.

Incoming Yale science and engineering students will no longer have to know Latin.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Does every post have to have a clever title? I think not.

Headline of the Day (London Times): “Oldest Butter in the World Found in Robert Scott’s Antarctic Hut.”

Sarah Palin, who certainly isn’t pandering for a 2012 presidential run, has a post about the true meaning of Hanukkah on her Facebook page. Since it was written by her ghost writer, the moral of the story of the oil that burned for 8 days is “With hope and dedication nothing is impossible, and the Almighty never abandons those who seek the light” and not “drill, baby, drill.”

If Obama thought that we’d accept moving some of Guantanamo’s prisoners to Illinois while continuing the Bushian system of extra-legal indefinite confinement to be the fulfillment of his campaign promise to “close Guantanamo,” he could have just changed Guantanamo’s name, put up a few new signs, and saved a whole lot of money.

Ben Bernanke named Time’s Man of the Year. Joe Lieberman will have his revenge for this, oh he will have his revenge.

Now for another electrifying edition of Here Are Some News Stories, Write Your Own Damn Jokes, I Have a Headache: The D.C. city council voted 11-2 for marriage equality. One of the dissenters was Marion “Bitch Set Me Up” Barry.

Annotated White House Flickr feed.

Today -100: December 16, 1909: Of Carrie Nation, divinity students, racist congressmen and Nicaraguan presidents all behaving badly. Also, cork legs.

Rep. Foster of Ill. introduced a bill for Civil War veterans who were honorably discharged (and presumably had had their leg or legs amputated) to be given new artificial cork legs every three years.

Carrie Nation visited the House and Senate buildings. Finding a House messenger smoking, she knocked the cigarette out of his mouth.

Divinity students at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago hanged and then burned the effigy of a professor of Hebrew in front of his residence. The students had failed to get the Faculty to drop Hebrew from the curriculum. What Would Ku Klux Klan Jesus Do?

Rep. J. Thomas Heflin of Alabama introduces a bill to segregate street cars in D.C. Heflin, the NYT reminds us, shot a black man (and, by ricochet, a white bystander) on a D.C. street car in 1908 for drinking whiskey in the presence of ladies (here’s the original story on that. Heflin said, “Under the circumstances there was nothing else for me to do.” Clearly.), and 21 months later still hasn’t been tried for it (he never will be, and Heflin, truly a vile piece of shit, would brag about the incident in later election campaigns) (he didn’t have to worry about the black vote in Alabama, having drafted the provision of the 1901 Alabama constitution that banned negroes from voting).

One Frederick Palmer has written an article about Zelaya in The Outlook which accuses him of having made a fortune off of state monopolies and that “Zelaya freely practices the droits de seigneur of the Dark Ages.”

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oral Roberts

no longer so oral.

Shouting, screaming or vocalisation at such a level as to be a statutory nuisance

News Story of the Day (BBC): “Noisy Sex Woman Admits Asbo Breach”

Every sentence in this story sounds dirty:

“A woman who was given an anti-social behaviour order banning her from making loud noises during sex has admitted breaching the order.” Heh heh, they said “breaching the order.”

“Caroline and Steve Cartwright’s love-making was described as ‘murder’ and ‘unnatural’ at Newcastle Crown Court. Neighbours, the local postman and a woman taking her child to school complained about the noise.” And those are just the people she had sex with Tuesday. Zing!

A neighbor said, “I cannot describe the noise. I have never ever heard anything like it.” Then she sighed wistfully and repeated, “I have never ever heard anything like it.”

“In November, Cartwright appealed against a noise abatement notice imposed in 2007, as well as the subsequent Asbo, which banned the couple from shouting, screaming or vocalisation at such a level as to be a statutory nuisance’. Her bid was rejected by Recorder Jeremy Freedman, who said: ‘It certainly was intrusive and constituted a statutory nuisance. It was clearly of a very disturbing nature and it was also compounded by the duration - this was not a one-off, it went on for hours at a time.’” Then he sighed wistfully and repeated, “For hours at a time.”

“‘It is further compounded by the frequency of the episode, virtually every night.’” Then he sighed wistfully and repeated, “Virtually every night.”

“Sunderland City Council told the court they had recorded noise levels of up to 47 decibels using equipment installed at Cartwright’s neighbour’s house. World Health Organisation guidelines state that 30 decibels is enough to cause sleep disturbance.” World Health Organisation guidelines also state that sex that produces noise levels of 47 decibels is “awesome.”

The world as it is

I didn’t give Obama nearly enough shit for his Nobel Prize speech. For example, I ignored the bit about how the US “helped underwrite global security... with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms” in Vietnam and Grenada, or something.

But what’s still stuck in my craw five days later is the smugness-disguised-as-pragmatism of the line about how he’d really like to live by Gandhi and King’s code but “I face the world as it is.” Really, is that what you do. Gandhi and King faced down Bull Connor and General Dyer, police dogs, fire hoses and the freaking British Army. They willingly went into prison cells knowing they might not come out again, they confronted hate and violence with no weapons beyond their moral courage. I think they faced the world as it is, Barack. Whereas you faced, what, the withering sarcasm of your professor in contract law?

Mr. Obama, here is a dime, call your mother, tell her there is serious doubt about you ever deserving that prize.

Today -100: December 15, 1909: Of toilers’ right of American manhood, boozing it up in Worcester, and war balloons

A labor conference in Pittsburg (according to Wikipedia, it was spelled without the h from 1890 to 1911), presided over by Samuel Gompers of the AFL, has “declared war,” as the NYT put it, on US Steel and its new open shop policy. It passed a resolution asserting that “The gigantic trust... is using its great wealth and power in an effort to rob the toilers of their right of American manhood” and “is now engaged in an effort to destroy the only factor, the organizations of its employes, standing between it and unlimited, unchecked, and unbridled industrial, political, social, and moral carnage.” It asks every member of every union in America to aid the striking workers by contributing 10¢ each.

The NYT’s Nicaragua correspondent (who is openly biased) claims that Managua is in open revolt against Pres. Zelaya, with demonstrations in the streets. The government has broken the armistice, claiming that the negotiations were over, and with them the armistice, when the rebels rejected Zelaya’s nomination of Madriz as a successor. The people are demanding American intervention, says the correspondent. The American company in charge of electricity in the capital is threatening to cut off power if it is not paid pronto.

To date Taft has said nothing in public about Nicaragua, bar one oblique reference in the State of the Union address, even as he dispatches marines and gunboats.

Mexico has sent a special envoy to Washington to present its positions on Nicaragua, but the State Dept has been outright lying about his purpose there and falsely denying that he brought any proposals. Mexico wants Zelaya retained in at least nominal power, or if not him, Madriz.

The NYT responds to yesterday’s report on conditions in steerage, saying that they’re not really any worse than conditions in European or American slum tenements. Therefore, while the snooty investigator might have been disgusted by the smells and dirt and lack of privacy and overcrowding, those people are used to them. So that’s okay then.

The largest “dry” city in the world, Worcester, Mass., voted to end prohibition. 29 Massachusetts cities voted on the question in 1909 – it sounds like they do this every single year. Salem went dry. The Times doesn’t say how many of them are wet or dry, but the total vote gave a 12,467 majority for allowing liquor licenses, compared to a 8,936 prohibitionist majority in 1908.

Headline of the Day -100: “German Dirigibles Frighten France.” Or “war balloons,” as the article also calls them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Two headlines that could be shortened

Extraneous words in strikeout:

WaPo: “Afghan Government Not Keeping Promises to Insurgents Changing Sides.”

CNN: “Lieberman Opposes Medicare at 55.”

The wrinkliest death panel of all

Saturday I posted about the 98-year-old woman in the nursing home who killed her 100-year-old roommate. In comments, Athenawise wrote, “Somehow the right will find a way to blame liberals” for this. Well, it did happen in Massachusetts.

CONTEST: How will Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, or any other right-wing talking head of your choice blame the liberals?

Today -100: December 14, 1909: Of steerage, sore paws, and the Methodist attack upon Africa

The Immigration Commission reported to the Senate on conditions of the steerage section on steamship. Oddly enough, not good. “Everything was dirty, sticky, and disagreeable to the touch,” said one female agent who traveled undercover. Sexual harassment of women passengers in steerage is common. The agent had to belt one member of the crew (who I’m guessing was also dirty, sticky, and disagreeable to the touch), and fend off constant requests by Leonardo diCaprio to “paint” her. And the sanitation, and the food...

If I may indulge in a little foreshadowing: Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, asked about the possibility of his retiring as speaker, “elevated the muzzle of his cigar a few degrees and came back with the remark that he ‘wasn’t crossing any bridges until he came to them.’” And Rep. Augustus Peabody Gardner (R-Mass.) (what, you thought somebody named Augustus Peabody Gardner would be a Democrat?) says that he does want some alteration in the powers and/or the person of the speaker, but “The fact that my paws are sore is not sufficient reason for licking them in public.”

With Sen. Isidor Rayner (Blowhard-MD) calling loudly for Nicaraguan Pres. Zelaya to be tried by the United States for the execution of Cannon and Groce, the NYT editorial page brings up an embarrassing precedent: In 1818 Gen. Andrew Jackson, commanding the invasion of Spanish Florida, ordered the execution of British citizens Arbuthnot and Ambrister for aiding the Seminole and Creek Indians.

Pres. Taft gave a speech at Carnegie Hall (after which he was saved by the Secret Service from being pushed off the stage by a crowd of people trying to shake hands with him) in celebration of the diamond jubilee of the Methodist Episcopal missions in Africa or, in Taft’s approving words, “the attack of the Methodist Church upon Africa.” He suggested they establish a bishopric in the Philippines and said that “if I were a missionary I had rather try my hand in a country like China, that has a history of two, three, four, or five thousand years, than to go into Africa, that has no history at all except that which we trace to the apes.”

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2009 in Pictures

As I anticipated, the absence of George Bush’s chimp-like visage was a devastating loss to the world of goofy news photos and those of us who depend on them. Still, soldier on we must. Here’s what 2009 looked like.

Sarah Palin signs a freaking baby

Here’s a guy who held up a BP station in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex using underwear as a mask:

This summer was marked by a series of highly photogenic riots in Jerusalem against municipal parking lots being open on the sabbath.

Today -100: December 13, 1909: Of imperialist choo choos and fetish-worshipping puritans

The British have completed the Cape-Cairo Railway. 2,147 miles of track.

Anti-women’s suffrage speeches were given by the banker Henry Clews at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, who refused to debate suffragists in the audience, and one Emma Goldman at Lyric Hall, who said that women are worshippers of fetishes, the latest of which is the vote. Women, she said, are narrow-minded and puritanical, “always wanting to clean up something,” as opposed to men, who have outgrown morals. The quest for the vote is a wild-goose chase. Not that she’s against women’s suffrage per se, just that the vote is not worth having. Unlike Clews, she was willing to argue her anarchist position against suffragists, including Maud Malone, who would be arrested in 1912 for heckling Woodrow Wilson on the subject.

The Chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, Gen. Clarence Edwards, recommends that US citizenship be given to Puerto Ricans.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Of baggy shorts and saggy skin

Gratuitous Headline of the Day: “Hindu Nationalists Drop Their Baggy Shorts.” Their uniform of baggy shorts, I might add.

Don’t you love stories of senior citizens participating in activities usually engaged in by much younger people? Me too.

Today -100: December 12, 1909: Of sending in the Marines, pancakes, inter-racial banqueting, and marionettes

The NYT is quite confused about what orders the US marines in the region of Nicaragua might have received (and the Taft admin has felt no particular obligation to explain its policy to the public). Gen. Estrada has asked the US consul for some marines to help him break the government siege of Bluefields, on the pretext of protecting American citizens resident in the town. An editorial is surprisingly anti-interventionist, given the paper’s previous anti-Zelaya coverage, noting that the US has “intervened savagely in defense of men attempting to dynamite a troopship” and that the rebels “possess scarcely more of the forms of government than a lynching party.”

The Civic Forum will hold a municipal banquet at which the newly elected city officials will speak. The headline: “Municipal Dinner to Be Inter-Racial.” Also invited: every clergyman in the city and NY’s only woman aeroplanist, Lillian Todd.

Pres. Taft met the 85 supervisors of the Census and warned them sternly against using their offices for political ends (most of the supervisors were recommended by members of Congress).

John D. Rockefeller has placed an order for 100 pounds of buckwheat flour to be sent to his daughter’s house. “Pancakes for the Rockefellers,” the headline says, but that seems like mere speculation. More developments as they occur. Occurred. Whatever.

The shirtwaist strike arbitration failed right at the start, the manufacturers being unwilling to talk about recognizing the union.

In a sign of the times, an Italian marionette theater, the last remaining one in NYC, is being displaced by those new-fangled moving pictures. The story is oddly moving. “So the seven fat volumes of marionette poetry, all the old Italian romances, have been taken up the Parisi tenement. One by one, the hundreds of dolls, those his father and grandfather had, will be put away or sold, and Signor Parisi will open a moving-picture show, too. ‘One must eat and live,’ he says.”

Friday, December 11, 2009


The tea party types are planning a “die in” at the Senate office buildings next week, to simulate how we’ll all die waiting for help under Obamacare. May I make one suggestion?

Call it a public option we can all support.

Baby’s first jihad

Ousted Honduran President Zelaya was about to, finally, leave the Brazilian embassy for Mexico, but the coup regime won’t let him unless he first resigns as president and leaves as a political asylum-seeker, prohibited from engaging in any politics.

In Britain, the West Midlands counter-terrorism police unit “confirmed that counter-terrorist officers specially trained in identifying children and young people vulnerable to radicalisation had visited nursery schools.” They want teachers to turn in any nursery school children who draw pictures of bombs or say that all Christians are bad or that they believe in an Islamic state. (To state the perhaps obvious: a child who proclaims the need for an Islamic state is not radicalized so much as repeating what he or she has heard at home. The police are using state institutions to spy on infants as a way to indirectly spy on their parents.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Today -100: December 11, 1909: Of arbitration, dictators, and bino

The striking shirtwaist-makers and the bosses have agreed to arbitration (the employers are trying to get around recognizing the union).

It turns out that the Nicaraguan government forces characterized in the NYT as feeble were actually a cover for the real operation, as 3,000 troops move on the insurgent provisional government’s hq in the port city of Bluefields. The American consul has promised the outnumbered Estradaists support from the Marines on the Des Moines, anchored there. Another article insists that Estrada’s forces can easily survive a siege, but since it repeatedly refers to Zelaya as “the dictator,” its objectivity might be in some question.

Sen. Isidor Rayner (D-MD) introduces a resolution saying that Zelaya is guilty of murder and if the Estradaists fail to capture him, the US will have to.

In an interview, the, um, dictator Zelaya (in an article subtly headlined “Zelaya Yields To Our Power”) repeats his call for Secretary of State Knox to name a commission to investigate the charges against him (oddly, he never heard back). He says that Cannon and Groce were executed according to the laws of Nicaragua – evidently it’s illegal to command rebels. Zelaya says, “The attempt of Secretary Knox to establish the inviolability of the persons of Americans participating in foreign revolutions will result in constant revolutions led by immune Americans.” Zelaya seems to be looking for an exit strategy, saying he’d happily resign if it wouldn’t lead to faction fights with actual, you know, fighting, and that he is negotiating with the rebels on a successor acceptable to all parties; he has nominated Judge José Madriz. Zelaya blames the US’s hostility to him on President Cabrera of Guatemala.

More US soldiers are going insane in the Philippines than in any other branch of the military. The army blames homesickness, melancholy and bino, a Filipino beverage of some sort.

Money is fungible, you know

How long before the Republicans propose banning women from possessing money, because they might spend it on abortions?

My accomplishments are slight

Obama got his Nobel. He gave a speech. Possibly the most war-mongering Peace Prize speech ever. At one point he got carried away and declared war on Norway. Apostrophe-less transcript.

UNLIKE THOSE POOR SCHMUCKS AT GUANTANAMO – SAY, DIDN’T I PROMISE TO SHUT THAT PLACE DOWN?: “It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate.”

HELL, KISSINGER AND BEGIN, IF IT COMES TO THAT: “Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight.”

In this long speech, he couldn’t not mention Iraq. Once. Let’s watch him try to slip it past, shall we? “I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.”

TO REPLACE WHICH ONE WITH THE OTHER? IT’S PROBABLY BEST TO BE CLEAR: “And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict — filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.”

WELL, WITH SECOND MAN, BECAUSE WAR WITH JUST ONE MAN ISN’T AS MUCH FUN: “These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man.”

SOME PEOPLE (SIGH) THOUGHT GETTING RID OF GEORGE BUSH WAS A GOOD START: “I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war.”

Dude brought Will Smith with him.

Much of the speech was about the concept of “just war.” He’s in favor of it. “We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”

“As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.” AND I WILL SPIT ON THAT WORK IN 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... “But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [King and Gandhi’s] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.”

HERE’S THE MESSAGE FROM YOUR NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: WAR IS, IN FACT, PEACE: “So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.”

TO REITERATE, WAR IS PEACE: “I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war.”

YET AGAIN, WAR IS PEACE: “The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable.”

I DON’T THINK THAT WORD, “ORDERED,” MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS: “And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed.” That claim is becoming about as ridiculous as Bush’s claim that “we do not torture.”

He talked about the need to slap down Iran and North Korea, global warming, blah blah blah.

HE WAS FOR HOLY WAR BEFORE HE WAS AGAINST IT: “Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint — no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith.” But earlier in the speech he denied the relevance of the non-violence of Gandhi and King because “make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.” And it is just – some might even say holy – to go to war against evil. “A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.” Cynicism, hypocrisy, you say potato...

We’re getting to the end, so let’s bring out some of that ol’ Obama inspirational magic: “So let us reach for the world that ought to be — that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.” And then the soldier who sees he’s outgunned calls in an air strike and blows her and her child to pieces.