Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today -100: October 31, 1910: Of resurrections, revolutions, child labor, bloodless hands, and heron battles

In Bristol, Connecticut, two members of the weird-ass Koreshan cult attempted to dig up the grave of Cyrus Teed, who died two years before but had proclaimed that he would rise up as the Messiah. However, before they succeeded, “both were deprived of their reason and died before they could be taken to an asylum.”

There’s a revolution going on in Uruguay.

In a bold move, Henry L. Stimson comes out against child labor to the New York Child Labor Committee.

Yesterday, outrage and disruption prevented French PM Aristide Briand going further in a speech to the French parliament after he said of the railway strike that “Had the actual laws of the country not been sufficient, I would not have hesitated to resort even to illegal measures for the purpose of preserving the fatherland.” Today he denied being a dictator and held up his hands, saying, “Look at these hands – not a drop of blood!” He wins a vote of confidence 329-188.

Front Page Headline of the Day -100: “Sailors in a Battle With a Blue Heron.”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

So now that sanity’s restored, what’s next?

I watched the Jon Stewart rally on C-SPAN, which provided the usual C-SPAN graphics, putting Father Guido Sarducci in quote marks in case we might be fooled, although R2D2 was just identified as R2D2. I skipped over most of the musical numbers, so I kept catching up with the DVR and had to alternate with the French tv series on Carlos the Jackal, which gave my evening a slightly odd vibe.

Signs spotted by me or others: “I didn’t have time to make a better sign.” “Give my false dichotomies or give me death.” “Hitler = Hitler.” “Death to Nobody.” “Look at my ironic hipster sign.” “Having a Sign Makes Me Right.” “I hope today isn’t too windy so my sign doesn’t blow away.” “My Political Views Can't Be Summarized by a Sign.” “Keep it Sane, Stupid [The acrostic of which is kiss].” “I can spell.” And the inevitable marijuana legalization sign as prescribed by law, “Fweedom,” with the “weed” in green. Dude.

In the end, I wasn’t that impressed, because while I support “sanity” in politics, pretty much by definition, I don’t see that as entailing “moderation” in politics, as Jon Stewart seems to. Skepticism is a virtue, but so is enthusiasm and principled activism and Stewart’s largely apolitical notion of politics seems to leave little room for activism and enthusiasm. Or who knows, since his message is mostly about what not to do and very little about how to engage in politics.

I also don’t share his belief that the insanity and violent rhetoric is solely a product of the media and politicians (“If we amplify everything, then we hear nothing”) and that the American people, left to themselves, would be moderate and reasonable and willing to compromise, although I’m sure it would be pretty to think so.

At any rate, we can all agree that Stephen Colbert had the better wardrobe.

(Update: 100 of the best signs – and more in comments – here. H/T to Alert Reader Josh.)

Today -100: October 30, 1910: Of campaign speeches, women voting, rubber bands, and lively Cocks

Henry L. Stimson “endeared himself instantly to a crowd of 1,000 people this afternoon on the railway platform at Saratoga” by making these remarks in a campaign speech: “Look out for the engine behind you! Look out!”

The Ladies’ Home Journal investigates what effects women’s suffrage has had in Colorado and Utah. The (male) investigator finds that child-labor laws are no better than in other states, that prostitution has not been wiped out, and that the women in Denver are bigger drinkers even than those in New York, Chicago or San Francisco. “Even some of the drug stores in Denver, according to good authority, serve whiskey and brandy to unescorted girls.” And women voters in Denver are also just as susceptible to bribery as the men.

So really, what’s the point in letting the little ladies vote?

English aviator Claude Grahame-White sets an air speed record, 60 mph, at a meet on Long Island. But the real hero, by which I mean idiot, of the day was J.B. Moisant, who entered the contest in a plane that wasn’t fully rebuilt after an accident (the rubber band that worked the controls was missing) (I’m not making that up). He took second place (and died in a plane crash in December).

Headline of the Day -100: “Littleton Making It Lively for Cocks.” Martin Littleton, running against Congressman William W. Cocks.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Today -100: October 29, 1910: Of warplanes, dubious attitudes towards matrimony, sugar trusts, Bourbons, and insane brides

Secretary of War Dickinson, in France, is rumored to be negotiating to purchase 10 airplanes for the army.

The NYT thinks Francis McGovern shouldn’t have promised to get married if elected governor of Wisconsin. For a start, “The women of Wisconsin will generally consider his attitude towards matrimony as dubious.” Fair enough.

Henry L. Stimson says the Sugar Trust is trying to defeat him.

Roosevelt calls the Democratic candidate for governor of Connecticut, former CT Supreme Court Justice Simeon Eben Baldwin (mandatorily retired at 70), retrogressive, reactionary and Bourbon because he ruled that the federal workmen’s compensation law was unconstitutional because it interferes with their liberty of contract. However, what TR doesn’t mention is that Baldwin supports a workmen’s compensation law in CT to change that legal doctrine.

Headline of the Day -100: “Bride Insane at the Altar.”

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Today -100: October 28, 1910: Of undesirable aliens and election promises

The Commissioner of Immigration at Angel Island in San Francisco is suspended because of complaints from the Asiatic Exclusion League and others that he was allowing in too many Chinese, Japanese, Hindus and other “undesirables.”

Francis McGovern, Republican candidate for governor of Wisconsin, promises that if elected, he will get married, although he has no one in mind. He was elected and served two terms as governor but none as a husband. (Thanks to the Wisconsin Historical Society for research assistance.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Today -100: October 27, 1910: Of messing with Texas, literacy tests, and repeating Dix

The New Mexico Constitutional Convention increases the amount of land it wants from Texas to 600,000 acres.

The Taft administration, under criticism for not having given a fraction the patronage to blacks that Roosevelt did, has been looking around rather explicitly for a token to promote. It now announces that it will appoint William H. Lewis assistant attorney general, the highest post a negro has ever held in the federal government. Wikipedia informs us that Lewis (1868-1949) was also the first black man ever to play college football, for Amherst and Harvard, where he coached for 11 years (which seems an odd use to make of a degree from Harvard Law School), and the first black member of the American Bar Association, where there was a strong move to expel him when his race was discovered. Southern senators will delay his confirmation until next June.

The NYT continues its laser-like focus on negro voting rights, giving an astonishing 90 words (many of them inaccurate or misleading) to the story that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled constitutional both the “grandfather clause” for the new literacy test and the special voting procedure adopted for the referendum in which all votes not cast against the measure were counted as being for it (voters had to scratch out the words “for the amendment” with a pencil, which was not provided in every polling station).

TR says that Dix is being supported by men who “wish to employ children in their business for unlimited hours.”

A Henry L. Stimson campaign rally in Rochester is marred by “continuous interruption by eight or ten indignant and somewhat intoxicated men, who kept repeating the name of Dix.” Er, are you sure it was a name they were repeating?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Full of rage

A forensic psychiatrist hired by the Pentagon says that Omar Khadr, who has been held in Gulag Guantanamo since he was 15, is... wait for it... “full of rage.” Evidently, “He is very angry about being in custody.” Dr. Welner has a degree in duh from the University of Miami.

The camera always adds 10 pounds of fascism

Rand Paul’s designated head-stomper Tim Profitt says “the camera angle made the scuffle Monday night appear worse that it was.... and I apologize if it appeared overly forceful”.

It’s all about the camera angles.

This trial we call show (addendum)

The Omar Khadr plea deal was more shameful than I realized: it requires him to give up his right to sue the US for any abuse at Guantanamo (and for being illegally detained without trial in the first place).

Today -100: October 26, 1910: Trust issues

TR has been attacking Dem. gubernatorial candidate for NY John A. Dix with dubious claims of a connection to the defunct wallpaper trust. Dix now attacks his opponent, Henry Stimson, for gathering evidence against the sugar trust while employed as a federal D.A., then resigning and taking a large fee ($27,000, as opposed to the $12,000 a year he made as a D.A.) for prosecuting the trust as a special prosecutor.

French PM Briand claims that arrested leaders of the railway strike have confessed that it was all a plot to ruin France by violence, anarchy and civil war.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Telegraphing punchlines

More stories from the Daily Telegraph.

Officials in Toulouse are using computers to email the satnav positions and photographs of dogshit to street cleaners. Or as we in the Blogger-American Community call it, “linking to Drudge.” Says a town council spokesmodel: “no one can now say we are not on top of the problem.” So let no one now say that they are not on top of the pooh.

Daily Telegraph Headline of the Day: “‘Hiccup Girl’ Charged with Murder in Florida.” Evidently, she achieved fame at 16 in 2007 because of her non-stop hiccups, appearing on the Today Show, where she was hugged by Keith Urban (which sounds like a euphemism for something, but evidently isn’t). Naturally, her life went bad after the hiccupping and the celebrity ended. She ran away from home, fell in with the wrong crowd, and they robbed and killed a guy.

Prostitutes who walk the streets by a highway in Spain have been told to wear reflective vests or face a 40 fine. Health and safety, you know.

This trial we call show

After eight years of being held without trial, mistreated, and facing a kangaroo court, child soldier Omar Khadr pleads guilty. The judge advises him, with what degree of irony we do not know, “You should only do this if you truly believe it is in your best interests.” Note that the judge did not say he should plead guilty only if he is in fact guilty. Because that really has nothing to do with anything.

We do not go to those areas

Philippines politics. You wouldn’t think an article whose opening paragraph talks about “local candidates who had gathered to sign an agreement promising not to kill one another in the final days of campaigning before local elections” could be accused of burying the lead, but then there’s this 10 paragraphs later:
“Over there, that’s MILF territory,” Arevalo said, pointing to his left. “We’re talking by the thousands. They’re just one kilometer away. We do not go to those areas.”

Today -100: October 25, 1910: Of negative campaigning

Yesterday the Times was suggesting that Rep. John Tener, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, would drop out. But instead, Tener today swears out a warrant for the arrest of the president of the newspaper North American, which printed that Tener is “a friend and associate of swindlers.” Tener is connected with the National Public Utilities Corporation, which may or may not be a scam. Spoiler alert: Tener will win the election. He was, I think, the first successful professional-athlete-turned-politician (baseball) .

The NYT says Roosevelt knows he is lying when he accuses Dem. gubernatorial candidate for NY John A. Dix involvement with the old wallpaper trust. Dix became a director in a wallpaper company in 1907 but the trust effectively ceased to exist years before. TR is claiming that the trust still existed because it was appealing the initial ruling, which was in a case brought by the Continental Wall Paper Company, the trust, against someone who had not paid for wallpaper. That ruling was that the company was an illegal combination and its contracts were therefore unenforceable.

TR, on a roll, also attacked Eugene Foss, the Dem. candidate for Massachusetts governor, as “a man who has made his money in speculation.”

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It’s not for us

Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister slash sock puppet, says that the WikiLeaks reports of torture and murder of Iraqi civilians are “distressing to read about” and “need to be looked at.” But not by Britain. No, “I am assuming the US administration will want to provide its own answer. It’s not for us to tell them how to do that.” (Nick Clegg’s sole function in life is to enable awful things to take place while denying any personal responsibility for them. And to fetch the tea.) And of course Frago 242 said that once the US handed people over to the Wolf Brigade or other Iraqi death squads, it wasn’t for us to tell the Iraqis not to torture/kill/tickle/eat them. Guess everyone’s looking forward, not back at the smelly mound of bodies.

Today -100: October 24, 1910: Of strong campaign issues, and Crippen

Roosevelt and the Republican State Committee of NY announce that they will continue to accuse John A. Dix of involvement with the wallpaper trust. The committee’s chairman, Ezra Prentice, says he does not believe Dix’s statement denying a connection; “I do not think it will stand examination.” Asked if he had actually read the statement, he admitted he hadn’t. “I am not very well informed at present on the matter, but we are going to make it a strong campaign issue.” And that sentence has been the Republican Party motto ever since.

Dr. Hawley Crippen is convicted of the murder of his wife. Click on the image below and click again to enlarge for a bit of the London Times.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Political timing

Iraqi Temporary Interim Acting Caretaker Prime Minister Maliki accuses the latest WikiLeaks doc dump of being politically timed. You know, because it was released during that brief but critical period between the Iraqi elections and the formation of a government.

Today -100: October 23, 1910: Of exiled monks and hilarious cows

Britain proposes, and Germany agrees, that all the large European powers recognize the government in Portugal simultaneously. That’s fast. I would have expected more resistance from the kaiser over the abolition of the Portuguese monarchy.

Italians are up in arms against the influx of monks and nuns recently expelled by the new Portuguese government (Spain refused to take them). Poorer Italians remember the previous immigration from France when religious orders were banned there, and the priests used the wealth of their orders to drive up rents in Rome.

Headline of the Day -100: “Cows Acted Hilarious.” Got into some cider.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No investigation required

Today’s WikiLeaks dump shows a formal military policy (dated June 2004) of ignoring violence, torture, executions, sexual assaults, etc by Iraqi military or police, beyond giving reports on the incident to the very Iraqi unit that committed the abuse, and recording “no investigation required” on the file. Which I believe was the Obama campaign motto four years later. Spooky, huh?

Fred Kaplan says that the latest leaked documents won’t necessarily please anti-war types. For example, he says, they prove that “most Iraqi civilian deaths were caused by other Iraqis” and that Lancet vastly over-estimated the number of civilian deaths. Well, they prove that if you believe that the number of civilian deaths in the two assaults on Fallujah was exactly zero, the number the Pentagon recorded. Otherwise you might think that there’s a bit of selective blindness in the record-keeping.

Today -100: October 22, 1910: Of wallpaper trusts, big boats, land grabs, and friendly mobs

Teddy Roosevelt has accused Democratic NY gubernatorial candidate John A. Dix of being connected with a wallpaper trust, which Dix denies. Dix became a director of a wallpaper company several years after a judge essentially dissolved the trust.

The Cunard Steamship Company has approved plans to construct a 60,000-ton steamship. I wonder what such a titanic object should be called?

The New Mexico Constitutional Convention wants a new boundary, giving it 200 square miles of Texas.

A story by-lined from Lynchburg, VA reports an un-lynching in nearby Lovingston. John Moore, sentenced to death for the murder of one Frank Howl, is broken out of jail and freed by a “friendly mob” of 75 men. The mob objects that Roxie Howl (!), the widow of the murdered man, was not convicted along with him. One or the other of them poisoned Howl so that they could marry each other. There is also a theory that Howl’s moonshine was poisoned by ‘shiners who thought he was a revenooer.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All the news that’s fit to print in the Daily Telegraph

Here’s a nice Telegraph sort of headline: “Cross Dressing Air Force Colonel Jailed for Sex Murders.” Canadian Air Force. He once flew the queen. There’s actually nothing in the article that justifies the phrase “cross dressing.”

“MP’s Wife to Face Trial over Kitten Theft Claims.” The wife of Liberal MP John Hemming will be tried for breaking into his mistress’s home and the cat is still missing. The wife has actually known about the mistress since 2005, when she gave birth to Hemming’s child. Hemming later voted for himself in a newspaper poll for “Love Rat of the Year,” saying “At the end of the day you’ve got to laugh at something.”

An American former football player overstayed his visa in Singapore and they’re planning to cane him. This would be the first caning of an American since Michael Fay – remember him?

A small plane crashed in Congo-Kinshasa, killing everyone on board except one person and a crocodile. Can you guess why the plane crashed? If you guessed it had something to do with the crocodile, you guessed correctly.

Escaped Chimp Attacks Police Car.” There’s video, but it’s rather disappointing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today -100: October 20, 1910: The nose of a conqueror

A letter to the NYT by Eugene V. Brewster (presumably the lawyer/painter/film director) suggests that the NY Democratic Party is wrong not to send John Dix campaigning around the state in his gubernatorial quest, which they evidently decided because he is a crap speaker and “is not a man of prepossessing appearance”. Not so, says Brewster, obviously crushing on Dix big time: “Mr. Dix is tall, broad-shouldered, dignified, stately, yet democratic in bearing and manner, with the brow of the philosopher, the nose of a conqueror, and the chin of a determined, strong-willed man, born to lead and to command.”

A NYT editorial about a “convention of negroes” in Oklahoma which declared that negroes, while being 15-20% of the state’s population and having loyally supported the Republican Party, have gotten nothing back, so all black people should vote socialist instead (which seems to ignore that the state just disenfranchised most of them two months ago by adopting literacy tests). The NYT warns them that they will not get social equality “by any political methods. A great many of their best leaders declare they do not desire it, preferring a social code for their own race alone, and disdaining to seek intercourse with others.” And they would gain political equality “more surely and sooner if they vote independently as men and not in a body as a race.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When you gotta go

Carl Paladino wandered off the stage during the closing statements of yesterday’s wacky NY goober debate. Explained his campaign manager, “When you gotta go, you gotta go.” That could be his new campaign slogan.

Christine O’Donnell, in the 3rd Delaware senate debate, asked “Where in the Constitution is the separation of church and state?” Chris Coons explained it to her, presumably using small words so she’d understand. But she didn’t. “You’re telling me that’s in the First Amendment?”

When Obama visits India next month, he will skip the Golden Temple in Amritsar because he would have to wear a headscarf or a skullcap and... oh, I give up. His staff proposed that he wear a “modified” baseball cap and the temple people said no.

Today -100: October 19, 1910: Of the America, divorce, and late starts

The America was crippled by, you know, wind. The crew and cat escaped in a lifeboat and were picked up by the steamer Trent 400 miles east of the North Carolina coast. The airship was blown away, never to be seen again. Walter Wellman provides a lengthy account to the Times. He blames the equilibrator, which was too heavy. Still, the America covered 1,000 miles in 71 hours, which was a record.

Wellman lived until 1934 and never left the ground again.

The Episcopalians now ban any member who has had a divorce from re-marrying. Previously, the innocent party could do so.

One of the Democratic candidates for governor of Massachusetts, Charles Hamlin (later the first chairman of the Fed), breaks the deadlock by withdrawing, so Eugene Foss will soon probably become the party nominee, less than 3 weeks before the election (Frederick Mansfield, who was named by the party convention as a holding candidate when they couldn’t settle on a real one, also has to be convinced to withdraw).

Spoiler alert: Foss will win the election, despite all the chaos. It’s really not the Republicans’ year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A gravy train in the hands is worth two in the gravy train station

An email I received (why?) from Michele Bachmann on behalf of the Republican National Committee is chock full of right-wing clichés (“socialist, Big Government agenda,” “takeovers of private enterprise,” “opponents of freedom”), but check out how many of them she jams into a single sentence: “These radical Democrats are spending tens of millions of dollars from their liberal special interest-filled campaign war chest to retain power and keep the publicly funded gravy train rolling into the hands of Big Labor, limousine liberals, radical protest groups, and billionaire globalists.”

Is a gravy train something you’d actually want in your hands? It sounds either very messy or very dangerous. What is a gravy train, anyway?


In the Kentucky Senate debate, Jack Conway asked Rand Paul the most important political question of our times (the second most important question is why Rand Paul has a first name for a last name and a last name for a first name): “When is it ever a good idea to tie up a woman and ask her to kneel before a false idol, your god, which you call Aqua Buddha?”

Indeed, when is that a good idea? Answers in comments, please.

Today -100: October 18, 1910: Whither America?

What has happened to the America? And more to the point, what happened to Kiddo the cat? The airship (and the cat) have disappeared and have stopped sending wireless communications. Ocean liners (including the Lusitania) are on the lookout.

The French train strike is over, after PM Briand conscripted strikers, arrested strike leaders, ordered in the military, but also arranged a settlement favorable to the strikers. In addition to the “sabotage” of ties, the strike was marked by bomb incidents, which the police attribute to anarchists taking advantage of the strike rather than to trade unionists. A bomb was thrown at a passenger train as it came into the Chantièrs station, but it bounced off a tree, harming no one, though it did make a big boom.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

No questions, please

Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate debate: “If you’ve ever questioned whether America is a beacon of freedom and justice, then he’s your guy.” If you’ve never questioned or thought about anything ever, vote Christine!

By the way, when she was stumped about what Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with, she said someone of her staff would figure out which ones she disagreed with and put them up on her website. Evidently, she’s now been told that she disagrees with Boumediene v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Kelo v. City of New London.

Maybe he just thinks that’s what they deserved

Bob Herbert suggests that Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned five convicted murderers because they were in a program that let them work in the governor’s mansion. Yet I can’t help noticing that 4 of the 5 killed women, indeed women they knew: 1 murdered his girlfriend while 3 killed their former wives or girlfriends.

Today -100: October 16, 1910: America!

Mass. congresscritter Eugene Foss finally tiring of waiting for the Democratic Party to pick a candidate for governor for the Nov. 8 elections, gathers 500 signatures and files independently under the rubric of Democratic Progressive.

The Columbus trolley strike has failed, after 3 months.

Walter Wellman, journalist, Arctic explorer and daredevil, is attempting to take a dirigible, the America, across the Atlantic, starting from Atlantic City and landing wherever in Europe the winds take him. A French member of the crew got cold feet at the last minutes, as did a feline mascot. The Frenchman escaped, the cat, Kiddo, was tossed back in. The voyage is sponsored by several newspapers, so Wellman is filing dispatches via wireless. The first radio message ever sent from an airborne vessel in history was, therefore, “Roy, come and get this goddamn cat.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Papal caption contest

Today -100: October 14, 1910: Of road trips and scandal and sensation

Taft will make a quick trip to Panama next month, to make some decisions about construction, fortifications, toll rates, etc. Don’t quote me, but this may be only the 2nd time a sitting president left the country, the first having been Roosevelt 4 years earlier, also making a trip to the Canal Zone.

NYC Mayor Gaynor is now at odds with President of the Board of Alderman John Purroy Mitchel, who, when serving as acting mayor while Gaynor was in the hospital, directed the police to investigate various suspected disorderly houses and gambling establishments (leading, as we saw, to a raid on the US Army Building, but mostly to letters to property owners). Gaynor says the list was “made up in a wholly untrustworthy newspaper office for scandal and sensation,” which I’m guessing means Hearst’s paper, and orders the police commissioner to apologize to the property owners. Mitchel insists the list was derived from perfectly legitimate, um, anonymous letters.

Francisco Madero, who ran against Porfirio Díaz for the presidency of Mexico in April and was subsequently arrested, has fled the country, disguised as a peon, emerging in San Antonio. This actually happened more than a week ago, but the NYT seems not to have reported it. Instead, we now get a rather sarcastic editorial, which suggests Madero should stay in San Antonio: “As a revolutionary his doings from first to last have savored of opera bouffe. There are good openings in that part of Texas for every live man. One thing is certain, Señor Madero is no longer to be enrolled, seriously, among the ‘men who may succeed Diaz.’” That’s true: there was actually a six-month interim president before Madero became president in November 1911.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Today -100: October 13, 1910: Of defective senses of responsibility and sabotage

Roosevelt, speaking at a Knights of Columbus banquet on Columbus Day, predicts that one day there will be a Catholic president.

A rather dickish NYT editorial says that TR’s spontaneous decision yesterday to accept an invitation to fly in that plane is typical of the impulsiveness that makes him such a dangerous politician, with a “defective sense of responsibility”.

French Prime Minister Aristide Briand calls a railway strike an attempted revolution. He’s using a law intended for wartime to mobilize (i.e., conscript) railroad workers as reservists, and it’s not going down very well. Strikers have been destroying railway ties, which were called shoes (sabots). This is the origin of the word sabotage in French; it entered the English language in 1918.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman debate: Women know exactly what’s going on here

This was the final debate between Governor Moonbeam (his porn name) and eMeg (her online porn name). I watched this one all the way through, no thanks to the Bay Area tv stations, none of whom carried it, and early on noticed for the first time that Brown’s voice sounds exactly like that of Tommy Smothers.

Everyone got to apologize insincerely, Whitman for never voting, and Brown for the staffer who called Whitman a whore (“That does not represent anything other than things that happen in a campaign”), though he undercut it by muttering that it was a private conversation and it was probably illegal to record it (it’s illegal to record someone on the phone without their permission; it is certainly not illegal for your answering machine to record a message, which is what happened here. Does Brown not even know the details of what, pathetically, has been the biggest story in the California election for days now?), denying that it was as bad as using the n-word about a black person, then saying that anyway Pete Wilson (Whitman’s campaign chair) used the w-word about public employees unions (in 1995). Whitman said that was a completely different thing, although it’s certainly the same word (Update: after the debate, reporters asked her to explain the difference; she would not). WhoreGate may be a negative for Brown, but there’s no sympathy vote here for Whitman, given the patent insincerity of her faux personal outrage and attempt to play the feminist card, saying darkly, “Women know exactly what’s going on here.”

Do they? Are you a woman? Do you know exactly what’s going on here? If so, tell us in comments exactly what’s going on here.

Whitman trumpeted her endorsement by the police union whose pensions she promised to exempt from her cuts, but said it was because she was tough on crime. She attacked Brown’s endorsement by the California Teachers’ Association, which is responsible for the “mess” in education. Evidently the cops can be trusted on criminal issues, but the teachers can’t be trusted on educational issues.

Brown asked Whitman how much money she’d save personally with her proposal to end capital gains taxes. “Shitloads,” she said, “shitloads and shitloads.”

Actually, of course, she wouldn’t answer. She did say she’s been out creating jobs and Brown’s been engaged on a “war on jobs.”

Both support two-tier pension systems for civil servants. Whitman noted, wistfully, “The existing pensioners we can’t touch”, without explaining why she wanted to touch pensioners.

Actually, I thought that phrasing was telling. She didn’t say we can’t touch existing pensions, but existing pensioners, which seemed to evince a personal hostility to the retirees who stand in her way, like they think they’re too good for cat food or something.

Brown accused Whitman, correctly, of not specifying where she’ll make the huge budget cuts she proposes (“She doesn’t have a plan. She said $14 billion in cuts. She doesn’t say where.”)

His plan: cut the budget of the governor’s office by 10 to 15%. That’s his plan. She pointed out that this was a minuscule proportion of the state budget; he said something about leading by example. So really, neither one of them has a plan. At the end of the debate, both were asked what structural reforms they’d support to California’s broken institutions. She called for two-year budgets, which is sensible in and of itself but would do absolutely nothing to fix the budget stalemate situation. He called for a majority vote in the Legislature for the budget, but not for taxes, which would do almost nothing to fix the budget stalemate situation. Once again, he proudly mentioned that Howard Jarvis (d.1986) voted for him some time after Prop 13 passed. Jarvis was a mean, bitter, anti-government crank of a sort we’re rather familiar with these days, and every time Brown brags about the old bastard, his soul shrivels a little more.

Governor Moonbeam (his screen name on Twilight fanfic websites) said he didn’t want to get into “that story” of Nicky Diaz, then of course did, pointing out that after 9 years of employing her, Whitman didn’t even get her a lawyer. Whitman said it broke her heart to fire her. Sure it did. After the debate, she said she’d moved on from “Gloria Allred’s political stunt.” So I guess her heart has healed up.

Brown: “I’ve been in the kitchen. I’ve taken the heat. She’s been in the bleachers.” Well, it’s not like Meg had to spend time in the kitchen. She had “help” for that.

(My posts on the 1st debate, 2nd debate.)

Today -100: October 12, 1910: Of flying ex-presidents

The Massachusetts Dems still don’t have a candidate for governor. You know what doesn’t help? Leaving the decision to a Committee of Four. Which is now split 2-2. Odd numbers, people, odd numbers.

Roosevelt goes up in a plane for the first time. For four minutes. It was a spur of the moment decision when he visited an air show in St. Louis. “By George, it was fine!” he exclaimed.

That plane would crash, killing that pilot, Archibald Hoxsey, in December.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Today -100: October 11, 1910: Of censorship, cheap politics, and a Southern non-strategy

NYC aldermen are considering establishing a public board of censors for moving pictures. Among the strongest supporters: movie house owners. The only opposition, in fact, comes from the existing private board of censors.

John Dix certifies that he spent no money to be nominated the Democratic candidate for governor of NY.

TR says privately, “By George, if I thought I could carry a single Southern state, I would willingly run for the presidency!”

Sunday, October 10, 2010


It is my sad duty to report that the coveted Golden Spurtle (that’s the award for the best porridge) has returned to Scotland (you will of course remember that an American won it last year), thanks to the invention by Neal Robertson of the Tannochbrae Tearoom in Auchtermuchty (of those words, I’m pretty sure I can pronounce tearoom) of a wooden, double-sided spoon he calls a spon, which gives twice the power to mixing and beating (that’s what she said) and puts more air in the mixture (a commenter on the Guardian’s story offers this historical perspective: “It’s a little known fact, that traditional Scots oats cooks, were constantly innovating their oat stirrers. That’s how we ended up with billy clubs, clothespins, dildos, and the like.”)

Says Mr. Robertson, “It was a wake-up call last year to see how seriously porridge is taken across Scotland and around the world.” Evidently the trick is always to stir clockwise because stirring counter-clockwise lets the devil in. Don’t want devil-flavored porridge.

Ending assassination abuse without ending assassination, because that would be crazy

It’s always nice to watch the official “liberal” mind in action. The NYT editorial page today takes up the issue of Obama’s assassination program, intoning Very Seriously that “assassinations are a grave act and subject to abuse”. And if there’s one thing we hate, it’s seeing something noble and pure like assassination being... oh it hurts even to say it... abused.

Evidently Bush committed such abuses, but “So far, President Obama’s system of command seems to have prevented any serious abuses”. The Times doesn’t explain what an unserious abuse in a program of assassinating people might be.

The Times says that the Obama administration should forthrightly assert that it only assassinates in accordance with international law and strictly, strictly I say, in self-defense. And it needs to be a last resort (well, pretty much by definition...)

We should get the permission of foreign countries before killing people there “if practical.”

The Times’s answer to the problem of abusive assassination is, of course, to bureaucratize the machinery of murder. Because there’s nothing like a few oversight committees to make assassination shiny and clean. And we should establish secret courts to issue assassination warrants, because there’s nothing like a piece of paper, with official stamps and everything, to make assassination shiny and clean. Do all that, and the Times and all Americans can sleep soundly at night, safe and secure and morally pure.

Today -100: October 10, 1910: Of nuns and upsets

Portugal’s new government is expelling the religious orders, including 233 nuns.

Headline of the Day -100: “Killed by Auto Upsetting.” Yes, I should jolly well think it would be.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Today -100: October 9, 1910: Of the Battle of Cameron Dam

With elections one month away, Massachusetts Democrats have no candidate for governor. The party convention descended into fist-fights and decided to leave it to a Committee of Four, but they haven’t managed to make a decision either.

The Battle of Cameron Dam is over. In 1900 John Deitz bought a farmstead in Wisconsin and found that his property included the logging dam, which he blocked in 1904 after a lumber company owned by Weyerhaeuser refused to pay the toll he demanded. The company orchestrated an ambush by a sheriff’s posse in July 1906 in which one of Deitz’s sons was nearly killed. He and his family held off sheriff’s deputies for the next four years, surviving the siege with food contributed by readers of a sympathetic newspaper editor. They finally succumbing yesterday (-100) to an onslaught by a posse of 60 men. Deitz’s log cabin, where his family including minor children held out, was riddled with 1,000 shots during the five-hour gun battle. One deputy was killed and another had his ear shot off. Deitz was imprisoned for murder but his folk hero status forced the governor to pardon him in 1921. There’s an interesting article from the Wisconsin Magazine of History available online.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Today -100: October 8, 1910: Of nervous Spain and demon dogs

Headline of the Day -100: “Spain is Very Nervous” (about the Portuguese revolution provoking imitators).

Doggy Headline of the Day -100: “BOSTON TERRIERS BENCHED. The Demon Best Dog Judged at Madison Square Garden.” Turns out that the best of show at the show of the Boston Terrier Club of New York is named “The Demon,” he isn’t an actual demon best dog.

Mrs Harriet Johnston Wood, a lawyer, in a speech at a meeting of the Equal Suffrage League, called for women to attempt to vote in the forthcoming elections as a means of challenging their disfranchisement in court. But in her speech she “indirectly” used the word nigger – which I think means she used it in some figure of speech – and a Mrs. Kate Butler told her to knock it off, that “people of a race whose members were received by royalty abroad [the recent reception of Booker T. Washington by the Danish king and queen] should not be mentioned by a name to which all right-feeling colored people took exception.”

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Today -100: October 7, 1910: Of revolutions and bi-partisan slogans

Portugal’s King Manuel II, or former king I should say, escaped on the formerly royal yacht to Gibraltar. He will live in Britain the rest of his life.

Manuel’s uncle, The Duke of Orleans, has an explanation for the revolution: it was the fault of the Masons.

The minister of justice and worship in the new Portuguese regime writes the NYT with a list of its objectives, including the expulsion of monks and nuns and closing of religious schools. Also education, justice, colonial autonomy blah blah blah. The new president is the writer Teófilo Braga.

The NYT notes that the slogan “A vote for Stimson is a vote for Roosevelt” works for both the Republican and Democratic parties. “It ought to be a great saving.”

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A terrible accident

By blocking US military convoys, Pakistan has gotten the US to apologize (a “terrible accident”) for last week’s helicopter rocket attack that killed two Pakistani soldiers.

If only the Pakistani government responded to the many US attacks that kill innocent civilians as strongly as it did to an attack that killed soldiers, we might be a little more impressed. When David Petraeus says he’ll work to see this doesn’t happen again, he clearly meant accidentally killing soldiers, not accidentally killing civilians.

Speaking of Pakistan, did anyone notice that Musharraf admitted yesterday that when he ruled Pakistan he funded militants in Kashmir?

Today -100: October 6, 1910: Of republics and swackhammers

The revolutionaries in Portugal have declared a republic, with a new flag and everything. Britain, bound by treaty with Portugal, may have to go in to protect 21-year-old King Manuel II, who has fled Lisbon. The NYT declares Manuel an “amiable king” despite “very vague rumors” of affairs with actresses and foolish extravagance.” For the record, he was totally fucking actresses.

Portugal would never have a king again. Fascist dictator yes, king no.

Name of the Day -100: a Woodrow Wilson campaign speech was chaired by one Austin H. Swackhammer.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Unfortunate Headline of the Day

AP: “New High Court Era: Kagan Makes 3 Women on Bench.”

(Good article by Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick in Slate about “How the Roberts Court Disguises Its Conservatism.”)

Today -100: October 5, 1910: Of campaigns, revolutions, and gambling

Henry Stimson files a statement of expenses under the new campaign disclosure law: his campaign for the R. nomination for governor cost him $150.

But the NYT says Stimson’s campaign is doomed (spoiler alert: yes, yes it is. Doomed doomed doomed.) because many Republicans would just as soon see him lose if that would help prevent Roosevelt getting back into the White House: “Every man who has any stake in the orderly administration of the Government, in the maintenance of the integrity of the courts, every man who has respect for the country’s laws and its institutions, and who is moved to disquiet and alarm by Mr. Roosevelt’s appeals to mob passion and unreason, understands very well that this is the year to check and thwart his designs, not next year or the year after.”

In the meantime, the old governor Charles Evans Hughes is about to resign to take up his seat on the Supreme Court, so there will be a temporary governor until the end of the year, one Horace White.

A revolution has started in Portugal. Warships controlled by the rebels are bombarding Lisbon, and the king may have been captured.

One of the things NYC Mayor Gaynor finds on his return to work is that the police have been investigating the US Army Building on suspicion that it “was being conducted as a gambling house.” Evidently it wasn’t, and Gaynor has to write a letter of apology to the deputy quartermaster. What seems to have happened was that there was a gambling establishment over a saloon across the street from the Army Building and the two detectives who went to the Army Building were actually corrupt cops using the visit as a sneaky way to tip off the gambling joint that there was an investigation going on.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Today -100: October 4, 1910: Of revolting cops, and an Alabama negro in King Frederick’s court

Maryland Governor Crothers declares the Baltimore police board’s act in stationing of armed cops around hq to prevent being fired an armed revolt and an insurrection against the state, “and I shall take steps to put it down.” (What steps? There is no follow-up in the NYT in the next two weeks.)

The king and queen of Denmark entertain Booker T. Washington, the “first negro ever received at the Danish Court,” at Charlottenlund Castle. They talked about the Danish West Indies. The queen would like him to go there and apply the Tuskegee system of education.

NYC Mayor Gaynor returns to work, two months after his assassination.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Today -100: October 3, 1910: Of cops, censorship and queues

Governor Austin Crothers of Maryland is prosecuting two Baltimore police commissioners for incompetence and misconduct and trying to oust various other police officials, including the chief. But for two days the cops have been guarding police hq and the commissioner’s offices to prevent the temporary commissioners appointed by the governor taking over. Will he send the militia in?

18 leading British playwrights have penned a protest against the banning of Laurence Housman’s play about the attempt by George IV in 1820 to divorce Queen Caroline, Pains and Penalties, and a demand that there be a right of appeal against such bans. Bernard Shaw noted in the preface to his Plays Unpleasant that in 1737 Henry Fielding had “devoted his genius to the task of exposing and destroying parliamentary corruption, then at its height. Walpole, unable to govern without corruption, promptly gagged the stage by a censorship which is in full force at the present moment. Fielding, driven out of the trade of Molière and Aristophanes, took to that of Cervantes; and since then the English novel has been one of the glories of literature, whilst the English drama has been its disgrace.” The reason given by the Lord Chamberlain for the ban on Housman’s play was that it was about “a sad historical episode of comparatively recent date in the life of an unhappy lady.” Too soon? Queen Caroline had been dead for 90 years.

The former Chinese ambassador to the US is presenting the emperor with a memorial on behalf of Chinese living in the Americas asking to be allowed to stop wearing Chinese clothing and the queue (the long braid of hair).

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Jerry Brown-Meg Whitman debate: The real tragedy here is Nicky

If Meg Whitman hadn’t taken such unpleasantly anti-illegal-immigrant positions, one might almost feel sorry for her. And the question she asked Jerry Brown in today’s Univision debate, “What would you have had me do?”, is actually pretty unanswerable; if she’d just kept repeating it he’d have been in an uncomfortable position. Many people find Whitman’s summary firing of Diaz after 9 years cruel and heartless to someone she claims to have considered as part of her family, but is Brown, California’s highest law-enforcement official, suggesting Whitman should have overlooked a violation of the law? Or instead that she should have checked Diaz’s documents more carefully and then reported her to the INS? Either answer would alienate a large swathe of voters. Instead, Brown responded with something about how Whitman should take responsibility and not blame everybody else, but that’s about the politics of it. What should she have done about Diaz herself?

Fortunately for him, Whitman’s politics are solidly anti-immigrant, opposing a path to legalization and telling an illegal immigrant Fresno State student at the debate that she shouldn’t have been given a university space that could have gone to a citizen, so Whitman couldn’t ask Brown how you act humanely in the light of inhumane laws, and she did in fact maintain the I’m-the-real-victim-here stance. She suggested that Diaz had been brainwashed by Brown’s henchmen: “The Nicky I saw at the press conference three days ago was not the Nicky that I knew for nine years. And you know what my first clue was? She kept referring to me as Ms. Whitman. For the nine years she worked for me she called me Meg and I called her Nicky.” Hmm, I wonder what could have changed that? Follow the clues, Meg.

By contrast, Whitman repeatedly referred to her summarily dismissed employee as Nicky.

Whitman suggested that the person who really exploited Nicky Diaz is Jerry Brown: “You put her out there. You should be ashamed for sacrificing Nicky Diaz on the altar of your political ambitions.” Oh, so very self-aware. “The real tragedy here is Nicky. After Nov. 2, no one’s going to be watching out for Nicky Diaz.” What’s stopping you from hiring her the best immigration lawyer in the state, Meg?

Whitman said, “I cannot win the governor’s race without the Latino vote,” so, um, good luck with that.

Asked to list three of their opponent’s positive traits, Whitman could only come up with two for Brown (he cares about California and has had a long career in public service) before resorting to, “And I really like his choice of wife.”

I don’t believe she answered the question about when she would take the polygraph she offered a few days to take. Steve Lopez of the LAT has already lined up a guy to do it.

(My post on the previous debate here.)

Today -100: October 2, 1910: Of dynamite, cholera, spectacular prances, souls, and diplodocuses

Today’s (-100) NYT includes some of the blurriest scans I’ve seen yet, some of it quite unreadable. Sigh.

Still, things were much worse at the LA Times, where dynamite exploded in the LAT building, setting off a fire in nearby ink barrels which engulfed the building and killed 21 people (the lack of fire escapes didn’t help).

Another bomb exploded at the home of the paper’s proprietor, Gen. Harrison Gray Otis (who was not home), who had been waging a vicious war against unions in southern California in general and unions at the Times in particular. The LAT put out a single-page edition a few hours after the fire, screaming for revenge. Its headline: “Unionist Bombs Wreck the Times; Many Seriously Injured.” That it was unionists who planted the dynamite was only conjecture at that point. But (spoiler alert) true. There was a big trial, with Clarence Darrow defending the McNamara brothers, and then himself for supposedly bribing jurors.

There’s a Wikipedia page on the bombing and trial, and books, including one I’ve read and can recommend, Geoffrey Cowan, The People v. Clarence Darrow.

Two planes hit each other in Milan in the first-ever mid-air collision. I believe both pilots survived.

France is pissed off at Italy, as well they might be, for concealing the outbreak of cholera in Naples.

Election cycles really were shorter back then. John Dix, who just received the surprise nomination to be governor of NY, has decided – with the election just five weeks away – to have a vacation before he begins campaigning. “Regarding his campaign plans Mr. Dix remarked: ‘There will be no spectacular prance about the State.’” Fun fact about Dix and vacations (and I’ll save you some anxiety and just tell you now that he will in fact be the next governor): in 1912 he was scheduled to take one aboard the second voyage of the Titanic, had there been one).

Thomas Edison says that there is no such thing as the human soul. So that settles that. Scientifically.

Speaking of science, Charles Brooks, the African explorer, wants the British government to fund an expedition into the Rhodesia swamps, because he hears tell that there are dinosaurs there, possibly diplodocus, beside which an elephant “looks like a small cat.” Also there’s a race of copper-colored people. And, um, unicorns. And, er, dragons.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Confidence man

Silvio Berlusconi wins another vote of confidence.

He followed it up with a speech to the Italian Senate in which he took credit for persuading Bush to bail out the banks, persuading Obama to negotiate a nuclear treaty with Russia, and persuading Putin not to conquer Georgia in 2008, thus saving President Saakashvili being “hanged from the highest tree.”

Caption contest!

Today -100: October 1, 1910: It’s Icicle-Dix in NY

The under-emotional Barack Obama figure of his day? Henry Stimson says, “I want to overcome the impression which I am told is current among newspapermen that I am an icicle. I am not an icicle.” He says the impression arose because the public has hitherto only known him as a US district attorney.

And the vote (of Tammany Boss Charles Murphy) is in: the Democratic nominee for governor of New York is one John Alden Dix, nephew of a previous governor and Civil War general of the same name. Like Stimson, he’s pretty obscure and has never held elective office, though he did run for lt. governor in 1908 (the term for state offices like governor was two years). Dix had to have his arm twisted to run, and his wife pleaded with him in tears not to.

Here’s how it worked at the D. party convention: yesterday I said that there were 14 named candidates for governor. But then Boss Murphy made his choice of Dix and the others all dropped out except for one joker, Congressman William Salzer, who insisted his name be put forward and lost 434 to 16. Murphy’s choices for all the other offices were put through “by acclamation.” Oddly enough, one plank in the party platform is direct primary elections.

Artist Winslow Homer dies.