Monday, February 28, 2011

Mercenaries & thugs

Hillary Clinton accuses Qaddafi of using “mercenaries and thugs” against protesters. Or as we call them, at least when they’re caught shooting people in Lahore, “our diplomats.”

She was lukewarm about the idea of Qaddafi going into exile because “accountability must be obtained for what he has done.” Again, unlike “our diplomats” or any other employee of the US government.

Also, Hillary, when you’re accusing someone of using excessive force, maybe you shouldn’t say about the US’s possible response that “nothing is off the table.”

Qaddafi, meanwhile, says that all the Libyan people love him and there have been no protests in Tripoli. So that’s okay then.

Grossest anti-Qaddafi chant: “The blood of martyrs won’t go to waste.”

Today -100: February 28, 1911: Of historiography

There is a furore in Virginia over the use in a mandatory history class at Roanoke College of Rev. Henry William Elson’s A History of the United States, which discusses how slave-owners used to fuck their female slaves (the NYT article quotes the relevant passage). Parents are ordering their daughters not to attend the class.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

South Dakota’s new abortion law

I’m reading South Dakota’s new law to make women seeking abortions jump through hoops.

A woman with an unwanted pregnancy – or as the act puts it, “a pregnant mother considering termination of her relationship with her child by an abortion” – must go to a “pregnancy help center” (described in the act as having a central mission of helping “pregnant mothers” “maintain and keep their relationship with their unborn children”) for “counseling,” that is, to receive information she does not want about help she could receive if she didn’t have an abortion. By the way, the “problem” the bill claims to be addressing is that “In the overwhelming majority of cases, abortion surgery and medical abortions are scheduled for a pregnant mother without the mother first meeting and consulting with a physician or establishing a traditional physician-patient relationship.” Yes, South Dakota, that would be because you drove almost every abortion provider out of the state.

Also, the law claims, abortions are currently scheduled “without a medical or social assessment concerning the appropriateness [!!!] of such a procedure or whether the pregnant mother’s decision is truly voluntary, uncoerced, and informed”.

It asserts that “Such practices are contrary to the best interests of the pregnant mother and her child and there is a need to protect the pregnant mother’s interest in her relationship with her child and her health by passing remedial legislation”. See? they’re just protecting her interests.

Like the Oklahoma law of 2009, which claimed that the need to prevent sex-selection abortions required that abortion-seekers be asked loads of intrusive questions and their answers be put on the internet, South Dakota is also deeply concerned with women’s motives, asserting that doctors have a “common law duty to determine that the physician’s patient’s consent is voluntary and uncoerced and informed”. Which is why they need to be sent to pregnancy help centers to be coerced and misinformed.

The doctor, like the woman, must jump through time-wasting hoops, like meeting the woman “physically and personally” to assess not just her medical but also her “personal circumstances,” determining whether her decision to “submit to an abortion is the result of any coercion, subtle or otherwise.” Do they do subtle in South Dakota? Reading the language of this thing, I tend to doubt it. The doctor shall demand to know the age of the father and “shall determine whether any disparity in the age between the mother and father is a factor in creating an undue influence or coercion.”

Then the doctor has to send her to one of those centers, which will also cross-examine her for signs of coercion. The patient must then give the doctor “a written statement that she obtained a consultation with a pregnancy help center, which sets forth the name and address of the pregnancy help center, the date and time of the consultation, and the name of the counselor at the pregnancy help center with whom she consulted”. I’ll get back to this in a minute.

The state will maintain a list of pregnancy help centers, which for some reason seem to escape from the level of scrutiny and regulation imposed on doctors, or indeed any scrutiny or regulation at all (“Nothing in this Act may be construed to impose any duties or liability upon a pregnancy help center”) (such as a requirement that its counselors have any medical knowledge or indeed any training at all, or that they tell the truth). However, any center on the list must have as one of their “principal missions... to educate, counsel, and otherwise assist women to help them maintain their relationship with their unborn children”. And they can’t perform abortions, be affiliated with anyone who does, refer women for abortions, or have ever referred women for abortions since 2008. Yeah, those are definitely the people to keep a pregnant woman safe from coercion.

While the pregnancy help centers are supposed to determine if the woman is being coerced, they are “under no obligation to communicate with the abortion provider in any way,” even if they see signs of coercion, and are “under no obligation to submit any written or other form of confirmation that the pregnant mother consulted with the pregnancy help center.” Presumably because the centers which the legislators most want pregnant women to go to would refuse to cooperate in any way with satanic abortion mills.

If the doctor doesn’t follow the act’s provisions, any patient who has had an abortion can sue him/her for $10,000 plus attorney’s fees, plus any damages that “the woman or other survivors of the deceased unborn child may be entitled to receive under any common law or statutory provisions”. In such court cases, there will be a rebuttable presumption that if the doctor had made her jump through all the hoops, she would have decided not to have an abortion. If the court decides that someone coerced the woman, there will be a nonrebuttable presumption that she would have decided not to have an abortion.

Fortunately for pregnant women who don’t want to go to a “pregnancy help center” to have someone try to talk them out of their decision, the only real requirement the law puts on a patient is that she give the doctor a written statement that she went to a center, not that she actually go there. There is no enforcement in this act that applies to the patient. So my advice to them, as it was with the Oklahoma law, is to lie. Pick a center off the list at random, tell your doctor that you went there Tuesday and spoke with Susie. Lie, it’s an appropriate, ethical and legal response to this coercive, intrusive, obnoxious law.

Today -100: February 27, 1911: Of truces and holidays

There are reports that the Mexican government has made approaches to the rebels for a truce.

Fox News -100, or its yellow press equivalent, is all over this story: Milwaukee’s socialist mayor, Emil Seidel, recognizes Labor Day as a holiday, but kept his office open on Washington’s Birthday. The NYT does agree that there are too many damn holidays. We’re not like those lazy Mexican peons, people!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What I learned about Thurgood Marshall

from the HBO one-man play about him with Laurence Fishburne: his first wife was named “Buster,” his second wife was named Cissy.


Today -100: February 26, 1911: Of extreme hobble gowns, despots, and lynchings

Pope Pius X comes out against various fashionable forms of women’s dress, including – and I have no idea what any of these somewhat alarming terms mean – the jupe-culotte, pneumonia blouses, harem skirts, sheath robes, and hobble gowns. He writes, “The fashions of these women – women, not ladies – would have had a most unfavorable judgment from pagan Roman matrons. ... In the old Roman days the demi-monde was publicly marked; but now even young women called ladies so dress that one class is mistaken for the other.” I think he’s saying those clothes make them look like whores.

The Socialist Party holds a women’s suffrage meeting in Carnegie Hall. The Times just can’t refrain from mentioning the clothing of the meeting’s chair, Anita Block (“a gown of the extreme ‘hobble’ variety”).

Norway will allow women to occupy state offices. Well, except for the Cabinet. And the military. And the diplomatic service. And the Church.

Lorin Collins, until two months ago a justice on the Panama Supreme Court (the Canal Zone’s Supreme Court, I assume), and before that Republican speaker of the house in the Illinois legislature, says that Taft is acting as a despot in Panama: “The president’s word, not the law, governs all and everything.”

Two negroes are lynched in Warrenton, Georgia.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Today -100: February 25, 1911: Of civil wars, racial/religious exclusion, trouser skirts, Le Juif Déserteur, and the Lusitania

Peace negotiations over the Honduran civil war are taking place on board the US warship Tacoma. The elected president Miguel Davila offered to resign in the interests of peace, if rebel former president Gen. Bonilla, who Davila correctly accuses of being an agent of the United Fruit Company, also withdraws as candidate for the post. So a temporary president might be appointed by... American special representative Thomas Dawson.

The Senate takes a break from making sure that Japanese laborers will continue to be excluded from the US under the new treaty with Japan (now ratified) to consider a resolution in favor of abrogating the 1832 treaty with Russia because of its exclusion of American citizens who are Jewish.

Parisian men have expressed their disapproval of the new fashion of trouser-skirts (trousers skirt, the NYT calls them) by mobbing and throwing eggs at women seen wearing them. French newspapers have been printing medical opinions for and against the style.

The fight over Henri Bernstein’s play “Après Mois” continues in Paris. Last night the police had to storm one of the theatre’s boxes, which had been barricaded from the inside by five Camelots du Roi in possession of car horns. When the Camelots were ejected, there were cries of “Down with the Jews” from their compatriots. That was during the first act. The second act was marked by the release of a flock of doves. Bernstein has written to Prime Minister Briand asking that the president of the Camelots, Lucien Lacour, be temporarily released from prison so that he and Bernstein can duel. Lacour is serving a sentence for slapping the same Prime Minister Briand (Lacour was elected president of the Camelots while in prison in honor of that act).

“The Cunarder Lusitania arrived late yesterday afternoon after one of the roughest voyage [sic] across the Atlantic she ever has experienced.” But not the roughest she will ever experience.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today -100: February 24, 1911: Of Teddy and the women, Japanese exclusion, and Le Juif Déserteur

In Chicago, Theodore Roosevelt announces his support for women’s suffrage.

The Tafties reassure California that even under the new treaty with Japan, there won’t be any Japanese immigration, because Japan itself will continue to restrict emigration. Some Californian politicians are not reassured, though Gov. Hiram Johnson says, “California wants exclusion. President Taft says we will get it. That is enough for me.”

Members of the monarchist (and more or less proto-fascist) Camelots du Roi have been disrupting performances of Henri Bernstein’s play “Après Mois” at the Comédie-Française in Paris with shouts, car horns, whistles, etc. Everyone’s a critic. Actually, their problem is less with the content of the play than with Bernstein’s Jewishness and his desertion from the military as a young man. Newspapers have been attacking each other over the play, and many duel challenges have been issued, including several to and from Bernstein.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Guess who wants to start a war with Libya? No, go on, guess.

John McCain & Joe Lieberman, who you will be scared to hear are in the middle of a diplomatic tour of the Middle East, issued a statement about Libya yesterday, calling for “a no-fly zone to stop the Qaddafi regime’s use of airpower to attack Libyan civilians.” Obviously such a thing could only be enforced by a military force ready and willing to shoot down Libyan planes.

Today -100: February 23, 1911: Of annexation, and danger to our citizens, to our industrial development, and to our civilization1

The Canadian Parliament declares unanimously that Canada should not be annexed by the United States.

The California state senate unanimously demands that the US Senate reject the new US-Japanese treaty, calling the omission of a provision allowing the US to exclude Japanese immigrants “fraught with so much danger to our citizens, to our industrial development, and to our civilization.” The new governor, progressive Hiram Johnson, refuses to comment: “I don’t desire to discuss it.” Wimp.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not to be confused with Ram Dass

“Pourmecoffee” on Twitter: “Rahm Emanuel wins Chicago Mayor. You may know him from previous job, trying to please Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman.”

So winning the votes of corpses is not a new experience for him.

A revolutionary from tents

Libya’s leader, Muammar Qocksucker (sometimes spelled Ghocksucker, Khacksukker, etc etc), went on tv to proclaim that he will “die a martyr” and “fight until the last drop of my blood.” A couple of days ago his son promised to “fight to the last bullet.” If only the last drop of the “colonel’s” blood leaked out as the last bullet thudded into his body, this could still have a happy ending.

In fact, he insisted that he hadn’t ordered “one bullet to be fired” yet, but “when I do, everything will burn.” So we have that to look forward to.

He declared himself “a fighter, a revolutionary from tents”. “Muammar is leader of the revolution until the end of time,” he predicted, and called on the people of Libya to come out and beat up the protesters.

He denounced protesters as “cockroaches,” “rats” and “mercenaries” “serving the devil,” as inspired by “bearded men” and as being “drug-fuelled, drunken and duped” (not necessarily in that order). He said, “Muammar Qaddafi is history, resistance, liberty, glory, revolution” (he personally wrote Libya’s official thesaurus). If only he had stopped after the first four words.

Today -100: February 22, 1911: Of peers, dancing in Flushing, the black line, and running over dogs

British Tory Party leader Balfour says he will consent to removing the House of Lords’ veto power only if any measure of Irish Home Rule is submitted to a popular referendum.

Irish Nationalist MPs will boycott George V’s coronation ceremonies.

The Taft admin has sprung a proposed treaty with Japan on a Senate that evidently didn’t know it was being negotiated. It’s much like the expiring 1894 treaty but leaves out the provision requiring Japan to accept American racial exclusion laws. The Tafties want it ratified quickly, hoping the Californian delegation won’t provoke the usual racist agitation while the lucrative 1915 Pacific-Panama Exposition can still be taken away from San Francisco.

The Flushing Association (an organization of the hoity toity of Flushing)(which would be a great name for a rock band) calls on the Board of Education to eliminate dancing in public schools. It’s not the dancing they object to per se, it’s that black and white pupils might be required to dance... together.

But how do you determine that all-important question, who is white and who is black? “In an endeavor to determine scientifically the race of a child, staff physicians at Johns Hopkins Hospital to-day made an examination of Luella Loftridge, an eleven-year-old girl, who is trying to obtain her freedom from a negro institution in which she has been confined for nearly seven years. The examination, it was said, did not settle the question, and the lawyers for the girl declared that there would be no cessation of the fight for her release. ... The physical characteristics by which physicians are said to be able to detect the presence of negro blood, but which are held by some authorities to be utterly valueless, played a large part in the examination. The main point to be settled – one that has been the subject of unlimited debate for decades – is what can really be considered the line of demarkation between a white person and a negro. In the present case it was stated that all the accepted tests for the presence of negro blood, save one, had failed. That one is the presence of a black line across one of the girl’s fingernails”. Neither Google nor the NYT index shed any light on the subsequent fate of Luella Loftridge.

Playwright Henri Bernstein asked the leading actress in his play “Après Mois” in the Comédie-Française in Paris to wear a trousers skirt. This set off a scandal at the public dress rehearsal (spoiler alert: not the last scandal associated with this performance – keep watching this spot!). The American ambassador was heard to exclaim, “Gee whiz!” The offending garment will no longer be displayed.

A letter to the editor from guest publication The Car in Britain, written by George Bernard Shaw, entering a discussion in that periodical on what to do when one runs over a dog (I’m folding in a follow-up later in the March 15th issue)(um, the squeamish might stop reading at this point). GBS says that he has been in a car, driven by himself or his chauffeur, on 13 occasions when it has killed a dog. In one incident, his driver ran over the dog of an 8-year-old girl. They stopped, but “When the begoggled monster who had just killed her dog approached her, possibly with the intention of continuing his fell work, she went into screaming hysterics”. So he suggests that the most tactful thing to do is “withdraw as rapidly as possible”, although he does confine that advice to dogs: “On the whole, when you kill a human being, stop.” He disagrees with those authors of letters to The Car who point out “that the motorist who runs away loses an opportunity of demonstrating that he is a gentleman, and thereby defeats the main purpose for which, in the opinion of many respectable Englishmen, the universe was created.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Scolding of the Day

Hillary Clinton to Libya: “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed.”

There are days when I think that every public figure is just as batshit insane as Glenn Beck, or at least morally insane, but some of them are just capable of hiding it better. I suspect Hillary has two large blackboards in her office, on one of which there is a list of acceptable bloodshed and on the other a list of unacceptable bloodshed.

Headline of the Day

Back after 2½ days of internet outage. Fucking Earthlink.

But my call is very important to them.

They even asked me to take a survey about the assistance their support associate had just given me.

Without, of course, having actually ever connected me with a support associate.

Fucking Earthlink.

Anyhoo, the Headline of the Day, from the Guardian: “Women Still Face Glass Ceiling.” Maybe they’d achieve more job advancement if they weren’t lying down all the time (facing glass ceiling, geddit?).

Today -100: February 21, 1911: Of beggars, the vote in Mexico, plague, Mormon heretics, and pushing the button

The NYPD has been cracking down on beggars, and the NYT is pleased: “Street beggars are almost always impostors. ... Beggars should be driven from the streets and kept away from all public places. ... Street beggars are undesirable persons.” Don’t know what the Times’s deal is here; maybe the newspaper of choice for the homeless to sleep under was the New York Evening Journal.

Mexican revolutionary leader Francisco Madero is evidently considering introducing an educational qualification for the franchise.

The Chinese government is, under threat from Russia and Japan, finally taking action to combat a major outbreak of bubonic plague (which many Chinese think was deliberately introduced by Russia). Villages in the affected region have been ordered to burn their dead. Garbage is being collected.

The Mormon Church’s Board of Education summons three Brigham Young University professors (in biology, psychology and education) to answer charges of being “modernists” and heretics. Their crime: applying higher criticism to the Old Testament. They are expected to be fired.

Very high tech: President Taft will open the Elks’ carnival in Honolulu by pushing a button in the White House that will send an electrical current all the way to Hawaii, lighting up a clock.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Today -100: February 19, 1911: Of Jack London, E.M. Forster, and the bath tub men

The district attorney in New Orleans indicts Manuel Bonilla, the former president of Honduras who is attempting to overthrow its current government, and his American mercenary general Lee Christmas, on a charge of attempting to smuggle weapons from the US.

There’s a report (or possibly just a rumor) that Jack London has been arrested on the Mexican border for violations of the neutrality laws.

The Sunday book review section rather fails to connect with E.M. Forster’s Howards End, and concludes, “Mr. Forster’s métier would seem to be conventional comedy. ... But he evinces neither power nor inclination to come to grips with any vital human problem.”

The anti-trust case against the “Bath Tub Trust” continues to produce amusing headlines: “Bath Tub Men Seek Immunity.” For crimes against rubber duckies, one imagines.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today -100: February 18, 1911: Of train theft, fine dining, racial covenants, and royal standup

Those Wobblies are forced off the train they hijacked. Only made it as far as Ashland, Ore.

Headline of the Day -100: “Taft to Dine Classmates.” Er, that doesn’t mean Taft will eat his classmates, does it? Does it?

Black people are annoyed at a judge on the District Supreme Court (which I guess is the court with jurisdiction over D.C.) who, when sentencing a black purse-snatcher, said “From the viewpoint of the white women of the National capital, it is not to be tolerated that a colored man should dare to put his hand on one of them, and a man of your color who lays hands on a white woman will not be tolerated if I can help it.”

91 property owners on W 136th Street in NYC, calling themselves the Harlem Real Estate Protective Association, file a covenant in the Hall of Records that none of them will rent or sell to black people (including mulattos, quadroons, or octoroons) for the next 15 years. Tenants will even be restricted from employing more than one servant who is negro, mulatto etc. Somehow this covenant is supposed to be constitutional (and legally binding) because it carefully states that they have nothing against people occupying their premises solely on account of their race, but just want to keep rents up (by keeping blacks out). They claim that colored tenants are being deliberately brought in as part of a real estate speculation/blackmail scheme.

Headline of the Day -100: “LAUGH AT KAISER’S JOKES.; Agricultural Congress Ripples with Merriment as He Talks Farming.” Jokes by Kaiser Wilhelm about farming! Well known as the height of humor -100. Tell us, tell us! Unfortunately... the NYT doesn’t relate a single one of the jokes. I has a sad.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Behind the Curveball

The Guardian: “Colin Powell, the US secretary of state at the time of the Iraq invasion, has called on the CIA and Pentagon to explain why they failed to alert him to the unreliability of a key source behind claims of Saddam Hussein’s bio-weapons capability.”

Because you didn’t ask.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

It all makes sense now

Archeologists prove that ancient Britons were in fact zombies.

Wait. Pale, grayish skin, bad teeth, silly walks, steak and kidney pies, Margaret Thatcher...

Today -100: February 17, 1911: Of reciprocity, bribery, and train theft

Although Secretary of State Knox denied yesterday that the reciprocity treaty with Canada has anything to do with annexing Canada, Rep. William Bennet (R-NY), an opponent of the measure, introduces a spoiling resolution, intended to embarrass the Canadians or something, calling for Taft to begin negotiations with Great Britain on the annexation of Canada by the US.

A former NY state senator turned lobbyist Frank Gardner is being tried for bribing State Sen. Otto Foelker in 1908 to vote against bills banning racetrack gambling (he was brought from his sickbed after an appendectomy and carried in to vote on a stretcher, and the bill was defeated by one vote). Foelker, now a member of Congress, is the chief witness against Gardner and was cross-examined today. His honesty came into question. For example, he took the Regents’ Examination in his late 20s as a prerequisite for being admitted to the bar. The exam was given in the Grand Central Palace. Which entrance did he use? 42nd street. There is no such entrance. “Parlez-vous Français?” Not so much, although he scored 100% in his French exam. He scored 95% in logarithms and 98% in syntax, although on the stand he could not even define either term. In other words, he paid someone to take the test for him, someone currently in jail for taking tests for people. Foelker says the man was just his tutor. Gardner will be acquitted and Foelker’s political career is over.

A bunch of Industrial Workers of the World in Washington state, intending to go to Fresno to “attempt to enforce their alleged right to speak on the streets” (the NYT doesn’t explain what that’s about) steal a train from Southern Pacific. Wobblies were so fucking cool.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Today -100: February 16, 1911: Why English-speaking people are exactly like bees

Mexican Gen. Navarro declares Juarez under martial law, shutting down all businesses, “including saloons and keno games.”

Secretary of State Philander Knox denies that the reciprocity treaty with Canada is a first step towards absorbing Canada into the US: “It is an ethnological fact that political units of the English-speaking people never lose their autonomy. Like bees, they give off their swarms, who set up for themselves independently, but they do not make political combinations among themselves.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

That’s a trick question, right?

At a press conference, his first of 2011, Obama, asked, “If we’re cutting infant formula to poor kids, is that who we are as a people?”

Caption contest

“So it’s just us presidents here – or ‘president’s,’ as the punctuation morons at CNN will probably put it – you can tell me: how many times did you drop Junior on his head as a baby? It had to be at least six, right?”

Today -100: February 15, 1911: Of Juarez and lukewarm water

Mexican federale Gen. Navarro arrives in Juarez with reinforcements (about 1,000 soldiers) from Chihuahua, unopposed by the insurrectos, who seem to be planning to leave Navarro isolated and bottled up in Juarez while they operate freely in the large area of the country he just left undefended. Now, if he tries to move his forces back south, they can easily block him by burning railroad bridges. Nevertheless, the NYT declares for something like the twentieth time that the Mexican Revolution is probably now “a closed incident.”

Johns Hopkins is evidently now using lukewarm water as anaesthesia for most appendectomies.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Mitch McConnell says that Obama’s legislative agenda is “over,” but makes an incredibly generous offer: “to the extent that the president wants to do what we think is right for America, we won’t say ‘no’ simply because there’s an election coming along.”

He isn’t specific, but I’m guessing that Obama’s proposal to let poor people freeze to death is precisely the sort of meeting of the minds on “what we think is right for America” of which Turtle Boy was speaking.

Today -100: February 14, 1911: Of German troubles, and lords

Headline of the Day -100: “German Troubles in Africa.” Evidently there is “the possibility of a renewal of native troubles” in the German colony of South West Africa (Namibia). Poor Germans, always being put to the “trouble” of massacring Herero tribespeople (often described as the first genocide of the twentieth century, 1904-7).

The US issues a warrant for the arrest of Francisco Madero, leader of the Mexican Revolution, for, you know, revolutionary stuff. They think he’s in El Paso.

In Britain, PM Asquith will next week introduce a bill to reduce the current power of the House of Lords to vote down legislation to a mere delaying one (two years) (except for “money bills” relating to taxes, budgets, etc, where they would have no power to reject or amend). Of course since the Veto Bill hasn’t been passed yet, the Tory-dominated House of Lords still has the power to veto the Veto Bill. So Asquith is employing some not-so-subtle blackmail: if they reject it, he will have the king name as many new peers as it takes to change the vote, which would make the lords have to share the red benches with such riffraff as Thomas Hardy, Gilbert Murray, James Barrie and Bertrand Russell (who were on Asquith’s secret list of 249 possible Lord Whositses).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Today -100: February 13, 1911: Of lynchings, head-shaking, and elves

In a letter read out to 3,000 Sunday school classes, President Taft recommends teetotalism.

An 18-year-old black man is lynched in Eufaula, Alabama, for allegedly attacking a white woman.

When the Mexican insurrectos left Mexicali after a brief occupation last month, they said that if the federal government tried to resume collecting customs, they would return and burn down the customs house. It did and they did. American troops looked on from one block away, on the other side of the border.

Elsewhere, though, American soldiers arrested rebel leader Gen. Manuel Casillas as he attempted to cross from the US into Mexico, because he was carrying a rifle.

When asked if he would run for president again in 1912, William Jennings Bryan “sadly shook his head.” Which is not exactly a denial.

China is having a little outbreak of the Plague; Russia closes off border.

NYT Index Typo Alert: It’s not “THIRTY SCHOOL TOPICS.; Questions of Elve Importance Framed for Mothers to Discuss.” It’s “Live Importance.” (Because elves are mostly home-schooled, or sent out to work in Santa’s factories.)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Today -100: February 12, 1911: Of Lincoln, borders, miscegenation, radium, and executions

It is Lincoln’s birthday and, hey, it’s also (nearly) the 50th anniversary of the election of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederacy. The NYT thinks that after all this time “we ought to be willing to leave the civil war to history.” It says that the South is no longer hostile to the North and the “occasional demonstrations of the sectional spirit” are only ginned up in order to pressure the states to keep paying pensions to Confederate veterans. “The new South, full of commercial and industrial energy, will not long pretend to mourn the failure of the Confederacy.” Not long, huh?

At a Lincoln Day speech, Teddy Roosevelt comes out in favor of the direct election of US senators and the president. He also says that “the Republican Party must be not only progressive but sane.” (So how’s that going?)

Congress rejects New Mexico’s demand for a revision of its border with Texas in its favor (the border was set 50 years before, but NM says there was a surveying mistake).

Nevada outlaws marriage between whites and Asians. Any minister or justice of the peace who performs one is henceforth guilty of a misdemeanor.

The Radium Bank in Paris, which I think sends radium out as needed to doctors and hospitals, is using more female porters because of fears that robbers will target the extremely valuable substance, which is after all the elixir of life.

Haiti executes two more rebel generals but promises to stop now after, as the NYT puts it in a sub-head, “Negro Government Informed by Washington That Execution of Prisoners Would Be Improper Act.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hosni goes bye bye

Just yesterday Mubarak was telling his “children” that he wouldn’t leave them, and now he’s buggered off to Sharm el-Shaikh for a packet of cigarettes and I don’t think he’s coming back. Bad daddy, bad daddy!

And what of his promise that, like O.J. looking for the real killer, “I will not relent in harshly punishing those responsible [for the violence against protesters]. I will hold those who persecuted our youth accountable with the maximum deterrent sentences.”

Personally, I’m glad he made the speech he did yesterday instead of the one Little Leon Panetta predicted he’d make, because I’d hate to think of Mubarak leaving with any more shreds of dignity than can possibly be removed from him, or which he can remove from himself by his own obtuse stubbornness.

Today -100: February 11, 1911: Of time, men of wisdom and experience, and Finnish fishermen on floes

France moves its clocks up 9 minutes and 21 seconds, bringing it into line with the rest of Europe – well, the Times says with Belgium, Holland, Spain and... England. Whatever.

Sen. Elihu Root denounces the proposed direct election of US senators as an effort of the people to shirk their responsibility to elect good state legislatures. He also worries about Southern states having power over their senatorial elections, for obvious reasons. And that many “men of wisdom and experience” would not be willing to undertake the work and inconvenience of an election campaign.

Evidently those Finnish fishermen did not drown.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Heads in the Sand

A Los Angeles city councilcritter who wants to mandate condom use in pornographic films says “We can’t keep our heads in the sand any longer.” Although if they did, it would be a pretty weird porn film. Just saying.

CONTEST I’M GOING TO TOTALLY REGRET, I JUST KNOW IT: What should the film’s name be?

Today -100: February 10, 1911: Of wet Alabama and prinking

Alabama is about to end prohibition.

Evidently, Wellesley students “lack prinking.”

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Pursuing their own agenda

A few days ago, Hillary Clinton said, “There are forces at work in any society, particularly one that is facing these kind of challenges, that will try to derail or overtake the process to pursue their own agenda, which is why I think it’s important to follow the transition process announced by the Egyptian government, actually headed by vice-president Omar Suleiman.”

Yeah, it would be terrible if anyone tied to derail the democratization process in Egypt to pursue their own agenda, huh Hillary?

Telegraphing the punch

More news from Britain’s news leader, the Daily Telegraph:

Belgium has been without a government for 8 months. Socialist senator Marleen Temmerman calls “on the spouses of all negotiators to withhold sex until a deal is reached.” A Christian Democrat senator, Catherine Fonck responds, “I don’t want to take part in a sex strike. Politicians are not there to strike, on the contrary, politicians are there arouse the country.” Fonck is of course the Flemish word for a particularly naughty sex act. Okay, maybe it isn’t, but it should be.

The Romanian senate has passed a bill to license witches. They could also be fined or imprisoned if their predictions don’t come true, and would be banned from operating near schools and churches.

A British judge bans a man with an IQ of 48 from having sex.

Finally dispelling the rumors that they are actually the same person, Prime Minister David Cameron and David Hasselhoff meet.

Today -100: February 9, 1911: Of ostentatious watering and Finnish fishermen on floes

Night riders threaten Japanese working in orchards in western Colorado. The Japanese workers leave.

The Mexican minister of war says that the government attaches no importance to “the present seditious outbreaks” and that “Order will be restored within a very short time”. So that’s okay then.

Outside Ciudad Juarez, Orozco has his men “ostentatiously” water their horses (to show that the federales are unwilling to come out and fight).

The leaders of the recent rebellion in Haiti are executed.

Remember the 253 Finnish fishermen who refused to be rescued from an ice floe? Most of them drowned.

Front Page Headline of the Day -100: “Kaiser Has a Cold.”

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Today -100: February 8, 1911: Of planes, sallies, recalls, and the elixir of life

The new Army appropriation bill includes $25,000 to purchase airplanes to patrol the Tex-Mex border to insure against violations of the neutrality laws by either side in the Revolution.

Americans (and Mexican nationals)(and American soldiers) gathered outside El Paso to observe a minor battle in the Mexican Revolution from the safe side of the Rio Grande. After the fight, in which the insurrectos under Pascual Orozco beat the federales into a retreat (there seem to have been no casualties), rebels posed for pictures.

The NYT notes that the rebels have no female camp followers but the federal troops do, because the Mexican Army has no organized commissary system. Rather, it gives a small sum to each soldier, who hands it over to a woman who forages and cooks for him, occasionally gets accidentally killed in battle, and strips the bodies of the dead. (However the NYT headline “Orozco Beats Back Sally From Juarez” does not refer to one of those camp followers.)

Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill loses the recall election, which is I believe the first recall of a mayor. The NYT attributes the result to women voters, for no good reason that I can see, although it is the case women did not yet have the franchise in Washington when Gill was elected last March. The first woman ever to vote in the state of Washington was a Mrs. Rebecca Hall, aged 80.

A French veterinarian claims to have discovered the secret of rejuvenation, the elixir of life, at least in the horses he’s experimented on: injections of radium.

Monday, February 07, 2011

There are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt

Before the Super Bowl, Barack Obama made his famous dip. No, sorry, he was interviewed by a famous dip.

Bill O’Reilly asked him when Mubarak was leaving.

“Only he knows what he’s going to do. But here’s what we know: is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was.” Unlike Mubarak’s hair.

WHEN HAS IT EVER MATTERED WHAT THE EGYPTIAN PEOPLE WANT? “The Egyptian people want freedom. They want free and fair elections. They want a representative government. They want a responsive government.”

WHAT THE UNITED STATES CAN’T ABSOLUTE DO: “Well, you know, ultimately, the United States can’t absolute dictate – But what we can do, Bill, is we can say that, ‘The time is now for you to start making a change in that country.’” Again, and I can’t believe Obama needs to be told this, Mubarak is an illegitimate, unwanted dictator and he has no moral authority to make any change in Egypt except removing his ass from it.

NOT SUSTAINABLE: “But we’ve also said consistently said to him both publicly and privately is that trying to suppress your own people is something that is not sustainable.” 30 years and counting. It’s not the pyramids, but 30 years seems pretty damned sustainable to me and probably to Mubarak.

The Muslim Brotherhood “don’t have majority support” and “there are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt”.

He denies wanting to redistribute wealth.

He denies moving to the center.

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM FOR HIM: “The biggest problem for me is being in the bubble. It’s very hard to escape. You know, you can’t go to the corner...” Because bubbles don’t have corners.

O’Reilly broke the news to Obama that people hate him. Well, replied Obama, “The people who dislike you don’t know you.” O’Reilly interrupted to take issue with the word dislike: “They hate you.”

WHAT HE KNOWS: “Oh, I know football, man.”

Today -100: February 7, 1911: Of income tax, spies, fishermen on the ice, and race riots

The NYT opposes the proposed 16th Amendment for an income tax (whose ratification is about to be considered by the NY Legislature) as an idea from a bygone age “when it was still thought that the Government ought to do almost everything for everybody with the taxes which other people would pay. The time has arrived when people generally are preferring lower costs of living to the hopes of beneficence through taxation”. The Times suggests (rightly, for all I know) that the Amendment was part of a deal to buy votes for the Republican tariff bill.

The Spy Bill passes the House. It would make it illegal to make drawings or photographs onboard battleships or in navy yards or forts without permission, or to sell such information to foreign governments.

Russia adopts mandatory elementary-school education.

The NJ Legislature is considering Governor Woodrow Wilson’s reform proposals. Some of them: Direct primaries for governor & congresscritters. No one to be allowed to run for the Legislature unless they pledge to vote for whoever receives the most votes at primaries for US Senator. Ballots to contain the names of all candidates, replacing whatever system they have now.

12 black men and 3 black women are beaten and threatened with lynching during a race riot in Chicago by white people who objected to them moving into their neighborhood.

253 Finnish fishermen are swept out to sea on an ice floe during a gale. When ships are sent to rescue them, they refuse. Don’t ask me why.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Today -100: February 6, 1911: Of unrelief and beaten beaters

The Mexican government’s relief force arrives at Ciudad Juarez. Except... the soldiers had to ditch their train 10 miles outside of Juarez and by the time they reached the town, half of them were dead or wounded and they had abandoned all their supplies, including field guns, to fall into the hands of the rebels.

Oregon has abolished, after four years, the public whipping of wife-beaters.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Today -100: February 5, 1911: Of smoking, pulp, lions, auras, exercise, and dirty pilferers of words

The secretary of the Anti-Cigarette League goes to meet Massachusetts Governor Eugene Foss – who is a vice president of the League – to discuss the serious problem of boys riding in the smoking cars of elevated trains, and she catches Foss... smoking. Foss said later he had no recollection of having become the vice president of the Anti-Cigarette League. It’s all very mysterious.

Headline of the Day -100: “Muddling the Pulp Question.” Something to do with the reciprocity agreement with Canada, so who cares, I just like the sound of it: Muddling the pulp question.

The brother of British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey is mauled by a lion.

The Persian Finance Minister, Sani ed Dowleh, is assassinated on the streets of Tehran by two Armenians. There has been much debate over what nationality of financial advisers the ministry should hire. Parliament just voted to hire five Americans to reorganize the country’s fiscal system, but Dowleh had wanted Frenchmen, and some wanted Swiss.

Dr. W. J. Kilner has photographed the human “aura.”

President Taft meets with 1908 Olympics gold-medal-winning runner John Hayes, and offers his views on exercise: he believes in it, but “great care should be used so as not to overdo it and destroy the good effects.” No one will ever accuse Taft of not taking great care not to overdo it and destroy the good effects.

An Ohio newspaper held a poll to select ten “beauties” to send to Europe. They are in France now. France is not impressed.

Rep. Robert Macon (D-Ark.), the subject of an article in the Washington Times about his failure to get changes in an agriculture bill, called the author of that article a “willful, deliberate liar, a dirty pilferer of words, a contemptible little ass, and a falsifier of facts” on the floor of the House. The author approached him, “at the same time removing his eyeglasses,” and said, “You have called me a liar and other things. I wish to say to you that you are the liar.” Sadly, they were prevented from duking it out.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Making the right decision

Obama (alongside the Canadian harper, Stephen Prime Minister) spoke about Egypt again.

CRYSTAL: “[w]e continue to be crystal-clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis. In recent days, we’ve seen violence and harassment erupt on the streets of Egypt”. Passive voice. It erupted. Like some sort of natural phenomenon for which no human agency is responsible.

UNACCEPTABLE: “So we are sending a strong and unequivocal message: Attacks on reporters are unacceptable. Attacks on human rights activists are unacceptable. Attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable.”

SINCE WHEN? “The Egyptian government has a responsibility to protect the rights of its people.”

CLEAR: “It’s also clear that there needs to be a transition process that begins now. That transition must initiate a process that respects the universal rights of the Egyptian people and that leads to free and fair elections.” A transition. That initiates. A process. A process that leads to stuff.

And if you thought that was roundabout, see how many words you evidently need to use when you’re not quite willing to come out and say that Mubarak should resign:
Now, I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country. He is proud, but he’s also a patriot. And what I’ve suggested to him is, is that he needs to consult with those who are around him in his government. He needs to listen to what’s being voiced by the Egyptian people and make a judgment about a pathway forward that is orderly, but that is meaningful and serious. And I believe that -- he’s already said that he’s not going to run for reelection. This is somebody who’s been in power for a very long time in Egypt. Having made that psychological break, that decision that he will not be running again, I think the most important for him to ask himself, for the Egyptian government to ask itself, as well as the opposition to ask itself, is how do we make that transition effective and lasting and legitimate. ... And as I said before, once the President himself announced that he was not going to be running again, and since his term is up relatively shortly, the key question he should be asking himself is, how do I leave a legacy behind in which Egypt is able to get through this transformative period. And my hope is, is that he will end up making the right decision.

Today -100: February 4, 1911: Of sending in the Marines, pastors & leopards

American naval forces have landed in Honduras in order to force a settlement between the government and the insurrectionists, evidently at the request of President Miguel Davila, who offered in return a deal over Honduras’s debt.

More US cavalry is (are?) being moved to the border with Mexico at the behest of the Mexican government, to stop the revolutionaries passing freely back and forth between the US and Mexico.

Headline of the Day -100: “Pastor Fights a Leopard.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Chaos, chaos I tell you

Mubarak: “If I resign today, there will be chaos.” He claims he told Obama, “You don’t understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now.”

And it’s actually a great personal sacrifice for him to remain dictator because he’s “fed up” with it.

Of the violence by his thugs (who state tv are referring to as “pro-stability demonstrators”): “I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other.” It’s true, because that would imply that the anti-Mubarak demonstrators were fighting back.

Headline of the Day: “Egypt’s Vice-President Complains Rioting Is Bad for Business.” He also said that those responsible for the violence would be punished, which should be easy because he’s got their pay stubs, right?

And, in news you can use from the Daily Telegraph, parrots are left-handed.


In 1911, a popular uprising in Mexico threatened the corrupt, repressive 30-year rule of an octogenarian president. Eventually, Porfirio Díaz announced that he would not stand for reelection, but would serve out the remainder (5½ years) of his term. Then he said he would resign, but only “when, according to the dictates of my conscience, I am sure that my resignation will not be followed by anarchy.” Compare and contrast. (Mubarak two days ago: “I am now absolutely determined to finish my work for the nation in a way that ensures its safekeeping.”)

Díaz, of course, fled the country and lived out the last four years of his life in luxury in France.

Today -100: February 3, 1911: Of votes, booms, and burros

The California state assembly votes for women’s suffrage to be put to a popular vote (in November). And in the state senate, an amendment to the state constitution is proposed which would remove the voting rights of American-born children of fathers who were ineligible for citizenship (i.e., who were Chinese or Japanese immigrants).

Warrants are issued over that dynamite explosion in Jersey City (death toll is 24 to 30), including for officials of the Central Railroad of New Jersey and for the owner of the lighter on which the initial explosion occurred. Evidently you need a permit to store and transport explosives. There’s a $25 fine for that.

The Mexican rebels are threatening to bombard Juarez if it does not surrender by 3:00 today. Juarez police blew up the Federal gunpowder supply to keep it out of rebel hands and the railroad tracks were dynamited to prevent rebels coming in from the south.

Rhyming Headline of the Day -100: “Woman Insane on a Train.”

The reciprocal tariff treaty with Canada is still a hot topic. Do we care? We do not. Are we reading an editorial entitled “Reciprocity Is Reciprocal”? We are not.

Baseball news: if the Chicago White Sox finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the American League, each player will get a burro.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Today -100: February 2, 1911: Of commutations, bigamists, and booms

Taft commutes the sentence of Fred Warren, the editor of the newspaper Appeal to Reason, jailed for announcing a “reward” for the return to Kentucky of its fugitive former governor (Warren was making a point about a Supreme Court decision that it was perfectly okay to kidnap labor leaders and carry them across state lines to put them on trial). Taft also reduced Warren’s fine from $1,500 to $100. Taft insists that instead of “feeding his vanity by treating him seriously,” Warren should be “treated with ridicule”.

Edward Mylius, distributor of a British republican (anti-monarchist) newspaper printed in Paris, is imprisoned for 12 months for a report in the paper that George V was a bigamist. Which he wasn’t. It was shown in court that in 1890, when the story said George was secretly married in Malta, he wasn’t actually in Malta. The king did not appear in court, claiming it would be unconstitutional to do so, but had a letter read out. Mylius objected that he was being denied his right to question his accuser and that there was not even proof that King George was at present alive.

All of New York is shaken by an explosion of 25 tons of dynamite in Jersey City, some on a tug boat, some on a freight car (a chain reaction). At least 24 dead, hundreds injured, including some at Ellis Island, where the windows were blown out, millions in property damage. Buildings were rocked in Manhattan. I’m always surprised by the level of gruesome detail the NYT was willing to publish: “The head and arm of a stevedore near the end of the demolished pier hung in the torn rigging of the nearest ship.”

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Today -100: February 1, 1911: Of licenses and dashes

The mayor of McKeesport, PA, visited the house where still-blind Margaret Shipley has been staying, suggesting that her hosts force her to end her fast or else. Shipley blames her continued sightlessness on having lacked sufficient faith.

The Maryland DMV refused to issue licenses for President Taft’s four automobiles, mostly because he failed to pay the fee. The governor ordered the DMV to issue the licenses without charge, as a courtesy. And another NYT Index Typo: that’s “Maryland Governor”, not “Mary and Governor.”

Speaking of typography, Samuel Gompers may be charged with contempt of the Supreme Court for a boycott of the Bucks Stove and Range Company, in which case a document written by him on the subject of boycotts and injunctions might be entered into evidence, containing the phrase (this is literal) “Go to —.” The Supreme Court, the NYT notes, may have to rule on the interpretation of a dash.