Saturday, April 30, 2011


Yesterday, Qaddafi called for a cease-fire and negotiations with NATO. Today, NATO killed his son and several of his grandchildren. A simple “No” would have sufficed.

Today -100: April 30, 1911: Of tunnels, hanging, and hobble skirts

The Colorado Legislature votes to dig a tunnel through the Rockies. The NYT seems to think that the most important thing about this story is that the bill passed a close vote in the lower house due to the votes of two women legislators.

Minnesota abolishes the death penalty.

The NYT updates the situation in Mexico: the government is fuuuuuuuucccccckkkkked. The military is losing or on the defense everywhere. “The patriotic efforts of the members of Congress to arouse the conservative sentiment throughout the county to the support of the Government is largely without effect, because most of those gentlemen have no local standing or influence. They have spent their whole lives in the capital. The case of Deputy Bulnes is a typical one. Although he has represented Lower California for twenty years, he has never even visited his constituency.”

The queen of England has banned hobble skirts and other tight skirts from court. Not that you could curtsy in one anyway.

Friday, April 29, 2011

It’s the only logical explanation

Last month, doctors in Libya claimed to have found Viagra in the pockets of some of Qaddadi’s soldiers. And you know what that means, don’t you? Don’t you? Well, UN Ambassador Susan Rice does. This week she told the UN Security Council that Qaddafi is giving his troops Viagra to encourage them to engage in mass rape.

(Asked to back up the Viagra claim or to offer any evidence of sexual assaults by Libyan troops, State Dept spokesmodel Jake Sullivan declined.)

Ah, Texas

The Voter ID bill Texas Gov. Rick “Good Hair” Perry wants won’t let people use college photo ID cards, but will let them use handgun licenses.

Today -100: April 29, 1911: The philosophy of what now?

Taylorism. Frederick Taylor holds a demonstration of “scientific management” at Carnegie Hall. He showed how 30 girls in a bicycle factory can do the work of 100 in less time. Taylor bemoans the short-sighted trade unions for opposing putting 70 girls out of work through scientific management. For example – and watch out for one of the greatest phrases in the history of the English language – “When my friend [Frank Bunker] Gilbreth worked out his philosophy of bricks he ran against the unions.”

Headline: “Russia Grants Privilege to Jews.” Recently Russia’s been expelling Jews from the cities and restricting their education, so it’s good to see them being granted an entirely new privilege. Jews in Siberia will be allowed to use the curative waters of Minusinsk for up to two months, provided they have a medical certificate and don’t engage in trade while they are taking the cure.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wait, which sports stars?

So the British will be voting on whether to hold elections under the Alternative Vote system. The Tories, currently running Britain despite having received just 36% of the votes in the last general election, like the current system just fine and say that AV, in which voters rank candidates according to preference, is simply too confusing for the poor, stupid British people (Jimmy Carr points out that AV is just basically a game of fuck-marry-kill) (although he called it shag-marry-kill, which is just adorable).

Anyway, I got an email from the Conservative Party chairthing which has this convincing sentence: “So if, like me, like Churchill, like many leading historians, sports stars and scientists, you know that AV would be a disaster for our democracy...”

(The other big news story in Britain is that at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron adopted a line from an insurance commercial and told Labour MP Angela Eagle, who had just pointed out that he had told an untruth, “calm down, dear.”) (Cameron says the furore over this proves that socialists have no sense of humor.)

Today -100: April 28, 1911: Of reapportionment, a Jew in Egypt, the value of fingers and toes, dinners, and bosh

The House votes on a reapportionment bill, expanding the House from 391 to 433 (435 if and when Arizona and New Mexico become states). That would be one rep per 211,877 people. This is the last time the size of the House was increased, as was done in every previous decade (every previous decade also saw the accession of new states). (Historical oddity: after the 1920 census, there was no reapportionment. Not sure why; check back here in ten years.)

Reapportionment of districts will be decided by the states as usual; the D’s voted down an amendment to have it done by the Department of Commerce and Labor and another one which would have allowed for referenda for those states so inclined. Republicans from Democratic-dominated Kentucky and Missouri complain that gerrymandered Democratic congressional districts in their states have much smaller populations than Republican ones, and propose several amendments to correct that, all of which fail.

Rep. Victor Berger, Socialist from Wisconsin, proposed a joint resolution for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Senate, which he described as “an obstructive and useless body, a menace to the liberties of the people and an obstacle to social growth; a body many of the members of which are the representatives neither of a State nor of its people, but solely of certain predatory combinations”. Berger may be disciplined for violating the House rule against telling the truth about criticizing the Senate.

France announces that its military intervention in Morocco is necessary to protect foreigners at Fez, re-establish order, and protect the sovereignty of the sultan. Isn’t it nice of them to help out like that?

In other North African colonial news, Britain is rumored to be planning to send Sir Mathew Nathan to Egypt as its new Resident. Or as the NYT puts it, “Jew May Rule Egypt.”

Headline of the Day -100: “Value of Fingers and Toes.” In Lake County Superior Court, an employee at the Standard Steel Car Works who lost four fingers in an industrial accident was awarded $100, and another man got $500 for five toes.

President Taft is visiting New York City. Last night he attended a dinner of newspaper publishers, a dinner of Methodists, and a dinner in honor of retired Congressman J. Van Vechten Olcott.

Headline Expletive of the Day -100: “Bosh, Says Taft of Annexation.” At, I believe, his second dinner of the evening. He again denied plans to annex Canada. Canada must be feeling either relieved or kind of insulted by the constant repetitions of how the US is just not that into them.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Today -100: April 27, 1911: Of unwanted colonies, unwanted immigrants, and robes

The Dutch seize an American possession, Palmas Island, part of the Philippines. But the US doesn’t plan to object because the island is considered valueless. Don’t know what the 50 or so residents of the island feel about that. Hurt, is my guess. The issue went to arbitration in the 1920s, when Palmas was awarded to the Netherlands. Today it is still part of Indonesia, although closer geographically to the Philippines.

Canada may start banning the immigration of African-Americans on the grounds that they can’t adapt to the cold climate and are therefore likely to become public charges.

Headline of the Day -100: “Kitchener in Robes at Last.” Lord Kitchener takes his seat in the House of Lords for the first time since being ennobled 12 years ago.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Daily Telegraph headlines containing phrases that sound like euphemisms for masturbation, but aren’t

From today’s paper. Those phrases highlighted in red for the masturbation-euphemism impaired.

“Menzies Campbell Accuses David Cameron of Stoking AV Row.”

“Key Chernobyl Officer Criticises Japan’s Fukushima Efforts.”

“Women Join Morris Men.”

Clobbering Clegg is Too Harsh a Punishment.”

Royal Wedding: Heavy Rain Forecast for Big Day.”

From bias free of every kind, this trial must be tried

ProtectMarriage, the people who brought us Prop. 8, California’s 2008 anti-gay-marriage initiative, are demanding that the ruling against the proposition be set aside on the grounds of the judge’s bias, not because he’s gay – no they certainly would never suggest such a thing – but because he’s in a long-term relationship with another dude. If Judge Walker were having one-night stands with a different pickup from a leather bar every night, they would be okay with that. And a little bit aroused.

ProtectMarriage do not say in their appeal whether judges in heterosexual marriages, or indeed in long-term heterosexual relationships that might lead to marriage, should also recuse themselves.

A very Hope-y Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Another year, another “Armenian Remembrance Day,” the term Obama uses for Armenian GENOCIDE Remembrance Day. Again, he uses the words massacre and atrocity, and the Armenian term Meds Yeghern (great tragedy), but not genocide, never genocide, and again he uses the passive voice: “In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death”. By whom? He does not say. Possibly by a Martian invasion. Possibly by leprechauns. He talks about the need to learn from history, but he’s awfully vague about what that history is.

My favorite euphemism for genocide – “common history”: “I support the courageous steps taken by individuals in Armenia and Turkey to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history.”

And what should they do after this dialogue? They should “rebuild bridges of understanding toward a better tomorrow.” So get right on that, guys.

Naturally, Turkey complained about the mere acknowledgment that Armenians died, saying that Obama “distorts the historical facts. ... One-sided statements that interpret controversial historical events by a selective sense of justice prevent understanding of the truth.” Damn that selective sense of justice, always getting Obama into trouble and hilarious hijinks!

Today -100: April 25, 1911: Of colonies and kidnapping

France is using some unrest in Fez as a pretext to land troops and turn Morocco into a French colony.

Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney W J Ford is arrested in Indianapolis for kidnapping for his part in the apprehension of John McNamara for the LA Times bombing, and they’re looking for the LA Times’s private detective as well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Today -100: April 24, 1911: Of noisy deaf schools

The terms of the armistice in Mexico: all combatants stay where they are, not reinforcing their positions; work on fortifications, railroad repair, etc to be suspended; provisions can be brought into besieged Juarez (but not booze).

The Mexican rebels cut the last remaining railroad route to the US, because it was being used to move government troops. The rebels had an understanding with the railroad company that it was not to do such a thing if it wanted to keep operating.

Disappointing Headline of the Day -100: “Too Noisy in Deaf School.” A couple of employees like to party.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It’s official

Syria hates sad people.

I never had anything new

Michigan state senator Bruce Caswell proposes that the $79 a year the state spends on clothing for children in foster care only be spent in thrift shops for second-hand clothing, saying that when he was a kid, “I never had anything new.”

Poor Bruce. I propose that we rectify this by all chipping in to get Bruce Caswell everything, and I mean everything, new in the Sears catalog.

Inserted anally.

Today -100: April 23, 1911: Of armistices, trucks, dirigibles, and cigarettes

Madero agrees to an armistice, without Díaz having agreed to resign. Madero is now denying that he ever demanded that. Whether all of Madero’s lieutenants actually consider the armistice binding on them is another matter.

The NYT notes that Madero has been pretty much out of the loop, not having seen a newspaper in his camp for a month, and has just learned, for example, of the negotiations between his father, the Mexican ambassador to the US, and Finance Minister Limantour.

Rebels capture Acapulco.

NY has a parade of trucks. The article has pictures of 1911 oil trucks, armored bank cars, dump trucks, mail wagons etc., if you’re into that sort of thing.

However, horses were still in big use in commercial deliveries (but losing ground: another article compares the cost per mile and finds autos substantially cheaper), which is doubtless why horse theft is bigger in 1911 New York City than in the Far West.

Germans are planning to build a really, really big dirigible, capable of carrying 200 passengers, with cabins, a promenade, dining saloon, an onboard newspaper, and parachutes for every passenger. They will carry passengers across the Atlantic, which will take 3 days, for a fare of $200.

The McNamara brothers, union officials, are arrested by private detectives for the dynamiting of the LA Times building last October, along with one Ortie E. McGonigle, which sounds like the name of a W.C. Fields character. A rather large quantity of dynamite was found as well.

(Update: no fun: later editions correct the name to Ortie McManigle.)

The lower house of the Colorado Legislature votes to ban cigarettes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bomb bomb bomb, bomb Libya

McCain of Arabia spent several hours in Libya and was therefore able to declare, “I have met these brave fighters and they are not Al Qaida.” So that settles that.

None of these people are Al Qaida

However, if the US doesn’t step up the military intervention, “I do worry that if there is a stalemate here, that it could open the door to radical Islamic fundamentalism.” So they’re not Al Qaida but if they become Al Qaida it’ll be Obama’s fault for not dropping enough bombs. Okay then.

Today -100: April 22, 1911: Of the helplessness of the American potato

NY Gov. Dix explains that he appointed William Buchanan as a delegate to the 3rd National Peace Congress because he had been active in the peace movement in the past. But not the recent past, since, it turns out, he’s been dead for two years. But, to be fair, quite peaceful.

The Mexican government responds to Madero’s demand for Díaz’s resignation by breaking off negotiations.

The Canadian Reciprocity Bill passes the House, you will be delighted to hear, 264-89. Though this was the biggest item on Taft’s to do list for 1911, the Republicans voted against it 78-67. My favorite sentence in the article: “Mr. Nelson tried to get the other side to recognize the helplessness of the American potato against Canadian competition.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Today -100: April 21, 1911: Of ultimata, lynchings, and retaliations

Francisco Madero gives President-for-Not-Very-Long Díaz 24 hours to resign, or he will attack Juarez.

Sen. William Stone (D-Missouri) introduces a resolution, in the badly chosen words of the NY Times, “authorizing the President, if necessary, to cross the frontier and by force guarantee the protection of American lives and property”. Let’s all take a moment to imagine President Taft waddling across the border to by force guarantee the protection of American lives and property. Other senators objected that this resolution would be tantamount to a declaration of war. It is tabled for now.

A black man who shot a white man in a pool room in Livermore, Kentucky, is lynched in the opera house (which the marshal had thought more defensible than the jail house). 50 men shot him from the orchestra pit.

The Republican-dominated Rhode Island Legislature refuses to appropriate money for a new science hall at RI State College in retaliation for the role some of its professors took in the 1910 election working for the Democrats, who took control of the South Kingstown city council.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today -100: April 20, 1911: Of church & state, and disputes at the border

Portugal will issue a decree for the separation of church and state. Priests will be off the government payroll and will be legally allowed to marry.

Mexican President-for-Now Díaz writes, and leaks (I’m not sure if he ever officially sent it), a reply to Washington, denying any responsibility for the stray gunfire during the fight for Agua Prieta that killed Americans in Douglas, AZ. He casts blame on the rebels and on Americans fighting on the rebel side, and he counter-charges various violations of neutrality, saying that US soldiers disarmed some Mexican soldiers and turned over their weapons to the rebels and that a Federal lieut. was wounded by a shot from the American Custom House. He also says that the citizens of Douglas who were shot had only themselves to blame for being lookie-loos.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Obama held an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House, because he’s totally not a Muslim.

EVERYONE AGREES THAT JESUS’S ATTEMPT TO FOLLOW-UP ON THE LOAVES & FISHES THING WAS REALLY LAME: “We all live in the hustle and bustle of our work. ... The inbox keeps on accumulating.”

REMINDERS LIKE LISTENING TO JOE BIDEN’S STORIES ABOUT HOW HE USED TO RIDE THE TRAIN: “we must always make sure that we are keeping things in perspective. ... But nothing beats scripture and the reminder of the eternal.”

WHAT HE PRAYS FOR: “I pray that our time here this morning will strengthen us, both individually as believers and as Americans.” So he’s praying for the success of the prayer breakfast? And does he then pray for the success of his prayer for the success of the prayer breakfast?

WHAT WE ARE REMINDED OF: “we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection -- something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.” CONTEST: Exactly what does the “resurrection” of “our savior” Jesus Christ put into perspective for Obama?

Today -100: April 19, 1911: Of retreats and vivisection

The Mexican government accepts Washington’s demand that both sides in the civil war arrange themselves so that bullets in the civil war stop crossing the border. Or to put it another way, they are willing to accept the establishment of a neutral zone that just happens to favor them in Agua Prieta and Juarez.

Taft has been making it clear that he will not order troops to cross into Mexico without explicit instructions from Congress, as he believes, correctly but almost uniquely among presidents, the Constitution requires.

The rebels evacuate Agua Prieta; they’d won all the battles but ran out of ammo. They blame US customs and secret service agents for seizing 100,000 rounds of ammunition shipped to them on the Arizona side of the border. The rebels object strongly to this action, noting (correctly) that arms sales to Mexican rebels do not violate US law. However, the former commander-in-chief of the rebels in the city, the guy who fled to the US yesterday, blames the defeat on rebels who drank up all the booze in the city.

The NYT has a pro-vivisection editorial.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Today -100: April 18, 1911: Of surrenders, extending racism, and beverages in the Philippines

The battle for Agua Prieta, on the US-Mexican border, continues, with federal attempts to recapture the town from the rebels being fought off, although at one point the rebel commander surrendered himself – to the Americans. Both sides ignored the American demand that they not fire any bullets that might cross the border, and 7 people in Douglas, AZ are wounded.

Rep. Everis Hayes (R-CA) introduces a bill to extend all existing laws excluding Chinese immigrants to “Japanese, Koreans, Tartars, Malays, Afghans, East Indians, Lascars, Hindus, and all other persons of the Mongolian or Asiatic race”.

A US cavalry officer in the Philippines is killed by someone described by the NYT correspondent as “a Moro fanatic, who, crazed with religious passion, ran amuck, thirsting for the blood of a Christian.” There will be more of this.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Today -100: April 17, 1911: Of champagne rioters, Easter riots, and Mormons

The US instructs the Mexican federals and the insurgents that in the future they must so arrange their battles that bullets not cross the border.

The Mexican government is calling for volunteers to join the army for six months. The Times notes that in addition to the regular army, there are private ones maintained by mine owners, rich estate owners and the like.

Headline of the Day -100: “Champagne Rioters Calm.”

Another nicely incongruous headline: “Easter Worshippers Riot.” In Chicopee, Mass., the Polish organizations traditionally march to church on Easter, with brass bands and everything. The priest disapproves of both the brass bands and the everything and cancelled the 5:00 Easter Mass, locking the church. So there was an actual Easter riot, with knives drawn.

Other Easter news: “Easter Paraders See Suicide’s Body.”

Another headline: “Draws Royal Flush; Dies.; Chicago Girl Falls Lifeless from Her Chair in a Poker Game.”

An anti-Mormon mob in Birkenhead, England, attacks the Mormon meeting house and demands that Mormon missionaries leave town (there is a bit of a moral panic going on in the UK over Mormons coming to Britain to Steal Our Women).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

Some dude in Misurata: “I jumped onto the ground when the explosions started. My friend did not. His head came off.”

Today -100: April 16, 1911: Of sane progressives, champagne riots, and scary cats

Teddy Roosevelt praises LaFollette and his followers’ work in Wisconsin: “The progressive movement has been sane in Wisconsin.”

Headline of the Day -100: “More Champagne Riots.” Classy. Actually, riots in the Champagne region of France, which have been going on for days. Something about the legal delimitation of the Champagne region. Whatever. Lots of wine workers running around destroying the property of wine growers and wine merchants, rumors of anarchist involvement.

Other Headline of the Day -100: “Cats Scare Chicago.” The Health Dept wants to kill stray cats.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Today -100: April 15, 1911: Of sacrilege, the 14th Amendment, and publicity

Pennsylvania bans sacrilegious plays, movies, operas or vaudeville.

British marines land to protect a Baja California town from an insurrecto attack (which fails to materialize).

The insurrectos now control the city of Agua Prieta, and will install there a provisional government for the state of Sonora.

Rep. Thomas Hardwick (D-Georgia) introduces a bill to repeal the 14th Amendment, specifically the provisions (which as far as I know have never been used) to punish states that disfranchise (black) adult males.

The Publicity Bill, requiring reporting and publication of campaign contributions before general elections, passes the House 302-0. The Senate version, though, was amended to postpone publication until after the election. The Republicans failed to win an amendment to include primaries and other nomination processes, which means Democrats in the one-party South are effectively not covered by the bill.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power

Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have written an op-ed piece for the International Herald Tribune, The Times of London and Le Figaro about Justin Bieber Libya.

ROCKETS IN ONE PLACE AND A MEDIEVAL SIEGE IN ANOTHER? IS LIBYA EXPERIENCING SOME SORT OF BREAKDOWN IN THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM? “But the people of Libya are still suffering terrible horrors at Qaddafi’s hands each and every day. His rockets and shells rained down on defenseless civilians in Ajdabiya. The city of Misurata is enduring a medieval siege”. And it was American, British and French companies that sold Qaddafi all those rockets and giant catapults.

OMG, THERE IS A BREAKDOWN IN THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM! AND IT MAY STOP FUNCTIONING ALTOGETHER! The UN mandate “is not to remove Qaddafi by force. But it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qaddafi in power.”

IT IS UNTHINKABLE BECAUSE SUCH A THING HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF MANKIND. NOT EVER. “It is unthinkable that someone who has tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government.”

BUT NOT FAILED PARIAHS. “Furthermore, it would condemn Libya to being not only a pariah state, but a failed state too.” Did you know that “pariah” comes from a Tamil word for members of a hereditary caste of people who played drums at festivals and were therefore banned from religious processions, rather like Ringo Starr?


OR A NEW CAR. WE CAN’T AFFORD A NEW CAR OR A NEW SAFE HAVEN FOR EXTREMISTS. OR THAT BIG-SCREEN TV WE’VE HAD OUR EYE ON. “Neither Europe, the region, or the world can afford a new safe haven for extremists.”

WAR 4EVER! “However, so long as Qaddafi is in power, NATO must maintain its operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds.” So we don’t have a mandate to remove Qaddafi by force, but we’ll use military operations to build pressure on his regime until he is out of power. I totally see the distinction.

NOT YOU, SAIF! “Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders.”

MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR DEMOCRACY: “But it will be the people of Libya, not the U.N., who choose their new constitution, elect their new leaders, and write the next chapter in their history.” Assuming the Libyan space-time continuum can be restored, of course.

Today -100: April 14, 1911: Of senators, rush hours, and Cromwell’s head

As insurrectos battle to take the border town of Agua Prieta, US soldiers of the First Cavalry cross into Mexico to stop the fighting (bullets fired at fleeing Federals were hitting people in Douglas, Arizona, killing 3).

The House passes a resolution for a constitutional amendment for the direct election of senators, 296-16. An amendment to the resolution calling for control and regulation of those elections to be kept in federal rather than state hands lost badly, so Southern states will be able to continue to disenfranchise black people (not that federal control of House elections has stopped them anyway).

A letter bitching about the Interborough subway uses the phrase “rush hour.” The Online Etymology Dictionary says the term dates to 1890. Well, I found that interesting.

British Prime Minister Asquith has decided that the nation will not purchase a head that is supposed to be that of Oliver Cromwell from some clergyman. Asquith has some doubts as to its authenticity, although “the measurements of the head are said to conform with what is known of the Protector.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Obama’s deficit speech: More than just numbers on a page

Prepared text.

WHAT THIS DEBATE IS MORE ABOUT THAN JUST: “This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future we want. It’s about the kind of country we believe in.”

FAITH: “From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America’s wealth and prosperity.” Unless you count the high protective tariffs and, you know, slavery.

RUGGED: HAVING A ROCKY AND UNEVEN SURFACE. “More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.” Actually, by definition, everyone is against too much government because it’s, you know, too much.

YOU JUST BLEW MY MIND: “But there has always been another thread running throughout our history - a belief that we are all connected”.

WHO THE TEA PARTY WOULD DENOUNCE AS A BIG-GOVERNMENT TRAITOR WHO WAS PROBABLY BORN IN KENYA RATHER THAN A LOG CABIN: “We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln...”

BURNING ATLANTA? “...that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves.”

He says we “would not be a great country” without Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and unemployment insurance.

THAT VALUES WHAT NOW? “As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally born a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate.”

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF: “This is not because we begrudge those who’ve done well”.

AH, THE GOOD OLD DAYS: “But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed.”

WHAT SOME OF YOU MIGHT BE WONDERING: “Now, before I get into how we can achieve this goal, some of you might be wondering, ‘Why is this so important? Why does this matter to me?’”

AMERICANS HATE ABSTRACT THINGS: “You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys.”

EAGER: “politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse -that tackling the deficit issue won’t require tough choices. Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.” Phew, that clears up that little misconception, I’m sure.

OH, A SERIOUS PLAN: “So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget.”

He goes on to criticize “one vision” – for some reason he can’t bring himself to use Paul Ryan’s name. (By the way, I think much more attention should be paid to another Wisconsin congresscritter: Rep. Reid Ribble (R). I don’t know anything about him, I just want to hear his name on the news as often as possible: Reid Ribble Reid Ribble Reid Ribble Reid Ribble.)

He says it “would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known throughout most of our history. A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year.” Have we had “clean energy” and Pell Grants for most of our history? “These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can’t afford the America we believe in.”

RYAN’S A REAL DOWNER, MAN: “And they paint a vision of our future that’s deeply pessimistic.”

He’s nicely tough on Ryan: “ It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn’t worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck - you’re on your own. ... This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone’s grandparents who wouldn’t be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down’s syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we’d be telling to fend for themselves. Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can’t afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can’t afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. ... They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that’s paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? ... The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. ... There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill.”

BOY, WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN THE MYTHICAL AMERICA THAT HE “KNOWS?” “And this is not a vision of the America I know. The America I know is generous and compassionate”.

So he wants a “more balanced approach” and to preserve “core spending.” Oh, and to “win the future.” Phew, for a second there I thought he was going to propose losing the future.

He says he’ll find “additional savings” in the military budget. He doesn’t say what those might be.

And “to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government’s health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government’s health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.” More generic drugs, no “erroneous payments,” incentives to doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries, and “an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.” DEATH PANEL! DEATH PANEL! DEATH PANEL!

He will refuse to renew again the tax cuts to the wealthy that he said he wouldn’t renew in the first place, before he renewed them.

He wants to limit itemized deductions for the wealthy.

He says his approach will cut $2 trillion in spending over 12 years, $1 trillion in interest payments (does that make sense?), and $1 trillion in tax reform (which he calls “reducing spending in the tax code,” just in case you thought he was calling for tax increases).

REALLY? ARE YOU SURE? “Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach.”

DOES HE ACTUALLY KNOW ANY WEALTHY AMERICANS? “And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that’s done so much for them. Washington just hasn’t asked them to.” See, and you thought they were all greedy fuckwads, when in fact they were just sitting at home (well, mansion), waiting for an engraved invitation to give back to the country that’s done so much for them, because they’re just polite that way.

HE STILL BELIEVES IN THE BI-PARTISANSHIP FAIRY: “Of course, there are those who will simply say that there’s no way we can come together and agree on a solution to this challenge. They’ll say the politics of this city are just too broken.... But I also know that we’ve come together and met big challenges before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to blah blah blah... I believe we can and must come together again.”

HOW MANY ENDS DOES A SPECTRUM HAVE? “I don’t expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. I’m eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum.”

Today -100: April 13, 1911: Non-stop

Pierre Prier flies a monoplane from London to Paris without stopping, in under 4 hours.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Today -100: April 12, 1911: Will justice be done? What do you think.

The owners of the Triangle Waist Company, Isaac Harris and Max Blanck, are indicted on charges of first- and second-degree manslaughter, for having locked the factory’s doors (which was a misdemeanor, making the deaths manslaughter).

Now we know the Mexican government is desperate: it raises soldiers’ wages and may even hold a real election in Sonora.

I mentioned that female Cornell students petitioned against two black students being admitted to the dorms. The Cornell president decided to let the ladies in. The NYT suggests that this may not do race relations any good: “It may... by compelling a closeness of physical association that one of them considers objectionable, lead to a psychical separation much wider than would otherwise be the case. There is as little likelihood of happiness for negroes as for other people when they go where they are not wanted, and there is such a thing as insisting too strongly on rights, even when they are unquestionable. Rights are valuable, but so are voluntarily granted privileges”. The Times says that the two students were “unwise” to press their case, in which case they will effectively have neither. But note the unquestioned assumption that it is for the white students to say who is or is not “wanted.” The paper suggests the black students now “so carry themselves as to overcome the present antagonism to them as near neighbors.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today -100: April 11, 1911: Of rumors and pruney deaths

Pres. Taft denies that his sending 20,000 troops to the Mexican border had anything to do with a rumored (falsely rumored) secret treaty between Japan and Mexico giving the Japanese a coaling station on the west coast of Mexico. There does seem to have been a tendency for people to believe almost any rumor about Japan. Rep. David Foster (R-Vermont, the former chairman of the foreign affairs committee) believes these rumors constitute a conspiracy to stir up a US-Japanese war by those with financial interests in building battleships.

Headline of the Day -100: “Voted for Lorimer, Dies in His Bath.” In that order. This would be Illinois State Legislator Michael Link, who was bribed (he insisted the $1,000 was a “gratuity”) to vote for William Lorimer for US Senate, but turned state’s evidence.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Today -100: April 10, 1911: We must have standards, you know

King George V revives the court custom, discontinued – for some reason – by Edward VII, that divorced people not be received at Court.

Headline of the Day -100: “Want Beer at Cornell.”

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Mommas, don’t let your fetuses grow up to be cowboy poets

Open for business

Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles acquitted by Texas court.

There was a budget agreement and Obama congratulated himself.

MONUMENTAL BUSINESS: “Tomorrow, I’m pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business.” Or open its legs to business. Same thing, really.

SO THAT’S OKAY THEN: “And that’s because today Americans of different beliefs came together again.”

PAINFUL: “Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back.” I’d feel better about Obama personally if he’d specified which people will no longer have the programs they relied on, whose pain will be created by these painful cuts.

“And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.” The “circumstances” thing can be read in two different ways: economic or political. He needed to distinguish whether he was saying that the state of the economy makes cuts necessary, or that the state of the House of Representatives makes them politically inevitable. This is an important distinction. He also failed to mention at any point that spending cuts were necessitated by the tax cuts for the wealthy that the Republican insisted on, and he agreed to.

WINNING! “We protected the investments we need to win the future.”

“At the same time, we also made sure that at the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water.” Dude, a budget is always about social issues and priorities. And since you threw abortions for women in D.C. under the bus (yes, that’s a really repulsive image I invoked there), you can’t say this wasn’t about women’s health.

COMING TOGETHER: “A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit. That’s what the American people expect us to do.” Is that really what the American people expect them to do? Only if they’re paying absolutely no attention whatsoever, so... maybe.

In order to continue to fetishize compromise and bipartisanism, he has to portray this deal as a good thing. Biggest annual spending cut in history, hurrah! Winning the future, yay! Programs people rely on will be cut back, yippee! Austerity forever!

But in the end, it’s all about... wait for it... the children: “A few days ago, I received a letter from a mother in Longmont, Colorado. Over the year, her son’s eighth grade class saved up money and worked on projects so that next week they could take a class trip to Washington, D.C. They even have an appointment to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” The Unknown Soldier has appointments? “The mother wrote that for the last few days the kids in her son’s class had been worried and upset that they might have to cancel their trip because of a shutdown. She asked those of us in Washington to get past our petty grievances and make things right.” I hope he shared this letter with John Boehner, just to watch him weep. “And next week, when 50 eighth graders from Colorado arrive in our nation’s capital, I hope they get a chance to look up at the Washington Monument and feel the sense of pride and possibility that defines America”. The possibility of peeing off the top on all the tourists below. They look just like ants, don’t they, kids?

Today -100: April 9, 1911: Of non-dancing rabbis and dancing nihilists

At the annual encampment (reunion, I guess) of the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), Dept of the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, now taking place in Georgia, three black attendees were dragged from their hotel by a mob in the middle of the night, whipped and made to leave town.

Three black men are lynched in Georgia in one incident, and one in another.

Lots of competition for Headline of the Day -100: “Rabbis Condemn Dancing.” “Nihilists Dance to Aid Refugees.” “French Now Drink Tea.” “‘I Shave Myself,’ Says Taft.” “Queen Forbids Kissing.” (The queen of Spain doesn’t want her children, or anyone else’s, kissed, on hygienic grounds.)

Headline of the Day That Sounds Dirty But Isn’t -100: “DETECTIVE DONS SKIRTS.; Zavat, Disguised as a Woman, Traps a Black-Hander.”

Friday, April 08, 2011

Today -100: April 8, 1911: Of dinner at the White House

“President Taft has adopted a unique method of meeting the new members of the Senate.” He will have them all over for dinner. Trust Taft to come up with a food-based solution to a logistical problem.

Remember Caleb Powers, the new Republican member of Congress from Kentucky who was elected in 1910 despite his involvement in the assassination of Gov. William Goebel in 1900? Well, the 9 Democratic congresscritters from KY are all refusing to serve alongside him on any congressional committee, effectively keeping him off any committee of interest to his constituents.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Today -100: April 7, 1911: Of peace talks, women on planes, the 9th Cavalry, and a non-lynching

Peace talks in the Mexican Revolution break off. Pres. Díaz refused to resign.

For the first time ever, an airplane carries not one but two women passengers.

There’s been much confusion about orders for those negro 9th Cavalry troops. For now they’ll be staying in San Antonio, after vigorous protests from various towns they were going to be coming through and forcible representations to Pres. Taft by local congresscritter John Nance Garner (FDR’s vice president). One of the towns objecting to the proposed deployment was Brownsville, where there was a similar incident with black troops in 1906. Just as these 1911 reports of running battles in San Antonio seem to come down one actual incident of a black soldier punching a street car conductor and running off, hugely exaggerated by panicky white folks, in 1906 in Brownsville, hostility between townspeople and black troops culminated in the former claiming the troops had shot up the town and planting spent shells as evidence. When none of the troops ‘fessed up, because they hadn’t done anything, Pres. Roosevelt dishonorably discharging all 167 troops in an impetuous act of collective punishment.

A White Plains, NY policeman saves a black man who slashed a trolley conductor during a fare dispute from being lynched, holding off a mob of 200 with his gun.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Daily Telegraphy: gay cavemen and fascist cakes

Telegraph Headline of the Day: “First Homosexual Caveman Found.” (A Czech archaeologist is over-interpreting her evidence, if you ask me).

Poor Baby of the Day: “Nick Clegg: I Cry to Music and Even My Sons Ask Why Everyone Hates Me.”

Note to Antonio, Alberto and Miguel Clegg: because your father is a git.

Confectionaries of the Day: “Nazi Cakes Cause Outrage.” A bakery in Austria makes them:

Always trying to take over the Sudetenmuffins.

Today -100: April 6, 1911: Justice McKenna’s potty mouth

The first Socialist member of Congress, Victor Berger, introduces a resolution calling for Taft to submit to Congress all reports, papers etc on which he based the order for troops to be mobilized on the Mexican border, and calling for their withdrawal.

Scenes from the Supreme Court -100: a lawyer was trying to explain to the justices what a railway conductor meant when he told an engineer, “Oh, h--, back up.” Associate Justice Joseph McKenna enquired, “Did he mean what was once expressed by the slang phrase, ‘Oh, cheese it’?” “Exactly,” the lawyer replied.

Headline of the Day -100: “Aroused About Pussy.”

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

No finger pointing

Obama, asked who the American people should blame ifwhen there is a government shutdown: “I don’t think the American people are interested in blaming somebody.” He don’t know us very well, do he?

WHAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AREN’T INTERESTED IN: “They’re not interested in finger pointing and neither am I.”

WHAT HE’S NOT WILLING TO DO: “But what we’re not willing to do is to go out there and say we’re going to cut another 60,000 head slot starts -- Head Start slots.” Now I’m going to be worried the rest of the day about those 60,000 head slot starts.

Today -100: April 5, 1911: Of new speakers, insurgents, socialists, and the 9th Cavalry

The new Congress convenes. The D’s, now in charge of the House, elect a new Speaker, James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark of Missouri. The 1912 presidential election is well and truly under way, since Clark will do his best to derail Taft’s legislative agenda while attempting to make himself the leading D candidate (and coming fairly close). For example, this is a special session, called by Taft for the sole purpose of passing his tariff reciprocity treaty with Canada, but Clark, giving a speech on his plans for the session, failed even to mention reciprocity, instead talking about lowering tariffs, popular election of senators, statehood for Arizona and New Mexico, etc etc.

Insurgent Republican senators demand from their party leadership, and get, ¼ of the Republican seats on all important Senate committees, with those members decided not by the party but by themselves. This means that if insurgents join with Democrats, they will be able to outvote the old guard Republicans (there are 50 R’s and 41 D’s in the Senate).

In local elections in Milwaukee, which has been run by Socialists for a year now, the Catholic Social Union fields candidates for the school board, though less Catholic than anti-socialist (there’s only one actual Catholic among the Catholic Social Union candidates who win 3 of the 5 contested seats). Women’s votes were evidently instrumental in the Socialist defeat, and for that of the socialists in Wichita.

On the other hand, Socialist John Menton is elected mayor of Flint, Michigan, and other socialists are elected aldermen, supervisors, and to other city positions there.

The Standard Oil Company issues a denial that it is financing the revolt in Mexico.

John Trower, reputed to be the richest negro in America, dies, purportedly leaving an estate of $1.5 million.

The Massachusetts Legislature defeats women’s suffrage by 161 to 69.

The Army is claiming that the decision to send the 9th Cavalry to patrol the desert had nothing to do with any fights with conductors over San Antonio’s Jim Crow laws. But another racial problem has developed: one of the colonels in the Illinois National Guard contingent of the border buildup is a... wait for it... negro. However, “Illinois Guardsmen are loyal soldiers, and despite their heart-burnings at having a colored man accompany them as their ranking office they gave no outward evidence of their chagrin.” What stoicism. Privately, some of the white Illinois officers said “that Gov. Deneen made a diplomatic mistake” in choosing him. Col. John Marshall, who was born a slave, was the first black colonel in the US Army, serving in the Spanish-American War, when his presence also pissed off white officers.

A NYT editorial blames the kerfuffle in San Antonio on white people selling whisky to black soldiers, but also on the incongruity between Jim Crow laws and soldiers “entitled to the respect deserved by one trained and ready to sacrifice his life in the defense of the Nation”. The obvious solution, the Times suggests, is to get rid of... negro soldiers. What, you thought they were going to say the Jim Crow laws? “They are good soldiers, as everybody admits, and as they have many times proved in both peace and war, but somehow they do not fit in well with the Nature of Things as They Are.”

Monday, April 04, 2011

Funny names and sport killing

An Army investigation has conveniently concluded that no one high up is in any way responsible for the “kill team” that murdered Afghan civilians for shits and giggles and gruesome souvenirs, not even the brigade’s commander, a Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, and... okay, I’m not even gonna try to hide that one reason I’m blogging this is because of my, you know, moral outrage and whatnot, but the larger reason is that I find the names of pretty much everyone involved so darned entertaining, starting with Spc. Jeremy “The plan was to kill people” Morlock, who has already been convicted for his role.

Anyway, Harry Tunnell the Fourth was known, well before he was sent to Afghanistan, when the unit was training in the States under... wait for it... Brig. Gen. Randy Dragon, for his contempt for the Army’s stated policy of protecting civilians and winning hearts & minds™, preferring a policy of “search and destroy.” But the investigation, led by one Brig. Gen. Twitty, could find “no causal relation” with the fact that his men went out and did exactly that. Nevertheless, Harry Tunnell the Fourth is getting a jolly stern letter of admonition. His boss, Brig. Gen. Frederick Hodges (who somehow escaped being assigned a Wodehousian name) says, “I should have specifically told him that MG Carter and I had lost confidence in his ability to command from his failure to follow instructions and intent.” You know what would better than specifically telling someone that you have no confidence in their ability to command because of their failure to follow instructions? Not leaving them in charge of a bunch of heavily armed hash-smokers in a foreign country.

Oh, and that MG Carter was the commander of allied forces in southern Afghanistan, Major General Nick Carter, detective.

Today -100: April 4, 1911: Of disgraces, DMV lines, loyal resolutions, and Jim Crow Texas-style

Teddy Roosevelt gives a speech in Reno, attacking Reno. He calls the divorce colony there a disgrace.

NY gets its first DMV offices (previously, you had to send to Albany for automobile registration). On the first day, it took 15 minutes on average.

Mexican Vice President Ramon Corral requests a leave of absence so he can go to Europe. For his health. Yeah, that’s it, for his health.

Oh, okay, I’ve looked it up and he had pancreatic cancer.

King George will be visiting Dublin soon. The Corporation of Dublin considered adopting a loyal resolution to mark the occasion, but decided not to.

Headline of the Day -100: “Taft Orders Negroes Out of San Antonio.” Specifically, the Ninth Cavalry, a negro regiment. Evidently they’ve been resisting the Jim Crow laws segregating street cars. The Ninth will be sent to patrol the Mexican border. In the desert. As far from cities as possible.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Great theological debates of our times

Pastor Terry Jones “promised in September not to set fire to the book, then he and his congregation discussed shredding, shooting, or dunking it in water instead.”

Wherein is revealed what no religion tolerates

Obama condemns Pastor Terry Jones’s burning of a Koran: “The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.” Intolerance and bigotry, yes, and I would add willful ignorance and dickishness, but the disposal of a, you know, book doesn’t seem to enter “extreme” territory, which is firmly held by the Afghans busy slaughtering actual humans others (with a little side-trip to a girls’ high school, which you will no doubt be surprised to hear was burned).

Obama condemns that as well: “No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people,” adding, “unless they’re a witch or a heretic or a Jew or something, but those people aren’t innocent according to those religions, because they’re witches or heretics or Jews or something.”

Today -100: April 3, 1911: Of ambushes and race wars

In French Guinea, a force of French soldiers sent to capture the Sultan of Goumbra to stop his anti-French activities and, allegedly, to suppress slavery, is ambushed, with 14 killed. They respond with machine guns, killing 300. Always nice to see a humanitarian mission in action.

Some sort of ongoing race war in Laurel, Delaware, no idea why.

Francisco Madero says he doesn’t trust President Díaz’s promises and that the insurrectos will not lay down their arms until the 1910 elections are declared void and new, free elections, with no literacy requirement, have taken place. He says he really doesn’t want American military intervention but trusts that it will never happen: “I have too high an opinion of the United States government to fear an unjust war.” Isn’t that just adorable?

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Daily Telegraphy: Poetic justice

A quote I didn’t expect ever to see: “There is a very moral code in prison when it comes to poetry”. A prisoner at Her Majesty’s Prison Norwich submitted a Philip Larkin poem as his own work to the prison magazine’s poetry contest.

Another Telegraph story featured this oddly unthreatening quote: “I’m just going to go in and hit anyone who comes in my way.” Today was International Pillow Fight Day (motto: The first rule of International Pillow Fight Day is you do not talk about International Pillow Fight Day).

Zamkowy Square, Warsaw:

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Taipei:


São Paulo:


Union Square, NY:

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin: