Sunday, June 30, 2013

Obama goes to prison

Specifically, Nelson Mandela’s old cell on Robben Island. CAPTION CONTEST!

(Click on image to actually see it, grumble bloody Blogspot grumble grumble)

“Man, I’d just have droned his ass.”

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Today -100: June 30, 1913: Of falls

Sen. Albert Fall (R-New Mexico) denies that he’s the unnamed senator who Mexican officials claim gave $200,000 to the rebels. Fall, who has extensive properties in Mexico, has called for an end to the arms embargo on the revolutionists (although Pres. Wilson loathes Huerta, he still allows arms exports to his regime).

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Saturday, June 29, 2013


Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa says Joe Biden asked him to reject Edward Snowden’s request for asylum “as a favor.” But is that a paraphrase? I want (but don’t really expect) journalists to nail Biden down on whether he used that exact word. I want to know if he thinks decisions on political asylum should be made on that basis.

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Today -100: June 29, 1913: Of immortal stetsons, bad clams, bacon, and the twin evils of our civilization

Headline of the Day -100: “Mrs. Stetson Feels She Is Immortal.” She leads a splinter Christian Scientist group.

Death of the Day -100: G. Waldo Smith dies after eating bad clams. Because if anyone ever had a destined-to-die-after-eating-bad-clams name, it was G. Waldo Smith.

The federal government approves plans for the dissolution of the merger between the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railways, as ordered by the Supreme Court under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Sen. Augustus Octavius Bacon (D-Georgia) suggests that the solution to Mexico’s problems is for all the white men of the educated classes to take up arms to establish order throughout the country. I don’t know why no one thought of that before.

The LAT interviews Mississippi’s new US senator, James Vardaman, about his plans to introduce legislation to ban saloons in the District of Columbia, segregate the entire city, and add Jim Crow cars to every passenger train in the country. “I am going to fight whisky and the negro,” he said. “They are the twin evils of our civilization.” He wants the 14th and 15th Amendments repealed and negroes barred from voting throughout the US. He complains that the continuing racial issue means that the South is a one-party region dominated by that single issue. White Southerners disagree about the tariff, for example, but vote together to put down the negro, and that’s just not healthy. Like every racist pig, he insists that “I am the best friend the negroes have in the United States”.

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Friday, June 28, 2013

Today -100: June 28, 1913: Of job lots

The LAT has an editorial objecting to the idea being floated by, well, probably no one, that the US sell the Philippines to Japan. I presume the LAT’s intentions here are to use anti-Japanese bigotry to tar Woodrow Wilson’s plans to give the Philippines independence. By an interesting logic, the Times says that the Filipinos became American citizens by a combination of conquest and purchase, just like California, so it would be morally wrong to “turn these American citizens in a job lot over to Japan”. The Times also worries that without American protection, these citizens might be forced to abandon their property or “sell it for a song to Japanese purchasers.” As opposed to the recent California law forcing Japanese people to sell their property or lose it.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

The worst of circumstances

Rick Perry mansplains to Wendy Davis (who he refers to only as “the woman who filibustered in the Senate the other day”. She’s got a name, you know, Rick: Future Governor Wendy Davis): “Who are we to say that children born into the worst of circumstances can’t grow to live successful lives?”

That’s a good state motto for Texas, but a little long to fit on a license plate.

(Update: In the same speech, Perry said of the pro-choice movement, “the louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done.” Which would also be a good state motto.)

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Today -100: June 27, 1913: Of sexual hygiene and Asiatics

The Chicago Board of Education steps in to prevent talks on sexual hygiene being given in its high schools.

Headline of the Day -100: “Drive Asiatics Out of Town.” A mob in Hemet, CA expel some apricot-pickers who they thought were Japanese but were actually Korean. But they were definitely “Asiatics,” which is a scarier-sounding word than “Asians.”

(Update: the LAT reported on July 2nd that the State Dept had started an investigation of this incident, as it might affect pending negotiations with Japan over California’s racist alien land law, but it turned out that the Koreans had left Korea before it was annexed by Japan and are therefore not subjects of Japan or, presumably, anywhere else.)

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

No regrets

In time for Texas’s 500th execution since 1976, AP interviews Charles Thomas O’Reilly, the retired warden of Huntsville, who oversaw 140 executions. He can’t remember the name of the first one. He says he has no regrets. How is this not a textbook example of sociopathy?

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Awad the Lame redux

The conviction of Sgt. Lawrence “Congratulations gents, we’ve just gotten away with murder” Hutchins III for a murder in Iraq in 2006, has been overturned.

As you may recall from my previous posts, his squad went out on a rogue mission to kill a suspected insurgent, but when that guy turned out not to be at home, they decided that any ol’ Iraqi would do and kidnapped and shot dead the man in the next house, who turned out to be Hashim Ibrahim Awad, a former policeman retired on medical grounds and known as Awad the Lame. Then planted an AK-47 and a shovel on him so they could claim he was planting an IED, even though they seem not to have had an actual IED, which you’d think would be a snag in their cunning little plan. Anyway, the army held him seven days and got a confession without his lawyer being present, so he’s out.

Fun exercise: google this story and count how many of today’s news reports mention Awad the Lame’s name.

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Today -100: June 26, 1913: Of primaries

NY Gov. Sulzer’s direct primary bill fails badly in the state senate, which moves on to begin a probe of Sulzer’s use of patronage power and the veto to influence votes on the bill. They’ll also investigate his campaign fund and anything else they can think of. Senators had a lot of fun comparing Sulzer to King Charles I.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Voting rights, we hardly knew ye

The Supreme Court decision striking down the parts of the Voting Rights Act that make it useful doesn’t exactly declare that racism in America is over. Rather, it declares that collective justice in America is over and individualism is supreme (unless you’re a corporation, of course, those entities are golden). People can still sue states under the VRA to address discrimination – one at a time, as individuals. Because that’ll totally be effective in addressing institutional racism.

It’s of a piece with last week’s under-noticed decision in American Express Company v. Italian Colors, in which the Court upheld the right of corporations to insist on arbitration on an individual basis with the people it screws over even where only a class-action lawsuit is the only practical, economically viable way to enforce legal claims, for example in cases where a company over-charged a million people by $50 each, so that each individual case is too small for a lawyer to take it on. The Court ruled that it’s okay that “the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery.” You still have the legal right not to be screwed out of that $50; it’ll just cost you $1,000 to recover it. Scalia writes that the law doesn’t “guarantee an affordable procedural path to the vindication of every claim. ... the fact that it is not worth the expense involved in proving a statutory remedy does not constitute the elimination of the right to pursue that remedy.”

Similarly, the Voting Rights Act still exists, but the ability and procedures to make it actually effective is an optional extra as far as the Supreme Court is concerned.

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Today -100: June 25, 1913: Of the confusion of the multitude

NY Gov. William Sulzer’s bill for direct primaries is defeated in the lower house of the Legislature, where his high-pressure tactics made him no friends: “the Judas of the Democratic Party,” “a traitor to those who made him politically,” “liar” were some of the words used to describe him during the debate. The bill was defeated 92-54. He did gain 8 votes since the last defeat, which just shows what the awarding of lucrative road contracts can (and can’t) get you. The vote did not split on party lines, which seems to mean that the Dem & Rep party establishments want to retain their power base, the conventions (Democratic majority leader Levy says primary elections would just provide for “the confusion of the multitude, which serves the purposes of the demagogue and the wielder of the Big Stick”), while many in the rank & file support greater voter democracy. The Bull Moosers supported primaries.

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Today -100: June 24, 1913: Of enemies of the state, Mexican mail, Baja, and angry midget managers

NY Gov. William Sulzer holds a sort of rally for his direct primary bill in the Capitol building. Here he is, winning friends and influencing people in his customary manner: “When I became governor I thought I didn’t have an enemy in the state. I know now that I have the most bitter enemies in the state. Nevertheless, I console myself with the reflection that every enemy that I have made in the performance of my duty since I became governor is an enemy of the state.” And so on. At length. Other supporters of the bill, including Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt also make speeches.

Pres. Wilson signs an appropriations bill containing a clause banning the use of funds for the prosecution of unions or farmers’ alliances for violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, although he attaches what these days is called a signing statement saying that he intends to ignore it.

The Mexican coup regime asks the US for help intercepting mail sent to Mexican revolutionists from the US .

The LAT claims “upon creditable authority” that the Mexican government has been trying to negotiate a large loan from Japanese bankers or, failing that, to sell Baja California to Japan for $40 million.

Headline of the Day -100: “Elephants Didn’t Go ’Round and ’Round.” (Sub-hed: “Managers of Midgets Angry.”) Some con artist got $1,500 from the owner of the Lilliputian Kingdom for a scheme to establish a circus.

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Sunday, June 23, 2013

James Jesus Angleton, check your voicemail

If Obama’s anti-leak “insider threat” program, in which government employees are urged to spy on their colleagues to find the next Edward Snowden, were confined to US intelligence agencies, well, I’d just pop some popcorn, put my feet up, and watch the awesome entertainment spectacle, Spy Agencies Succumb to Fear and Paranoia – Again!

But insider threats are evidently to be found throughout the entire government. I can only hope the next leak is the online tutorial “Treason 101” used by... wait for it... the Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These programs are evidently aimed at turning panopticonical (that’s a word, right?) suspicions on government employees who are experiencing stress in their lives (good luck, Carrie Mathison), divorce, financial problems, etc. An anonymous Pentagon dude warns of the slippery slope: “If this is done correctly, an organization can get to a person who is having personal issues or problems that if not addressed by a variety of social means may lead that individual to violence, theft or espionage before it even gets to that point.” I don’t even want to think about what “variety of social means” the Pentagon might use (drone strikes: it’s always drone strikes).

Time will tell whether these programs will alert the government to employees with real insider threats: a conscience, a fear of overweening governmental power, an understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We’ve certainly done a good job of screening them out at the presidential level.

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Today -100: June 23, 1913: Of radicals out of uniform and non-lynchings

The Radical Party takes office in Denmark. And this is how radical the new Cabinet it: its members will refuse to wear uniforms, wear decorations, or be called “Excellency.”

A mob of 1,000 people attack the Dublin, Georgia jail in order to lynch three negroes accused of killing and robbing a white couple, but the sheriff had already slipped them out the back. The frustrated mob threatened to lynch all the other negroes still in the jail on minor charges, but were persuaded “by leading citizens” not to. It is not explained whether the leading citizens were there as participants in the lynch mob, but I think by now we all know the answer to that one.

Well, that’s odd. Just two days ago we had the death of the last surviving member of the 1861 Congress. Now, it’s Henry Jones, the last surviving member of the Confederate Congress (actually the Confederate provisional congress), dead at 92. Interestingly, he had voted against secession in the Alabama Legislature.

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blackmail moments

The Republican idea of requiring complete border security before implementing any other aspect of immigration reform is obviously a way to pretend to support immigration reform while actually sabotaging it, but there’s more to it.

Rand Paul wants a requirement that Congress annually certify that border security is on track. What Republicans want is another regularly scheduled blackmail moment, like raising the debt ceiling. Look for them to try to create more and more of these.

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Today -100: June 22, 1913: Of polo, the last serfs in Europe, coal strikes, ice strikes, and plots to loot New York

Kaiser Wilhelm has banned army officers (and “especially” the crown prince) from playing polo.

France’s former (and future) prime minister Georges Clemenceau calls Romanian Jews “the last serfs still existing in Europe.” Romania literally treats native-born Jews not as citizens, but as foreigners (many of their ancestors had fled Russia in the 1840s), requiring a special act of parliament to become naturalized, which needless to say rarely happens (200 in 40 years). These officially stateless Jews are refused entry into public schools and various professions.

West Virginia Gov. Hatfield, getting stroppy about the ongoing Senate investigation of his running of martial law during the coal strike, says that if trouble breaks out again, he’ll wire the US Senate to take charge of it.

Speaking of strikes, there is an ice strike in Cincinnati and elsewhere. People are selling black-market ice at inflated prices.

As a special session of the New York Legislature is gearing up to crush Gov. Sulzer’s direct primary bill (again), a petition surfaces, from four jurors in a court case in 1890 in which Sulzer, a lawyer, sued a former client for fees. The jurors accused him of having committed perjury (the petition went to the DA, Frank Plumley, who is now a Republican congresscritter from Vermont and seems to have nothing to do with this, but I do want to note that Wikipedia says his wife was named Lavinia Lucretia Smith Fletcher Plumley, which... wow). Sulzer says the petition is a forgery and that Tammany’s Boss Murphy tried to use it to blackmail him into participating in a “plot to loot the state” and that Charles Curtis (Sulzer says he’s generally known as Crazy Curtis), the son of the judge who had possession of the document, had threatened to publish it if Sulzer didn’t appoint him to the state supreme court.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Today -100: June 21, 1913: Of and survivors and purse-strings

Sydenham Ancona, the last surviving member of the 37th Congress, which was sitting when Civil War began, dies at 89. He was a Democrat from Pennsylvania.

France tells the Balkan states that if they go to war again, they’ll get no loans from France. Given that those countries are already in debt from the last war, this is a serious threat.

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Today -100: June 20, 1913: Of anti-Semites, the Marconi scandal, and human torches

Here’s a sentence in a NYT story about a German by-election: “The district was formerly anti-Semite.” That’s the Waldeck-Pyrmont District, in which a Radical candidate (SPD, I assume) defeated a dude from the anti-Semitic party.

The British Parliament votes to “vindicate” Chancellor David Lloyd George and Attorney General Rufus Isaacs of malfeasance and corruption in their purchases of Marconi Company stocks.

Horrific Headline of the Day -100: “Boy Turned Into a Torch.”

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Teaching girls their ABCs: Always Be Cooking

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Georgia) wants schools to teach children his idea of proper gender roles. This was in a debate on gay marriage, and is a perfect example of my assertion that homophobia is basically a subset of sexism.

“[W]e need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys...” Separate but equal. “...and say, you know, this is what’s important. This is what a father does that is may be a little different, maybe -- maybe a little different, maybe a little better than the talent that a mom has in a certain area and same things for the young girls, you know, this is what a mom does and this is what’s important from the standpoint of that union. Which we call marriage.”

I hope someone will get him to tell us exactly what a father does that’s different and better than a mom does (note the formal “father” and the informal “mom”), and what the mom’s “different talent” is.

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It is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall

Obama held a press conference with Angela Merkel in Germany.

SCRUB? “But what I have been able to do is examine and scrub how our intelligence services are operating, and I’m confident that at this point, we have struck the appropriate balance.”

AVERTED: “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany. So lives have been saved.” We might be a bit more impressed if he’d tell us what exactly constitutes a “threat.” Then again, we probably wouldn’t.

Asked about his failure to close Guantanamo: “But about a month ago I gave a speech in which I said that I would redouble my efforts to do so.” Redouble: 2 X 0 = ?

Then he gave a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

THERE WERE TWO BERLINS, YOU KNOW: “It was here that Berliners carved out an island of democracy against the greatest of odds.” Also a lot of hippies evading West German conscription, as I recall. And dogs in the restaurants, which was nice if unhygienic.

DEFINED BY A WALL: “Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down.” Elsewhere today, John McCain called once again for the US to build the dang fence. Just saying.

AS THE ACTRESS SAID TO THE BISHOP: “And this square itself, once a desolate no man’s land, is now open to all.”

EVOLVING: “The Iraq war is now over. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Osama bin Laden is no more. Our efforts against al Qaeda are evolving.” Our warriors are evolving huge index fingers with which to push the button on the drone controller’s joy stick.

WHO ARE YOU CALLING ORDINARY? “Our current programs are bound by the rule of law, and they’re focused on threats to our security -- not the communications of ordinary persons. They help confront real dangers, and they keep people safe here in the United States and here in Europe. But we must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face: to listen to the voices who disagree with us”. Yeah, that’s what fucking worries us.

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Today -100: June 19, 1913: Of the rabbit theory, the Fed, and potty-mouthed Mother Jones

George Bernard Shaw writes to the London Times about women’s suffrage, observing that during the recent parliamentary debate on the Dickinson Bill, Asquith opposed suffrage “explicitly on the ground that woman is not the female of the human species, but a distinct and inferior species, naturally disqualified from voting as a rabbit is disqualified from voting. ... Many men would vote for anything rather than be suspected of the rabbit theory. It makes it difficult to vote for the Liberal Party and then look the women of one’s household in the face.”

Pres. Wilson proposes legislation to establish a new central bank, the first since Pres. Jackson strangled the Second Bank of the US. It is hoped that the Fed will counter-act the periodic panics and bubbles to which the US economy has been subject, and thus stabilize the currency. So that went well.

It’s the mineowners’ turn to present evidence at the Senate investigation into the West Virginia coal wars. They say that their hired goons only used their guns in self-defense, and quoted speeches by “Mother” Jones urging miners to arm themselves. The lawyer for the owners questioned a (negro) collier: “Did she use any profane language?” “She swore a good deal for a lady.”

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Barack Obama and the Ruckus of Doom

Obama spoke to Good Ol’ Charlie Rose about the NSA spying “ruckus,” as he called it, and other subjects.

TRADE-OFFS, NOT SACRIFICE: “we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take.” If you’re wondering what the difference is between sacrificing freedom and trading it off, he’s evidently constructing the silliest of straw arguments, that security requires sacrificing ALL our freedom, an argument even Cheney isn’t making. So we’re meant to be satisfied that instead of sacrificing all our freedom, Obama and his merry men are sacrificing some portion of it, the size of which we are not allowed to know. I know I feel better.

He compares NSA surveillance to airport security – “all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports”. I didn’t know it was voluntary. Also, “ALL of us”? Does HE go through a whole bunch of security at airports?

He says the FISA court is transparent, or the top secret FISA court is the reason domestic spying is transparent, honestly I don’t know what the hell he’s trying to say, but I’d like someone to ask him to define “transparent” for us.

He says the reason the FISA court so rarely/never turns down any requests is because “folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.” Phew.

AND SHOT SOMEONE IN THE FACE WITH IT? “Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.’”

He talks about being opposed on domestic spying by the left, and how the right under Bush blah blah blah, which is one way of refusing to acknowledge that there is any principled opposition.

Anyway, he says, “all these programs... have disrupted plots”. Disrupted is a usefully vague word, like when he says we’ve broken the momentum of the Taliban, designed to provide no objective criterion on which to judge the success or failure of the surveillance.

On the subject of Syria, he describes the opposition (who he opposes arming “willy nilly”) as “carpenters and blacksmiths and dentists. These aren’t professional fighters.” I don’t know about you, but I’m more scared of dentists than I am of professional fighters, so I don’t know that he’s doing the image of the Syrian opposition much good here. Also, just how many blacksmiths does Syria have?

Here, as everywhere, Obama claims to be upholding the center: “what we’re trying to do is take sides against extremists of all sorts and in favor of people who are in favor of moderation, tolerance, representative government, and over the long-term, stability and prosperity for the people of Syria.” And nothing says moderation, tolerance, representative government, stability and prosperity like rocket launchers.

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Today -100: June 18, 1913: You seem to be afraid that one of your steers will be killed and eaten by Mexicans

Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan meets with Americans who own property in Mexico, and tells them the Wilson administration will continue Taft’s non-intervention policy. The delegation seems to feel that Bryan thinks they’re more interested in money than principles – imagine that! – and quote him as saying “You seem to be afraid that one of your steers will be killed and eaten by Mexicans.”

The LAT reports that Woodrow Wilson “cast precedent aside” and took off his coat in the Oval Office. Because it was hot. Fox News would have been all over that shit.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Today -100: June 17, 1913: Of sincere revolutions and knitting marquises

The International Women’s Suffrage Alliance congress, meeting in Budapest, refuses to commit itself either for or against militant tactics in Britain, but does note that “a sincere revolution, accompanied by disorder, has never been construed as an argument against man suffrage.”

Obituary of the Day -100: “Marquis Who Knitted Dead.” The Marquis of Northampton. Who evidently knitted.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Today -100: June 16, 1913: Of grand viziers

The son of a previous Ottoman grand vizier is arrested in the assassination of the most recent grand vizier, as are a lot of other people.

The International Women’s Suffrage Alliance congress opens in Budapest.

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Senate: easily distracted by shiny toys

There was a closed-door briefing for US senators about NSA spying. Only 47 attended because it was the weekend. Well, it was Thursday afternoon, but that evidently counts as the weekend in Washington.

Here’s what Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said afterwards: “We were given some very specific and helpful information about how these programs have helped keep the American people safe. I can’t imagine any United States senator sitting through a briefing like we just had and not feeling thankful for the efforts that NSA and others put forth.”

I’m reminded of the chapter on Congressional oversight of intelligence matters in Victor Marchetti and John Marks’ The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (1974):

A more current example of the CIA's evasive tactics occurred in 1966 when the Senate appropriations subcommittee was thought to have some hard questions to ask about the growing costs of technical espionage programs. DCI Helms responded to the senatorial interest by bringing with him the CIA's Deputy Director for Science & Technology, Dr. Albert D. "Bud" Wheelon, who loaded himself up with a bag full of spy gadgets-a camera hidden in a tobacco pouch, a radio transmitter hidden in false teeth, a tape recorder in a cigarette case, and so on. This equipment did not even come from Wheelan's part of the agency but was manufactured by the Clandestine Services; if, however, the Senators wanted to talk about "technical" matters, Helms and his assistant were perfectly willing to distract them with James Bond-type equipment.

Wheelon started to discuss the technical collection programs, but as he talked he let the Senators inspect the gadgets. Predictably, the discussion soon turned to the spy paraphernalia. One persistent Senator asked two questions about the new and expensive technical collection systems the CIA was then putting into operation, but Wheelon deftly turned the subject back to the gadgets. When the Senator asked his question a third time, Chairman Russell told him to hold his inquiry until the CIA men were finished. But the Senators became so enthralled with the equipment before them that no more questions were asked.

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Today -100: June 15, 1913: Of death trains, congos and funerals

Tabloid-Type Headline of the Day That’s Actually in the New York Times -100: “Saw Death Train Riddle Coal Camp.” Testimony at the Senate hearing on the West Virginia strikes: in February, mineowners used an armored car with a mounted Gatling gun to attack a tent camp of striking miners and their families. After the first salvo, mineowner Quinn Morton reportedly ordered that the train be backed up for another round. The miners called the train the Death Special, owners called it the Bull Moose train.

The Congo Reform Association in London closes its doors, because evidently the Belgian Congo is now reformed and is no longer quite so Heart of Darknessy.

The Women’s Social and Political Union hold a funeral procession for Emily Wilding Davison. Emmeline Pankhurst, out of prison on license under the Cat and Mouse Act, is arrested as she attempts to leave her sickbed to attend, and is dragged back to prison. The choice of the Metropolitan Police to use mounted police to keep the procession from reaching Piccadilly Circus is perhaps a little lacking in taste.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Today -100: June 14, 1913: Of suffrage, reigns of terror, and white sex

The US Senate’s Committee on Woman Suffrage reports favorably to the whole Senate for a constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage.

The US Senate committee investigating martial law in West Virginia hears from former Gov. William Glasscock, who declared that martial law. He says there was a “reign of terror” and that murders were going unprosecuted. He says the mine guards were a major problem, as well as the strikers, so he, um, got the mines to hire militiamen.

NYT Index Typo of the Day -100: “White Sex Get Disputed Player.”

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Today -100: June 13, 1913: Of blazing biplanes, and coal wars

Headline of the Day -100: “Dies in Blazing Biplane.” That’s 275 deaths since the beginning of heavier-than-air travel, although the NYT still considers them enough of a novelty to report on every one.

West Virginia Gov. Henry Hatfield refuses to submit the records of the courts-martial used against striking coal miners to the Senate committee. He says releasing the records would be “prejudicial to the public peace.” He does end martial law in the coal districts, after four months. Judge Advocate General George Wallace of the Military Commission tells the Senate that the Constitution was suspended by the governor and that “in a theatre of war the Commander in Chief of the forces [Gov. Hatfield] makes the law.” So the Commission could have sentenced people to death without any actual statutory law.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today -100: June 12, 1913: Of women’s suffrage, states of actual warfare, assassination, and flour

The Illinois Legislature passes a bill giving women the vote, but only for presidential and some local offices, not for Congress, the state Legislature, or governor. That makes it the 10th suffrage state, the first east of the Mississippi.

The LAT claims that the passage of women’s suffrage in Illinois is down to Katherine Riley having refused to set a date for marriage with Ill. House Speaker William McKinley until it passed.

A committee of the US Senate investigates the use of military courts to convict strikers in West Virginia. Members of the Military Committee that had exercised martial law testify that the coal strike was “a state of actual warfare” and that therefore the Constitution was suspended and they could impose sentences of any length they chose, without regard to those set out in civil law. Which they did.

Turkey’s grand vizier is assassinated, as was the custom.

A male supporter of women’s suffrage throws a bag of flour at Prime Minister Asquith in Parliament, misses.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Today -100: June 11, 1913: Of press regulation and Balkan wars

The Supreme Court rules that the law requiring newspapers to name their owners, editors, stockholders etc and to clearly label anything written in exchange for money (including editorials) as advertisement in order to be allowed to go through the mails at the periodical rate is constitutional because it wasn’t an infringement of freedom of the press but a mere postal regulation.

The Second Balkan War won’t officially begin for a few days, but they’re definitely killing each other. That’s Greece and Serbia on one side, Bulgaria on the other, over the spoils of the First Balkan War. Serbs forces are demanding that the Bulgarians evacuate Volodan or it will bombard Istip (Štip); these are probably actual places that actually exist.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Today -100: June 10, 1913: Rum and dope did this

Headline of the Day -100: “Guns Drive Gypsies Off.” Atlantic City cops and a posse chase off a band of gypsies, driving them into the woods where they belong.

Least Believable Headline of the Day -100: “Union Miners Glad They Are Indicted.” 19 United Mine Workers officials, by a federal grand jury in West Virginia, under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act for conspiracy in restraint of trade or something like that.

The US government files suit to dissolve the Eastman Kodak Company for violations of the Anti-Trust Act.

Nathaniel Green, a negro who assaulted a white woman, is hanged, the first execution for such an offense in the District of Columbia. Woodrow Wilson refused clemency. Green’s supposed last words: “Rum and dope did this. I hope I’ll be an example to the other men of my race.”

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

Today -100: June 9, 1913: She died for women

In the London civil trial of Women’s Social and Political Union leaders being sued by shop owners whose windows were broken by militants in 1912, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (who has since been thrown out of the WSPU) says, “The holes in those broken windows were mouths calling attention to the wrongs of hundreds of thousands of wives and mothers.”

Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who interrupted the Derby, dies. Christabel Pankhurst writes “Miss Davison died for women. She did this to call attention to their wrongs and to win them votes. The Government’s refusal to grant the vote drove her to make her protest.”

After a case of smallpox is discovered in a negro Baptist church in D.C., the police surround the church and the parishioners are forcibly vaccinated (except those who had escaped through windows).

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Profound Thought of the Day

Mosques in Britain are advised to install panic alarms and safe rooms. Isn’t that all a mosque – or any church – is? a safe room with panic alarms.

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Today -100: June 8, 1913: Kaiser Wilhelm, he kept us out of war

To celebrate Kaiser Wilhelm’s 25 years on the throne, the NYT Sunday magazine has several articles about what a great keeper of the peace he is.

Almroth Wright, the British doctor last seen here writing a letter to the London Times about the hysteria underlying the women’s suffrage movement, now has a book on the subject, The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage. The NYT sends a reporter round to talk to him. Wright suggests that giving the vote to women is rather like the Americans giving negroes rights, which they “jolly well wished they hadn’t.” In both cases, there are some very intelligent individuals, but negroes and women in general are stupider than whites and men, Wright says.

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Friday, June 07, 2013

I don’t welcome leaks

Today Obama tried to talk about ObamaCare, but all anyone wanted to talk about was ObamaSpy.

ARE YOU CALLING ME BORING? “When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your telephone calls.”

This “metadata doesn’t count” argument reminds me of my personal definition of torture: if it can make a fanatical terrorist betray his compatriots and his ideals, that is if it works, it’s torture. In the same way, if the information that they’re collecting is worth collecting, it’s not an insignificant intrusion on our privacy.

WHAT OBAMA TOTALLY WELCOMES: “I welcome this debate. And I think it’s healthy for our democracy.” That’s why the entire apparatus of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and half a dozen agencies you’ve never heard of are trying to track down the leaker: to give him or her a medal for services to the health of democracy.

WHAT OBAMA FINDS INTERESTING: “And I think it’s interesting that there are some folks on the left but also some folks on the right who are now worried about it who weren’t very worried about it when there was a Republican president.” Name me some folks on the left who are worried about this who weren’t worried about it under Bush. Name me two.

OO, THERE’S A TRADEOFF! WHAT’D WE GET? WHAT’D WE GET? WAS IT A PUPPY? “But I think it’s important for everybody to understand -- and I think the American people understand -- that there are some tradeoffs involved.” Of course the American people didn’t trade our privacy rights, you traded them for us, in secret.

MODEST ENCROACHMENTS R US: “But my assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest encroachments on the privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers or duration without a name attached and not looking at content, that on net, it was worth us doing.” I’ll bet Obama thought good and hard for maybe up to five minutes about this one.

WHAT OBAMA DOESN’T WELCOME: “I don’t welcome leaks, because there’s a reason why these programs are classified.” Yes, so that we don’t know what you’re up to. That’s definitely a reason.

SOMEHOW: “I think that there is a suggestion that somehow any classified program is a ‘secret’ program, which means it’s somehow suspicious.” Classified: “adjective. Formally assigned by a government to one of several levels of sensitivity, usually (in English) top secret, secret, confidential”. And yes, secret programs are inherently suspicious.

PRESUMABLY: “And if, in fact, there was -- there were abuses taking place, presumably those members of Congress could raise those issues very aggressively. They’re empowered to do so.” Raise them where, raise them how?

ALTHOUGH WE DO HAVE COPIES OF THEIR TEXTS. ALL THEIR TEXTS: “We also have federal judges that we put in place who are not subject to political pressure.”

YES IT IS: “That’s not to suggest that you just say, trust me; we’re doing the right thing; we know who the bad guys are.”

I KNOW I FEEL SAFER WITH DIANNE FEINSTEIN AND LINDSAY GRAHAM AND THE FISA COURT ON THE CASE: “And the reason that’s not how it works is because we’ve got congressional oversight and judicial oversight.”

YOU SAID IT, NOT ME: “And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

VERY SERIOUSLY: “But my observation is, is that the people who are involved in America’s national security, they take this work very seriously. They cherish our Constitution. The last thing they’d be doing is taking programs like this to listen to somebody’s phone calls.” This paragraph only works on people who know nothing whatsoever about the history of the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Department.

“And by the way, with respect to my concerns about privacy issues, I will leave this office at some point, sometime in the last -- next three and a half years”. Is he so unsure about when he’s leaving office because he thinks he’ll impeached? “...and after that, I will be a private citizen. And I suspect that, on a list of people who might be targeted so that somebody could read their emails or listen to their phone calls, I’d probably be pretty high on that list.” Why? You’ll be painting pictures of yourself in the bathtub just like Bush does.

BY WHICH I MEAN PROSTITUTES: “But I know that the people who are involved in these programs, they operate like professionals.”

YOU CAN COMPLAIN: “And in the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amuck...” and we’ll be listening in and taking notes “...but when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.”

Whenever Obama talks about “balance,” someone gets fucked. Sometimes, everyone gets fucked.

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Today -100: June 7, 1913: Of lobbies

Congress has been discussing tariffs, specifically what items should and should not be subject to them. President Wilson has been denouncing the “lobby” in favor of retaining protectionist tariffs on various products, so the Republicans are threatening to have the Senate Investigating Committee look into the lobbying by Wilson himself to pressure Democratic senators into voting for free trade items, because Wilson talking about the lobby was in fact lobbying, and oh kill me.

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Today -100: June 6, 1913: Of unpunished militants, wrecked aeroplanes, and loony cardinals

Three good candidates for Headline of the Day -100 today.

First headline: “Derby Militant May Go Unpunished.” Unless you count fatal wounds from a horse falling on her.

Second: “Skirt Wrecks Aeroplane.”

Third: “CARDINAL LOSES HIS MIND.; Vives y Tuto Thinks He Is Pope and Orders Liberals Exterminated.”

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Today -100: June 5, 1913: A Day at the Races

Emily Wilding Davison, a suffragette of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) with a long history of activism, including 8 imprisonments, 7 hunger strikes and 49 forcible feedings, attempted to disrupt the Derby by grabbing the reins of a horse (the king’s horse Anmer as it happened), or possibly she thought all the horses were past and intended to unfurl a women’s suffrage banner, which she had wrapped around her body under her coat, or attach it to the horse. Her intentions have been debated up to the present – there was a documentary on British tv examining the question just last week (and a note to that program’s presenter Clare Balding, who kept referring to the “hidden history” of the suffrage movement: not to be a snitch, but I can tell you exactly where it’s hiding: in the many books on the subject you never bothered to read) – but it was widely assumed at the time that she’d deliberately killed herself. The horse is fine (finished the race sans jockey, second to last), the jockey Herbert Jones is injured but not too seriously, Emily is rather badly trampled, and will die in a few days.

You can find newsreel footage of the incident on YouTube, if you’re into that sort of thing. They certainly were into that sort of thing in England: by the end of day the film had already been shown at the Palace Theatre.

There is a problem when real news happens at sporting events: the news gets written by sports reporters. The sports reporter from the London Times notes that the Derby was marked by two events, 1) the intrusion of a suffragette onto the track, and 2) the (unrelated) disqualification of the favorite, for deliberately bumping other horses, so that the winner was a horse whose odds had been 100:1. And it’s pretty clear which of those events the reporter considered more important. But the Timeseditorial
isn’t much better: “The desperate act of a woman who rushed from the rails on to the course as the horses swept round Tattenham Corner, apparently from some mad notion that she could spoil the race, will impress the general public even more, perhaps, than the disqualification of the winner.” Perhaps! Perhaps!! It continues: “She did not interfere with the race, but she nearly killed a jockey as well as herself, and she brought down a valuable horse.” The Evening Standard wrote: “It is highly characteristic of suffragette militancy that an attempt should be made to introduce a note of tragedy into a day of festival.”

The queen sent a telegram to the jockey in hospital: “Queen Alexandra was very sorry indeed to read of your sad accident caused through the abominable conduct of a brutal lunatic woman.” Jones will ride the winning horse in the Derby in 1919.

The WSPU will elevate Davison to martyrdom, which implies that her death was intentional (and not just the WSPU; the Free Church Suffrage Times proclaimed that never before Emily Wilding Davison had anyone died for the freedom of women: “Something new is with us, the love of women for women, and of this new passion, Miss Davison’s death is the supreme expression, and perhaps, the price.”). Whether her intentions really included the ultimate self-sacrifice or not, there was an ecological niche open in the movement for a martyr, and she filled it nicely. A quicky biography of Davison by Gertrude Colmore repeatedly compares her to Joan of Arc (the suffragettes loved them some Joan of Arc). The June 13th issue of The Suffragette says that Davison’s death “has fired the imagination and touched the heart of the people” and Christabel Pankhurst calls the death “A wonderful act of faith!” adding, “It is only men and women of superhuman generosity and courage who can die for those unseen, unheard, unknown.”

The National American Woman’s Suffrage Association announces that it will begin electoral work in support of pro-suffrage candidates in every Congressional district. This is a (somewhat controversial) move away from the old state-by-state suffrage strategy and towards a federal constitutional amendment. The work will be done by the NAWSA’s Congressional Union, under the leadership of Alice Paul, which will soon split off from the more conservative NAWSA.

The controller of the Treasury tells Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo that he can’t have a government-paid-for automobile.

There’s a fight in the Hungarian Parliament after Prime Minister von Lukacs is declared guilty of misappropriating government funds for party purposes. “During the uproar that followed an opposition Deputy ex-Premier Count Khuen-Héderváry von Hédervár, was knocked down with two blows of his sword by the Captain of the guard, who afterward asserted his right as an officer to knock down any one who insulted him, as the Count had done, by shouting ‘Fie!’ at him three times.”

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Preachers of hate

Here’s what happened in the Mother of Parliaments yesterday:

1) David Cameron bragged about keeping “preachers of hate,” by which he meant Muslim preachers of hate, out of the UK, and spoke of the need to “drain the swamps” of “violent extremists.”

2) Meanwhile, in the House of Lords, aka the swamp of sleepy extremists, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was speaking forcefully against gay marriage.

Welby actually talked about “category errors” by supporters of gay marriage, who, he says, are “failing to understand that two things may be equal but different.” Wow, separate but equal.

By the way, you know how Dan Savage gave a new meaning to the word “Santorum”? Well Just In Welby already sounds kinda...

He said that gay marriage is “an awkward shape, with same-gender and different-gender categories scrunched into it, neither fitting well.” Kinky.

The other chief opponent of the same-sex marriage bill in the Lords is named Lord Dear, because of course he is.

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Today -100: June 4, 1913: Of vetoes, hostility to government, and gypsies

NY Gov. Sulzer uses his line-item veto to eliminate programs and posts favored by opponents of his plan for direct primary elections, because Bill Sulzer is all about winning friends and influencing people.

In other actions, Sulzer signs into law a bill creating a colored battalion of the National Guard in NY City, which the black community had been asking for for 20 years but which the Guard leadership opposed.

Alexander Scott, the managing editor of the socialist Passaic Weekly Issue, is found guilty by a Paterson jury of publishing an editorial advocating “hostility to government,” which was made a crime in New Jersey after the McKinley assassination. The editorial (rightly) accused the Paterson police chief of running amok during the silk strike at the behest of the owners and attacking “defenseless workers like a bunch of drunken Cossacks”. He will be sentenced to a prison term of one to fifteen years.

You know, the NYT is not what you’d call pro-IWW, but it seems to have quoted just about every word of that illegal-in-New-Jersey editorial.

An editor who does rather better for himself is Richard Metcalfe, editor of William Jennings Bryan’s Commoner, who is appointed governor of the Panama Canal Zone.

The NYT says that it’s “probably a wild generalization” that Gypsies steal children (there was a scare in Pennsylvania when a three-year-old boy briefly disappeared just after a band of gypsies was seen passing through).

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Monday, June 03, 2013

Effectively serving

John McCain on Face the Nation suggested that Eric Holder should ask himself if he is “really able to effectively” do his job, because John McCain is not big on either irony or self-awareness.

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Today -100: June 3, 1913: Of poets laureate and bigamists

Alfred Austin, the British Poet Laureate, dies. If you’ve never heard of him, it’s probably because he was kind of crap.

Headline of the Day -100: “Bigamist a Murderer.” I suspect this story is false, since I can’t find another reference to it, but here goes: a Belgian dude, Georges Brény, was told that his wife died on the Titanic, so he married another woman. Finding out that his wife had survived, he shot his second wife dead, tried to shoot himself, failed, tried to hang himself, failed.

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Sunday, June 02, 2013

Today -100: June 2, 1913: Of harassment, numerous and insidious lobbies, ritual murders, and Jack the Ripper

Almost-War Headline of the Day -100: “Bulgars Harass Greeks.” Show us on the map of Salonika where Bulgaria touched you.

Elsewhere, the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Serbia meet to try to prevent a new war.

Since President Wilson claimed that there is a “numerous and insidious lobby” against tariff reduction, a sub-committee of the Senate Judiciary committee will investigate the matter, requiring every member of the Senate to answer questions under oath, to recount every conversation they had about tariffs with persons with financial interests in them, to detail any of their own financial interests that might be affected by tariffs, etc (a later article suggests that this is a scheme to get those financial details so that objections can be made to individual senators voting on particular tariffs that affect them personally, but this scheme, if it exists, is based on a misreading of Senate rules, which do not prevent such votes). It is unclear whether Wilson will testify (he won’t). The next 6 days will see much debate over the precise meaning of the words lobby and lobbyist.

The Russian Ministry of Justice plans to put a Jew on trial for ritual-murdering a Christian boy in Kiev in 1911 (I had thought this was settled when the boy’s step-father was arrested).

Sir Melville Macnaghten, retired head of Scotland Yard’s Criminal Investigation Department, says he knows who Jack the Ripper was but he won’t tell. Also, that Jack committed suicide.

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Saturday, June 01, 2013

Today -100: June 1, 1913: 6¢

Theodore Roosevelt wins his libel case after a week-long trial/circus. The newspaper proprietor he was suing went on the stand and apologized, saying he only believed that TR was a drunk because so many people said he was, but he hasn’t been able to find any proof of it and so is now convinced that TR isn’t a lush after all. Roosevelt then asked to be awarded only nominal damages, which in Michigan is 6¢.

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