Friday, December 31, 2010

Haley and the kidney

Procrastination is good. I knew if I waited long enough, someone, in this case the AP, would write about the ethical implications of Haley Barbour pardoning the Scott sisters on the condition that Gladys give a kidney to Jamie. I’m so glad that Barbour has found a way of giving something to the black folks that won’t piss off his white racist base too much, and save the state hundreds of thousands in dialysis costs at the same time, but this is an ethical slippery slope. He can and should pardon them (16 years served so far for an $11 robbery!) so they can do the transplant, but making it a condition is a step too far, especially in a state that used to mass arrest black people on vagrancy and other flimsy charges and put them on chain gangs right before harvest season. We do not use our prisoners for spare parts.

Today -100: December 31, 1910: Of bathtub men

Headline of the Day -100: “Bathtub Men’s Plea for Clemency Fails.” This would be 14 corporations and 37 individuals comprising the Bathtub Trust, currently being prosecuted under the Sherman Anti-Trust Law. The Justice Dept is going after them personally, seeking jail sentences.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Today -100: December 30, 1910: Of mercenaries, white-capping, and lepers in cars

There’s a revolution going on in Honduras, led by ousted President Gen. Manuel Bonilla and the improbably named Gen. Lee Christmas, an American mercenary. This “revolution” was financed by the United Fruit Company. The NYT thinks that a recent story of two Americans being whipped by the Honduran police is a plant.

80 prominent farmers in Corsicana, Texas are indicted for “white-capping” (basically KKK-type vigilante intimidation) aimed at driving negroes out of the county.

Two Headlines of the Day -100 today, both public transportation related. #1:“Lepers Ride in Cars.”
#2: “Dies in Sleeping Car.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Today -100: December 29, 1910: Of amateur politicians, resurrections, and street cars

In a speech to the City Club of St Louis, NJ Governor-Elect Woodrow Wilson says that this is the day of the amateur politician, the politician not seeking personal gain. I wonder who he has in mind? He also said, “You can trust the people providing you serve them. Reveal everything and the people will be just; conceal anything and make them jealous.” “Force public officials to report often and watch their eyes to see if they are telling you all they know.”

Some Christian Scientists are protesting the placing of an armed guard at the cemetery where Mary Baker Eddy’s body is waiting to be interred, because they expect her to be resurrected.

There are riots and shooting in a border war between Chicago and its suburbs, whose residents are now being charged double fares to ride street cars into Chicago.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Today -100: December 28, 1910: Of men in small spaces

Cornelius Dayton, who went insane when serving in the Civil War, has been kept for the last 45 years in a cage on the family farm in Connecticut.

In West Virginia a lynching is thwarted when a negro prisoner was kept from the mob for several hours in the railroad station’s safe. He almost died of suffocation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Okay, I thought I was done with Obama before. NOW I’m done with Obama.

Obama took time out of his presumably busy schedule to call the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles to thank him for hiring perpetrator of violence against animals Michael Vick.

Today -100: December 27, 1910: Of suffrage, interrupted toilets, pigs, mistletoe, and Sunday baseball

There have been several letters in the NYT over the last couple of weeks -100 about whether or not female students at Barnard College have any interest in women’s suffrage. Now an editorial informs us that “The organization of suffrage clubs in the women’s colleges is not spontaneous, the idea of it is hardly tolerated by the majority in the undergraduate bodies. The young women do not go to college to argue politics or to let the subject intrude upon their studies. It offends them. ... Outside the colleges the agitation of the suffragists has wrought no demonstrable good. It can do no good within them, and it has no rightful place within them.” So that settles that.

Headline of the Day -100: “Morok’s Aeroplane Interrupts Toilet.” Belgian aviator Charles Frank Morok set off from North Bergen, NJ, only to crash into the second floor of a house “where a young woman was completing her toilet at the time.”

On Christmas, there was an explosion at the Llewellyn Iron Works in Los Angeles, part of an ongoing labor dispute. Now, 1,000 LA businessmen have formed a “vigilance committee” to beat up labor organizers, meet union agitators at the train station and turn them away, etc. A police captain says this is just what is needed.

The US sends a gunboat to Honduras. Just because.

Other Headline of the Day -100: “Won’t Let Woman Live with Pigs.” The Health Dept won’t let a woman back into her home in the, um, “Polackville” section of Queens.

Christmas-y Headline of the Day -100: “Mistletoe Kills Children.”

NY Governor-Elect Dix is such a politician: “I have never expressed myself on the subject of Sunday baseball.”

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Today -100: December 26, 1910: Of common malefactors & robbers, strikes, and peacemaker’s heads

The governor of Chihuahua issues a proclamation calling for all citizens to organize themselves to fight the rebels and deriding the latter as common malefactors and robbers.

Employees of the Pressed Steel Car Company of Pittsburg are threatening to strike. 1909’s strike was accompanied by violence and this year plant workers have been buying rifles discarded by the Army. Oh, and they’re “foreigners.”

Christmas-y Headline of the Day -100: “Peacemaker’s Head Nearly Severed.” One Albert Hibbs in Camden, NJ, who tried to stop two negroes fighting (Hibbs’s race is not mentioned, which means he was white, since the 1910 NYT was incapable of referring to any African-American without making their race clear).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

GOP gadgets

Republicans are proposing to allow members of Congress to bring their electronic gadgets into the House chamber – iPads, Blackberries, vibrators, etc. After all, Dick Cheney used to preside over the Senate, and he’s more machine than man.

CONTEST: What gadgets might be appropriate for Republican congresscritters in either House, collectively or for individuals, such as the iCurmudgeon, which reminds him what he’s cranky about on a real-time basis.

Today -100: December 25, 1910: Of hair, reckless driving, and dancing

One result of the Japanese annexation of Korea: human hair has gotten a lot cheaper on the world hair markets as Koreans are cutting off their top-knots. A ladies’ hairdresser tells the Times that “smart” women spend $100 to $150 a year on human hair, with $8 of foreign hair on her head at any one time. The glut of Korean hair will bring curls, switches (whatever those might be) etc within the reach of all.

A chauffeur (I think meaning taxi driver) in Nebraska is sentenced to 3 years for running over a rich guy (while driving some fares to a funeral). This is the first manslaughter conviction of a motorist in the West ever (reckless drivers in general seemed to get off pretty lightly in 1910).

Nebraska Governor-Elect Chester Aldrich will have no inaugural ball – he is a Methodist and “cannot countenance dancing.”

Friday, December 24, 2010

That voodoo that you do

1) Sarah Palin’s latest “cause” is Haiti (through the odious Franklin Graham’s group). 2) Haitians have been killing voodoo practitioners in an effort to end the cholera epidemic. Coincidence?

Today -100: December 24, 1910: Of gambling, divorces and recalls

Gamblers are demanding the repeal of an anti-gambling law recently passed in Nevada. They are threatening that if it is not repealed, they will repeal the other source of Nevada’s tourist trade, the divorce law.

A petition for the recall of Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill, elected earlier in the year, receives enough signatures to trigger a recall election, the first of an American mayor.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

State visit

Chinese president Hu Jintao will be visiting the White House next month. In other news, banks have been breaking into people’s houses and throwing out all their possessions. Just sayin’.

Today -100: December 23, 1910: Of bodies in barrels, invasions, duck hunting, and opium

A body found in a barrel marked “poultry” in Montreal has been identified as one Matthew Johnson. The case turned out not to be one of murder, but of grave robbery by an amateur medical student, who insists that the barrel, which was discovered after he failed to collect it at the railroad station, contained turkeys and not dead janitors.

For some reason everyone in the US government is issuing denials that the US plans to re-invade Cuba.

French aviator Hubert Latham went duck hunting from his airplane. Another aviation first.

Members of the Chinese National Assembly are demanding a reduction in the production of opium and a ban on its importation from India. The British government is trying to prevent these “sentimental” measures which threaten state revenues in India, and they did after all fight the Opium Wars to force open the Chinese opium market.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama press conference: A season of progress

Just what I didn’t want for Xmas: another Obama press conference to blog.

IS THAT YOUR WAY OF TELLING THEM THE WHITE HOUSE HAS BEDBUGS AND NOW SO DO THEY? He began, “I know everybody is itching to get out of here”.

AND A SEASON OF WHINING AND PETULANCE FOR JOHN MCCAIN: “A lot of folks in this town predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. And instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people.”

IT WAS MORE FUN WHEN REAGAN USED TO TRY TO SAY IT IN RUSSIAN: On the New START Treaty: “So we will be able to trust but verify.”

HE’S THE REMINDERER: “In fact, I just got off the phone with Dick Lugar, and reminded him the first trip I ever took as senator -- foreign trip -- was with Dick Lugar to Russia, to look at nuclear facilities there.” Hey, Dick, remember when I’d been in the Senate about a week and you’d been there like thirty years and now I’m the president and you’re still in the Senate?

“PERFECTING OUR UNION” – IS THAT WHAT THEY’RE CALLING IT NOW? “In our ongoing struggle to perfect our union, we also overturned a 17-year-old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’”

YES, LET’S STOP PUNISHING KIDS, AND SEND THEM INTO THE MILITARY, NO WAIT, WHAT? “I am very disappointed Congress wasn’t able to pass the DREAM Act so we can stop punishing kids for the actions of their parents, and allow them to serve in the military or earn an education and contribute their talents to the country where they grew up.”

On gay marriage: “As I’ve said, my feelings about this are constantly evolving. I struggle with this.” It’s not about your “feelings.” It’s about equity. Your “feelings” about other people’s rights are irrelevant.

WHAT HIS BASELINE IS: “my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them the protections and the legal rights that married couples have. And I think -- and I think that’s the right thing to do. But I recognize that from their perspective it is not enough”. That “from their perspective” is rather telling. Just as he privileges his own personal “feelings” about gay marriage, this suggests that only gay people have a problem with their being denied marital equality, and that that problem is primarily emotional. In fact civil unions are “not enough” from the perspective of anyone who puts equity first, and the denial of equality to anyone in society is harmful to everyone in that society.

THE SPIDER-MAN PRINCIPLE (BUT THEN, SPIDER-MAN SEEMS TO BE FALLING DOWN AN AWFUL LOT LATELY): “You know, my sense is the Republicans recognize that with greater power is going to come greater responsibility.”

Asked about his failure to close Guantanamo, he went on about the reason for closing it being that “Guantanamo is probably the number one recruitment tool that is used by these jihadist organizations.” Well, no, that would probably be all the wars in Muslim countries and, you know, Israel. “And that’s what closing Guantanamo is about -- not because I think that the people who are running Guantanamo are doing a bad job, but rather because it’s become a symbol.” Unless you’re a prisoner in the 6th or 8th year of detention without trial, of course.

“And so one thing I hope people have seen during this lame duck -- I am persistent. I am persistent. If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it.” And then he went on vacation.

Today in Lame

On Monday, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was seen to be blissfully unaware of alleged terrorists having been arrested in London.

White House adviser on heimat security John Brenner defends Clapper thusly: “I am glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what is coming out of the media.”

Oh, all right, I guess I have to: Clap on, clap off. The Clapper.

Today -100: December 22, 1910: Of the 103rd meridian

The US Senate invalidates the decision of the New Mexico Constitutional Convention as to the borders of the not-yet-state with Texas. There’s a dispute dating back to an error by a government surveyor in 1858, and Taft wants that error made permanent.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh, now you’re just making it sound dirty

AP: “Obama To End Military Gay Ban at Interior Ceremony.”

Today -100: December 21, 1910: Of the need for speed, blue suit duels, and the British elections

NYC is considering raising the automobile speed limit from its current 8 mph to 15 or 20, depending on the width of the street.

In Nagyvarad, Hungary, the president of the local union of solicitors attended a ball given by local law students. He was wearing a light blue summer suit and brown boots, which for some reason was taken as a grave insult. The law students called a meeting to debate the suit, things turned nasty, 122 deadly insults were made, which will result in 122 duels. Which are to be fought with swords. (Were 122 duels actually fought? Who knows: there was no follow-up story).

The British general election (voting took place from the 3rd to the 19th, the last multi-day election in Britain), which was supposed to break the parliamentary deadlock created by the previous general election 11 months before, didn’t. The Liberals dropped from 275 seats to 272, the Tories won 272 seats, down by 1 (who counts as what is open to debate for some, so you may see different figures). Labour gained 2 to win 42 seats, despite the fact that having to fighting two elections in one year seriously strained their finances. The Irish Nationalists won 84 seats, up 2. Turnout was 81%, down 5.5% from January. Asquith and the Liberals will continue to rule, in conjunction with Labour and the Nats.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Today -100: December 20, 1910: Of dry zones and Civil War pensions

President Taft is considering whether to modify the dry zones in Minnesota. Old Indian treaties forbid the sale of liquor on any reservations, but the boundaries were set so long ago that the dry zones now include Minneapolis, Duluth, etc. Taft is talking with the governor and the Anti-Saloon League about what to do.

In Congress, the Republican Old Guard and some Democrats are filibustering a bill to give a pension to Civil War vets who served more than 60 days ($15 a month if they’re over 65, $20 if 70, $36 if 75). The Republicans oppose it on budgetary grounds, the Democrats because, well, because a lot of them weren’t on that side, and because it would give the same pension to real soldiers and to those who joined in the last year to get large signing bonuses and who saw no actual fighting.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Today -100: December 19, 1910: Of disappearing islands and disappearing horses

Following a series of earthquakes in Costa Rica, an island in the Ilopango Lagoon sinks, killing roughly 170 people.

Another piece of old New York has passed away, says the NYT: battery-powered street cars have now replaced horse-drawn ones on the 28th and 29th Street crosstown line. “To stand in Broadway... and watch first the tide of modern traffic along the Great White Way and then suddenly to see a horse car jogging across this line of traffic was not unlike looking at a knight in armor gallop across a parade of the bricklayers’ union.”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today -100: December 18, 1910: Of invasion, grand old Republicans, airplanes, and women smoking

Taft gives a speech publicly refuting those leaked reports of his secretary of war and army chief of staff and denying that the US is in any imminent danger of being invaded by some European power if it doesn’t immediately increase the size of the standing army to 400,000 or more: “There is not the slightest reason for such a sensation, because we are at peace with all the nations of the world and are quite likely to remain so.” But he does want an international court and fortification of the Panama Canal.

In Russia, five newspapers are confiscated and their editors will be prosecuted for lèse majesté for publishing a speech made by Vladimir Purishkevitch in the Duma about police attacks on student meetings and the cruelties inflicted on political prisoners (since Purishkevitch was a right-wing anti-Semitic crazy, I’m not sure what this is about, and I don’t have more details about the speech).

Samuel Parker, 80, one of the founders of the Republican Party and a friend of Abraham Lincoln, retires from his government job in Cook County. And the NYT -100 really needed to watch its spacing, since “whoretired” might really be “who retired,” and might really be something else entirely.

Orville Wright says that aviation is now safer than automobiling, that planes will soon be built capable of carrying ten or even twelve passengers, and that people (rich people) will soon use planes for cross-country trips.

At the new Ritz-Carlton, a woman smoked in the dining room, blowing smoke-rings. A waiter informed the head-waiter, who informed the manager, who merely observed the violator of social mores without chastising her. So, will women be allowed to smoke in the public rooms of the New York Ritz-Carlton, as they are in the one in London? The Times sent a reporter to ask the vice president of the Ritz-Carlton Company. He insisted that “American women know best what is the correct thing to do in a public restaurant, and I would never dream of posing as an arbiter of etiquette. ... I cannot presume to teach American women anything at all.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Headlines of the day from the greatest newspaper ever

The Daily Telegraph today brings us these journalistic gems:

“Silvio Berlusconi Buys 37 Rings for His Leading Ladies.” Meaning $1,850 gold & diamond rings for women MPs. I believe they had to take them from his penis.

“Japanese Woman Sues Google for Displaying Images of Underwear.” Google Street View strikes again. “I could understand if it was just a picture of the outside of the apartment, but showing a person’s underwear hanging outside is absolutely wrong,” she says.

“Hospital Hired Models in Lab Coats and Heels ‘To Attract Men.’” UMass Memorial Health Care hired the models to flirt with men in malls and coax them into having swabs taken for a bone marrow registry. And then billing their insurance $4,300.

“Swedish Medical Students Get Teacher’s Body at First Autopsy.”

“Barack Obama Scoops Bo’s Poop.” Hey, he’s getting off lightly. John Boehner is going to make him eat his.

This was at an elementary school. No one asked him about dog poop. Some student asked how much fun is it running around the White House all day, and he brought up the poop thing all by himself. The children’s response, as recorded by the White House transcript: “Ew!”

One kid asked him for an autograph. He said no.

“Surgeon Made Dominatrix Blush.” Dr. W masturbated after giving Mistress J botox injections at a clinic in, um, Maidenhead.

“Model’s Hair Catches Fire at Rapper Diddy’s Party.” And there’s a video you can watch (I didn’t), because he was webcasting the album-release party. “Diddy has apparently been told not to return to the hotel.”

“Winona Ryder Claims Mel Gibson Called Her an ‘Oven-Dodger.’
” I assumed it was some sort of sexist thing, but it was an anti-Semitic thing. Charming.

Today -100: December 17, 1910: Of seasonable baths and goodies

Congresscritters will no longer be able to take baths in the House Office Building: the salaries for bath attendants were stricken out of the appropriations bill. Rep. James Mann (R-Ill.) complained that “those members of the House who did not care to take baths should find no fault with those who did.” Rep. Philip Campbell (R-Kansas) replied that they should take their baths at seasonable times and places, not during the daytime at their offices. Mann replied that “seasonable times of the year also would be a good suggestion to make to some members.” Zing!

Germany’s parliament has adopted a draft Constitution for Alsace-Lorraine, the province seized from France in 1870. It will have a governor appointed by the kaiser and a two-chamber legislature. Half of the upper house will be ex officio or appointed by chambers of commerce, agriculture and labor, the other half nominated by the lower chamber and appointed by the kaiser. The lower house will be elected by universal male suffrage of men over 25, with those over 35 getting 2 votes, those over 45 3 votes.

Headline of the Day -100: “Taft Gets Aunt Delia’s Goodies.”

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We’re going to have to continue to stand up

Introducing the Afghan-Pakistan Annual Review (spoiler alert: two thumbs up), Obama said, “It’s important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan.” Because everything we’ve done there in nine years has failed?

In case you’re wondering, we remain in Afghanistan because of 9/11! 9/11! 9/11!

HUNKERED: “In short, al Qaeda is hunkered down.”

OBAMA DOES NOT WANT YOU TO MAKE A MISTAKE: “But make no mistake -- we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization.”

AFGHANISTAN IS A PRECIOUS NEWBORN KITTEN: “In many places, the gains we’ve made are still fragile and reversible.”

AL QAIDA GET TO HUNKER WHILE WE HAVE TO STAND: “We’re going to have to continue to stand up.”

Are everyone’s lips pursed? Then we’ll begin.

The report’s unclassified summary consists entirely of clichés and vague generalities.

SEE, AND YOU DIDN’T THINK WE HAD A CORE GOAL: “The core goal of the U.S. strategy in the Afghanistan and Pakistan theater remains to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida in the region”. There’s that disrupt, dismantle & defeat thing again. Obama has been repeating this since alliterative catchphrase since the start of his presidency, and I’ve long since run out of amusing alliterative additions to it. The Pentagon, however, seems to have caught the bug, and one or more of the Big D triumvirate tends to show up in close proximity to another d-word, so that Al Qaida’s “eventual strategic defeat” (when in doubt, they throw in the word strategic) requires “the sustained denial of the group’s safe haven”. See what they did there? Strategic defeat / sustained denial. And AQ’s capabilities have been “degraded” and its leadership “depleted.”

STRATEGERY: “In 2010, we also improved the United States-Pakistan relationship through the Strategic Dialogue.” Initial caps and everything, that must be quite a dialogue.

ER, CATERING, YEAH, CATERING’S GOING OKAY: “Specific components of our strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan are working well.”

AND IF THEY WOULD JUST SHUT UP AND DO WHAT WE TELL THEM... “In Pakistan, we are laying the foundation for a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and trust”. Actually there’s an awful lot about how Pakistan has to step up and secure parts of Pakistan the government’s never had much control over.

KOMICAL K SOUNDS: “It clearly communicates U.S. commitment to a long-term relationship that is supportive of Pakistan’s interests, and underscores that we will not disengage from the region as we have in the past.” Nice to see a repetition of the Republican talking point that the US “walked away” from Afghanistan after the Soviets were driven out, selfishly setting down the White Man’s Burden instead of, I guess, handing it over to Haliburton to run.

Headline of the Day

WaPo: “Red Cross Official Offers Grim Assessment of War.” Everyone’s a critic.

Today -100: December 16, 1910: Of arbitration, palaces, fingers, and the P-word

The idea behind Andrew Carnegie’s $10 million donation is that peace will be established when arbitration between nations becomes not a diplomatic but a judicial process.

This is the entirety of a NYT story: “The Government Palace at Quito was burned to-day.”

Gross Headline of the Day -100: “Snipped Finger Exhibit.” Albert Shattuck of the Executive Committee of the American Museum of Safety (est. 1908 to promote workplace safety) (I wonder what the gift shop sells) appeared at a dinner of the Engineers’ Club with his little finger bandaged, which he explained was the result of a shaving accident. I admit to having been somewhat disappointed when I realized that “Snipped Finger Exhibit” wasn’t about an actual exhibit at the museum.

Mortifying Headline of the Day -100: “Remember the Pickaninnies.” “Those who feel an interest in colored children protest that, in all the flood of Christmas charity, everybody seems to forget the little ones of the city’s dusky poor. There is to be a ‘pickaninny Christmas tree,’ just the same, and a Christmas dinner, too.” And Rosalie Jonas, who is collecting subscriptions for the event, has a little poem, which may be the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever read:

Ms. Jonas was evidently a poet of the Harlem Renaissance, so, um, presumably African-American.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Is he saying it’s not fun to stay in the United States military?

Favorite stupid comments – today – about repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:

Duncan Hunter: “The United States military is not the YMCA. It’s something special,” adding that it is also “not the place to have a liberal crusade to create a liberal utopia and experiment.” Because nothing says liberal utopia like heavily armed gays shooting up Afghan villages nine years into an unending occupation.

Louie Gohmert (R-TX): “I would submit if you will look thoroughly at history — and I’m not saying it’s cause and effect — but when militaries throughout history of the greatest nations in the world have adopted the policy that ‘fine for homosexuality to be overt’ — you can keep it private and control your hormones, fine, if you can’t, that’s fine too — they’re toward the end of their existence as a great nation.”

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos warned that gay people in the Marines would be “distracting,” what with their washboard abs and dreamy eyes, which would be bad,“And I’ll tell you why. If you go up to Bethesda Hospital . . . Marines are up there with no legs, none. We’ve got Marines at Walter Reed with no limbs.” See what you’ve done, House of Representatives? You’ve literally cut the legs out from under the Marines, with the gay.

Today -100: December 15, 1910: Of fatally deficient armies, abolishing war, and Pancho Villa

Secretary of War Jacob Dickinson sent a report to the House of Representatives on the weakness of US military defenses, which was hurriedly recalled before it could be published after someone realized that this wasn’t anything they really wanted to advertise. Still, it leaked out that the report called the army “fatally deficient” and the militia worse. Dickinson wants a military three times bigger (400,000) and much better armed in order to defend against a theoretical trans-Atlantic invasion. And he evidently leaked this report in order to pressure Taft, who is far less concerned about an amphibious assault by Belgium or wherever.

Andrew Carnegie creates a peace foundation with a gift of $10 million. After its done its job and war is abolished forever, the money will go to addressing whatever the “next most degrading evil or evils” afflicting humankind might be.

Mexican rebels fought a larger number of the Mexican Army to a standstill. The latter is taking no prisoners, bayoneting wounded and surrendering rebels. Also, every man in the hamlet of Cerro Prieto was hauled out and ordered to prove that they had not participated in the revolt. 30 could not do so to the satisfaction of the mayor, and were killed. Pancho Villa (is this his first mention in the Times?) and his band took time off from the revolution to rob a Chinese man, extort money from a ranch superintendent, and burn a store.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Israeli government: working overtime to develop new and exciting forms of assholery

Palestinian firefighters who helped fight the big fire aren’t allowed back into Israel for a ceremony to honor them for it.

Today -100: December 14, 1910: Of judges, California chattel, South Carolina schools, and Finnish Jews

Taft nominates Willis Van Devanter and Joseph Lamar to the Supreme Court.

California’s Governor-Elect Hiram Johnson says that “For forty years, California has been a chattel of the Southern Pacific Railroad. ... The railroad has named the governors of California for forty years.” Johnson observes that he and the other reformists only won election in Calif. this year because of the new direct primary system, and he wants to add to that the initiative, referendum and direct election of US senators. He is, however, a little squirrely about women’s suffrage, saying there is some suffragist agitation in the state but that it ought to be left to the people to make their own decision, whatever that means.

South Carolina’s Governor-Elect, Coleman Livingston Blease (campaign song: “Roll up your sleeves, say what you please, the man for the job is Coley Blease”) advocates separate and unequal education, that is, that the amount spent on white schools and black schools respectively should be proportionate to the taxes paid by whites and blacks. He also doesn’t want blacks to be taught more than the most basic literacy. A NYT editorial deprecates this, saying that negroes should receive an education meeting their “probable needs,” which in the South means some sort of industrial training, either mechanical or agricultural. So their disagreement isn’t about whether blacks should get an inferior education, but what sort of inferior education.

The Russian Duma, working on a bill defining citizenship in Finland, refuses to give equal rights to Jews.

Monday, December 13, 2010

2010 in Pictures

This is what 2010 looked like (er, just pretend I included an inspirational picture of the Chilean miners being rescued, m’kay?).

This picture of former showgirl and Silvio Berlusconi’s personal dental hygienist Nicole Minetti, now a regional councillor for Lombard, brought a ridiculous number of hits to this blog from Italy, Europe and most recently... let me check... Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, a few hours ago.

The picture of the year, of course, is one of a pelican covered in BP oil, but I didn’t really want to see that again, did you?

The pictorial question of the year:

The only one who missed you was that Iraqi who threw his shoes at you. Next time we’ll be sure to tie you to a chair.


Today -100: December 13, 1910: Of integration, deaf people at the movies, and opium

A property owners’ association is fighting to keep negroes out of a neighborhood in Harlem. Good luck with that.

Some Jews, merchants with guild rights, will henceforth be allowed to live in Moscow.

Some people are complaining about the language spoken in moving pictures. Lip-reading deaf people. Evidently the actors in silent films cursed. A lot. A teacher of the deaf and dumb explains that “these shows are the chief source of amusement for the deaf, and they are prevented from enjoying them because they are able to understand what is being said by the characters on the screens.” Tell me about it!

Although opium importation was banned two years ago (-100) except for medical purposes, 60,000 pounds are still, somehow, being imported. Congress is considering slapping a high tariff on it, as well as on cannabis indica and cocoa leaves.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Today -100: December 12, 1910: Of lame ducks, judges, and the Headline of the Year for 1910

The lame duck Congress is in session. Although dominated by defeated Republicans “bent on going out in dogged inaction,” it does face the unavoidable task of reapportioning congressional districts based on the 1910 census.

They’ll also have to rubber-stamp a couple of Supreme Court seats plus the chief justice. There has been no chief justice for more than five months but Taft didn’t name a successor since the Senate wasn’t in session to confirm. Rumor most of that time said it would be newbie Justice Charles Evans Hughes but in fact Taft names a Democrat, Justice Edward Douglass White, appointed to the Court by Grover Cleveland in 1894. White was a Catholic, the second one ever appointed to the Court, and a former Confederate soldier. Some believed Taft chose White because he was old and fat and by the time he died or retired Hughes would be ready to be chief justice. In fact, White was replaced by Taft himself, who was replaced by Hughes, who had resigned from the court to run for president in 1916.

But the big front page news was of course this:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Today -100: December 11, 1910: Of censuses, talking German dogs, perfect utopias, and cocking

The 1910 census records that in the continental US, the population is 91,972,266, a 21% increase over 1900. Add Alaska, Hawaii and Porto Rico (as it was then spelled), and it’s 93,402,151. Add all US possessions, meaning American Samoa, the Philippines and the Canal Zone, and it’s 101,100,000.

New York, with 9,113,614, was the most populous state, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Massachusetts, etc.

Roughly 45% live in urban areas with populations of 2,500 or more, while 28½ million live in cities over 25,000, a 35% increase over 1900. In the South, only 12.8% live in cities over 25,000.

The entire military and navy consisted of 55,608 men.

Scoop of the Day -100 (from the NYT Magazine section, presumably a pre-William Safire “On Language” column): Germany has a talking dog. At least according to his owner, who is a Prussian official (a royal gamekeeper) and therefore incapable of lying. The pointer or setter speaks 6 words of German: haben, kuchen, hunger, ja, nein, and Don (his name). And he can form them into sentences: Don hungry, want cakes.

Raymond Bayle, a candidate for the French senate in Ardèche, promised a perfect utopia. A perfect utopia would have omnibuses traveling between the fairs of the region, steam heat to aid agriculture in the mountainous regions, airships and airplanes to bring pilgrims to the local shrines, the abolition of money, and the roads asphalted and then enameled white. He received exactly two votes. The French were evidently just not ready for a perfect utopia in 1910.

Headline of the Day -100: “Big Cocking Main in South.” I was thinking of not clicking on the link and just letting all our filthy, filthy imaginations run wild, but unfortunately I did click, and it turned out to be more obscene than anything I’d come up with: a 10-day cockfighting tournament.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The winna!

An empty chair has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

To be fair, the empty chair has done more to advance the cause of peace than has Barack Obama. So there’s that.

Today -100: December 10, 1910: Of height, Jim Crow in Charm City, fruit and the Japanese, and poor ex-kings

French aviator Georges Legagneux breaks the 10,000-foot altitude barrier.

Baltimore City Council passes an ordinance making it illegal for negroes to move into any block in which a majority of houses are occupied by white people, and vice versa. Evidently while legal segregation of facilities (schools, street cars, theaters, etc) is common, this is a novelty. The punishment is a $100 fine and imprisonment up to 1 year. No one now living in the “wrong” neighborhood will be forced to move. When a new city block is being built, the builder must specify the race of the intended residents.

Secretary of War Jacob Dickinson points out that the US military’s entire aeronautical equipment consists of one small dirigible, one Wright airplane and 3 small captive balloons (whatever that means). The air force consists of 10 people, only one of whom is a licensed pilot (for balloons). Dickinson wants to buy more planes.

Of the 370 army deaths last year, 228 were from disease (43 from tuberculosis) and there were 33 suicides, 15 homicides, and 6 killed in hostilities in the Philippines.

The California Fruit Growers’ Association convention demands that Japanese be banned from owning land in the state.

The deposed king of Portugal, the poor baby, is poverty stricken. “For three months he has not had the means with which to pay his own servants.”

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Today -100: December 9, 1910: Of Abe Slupsky, American hero

Remember Abe Slupsky? He’s won his bet by drinking 20 pints of beer a day for 30 days, earning himself $250 and a suit of clothes.

Thank god for Abe Slupsky. If not for him, my only story of the day -100 would be the record price for codfish.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Today -100: December 8, 1910: Of awkward parties and rioting... Canadians

In the French colony of Senegal, a French column beat back an attack, killing 600 Senegalese.

Pres. Taft’s daughter Helen is having a coming-out party with 1,500 guests, but invitations to members of the House of Representatives were lost in the mail (not those to senators). At any rate, that’s the White House’s story, and it’s sticking with it.

Headline of the Day -100: “Won’t Dance with Japanese.” A ball was to be held in Pasadena for a visiting Japanese training squadron, but the leading girls of Pasadena high society refused to attend, so it had to be cancelled at short notice.

There was a riot in Toronto. Toronto, Canada. Wow, 1910 really was different. 11 street cars were destroyed. Evidently Torontohoovians didn’t like the new pay-as-you-enter cars.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Obama press conference: It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers

Obama held a press conference today, mostly to attack those who criticize his surrender on taxes.

Remember Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis in an SNL parody of the Bush-Dukakis debate, saying, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy”? I’m guessing every time Hillary Clinton sees Barack Obama speak about the Republicans, she wonders how she could possibly have lost to him. I know McCain does.

WHAT HIS NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IS: “My number one priority is to do what’s right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth.” And how’s that going?

REALLY? “This is real money for real people that will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here.”

WHAT SOME WOULD HAVE PREFERRED: “Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.” The assumption here is that he would have lost the fight. It’s pretty much always Obama’s working assumption that he will lose any fight. And then, funnily enough, he does.

WHAT HE’S SYMPATHETIC TO: “And I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that.” If by sympathetic, you mean condescending.

WELL THAT CAN’T BE TRUE, BECAUSE YOU JUST AGREED TO EXTEND THEM: “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years.”

ALSO IN THE SHORT RUN. YOU KNOW, NOW. “In the long run, we simply can’t afford them.”

THAT MUST HAVE THE REPUBLICANS TREMBLING: “And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them”.

AND REPUBLICANS’ RESPONSIBILITY IS TO PREVENT THAT. EVIDENTLY. “And my responsibility as President is to do what’s right for the American people.”

HE HAS AN OPTION! YAY! “Now, I have an option, which is to say, you know what, I’m going to keep fighting a political fight, which I can’t win in the Senate”. Well, not with an attitude like that, mister.

“Or alternatively, what I can do is I can say that I am going to stick to my position that those folks get relief, that people get help for unemployment insurance. And I will continue to fight before the American people to make the point that the Republican position is wrong.” Oo, he’ll fight. Well, fight to make a point. Which isn’t so much fighting, in the strict sense of the term, as meekly objecting.

But the reason he can’t fight, is that there would be consequences for people. Er, what did he think running a country was about? “Now, if there was not collateral damage, if this was just a matter of my politics or being able to persuade the American people to my side, then I would just stick to my guns, because the fact of the matter is the American people already agree with me.”

And the reason he can’t win, is that the Republicans are, um, determined. “Well, let me say that on the Republican side, this is their holy grail, these tax cuts for the wealthy.”

“But the fact of the matter is, I haven’t persuaded the Republican Party. I haven’t persuaded Mitch McConnell and I haven’t persuaded John Boehner.” Dude, it isn’t about persuasion.

YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE IS TEMPTING? CHOCOLATE CAKE. “I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.” So is the concern that the American people will get harmed, or that he’d be blamed for it rather than the hostage-takers?

WHAT HE COULD HAVE ENJOYED: “Now, I could have enjoyed the battle with Republicans over the next month or two, because as I said, the American people are on our side.” And yet, with an entire people, whose leader you are, behind you, you keep losing. Funny that.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNACCEPTABLE: “if we had made a determination that the deal was a permanent tax break for high-income individuals in exchange for these short-term things that people need right now, that would have been unacceptable.” So we’ve got surrender on the instalment plan instead.

A VERY UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCE: “Q: If I may follow, aren’t you telegraphing, though, a negotiating strategy of how the Republicans can beat you in negotiations all the way through the next year because they can just stick to their guns, stay united, be unwilling to budge -- to use your words -- and force you to capitulate? THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. And the reason is because this is a very unique circumstance. This is a situation in which tens of millions of people would be directly damaged and immediately damaged, and at a time when the economy is just about to recover.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “And I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues.”

WHAT HE SUSPECTS: “I suspect they will find I am.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “I’m happy to have that battle. I’m happy to have that conversation. I just want to make sure that the American people aren’t harmed while we’re having that broader argument.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “I am happy to be tested over the next several months about our ability to negotiate with Republicans.”

A SAFE PLACE: “Part of what I want to do is to essentially get the American people in a safe place so that we can then get the economy in a stable place. And then we’re going to have to have a broad-based discussion across the country about our priorities.” And how you’ll surrender them.

AND NOW IT’S EVEN LESS SO: “And that’s going to mean looking at the tax code and saying, what’s fair, what’s efficient. And I don’t think anybody thinks the tax code right now is fair or efficient.”

WHAT HE DOESN’T SEE: “And in that context, I don’t see how the Republicans win that argument. I don’t know how they’re going to be able to argue that extending permanently these high-end tax cuts is going to be good for our economy when, to offset them, we’d end up having to cut vital services for our kids, for our veterans, for our seniors.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “But I’m happy to listen to their arguments.”

Oh dear muppety Odin, how does he continually fail to learn anything? It doesn’t fucking matter whether the Republicans “win that argument,” because it’s not an argument, and anyway you’ve said, several times in this press conference, that they’ve lost the argument, as shown by the polls. It’s not an intellectual discussion. To paraphrase Sean Connery, he brought a well-reasoned disquisition to a gun fight. And plans to keep doing so in the future. You’d think all the bullet holes in his policies would be enough of a fucking hint by now.

And by the way, my lame duck-droid governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger, has called a special session of the Legislature so that he can push yet again his proposal to end vision care for poor children. So fuck all Republicans, is what I’m saying.

On why he doesn’t think the R’s will hold raising the debt ceiling hostage: “But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.” Has he ever MET John Boehner? Does he not remember Newt Gingrich? Of course a Republican speaker of the House can stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

What will be different when these temporary extensions end in two years? “we will have had two years to discuss the budget -- not in the abstract, but in concrete terms.” Oh good, more “discussion.” “And I think it becomes pretty clear, after you go through the budget line by line, that if in fact they want to pay for $700 billion worth of tax breaks to wealthy individuals, that that’s a lot of money and that the cuts -- corresponding cuts that would have to be made are very painful.” First, they don’t want to pay for the tax breaks. They don’t care about paying for the tax breaks. I thought we’d established that. Second, would the very painful cuts be to the wealthy? No? Then they don’t care. They do not fucking care.

And then he got down to really bitching about his critics on the left: “This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.” Well, let’s see, first you said you wanted it included, and then when the other side objected, it wasn’t included. What’s your definition of compromise, if that isn’t compromise?

I DON’T KNOW, SEEMS TO WORK PRETTY DAMNED WELL FOR THE REPUBLICANS: “Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done.” As opposed to getting everything done the Republicans want done. “People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position...” I know I’m feeling terribly satisfied right now. “...and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are”. As opposed to your feeling sanctimonious about how pure your intentions are and how realistic you are.

Have you noticed how Obama is never so sanctimonious as when he’s castigating the left for being so sanctimonious?

“This country was founded on compromise.” Er, the American War of Semi-Independence? (Update: Rick Perlstein writes on his Facebook page, “Give me liberty or give me illness.” “Loosen my restraints somewhat or give me death.”) “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union.” Oh, I see, the compromise of slavery. That’s your standard for a really good deal, is it? I guess the unemployed should be happy the Republicans weren’t demanding a repeal of the 13th Amendment. Yet.


Headline of the Day: NYT: “U.S. Strains to Stop Arms Flow.” Given that the US is by far the largest purveyor of arms in the world (a fact which makes a belated appearance in the story’s 7th paragraph), this headline produced in my mind the unfortunate image of Uncle Sam on the toilet, shitting out an unstoppable diarrhoeal flow of weaponry. Now that image is in your head too – you’re welcome.

That 7th paragraph notes that the US “has drawn criticism” for starting an arms race in the Middle East with its bounteous provision of weaponry to Israel and Saudi Arabia, “But it has also taken on a leading role as traffic cop”. But? The NYT persists in seeing a contradiction where there is none, presenting a narrative in which the US is bravely and benevolently attempting to restore sanity to the world, where in fact the massive flow of arms from the United States is part and parcel of the policy of denying to others, such as the Palestinians of Gaza, the means of defending themselves. Honestly, this is so obvious that I feel silly even having to point it out, but it does seem to have eluded the Times.

Quote of the Day

Racism originated in the Torah.”

Today -100: December 7, 1910: Of colonies, lynchings, scapegoats, a really long State of the Union Address, and the Bathtub Trust

Secretary of War Jacob Dickinson, who recently visited the Philippines, of which he is overlord, if I understand the organizational structure of 1910 US colonialism correctly, says the desire of the Filipinos for independence is “very general,” but tough shit because they simply won’t be ready for it in the present generation. But he sees many signs of progress: 493 miles of railroads, education, less headhunting, everyone’s learning English, lepers are being sent to a leper colony, etc.

Two negroes who allegedly burned a barn are lynched near Monroeville, Alabama.

The coroner’s jury in Newark is investigating the fire that killed 25 female employees of the Wolf Muslin Undergarment Company last month. The company’s vice president testifies that the forewoman, Anna Haag, who conveniently died in the fire, was completely and entirely to blame.

Taft delivered his State of the Union Address, at 27,651 words the longest ever (a record still unbeaten), possibly because he insisted on summarizing every damn thing that happened everywhere in the world in 1910. Lots of stuff about arbitration of border disputes, tariffs, etc. Typical sentence: “All these tariff negotiations, so vital to our commerce and industry, and the duty of jealously guarding the equitable and just treatment of our products, capital, and industry abroad devolve upon the Department of State.” The reading-out of the document in Congress emptied the place out, with only a dozen congresscritters remaining to the end, and those mostly talking amongst themselves. The reading in the Senate took half the time as in the House, because of “liberal skipping.”

Taft wants the next (Democratic) Congress to give him a new banking law, federal incorporation of businesses, Panama canal fortifications, and subsidies for American shipping, especially to South America. He does not want any new legislation regulating corporations, saying “we can stop for a while” and just enforce the existing ones. He wants Alaska to be ruled by a commission appointed by himself, the same system as the US uses in the Philippines. His proposed budget for fy 1911-12 is $630,494,013.12, $52,964,887.36 less than for fy 1910-1, not counting Panama Canal expenses. A $50 million budget surplus is expected.

The US has arrested Juan Sanchez Azcona, former member of the Mexican Congress, opposition journalist, and a revolutionary leader (later Madera’s secretary) on trumped-up Mexican charges of obtaining money under false pretenses.

The Justice Dept indicts the “Bathtub Trust,” 16 companies and 32 individuals which control 85% of the enamel ironware bathtubs, sinks and lavatories made in the US.