Sunday, January 31, 2010

God-given right to carry

Quote of the Day: Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce, who wants to legalize the carrying of concealed firearms without a permit, says with the current law, “All we’re doing is handcuffing good people, restricting their constitutional, God-given right to carry and perhaps their ability to defend their families.”

Today -100: January 31, 1910: Of expensive bibles, slavery in Texas, train crashes, and corn mush

The price of Bibles is about to go up.

Federal agents have been investigating cotton plantations in Texas, where 2,000+ people – white as well as negro, the NYT reports breathlessly – have been held in a state of peonage after being abducted by force.

A single Pennsylvania train manages to get into two separate accidents, killing a husband and wife at a crossing, and hitting a car a few miles later, throwing it into the air and killing two passengers.

Harvard Prof. Franklin White, an expert on dietetics, says that workingmen could easily live on just 20¢ a day worth of food. For example, a nice meal of corn mush flavored with margarine and some cheap syrup would only cost 4¢ and fuel a day of hard labor. Or how about a potato flavored with smoked herring. Yum.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Political steel-cage match

We knew there’d be a problem with the trial of Scott Roeder when we heard that Judge Warren Wilbert paid for an election ad in the Kansans for Life newsletter in 2008. Turns out he’s as competent as he is ethical. First he allows Roeder to premise his entire defense on the argument that Dr. Tiller needed killing, then, evidently realizing that there was no basis in law for such an argument, took away the jury’s option of convicting for voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. While that was (at last) the right decision legally, the whole judicial bait and switch undermined Roeder to the point where the conviction might well be, and probably should, overturned. He was allowed to base his whole defense on a strategy aimed at securing a manslaughter verdict, effectively putting on no defense against first degree. He might, for example, not have admitted that he had considered chopping off Tiller’s arms with a sword rather than killing him, but realized that he would still be able to teach others abortion procedures. This idiot judge gave Roeder a platform, but didn’t give him a fair trial.

Obama told the House Republicans, “They didn’t send us to Washington to fight each other in some sort of political steel-cage match to see who comes out alive.” Well, yeah, but only because we didn’t know that option was available. Put the “Political Steel-Cage Match To See Who Comes Out Alive Act of 2010” on the ballot and see what happens.

Today -100: January 30, 1910: Of kaisers, Serbia, and odious jobs

Kaiser Wilhelm’s 51st birthday, “and the entire Fatherland song for twenty-four hours the patriotic refrain of ‘Hoch der Kaiser.’” (which I believe translates literally as “phlegm-like noise for the emperor.”)

An article by Jacques Bardoux in the French newspaper L’Opinion accuses Austria and Germany of conspiring in a scheme for the former to annex Serbia.

Lady Constance Lytton describes forcible feeding at length: “It was a living nightmare of pain, horror, and revolting degradation. The sensation is that of being strangled and suffocated by the thrusting down of a large rubber tube which arouses great irritation in the throat and nausea in the stomach. ... There is also a feeling of complete helplessness, as of an animal in a trap”. “After the first time the doctor as he left me gave me a slap on the cheek, not violently, but apparently to express his contemptuous disapproval. I said to him the next day: ‘Unless you consider it part of your duty, would you please not strike me when you have finished your odious job?’”

In 2010, prisoners at Guantanamo are being forcibly fed three times a day, some of them for several years now.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today -100: January 29, 1910: Of Groce and Cannon, and bulldogs

Members of the court-martial in Nicaragua that “illegally” sentenced Groce and Cannon to death have been acquitted after former president Zelaya’s letters of instruction were shown to the court.

And in another sketchy report from the field, Estrada’s rebels may have defeated government forces in a battle at La Libertad.

NYPD Patrolman Arnold Samish, attempting to remove a drunk woman from the street car tracks on Lexington Ave., was attacked by “an unknown bulldog,” which removed his trousers. He had to walk 3 short and 1½ long blocks to his station house. “The urchins who attended the patrolman as far as the police station did their best to keep him from feeling lonesome.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Your logic is not like our earth logic

Scott Roeder, testifying in his trial for murdering Dr. George Tiller, said he is against abortion because “It is not man’s job to take life”. Um, right. Also, he is against abortion even in cases of rape or incest because “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

SOTU addendum

EXCEPT PHILOSOPHY MAJORS, OBVIOUSLY: “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”

And it will kill Bill Murray with its laser eyes

PETA wants Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog replaced in the Groundhog Day festival with a robot groundhog (William Deeley, president of the Inner Circle of the Groundhog Club, responds that Phil is “treated better than the average child in Pennsylvania”) (true fact: by Pennsylvania law and custom, children must dig their own burrows, in which they live until their seventeenth birthday). And if the robotic rodent sees its own shadow, well I for one welcome our new robogroundhog overlords.

Today -100: January 28, 1910: Of billy clubs and snow balls, aerial warfare, and church-going saloon-keepers

Three more NYPD officers have been fired for clubbing citizens, including one who clubbed small children to break up a snowball fight. The mayor and police commissioner are also investigating police violence towards striking shirtwaist workers.

Wealthy aviator Charles B. Harmon insists in a lecture in Pasadena that aviation has rendered the battleship obsolete. “It has already been demonstrated that one balloon or aeroplane can carry enough explosives to annihilate any fleet in the world, while the warships would be powerless to protect themselves.”

A “colored woman suffrage mass meeting” will be held next month to organize a suffrage league among black women.

Indianapolis Mayor Shank has sentenced saloon keepers who broke the liquor laws to attend church, suspending their licences until they show a letter of attendance from a minister.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union Address: People expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills

WILL THIS BE ON THE TEST? “Again, we are tested.”

GOSH, HOW TIMES HAVE CHANGED: “One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt.”

BUT THE SHUTTER BUSINESS IS DOING GREAT! “But the devastation remains: One in ten Americans still can’t find work. Many businesses have shuttered.”

IT’S CALLED PENMANSHIP, TEACHERS: “I hear about them in the letters that I read each night. The toughest to read are those written by children”.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: “They don’t understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded, but hard work on Main Street isn’t”. You know, some people work quite hard at bad behaviour. Where’s their recognition? Where’s their recognition?

WAIT FOR THE PRESIDENT’S DAY SALE: “They’re tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it, not now.”

CONSTIPATION IS A TERRIBLE PROBLEM, ISN’T IT? “One woman wrote to me and said, ‘We are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.’”

BUT STILL MORE POPULAR THAN JOE LIEBERMAN: “And if there’s one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans -- and everybody in between -- it’s that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. (APPLAUSE) I hated it. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal.”

LET’S INVADE THEM AND TAKE THAT SHIT! “There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean-energy products.”

CONTENTIOUS, GRIDLOCKED – WHAT SILLY BILLY SAID THAT? “From the day I took office, I’ve been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious, such effort would be too contentious. I’ve been told that our political system is too gridlocked and that we should just put things on hold for a while.”

AT THIS POINT WE’D SETTLE FOR SIXTH: “Well, I do not accept second place for the United States of America.”

BUT WE’VE ALREADY BOUGHT THE WHIPS AND THUMB SCREWS: “Look, I’m not interested in punishing banks.”

HE SORTA UNDERCUT THIS ONE BY EARLIER COMMENTS ABOUT THE NEED FOR “A NEW GENERATION OF SAFE, CLEAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS”: “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP FOR EVERYBODY! “So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support 2 million jobs in America.”

NO ONE AN ACCUSE HIM OF GETTING SOME LEGISLATIVE VICTORY UNDER HIS BELT: “I didn’t choose to tackle this issue [HCR] to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now, it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.”

MICHELLE IS TACKLING FAT KIDS: “I want to acknowledge our first lady, Michelle Obama, who this year is creating a national movement to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity”.

“Still, this is a complex issue. And the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering, ‘What’s in it for me?’” A pony? (‘cause of the horse-trading. Try to keep up.)

THIS SPEECH IS A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION: “By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance.”

HE THINKS REPUBLICANS WILL LET TEMPERATURES COOL. ISN’T THAT ADORABLE? “As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed.”

WAIT, HAS NO ONE EVER TOLD HIM ABOUT SINGLE-PAYER? “But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Let me know. Let me know.”

Three-year discretionary spending freeze. Bipartisan Fiscal Commission, which “can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem.”

NAKED JELLO WRESTLING? “Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new.”

“With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people.” Decided by the American people – isn’t he just adorable?

And he has a really specific proposal: “And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.”

NO, HE THOUGHT HE’D HAVE TO BE SWORN IN TOO: “Now, I’m not naive. I never thought that the mere fact of my election would usher in peace and harmony and some post-partisan era.”

THEY SHOULD DO IT BECAUSE IT’S FUNNY: “Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.”

BIDEN PREFERS TO TAKE THE TRAIN FOR THE HILLS: “To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.” Really? Is that what people expect?

AND NOW, OBAMA TRIES TO SHAME THOSE WITHOUT SHAME. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT: “And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”

SADLY: “Sadly, some of the unity we felt after 9/11 has dissipated.” Yeah, the unity that was exploited to curtail our freedoms and propel us into two wars, it’s so very sad to see any of that dissipate.

“MAKE NO MISTAKE” IS THE NEW “IN OTHER WORDS”: “But make no mistake: This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.”

INNOCENT BYSTANDER: “We have gone from a bystander to a leader in the fight against climate change.” Bystander? We were, and are, the leading contributor to climate change. We weren’t standing, we were driving our fat children to school in giant Hummers.

He says Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will be repealed this very year.

I FORGET, WHICH IS THE TOP-RATED CABLE NEWS CHANNEL AGAIN? “The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.”

“Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved.” He did not say which ones.

“We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us.” Say what you will about the man, he totally knows how to read a calendar.

BIG FINISH: “We don’t quit. I don’t quit. Let’s seize this moment, to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more.”

I refuse to punish the people

Rather than raise taxes on rich people, Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cuts, or implemented them through the line-item veto, to support services for the blind and disabled, vision care for poor children, AIDS prevention, shelters for abused women, the welfare-to-work program, adult day-care, the Healthy Families program, etc etc etc. So why does he oppose tax increases? “I refuse to punish the people.”

Today -100: January 27, 1910: Of the not-quite-47th-state

There is talk about bits of California and Oregon forming their own state, Siskiyou (in later decades, the proposed state would be named Jefferson).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Or he could just compromise and be a mediocre one-term president

Obama told Diane Sawyer, “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. ... You know, there’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description.”

So if I’m understanding him, the way to get re-elected is to do a mediocre job, but doing a good job would make him so unpopular that he’d be defeated.

Crime and punishment in Bangladesh

You may have seen this: A 16-year-old rape victim in Bangladesh who became pregnant was sentenced by a village court to 101 lashes. The rapist, of course, got off scot-free. The Bangladeshi Daily Star implies that her father quickly married her off following the rape out of shame. But when she was found to be pregnant, she was divorced. My question is whether the village court shared with some American anti-abortionists the myth that rape victims can’t become pregnant, that conception requires orgasm. Does anyone know if that belief if widespread in that part of the world?

Also, 101?

Today -100: January 26, 1910: Of merry amputations, illegal football, and chicken thieves

Dr. Louise Robinovitch (noted here in November for demonstrating a defibrilator to the Edison Comp) has successfully used electricity as an anaesthetic in Hartford on a man having four toes amputated, although somehow I doubt the NYT sub-hed “Patient Has Merry Time.”

The Virginia Senate’s Committee on Schools and Colleges favorably reported out a bill to criminalize playing or officiating the game of football, with a $10 fine for the first offense and a 30-day jail sentence for a second.

Secretary of Commerce and Labor Charles Nagel, campaigning in Missouri for a congressional candidate, intervened in the trial of two boys for chicken-stealing. He got them off.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Possibly a rubber sword

Obama, the WaPo tells us, will meet Friday with House Republicans.

Does Obama even own a sword? Because it’s not a proper surrender ceremony unless you hand over your sword.

The State of the Union is...?

Time for our annual SOTU contest: What adjective will Obama use to complete the above sentence.

For extra points, what big initiative will he propose, post-Scott Brown? I’m guessing midnight basketball.

Well, that won’t help

To protest the shortage of tents available for refugees in Haiti, President Préval is moving into a tent.

Clarification: a tent office. Somehow I doubt he’ll actually be sleeping there.


The Afghan parliamentary elections are postponed from May to September, and quite possibly forever. International donors simply aren’t willing to stump up tens of millions of dollars to pay for a fraudulent election.

Sorry, let me rephrase that: international donors simply aren’t willing to be seen stumping up tens of millions of dollars to pay for an insultingly obviously fraudulent election.

Four Kenyans who were abused physically and sexually by the British in the 1950s are suing. The British government is arguing that the case should be thrown out because Britain isn’t actually liable for the acts of its own colonial government, that in fact Kenya became responsible for them upon independence.

Boy, there’s a joke in here somewhere: “Officials Fear Toxic Ingredient in Botox Could Become Terrorist Tool” (WaPo).

Today -100: January 25, 1910: Of acceptable beatings

Vice Chancellor of New Jersey Lindley Garrison, sitting as a judge, rules that a woman in the process of suing her husband for divorce should not get alimony in the interim on the grounds that her doctor husband hadn’t beaten her up all that badly and also she deserved it, having hung out with some guy after her husband told her not to, and called him “the old dog” to the servants. Headline of the Day -100: “Beating Just, Says Court.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Today -100: January 24, 1910: Of negro cadets, meat, kiddie factory workers, and kaiser sandwiches

West Point is very worried that it may have to admit as a cadet one Ollie R. Smith of Cheyenne, who is black (he is an alternate, but will be in if some white kid fails the entrance exams, as 1 in 4 do). He would not be the first, as some blacks were admitted after the Civil War, but it has been 25 years or so since the last. Past practice at West Point was to send them to coventry, to ignore them – not even hazing them. Actually, a few paragraphs later, the NYT mentions a Johnson Chesnut Whittaker, who did experience hazing at West Point in 1880, if by hazing you mean being tied up, beaten and having one ear cut off and the other slit. West Point investigated and decided that Whittaker had done it all to himself, dishonorably discharging him and fining him $1. President Arthur refused to accept the findings and ordered him restored, but for some reason he soon resigned. (Wait, not true. Wikipedia says they expelled him a second time for failing an exam. He had been the first black man to graduate Harvard. Later he was a teacher, lawyer, principal and psych professor.) Anyway, the NYT interviews a lot of military types, none of whom think letting Smith into West Point is a good idea.

Side note on usage: the NYT calls it the “civil war,” without caps.

The St. Louis Central Trades and Labor Council voted against joining the meat strike for 30 days. A woman delegate accused them of doing so “simply because the working women were the first to start the movement here.”

The British Home Office orders Lady Constance Lytton (see yesterday) released from prison before her two-week sentence.

The NY State Commissioner of Labor says that “the problem of child labor in the factories of this State is well in hand.” By that he means that while 10,415 children below the age of 16 were discovered working in factories in 1909, only 8% of them were employed illegally. So, well in hand.

Headline of the Day -100: “Kaiser Passes Sandwiches.” Kaiser Wilhelm invited University of California President Benjamin Ide Wheeler to a nice family gathering. “It was a typical German domestic scene, the Empress doing needlework while taking part in the conversation, and the Emperor himself passed around the sandwiches and other light supper dishes.” Must... not... make... lame... kaiser roll... joke...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why Scott Brown won. Theory 2.

What Scott Brown said: “I’m Scott Brown. I drive a pickup truck.”

What Massachusetts voters thought: Must be one of them lesbians. Lesbians are wicked hot.

Why Scott Brown won. Theory 1.

What Scott Brown said: “I’m Scott Brown. I drive a pickup truck.”

What Massachusetts voters heard: I will help you move.

Adjusting our privacy expectations

Saw Michael Chertoff on McNeil-Lehrer, hawking full-body scanners and saying people would just have to “adjust their privacy expectations.” Of course if there’s one person whose privacy expectations aren’t threatened by full-body scanners, it’s the living skeleton.

The purest form of self-defense

Headline Mixed Metaphor of the Day (NYT): “Republicans Strain to Ride Tea Party Tiger.”

Annoying Grant of Anonymity of the Day: The NYT, on the increase in drone attacks in Pakistan following the death of those CIA operatives: “Today, officials deny that vengeance is driving the increased attacks, though one called the drone strikes ‘the purest form of self-defense.’”

Or is this the purest form of self defense? Mircea Geoana, who lost the Romanian presidential election in December, getting 49.66% of the vote, blames witchcraft, specifically a “negative energy attack” during a debate that caused him to perform badly. And in fact, President Traian Basescu did go to that debate with a parapsychologist slash clairvoyant slash mind-control expert. This is the president and his court wizard in 2007.

Today -100: January 23, 1910: Of Alaska, bulldogs, and Liberal snobbishness

The Senate Committee on Territories decides on a plan for a Legislative Council for Alaska: a governor, attorney general, commissioner of interior and mines, and 8 judges. All appointed by the US president. If that system had still been in place under the Bush Administration, Alaska’s appointed governor would still have been Sarah Palin.

Creepy Headline of the Day -100: “Bulldog Breeders Form a New Body.”

Mrs Humphry Ward, a best-selling novelist in her time, which was the late 19th century, is the most prominent British anti-suffragist. But that doesn’t stop her writing letters to electors in Hertfordshire, where she is running her wastrel son’s campaign for Parliament. A complete non-entity, he would be known as “the member for Mrs. Humphry Ward.”

In Britain it has just become known that Lady Constance Lytton is in prison. A suffragette, Lytton had been given a prison sentence before, but it was unsatisfactory in that she was treated with favoritism (not being force-fed, that sort of thing), supposedly on account of her fragile health and certainly not at all because she was Lady Constance Lytton.

“Simply Liberal snobbishness,” she complained. So she disguised herself as a working-class woman, called herself Jane Warton,

and got arrested again, for breaking a prison window, and this time, funnily enough, prison medical authorities didn’t find evidence of a weak heart and did force feed her. (Spoiler alert: about a year later she had a massive stroke, and wrote her book on her prison experience with her left hand.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Unequal and undemocratic information flow

China complained that attacks on its censorship of the internet amount to... wait for it... information imperialism. The Global Times (published in English by the People’s Daily) explains (and I’ll quote at length because I gather that Chinese pro-censorship diatribes against Google have themselves been censored today, so this may not continue to be available on the web) that the “bulk of the information flowing from the US and other Western countries is loaded with aggressive rhetoric against those countries that do not follow their lead.” Further, disadvantaged countries “could not produce the massive flow of information required, and could never rival the Western countries in terms of information control and dissemination,” therefore, “there is absolutely no equality and fairness. The online freedom of unrestricted access is, thus, only one-way traffic, contrary to the spirit of democracy and calculated to strengthen a monopoly.” “China’s real stake in the ‘free flow of information’ is evident in its refusal to be victimized by information imperialism.”

Today -100: January 22, 1910: Of full disclosure and the return of a gunslinger

Taft wants a law requiring congressional candidates to make public their campaign contributions and expenditures. The Chicago Tribune finds that there is “a majority of all members of each House are ready to vote for a bill applying the principle of the President, when it comes up – and that it will never come up.”

Rep. William Cocks of NY is willing to step down in favor of Teddy Roosevelt, if he wants the seat. TR is due to return from slaughtering white rhinos soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Free speech isn’t free, and will soon to be a lot more expensive

Our theme for this post: free speech

John McCain issues a not-at-all-stilted statement about his wife’s air-brushed appearance in an anti-Prop 8 ad: “Senator McCain respects the views of members of his family.” You can just hear his teeth grinding.

On the same day the Supreme Court ruled that corporations may “spend freely” to influence elections (when will Goldman Sachs start handing out congressional seats as bonuses?), Hillary Clinton evidently agreed that there was no difference between speech by individuals and speech by corporations. In a speech about the “five key freedoms of the Internet age,” i.e., chiding China on internet censorship, she insisted that, “From an economic standpoint, there is no distinction between censoring political speech and commercial speech.”

However, Trijicon Inc. will no longer put Bible messages on gun sights produced for the military. Evidently the Pentagon’s first reaction to this story was to claim that it was okay, just like printing “In God We Trust” on our currency.

In his partial dissent to one part of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, Clarence Thomas, who stands alone in this, opposes the release of the names of donors to political campaigns, citing the ability of the internet to harass those people. He goes on to cite many alleged instances of death threats and such against supporters of Prop. 8. “I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in ‘core political speech, the “primary object of First Amendment protection.”’” Or, alternately, you could pass laws against death threats, damaged or defaced property, etc. Oh, wait.

John Travolta is sending Scientologist missionaries to Haiti. Haiti is saved!

Today -100: January 21, 1910: Of billy clubs and meat

The new mayor of New York has been investigating cases of policemen beating members of the public with their clubs for no particular reason. Several cops have been suspended, fired or arrested. The NYT editorializes, though, that the police need their clubs, and that many of the stories about the “much-talked-of ‘third degree’” are “gross exaggerations.”

The meat strike has taken hold in St. Louis, and even Germany’s states, expressing their views on tariff negotiations are, in the words of the Headline of the Day -100, “United Against Our Meat.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Today -100: January 20, 1910: Of factory fires, aerial warfare, and meat

In a fire at a shirtwaist factory in Philadelphia, five are dead (so far), having leapt from the fourth floor. It would have been much worse but many of the factory’s workers had joined the strike. And of course this fire foreshadows (spoiler alert) one we might be discussing here in a little over a year.

The International Bureau of Peace at Brussels wants to re-adopt the expired provision adopted by the first Hague Peace Conference forbidding the dropping of explosives from balloons during war and extend it to cover planes and dirigibles as well. Good luck with that.

The meat strike is spreading from Cleveland throughout the Mid-West, but an editorial doubts its effect on the price of meat (down 2¢ a pound!) will be permanent. “Of course, the workingmen of Cleveland have no inclination or intention to become vegetarians as a settled policy of life. They want meat, just as all other sane people do”.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Heckuva job, Brownie

Today -100: January 19, 1910: Of suffering executives, meat, Transylvanian wolves, and suffragettes and snow shovels

President Taft addresses the Conference of Governors with complaints about the ability of the executives at state and federal level to get the legislation they want out of insufficiently pliant legislative branches. He called the governors “my dear fellow-executives and fellow-sufferers.” He talked of the need for uniformity in laws between the states, which was a major theme of Taft’s and, coincidentally, of big business.

The meat strike in Cleveland is working. Meat sales have halved, and the price is coming down.

At the big Los Angeles flight meet, French aviator Louis Paulhan set a new cross-country record, covering 47½ miles in a little over an hour.

The front page of the NYT was so much cooler in 1910: “Baron Otto von Orban, a wealthy land owner, while riding through the forest in Transylvania was pursued by a pack of wolves. The wildly excited horse threw him and the wolves tore him to pieces.”

Also on the front page: A cop asked an (unnamed) woman in Burlington, NJ to have the snow on her sidewalk shoveled. She refused until such time as women have the vote.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Light shining out of darkness

Trijicon Inc., which manufactures “brilliant aiming solutions,” i.e., gun sights, and boasts on its webpage of its support of “biblical standards” and the NRA (not necessarily in that order), has been inscribing New Testament references on some of the gun sights it sells the US Army and Marine Corps, such as 2COR4:6, meaning Second Corinthians 4:6: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Because nothing says the light shining out of darkness like a night-vision rifle sight. Iraqi troops are being trained with the, in ABC’s words, “bible-coded sights.” Anyone remember how the Indian Mutiny of 1857 got started?

Today -100: January 18, 1910: Of hysteria, meat, and flimsy blue material

The NYT wishes that Taft would stop his innovation of presenting Congress with draft legislation.

The Czarina of Russia has had an attack of hysteria.

An anti-meat strike has begun against high meat prices in Cleveland.

On the front page this slow news day: Lady Constance Stewart Richardson appeared at the Palace Theatre in London, dancing to the music of Tchaikovsky, Grieg and others, wearing – and this is the news-worthy bit – “a Greek short tunic apparently made of a single piece of flimsy blue material, through which flesh tints were plainly visible. In fact, the costume is described as the most daring ever seen on an English stage.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Solidarity – you’re doing it wrong

The Islamic Solidarity Games have been called off because Iran, which was to have hosted, put the words “Persian Gulf” on the medals.

Legitimately chosen

Richard Holbrooke, the Af-Pak special envoy, says that we should all “move on” from the stolen Afghan presidential election and that Karzai is “the legitimately chosen, legitimate leader of this country.” I don’t think that word, “legitimate,” means what you think it means. Also “chosen.” And “leader.” And “country.”

Speaking of legitimately chosen, the book Game Change says that in choosing Sarah Palin, John McCain was “flying by the seat of his pants.” Yeah, the seat of his pants...

Today -100: January 17, 1910: Of government by peers and beer, posthumous stabbings, and going on safari

The British election results are trickling in, showing a victory for the Liberal government. Lloyd George says, “England is declaring emphatically against government by the Peers and beer.”

A rich woman, Laura White, has died, and her will requires that ten days after her death she be stabbed in the heart three times (by a doctor, for a fee of $20). It seems that 45 years ago her fiancé died and when his body had to be removed to another cemetery a few months later, it was found that it had turned on its side, which gave her a life-long fear of being buried alive. Her only living relative is refusing to do it, but the Fidelity Title and Trust Company is insisting that it be done.

Last month I saved a lot of time by not reading any of the stories about Cook having faked reached the North Pole. This month I’m giving a miss to the many stories following TR cutting a bloody swathe through Africa, like this one:

ROOSEVELT AT LION HUNT.; Follows on Horseback as Natives Chase and Spear Beast. [PDF]
NAIROBI, British East Africa, Dec. 11. -- A long stream, of porters came winding across the veldt toward the station at Nairobi, looking for all the world like a string of ants. The stars and stripes was held aloft by a giant native, and the sound of horn...

Saturday, January 16, 2010


The NYT, looking for an up side: “But if there is a benefit in the neglect that the Haitian people have experienced for so many years, it is that they are far more resilient than most.” As can be seen in their low life expectancy and high infant mortality rates. Let’s do condescend to the Haitians, NYT.

This morning, Bill Clinton and George Bush were at the White House in their new role doing whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing for Haiti. Obama noted, “As President, Bill Clinton helped restore democracy in Haiti” and Bush helped restore military dictatorship. Why is Bush involved in this, again? Hasn’t he really done quite enough to for Haiti?

Bush said, “I commend the President for his swift and timely response to the disaster.”

He went on, “I am so pleased to answer the call to work alongside President Clinton to mobilize the compassion of the American people.” Trust Bush to make compassion sound scary.

“[Y]et it’s amazing how terrible tragedies can bring out the best of the human spirit. We’ve all seen that firsthand when American citizens responded to the tsunami or to Katrina”.

Haiti may just need even more of that fabled resilience.

Today -100: January 16, 1910: Of election-day rowdiness, hotel suicides, kissing the book, expensive electrocutions, leather whips, and short breeches

The British are voting. Just as crowds were hostile to members of the House of Lords breaking tradition by speaking to election meetings, a crowd at Grimsby, outraged at Chancellor of the Exchequer Lloyd George addressing voters on polling day, which is just not done, forced him to abandon the speech and flee. There were also shouts of “Traitor” and “Pro-Boer,” evidently from people still pissed at his stance during the Boer War a decade earlier. In his speech, LG had actually been refuting Balfour’s alarmism about the German menace, saying that if the German navy tried anything, it would be at the bottom of the sea in a matter of hours.

In Dundee, Winston Churchill, himself a once and future Tory, denounced the Conservatives as “the party of privilege and class.”

Rep. Henry is proposing a constitutional amendment to push the presidential inauguration back from March 4 to the last Thursday in April. The move is supported by D.C. hotels and the like, hoping for more business if there is a prospect of better weather.

In other hotel news, there has been a rash of suicides in Germany lately, possibly by people contemplating the prospects of the Germany Navy against the British Royal Navy, and the Association of Hotel Owners has issued a statement asking potential suicides to please do away with themselves somewhere other than in hotels, because there are really lots of alternative spots where they’d cause less inconvenient to others, and do you know what that does to the reputation of a hotel?

In Britain, witnesses in court have taken to refusing to kiss the Bible on health grounds, and the practice has been abolished altogether in Lambeth (London) Police Court. However, “To the poorer class the old formula seemed to appeal strongly. Remember you have ‘kissed the Book’ was usually the most crushing comment a defendant could make when challenging the statements of a witness.”

The NYC Board of Education bans competition or prizes being offered in high schools without authorization. This is aimed at a $100 prize offered by Mrs. Belmont to the female students at Wadleigh High School for the best essays on women’s suffrage.

New Jersey electrocuted six men in 1909 at a cost of $7,028. The cost of maintaining living prisoners was 33¢ a day.

At another institution of the state of New Jersey, the State Home for Girls in Trenton, it has been revealed that girls and women up to the age of 21 are lashed with leather whips. The NYT believes that whipping has been abolished in every other state. The trustees of the home complain that it has to house insane and feeble-minded girls alongside reformatory cases, that the state gives them no resources but expects them to train the girls, and that it expects them to discipline them without having a “proper house of detention so that we can separate temporarily the vicious girl”.

The shirtwaist strikers in Philadelphia have picked up a sympathizer: Helen Taft, daughter of the president, along with her fellow members of the Bryn Mawr Suffrage Club. After hearing about the conditions of shirtwaist makers, she said, “Really, I’ll never put on a shirtwaist again without a shudder. ... Why, it’s just like reading Nietzsche, isn’t it?” “And then,” the NYT snidely reports, “Miss Taft and her friends boarded a Thirteenth Street car and went to the opera.”

Headline of the Day -100: “King Drops Short Breeches.” Those invited to meet King Edward at Lady Paget’s, the men anyway, have been told they are to wear evening trousers instead of the usual black silk breeches and black silk stockings. “[T]he reason of the innovation is unknown.”

Friday, January 15, 2010

Prince Frankenstein

Headline of the Day (Daily Telegraph): “Aborigines to Ask Prince William to Return Warrior’s Severed Head.” And why do they think he can help them? Because he “has his mother’s heart.”


This is Jamuna Toni, born last month at the Munich zoo.

Today -100: January 15, 1910: Of Hepburns

The NYT prints a letter in support of women’s suffrage by Katharine Houghton Hepburn, a leader of the suffrage movement in Connecticut and the mother of... wait for it... Katharine Hepburn. She writes that women would be more interested in public issues if they had the vote, but instead, “The Government has classed women with the mentally incompetent – those unfit to vote even in a democracy.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How can the most fucked-over people on the planet get even more fucked over?

Barack Obama, pledging “a swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support recovery in Haiti,” asks for help from Bill Clinton and... George W. Bush. Because when you think swift, coordinated and aggressive effort to save lives and support recovery from a natural disaster, you think George W. Bush.

Criminal Charge of the Day, Chinese Version

Chinese people have been lighting candles and leaving flowers outside Google’s Beijing hq. Evidently to do so is to commit the crime of “illegal flower donation.”


Two things have rendered me speechless by their sheer overwhelming, astonishing awfulness: the earthquake in Haiti, and the decision by the judge in the trial of Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion loon who assassinated Dr. Tiller, that he can argue that Tiller needed killing.

Today -100: January 14, 1910: Of chairwomen and the palmiest days of sacerdotal ambiguity

In Philadelphia as in NY, the shirtwaist strike is being supported by women suffragists, who are joining picket lines and going bail for arrested picketers.

A letter (I wonder, by the way, when the NYT stopped printing anonymous letters) congratulates the paper on being the first to use the term “chairwoman,” in an article about a suffrage meeting.

Prime Minister Asquith, in one of his last speeches before the British general election, accuses opposition leader Arthur Balfour of being wishy-washy about tariff reform (protectionism), which is popular with some parts of the Conservative Party but not so much with the general public, which doesn’t want to see food prices rise. At least I think that’s what Asquith is saying: “The oracle has spoken [referring to Balfour’s speech]. What is its message? Not Delphi or Dodona in the palmiest days of sacerdotal ambiguity ever gave forth a more uncertain sound.”

The NYT disparages the Liberals’ social policies, claiming that Britain is “overtaxed to pay old-age pensions” and can’t afford the proposed system of unemployment insurance (being superintended for the moment by Winston Churchill, of all people, at the Board of Trade). The NYT says that Asquith rules a coalition of “Socialists, laborites and Irish Nationalists. No promise has yet been made to provide husbands for suffragettes.” The editorial also refers, somewhat more fairly, to “the obviously insincere Liberal promise of home rule for Ireland.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today -100: January 13, 1910: Of speedsters, white slaves and dead heads

Bills in the NY Assembly would require autoists to have driver’s licenses and set speed limits of 15 mph city, 25 in outlying areas of cities, and 30 in the country. A second bill proposes lower speed limits.

The House passes the Mann Act.

Headline of the Day -100: “Charles Head Falls Dead.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Getting better

Headline of the Day: For weeks, Nigerians have been demanding that their president make some sort of public appearance. Umaru Yar’Adua has been getting medical treatment for a heart condition in Saudi Arabia since November. Today he re-emerged, giving a radio interview to the BBC. The London Times headline: “I’m Not Dead, I’m Getting Better’ Nigerian President Tells People Back Home.” For the record, that’s not a direct quote from Yar’Adua (although he did say “I’m getting better), that’s someone trying to sneak in a Monty Python reference.


Readers in Colorado: Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is considering running for governor. He should be encouraged, because of the name. Say it with me: Hickenlooper Hickenlooper Hickenlooper.

Why the Prop 8 trial needs to be on YouTube: Anti-equality lawyer questions Harvard history professor Nancy Cott about whether Jesus Christ advocated monogamy.

Diplomacy, Avigdor Lieberman style

In response to criticism by the Turkish prime minister of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, Israel said that “The Turks are the last ones who can preach morality to Israel” and the Israeli Foreign Ministry gave the Turkish ambassador a lower seat than Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon during a meeting which Israel called in order to complain about a Turkish television drama that portrayed members of the Shin Beth as child kidnappers. At the pre-meeting photo op Ayalon told the photographers, in Hebrew so that the ambassador wouldn’t understand, “Pay attention that he is sitting in a lower chair and we are in the higher ones, that there is only an Israeli flag on the table and that we are not smiling.”

Turkey called Lieberman and his deputy “adolescent youths.” Lieberman is trying to humiliate not only Turkey but also Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who stopped Ariel University Center, located in the West Bank settlement where Lieberman lives, being accredited as a university. Lieberman wants to get a scheduled trip by Barak to Turkey canceled.

News from that liberal gay bastion, Salt Lake City

Utah state Rep. Christine Johnson, an out lesbian who represents Salt Lake City, is pregnant, acting as surrogate to a gay male couple prohibited from adopting under Utah law.

Today -100: January 12, 1910: Of Ballinger and Pinchot

A slow news day, so it’s time for some catch-up. The intra-mural fight in the Republican Party is growing, with Taft and Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon and their conservative allies battling the progressive Republican followers of Roosevelt. The current battle field is an investigation into relations between the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service. When he came into office, Taft reversed Roosevelt’s order that public lands in Wyoming and Montana from which water-power could be exploited not be sold. Gifford Pinchot, the head of the Forest Service since TR created it in 1905, accused Taft’s Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger of favoring certain corporations in those sales (there’s another land scandal in Alaska). Taft fired Pinchot a week ago (-100). The House will investigate the controversy, but the “insurgent” Republicans allied with Democrats to strip Speaker Cannon of the power to appoint all the members of the investigating committee.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Foxy as a Crazy

Sarah “It’s God’s Plan” Palin signs on with Fox News. Boy, didn’t see that one coming.

CONTEST: Name her tv show. You know what she named her kids, so she clearly needs all the help she can get. Me first: “Too, Also.” “In What Respect, Charlie?” “The Tina Fey Can Just Go To Hell Hour.”

(Update: OK, Twitter got there first. They’ve got: Fancy Pundit Talkin’, Punditz, Are You Smarter Than a Tea Bagger?, The Rich Lowry is Touching Himself Hour, This Wink with Sarah Palin, You Don’t Betcha, Quittin’ Time.)

Happy 8th Birthday, Guantanamo Gulag!

And no one knows how to throw an appropriate party like Jon Stewart: tonight, he’s interviewing John Yoo on the Daily Show.

Criminal Charge of the Day, Iranian Edition

Several protesters have been charged with the capital crime of “warring against God” (moharebeh).

Today -100: January 11, 1910: Of patriotic butting in and contrary Marys

The widow of the recently deceased Rep. James M. Griggs (D-Georgia) has done what the NYT calls “something new in American political history,” naming her personal choice to succeed her husband in the special election, a Mr. McIntosh. While the paper says her action is not to be condemned on account of its unusualness, they do subtly imply, less than a week after her husband’s death, that she just wants to get into McIntosh’s pants: “We are not informed as to whether or not Mr. McIntosh is an eligible bachelor or widower, and we should courteously decline to make use of any information on that point if we possessed it. The practice of seeking a purely personal motive for a public action that attracts notice is reprehensible. ... But the widow’s candidate ought to have the support of the women folks, who must approve of her patriotic butting in, and the women of Georgia know how to influence voters.”

But evidently not enough, because (spoiler alert!), the election was actually won by a Mr. Seaborn Roddenbery,who spent the next three years, until he too died in office, working for a constitutional amendment to ban interracial marriage.

Nursery maids at the Nursery and Child’s Hospital (these are essentially interns, who will go on to become nursemaids in private homes) have gone on strike, demanding to be called “Miss” Whatever Their Name Is instead of just by their first name. The superintendent says they will not be allowed back “unless they get that foolishness out of their heads. ... We don’t want any contrary Marys here.”

An article the next day explains that nursemaids are paid about ¼ of what proper nurses, who are called Miss or Mrs., receive, and eat with the servants rather than with the family. Also, nurses’ aprons cover from the waist down, nursemaids’ extend to the shoulders.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Criminal Charge of the Day

The guy who caused all the trouble at Newark Airport by kissing his girlfriend is being charged with “defiant trespass.”

Today -100: January 10, 1910: Of footpads and impartial judges

Headline of the Day -100: “FOOTPADS ATTACK A BOY.” Evidently in 1910 they still had “footpads” in New Jersey.

The London Times reports on another election meeting disturbance. A woman was charged with being drunk and disturbing a Liberal meeting. The judge asked her what she objected to, adding, “You may be right, and if you are I’ll let you go.” Free trade, she said. He let her go.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Today -100: January 9, 1910: Of snuff films and opera

In France, someone with a movie camera filmed a guillotining of a child murderer, but the police seized the film and arrested the camera-man.

Headline of the Day -100: “Hotel Guests Demand Opera.”

Friday, January 08, 2010

Today -100: January 8, 1910: Of the limits of solidarity, cherry trees, and organized rowdies

Mrs. Belmont suggests to a meeting of women teachers called to consider how to help striking shirtwaist workers that all employed women in the NYC go on strike until the shirtwaist workers’ demands are met. Turns out that wasn’t quite what the teachers had in mind. Actually, many of the shirtwaist workers are themselves no longer on strike. Some of the employers have given in; the rest are still resisting the demand for closed shops.

The city of Tokyo gives 2,000 cherry trees to Mrs. Taft and the District of Columbia.

An editorial in the London Times on the disturbances at British election meetings claims that Tories are being shouted down “not by genuine ‘hecklers,’ but by organized rowdies”. Note the distinction: hostile questioning, or heckling (the quotation marks showing that the Scottish term was fairly new in England) of candidates was considered a legitimate part of the rough and tumble of campaigning, but not if it was organized or intended to prevent speech. The Times complains that Asquith was not repudiating such tactics. “If there is anything for which that party [the Liberals] is supposed to stand, it is the right of free speech, and especially free speech in elections. The howling down of speakers and breaking up of meetings is the suppression of free speech by force. ... Objections are a common and one might almost say regular feature of ordinary election meetings. ... Objectors who have nothing to say express their feelings by an occasional shout of dissent, those who have something to say ask questions; there may be a little cut-and-thrust but it is all orderly and in good part. No genuine audience spontaneously howls and whistles down a speaker or breaks up a meeting. The thing is got up and planned, if not paid for, by somebody”.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust

Obama spoke today about the Underpants Bomber.

WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT FAILED TO DO: “our government failed to connect the dots in a way that would have prevented a known terrorist from boarding a plane for America”. Not actually a “known terrorist” or even an unknown terrorist until after his attempted act of known terrorism.

STILL BRINGING RUNNING METAPHORS TO AN AIRPLANE WORLD: “In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.” Nimble adversary? Dude set his leg on fire.

WHAT WE MUST COMMUNICATE CLEARLY TO MUSLIMS AROUND THE WORLD: “And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death –- including the murder of fellow Muslims –- while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress.” Alternately, instead of treating this as a communications problem, of Muslims failing to understand what nice guys we really are, we could actually stand with those who seek justice and progress instead of “communicating” that we supposedly do.

WHAT WE WILL NOT SUCCUMB TO: “but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.” That’s why we have scanners that show our genitalia.

WHAT NOW IS NOT A TIME FOR: “For now is not a time for partisanship, it’s a time for citizenship -- a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.” Yeah, that’s totally what’s gonna happen. Has Obama ever met us?

Anyway, it was a systemic failure and the buck stops with him, and connect the dots, people, the end.