Sunday, July 31, 2011


So there will be a “Super Congress.” Prepare for much hilarity in the days ahead as we discover which members of the current Congress are considered “super.”

Happy now?

Paul Krugman reminds us of Obama’s press conference last December after he gave in on tax cuts for the rich, when he was asked whether not having addressed the debt ceiling left the Republicans with significant leverage and Obama said that Boehner would never be so crass as to do that.

In my analysis of that press conference, which is worth re-reading (if I do say so myself) as a reminder of how smug and self-righteous Obama was about his so-called pragmatism, I see that Obama said this: “I am happy to be tested over the next several months about our ability to negotiate with Republicans.”

Today -100: July 31, 1911: Of raging kaisers

Headline of the Day -100: “Kaiser in Rage on Morocco.” He’s pissed at Foreign Minister Baron von Kiderlen-Waechter (say that three times fast), who had thought that Britain wouldn’t back France up, even though they have a mutual defense treaty.

In the Canadian elections, the Conservatives are making a big deal over a telegram Taft sent to the Hearst newspapers, thanking them for supporting the tariff reciprocity treaty. Since William Randolph Hearst also advocates annexation of Canada, the Conservatives say that this telegram obviously means that Taft does too.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Today -100: July 30, 1911: Of popular wars, bloodless revolutions, elections, bounties, and guillotines

A “highly qualified American observer of European affairs” thinks that the Moroccan crisis shows that a war between Britain and Germany might not be unpopular in Britain.

The NYT reassures its readers that the ongoing revolution in Haiti is bloodless.

The Canadian Parliament has been dissolved, and elections will be fought in part on the reciprocity treaty with the US.

The government of Persia offers a $100,000 reward for the head of the former shah, Mohammed Ali Mirza, who is trying to recapture the throne.

The Paris guillotine (the “widow”) is moved inside La Santé Prison. In future it will no longer be ceremonially transported to the prison prior to executions on a cart drawn by a white horse (French executions were public until 1939). The guillotine had been kept in a shed outside the house of the public executioner, Anatole Deibler (who inherited the job from his father, and also married into a family of executioners, which is not at all creepy). He assembled guillotines himself, IKEA-style, from parts ordered from separate carpenters and joiners, so none of them knew what they were working on. He also put together guillotines intended for export. China just ordered one. Deibler’s “staff has a sense of humor, for a year or two ago they amused themselves by strapping their chief to ‘the widow,’ with his neck under the fatal knife, and left him there for quite a while to appreciate the sensation of one of the condemned wretches whom he has so often dispatched to the next world.”

Friday, July 29, 2011


George Bush explains the Pet Goat thing: “I wanted to project a sense of calm. I had been in enough crises to know that the first thing a leader has to do is to project calm.” He added, “But mostly I wanted to wait until I stopped projecting pee.”

Daily Telegraphy: Kitler, gay alligators, humble days, and juggler’s hat sex acts

Headlines of the Day, from the One True Source of All News:

“Hitler Cat Fails to Find Home.” Poor Kitler.

“Judge Tells Teacher Sex Offender: ‘I don’t criticise you for being attracted to children.’”
A (female) judge with a record of leniency towards sex criminals – “In 2008, she allowed former headmaster Phillip Carmichael to walk free from court after accepting that medication for Parkinson’s disease had turned him into a paedophile” – who maybe shouldn’t have been given this kiddie porn case. “Reading Crown Court was told that the teaching assistant became alarmed after noticing files on Armstrong’s laptop with names including ‘rape wife’, ‘nude model’ and ‘gay alligator’.”

Gay alligator?

“Jonnie Marbles” is convicted of pieing Rupert Murdoch. “The part-time stand-up comic emerged from court and said: ‘I would just like to say this has been the most humble day of my life.’”

“Harry Potter Dwarf Spared Jail over Juggler’s Hat Sex Act.” To clarify, he is a dwarf in real life and a goblin in Harry Potter (and an Ewok in Return of the Jedi). “It is understood that Read has recently been hiring himself out to stag parties, offering to be handcuffed to the stag while dressed as a diminutive fictional character such as a Smurf or Oompa-Loompa.”

What does the auto club have to do with this?

Obama this morning:
“we could lose our country’s AAA credit rating, not because we didn’t have the capacity to pay our bills -- we do -- but because we didn’t have a AAA political system to match our AAA credit rating.” We do have an AA political system, though, amiright? I’ll be here all week.

WE’RE DOOMED: “I’m confident that common sense and cooler heads will prevail.”

Today -100: July 29, 1911: Of Jews and ashes

Russian Prime Minister Stolypin (Putin’s hero) wants to force banks to stop extending so much credit to Jews. Because the banks are all controlled by Jews and Jews monopolize trade and Jews speculate in the grain trade and blah blah anti-Semitic blah.

Front-Page Headline of the Day -100: “SAYS HE THREW AWAY COL. WARING'S ASHES; Then Mixed Drinks in the Urn at Quarantine Orgy, Testifies Arthur Denyse.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Today -100: July 28, 1911: Of Morocco and Germany

A NYT editorial tries to put the Moroccan crisis in perspective, or figure out what “international morality” requires, or something. It says that Germany should be supported if its purpose it to nobly preserve the territorial integrity of Morocco (like the US did with China) if “France and Spain are seeking to divide Morocco instead of performing the white man’s duty.” But the paper isn’t sure that Germany really is being noble rather than being just as land-grabby as France and Spain (which it obviously is, just not in Morocco, where it’s playing let’s-make-a-deal), like the US in Panama, “the sole blot on our record.” It warns Germany that “She is too far advanced in civilization to defy those rules of right conduct which only the barbarous exult in ignoring or infringing.” (Spoiler alert: no she isn’t.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today -100: July 27, 1911: Of good character, and unwanted lions

An amendment to the Georgia constitution is proposed establishing a “good character” qualification for the franchise, as determined by “respect for good womanhood.” Which seems to mean that a black man would have to have his character attested to by two white women (in person). According to the amendment’s author, Rep. J.J. Slade, “Circulars are being sent to negroes all over the State telling them to qualify for the ballot under the educational and property qualifications. I want to make it impossible for any one with a black or mulatto skin to vote in Georgia, no matter how much book learning he may possess. The protection of the white race demands that negroes be made positively and forever the political inferiors of the whites, as they are their social inferiors.” White men would also have to have white women attest to their character but, according to Slade, “Any good white man can get a good white woman to testify that she would trust him in the dark. If any white man can’t, the scoundrel should be disfranchised.” I’m pretty sure this amendment went nowhere.

A Coney Island amusement park, in a publicity stunt that could in no way have gone horribly, horribly wrong, sent a lion to Theodore Roosevelt’s office, with a letter saying “We are sending you a lioness we have no further use for.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Today -100: July 26, 1911: Of hotels and fleets

A Chinese man (president of a D.C. YMCA branch) tries a dozen hotels in Ocean Grove, NJ, none would give him a room.

Britain cancels a planned visit by the Atlantic fleet to Norway. This is another slightly veiled threat to Germany over Morocco.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Define “excessive”

Last week, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny attacked the Vatican cover-up of sexual abuse by priests. So today the Vatican recalled its ambassador, expressing “surprise and disappointment at certain excessive reactions.” Well we’d certainly hate if anyone reacted excessively to decades of child-rape.

Another day, another Obama address to the nation about the debt ceiling

And it’s pretty much the same one he gave last time and the time before that. Debt bad, default bad, compromise good.

WHEN DID THEY AGREE ON THAT? “Democrats and Republicans agree on the amount of deficit reduction we need. The debate is about how it should be done.”

WHAT MOST AMERICANS DON’T UNDERSTAND: “Most Americans, regardless of political party, don’t understand how we can ask a senior citizen to pay more for her Medicare before we ask corporate jet owners and oil companies to give up tax breaks that other companies don’t get. How can we ask a student to pay more for college before we ask hedge fund managers to stop paying taxes at a lower rate than their secretaries.” How can Republicans ask that? With a song in their heart and a large campaign contribution in their pocket.

ALTHOUGH IT’S A LOT EASIER TO HAVE YOUR WAY... AH, YOU KNOW WHERE I’M GOING HERE. He quoted Jefferson: “Every man cannot have his way in all things.”

Then John Boehner came out, to rebut the crazy idea that he cannot have his way in all things.

He was amazed that the federal government does not work in exactly the same way as a small business in Ohio. In fact, he was amazed that it doesn’t work like “every other business in America.” Well see, that’s the source of your amazement right there: government is not actually a business.

Now he’s accusing Obama of not taking yes for an answer, just like Obama accused the Republicans last week. Could this all be just a wacky misunderstanding?

SO SAD: “The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today.”

Boehner refers to “the crisis atmosphere he has created”.

AND THE PURPLER THE GOVERNMENT, THE MORE ORANGE THE PEOPLE (OR SOMETHING): “I’ve always believed that the bigger the government, the smaller the people.”

Today -100: July 25, 1911: Of lynchings and wet Texas

A negro farmer shoots four white farmers in Shreveport, LA “without cause,” and is lynched in front of the negro church.

The Texas prohibition referendum fails, 234,000 to 228,000.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Today -100: July 24, 1911: Of war widows and x-raying souls

Remember how until recently they kept discovering new “last Confederate widows,” some 100-year-old woman who’d married a 100-year-old Confederate veteran when she was a teenager? Well, in 1911 there was at least one living War of Independence widow. Born in 1800, at 19 she married one Hiram Proctor, a veteran of both the Revolution and the War of 1812. She gets a $12 a month pension because of his service in the latter war, and is cared for in a tumble-down cabin in North Carolina by her 90-year-old daughter.

There is a serious scientific dispute going on about whether the human soul can be x-rayed. An experiment is about to be conducted at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Mass. thinks that it can’t be done, because the skull gets in the way, except perhaps at death, when the soul substance becomes more agitated. He says it gives off a light just like that of interstellar ether. Oh, and that the soul weighs between ½ and 1¼ ounces. MacDougall has performed experiments on dying people that prove it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Parking Lot of Doom

Not a lot of pictures of this week’s Jerusalem parking lot protest.

But there was a nice innovation: secular counter-protesters. Unconstrained by sabbatarianism, they can bring their cars and... water pistols.

Debt negotiation caption contest

Obama press conference: Can they say yes to anything?

Obama spoke to the press at 6 pm Friday.

IN OTHER WORDS: He noted that the deal he was offering cut more discretionary spending and raised less in taxes than the Gang of Six Plan. “In other words, this was an extraordinarily fair deal.” Fair in what sense? “If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue.” If it was unbalanced.

Yeah, I know, I’m not even commenting, I’m just repeating his own words in stunned disbelief. Even if – if – you accept that he has to compromise 90% of his position to get anything done, does he have to praise every deal as if it were actually good? I mean, “an extraordinarily fair deal”?

WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN: “I told Speaker Boehner, I’ve told Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, I’ve told Harry Reid, and I’ve told Mitch McConnell I want them here at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow. We have run out of time. And they are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default.”

AS THE BISHOP SAID TO THE ACTRESS: “my expectation was that Speaker Boehner was going to be willing to go to his caucus and ask them to do the tough thing but the right thing.” On what past record was that expectation based?

THEY’RE JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU: “I’ve been left at the altar now a couple of times.”

COCAINE AND HOOKERS (PAID FOR BY LOBBYISTS): “And I think that one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is can they say yes to anything?” I’d be making more creepy jokes here, but Obama is already saying that he wants Boehner to fuck him in almost as many words.

WITH THE COCAINE AND HOOKERS: “And so then the question becomes, where’s the leadership?”

THAT’S A TRICK QUESTION, RIGHT? “Or, alternatively, how serious are you actually about debt and deficit reduction? Or do you simply want it as a campaign ploy going into the next election?”

WHAT HE CANNOT BELIEVE: “I am confident simply because I cannot believe that Congress would end up being that irresponsible that they would not send a package that avoids a self-inflicted wound to the economy at a time when things are so difficult.” It’s statements like that that make George Bush look like a keen-eyed realist by comparison.

Then there’s this exchange, in which Obama explained that it is always necessary for him to give in to the Tea Partyers:
Q: Mr. President, can you explain why you were offering a deal that was more generous than the Gang of Six, which you seemed to be embracing on Tuesday when you were here?

OBAMA: Because what had become apparent was that Speaker Boehner had some difficulty in his caucus. There are a group of his caucus that actually think default would be okay and have said that they would not vote for increasing the debt ceiling under any circumstances. And so I understand how they get themselves stirred up and the sharp ideological lines that they’ve drawn. And ultimately, my responsibility is to make sure that we avoid extraordinary difficulties to American people and American businesses.

See, it’s his “responsibility” to surrender to people who will not vote to increase the debt ceiling under any circumstances.

BECAUSE NOTHING SAYS SERIOUS LIKE SLASHING BENEFITS TO THE POOR, DISABLED, SICK AND ELDERLY: “So when Norah asked or somebody else asked why was I willing to go along with a deal that wasn’t optimal from my perspective, it was because even if I didn’t think the deal was perfect, at least it would show that this place is serious”.

Considering that before I got around to reading the transcript, I was hearing how angry Obama was, all that “can they say yes to anything” talk indicates that he’s most angry that no one seems to be willing to accept his surrender.

Today -100: July 23, 1911: Of booze, statue mania, a humiliation intolerable for a great nation to endure, and reciprocity

A referendum in Texas on state-wide prohibition is running very close. The southern part of the state voted wet, the north dry. Night riders, fearing negroes would vote against prohibition, warned them against voting. And yes, “warned” includes whipping and shooting.

The city of Paris strikes a blow against “statue mania,” banning the erection of new statues for a period of ten years.

Germany has put forward various demands it wants in exchange for removing its gunboat from Moroccan waters, including a large swathe of the French Congo to be tacked onto its colony of Kameroon. British chancellor of the exchequer David Lloyd George makes a speech (the Mansion House speech, if you’re following along in a Stuff That Lead Up to World War I book) about the importance of Britain not losing its influence in the world, an influence which has been “invaluable for the cause of human liberty” and has “more than once in the past redeemed Continental nations, who are sometimes too apt to forget that service...” Stoopid redeemed Continental nations “...but if a situation were to be enforced upon us in which peace could only be preserved by the surrender of the great and beneficent position that Great Britain has won by centuries of heroism and achievement – by allowing Great Britain to be treated where her interests were vitally affected as if she were of no account in the cabinet of nations – then I say emphatically that peace at that price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure.” Yup, that was pretty emphatic, all right. This is the British government publicly warning Germany that it will stand by France, a situation that may arise again in the future.

Congress passes the Canadian tariff reciprocity treaty, 53-27. Woo hoo. Now it’s up to Canada, where it’s more vital, in that the treaty would tie Canada’s economy closer to the US’s while loosening its economic dependence on the rest of the Empire.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Obama town hall: Americans chose a divided government, but they didn’t choose a dysfunctional government

This morning, Obama did a “town hall” at the township of the University of Maryland.

THE STAMP WILL, OF COURSE, BE MADE IN CHINA: “I want Congress to send me a set of trade deals that would allow our businesses to sell more products in countries in Asia and South America that are stamped with the words, ‘Made in America.’”

AMERICANS ARE JUST TOO FAT TO RUN OUT WITHOUT PAYING THE TAB: “Basically, there’s some people out there who argue we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling any more. And the problem is, effectively what that’s saying is we’re not going to pay some of our bills. Well, the United States of America does not run out without paying the tab.”

AMERICANS CHOSE WHAT NOW? “In 2010, Americans chose a divided government, but they didn’t choose a dysfunctional government.” They chose a government run by dysfunctional people – big difference.

Oh, and they didn’t “choose” a divided government.

On using the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling: “I have talked to my lawyers. They do not -- they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.” Why not? And are these the same lawyers who said you could start a war in Libya or kill people anywhere in the world on your personal authority?

He gave his new favorite example of how “this notion that somehow if you’re responsible and you compromise, that somehow you’re giving up your convictions -- that’s absolutely not true”: the Emancipation Proclamation, in which Lincoln was willing to keep slaves in the North in bondage “because he thought it was necessary in terms of advancing the goals of preserving the Union and winning the war.” Indeed, Obama has the Proclamation hanging in the Oval Office, I guess because it’s such a great example of looking like you’re doing something but not actually doing anything. “So, you know what, if Abraham Lincoln could make some compromises as part of governance, then surely we can make some compromises when it comes to handling our budget.”

So Obama is now coming out firmly in favor of compromising over slavery, because leaving some people in shackles is responsible and definitely not “somehow... giving up your convictions”. You don’t even want to know what the next “Grand Compromise” Obama offers the Republicans is going to be.

Headline of the Day

AP: “Poll: Chavez’s Cancer Not Affecting Popularity.”

No, cancer is still pretty unpopular.

Today -100: July 22, 1911: Of duels, hollow tile men, and hyenas

The “Apres Mois” affair continues in Paris, with playwright Henri Bernstein fighting two duels this week, the first with royalist journalist Gustave Tery (pistols, no one hit, although Bernstein nearly bagged a press photographer), the second with royalist editor Leon Daudet (two exchanges of shots, no one hit, then rapiers, a couple of wounds, then “The duelists left the ground without shaking hands,” although one of those wounds was on Daudet’s wrist).

Headline of the Day -100: “Mayor Ends Hopes of Hollow Tile Men.” So now they are without hope, hollow, and made of tile. So sad.

New York movie theaters will show color motion pictures of George V’s coronation.

Other entertainments available in 1911: a Minnesota – side show, I think – featured a 6-year-old boy locked in a cage with seven unfriendly hyenas. Fun for the whole family.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Today -100: July 21, 1911: Of PI/clown/fake burglars

I read this story only by chance. I was skimming the page and the word “clown” caught my eye: Frank Wacrous of Newark, a wire-drawer, stole $3,200 worth of platinum from the vault of the refining firm where he worked. He snuck it out in his underwear (not all at once)(is that 80 ounces of platinum in your underwear, or are you just happy to see me?), then picked a fight with his boss so he’d be fired before the theft was noticed. He moved to Coatesville, PA, where, naturally, he used his riches to set up a sideshow. A private detective infiltrated the sideshow by taking a job as a clown and wormed his way into Wacrous’s confidence, convincing him that he was not only a clown but also a burglar. Wacrous then brought him into a scheme to shoot the night watchmen at the refining plant and blow up the vault (presumably after robbing it, but the article doesn’t say). At this point the private dick brought in the cops and Wacrous and two accomplices were arrested.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

You say potato

The Indy reports that the CIA is training covert “special units” of Afghans. Traditionally, “special units” trained by the CIA are more accurately called “death squads.”

Wait, did I say humble? I mean fuck you.

The Murdochs testify to Parliament and everyone makes Burns & Smithers jokes. Synergy!

Everyone is also making jokes about Murdoch visiting Cameron by the back door. I made that joke a week ago, and I’m darned proud of it.

Rupert certainly played the “old man who couldn’t possibly be held responsible” angle, right down to the suit that some tailor was paid a fortune to make two sizes too large for him.

Murdoch’s opening statement: “I hope our contribution to Britain will one day also be recognised.” Now that would have been the moment to hit him with a pie.

Murdoch had already said it’s “the most humble day of my life,” so why did they arrest the guy who tried to feed him humble pie?

Quote of the Day, James Murdoch: “But it’s difficult to say that the company should have been told something if it’s not known that a thing was a known fact to be told.” So true.

Jimmy also said that he was “as surprised as you are” that the PI/hacker’s legal fees were paid by News International. Meaning that no one was the tiniest bit surprised.

Name of the Day: News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck.

Today -100: July 19, 1911: Have a suffrage sandwich?

NYC women’s suffragists are propagandizing through a suffrage lunch cart at Fordham Square, offering suffrage sandwiches and suffrage lemonade. It’s supposed to make people see the connection between women’s suffrage and the cost of living, or something.

Lyons, France’s city council plans a tax on bachelors, the money raised to be used for impoverished families with lots of children.

Judge Wilbur of Los Angeles rules that pedestrians need not look in three directions before crossing the street.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How I’ve missed you, ultra-Orthodox parking lot protesters

The summer of 2009 was marked by repeated protests by ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem against the opening of a municipal parking lot on the Sabbath. For this blog, that meant one thing: picture after hilarious picture. Well, they’re back, baby!

Today -100: July 18, 1911: Of population and rattlesnakes, campaign spending, and insects

The center of population for the United States, according to the 1910 census, was just outside Unionville, Indiana, having moved 31 miles west since 1900. By the 2010 census it had moved further west to Plato, Missouri. I can’t be bothered to figure the distance between Unionville and Plato, but Google Maps says it would take 7 hours and 22 minutes to drive it.

(Update: an Indiana University professor located the 1911 center of population precisely. There was nothing there but a rattlesnake. Which he killed.)

The Senate passes a campaign finance bill, providing for complete publicity of contributions and a spending limit of 10 per voter and $10,000 for Senate (senators were still elected by state legislatures, but there were non-binding primaries in many states) and $5,000 for the House.

Headline and Wuss of the Day -100: “Insect Bite Halts Wedding.” The bite in question being on the knee of the Episcopal bishop who was supposed to officiate. Evidently he’s been incapacitated by this bite for weeks.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Just one comment about Arizona State Senator Lori Klein pointing a loaded gun at a reporter: someone who refers to walking around with a lethal firearm as “packing heat” should on no account be allowed to do so.

Today -100: July 17, 1911: Of socialists, exciting bombs, and hair-raising films

Socialists are now in charge of the city government of Berkeley. I know! In large part through the efforts of young radicals at the university. I know! However, the elected socialists have been fighting amongst themselves – I know! – over the distribution of patronage positions. (Update: the LA Times of 7/10/11 says that new Socialist Mayor Stitt Wilson is refusing to give his party leaders an undated resignation to be used at their convenience, so they are already threatening to recall him.)

Headline of the Day -100: “Bombs Excite Pasadena.” I should think. Someone left a couple of bombs in a basket in front of the home of a retired dental-instrument manufacturer.

A movie actor, Albert Brighton (not listed in IMDB), drowned last week while filming a movie. There are already ads for the film: “Film actor’s sensational fight for life. Hair-raising act shown in detail before and during the fatal plunge, in which Al Brighton lost his life to make drowning scene realistic. A marvelous picture film, containing 41 scenes, 1,000 feet of film, and in which 100 actors are employed. The noted picture player plunges to his death while hundreds applaud his death struggles, appreciating, as they thought, his usual great efforts to make a scene real. Order now.” Hair-raising may not be the best choice of words: one of the men trying to save Brighton grabbed him by the hair, which, being a toupee, came off. He did not surface again.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Today -100: July 16, 1911: Of false hair, French divorce, goats, and disgusted burglars

Headline of the Day -100: “Wrestles With False Hair.” Part of an endless series of stories since the passage of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff in 1909 in which the Treasury categorizes various imported products to determine the tariff to be paid on them. In this case, the law specifies that “drawn” hair is subject to a 20% duty while “raw” hair may be imported free, so the Treasury is busy determining which is which. “One section of the Treasury offices looks like an Indian camp after the visit of a scalping party.”

An article about the income tax amendment mentions parenthetically that of 15 state legislatures which have yet to vote on it, 9 are out of session until 1913.

A couple of French dukes sue because Louis XV gave their ancestor rights to a box at the Opéra Comique with a room behind it, a separate staircase and a private entrance, but since the reconstruction of the opera house in 1887, they’ve had only the box. The court (which evidently hasn’t heard of the abolition of aristocratic privileges during the French Revolution) awards them $2,000 in damages, but won’t order that the building’s entire facade be rebuilt to accommodate them.

More upper-upper-class French people news: with divorce rising (and fewer people shunning divorced women from polite society) but with French divorce proceedings pretty secretive, the question has arisen of whether and how one should announce one’s divorce in the pre-Facebook age. If you send out divorce cards, do you say “Monsieur and Madame X regret to announce,” when you obviously regrette rien, or “Monsieur and Madame X have the pleasure of announcing,” which some find frivolous? “Monsieur and Madame X have the honor”? The younger set dislike “The court has declared a divorce between Monsieur and Madame X” because it’s legalistic instead of sentimental. And what about the recipient: do you send congratulations or condolences?

Candidates to join the Elks will no longer have to ride the goat. That’s a euphemism for... oh, wait, for riding a goat.

Politically Correct Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times): “YELLOW PERIL IS IMMINENT.; FLOOD OF CHINESE MARCHING ON LOS ANGELES; Plague-stricken Contrabands Are Crossing the Line, and Four Hundred Waiting at Ensenada.”

Headline of the Day -100: “Burglar Caught, Disgusted.” Said the burglar, as he was led by police out of the home of an electrical engineer who had choked him into submission, “Richmond Hill is the worst place I ever saw. If I robbed every house in the place I wouldn’t get more than 25 cents.” In burglary as in real estate, it’s location location location.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Obama press conference: It is hard to do a big package

Hillary Clinton announces in Istanbul that the US now recognizes the Libyan Transitional National Council “as the legitimate governing authority for Libya... In contrast, the United States views the Qadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya.” Still no definition of the process by which legitimacy is conferred or withdrawn, despite the fact that US foreign policy seems to be based on our ability to discern and measure the magical property of legitimacy without having to resort to anything as old-fashioned as an election. We shall be handing over billions of dollars of assets belonging to the regime which no longer has legitimate authority and handing it to the one that has acquired it.

She added that Syrian President Asad “has lost his legitimacy in the eyes of his people because of the brutality of their crackdown”.

Obama press conferences are like buses: you wait forever and then three arrive right behind each other. Today, another.

WHAT WE HAVE A CHANCE TO DO: “We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 years, or 20 years, if we’re wiling to seize the moment.” Because nothing creates stability like giving in to Republican demands.

WHAT HE IS WILLING TO DO: “And I have already said I am willing to take down domestic spending to the lowest percentage of our overall economy since Dwight Eisenhower.”

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: “Now, let me acknowledge what everybody understands: It is hard to do a big package.”

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID: “So I am still pushing for us to achieve a big deal.”

He spent a bit of time explaining that polls, including Republican polls, show that the American people, including Republicans, want a deficit package to include tax increases (or “revenues,” as Obama calls them) in a “balanced approach.” Then he says, “And I’ve already taken some heat from my party for being willing to compromise. My expectation and hope is, is that everybody, in the coming days, is going to be willing to compromise.” (Really, that’s your expectation? Have you met Eric Cantor?) So why is the only heat he’s talking about the heat coming from “my party”?

We don’t need a balanced budget amendment: “what we need to do is to do our jobs.”

OBAMA HAS A VERY COMPLICATED RELATIONSHIP WITH LAYER CAKES: “I think about this like a layer cake. You can do the bare minimum and then you can make some progressively harder decisions to solve the problem more and more.”

On Eric Cantor’s snit-fest, but without mentioning Cantor by name: “I think this notion that things got ugly is just not true. ... The American people are not interested in the reality TV aspects of who said what and did somebody’s feelings get hurt. They’re interested in solving the budget problem and the deficit and the debt.” Has he ever met the American people?

AIN’T IT THE TRUTH: “The bottom line is that this is not an issue of salesmanship to the American people; the American people are sold. The American people are sold.” And the Chinese have the receipt.

WE? YOU DON’T SEEM TO HAVE ANY TROUBLE FUCKING OVER THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR YOU: “We simply need to make these tough choices and be willing to take on our bases.” In fact, he can’t even remember which rhetorical flourishes belong to which parties, and a minute later comes out against “job-killing tax cuts.”

PHEW: “Contrary to what some folks say, we’re not Greece, we’re not Portugal.”

DARE TO DREAM: “With respect to Senator McConnell’s plan, as I said, I think it is a -- it is constructive to say that if Washington operates as usual and can’t get anything done, let’s at least avert Armageddon.”

AND THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR ME CAN EAT A BAG OF DICKS: “The proposal that I was discussing with Speaker Boehner fell squarely in line with what most Republican voters think we should do.”

I NEVER READ MY REVIEWS: “I generally don’t watch what is said about me on cable. I generally don’t read what’s said about me, even in The Hill.” Wouldn’t it be funny if he really had no idea what his enemies are saying about him, and only found about it after he retired?

MOSTLY, IT INVOLVES GETTING RID OF ALL THAT PAPER: “I’ve got reams of paper and printouts and spreadsheets on my desk, and so we know how we can create a package that solves the deficits and debt for a significant period of time.”

WHAT’S OBAMA’S DEFINITION OF “PROGRESSIVE,” ANYWAY? “And so that’s where I’d have a selling job, Chuck, is trying to sell some of our party that if you are a progressive, you should be concerned about debt and deficit just as much as if you’re a conservative.” No, no you shouldn’t be. (Also, of course, conservatives are not really concerned about debt and the deficit.)

“And the reason is because if the only thing we’re talking about over the next year, two years, five years, is debt and deficits, then it’s very hard to start talking about how do we make investments in community colleges so that our kids are trained, how do we actually rebuild $2 trillion worth of crumbling infrastructure.” You know what else would stop that being the only thing we’re talking about over the next year, 2 years, 5 years? If the president of the United States talked about something else. “If you care about making investments in our kids and making investments in our infrastructure and making investments in basic research, then you should want our fiscal house in order, so that every time we propose a new initiative somebody doesn’t just throw up their hands and say, ‘Ah, more big spending, more government.’” Yes, that would totally stop somebody doing that.

Today -100: July 15, 1911: Of singing suffragists

Women suffragists were told they couldn’t give suffrage speeches in Hollenbeck Park in Los Angeles (there is a city ordinance against the discussion of political questions in public parks). So they sang their speeches.

Britain and Japan renew their treaty of alliance, but Britain insists on dropping the clause by which it was obliged to join Japan in any war between the US and Japan. In a telling Freudian slip, the LA Times refers to this as a “racial change.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Searching for the known unknowns

Good gracious, Donald Rumsfeld was searched by the TSA yesterday at O’Hare.


Today -100: July 14, 1911: Of taxation

The NYT is opposed to a constitutional amendment allowing a national income tax (the future 16th Amendment), which it considers, not without reason, an attempt by the rest of the country to screw New York (before the 16th, the Constitution specified that any direct taxes had to be apportioned among the states according to population). The Times quotes an unnamed Arkansas advocate of the amendment who says that for every dollar paid by Ark., NY would pay $1,000 and a NY assemblyman who believes NY would pay 1/6 of the amount raised by a national income tax. Such people assume that Congress would only tax the rich, of whom NY had (and has) rather more than Arkansas. The NY state Assembly disagreed, voting its support of the amendment by a bare majority.

Politically Correct Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times): “Chinks Head for the Border.” “Contraband” Chinese are arriving from Mexico.

Yes, I have started adding in a little coverage from the LAT, though probably without links.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Today -100: July 13, 1911: Fire!

The NY Assembly passes a bill to allow local referendums on allowing baseball on Sundays. Assemblyman McCue said blue laws against Sunday sports do more to fill the prisons and insane asylums than do saloons.

The NY Senate defeats women’s suffrage by a single vote.

The NY Legislature authorizes the formation in NYC of a wholly negro regiment of the National Guard.

The US Senate abolishes a number of federal positions, including one held by Jefferson Davis’s old negro bodyguard, Jim Jones, who’s been out sick for the last 2 years. His position is restored after a kerfuffle in which Sen. Heyburn (R-Idaho) says he’ll support retention of Jones because of his past service to the Senate, but not for his loyalty to an “infamous cause.” Hilarity ensued.

Thomas Jolliff, a British-born miner in Renton, Washington, is denied US citizenship after saying that in event of a strike, he would obey his union rather than the courts. When the judge told him he would be barred from citizenship, Jolliff said he changed his mind. Will have to wait to September while his case is investigated.

Headline of the Day -100: “Congressman Afire.” In the House of Representatives, a box of matches in the pocket of Rep. Frank Willis (R-Ohio) burst into flame. Several other congresscritters put him out.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Media Analysis of the Day

NYT: “After David Cameron was elected prime minister, one of the first visitors he received at 10 Downing Street was Mr. Murdoch — discreetly through a back entrance”. I’ll bet he did, I’ll bet he did.

We have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power

Following the attacks by mobs on the US and French embassies in Syria, Hillary Clinton says of President Assad, “I mean, look - I mean, from our perspective, he has lost legitimacy”. As with her and Obama’s remarks about Qaddafi, she does not say when and how Assad acquired his previous legitimacy, or perhaps that should be his legitimacy “from our perspective,” since it is our perspective that is the vital element in determining any regime’s legitimacy or illegitimacy. To make that point even more clearly, she also said that “President Asad is not indispensable, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power.” Because it’s all about us.

Today -100: July 12, 1911: Of skyscrapers

Plans have been drawn up, not necessarily seriously, for a 100-story building in NYC. (However, the tallest... actually I don’t know what the tallest existing building was in 1911, but the foundation had just been laid for the 57-story Woolworth Building.)

(Update: It was the Met Life Tower.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Obama press conference: This is the United States of America, and we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments

Barack Obama held another press conference today.

DAMMIT, WE’RE GOING TO MAKE THIS RELATIONSHIP WORK! “As all of you know, I met with congressional leaders yesterday. We’re going to be meeting again today, and we’re going to meet every single day until we get this thing resolved.”

ACTUALLY, IN THE 1780s... OH, NEVER MIND. “We cannot threaten the United States’ full faith and credit for the first time in our history.”

DEFINE “GOOD-FAITH”: “Speaker Boehner and myself had been in a series of conversations about doing the biggest deal possible so that we could actually resolve our debt and our deficit challenge for a long stretch of time. And I want to say I appreciate Speaker Boehner’s good-faith efforts on that front.”

BUT MOSTLY MEANER: “We have agreed to a series of spending cuts that will make the government leaner, meaner, more effective, more efficient, and give taxpayers a greater bang for their buck.”

IF BY “DO ANYTHING” YOU MEAN “CUT PAYMENTS TO THE POOR, SICK AND ELDERLY, I WOULD HOPE SO. OR IS THAT NOT WHAT YOU MEANT BY “DO ANYTHING”? “There is, frankly, resistance on my side to do anything on entitlements.”

IF BY “DO ANYTHING” YOU MEAN “CUT TAXES ON THE RICH AGAIN”.... “There is strong resistance on the Republican side to do anything on revenues.”

UNLESS YOU CAVE COMPLETELY. BUT THAT COULD NEVER HAPPEN, COULD IT? “But if each side takes a maximalist position, if each side wants 100 percent of what its ideological predispositions are, then we can’t get anything done.” Okay, for Republicans the “maximalist position” is the total refusal of tax increases, but what’s the maximalist position this even-handed phraseology is implying has been taken by the Democrats? Not cutting Medicare and Social Security?

WE’RE NOT THAT FAR-SIGHTED: “The things that I will not consider are a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day or a 180-day temporary stopgap resolution to this problem. This is the United States of America, and we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments.”

WHAT IT’S NOT GOING TO GET: “It’s not going to get easier. It’s going to get harder. So we might as well do it now -- pull off the Band-Aid, eat our peas.” Or in Rand Paul’s case, vice versa.

ACTUALLY, THEY WON’T PAY FOR THE HIGHWAY EITHER: “I mean, if the basic proposition is ‘it’s my way or the highway,’ then we’re probably not going to get something done because we’ve got divided government.”

HAVE YOU ACTUALLY MET MITCH MCCONNELL AND JOHN BOEHNER? “And so if, in fact, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are sincere -- and I believe they are...”

OBAMA DOESN’T SAY WHICH OF THE PROFESSIONAL POLITICIANS DON’T KNOW BETTER: “I will say that some of the professional politicians know better. And for them to say that we shouldn’t be raising the debt ceiling is irresponsible. They know better.” Knowing and caring are of course two separate things.

THERE’S THAT WORD AGAIN: “I think Speaker Boehner has been very sincere about trying to do something big.”

FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I PROMISED YOU GUYS “HOPE”: “And this is part of the problem with a political process where folks are rewarded for saying irresponsible things to win elections or obtain short-term political gain”.

AGAIN, IF BY “DO ANYTHING” YOU MEAN “CUT PAYMENTS TO THE POOR, SICK AND ELDERLY: “I mean, the vast majority of Democrats on Capitol Hill would prefer not to have to do anything on entitlements... And I’m sympathetic to their concerns, because they’re looking after folks who are already hurting and already vulnerable”. Note that he isn’t expressing any sympathy for the actual “folks who are already hurting and already vulnerable,” just for the concerns of Democrats on Capitol Hill. I’m sure it’s just an oversight.

WELL NOT WITH AN ATTITUDE LIKE THAT, MISTER: “Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.”

YA KNOW, AT THIS POINT, I DON’T THINK YOUR WILLINGNESS TO MOVE IN THE DIRECTION OF THE REPUBLICANS IS REALLY IN ANY DOUBT WHATSOEVER: “My point is, is that I’m willing to move in their direction in order to get something done.”

YEAH, YOU’D HAVE TO BE A FUCKING IDIOT TO BELIEVE THAT: “I am not somebody who believes that just because we solve the deficit and debt problems short term, medium term, or long term, that that automatically solves the unemployment problem.” So why are you spending all your time on the deficit and none on jobs?

REALLY, JOHN BOEHNER? ORANGE DUDE WHO ALWAYS SMELLS OF BOURBON? THAT JOHN BOEHNER? “My experience with John Boehner has been good. I think he’s a good man who wants to do right by the country.” You know, we made fun of George Bush for saying he looked into Putin’s soul...

“This recession has been hard on everybody...” Has it? Has it really? “...but obviously it’s harder on folks who’ve got less.” So why are you so eager to cut holes in their safety net?

(Update: However, Obama calling John Boehner sincere and a good man who wants to do etc is not quite as bad a judgement of character as that of Nick Clegg, who called on Rupert Murdoch today to “do the decent thing.”)

Today -100: July 11, 1911: Of heat and non-ritual murder

Another very hot day, many deaths reported.

Jews in Kiev have been on edge since a (Christian) boy was found murdered and mutilated in February, leading to the usual rumors of ritual murder. His step-father (an anti-Semite) has just been arrested.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Today -100: July 10, 1911: Of paperbacks and negroes in public office

A publisher predicts that novels will soon be sold in cheaper paper covers.

The NYT quotes the Tampa Tribune’s explanation of why black candidates in recent municipal elections in Jacksonville, FL received so few votes, even though blacks are in the majority there: negroes “realize that the whites resent the presence of a negro in any public body. They know, too, that a negro in important public office can bring only discomfort to himself and ill-feeling against his race. They prefer to pursue the even tenor of their way” (the Trib’s saying they’re lazy) “content to let the white men rule, and asking from them only the right to make honest livings and conduct themselves in their own sphere.” The NYT says that there are differing opinions about whether blacks should be allowed to vote (and doesn’t really come down on either side): “the negro in his civilized environment is making rapid strides; he is becoming industrious and propertied. But the disparity between his acquired thrift, industry, and perseverance and that of his white neighbors is still great. His opportunities under a white man’s Government do not wear the forbidding aspect of oppression. It matters little to the negro whether he votes or remains away from the polls, and, when he feels a real need for the franchise, he may exercise his privilege. But the negroes of the South should turn a deaf ear to their Republican machine leaders, and heed the industrial gospel preached by Booker T. Washington. The negroes of Jacksonville seem to have the right idea.”

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Today -100: July 9, 1911: Of seals, feuds, marriage vows, and fans

The US, Britain, Russia and Japan have signed a treaty to protect seals and otters. Although by protect, I mostly mean divide up their skins.

The owner of two apartment buildings on 98th Street in NYC is annoyed that large new apartment buildings (one is eight stories) being built next door will cut off the light and air from his buildings. So he’s threatening to put up a 3-story-tall fence on the top of his building to block the windows of the new buildings. And he put up a big sign saying that his apartments are now for lease to colored tenants only. That’ll show ‘em.

The Church of England decides to revise the marriage service, including this part: “marriage is not by any to be enterprised nor taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts, that have no understanding, but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.” The carnal lusts & brute beasts would be removed. From the sentence, I mean, not from the marriages, obvs. Also the bit about marriage being ordained for the procreation of children, because “procreation” is a naughty word.

Vice President Sherman broke precedent in presiding over the Senate, bringing in an electric fan to cool himself in the record-breaking heat wave. Hitherto, senators used only palm leaves. Instantly, several senators brought in their own fans.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Advancing a narrow social agenda

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), introducing provisions, which passed the House 236-184 today, to ban gay marriages taking place on military bases and cutting off funds to train military chaplains on post-DADT policy, says he wants to ensure that “America’s military bases are not used to advance a narrow social agenda.” Because if there’s anything Tim Huelskamp hates, it’s using America’s military bases to advance a narrow social agenda.

Today -100: July 8, 1911: Of docked pay

Gov. Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey was surprised to find his pay docked for all the time he spent out of the state making speeches that certainly had nothing to do with any presidential ambitions. His pay for those days went to the guy who was acting governor (the president of the state senate – I guess NJ didn’t have a lieutenant governor).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Caption contest


Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World is to close forever after Sunday, having been caught hacking the phones of murdered girls, dead soldiers, police, celebs, etc. Probably Murdoch’s Sun newspaper, which now runs 6 days a week, will simply add a Sunday edition to replace the weekly NOTW (the New Statesman noted that The Sun ran only a short story of the NOTW hacking on page 2, “opposite some tits”) (it’s the word “some” that makes that phrase work so well), so don’t worry about the Murdochs losing any money off this scandal.

Okay, NOTW was never exactly what you’d call classy even before Murdoch bought it, its first issue in 1843 featuring the story of an “Extraordinary Charge of Drugging and Violation,” still, it’s impressive that they managed to so destroy the name of a British tabloid paper as to make it commercially untenable.

CONTEST: What would Fox News have to do to so poison the brand that it would close?

California Republicans and teh gayz

The California Assembly voted 49-25 to include mentions of the historical contributions of gays and lesbians in public schools’ social studies classes and textbooks (did you know some gay Prussian dude taught George Washington everything he knew about military drilling? It’s true!).

Here’s the thing: it was a party-line vote, with just one Republican crossing over (Nathan Fletcher of San Diego, who plans to run for mayor). If I may apply sophisticated political analysis here, that’s just stupid. A few New York Republicans were able to vote for gay marriage, but here they’re not even allowed to vote for the most piddling of pro-gay measures?

Today -100: July 7, 1911: Of dirty tricks, Christian Science, and loud churches

The Mexican Treasury gives $320,000 in gold to the Maderos to reimburse their expenses in overthrowing the government.

Rep. George Norris (Insurgent R-Neb.) accuses Taft’s secretary of running a political news bureau out of the White House aimed at scuppering a possible primary challenge to Taft by Robert LaFollette in 1912.

Sen. John Works (D-Cal.) gives a two-hour speech in the Senate against the establishment of a National Department of Health. Evidently he’s a believer in Christian Science, which he claims cured him and his wife of unspecified long-term diseases and his son of being a drunk. He accuses the American Medical Society of trying to stamp out Christian Science.

Mexican police fire at striking street car workers in Mexico City, killing 6. So much for the revolution, huh?

Oscar Davis, a wealthy, presumably white man in Quitman, Georgia, complained to the authorities about the noise made by the congregation of a negro church located near his house. The authorities made the church folk worship less boisterously, so they are now quietly praying. For the death of Oscar Davis.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Obama and the hashtag of doom

Obama held a “Twitter town hall” today. He answered questions posed by people with made-up Twitter handles like “RenegadeNerd” and “John Boehner.”

BUT REAL MEN TWEET STANDING UP: “First of all, everybody can sit down. (Laughter.) It’s much easier to tweet from a seated position. (Laughter.)”

In answer to the pictured question: “I think that -- probably two things that I would do differently. One would have been to explain to the American people that it was going to take a while for us to get out of this.” See, it’s not something he did less than perfectly, it’s something he explained less than perfectly. (The second thing is something about housing, but he doesn’t really mention something he would do differently.)

IT’S B-O-N-E-R: “John obviously needs to work on his typing skills.”

Asked by one NickKristof if he shouldn’t have gotten a commitment to raise the debt ceiling when he gave the Republicans an extension of tax cuts to the wealthy, he says “That wasn’t the deal that was available.” In other words, you were out-negotiated.

Speaking of out-negotiated, here he is asking permission from the super-rich to raise their taxes, because he was just raised polite that way: “As I said before, if wealthy individuals are willing to simply go back to the rates that existed back in the 1990s when rich people were doing very well... if the wealthiest among us -- and I include myself in this category -- are willing to give up a little bit more, then we can solve this problem.” If they aren’t willing, we might just remember that this country is supposed to be ruled by the majority, and we don’t actually have to beg their favor.

THE NICE THING ABOUT THE DEFENSE BUDGET: “And the nice thing about the defense budget is it’s so big, it’s so huge, that a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget.” That said, he won’t reduce the defense budget 1%, obvs.