Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Today -100: October 31, 1912: Of dead veeps, free postage, strange noises, hatpins, and drag-hunts

Vice President James Schoolcraft Sherman has died at 57. Sherman was the mayor of Utica, NY in his 20s, a Congressman for many years, and a very sick vice president for nearly four years.

Taft was at dinner when he heard the news, because of course he was.

Congress granted Frances Cleveland, Grover’s widow, free mail for life shortly after his death in 1908, along with Benjamin Harrison’s widow. It is thought her upcoming re-marriage will not affect that. Congress has several times considering granting pensions to the two former first ladies, but never has, although Garfield’s widow gets $5,000 a year and McKinley’s did until her death. But I’m sure Mrs. Cleveland and Mrs. Harrison are quite happy with their stamps.

Supposedly, the Ottoman Army executed 300 soldiers who fled the battle at Kirk-Kilesseh.

Theodore Roosevelt gives a speech at Madison Square Garden, very much against doctor’s advice. Well, he tried to give a speech, but first he had to wait for the crowd for 45 minutes: “They began with cheering, and from that they went on to inventing strange noises. When the possibilities of strange noises were exhausted they would go back to cheering, and after that they would go back again to strange noises, and so it went on until it seemed as if noisemaking possibilities had been tested to the limit.” Nothing increases your popularity like getting shot in the chest.

Anyway, then he gave his speech, which frankly does not read as the most exciting speech ever. And he was only able to make his usual wild arm gestures with his left arm.

In Sydney, Australia, 60 women go to jail to protest “iniquitous and unnecessary legislation” against hatpins that stick out too far. They threaten a hunger strike if there are more arrests.

Politically Correct Headline of the Day -100: “Big Negroes in Ring.”

German Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm is injured when he falls off his horse during a drag-hunt. Which probably isn’t what it sounds like.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Unringing the bell

Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for the US Senate for Indiana, says he can’t “unring the bell” of his comments about rape pregnancies being the will of God.

Yeah, imagine if something awful happened, leaving you stuck with a lasting reminder of it, and you can’t get rid of it.

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Today -100: October 30, 1912: Of widows, fiendish acts, and nighty night, Mr. Vice President

Grover Cleveland’s widow Frances (he married her when he was 49 and in the White House and she was 21 and he’d known her since she was an infant and it was not at all creepy) is to remarry, to an archeology and art history professor at Wells College, a mere year or two her senior.

An unnamed member of the Bulgarian Red Cross accuses the Turks of fiendish acts and indescribable atrocities. Some Bulgarian soldiers had their necks bitten through; others were impaled. According to some random Bulgarian dude.

His family and friends are glad that Vice President Sherman was able to get some sleep last night.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Today -100: October 29, 1912: Of leaps in the dark

President Taft says the issue in this election is “On the one hand prosperity and real progress; on the other a leap in the dark.” And any attempt by Democrats to implement the tariff reform they’re promising (a tariff “for revenue only,” i.e., not to protect American industries) would plunge the country into depression, which he claims is what happened in 1893. Interestingly, his statement mentions the American right to vote – except Republicans in California and Kansas, and black people in the South. Not that he has any plans to do anything about the latter, of course, but I’m surprised to see him even mention it.

The governor of Kansas, progressive Republican Walter Stubbs, responds that Taft hasn’t bothered to keep up with Kansas, and that both Taft and Roosevelt electors will in fact be on the ballot in Kansas.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Today -100: October 28, 1912: Of allots, uskubs, and tsarevitches

The Bull Moose Party is not doing well at establishing itself everywhere, perhaps not surprising given that it’s only about four months old. In Washington state, judges in several counties have ordered that the party not be on the ballot. “In Mason County... Judge Sheek... decided that two men meeting on street corners and nominating themselves to office did not constitute a convention.”

Wilson, in a speech: “We do not want a big brother government... I do not want a government that will take care of me. I want a government that will make other men take their hands off so that I can take care of myself.”

Serbs are parading in Belgrade to celebrate the capture of Uskub, which can only mean that they have some idea where that is.

The NYT is now saying that Tsarevitch Alexei of Russia was shot by a revolutionist. Or he slipped in the bath.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Today -100: October 27, 1912: Of peas, mystery victories, groins, poor aristocrats, and silent congresscritters

With Taft not appearing on the California ballot, Tafties in the state are organizing in support of Woodrow Wilson.

Headline of the Day -100: “HIT TAFT WITH A PEA.; Police Are Looking for a Boy Who Endangered the President's Eye.”

Turkey (which has lost Uskub to the Serbs) makes an official announcement that it has won a major military victory, but won’t say when or where, so it might have been in 1453.

The University of California (meaning Berkeley; there are no other campuses) has expanded rapidly recently, to 7,263 students, making it the second largest university in the country, after Columbia.

NYC Detective Dennis Killane is shot in the groin. There’s nothing special about the story, except... the NYT used the word groin. Also highwayman. Det. Killane was shot, in the groin, by a highwayman. That’s an odd combination of a word I didn’t think would be fit for print in 1912 and a word more fitted for the 18th century.

Oh, after being shot, in the groin, Det. Killane felled the highwayman with his blackjack, before collapsing on top of him.

Disappointing Cut-Off NYT Index Entry of the Day -100: “23,000 MARCH FOR RIGHT OF BOYCOTT; Labor Organizations Parade and Hold Three Meetings Against Injun...” The march, in NYC, was against injunctions, not Injuns. At the Cooper Union meeting following the parade, some guy tried to get three cheers for Teddy Roosevelt but was shouted down. Evidently Samuel Gompers often used puns in his speeches, but “Those who make iron – and steal for a living” didn’t go over well.

Crown Princess Cecilie of Germany (wife of the kaiser’s son) will hold a charity tea for the poor and needy. Well, poor and needy members of the aristocracy.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Today -100: October 26, 1912: Of Balkan wars, tsarevitches, and libel

A lot of unverified claims continue to be made about the Balkan War, with a lot of exotic-sounding place-names. Kirk-Kilisseh, for example, may or not have been captured by Bulgaria, and there was a fight between Serb and Turkish troops at Kumanova, and Turkish troops may now be retreating towards Uskub (Skopje). At any rate, the Bulgarians (or possibly Bulgars – the NYT goes back and forth in its usage) almost certainly have been bombarding Adrianople.

Am I the only one who was thinking that Kirk-Kilisseh sounds like the last name of the children if Captain Kirk and that green-skinned alien got married?

Greece names a governor-general for Crete, despite the Great Powers having told Greece quite firmly that it was not going to be allowed to annex it.

8-year-old Tsarevitch Alexei of Russia is sick, and the court won’t tell the Russian people with what. So rumors are going around that it was actually an anarchist assassination attempt. On board the royal yacht. Whose commander, Rear Admiral Chagin, committed suicide out of shame (Chagin is definitely dead). Whereas of course Alexei has hemophilia.

(Update from tomorrow -100’s paper: evidently he climbed on a cupboard and fell off. Or it’s something else.)

Theodore Roosevelt is suing the publisher of a Michigan newspaper, The Iron Ore, for saying in the October 12 issue that “Roosevelt lies and curses in a most disgusting way. He gets drunk, too, and that not infrequently, and all his intimates know about it.”

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Today -100: October 25, 1912: Of pandering and painting

President Taft tells the Maine Teachers’ Association that teachers should get pensions.

The White House’s exterior is washed for the first time since the Cleveland administration. God knows how long since it’s been painted.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who would Jesus rape?

Do you suppose that when people like Republican senatorial candidate for Indiana Richard Mourdock think about rapes that result in pregnancy (“something that God intended to happen”), they have one of these images in their head,

only with, you know, rape instead of baseball?

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Today -100: October 24, 1912: Of nephews, and worships and kisses

Rebel General Félix Díaz, nephew of the former president-for-life of Mexico, is captured by government troops. He was depending on rather more of the Vera Cruz troops coming over to his side than actually did.

NYT Index Typo of the Day -100: “Turkish Battleship to Refit to Meet Greek Worships.”

Headline of the Day -100 (LA Times): “Girl Kisses Gov. Wilson and Calls It Politics.”

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Today -100: October 23, 1912: Of gambling, order, millet & red pepper, and moosettes

Wilson’s running mate, Gov. Marshall of Indiana, sends the state National Guard, with fixed bayonets, to occupy the Mineral Springs race track to prevent gambling.

US forces will “keep order” during the Nicaraguan elections.

The Daily Telegraph (UK) claims that the Sultan of Turkey, before the First Balkan War began, sent a sack of millet to the king of Bulgaria, with a note that there are as many Turkish soldiers as grains of millet; “Now if you wish, declare war.” King Ferdinand responded with a bag of red pepper, with a note saying that Bulgarians are not numerous, but like the pepper they will fuck your shit up.

I paraphrase.

Word of the Day -100: “Moosette,” a new coinage, near as I can tell, which the NYT is so happy with it uses twice today.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Last Presidential Debate: We can’t kill our way out of this mess


(Note written half-way through: I’m tempted to remove all indicators of who said what and let you guess, maybe have a quiz, watch the hilarity ensue.)

The questions start with fucking Benghazi, which is so inconsequential in the context of, you know, the world, and global foreign policy, that I am so fucking sick of hearing about this shiny-object issue.

R: an attack in Benghazi by “terrorists of some kind”

R on the Middle East: “we can’t kill our way out of this mess.” We’d have to change the national slogan from “Killing Our Way Out of This Mess Since 1776.”

I had to look back at the transcript to figure out what “this mess” meant. It’s evidently his term for the entire Middle East.

R: My strategy is to “go after the bad guys” (He’s totally into the bad boys) “to interrupt them...” Well, he’s good at that. “... to kill them.” In other words, to kill our way out of this mess.

He also wants to “get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own.” Just like he did the Republican Party.

O: “And the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.” How are the 1980s calling us, anyway? It would be extremely weird if the 1980s were tweeting at us.

Hey, Barack, 2007 called, it wants its sitcom meme back.

BUT IT SURE IS FUN: R: “attacking me is not an agenda.”

O: “I am confident that Assad’s days are numbered.” So he’s not immortal? Good to know.

R: “Syria’s an opportunity for us.” Yeah, that’s how Syrians want to hear we think about them.

Oh, it gets better. He talks about organizing the “responsible” parties in Syria. And then arming them. They can call themselves the “Armed and Responsible Party.” And he wants a “council.”

Both of them say we need to coordinate our Syria policy with Israel, which a) paints the Syrian opposition as puppets of Israel, b) suggests that it’s legitimate for Israel (as well as the US) to intervene to shape Syria’s future government. What “responsible” Syrians could work with people who think that?

O says we went into Libya and “immediately stop[ped] the massacre there”. Is that how he remembers it?

O: “Moammar Gadhafi had more American blood on his hands than any individual other than Osama bin Laden.” Unless you count George Bush.

R has mentioned “responsible” parties in Syria like thirty times now. No one is asking him to define his terms.

R: “But unfortunately, in nowhere in the world is America’s influence greater today than it was four years ago.” Because nothing said American influence like the reaction of world leaders when they heard that George Bush was on the phone.

I thought this was supposed to be the foreign policy debate, but evidently they’ve gotten bored with the rest of the world.

O: “Now, keep in mind that our military spending has gone up every single year that I’ve been in office. We spend more on our military than the next 10 countries combined -- China, Russia, France, the United -- United Kingdom, you name it, next 10.” And this was a good idea because...?

Romney says our navy is smaller than at any time since 1917. Wasn’t it 1916 in the last debate? Is this a Lusitania thing? Oh, and the air force is “older and smaller” than it was in 1947.

O notes that we also have fewer horses and bayonets. Instantly wins that exchange.

O adds that it’s “not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships.” Navy Secretary... who the fuck is the navy secretary?... Ray Mabus... must be feeling very dejected right about now. Dude lives for a good game of Battleship.

O brags about “crippling” Iran’s economy.

R is against not only a nuclear Iran but also a “nuclear-capable Iran,” which is a term that means pretty much whatever we want it to mean, justifying attacking them whenever we feel like attacking them.

R also appreciates “crippling” sanctions. Because you can’t have enough cripples.

R would “indict” Ahmadinejad for genocide incitation. Did you know the president of the United States could indict the president of Iran? It’s right there in the Constitution, probably. Indeed, did you know that you can indict people for genocide who have committed no genocide? Me neither.

O: “You know, there have been times, Governor, frankly, during the course of this campaign, where it sounded like you thought that you’d do the some things we did, but you’d say them louder and somehow that that would make a difference.” Also, more dickishly.

Apology tour! Drink!!

R: my crippling sanctions will be more crippling than his crippling sanctions.

R on the apology tour: “You said that on occasion America had dictated to other nations. Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. We have freed other nations from dictators.” And from democracies. And from many of their citizens being alive. Because we’re all about the freeing.

O. says when he went to Israel, it wasn’t a fundraising tour. Another reasonably good response that he could have come up with a few months ago. And he went to the Holocaust museum, and totally bought a t-shirt in the gift shop, so don’t tell him he doesn’t love Israel.

R: “I look around the world, I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding”. For example, our influence around the world would be greater if our relations with Israel were better. Because Israel is the most beloved country in the world.

O says it was a good idea to kill bin Laden because he met some girl whose father was in the Twin Towers, and killing bin Laden brought closure to her. Obama is all about bringing closure to teenage girls.

That came out creepy in a way I didn’t intend.

Asked what he’d do if in 2014 Afghanistan weren’t ready to handle its own security, Romney totally rejects the premise. Unpossible! Asked what he’d do if Netanyahu called up and said his planes were on their way to bomb Iran, Romney totally rejects the premise. Unpossible!

O: “there’s no reason why Americans should die when Afghans are perfectly capable of defending their own country.” That probably sounded better in the original LBJ.

Actually, it didn’t.

R. looooves him some drones.

O. stopped China from flooding us with cheap tires. I’m pretty sure that was the plot of a Fu Manchu movie.

R: China has 20 million people coming out of the farms every year. And you thought they just grew rice.

R: we can be a partner with China. “Now, they look at us and say, is it a good idea to be with America?” It’s because we’re fat, isn’t it?

China counterfeited some valves! Nuke them!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let’s check the record.

MR. ROMNEY: That’s the height of silliness.

ROMNEY: “I’m still speaking.” Drink!

In the foreign policy debate, both closing statements were entirely about domestic issues.

Two references to George Bush in the entire debate, one by each candidate (fewer than the number of times Romney brought up Mali or used the phrase “spinning centrifuges”), and both of those references were on economic issues. American foreign policy began in 2009.

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Today -100: October 22, 1912: Going to Oyster Bay with a bullet in his chest

Theodore Roosevelt is heading home for a rest. So that’s a Chicago-New York railroad trip for a man who was shot in the chest less than a week ago. The biggest difficulty is keeping him from making a speech to the crowds of people who show up at every stop.

Headline of the Day -100: “Taft Sees Himself Speak.” In a motion picture. The opening act before the flick was Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald (JFK’s grandfather) singing “Sweet Adeline.”

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Today -100: October 21, 1912: Of hirams and impertinent interruptions

Hiram Johnson evidently didn’t know it, but the California Legislature passed a resolution allowing him to stay out of the state campaigning for the vice presidency for more than 60 days without losing his day job. Johnson & Roosevelt just had an argument about this in TR’s hospital room; Johnson was willing to give up his office to keep speechifyin’ but TR insisted that Johnson had a duty to the people of California.

The NYT says Maud Malone’s interruption of Woodrow Wilson’s speech yesterday was “not pertinent” because women’s suffrage is not an issue in this campaign, and was therefore “as impertinent as if she had asked the candidate his opinion of ‘The Affairs of Anatol’ or the latest precious novel of Mr. Wells.”

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Today -100: October 20, 1912: Of traditional barbarities

Roosevelt exhausts himself by holding meetings about the campaign in his hospital room; his doctors tell him to knock it off. One problem is that his running mate Hiram Johnson has to leave the campaign trail in a few days, or he will lose the office of governor of California for being out of the state for 60 days in a row.

Woodrow Wilson gives a speech at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Feminist Maud Malone stands up in the audience and demands to know his views on women’s suffrage. He refuses to say, claiming it is a state and not a national issue; she refuses to take “I decline to answer” as an answer, and she is arrested. She will be convicted, but not fined, which would allow her to appeal and to call Wilson as a witness. The judges tell her that she had a right to ask a question but legally was required to sit down and shut up when Wilson refused to answer. They say she provoked the audience to disorderly acts by not sitting down. She responds, “There is no telling about these foolish men. They go around and around like windmills when a woman’s voice is heard in one of their meetings.”

A Bulgarian attack on Ottoman forces is observed by King Ferdinand and “several princes.” It should be noted that Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia are all monarchies (and the Ottoman Empire is an empire, with a sultan and everything), and that a bunch of princes from several of the belligerents are at the front.

I’m avoiding talking about the details of battles because 1) probably no one cares, 2) it’s all rumors and lies and censorship at this point. I do like an LA Times sub-headline: “Turks Engage in Traditional Barbarities.” Massacred three Serbian villages, allegedly.

The Idaho Supreme Court rules that the state doesn’t recognize any such entity as the Progressive Party, so its electors can’t appear on the ballot. And a Nebraska district court allows the Republican state committee to choose Tafty electors, overturning the results of the April primary, which chose Theodores.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Today -100: October 19, 1912: Our love of peace is now exhausted

The NYT blames the new Women’s Social and Political Union militancy campaign on the “timidity” of the British government which failed to keep hunger-striking prisoners in prison.

Greece claims that Turkey has dispatched doctors with typhus and cholera microbes to the border, to engage in biological warfare.

The notes by Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia declaring war, virtually identical, claim that it’s necessitated by the anarchy in Turkey (and nothing calms anarchy like a four-front war), by Turkey’s refusal to implement reforms promised 30 years ago at the Congress of Berlin (whose provisions were pretty much all broken – Bulgaria shouldn’t even be a country now), and say that they really didn’t want to go to war but were forced to (they totally wanted to go to war).

King Ferdinand of Bulgaria issues a proclamation. Evidently, “this is a war for human rights” (of the poor persecuted Christians in the Ottoman Empire). “Our love of peace is now exhausted.”

Black heavy-weight champ Jack Johnson is arrested for “abduction” of a 19-year-old white woman, Lucille Cameron, on a complaint sworn out by her mother, who later said that she’d rather see her daughter live the rest of her life in an insane asylum than “see her the plaything of a nigger.” In December 1912 he married her, and in 1913 was convicted on Mann Act charges, after a first trial collapsed. He skipped the country for seven years, came back and did some time.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

I hope you make it very clear

So I first saw a general mention that Mittens had told some business dudes to tell their employees to vote for him, and made a mental note of what I wanted to write about that, but it was premised on a mistake on my part. That mistake: underestimating Romney’s dickishness. Odd that I should still be making that mistake at this stage, but some things are just too big to wrap your head entirely around, and Romney’s dickishness is one of them.

I was going to say that it just showed Twitt’s inability to understand the true relationship between Americans and their bosses that he thought that employees so respected their bosses and were so eager for instruction from their social superiors etc etc.

But in fact, once I saw his actual words, I realized that he understood perfectly that the employer-employee relationship is based on economic and extra-economic coercion: “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.” No, there is no part of the dynamic he recommends here that involves respect in either direction. The employer just makes it “very clear” what he expects his workers to do, if they want to keep their job and their future, and the employees don’t have to respect their boss, they just have to eat his shit; in this case, the shit happens to be man-sized and Mormon.

There’s another problematic word in that sentence I’d like to highlight: “in the best interest of your enterprise and THEREFORE their job”. There’s no therefore about it. Romney likes to describe his economic policies as being about jobs jobs jobs, but they are actually about expanding corporate profits. As the history of American capitalism and Bain Capital show, if a corporation can increase their profits by employing more people, they’ll do it, but if it can do so through mechanization or off-shoring, they’ll do that.

In the writing of this post, I spent several seconds carefully deliberating between the words “dickishness” and “prickishness.” When you have a blog, these are the kinds of decisions you have to make every single day.

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Today -100: October 18, 1912: I incite this meeting to rebellion

Woodrow Wilson, in a speech in Delaware (he’s still doing campaign speeches where locals went to trouble and expense, he says, but he won’t attack the recuperating Roosevelt), calls the Republican Party the “Know-Nothing, Do-Nothing Party.” And how far we’ve come in the last hundred years, huh?

The judge in the case of Roosevelt’s would-be assassin doubles his bail. Evidently motion picture people were going to pay his bail so they could film him and then recall the bail and send him back to jail.

Twins are born in the hospital room next to Roosevelt’s. One of them is named Theodore (don’t know what the other one is called). They are brought in to see the ex-president. “Well, well, no race suicide here,” he comments.

Someone sends him a bull moose steak. His doctors are deciding whether he’ll be allowed to eat it.

Turkey declares war on Bulgaria and Serbia but not Greece, which it still hopes to wean away from its allies, though that doesn’t stop Greek forces from attacking.

Having expelled the Pethick-Lawrences, the remaining Women’s Social and Political Union (Britain) leaders are making the case for escalating militant attacks on the government. Emmeline Pankhurst says “We have been greatly betrayed by the Government, and that warrants militancy. It is our only weapon.” The only limit on militancy in the future, she says, will be violence against people. At a meeting in the Albert Hall, she thunders, “I incite this meeting to rebellion.” She asks everyone to do whatever they can: if they can try to enter the House of Commons, do that; if they can break windows, do that; if they can “still further attack the sacred idol of property... do so.” We shall see what that means.

Her daughter Christabel writes in The Suffragette that militancy has been gradually increasing in severity, just as each of the plagues of Egypt was more severe than the one before. And a December 13 editorial in that newspaper says “The quiet, patient methods of the law-abiding, non-militant Suffragists are very popular indeed (with those who happen to hear anything about them), and it is just because they are so popular that they are a failure. ... The vote has never been given as a prize for good conduct. Women will never get the vote except by creating an intolerable situation for all the selfish and apathetic people who stand in their way.”

Nevada Governor Tasker L. Oddie declares martial law in Ely, where there is a miners’ strike going on and where two strikers were killed by company guards, as was the custom.

Responding to another rebellion in Mexico, led by Gen. Félix Díaz, nephew of the deposed dictator, Pres. Madero says he will never resign and only death can remove him from the presidency before his term expires. Spoiler alert...

People are always inventing new things to do from airplanes. The latest: duck shooting. By the way, the 201st aviation death is recorded, a French aviator who in an earlier incident crashed a plane into a crowd, killing one spectator.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Today -100: October 17, 1912: Of never-falling standards, insolent notes, and Peths and Panks

Theodore Roosevelt issues a statement: “It matters little about me, but it matters all about the cause we fight for. ... the standard itself can never fall... Tell the people not to worry about me, for if I go down another will take my place.” And so on, and on. His abdomen may have been punctured, but not his pomposity.

Turkey demands that Greece and the others apologize for their “insolent” notes within 24 hours or else. Bulgaria declares war on Turkey (I’m not sure in what order these events occurred).

Another split amongst the British militant suffragettes. While they were visiting the US, Mr. & Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence are expelled by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst from their leadership roles (and indeed membership in) the Women’s Social and Political Union, removing the last obstacle to an escalation of militant tactics. Punch, 10/30/12:

(Click to enlargen. Caption: Budding Suffragette: “I say, Prissy” (with intensity), “Are you a Peth or a Pank?”)

Since the Pethick-Lawrences (that’s a feminist-marriage hyphenated name, by the way, like Villaraigosa) own the WSPU newspaper, Votes for Women, and will continue to publish it, the WSPU starts The Suffragette, which explains in its first issue (dated tomorrow -100): “The Suffragettes are women who have profited by the freedom won for them by the pioneers of the movement. They are the advance-guard of the new womanhood.”

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidential debate: I brought us whole binders full of women


Let’s begin with a quote from Oscar Wilde, whose birthday this is: “A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.”

The audience at this debate consists of undecided voters. If you saw the season premiere of The Walking Dead, undecided voters are like that but with slightly better hygiene.

Some nervous Jewish college student named Jeremy, who really looks like a Jeremy, asks if he’ll ever have a job. Mittens lies about Pell Grants, then says he knows what it takes to create jobs. Jeremy is thinking “a job, I only want one fucking job.” Obama says he wants to build industrial jobs. I don’t think nervous Jewish college boy was thinking of working on an assembly line, riveting bumpers on Buicks.

Obama is trying to look interested and attentive while Romney is speaking. Actually looks pained.

“What Gov. Romney said just isn’t true.” In debate prep, they had to hit him with electric jolts 23 times before they got him to say that.

Obama says we need to move to energy independence, an impossibility I thought only Republicans talked about. Drill, baby, drill!

Romney says Obama stopped oil drilling in North Dakota because of migratory birds. Dude just does not like birds, Big or otherwise. Says Obama “has not been Mr. Oil or Mr. Gas or Mr. Coal.” (Insert birth certificate joke here.) Says he’ll make North America energy independent in 8 years. Every Mexican and Canadian just shivered without quite knowing why. Mitt Romney just declared himself True Czar of All the Americas.

“very little of what Gov. Romney just said was true.”

Obama: “clean coal technology.” Sigh. Oh lord, he gets into a who-loves-coal-more contest with Romney: “I hear Governor Romney say he’s a big coal guy... when you were governor of Massachusetts, you stood in front of a coal plant and pointed at it and said, this plant kills, and took great pride in shutting it down. And now suddenly you’re a big champion of coal.” Romney has done, like, two or three decent things in his entire life, and Obama shits on one of them. Is Obama saying coal plants don’t kill?


Romney: “I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa.” I think that’s like blow jobs, but with corn, somehow.

Romney is sitting on that stool almost as if he’d practiced it.

Wait, Romney knows how much a gallon of gas costs?

Romney says something about a “bucket, if you will, of deductions.” Can I deduct my bucket?

Romney doing the smirk thing.

Obama nicely and more or less accurately describes how Romney’s plans will drive up the deficit, because the deficit is the only fucking thing that fucking matters. Says Mittens can’t name what deductions he’ll close. Not won’t, can’t. Says the only things Romney has said he will cut to make up for it all is PBS and Planned Parenthood. While he speaks, the Mittenssmirk reaches unprecedented levels of smugness.

Romney: “of course they [R’s numbers] add up.”

R: “This puts us on a road to Greece.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen one more than a few minutes of one of those Hope-Crosby movies.

Romney walks closer and closer to Candy as he refuses her entreaties to stop talking when his time runs out.

R on sex equality in the workplace: In Massachusetts “I brought us whole binders full of women.” That’s a Mormon thing, probably.

He adds that “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce...” If! “...that sometimes they need to be more flexible.” So they can do their domestic chores with no help from their husbands, like God intended.

Romney is repeating the word economy over and over until it loses all meaning.

Obama says he wants gender equality because he has two daughters, and all Romney has is stinky boys.

R. says he thinks every woman should have access to contraceptives and that employers shouldn’t have a veto on that. Oooo-kay.

R: “President Bush and I are different people.” Prove it.

By the way, New York Magazine says George Bush now spends his time “painting, making portraits of dogs and arid Texas landscapes.” Finger-painting with his own feces, one imagines.

Obama says Romney looooves China, he wants to marry China, he’s investing in companies selling surveillance equipment to China. “You’re the last person who’s going to get tough on China.”

O says R much worse than Bush, he’s “gone to a more extreme place when it comes to social policy”.

Wait, bald black guy who says he voted for Obama in 2008 asks why he deserves his vote in 2012. That’s it? Of all the questions from all the audience members, that vague nothingburger made the cut?

R supports immigration because his father was born in Mexico and came here. His father was an American citizen, it’s not the same fucking thing.

Romney says Obama has money in the Caymans too. Candy wonders out loud what this has to do with immigration.

Candy just told Mitt to sit down.

Obama (re Benghazi): “While we were still dealing with our diplomats being threatened, Governor Romney put out a press release trying to make political points. And that’s not how a commander in chief operates. You don’t turn national security into a political issue”. Obama hasn’t really been paying attention for a very long time now, has he?

The problem here is that he was asked about what he did about embassy security before the attacks, not what he’ll do now (which, in case you were wondering, is find out who was responsible and make sure it never happens again).

“Apology tour”! Drink!

IT WAS ON THE TIP OF HIS TONGUE: “because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”

Asked about gun violence, Romney says that automatic weapons are already illegal in the US (they’re not), then blames gun violence on single-parent families. “But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone...” Unless it’s someone of the same sex, obvs. “...So we can make changes in the way our culture works to help bring people away from violence and give them opportunity and bring them in the American system.” Oh, I think violence pretty much is the American system.

If I understand that correctly, Romney will hand out a free AK-47 with every marriage license.

But “the greatest failure we’ve had with regards to gun violence, in some respects, is what is known as Fast and Furious”. Unless you count the weekly massacres this summer, every one of which, I believe, was carried out with legally purchased firearms.

O: “I think Governor Romney was for an assault weapons ban before he was against it.”

R starts repeating “government does not create jobs,” which is odd because he keeps promising to create 12 million of them.

47%! Drink!

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Today -100: October 16, 1912: Of bloody expectoration, expressions of horror, and war automobiles

Roosevelt seems to be doing well despite the whole shot-in-the-chest thing. “The bulletin stated that there had been no bloody expectoration”.

John Schrank pleads guilty to “assault with intent to kill and murder.” The DA who will prosecute him is a Socialist.

Woodrow Wilson will cut short his campaigning out of respect for Roosevelt, until whenever the Colonel can resume his own campaigning. He has a sore throat anyway.

President Taft issues a statement: “I cannot withhold an expression of horror at the act of the maniac who attempted to assassinate Col. Roosevelt.” He calls for severe enforcement of the laws against carrying concealed weapons.

Turkey and Italy sign a peace protocol in their year-old war. The story is datelined from Ouchy. Under it, the Ottoman sultan will issue a decree proclaiming autonomy for the provinces we now call Libya, and Italy will issue its own decree, ending that autonomy. This means that Turkey doesn’t have to acknowledge Italy’s right of conquest. Italy will pay compensation, and the Ottoman sultan continues as caliph of the Muslims of Libya.

This means that Turkey can now bring its fleet to bear against the Balkan League.

All the belligerents in the Balkan War are trying to buy German airplanes and... war automobiles.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Today -100: October 15, 1912: It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose

In Milwaukee, Theodore Roosevelt is shot in the chest outside his hotel. The gunman was immediately captured, and might have been lynched on the spot had Roosevelt not told the crowd not to.

The full force of the bullet was broken by his spectacle case and by the notes in his breast pocket for the speech he was to deliver that night. Fortunately, it was a really long speech (and the pages were folded over).

Because he was Teddy Fucking Roosevelt, he actually did deliver that speech, with some modifications (here’s the text of it), for ninety minutes, while bleeding, before consenting to go to the hospital. He told the crowd, “But it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” He added that he was not important, the movement was. Yeah, right. Also: “I cannot speak to you insincerely within five minutes of being shot.”

The hospital didn’t even keep him overnight, although the bullet, which was never removed, was quite near his lung, though it didn’t penetrate the abdominal wall.

He then took a train to Chicago, where he might be operated on (or, if he has his way, he’ll go on to Indianapolis to give another speech tomorrow night).

Incidentally, the bullet entered just under Roosevelt’s right nipple. Or, to put that another way, the NYT in 1912 used the word nipple.

The assassin, John Schrank, a 36-year-old former saloonkeeper, was your basic lone gunman loon, who believed that William McKinley came to him in a dream, and who really, really believed in the tradition of presidential term limits. He was committed to an asylum, where he died in 1943. No one ever visited him.

When he gave the speech, TR knew nothing about Schrank or his motives, but he was willing to blame his actions on the violence of campaign rhetoric: “it is a very natural thing that weak and vicious minds should be inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of foul mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months by the papers in the interest of not only Mr. Debs but of Mr. Wilson and Mr. Taft.”

But other than that, Mrs Roosevelt... Edith Roosevelt heard about the shooting while attending a play (The Merry Countess) in NYC. She was told he wasn’t injured, so she watched the rest of the play.

Serbia demands that Turkey stop mobilizing its army, which is a little rich. Turkey invades Serbia. Greece demands back the ships that Turkey has seized and is admitting deputies to the Greek Parliament representing Crete, which the Ottomans consider part of their Empire.

Headline of the Day -100: “Montenegrins Take Tushi.”

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Sunday, October 14, 2012


So farewell to Arlen Specter, “moderate” Republican and extreme douchebag.

Here’s a favorite 2009 post of mine on Specter.

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Today -100: October 14, 1912: Of ultimata, and sore throats

Greece, Bulgaria & Serbia send an ultimatum to the Ottomans to grant autonomy to the Christian provinces of the Empire. The Balkan League did not communicate through the Great Powers because, obviously, it does not want war averted.

Greeks fleeing from the Ottoman Empire are being required to pay taxes through the end of the year before being allowed to leave. The Turks are also requisitioning every horse owned by foreign residents.

In Germany, they’re pretty sure this war won’t be confined to the Balkans. Certainly, Austria is moving its troops around.

Theodore Roosevelt is cutting back on speech-giving because of a sore throat. Spoiler alert: He may soon look back with nostalgia on just his throat being sore.

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Today -100: October 13, 1912: Of ultimata, lost worlds, vice districts, and seppuku

Remember the war between Italy and the Ottoman Empire over Libya? There hasn’t been fighting in some time, and the two countries have been negotiating for months without getting anywhere, but now Italy is taking advantage of the Balkan War to demand that Turkey come to terms, allowing Italy to keep its shiny new colony, or war will resume in three days.

Literary News -100: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World is out, and the NYT Book Review reviews it.

Chicago’s mayor, Carter Harrison, Jr., wants a segregated “vice district” for prostitutes.

You’ll remember that many in Japan were really impressed when Gen. Nogi committed seppuku upon the emperor’s death. Now they’d really like it if the emperor’s physician would also kill himself, but he’s not playing along for some reason. For a start, the doctor says, it’s not his fault that the emperor wouldn’t take his advice and give up the booze. Also, court etiquette prevented him doing his job properly. Also, he doesn’t wanna.

So early 20th century Japan was a place where people could just walk up to you and explain why you should be killing yourself right now. Like YouTube comments, but in real life.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Today -100: October 12, 1912: Of demographics

The 1910 US census indicates a ratio of 106 males to 100 females, thanks to immigration.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The vice presidential debate: With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey

Well that was a torrent of words, wasn’t it?

The vice presidential debate took place at Centre College (Mascot: The Praying Colonel) in Danville, Kentucky (elevation 984 ft.).


If someone grabbed my arm like Biden & Ryan grabbed each other’s arms, it would take everything I had not to squirm and try to get away from them.

COSTCO WAS ALL OUT: Ryan: “We don’t have a status of forces agreement [in Iraq] because they failed to get one.”

Ryan came with a couple of catch-phrases he tried to insert whenever he could: “the unraveling of the Obama policy” and something about Obama saying in 2008 that if you don’t have a good record to run on, you paint your opponent as someone to run from. Or, as the American people recognize it, every election campaign ever.

YOU JUST DON’T HEAR THE WORD MALARKEY NEARLY OFTEN ENOUGH THESE DAYS: Biden on Ryan’s claims about “devastating defence cuts” as “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey.”

Talking about Iran, both are referring to “the ayatollah.”

Ryan says the only reason there are sanctions on Iran is over the opposition of the Obama administration.

I’VE MADE A FORTUNE OFF HIM AT POKER: Biden: “And we’ve made it clear, big nations can’t bluff. This president doesn’t bluff.”

UM, THAT WAS GEORGE ROMNEY: Ryan: “He talks about Detroit. Mitt Romney’s a car guy.”

IF YOU COUNT TAXES AS CHARITY: Ryan on Romney: “This is a man who gave 30 percent of his income to charity.”

OR OUT OF YOUR ASS: Ryan: “And with respect to that quote [the 47%], I think the vice president very well knows that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”

HAS HE EVER MET ANY DEMOCRATS? Ryan: “Let’s not forget that they came in with one-party control. When Barack Obama was elected, his party controlled everything. They had the ability to do everything of their choosing.”

Ryan accuses Biden of giving $90 billion in stimulus money for “green pork.” Do not eat the green pork.

Ryan brings up death panels. Biden says it’s Sarah Palin all over again. Ouch.

Martha Raddatz asks Ryan if he actually knows what tax loopholes he intends to close (by the way, when did health care and mortgage deductions become “loopholes”?). Ryan says “Different than this administration, we actually want to have big bipartisan agreements. ... We want to work with Congress - we want to work with the Congress on how best to achieve this.” I just realized for the first time that his plan is to try to make the Democrats propose which deductions they’d close to pay for the Republican tax cut. And knowing the Democrats, that’d probably work too.

I KNEW LLOYD BENTSEN... RYAN: Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth. Ronald Reagan. BIDEN: Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy?

I’m not sure “mostly without incident” is how Biden should have referred to all the incidents of Afghan soldiers killing American soldiers.

Ryan explains the concept of “the fighting season” in Afghanistan: “Spring, summer, fall. It’s warm, or it’s not. They’re still fighting us.”

On Syria, Ryan keeps saying he wouldn’t have referred to Assad as a reformer. And that he wouldn’t let the UN or Putin stop us... invading Syria, I guess.

Raddatz presses Ryan on whether he’d ever support an intervention on humanitarian grounds. Ryan runs hard from the word.

Asked about their shared Catholicism, Ryan says “I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith.” Great, go run for office in a country populated entirely by devout Catholics.

Ah, Biden makes the same point: “Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life. But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here.”

Ryan says he’s pro-life not just because of Jeebus and the pope, “it’s also because of reason and science.”

And he calls his daughter Bean because her fetus was bean-shaped.

He does know that Bean Ryan has to go to school tomorrow, right?

Ryan never seems slighter as a candidate than when he’s reciting the phrases he memorized like: “And then I would say, you have a president who ran for president four years ago promising hope and change, who has now turned his campaign into attack, blame and defame.”

Did you know Paul Ryan “passed two budgets”?

Now Ryan’s accusing Obama of refusing to show us his plan for deficit reduction. Maybe Obama just wants to “work with Congress.”

WOULDN’T IT BE NICE? Ryan: “At a time when we have a jobs crisis in America, wouldn’t it be nice to have a job-creator in the White House?”

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Nov. 2012 California proposition recommendations

(Updated with election results in blue).

This set of propositions is a little more difficult than some, with fewer easy choices. I think they’re getting too loaded up with details, and often it’s those details that turn decent measures into flawed ones, at which point it becomes a question of whether it’s too flawed to vote for. For example, it’s not enough to close a corporate tax loophole; the money brought in must be assigned to a couple of random “good causes” for years to come. It’s not enough to end the death penalty; you have to make convicted murderers work to give money to their victims’ families, just to show you’re not soft on crime.

Also, why is there nothing fun on the ballot? L.A. County gets to vote on whether porn actors have to wear condoms.

(They do.  And there will be official county penis inspectors to make sure they do.)

Prop. 30. Jerry Brown’s tax increases. Raises income taxes for those earning $250,000+, which is fine, but includes a regressive ¼% increase in the sales tax, which is not. It all goes to education (K-12 & community colleges, not Cal State or UC), which is more of that ballot-box budgeting that’s helped make the state’s budgeting process so intractable.

Or it would be if the claim that this money goes to education weren’t nonsense: the extra $6b/year 30 would bring in would fund only around 15% of education spending; the other 85% would remain as dependent as ever on Sacramento politics. The “it all goes to the schools” argument (or as Jerry Brown subtly put it, “taking money from the most blessed and giving it to the schools”) is essentially meaningless. For all practical purposes, the money doesn’t really go to education, it goes into the general fund. The general fund needs more money, and schools really will suffer if it doesn’t get it (as will parks, health programs and a lot of other things).

By the way, the “guaranteed local public safety funding” in the prop’s title is about jails and parole officers. It does not, as the Yes argument says, “keep cops on the street.”

If Prop. 38 passes and 30 fails, or if they both pass but 38 has more votes, the trigger cuts (“Vote for this or the kid gets it”) which the Legislature put into the current budget go into effect anyway. In other words, they’re ok with ballot-box budgeting, but only if we give them the answer they want. Feel manipulated and blackmailed yet?

On this prop, I’m not going to give you a recommendation. I understand that without some sort of tax increase, California turns into Mississippi and our schools will have dirt floors and no windows by the end of the decade, but I don’t vote for taxes that fall more heavily on the poor than the rich, like the sales tax increase here. And it leaves the state’s budget process as dysfunctional as ever.

(Wins with 54%.  I thought it would be closer.  Brown put a lot of whatever credibility he has on the line for this – and without even being forced to part with his beloved Bullet Train to Nowhere – so it had better work exactly as he said it would.)

Prop. 31. The budget. Two-year budgets; governors can ignore the Legislature and cut budgets by themselves during “fiscal emergencies”; new spending has to be offset; allows local governments to ignore some state laws and regulations in administering state programs.

Two-year budgeting would be good. 3 days’ notice before bills are voted on would be good. Seriously, next election let’s have initiatives just for those two things. The other provisions here are the problem. Governors should not have that much budget power. The bit about spending (and tax cuts) being offset with new taxes (which is impossible in the current environment) or cuts in other parts of the budget may sound reasonable, but it’s intended to cap spending, even when the economy improves or the population grows, and turns each budget item into a monumental turf battle, making the budget process just that much more Hunger Games-y. It’s the total budget that’s supposed to be balanced, not every single line item in the budget.

How you feel about the local government part (they would be allowed to spend state and sales tax funds according to locally produced “plans” with their own priorities) may depend on what you think about your city council. This feels like some sort of power-grab to me, since it’s cheaper and easier to buy off city councils than the entire state government. Do you trust your city council with the power to override state environmental laws when approving big box stores? We have a state government for a reason, even if it’s sometimes difficult to remember what that reason is. This provision also seems like a formula for complicated legal battles.


(Lost badly, more than 60% against.  Given the multiple moving parts of this one, I’m not sure what caused voters to balk.)

Prop. 32. Bans unions’ payroll-deductions being spent on political campaigns. Also some provisions about corporate spending in order to look even-handed, but the even-handedness consists of banning both things that unions do and things corporations do not do. For example, corporations could still pour millions of dollars into propositions exactly like this one and run all the commercials currently on your tv, and Mercury Insurance could continue to put propositions on our ballot every two years like the very next one. “Corporations” is also narrowly defined to exclude many types of, you know, corporations, and 32 doesn’t regulate the ways in which corporations actually use money to influence politics these days, such as PACs.

Union members should not be forced to contribute to politicians they disagree with. And indeed they aren’t: they can opt out under current law. This is a solution without a problem. It is dishonest and lopsided.

Vote No.

(In the ballot arguments, both sides say they are against Special Interests. Just in case you were wondering. The public face of this corporate power-grab seems to consist largely of people with grudges against teachers unions, by the way.)

(Lost, 56% against.  Do the voters love unions or hate expensive deceptive campaigns?)

Prop. 33. Allows auto insurance companies to jack up rates for people who haven’t had continuous insurance.

Why, yes, you did vote on this exact thing just 2 years and 4 months ago. Can we assume that Mercury Insurance did not pay millions to put this on the ballot out of a philanthropic impulse to reduce everyone’s rates? I think we can.

Vote No.

(Loses, 54.6% against, which is more than Mercury’s last attempt at this failed two years ago, when I wrote, It’s almost like people don’t think insurance companies are on their side and just want to charge them less.)

Prop. 34. Death penalty repeal.

Well, you probably know what you think about the death penalty as a moral issue, although interestingly the Yes ballot argument doesn’t even attempt to make a moral case against the death penalty in the ballot arguments; even a quote from a Catholic bishop is only about executions of innocent people. Instead, the Yes argument is all, as the No argument amusingly puts it, about “misleading terms like innocence, solving crimes and saving money.” But where the Yes side puts the case entirely in those practical terms, the No people don’t talk about deterrence or whatever, but the least healthy reason for having a death penalty, vengeance: “DON’T LET GUILTY MURDERERS WIN... Remember the victims”. The No argument claims that life imprisonment is more expensive than the death penalty, which is simply not true, as Pete Wilson certainly knows. And they really hate the ACLU.

Vote Yes to ending the state putting its citizens to death, or I’ll be very disappointed with you all.

(I’m very disappointed with you all.  47.2% voted for abolition.  Incidentally, someone did a survey of people on death row, and it turns out 90+% of them support the death penalty, because they get nice cells all to themselves, computer privileges and whatnot, lawyers filing appeals, and are never executed.)

Prop. 35. Various penalties against “human traffickers.”

Because if there’s one thing Californians hate, it’s traffic.

I have no problem with the provisions of 35 increasing the penalties for some of these crimes. Where it raises serious red flags, though, is in its definition of “human trafficking.” This is already an odd category of crime, covering as it does not only prostitution-related offenses ranging from plain vanilla pimping to actual sexual slavery, but also non-sexual coerced labor. Prop 35 would expand the category to the breaking point. For example it defines making a copy of someone else’s kiddie porn as human trafficking. It’s a catch-all that prosecutors and cops can use as a bludgeon to coerce people into pleading to lesser charges and as such it’s part of the pernicious trend that sees sentences determined not by courts but by which charges career-oriented prosecutors choose to file. I’m not sure if it can really be used against, say, the child a prostitute is putting through college, but it certainly defines as “human traffickers” anyone connected with a sex worker the cops & prosecutors feel like sending to jail. This prop. is too committed to the idea of every sex worker being a victim of some “trafficker,” which of course many are but not all.

I read the act, and it’s full of laundry lists of things that might constitute human trafficking – but might not. For example it legally defines “coercion” to include giving drugs “with the intent to impair the person’s judgment.” This tips the balance of power even further in favor of the police and prosecutors. I’m reminded of a topless protest some years ago by a group called Breasts Not Bombs, where the police threatened to arrest the women and force them to register as sex offenders and possibly take their children away from them. This is the sort of power that always gets abused.

Human trafficking, real human trafficking is already well-covered by existing laws. If you want to address the problem, assign more cops. And catch up DNA-testing rape kits, for crum’s sake.

Here’s a sentence in the ballot pamphlet that could have been better phrased: Prop 35 “Requires human trafficking training for police officers.” Incidentally, that’s a full two hours of training for investigators, because surely everything you need to know about getting information from the traumatized victims of sexual slavery can be taught in two hours including a donut break (did I just make “donut break” sound dirty?). 35’s text includes provides helpful advice to cops on the indicators that human trafficking is present, including fatigue or being withdrawn and afraid to talk to the cops.

The provision about registered sex offenders providing their internet identities to the cops is somewhat worrying (the prop is paid for by a former Facebook privacy officer [!] with political ambitions).

(One of the authors of the No ballot pamphlet argument is the author of the autobiographical book “Cop to Call Girl.”

Another signer of the No argument is named “Starchild.” California is weird.)

At the risk of being on the side of pimps and starchildren, I find the crime of human trafficking to be too ill-defined, designed to give the police and prosecutors discretion that history shows us is likely to be abused. Vote No.

(81% in favor, which to me suggests no one read beyond the words “human trafficking.”)

Prop. 36. Tinkering with Three Strikes by removing life imprisonment if the third strike is non-violent (except when it doesn’t) and unless the first or second strike was for rape, murder or child molesting. So people probably won’t go to prison for life for stealing a slice of pizza in the future.

(If you had “dangerous” or “dangerous criminals” in the drinking game for the No arguments, you are seriously wasted now.)

(Drinking games for reading the voter’s pamphlet is totally a thing, right?)

All in all, a baby step in the direction of sanity, making a bad law somewhat less bad. Vote Yes for baby steps in the direction of sanity.

(More than 2 to 1 in favor.  Maybe some of the crime hysteria is wearing off, at least until the next high-profile crime.)

Prop. 37. Requires labels on genetically modified foods (some GM foods; if there’s a logic behind the GM foods exempted from this requirement, I don’t see it).

We needn’t get into the scientific question of whether GM foods are dangerous to humans or to ecological chains. I don’t know, and neither do you, probably (especially since less research has been done on this than you’d think would have been required, and much of that research has been done by people employed by Monsanto et al). Also, we don’t know how foods might be genetically engineered in the future. So the question isn’t whether this stuff is safe, it’s whether consumers can have information they might wish to have in choosing what to put into their bodies. The biggest flaw with 37 is the many products exempted from it, but nothing in it stops the Legislature from adding those products in the future. Still, more information is always better than no information: vote Yes.

(Loses 53-47.  A huge advertising campaign against it featuring people in lab coats assuring us we don’t actually need to know what’s in our food and that it would somehow cost everyone $400 a year.  In truth, though, it was such a badly drafted measure that I can’t be too sorry it failed.)

Prop. 38. The other tax-increase-ostensibly-but-not-really-for-education proposition.

I complained about the regressive sales tax increase in Prop 30. Well, you can’t say 38’s taxation isn’t progressive, but it also falls on everyone who pays income taxes, no matter how small their income, so it will hit poor families harder than 30 will. Couples earning less than $15,000 a year would see their income tax go up 20%).

It claims the money will be spent on education (except 30% of it, which goes to the debt for the first 4 years out of the 12 the taxes would be in effect), but like Prop. 30 (see above) it would fund a fairly small percentage of the current ed. budget, so by itself it doesn’t really increase ed. spending.

The money raised would be distributed to schools according to the total number of students, the number of poor students, and the grade-level of students. How it is spent is up to school boards with no oversight.

We are assured that Prop. 38 funds would not be used to increase the pay of teachers, because that would be crazy.

If you’re going to vote for either 30 or 38 (don’t vote for both, that would be a mess), vote 30 because it takes a larger percentage of its taxes from the rich and a smaller percentage from the poor. No on 38.

(On the other hand, the Yes argument is signed by Edward James Olmos, aka Admiral Adama. Vote for this or the Cylons win! And did you know that “children are our future”? It’s funny because it’s true.)

(Failed 72-28.)

Prop. 39. Changes how the California tax liability of multi-state corporations is calculated, eliminating their current ability to choose whichever method allows them to pay the least taxes, because revising the tax code is exactly how the voters should be spending their time while the Legislature does whatever the Legislature does.

On the other hand, it was the Legislature (and Arnie) that was stupid enough to give a tax break for corporations that move jobs out of California.

I could do without the ballot-box budgeting provision that assigns the reclaimed taxes (to greening public buildings and education services), regardless of what the state’s priorities might be in years to come, but I guess it’s free money from corporations that we won’t otherwise get, right?

(The authors of the No argument use the term “job creators,” so you know they’re evil.)


(Wins with 60%.  Would probably have done even better if it had been given a more accurate name on the ballot than “Business tax for energy funding).

Prop. 40. The Republicans put this one on the ballot to overturn the new state senate districts, then backed away from it, but here it is anyway. Note that a Yes confirms the districts, a No rejects them (which is a bit confusing, in that the sponsors wanted a No vote).

Although I opposed, and continue to oppose, the proposition that set up the commission we now use to redistrict, it seems to have done a reasonable job, so vote Yes.

(Nobody opposed it and it won with 71%, if you’re wondering what percentage of California voters just vote no on everything.)

Comments, rebuttals, or questions are welcome in comments, although to answer one of your questions now, no I don’t know if Starchild is a boy’s name or a girl’s name.

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