Das Rabblemeister

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Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

Thursday, November 11 — Armistice Day (1918), known in the U.S. as Veteran’s Day

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Don't you hate it when this happens? (Image from Gizmodo. For more info on what happened and to see some other captions for this image, click on the image.)

  • On this day in 1918, at 11am Central European Time — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 — a cease-fire went into effect that ended the fighting of World War I, which became known at the time at The Great War and The War to End All Wars. It had been a war so horrific — at times tens of thousands dead in one day, millions gassed with skin- and lung-searing poisons, millions more fallen to the new mechanical Grim Reaper, the machine gun. More than 8 million soldiers died, more than 20 million more were seriously injured or disabled, many millions of civilians dead from starvation, disease, genocide, and other calamities of war. The world was so shocked and horrified by war of such unprecedented scale and ferocity that it was certain mankind would never repeat such a thing. Or so it was thought, not realizing that within the Versailles Treaty that ended World War One lay the seeds of something far, far worse less than 30 years later.
  • In 1953, after World War II and the Korean War, an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner named Alfred King thought it would be a good idea to extend the November 11 Armistice Day, which had become a U.S. holiday in 1938, to be a day to celebrate veterans of all wars, not just those from World War I. King’s campaign gained local and soon national support, a bill to implement it was passed by Congress in 1954 and signed by President Eisenhower. Thus on June 1, 1954 the American Armistice Day holiday on November 11 became Veteran’s Day. After the passage of the Uniform Holiday Act in 1971 Veteran’s Day was temporarily moved to be the fourth Monday in November, but by 1978 it had been moved back to November 11, where it remains today.
  • Want to be mayor of Lynchburg, South Carolina? The town’s mayor, in a spat with the City Council, resigned this past August, and last week an election was held for a new mayor. Unfortunately, no one wanted to run, so there was no one on the ballot. So the town had a do-over — but still no one wanted to run. But someone was elected anyway, even though no one was on the ballot. How did that happen? Can’t figure it out? Find out.
  • Unexpected opposition: A very powerful, and perhaps unexpected, opponent has spoken out against the Ground Zero Mosque: Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it probably should: Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal is one of the most internationally influential, and certainly the wealthiest, member of the royal Al Saud family that reigns over Saudi Arabia, sometimes called the “the Warren Buffet of Arabia,” estimated to be worth $19 billion. The American-educated Prince stated:

“I am against putting the mosque in that particular place. And I’ll tell you why. For two reasons: first of all, those people behind the mosque have to respect, have to appreciate and have to defer to the people of New York, and not try to agitate the wound by saying ‘we need to put the mosque next to the 9/11 site’…The wound is still there. Just because the wound is healing you can’t say ‘let’s just go back to where we were pre-9/11’. I am against putting the mosque there out of respect for those people who have been wounded over there.”

  • Economics is boring, right? I mean, since the 1930s the biggest debate in economics has been between the theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek, two old dead white guys who wrote boring books on economics theory. By the 1970s it looked like Keynes had won, but in the last 30 years Hayek has made a big comeback — but really, how boring is all this? Well, sometimes not boring at all.
  • The best saved for last: To those of you who have served your country in uniform — thank you. All the rest of us owe you a debt we can never repay. And I think I speak for a great, great many in saying we will never, ever forget.

Wednesday, November 3 – First canine astronaut (1957)

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  • Also on this day:
    • 1838: The largest-circulation English-language daily newspaper is founded. USA Today? No, though it’s #3. The Wall Street Journal? Nope, it’s #5. The New York Times? Ya gotta be kidding — it’s been bleeding circulation for more than a decade and close to being broke. It’s now down to #10 and falling, with circulation now below 1 million.  And it’s not one of the British papers, though The Sun is close at #2 and the Daily Mail comes in at #4.
      It’s the Times of India. With a circulation over 3 million and readership over 7 million, it’s the largest-selling and most widely read English-language newspaper in the world. Its web site is also the most-visited newspaper site in the world.
      The Times of India, however, is only the eighth most popular newspaper in the world. The top honor goes to the Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan with a circulation of over 14 million, almost five times that of the Times of India. In fact the Japanese are by far the top newspaper consumers in the world and the world’s top five newspapers in circulation are all Japanese. Rounding out the top 10 are the German Bild (#6), the Reference News of China (#7), the Times of India (#8), the U.K. Sun at #9, and the China People’s Daily at #10. On the world any-language list USA Today comes in at #13, the Wall Street Journal at #19, and the New York Times at #48. 

      Laika, the first living creature in orbit, wearing her flight harness. Laika paid a high price for being a pioneer.

    • 1957: Sputnik 2 was launched, carrying aboard the first living creature to go into orbit, an 11-lb stray female mutt named Laika, who had been found wandering the streets of Moscow. (The scientists involved deliberately chose Moscow strays because they figured they would already be accustomed to extreme cold and hunger. Seriously.) The Soviets had previously launched several dogs into up-and-back sub-orbital flights, but Laika was the first into orbit, an achievement hurriedly timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.
      Unfortunately for Laika, technology did not yet exist to recover an orbiting spacecraft, so Laika was never intended to survive the trip. Telemetry indicated that she was highly agitated during launch; it took three hours for her pulse to settle back to normal but she was later detected to be eating (a special gel she’d been trained to eat). The plan was to eventually euthanize her with a poisoned food serving, but she didn’t live that long. By her fourth orbit, somewhere around the sixth hour in space, not more life signs were detected.
      The Soviets originally stated she had been euthanized, but that was widely disbelieved and many concluded she probably died of lack of oxygen. In 2002 a Russian scientist revealed that she had probably died of overheating due to a spacecraft malfunction which allowed the temperature inside the capsule to rise over 104F (40C).
      In 1998 one of the scientists involved, Oleg Gazenko, expressed regret at Laika’s death, stating that “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it… We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog.” At the time her death sparked outrage and protests by animal lovers, but of course none within the USSR, where no protests were allowed and nothing was mentioned of them.
  • Well, the U.S. mid-term elections are over, so across the land robotic calls have stopped jamming everyone’s phones and television stations are mourning the end of all that juicy ad revenue. A few interesting things happened:
    • There’s no gentle way to say this: Democrats got their butts kicked at the national, state, and local levels. It was massive and it wasn’t pretty.
      And, perhaps not coincidentally, President Obama is leaving the country tomorrow. To the regret of approximately half the country, he will be returning nine days later, having completed a tour of India, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia. He is conspicuously skipping China despite the fact he is so loved there, as shown by this — a rare privilege indeed and something one just won’t see in the U.S.
      Despite some news reports, Obama’s travel and entourage will not cost $200 million a day, but he and his retinue will be renting the entire Taj Mahal hotel and part of another luxury hotel. It’s a tough job, but it does have its perks.
    • One of the Republican winners was Lt. Col. Allen West (U.S. Army, ret.), who won Florida’s 22nd Congressional district. Congressman-elect West has never before held office, but remember his name — he’s already being touted as one with rare star quality. See why.
    • With the Democrats having lost the House of Representatives, controversial House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will of course lose her job as Speaker. And in one of the coldest, cruelest tweets of the year, humorist Andy Levy tweeted this question.
    • Strategically timed to disappear in yesterday’s news cycle: ACORN has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, apparently done in by being caught red-handed in sting videos which led to multiple investigations, being found guilty of voter registration fraud in several states, and finally a Congressional cut-off of Federal funds.
  • Liberal genetics? Why does one person turn out as a left-wing liberal while another, even a brother or sister brought up in the same home, turns out conservative? It’s been famously said that anyone who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart, but anyone who’s still a liberal at 40 has no brain, likewise that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, while a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested. But maybe there’s a much simpler explanation: It’s genetic. A just-published study from Harvard and the University of California on 2000 American adults found a high correlation between the presence of a certain strain of the DRD4 gene and “an inherent bias against conservative thinking.”  This correlation of bias holds independent of education or upbringing. Perhaps those genetics explain the Kennedys?
  • In another study, this time in the U.K., analysis of data in the British Household Panel Survey revealed “evidence that daughters make people more Left-wing, while having sons, by contrast, makes them more Right-wing.” The effect is statistically significant but not huge: Of families with three sons and no daughters, 67 percent voted for Labour or Liberal Democrats, while for families with three daughters and no sons that rose to 77 percent. Not landslide material, then.

    Yes, this Lamborghini is very cool and does 200+ mph. But is it as cool as a Prius with the Plus Performance Package? (Click on the image for more on the awesome Lamborghini Diablo.)

  • For those of you who crave a Ferrari, Maserati, or Lamborghini, hold your checkbooks: Toyota is coming out with the Prius Plus Performance Package. Yessirree, for only a few grand spent at your Toyota dealer you can get a seven-piece kit of plastic body parts that make the stodgy Prius no faster (the engine and drive train remain unmodified) but does claim to improve aerodynamics and look racier. Part of the full performance package are new springs that lower the ride height, a rear anti-sway bar, and wider wheels and tires to make it stick a bit better in turns and under braking. The wider tires would seem to increase rolling resistance and therefore reduce gas mileage, but Toyota claims fuel economy is unaffected. It does look cool with the full kit. As cool as that gorgeous V-12, 200-mph Lamborghini? Well, you decide.