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Jan 10, 2020
January 10th, 2020

Quiz: What is a platitude?

Yesterday’s question answered below: Many say President Trump’s decisions are made perfunctory. What does that mean?
History for 1/10/2020
Birthdays: Ethan Allen, Marshal Michel Ney, Frank James -Jesse's brother, Francois Poulenc, Ray Bolger (the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz), Al Goldstein the publisher of Screw Magazine, Stephen Ambrose, Sherrill Milnes, Pat Benatar, Sal Mineo, Jim Croce, Rod Stewart, Walter Hill, George Foreman, Linda Lovelace, Roy E Disney Jr, Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Concords is 46

50 B.C.- "Jacta Esta Alea!" Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River near modern Rimini with his legions and began a civil war for control of the Roman Empire. Caesar had been ordered by the Senate to give up his army command in Gaul and not bring his troops down. Once stripped of command he could be open to lawsuits, investigation and criminal charges. Years before Scipio Africanis, the defeater of Hannibal, was ruined by his political enemies this way. So instead Caesar attacked. The Rubicon was the border between the outer provinces and the home territory of Rome. Since then, "Crossing the Rubicon" means committing to a course of action you cannot turn back from. Caesar said "Alea jacta est" which means "The die is cast".

1072- Robert Giscard captured Palermo. At the same time Norman warriors under William the Conqueror were overrunning England and Scotland, other Normans knights were traveling south and spreading out across Southern Italy, Sicily and Dalmatia. They weren’t a national conquering army under a king, just professional mercenaries out for personal gain. They occupied Sicily and became the shock troops of the First Crusade. The Normans were finally driven out of Sicily in 1282.

1529- Michelangelo elected to design the military defenses of Florence. They failed to keep out the enemy, but they must have looked really beautiful!

1538- Martin Luther declared that Purgatory does not exist. " God in the Gospel of Mark has placed two ways before us- Salvation by faith or Damnation by unbelief."

1642- King Charles I slipped out of London as the city grew increasingly hostile to his cause. Londoners threw garbage out their windows at his Royal Guards. He traveled north to gather supporters. Parliament superseded the authority of the Mayor of London and called up the city militia. The English Civil War would break out in September.

1744- Bonnie Prince Charlie left exile in Rome to go to Scotland and start his uprising.

1775- PUGACHEV’S RISING. Yemelian Pugachev was an illiterate Cossack. One day, for a laugh, his friends shaved his beard off while he was too drunk to notice. Without the beard they discovered he bore an amazing likeness to the Catherine the Great's dead husband, Czar Peter III. There was deep resentment in Russia among the common folk against the rule of Czarina Catherine. She was modernizing Russia against it's will and wasn't even Russian (she was a German princess).
Pugachev declared himself the Czar Peter, back to reclaim his throne for the Muziks (peasants) and the Old Religion. Pugachev's Rising cost tens of thousands of lives before Catherine's armies stamped it out. Today Pugachev was brought to Moscow in an iron cage, then beheaded. A comparable Russian people's uprising would not be seen again until 1905.

1776- COMMON SENSE published. Thomas Paine's pamphlet explaining the case for liberty was considered psychologically decisive in garnering mass support among average Americans. Washington called it -"more valuable than a hundred cannon." Englishman Paine, a former corset maker, had only been living in America for one year.

1855- The Clackamas People of the Oregon territory sold some most of their prime timberland for $500 and some food.

1861- Benito Juarez elected President of the Mexican Republic. The statesman spoke Zapotec before he learned Spanish, and became the first Indian head of Mexico since the last Aztec Emperor Guatamoc in 1519. During Emperor Maximillian’s French occupation, Juarez's government was constantly on the run along the Texas border but he refused to ever cross it. He felt his legitimate government must never leave Mexican soil.

1861- Florida became the third state to secede from the Union.

1863-The world's first Subway Train line opened in London at Baker's Street Station.

1870- John D. Rockefeller first formed the company called Standard Oil. In 1911 it changed its name to Esso and Humble, then in 1973 Exxon.

1878- the first Amendment proposing to give women the right to vote is proposed in Congress. Suffragette leaders Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Susan B. Anthony looked for three months for a senator with the guts to sponsor it. It was defeated but it was brought up at every congressional session for the next 45 years. (see below 1917-1918)

1888-date of LOUIS LePRINCE's claim of a patent on Motion Pictures, predating Edison 1893 and the Lumiere Brothers1895. LePrince even had as proof a film he shot of his mother, who had died in 1887. Despite this, LePrince could get no one to take him seriously. One day he boarded a train from Dijon to Paris and disappeared from the face of the Earth.

1901- SPINDLETOP- BLACK GOLD, TEXAS TEA..- Conventional wisdom up till then was America’s oil reserves were chiefly around the Great Lakes and Pennsylvania. On this day Texas wildcat drillers strike oil in Beaumont Texas. The Spindletop gusher is so gigantic, 3,000 barrels an hour, it doubles the total U.S. oil production output overnight. Companies like Gulf and Texaco spring up to compete with industry leader Standard Oil (Exxon). The era of the Texas Oil Tycoons began and until they ran dry in the 1970s, America controlled 80% of the worlds petroleum output.

1906- The London Daily Mail coined a new term for women politically agitating to gain suffrage, or the right to vote, "Suffragettes".

1910- Joyce Clyde Hall started the company that became Hallmark Cards.

1917- On the anniversary of the first women’s right to vote bill, The Women's Suffragette Movement began a 24 hour round the clock protest in front of the White House. It is the first time the White House was ever publicly picketed. Ten suffragettes are jailed but are immediately replaced by ten more, who when arrested are replaced by more, then more.

1917- Frontiersman and master showman Buffalo Bill Cody died at 70 of uremia poisoning. His last words after he was told his end had come was "Ah forget it boys, let's play a round of High-Five." Today his grave still overlooks the city of Denver.

1918- 45 years after being first proposed, The 19th Amendment granting American women the right to vote passed in The House of Representatives. It failed at first to get the necessary 2/3 vote in the Senate, but after more votes and wrangling. It finally passed in Feb 1919.

1919- The League of Nations formed. The United States refusal to join and the Leagues refusal to admit Soviet Russia would doom this early attempt at a United Nations. Being dominated by old colonial powers like Britain and France it ignored the national aspirations of 3rd world countries like Syria and Vietnam. Finally the aggressive actions of the Fascist powers like Germany, Italy and Japan revealed the impotence of the League. The Leagues failure and World War II was used to make the point about the United Nations in 1945.

1923- When the defeated Germans proved too slow in paying the massive postwar indemnities (cash payments) to the Allies for World War I, a Franco-Belgian army occupied the Ruhr Valley industrial area. This cuts off the already ruined German economy from 80% of its steel and coal. The French leave after massive steel strikes and riots, and leave the Germans fresh hatreds to avenge later.

1924- Columbia Pictures created, ruled by Harry Cohn, whose motto was "I don't get ulcers, I give them!"

1927- Fritz Lang’s masterpiece film Metropolis premiered.

1929- Herge’s comic character Tin Tin first appeared in a Belgian newspaper XXe Siecle.

1939- Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov sold his first story to Amazing Stories Magazine "Marooned off Vesta".

1941- The comedy play ARSENIC AND OLD LACE opened on Broadway. Playwright Joseph Kesselring originally wrote it as a drama based on true events, until he was advised - and, wisely so - to turn it into a dark comedy instead, guaranteeing a larger audience. He made the title a joke on a popular turn of the century romance novel, Lavender and Old Lace. When someone joked that Mortimer’s evil brother looked Boris Karloff, the character was indeed played by famous horror movie star Boris Karloff. He was an investor in the play. When buying the movie rights Warner Bros agreed to wait until the play ended its theatrical run. They thought plays usually are done in a few months so they had Frank Capra make it into a classic screwball comedy with Cary Grant and Raymond Massey. The play Arsenic and Old Lace ran on Broadway for three years, until 1944. Then Warner Bros could finally release the movie.

1949- For years the recording industry had been working on ways to improve the 78 RPM record –RPM means Rotations Per Minute. RCA records announced the invention of the 45 RPM record. Columbia (CBS) had announced the LP (Long Playing) 33 rpm record and originally offered to share the technology but RCA (NBC) was having none of it. But the 33 stored more music and could use old 78 rpm turntables adapted so the 45 soon became a vehicle for hit singles.

1958- Jerry Lee Lewis single "Great Balls of Fire" topped the pop charts.

1958- GET MARRIED, OR ELSE! Blond actress Kim Novak had starred in Hitchcock’s Vertigo and was touted as the new Marilyn Monroe. In 1957 she began a love affair with black entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. Davis was a member of Sinatra’s Ratpack and he challenged America’s racial barriers with his great talent. But this high profile interracial match was just too much for Hollywood society to handle. Columbia’s studio head Harry Cohn said of Novak-"That fat Polack Bitch! How could she do this to me?! "
Legend has it Cohn called the Chicago Mafia and put a contract out on Sammy Davis. L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen told Davis’ father that if Sammy didn’t marry a colored girl in 24 hours he would have his legs broken and his remaining good eye poked out.
On this day in Las Vegas’ Sands Hotel, Sammy Davis Jr. married black actress Loray White. Harry Belafonte was the best man. The couple honeymooned separately and divorced 6 months later. But the affair with Novak was over and Harry Cohn died of a heart attack the same year. In 1960 Sammy Davis married blonde German actress May Britt.

1961- Writer Dashell Hammett died.

1967- Lester Maddox was sworn in as Governor of Georgia. Maddox was a high school dropout who gained national stature when he refused to allow black people to eat at his restaurant, the PickNick Café in Atlanta. Maddox passed out axe handles to white patrons to beat Civil Rights workers. Maddox finally closed his restaurant rather than integrate.

1970- Masterpiece Theater debuted on US TV with host Alastair Cooke. The first show was the BBC series The First Churchills. These shows were so popular that for awhile people thought PBS meant Preferably British Shows.

1972- The liner Queen Elizabeth 1, on her retirement journey to the scrap yard, mysteriously caught fire and sank in Hong Kong harbor.

1992- The GREAT RUBBER DUCKY DISASTER- A North Pacific storm causes a ship to lose 29,000 plastic rubber duck toys overboard. They joined 61,000 Nike sneakers already bobbing in the water from a similar maritime accident. Scientists used the rubber ducky migration to track Pacific Ocean currents around Alaska.

1993- CAMILLAGATE- As speculation grew that the English Prince and Princess of Wales' marriage was on the rocks a London tabloid published tapes of phone conversations between Prince Charles and his long term mistress Lady Camilla Parker Bowles. The highly embarrassing transcripts included the Prince expressing a wish that he could be Ms. Bowles' tampon. Camilla's husband divorced her and Charles and Diana soon divorced as well. Within a year of Princess Diana's fatal auto accident Camilla resumed spending the night at Kensington Palace. Camilla and Charles married in 2005.

2000- AOL and Time Warner announced a $165 billion dollar merger that made it the world’s largest media company. Considered now one of the worst business deals in history, the company lost $80 billion in one year. The deal almost sank both companies, uprooted both chairmen, and they detached permanently in 2009.

2004- NY based Writer and actor Spaulding Gray spent the day taking his kids to the movies. They saw Tim Burton’s movie Big Fish. Gray put his kids into a taxi home and from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, called his wife to say he would be home soon and that he loved her. Then he took the ferry, jumped into the harbor and drowned himself. He had waged a long battle with depression and his mother had commit suicide. His body did not resurface until March 9.
Yesterday’s Quiz: Many say President Trump’s decisions are made perfunctory. What does that mean?

Answer: A decision or idea done in great haste, without thinking or consideration.