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March 4th, 2009 Tues.
March 4th, 2009

Quiz: The Defenders of the Alamo fought under a flag that was a Mexican tricolor with the date 1826 on it. What did that mean?

Yesterday’s Question: Why does the term “ I’m washing my hands of the matter” mean you absolve yourself of a responsibility?
History for 3/4/2009
Birthdays: King Henry II Plantagenet, Antonio Vivaldi, Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal, Count Casimir Pulaski, Miriam Makeba, Nancy Wilson, Bernard Haittink, John Garfield, Knute Rockne, Chastity Bono, prizefighter Ray Boom-Boom Mancini, Patsy Kensit. Katherine O’Hara is 55, James Ellroy is 61

1152- Frederick Barbarossa made Emperor of Germany. Barbarossa means 'redbeard'. Barbarossa is the Richard Lionheart of Germany.

1517- HERNANDO CORTEZ LANDS IN MEXICO. With a hostile Viceroy of Cuba between him and Spain, and only 508 soldiers he resolves to attack the Aztec Empire of many millions. He even burns his ships to force his men to conquer or die.

1554- Queen Mary Tudor published a Royal edict repudiating her father Henry VIII’s religious reforms and restoring the Roman Catholic Faith to dominance in England. Protestantism and other “heresies” were forbidden. To those who didn’t agree she became Bloody Mary.

1647- As he realized he was losing the English Civil War, King Charles Ist sent his son Charles II and the rest of his immediate family abroad to Holland for safety. Today he saw them off. They would never see him alive again.

1681- King Charles II granted a charter to William Penn and his Quakers to found a colony in the New World-Penn wanted to name the new country "New Wales" because of its hills, but Charles disagreed. As a Quaker, Penn was too modest to have a whole colony named after him. Since the Merry Monarch was essentially paying off an old debt owed to Penn's father, Admiral Penn, who stayed loyal to him during Cromwell’s time, the king suggested the new colony be named after the FATHER. What else was there besides hills? Lots of forest-- mmm-- the King knew that woods in Latin is sylvania. Hey, how about Penn's Woods (honoring the FATHER, not son)-- thus was born Pennsylvania.. When His Majesty noticed the Quakers not removing their hats in his presence, King Charles removed his. William Penn asked: ”Sire, why dost thou remove thy hat?” The Merry Monarch replied:” Well, ONE of us is supposed to!”

1759- Madame la Pompadour secured the appointment of Etienne de Silhouette as Finance Minister. Silhouette tried to fix the chaotic economy of France by steep taxes of aristocrats and cutting back their privileges. Noblemen said they had been reduced to mere shadows of their former selves. By November he was gone, people joking called him a shadow. Now the word silhouette means outline figure.

1791- Green Mountains, or in French Vermont territory became the 14th state. The first new state added to the original 13 colonies. Before then Vermonters had tried to be an independent country and once during the Revolution, Ethan Allen floated secret negotiations to sell Vermont back to the British.

TRADITIONAL PRESIDENTIAL INNAUGURATION DAY-1792-1933 "March Forth with a New President" (get it ?) Transportation being what it was in early America and the time it took to count votes and the Electoral College to ratify the election results, this seemed a convenient time. Inauguration ceremonies have been as simple as Tom Jefferson addressing a few guests indoors, then returning to have dinner by himself at Conrad's Tavern to George W. Bush's $40 million dollar 8 inaugural balls.
At Jefferson' inaugural John Adams was so mad he lost that he refused to attend the ceremony. Truman wouldn't speak to Eisenhower, Eisenhower wouldn't speak to Kennedy. In 1841 President William Henry Harrison insisted despite his great age on attending the ceremony without his hat and overcoat in the March chill and caught pneumonia and died a month later,the shortest term in office. His inaugural address was 2,000 words while George Washington's was 137. The wildest Inauguration was Andrew Jackson's in 1829. Common folks were invited into the White House and went wild breaking crystal, muddying the carpets and spitting tobacco juice on the floor, and the men were worse! Jackson jumped out of a back window to avoid being crushed and the butlers got the crowd out only by moving tubs of liquor onto the south lawn. At Abe Lincoln's second inaugural in 1865 he switched vice presidents. Outgoing v.p. Hannibal Hamlin encouraged new v.p. Andrew Johnson to calm his nerves with whiskey, knowing the man had a low tolerance for alcohol. So before Lincoln's beautiful speech 'With Malice Towards None, With Charity for All..." Johnson went up drunk- burbled incoherently and was seen dribbling on the Bible until Lincoln angrily ordered him pulled off the stage. In 1877 Rutherford Hayes wife "Lemonade-Lucy" banned all alcohol from the White House and it was said of the party:” Water flowed like Champagne!" In 1937 Franklin Roosevelt moved the inauguration date to the third week in January.

1836- The Mexican army of General Santa Anna had surrounded the little fort called the Alamo. Today Santa Anna held a council of war to decide what to do. Many of his officers were against an attack. The Texans were cut off with little food and there was no help coming. The fort had no real strategic importance. So why waste his men? But Santa Anna’s blood was up. He wanted to make an example of these “Yankee Land Pirates”. He ordered a grand assault on the Alamo as soon as the preparations were completed.

1861- THE STARS & BARS. During the Civil War the Confederate army was having a problem with their flag. Their first design so closely resembled the United States flag that soldiers had trouble distinguishing one from the other in heavy battle smoke. Creole General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beaureguard put the ladies sewing circles of New Orleans on the problem and they came up with the familiar Confederate Stars & Bars design that still flies over some errant Statehouses today. When Old Dixie was defeated the original prototype flag was smuggled out to Cuba, but was eventually returned and today is in the Museum of the Confederacy in New Orleans.

1887- William Randolph Hearst buys the little San Francisco Examiner and builds the Hearst newspaper empire. Hearst’s father was owner of the famed Comstock mine and thought his son crazy for wasting his time with the penny-paper business. Hearst died in 1951 at age 88, leaving an estate of $160 million. Today Hearst publications is still 15 magazines and broadcast networks..

1887- The first Daimler motorcar introduced in Essenlingen Germany- the Daimler Benzin Motorcarriage. Daimler’s chief competition was the motor company of Dr Carl Benz. In 1899 Austrian Emile Jellinek invested heavily in Daimler’s motorcars provided he name them for his daughter Mercedes. Mercedes and Benz merged in 1926 but the two founders- Gottfried Daimler and Carl Benz never met face to face.

1902- AAA the Auto Club founded.

1917- Jeanette Rankin became the first female member of Congress.

1924- The song “Happy Birthday to You” copyrighted by Claydon Sunny.

1933- Franklin Roosevelt gave his famous speech“The Only thing we have to fear is, Fear itself.”at his first inauguration.

1936- Screenwriter Dudley Nichols publicly refuses the Best Screenplay Oscar for John Ford’s “The Informer” as protest in support of the struggling Writer’s Guild.

1936- First flight of the German dirigible Graf Hindenburg.

1944- Louis Lepke Buchalter went to the electric chair at Sing Sing prison. Buchalter with Albert Anastasia headed the heavy enforcement arm of Lucky Lucciano’s New York Mafia Syndicate. Nicknamed “Murder Incorporated ”the Brooklyn gang committed at least 100 murders, including Dutch Schultz and Lucciano’s mentor Joe the Boss Masseria.

1946- Alex Raymond's comic strip 'Rip Kirby" premiered.

1952- Ronald Reagan married Nancy Davis at the Little Red Church on Coldwater Canyon blvd. in L.A. William Holden was best man.

1952- Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to his publisher:" I've completed a new novel. I think it's my best one to date." The Old Man and the Sea.

1956- Burger King introduced their signature hamburger the Whopper.

1958- U.S.S. Nautilus, first nuclear sub, reaches the North Pole under the ice cap. remember when the submarine ride at Disneyland was painted to look like the USS Navy subs and named for them ?

1960-Famed American opera baritone Leonard Warren collapses and dies on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in the 2nd act of Verdi's La Forza Del Destino.

1961- In the early stages of filming Cleopatra in London actress Elizabeth Taylor developed pneumonia and slipped into a coma. She would have died had not doctors at a convention at London’s Dorchester Hotel performed and emergency tracheotomy. When you seen the film today you can still see the tracheotomy scar at the base of her throat.

1976- Due to the intervention of San Francisco mayor George Moscone, the Giants will stay in city by the bay. In a last minute deal, the Stoneham family sells the team to Bob Lurie and Bud Herseth instead of the Labbatt's Brewery, which had planned to move the Giants to Canada.

1994- Basketball legend Michael Jordan comes to bat for the first time in a Chicago White Sox Baseball uniform. Jordan will give up baseball after one season and return to the NBA.

1991- During the Gulf War US troops destroy an Iraqi bunker concealing tons of deadly serin nerve gas. Estimates are up to 24,000 troops were exposed to the toxic release.

1994- comedian John Candy died of heart failure.

1997- The senate of Brazil allowed women to wear slacks to work.

2004- A New York court convicted interior decorating guru Martha Stewart of four counts of stock fraud. This was for dumping her stock in a pharmaceutical firm called InClone after getting an inside tip that their cancer cure didn’t work.
Yesterday’s Question: Why does the term “ I’m washing my hands of the matter” mean you absolve yourself of responsibility?

Answer: The term was coined (according to the New Testament) by Pontius Pilatusn the Roman prefect of Judaea (AD 26 - AD 36), who presided over the trial of Jesus. When he offered to release a prisoner and the Jews supposedly picked Barabbas over Christ, insisting that the latter would be crucified, he didn't want to be responsible for the death of the man he thought was innocent. So he had an ewer and basin brought up, publicly and symbolically performed an ablution and declared : " I wash my hands of the blood of this Just !" The term was then adopted to absolve oneself from an objectionable matter beyond one's control.
I've never seen such a custom of substituting condemned prisoners or washing of hands in Roman custom before. Romans were sticklers for the rules, especially where it concerned disciplining provincial criminals. It might have all originated with St.Luke, writing 100 years after the fact, in cities like Alexandria where mob clashes between Jews and Nazarenes was commonplace. Scholars continue to argue.