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Aug 9, 2017
August 9th, 2017

Quiz: Some political watchers say Trump is waiting for a Reichstag Fire event to pass further controversial legislation. What does that mean?

Answer to yesterday’s question below: What is a Black Swan event?
History for 8/9/2017
Birthdays: King Henry V of England, John Dryden, Sir Issac Walton-author of the Compleat Angler, Melanie Griffith, Whitney Houston, David Steinberg, Bob Cousy, Jill St. John, Robert Shaw, Robert Aldrich, Sam Elliot is 74, Gillian Anderson is 49, Pamela Lyndon Travers –the creator of Mary Poppins, Marvin Minsky, Eric Bana is 51, Audrey Tautou is 39, Philippe Bergeron is 58

Today was the ancient Egyptian festival of Opet (Honeymoon), when they carried the statue of Amon-Ra to the temple of his wife the goddess Mut for a conjugal visit.

117 AD- In the city of Selinus in Cilicia, the Roman Emperor Trajan died of a stroke at age 64. He died without leaving an acknowledged heir. This day Trajan’s widow the Empress Plotina and several leading senators read out a document that declared that before his death Trajan had adopted his leading general Hadrian, and intended him to be his successor. Whether this was true or not was immaterial, since Hadrian already had the legions behind him.

378A.D. HADRIANOPLE- The "Custer's Last Stand' of the Roman Empire.
The Emperor Valens and his legions were wiped out by a horde of Goths led by Fritigern the Visigoth. This battle is considered the last battle of the ancient world and the beginning of the Medieval superiority of armored horsemen -which was the way the Goths fought. Valens co-emperor Valentinian gave him the Empire of the East because it was the easier of the two theaters and Valentinian was confident even a dummy like Valens couldn't mess it up. The migration of Germanic peoples into western Europe we call the Barbarian Invasions, they called more poetically "Die Volkvanderung-the Wandering of the People".

1378-THE GREAT SCHISM- French Cardinals escaped from the mobs in Rome met in France and declared the election of their last Pope, Urban VI the Wild Man of Naples, invalid. This because they did it under fear of the Italian mobs killing them. They now declared Robert of Geneva new Pope Clement VII. This caused a split in the Christian world, some supporting Urban and some Clement. Urban had one rebellious cardinal sewn into a sack and thrown down a well. The Holy Roman Emperor tried to solve the problem by declaring both Popes deposed and nominating his own man. So then there were three popes. By the time this mess was solved many common Europeans began to wonder if it was a wise to have one man be head of the Church at all.

1588- Queen Elizabeth I visited the camp at Tilbury to inspect the troops that would defend England from invasion by the Spanish Armada. The Armada had been driven off ten days ago but they were still somewhere in English waters, so it still seemed like a good idea to visit. She thrilled the troops by delivering the most famous speech of her career: “ I know that I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, Aye, and of a King of England too!”

1854- Henry David Thoreau published “Walden”, the first great work about nature conservation.

1877- THE SCRAMBLE FOR AFRICA. Explorer Henry Morton Stanley reaches the Atlantic Coast after a 999 day trek across the middle of African continent from Zanzibar. He proved there were no unscalable "Mountains of the Moon" barring the way.
Stanley (an illegitimate Welshman who had found Dr. Livingston in 1871) had declared his expedition to be a charting of the Congo and Lualaba Rivers and to prove Specke's theory that the source of the Nile was Lake Victoria- Nyanza. In fact it was the starting pistol for the great European Colonial powers to begin dividing up Central Africa: England took Sudan, Nigeria and Uganda, France took Chad and Senegal, Italy to Ethiopia, Germany into Tanganyika and Belgium took the Congo. Up to this point African expeditions were small affairs of a missionary or scientist asking permission of a local chief with gifts. Stanley blasted his way across the jungle with a small army, being furiously attacked by 27 separate Bantu tribes whose territory he violated. His men mowed them down with repeating rifles and cannon. "The blacks do give us an immense amount of trouble"- he wrote. The Dinka people of Sudan call it "the Time when the World was Spoiled."

1910 - Alva Fisher patents the electric washing machine.

1919- The first story of Zorro appeared in All Story Weekly magazine. Created by Johnstom McCulley.

1929- Hollywood theater mogul Alexander Pantages was convicted of assaulting a young woman in a broom closet. The conviction was later overturned. The young woman, Eunice Pringle, later admitted that Joe Kennedy, who was trying to buy out Pantages' theatre chain for his RKO, paid her $10,000 to falsely accuse Pantages of rape. It was the first successful defense case of attorney Jerry Geisler, who became famous for getting movie stars and other Hollywood elites out of trouble with the law. The word in the studios when a movie star was naughty was “Get Geisler!”

1930- Max Fleischer's cartoon "Dizzy Dishes" introduces Betty Boop. A singing star named Helen Kane sued Fleischer claiming that they stole her distinctive Boop-Ooop-a-Doop from her, but the case was thrown out when it was revealed Kane had stolen it herself from another singer. Betty was supposed to be a dog character to match her male counterpart Bimbo. But Animator Grim Natwick had done a lot of drawing of girls in Paris and New York and turned the character into a saucy little flapper.

1936- Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. Host head of state Adolph Hitler refused to shake hands with him.

1941- One of the more legendary British air aces in the Battle of Britain was Wing Commander Douglas Bader. He was all the more novel because he was had no legs. This day Bader’s spitfire was shot down by the Luftwaffe over Belgium. Bader bailed out and was captured. But the German pilots were so impressed with this handicapped ace that they treated him like a rock star, touring him around airfields where other pilots could wine and dine him. Bader’s tin legs were damaged when his plane went down so the RAF dropped a substitute pair over a German airfield for him. But later as a POW he tried so many times to escape, the German commandant of his prison camp took away his legs. “I wish all my prisoners were so easily manageable.”

1942- The premiere of Walt Disney’s Bambi.

1942- After the US Naval defeat at Savo Island off Guadalcanal Admiral Jack Fletcher worried about the safety of his carrier fleet. There were still superior Japanese naval forces and land based attack planes in the area. He decided to pull back his fleet leaving the Marines on Guadalcanal stranded with just a 17 day food supply and the Japanese massing to attack. Admiral Nimitz replaced Fletcher with a more aggressive Admiral, Bull Halsey.

1944- Antoine Du Saint-Exupery, the author of the Little Prince, died when he crashed his fighter plane. He was not shot down by the Germans, just wasn’t a very good pilot. The main protagonist of the little prince is an aviator who crashes his plane.

1945- NAGASAKI- the second Atomic Bomb "Fat Man" was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The B-29 bomber "Boxcar” was plagued by a violent thunderstorm and they wasted precious fuel searching for their target. When they made it back to base after the 14 hour flight two of their four engines had run out of gas. Nagasaki was the second choice target. The first Kokura, was so fogged in scientists couldn't study the bomb's effect. 70,000 people were killed.

1945- At the same time President Harry Truman was reporting to Congress and the nation about his trip to Potsdam and plan for post war Germany. He said among other things that it was vital for democracy in Germany to break up the huge centralized corporations and foster the rights of workers to form unions. Hmmm…we could use a plan like that in the US today….

1947 -The British government in an attempt to bolster revenue for their shattered postwar economy, announced a 300% import tariff on Hollywood films. The Big Eight-Hollywood studios retaliate by stopping the export of movies to Britain. The British film industry has a heyday and Disney starts producing films locally in Britain like 'Rob Roy Highland Rogue' and such.

1960- Near Cuernavaca Mexico, Harvard professor Timothy Leary took some magic mushrooms and experienced his first hallucinogenic trip. He called it “ a conversion.”

1963 - Britains rock & roll TV show, Ready Steady Go, premieres.

1967- Joe Orton, English actor/playwright (Leaf, Murdered), died at age 34.

1969- HELTER SKELTER- Charles Manson's cultists murder pregnant actress Sharon Tate and several houseguests of her husband/director Roman Polanski. One other guest killed was socialite Jay Sebring, who made cocaine fashionable and invented the 1970's blow-dry hair style for men. A Polish tourist named Woijech Frykowski who had the misfortune to be visiting that night was shot twice, bludgeoned and stabbed 51 times. Kill the Pigs was scrawled on the wall in blood. Charles Manson had a messianic concept that he could lead the Apocalypse devolving out of a race war if his followers first killed celebrities to advertise their cause. Manson had a hit list that included Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen and Liz Taylor. The California spawned Hippy-Flower-Child culture lost it’s innocent fun after Manson.

1974- Richard Nixon left the Presidency of the United States in disgrace. New President Gerald Ford of whom Lyndon Johnson once said "Sometimes I think Jerry played football once too often with his helmet off" was sworn in.

1975- Hurricane Belle destroyed the gulf coast.

1993- Heidi Fleiss, The” Hollywood Madam” arraigned for prostitution. The film community shuddered when she threatened to reveal the names of her clients in her “black book”. Most were suppressed except actors Charlie Sheen and Sean Penn who admitted as much early on. Fleiss wrote a memoir called “Pandering” and still thinks prostitution is an honorable profession. “I ran an 85% cash business.”

1995- Rocker Jerry Garcia died, the Grateful Dead broke up.

1995- THE HIGH TECH BUBBLE- Netscape first appeared on the stock market. The 15 month old company started by a Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark and a 22 year old college senior Marc Andreesen immediately shot up to $1.07 billion dollars in value. This IPO signaled the beginning of the gold rush in high tech stocks which five years later came crashing down as violently. Stocks like Lucent Technology, which sold at $84 dollars a share in 1998, dropped to .39 cents a share in 2001.

1997- NYPD cops of the 70th Precinct in Brooklyn drag an African immigrant named Abner Louima into a washroom. There they roughed him up and shoved a bathroom plunger stick up his butt. After several trials, the policemen were all acquitted.

Quiz: What is a Black Swan event?

Answer: An event that happens by surprise, beyond normal expectations. It generally has enormous repercussions, partially because of the surprise but, more importantly, because it changes the direction of society in some important way(s). Finally, in hindsight, people try and figure out why and how it happened.