Monday, February 27

The Evolution of a Scam

Scopes-2nd from left
By Grant Davies

On some day in 1925 (but not this one), a group of politicians and other civic minded town fathers gathered at Robinson's drug store in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee.

Their purpose was to cook up a scheme to promote the town, or "put it on the map" as famous newspaperman H.L. Mencken later described it. In other words, they needed a publicity stunt for some much needed PR for the town.

The state of Tennessee was one of three states that had recently outlawed the teaching of the theory of evolution and the ACLU was advertising in the paper for people who wanted to be the test case for a big trial to bring attention to the issue. These folks knew an opportunity when they saw one.

So they asked a "phys-ed" teacher who substituted from time to time as a biology teacher if he wanted to be a test monkey in the plot. Of course, we now know that John Scopes said yes. Since the theory was part of the text book that was used in the biology class he sometimes subbed for, he could honestly answer that he had indeed taught the subject.

The whole fiasco, from the arrest to the hoped for outcome, was planned ahead of time. John agreed to be arrested at the meeting so he didn't have to postpone his scheduled tennis game that afternoon. Everyone, from the defense team led by a dude named Darrow (Clare to his friends), to the prosecutor wanted a guilty verdict so they could take the whole show on the road for a repeat performance on appeal.

Unfortunately, (unlike in Chicago), the judge was not sufficiently in the loop, so although he found Scopes guilty, he let him off on a technicality which threw a monkey wrench into the works for the famous "Scope's Monkey Trial."

It was all just monkeying around back then and it still is today.

The information found in this article was gathered from "The Greatest Stories Never Told" by Rick Beyer.

Thursday, February 23

Happy Birthday to the Eighth President

John Hanson - 1st President of the US
By Grant Davies

On this day (-1) in 1732, the eighth President of the United States was born, a guy named George Washington.

The best day to celebrate the birth of the actual first President would be the actual day he was born, April 14, 1721. His name was John Hanson. I'm not sure of the birthdays or even the names of the six guys between Hanson and Washington because I'm too lazy to look them up. I'll do it later, maybe.

So even though he was the first, Hanson is largely forgotten because the old system under which he was elected was the Articles of Confederation, not the also largely forgotten Constitution. He was the guy who set up the treasury department and he also founded the first Thanksgiving Day so all the mopes today could watch football and eat like starving pigs.

As to the birthday boy, he did and said a lot of things that people remember today, but the most famous thing he ever said was directed to his corpulent colonel, Henry Knox, as the two were boarding a smallish boat to cross the Potomac river on Christmas eve. Knox was morbidly obese, around 300 hundred pounds, and Geo gently nudged him in his ample posterior with his toe as he boarded the boat. That's when he uttered the immortal words, "Shift that fat ass Harry. But slowly, or you'll swamp the damn boat!"

They went on to defeat the half witted Hessians who would still be drunk from the party by the time Geo and company got there the next morning.

And that's no BS.

Also on this day in a year I won't reveal, the proofreader of this blog was born. It was a very lucky day for the author, who married her for reasons other than her literary skills. Happy Birthday Carol.

Tuesday, February 21

Karl and Fred and Moldy Bread

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1848, a pamphlet was published in London by a group of Germans to proclaim that one group of people in society would in the end rise up and do away with all other groups.

The pamphlet was authored by two men who never did a lick of work in their lives but claimed to speak for the "workers" of the world. The main writer, a guy name Karl, was the son of a wealthy Lutheran  lawyer who had previously been a Jew. His sidekick was a guy named Fred and together they decided they knew what ailed mankind and how to fix it. After traveling to, and then getting kicked out of both France and Belgium for stirring up the locals, they went back to Germany which was in the general vicinity of where they came from in the first place.

In the end they stirred up most of the world and became a pain in the ass to humanity in general. They named their creative writing the "Communist Manifesto" and after a bunch of other envious dimwits signed on to its ideas, it later became the blueprint for violent upheaval in lots of places. Over time it caused the death and misery of hundreds of millions of people in Russia and a few other unfortunate places around the globe. Even today some people think it's a good idea that no one owns anything, everyone owns everything, and governments filled with geniuses should be in charge of it all.

So, that's how two guys named Marx and Engels screwed up the world. But at least somebody made a little money after the whole bad idea collapsed by selling tee shirts that said "Bad Spellers of the World Untie" on the front.

It just goes to show that capitalism wins out in the end.

Friday, February 17

Nixon's Road Trip

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1972 a chain of events began that ended in an unfortunate development for the US. It started  when U.S. President Richard Nixon embarked on what many have come to see as a historically positive trip to China, a country which had previously been closed to us but has since become one of our most reliable loan sharks.

Our head Dick (or dick head as some prefer) went there to open markets and friendship and ask for some long term loans if the country ever came out of its communist fog and earned enough to loan out. He was successful on all counts.

So what was the unfortunate development? He returned.

When he did that, he was able to start the "War On Drugs", which is a little like a war on lawn mowers. (Both things are inanimate thus neither can fight back, so you can always say you won even if it never ends and more people are cutting the grass than ever before.) After that, he decided he knew more about what people should earn and what their employers should pay them than the people themselves, so he started "Wage and Price Controls" to control inflation, thereby proving he knew the same amount about inflation that he knew about drug use.

He screwed up a lot of other stuff along the way and became known as the President who was so corrupt that he was offered a professorship at the Chicago College of Graft. (Okay, I made that part up.)

The precise timeline on all these events is probably wrong, but even on a site that's dedicated to precise time lines, it just wouldn't be fun to stick to the exact order. And history should be fun!

Anyway, they kicked his ass out of office for most of the wrong reasons, but because of all this, he became known as "Tricky Dick" by most people, but I just stick to my own nickname for him, "Whatta Dick."

Thursday, February 16


By Grant Davies

On this day (-1) in 1801, Thomas Jefferson was elected third President of the US on the Democratic-Republican ticket.

You probably thought it was just recently that Democrats and Republicans were one party. But this party had a precisely opposite platform than today's version. While the more recent incarnation runs on the "ever bigger more powerful" theme, Ole Toms pushed for the "small is better" and "let 'em screw it up on the local level" plan.

Anyway, it was the culmination of a bizarre series of events. The race was even closer than the Bush/Gore contest that hung by a chad. This one got hung in the House of Representatives and his bitter enemy Alex Hamilton (no relation to the guy with the sun tan) ended up supporting him to keep his (Alex's) even worse enemy, a guy named Burr (no relation to the TV lawyer) from being elected. That guy, (Burr) got so pissed at him (Alex) that he later shot him to death in a gun fight that in those days went by the quaint name of "duel."

Whew, I know that's confusing, but no more so than what's going on in the GOP nominating process today. The candidates back then had some friends say very rude things about each other in the media, there was a lot of name calling and backstabbing, all while the participants pretended to respect each other. So, exactly like today.

In the end, Tom Jefferson became President, John Adams became a "one and doner", and Aaron Burr was VP. Huh? How the heck does that work? (That's for a different day in history.)

I'm just glad there wasn't a presidential sex scandal back then. Oops, I forgot poor Sally. But then, the person writing this is no Hemmingsway.

So, if you think there is anything new going on today, well, you haven't been reading the history on this site enough.

Wednesday, February 15

The Big Bang

By Grant Davies

On this day in 1898 a curious thing happened in the Havana harbor. An American battleship named the USS Maine blew its top (and bottom too for that matter) and 260 crew members were launched into history.

The US Navy decided that the explosion was caused by a mine and kinda blamed the Spanish who owned Cuba at the time. Back in those days there was a curious practice that the US couldn't go to war without congress declaring it because of the provisions in a now largely disregarded document called the constitution. How quaint for them to actually use it.

Anyway, the war drums got beaten and so did the Spanish in the war that started barely a month later. One of the participants was a guy named Theodore Roosevelt who got famous for charging up a hill in San Juan without breaking his glasses or a sweat.

Teddy, as he came to be affectionately known, had a stuffed toy bear named after him which coincidentally first went on sale on this day a few years later, in 1903.

Although it was later determined (in 1976) that the big bang was caused, not by the Spaniards, but by a fire on board that lit the fuse on the ammunition stocks of the ship, Teddy still went on to become President, the US ended up with a bunch of Spanish stuff, (like Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines) and I'm pretty sure that people in Spain are no longer pissed at us.

So, never mind.

Tuesday, February 14

Valentines Day

By Grant Davies

On this day in the year 278 A.D. (give or take a few years) the head gang-banger of a rather large street gang called the "Roman Empire" (usually just called the Romans for short) was having a bad day and decided to take it out on one of the other gang members. His street name was "Claudius the Cruel" but the formal name on his chariot licence read- Emperor Claudius II.

It seems that ole Claude was hacked off because he couldn't get enough soldiers to fight the turf wars because they were hangin' with their baby mommas too much and had even decided to (perish the the thought) get married. That didn't bode well for the health of the 'hood so he decided to make a rule that no one could get married  or even "hook up" anymore.

One wise guy though, a certain homie called "Val" (his given name was Valentine), was looking for some street cred and decided to hook people up on his own time, in secret, in his own crib.

So after Claude found out he called one of his lieutenants, a dude named the "Prefect of Rome" and had him order a hit on Val. The Prefect told the other homies to beat Val with clubs and then cut his head off. (Even back then, a lot of the same stuff that happens in Mexico nowadays was fashionable.) Rumor has it that Val asked if he could have the beatin' after the beheading, but no word on whether he got that last wish.

The hit took place, Val's spirit joined up with a heavenly group called the Saints, and that's why we all give each other heart shaped objects and chocolate that are roughly the same shape as the picture of Claudius's head shown above.

1651 years later, a different gangster named Al (street name Scar-face) had a bunch of other homies machine gunned to death to commemorate the occasion. But at least he didn't have their heads cut off because their brains were already splattered on a garage wall on the north side of Chicago.

Have a chocolate.
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