Saturday, September 25, 2010

August 2nd in History

Hannibal and Elephant
on ancient coin

 216 BC   Second Punic War (of three), the Battle of Cannae. The Carthaginian army lead by Hannibal defeats a numerically superior Roman army under command of consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro.  Punic, for those who are unfamiliar with ancient history, refers to the Latin word for the Phoenicians, who settled Carthage in Africa, and were a major rival empire.  Sicily had been the nexus point of their clashing expansions.  The Second Punic War is the one most remembered for Hannibal of Carthage crossing the Alps with elephants.  Hannibal started across with 37, and arrived in Italy with 22. The idea for using elephants against the ancient Romans is attributed to Hannibal having studied the writings about Alexander the Great and Indian war elephants. That would be the same Ptolemy, the Greek general, who originated the dynasty of the Pharaohs of Egypt that ended with Cleopatra III and Marc Antony.

1377 – The Russian troops are defeated in the Battle by Mongol Hordes, including Turkic Tartars, on Pyana River, while the Russians are drunk. Some of the forces with the Mongols had converted to Islam, and were part of the Christian versus Muslim competing expansions.  Large portions of Russia were under Mongol control, giving rise to the aphorism, "Scratch a Russian, find a Tartar" (or Tatar, variant spelling).  An example would be Russian born Yul Brynner.

James Bay, where Hudson
was set adrift by mutineers
Henry Hudson

1610 – Henry Hudson sails into what it is now known as Hudson Bay, thinking he had made it through the Northwest Passage and reached the Pacific Ocean.  He gave his name not only to Hudson Bay, but also to the Hudson River in New York and towns and counties throughout New York and New Jersey. 

Hudson's crew mutinied when he wanted to press further west, and put Hudson, his son, and others adrift in a small boat.  They were never seen again.  The Hudson's Bay Company, originally the Hudson's Bay Trading Company, is the oldest commercial corporation in North America, and one of the oldest in the world.

1867  Birth of British poet, novelist and short story writer, Ernest Dowson, associated with the Decadent Movement (d. 1900). Dowson was responsible for introducing a number of phrases into common usage, including 'days of wine and roses', and 'gone with the wind'.  Dowson's grave had suffered vandalism; a restored gravesite is to be unvelied today.

1869   Japan's samurai, farmer, artisan, merchant class system (Shinōkōshō) is abolished as part of the Meiji Restoration reforms. 

engraving of the tower subway
from the approximate opening date

1870   Tower Subway, the world's first underground tube railway, opens in London.

1932    The positron (antiparticle of the electron) is discovered by Carl D. Anderson.

1934    Hitler becomes Führer of Germany.  I would suggest to Penigma readers that the actual events relating to Nazis and Hitler should be kept in mind in view of the too casual and too frequent references made to them in the context of current politics. 

Reefer Madness,
made and distributed
in 1936
1937   The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 is passed in America, essentially rendering marijuana and all its by-products illegal.  The original act was an attempt by Andrew Mellon, William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont family to destroy the hemp industry.  It did not directly criminalize hemp, or marijuana / cannabis. Instead it taxed commercial dealings in hemp and cannabis.  The regulations and procedures directed by the Act, especially the penalties of $2,000 fine per offense and up to five years in jail for violations of the rules to produce these products, effectively criminalized it.  Much of the content of the hearings which resulted in passage of the Act subsequently turned out to be incorrect or inaccurate. Prior to 1937 marijuana products had been available over the counter legally for medicinal use.  In fact the American Medical Association opposed the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act at the time.  One of the AMA's objections was correctly that Marihuana was a slang term, and that the medical profession only recognized the more correct and common identification cannabis.
An example of the kind of statements that are now linked to racism and unfounded scare tactics about violence and sex supplied in large part by the author of the bill, Harry Anslinger, who was - not coincidentally - the head of the 1930's entity, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.  An explanation posited for his seeking to criminalize marijuana was to expand the scope of his agency, because there was insufficient activity in the original scope to serve his ambitions.  The kind of statements Anslinger used to justify making cannabis illegal, "There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.” Other statements by Anslinger include "…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.” and "In 1942, the United States Department of Agriculture had to encourage the cultivation of hemp, essentially trying to revive the dead commercial hemp agricultural industry, with a film "Hemp for Victory" during WW II because it was needed for the war effort.  Parts of the Act were found to be unconstitutional, violating 5th Amendment rights.  The Act was repealed in 1970, and superseded by other Acts against Cannabis.  The passage of anti-Marijuana laws was closely linked historically to issues relating to illegal Mexican immigration as much as it was linked to concerns about drug use and abuse.  The original variant spelling, Marihuana, is continued in more recent legislation, as in HR 3037, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005.
"Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” My personal favorite of his faux statements-as-fact, “Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing”.

1939   Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd write a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to begin the Manhattan project to develop a nuclear weapon.

1943  Rebellion in the Nazi death camp of Treblinka.
           World War II: PT-109 rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri and sinks. Lt. John F. Kennedy, future U.S. President, saves all but two of his crew.

U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin
in 1966

1964   Gulf of Tonkin Incident, technically, the second Gulf of Tonkin  incident is claimed to have taken place.  Allegations that North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired on U.S. destroyers, USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy became the basis for the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which granted broad discretionary powers to President Lyndon Johnson to provide aid to any south east Asian government deemed in jeopardy from "communist aggression".   In fact, no such incident or attack ever occurred; it was purely the legal basis for Johnson to deploy extensive U.S. military forces and to begin open war against North Viet Nam.  Daniel Ellsberg was on duty at the Pentagon when this occurred, and it became part of his secretly released Pentagon Papers.  The New York Times, in reference to the Pentagon Papers wrote  they  "demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance".  Which provides an interesting precedent to interpreting a variety of recent history, from the claims about the Iraq War, to the recent wikileaks of 97,000 classified documents.

1980   A bomb exploded at the railway station in Bologna, Italy, killing 85 people and wounding more than 200.   The bomb was an IED placed in a suitcase.  Originally believed to be an act of the terrorist group the Red Brigades, it was later attributed to Neo-Fascists. Known in Italy as the Bologna Massacre, when the train station was rebuilt, certain parts of the original were retained, including the station's main clock which stopped at the time of the actual explosion in memoriam to those who died in the terrorist attack.

1989   Pakistan was re-admitted back into the Commonwealth of Nations, for restoring democracy after a military coup led to a series of  military dictatorship from 1958 to 1972, and then a second coup and subsequent dictatorships from 1972 to 1988, with the occasional civil war in the mix of events.

1990   Iraq invades Kuwait, eventually leading to conflict with coalition forces in the Gulf War.

2000   Republicans nominated Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president and Dick Cheney for vice president at the party's convention in Philadelphia.

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