Sunday, July 26, 2015

That headline, Wikipedia, is HORRIBLY MISLEADING.

Frankly, there was no two-month American "bombardment" of Puerto Rico.

The first engagement of any kind between U.S. and Spanish forces in Puerto Rico occurred on May 10. The USS Yale, an ocean liner converted to naval ship, captured a Spanish cruiser, the Rita, in San Juan harbor on May 8. A second Spanish ship attacked the Yale on May 9, and the Spanish shore batteries fired on the Yale on May 10, driving her off.

A single bombardment of the capital of San Juan occurred on May 12, 1898. The U.S. North Atlantic Squadron sailed into the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, where it was believed that the Spanish Atlantic Squadron had anchored. The Spanish were not there (having sailed directly to Santiago de Cuba, a port in Cuba), but Rear Admiral William T. Sampson orders the city bombed anyway. Somewhere between nine and 39 people died, including one Spanish soldier. One American sailor was killed. Destruction was scattered and light.

The tragedy of the bombardment of San Juan was that it was completely unnecessary. Sampson had no orders to bombard the city, and any U.S. invasion was months (perhaps as much as a year) off. Cuba was the first concern. At any rate, at least the damage and loss of life was minimal.

A naval engagement -- but not a bombardment -- occured on June 22, when the cruiser USS Saint Paul, commanded by Captain Charles D. Sigsbee (former commander of the USS Maine), disabled the Spanish Navy destroyer Terror while blockading San Juan, Puerto Rico. No attack on the island occurred.

Another naval engagement -- but not a bombardment -- occured on June 28. President McKinley extended the American naval blockade of Cuba to include a blockade of Puerto Rico. The cruiser USS Yosemite attacked the Spanish Navy transport Antonio Lopez, which was defended by the Spanish cruisers Isabel II and Alfonso XIII. Although the Antonio Lopez ran aground near the city of San Juan and was destroyed, most of her cargo (including heavy artillery) was saved by the Spanish. (The Antonio Lopez would be shelled and destroyed by the USS New Orleans on July 15.)

And that's it. Period. No "over two months of bombardment". Spanish forces in Cuba capitulated on July 17 after the Siege of Santiago de Cuba -- which effectively ended land combat in Cuba for the duration of the war. (Five very, very minor naval and ship-to-shore engagements occurred thereafter.)

The American land invasion of Puerto Rico began on July 25 when U.S. forces came ashore at Guánica. No shots were fired. On July 27, three U.S. Navy ships secured the surrender of the city of Ponce, and again no shots were fired. The port of Arroyo surrendered without a fight on August 1.

And that's it. All other combat in Puerto Rico was land-based and involved no naval vessels. The U.S. and Spain signed an armistice on August 12, and the last battle fought in Puerto Rico occurred near the town of Las Marías when U.S. and Spanish forces briefly skirmished. (Three military engagements still occurred, however. The USS Newark, USS Hist, USS Suwanee, USS Alvarado, and USS Osceola -- at sea and not aware of the armistice -- bombarded the Cuban port of Manzanillo and captured it the night of August 12-13. News of the armistice did not reach the Philippines in time, and U.S. troops captured the city of Manila on August 13. On August 14, the USS Mangrove fired on two Spanish Navy ships off Caibarién, Cuba. The Spanish surrendered, and explained that an armistice has been signed.)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Today would have been Emmett Till's 74th birthday.

Emmett Louis Till was the son of Louis and Mamie (nee Carthan) Till, born July 25, 1941, in Chicago. His parents separated in 1942, and Mamie and her mother. (The separation was caused by Louis' infideltiy. He later assaulted Mamie, and when he violated court orders to stay away from her, a judge gave him the choice of enlisting or prison. He enlisted, and was executed in Italy in 1945 after being convicted of rape and murder by a court-martial.) When he was six, Emmett contracted polio, and although he made a full recovery the illness left him with a persistent stutter.

Emmett was extremely bright, often acting much more mature than he was. He engaged in numerous schemes to earn money, eagerly helped his mother with chores and home piece-work, and dressed extremely well. He also bragged a lot, making exaggerated claims about his home life, schooling, wealth, and experiences. He was also robust child: At the age of 14, he weighed 150 pounds, was naturally muscular, and was 5'4" tall.

In the summer of 1955, Mamie's uncle, 64-year-old Mose Wright (a sharecropper and part-time preacher), visited her and Emmett in Chicago. Emmett was thrilled by stories of the Mississippi Delta, and his mother agreed to allow him to visit Mississippi.

Mamie warned Emmett repeatedly that Money, Mississippi, was not like Chicago. She lectured him extensively on how to behave: If a white person approached him on the sidewalk, he was to step into the street. He was to walk with his eyes cast at the ground at all times. He was never to speak to a white person, unless spoken to. He should never talk back to a white person. He could not shop in white stores. He must not be seen in town after dark. And much more... Emmett said he agreed.

Emmett arrived in Money on August 21. On August 24, he and a cousin, Curtis Jones, skipped church and went into town. That afternoon, they entered Bryant's Grocery (which catered to black sharecroppers) to buy candy. Twenty-one-year-old Carolyn was alone in the store at the cash register. Jones left Till in the store with the other boys. According to Jones, Till bragged about his integrated school in Chicago, and that he had a white girlfriend. One of the boys then dared Till to speak to Carolyn.

What happened next is unclear. Till may have wolf-whistled at Bryant. (But there is also evidence that Till sometimes whistled to overcome his stuttering.) Till may have grabbed Bryant's hand and asked her for a date. Till may have grabbed her hand and said "Bye, baby" or "You needn't be afraid of me, baby, I've been with white women before." Carolyn Bryant herself said that Till made sexual advances and asked "How about a date, baby?", and when she tried to move away he grabbed her waist and said "What's the matter baby, can't you take it?" Bryant claimed to have freed herself, after which Till told her "You needn't be afraid of me, baby," asked her to "fuck", and said "I've been with white women before." Till's cousin, Simeon Wright, challenged Bryant's version of events, noting that he was gone less than a minute and that when he re-entered the store he saw no inappropriate behavior and heard no lecherous conversation. Wright said Till paid for his items and left. An anonymous source interviewed by the FBI also confirmed Wright's account.

Not in dispute is what happened next: Bryant ran outside to her car and retrieved a pistol, and the teenagers fled across the street. Till whistled as she did so, but it is unclear if he was wolf-whistling at Bryant or whistling about a checkers game he was observing across the street.

One of the boys told Curtis Jones what happened. An older black man present urged the boys to run home, and they ddi so. Meanwhile, Bryant told her friends and family about what happened. Jones and Till decided not to tell Mose Wright what happened, fearing they would get in trouble for skipping church. That evening, a frightened Till told Jones he wanted to go home to Chicago.

Twenty-four-year-old Roy Bryant returned from a fishing trip on the morning of August 27, and was enraged. During the day, he aggressively questioned several young black men who entered his store. That evening, Bryant and a friend kidnapped a young black man walking along a road. He was released a few hours later after the young man's family vouched for his whereabouts on August 24, and Carolyn's friends said he was not the one who had accosted Roy's wife. Somehow, Bryant learned that the young black man he sought was from Chicago and staying with Mose Wright. Bryant and his 36-year-old half-brother J.W. Milam then discussed kiddnapping Till.

Some time between 2:00 AM and 3:30 AM on August 28, Roy Bryant, Milam (armed with a pistol), and another man drove to Mose Wright's house. They entered the two-bedroom cabin and demanded the "boy from Chicago". Mose took them to Till. Bryant asked Till if he'd spoken to Carolyn in the store, and Till replied, "Yeah." As Till dressed, the men threatened to kill Wright if he told the sherrif about the kidnapping. Till's great-aunt offered the men money to leave Till alone, but they did not reply to her offer.

Till was put in the back of Bryant's pickup truck and driven to a barn at the Clint Shurden Plantation in the nearby village of Drew. The men confronted Till and pistol-whipped him. They threw him in the back of the truck again, and covered him with a tarp. Just where the men went next is unclear. There is some evidence that they took Till to a shed behind Milam's home, and beat him for the next hour or two. By now, Bryant and Milam had picked up two to four other white men. Eyewitnesses even assert that two to four black men were also accompanying him. The group drove tossed the unconscious Till back in the bed of the pickup truck and covered him with the tarp again. They drove to Bryant's store, where several people noticed blood pooling in the bed of the truck. Bryant said he'd he killed a deer. He also showed the body to one black man, and said "that's what happens to smart niggers".

By now it was early daylight. Bryant and Milam drove to a cotton mill, where they seized a 70-pound set of fan blades and some barbed wire. They then drove for several miles along the Tallahatchie River. They finally stopped, shot Till behind the right ear, stripped him, used the barbed wire to tie the fan to his body, and tossed him in the river.

Meanwhile, Mose Wright was frantic. He assumed the men would just scare and beat Till, and waited 20 minutes for them to return. When they did not, he and another man drove around trying to find Till. They returned home at 8:00 AM. Fearing for his life, Wright refused to call the police, but a terrified Curtis Jones called the Leflore County sheriff and his own mother in Chicago. Distraught, Curtis' mother called Mamie Till. (Later, Mose and Elizabeth Wright drove to Sumner to talk things over with Elizabeth's brother. He immediately contacted the sheriff.)

Leflore County Sheriff George Smith questioned Bryant and Milam. They admitted kidnapping Till but claimed they had released him some hours later in front of Bryant's store. Bryant and Milam were arrested for kidnapping. A frantic Mamie Till contacted the NAACP, which believed that publicity would save Till's life. Medgar Evers, field secretary for the Mississippi state NAACP, disguised himself as a cotton picker and went into the cotton fields in an attempt to learn what happened to Till.

On August 31, Till's body was found by two boys fishing in the Tallahatchie River. His body was badly decomposed, and his head mangled by the beating and gunshot wound. He was identified by the silver ring he wore, and its inscription. Mose Wright identified the body. There was no post-mortem.

Till's murder electrified the country. The beating and murder of a 14-year-old boy visiting the Deep South shocked the nation, which was inured to the casual violence, lynching, beating, and harassment of African Ameicans. Fearing her son would be vilified by the press, Mamie allowed the press to publish a picture of a smiling, well-dressed Emmett taken at Christmas 1954. The photograph was printed throughout the United States, garnering sympathy of Till.

The state of Mississippi attempted to bury Emmett's body immediately, which would have essentially hidden the extent of the crime. (The state would never have granted a disinterrment order.) But Mamie demanded that the body be sent to Chicago, and angry officials in Illinois supported her claim. Mississippi grudgingly packed the body in lime and shipped it by rail to Chicago.

Local opinion swiftly turned against Bryant and Milam. Mississippi governor Hugh L. White, local newspapers, local county police, and even many whites denounced the crime and asked for a thorough prosecution.

Till's body arrived in Chicago to a massive crowd. Mamie swooned as her boy's corpse was taken from the train, and pictures of the event were widely published. The A.A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago oversaw the funeral. The stench of Till's body was noticeable two blocks away. Mamie decided on an open-casket funeral, saying "There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see." A glass-topped coffin was provided for the funeral.

Tens of thousands of people visited the mortuary to view Till's body, and thousands more attended his funeral on September 6 at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. Mamie DEMANDED that photographs of his mutilated corpse lying in its coffin be taken, and they were published in Jet magazine and The Chicago Defender newspaper (both black-owned publications, aimed at black readers). The photographs outraged Chicago's black community, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and Illinois Governor William Stratton demanded that the killers be brought to justice, and mainstream newspapers nationwide commented on the publication.

Mississippi became defensive about it perceived to be "Northern" interference in a local matter. Mississippi newspapers falsely reported riots at the Rayner funeral home, ran photos of Bryant and Milam in military uniform, began running stories about Carolyn Bryant's beauty and virtue, and claimed outraged blacks and northern whites were going to invade Leflore County. Tallahatchie County Sheriff Clarence Strider said he doubted that the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River was Till's, and speculated Till was still alive and being hidden by the NAACP.

Bryant and Milam were indicted for murder, even though the local prosecutor doubted a jury would ever return a verdict of guilty.

The trial began on September 18, 1955. The defense argued that the body pulled from the river was not Till's, and that Mose Wright could never have positively identified Bryant and Milam as the men who took Till.

No black man in Mississippi had ever dared challenge a white man in court. When asked by the defense to identiy the kidnapper, Wright stood, pointed to Milam, and loudly announced "Thar he!" Photographer Ernest Withers secretly defied the judge's orders against photography in the courtroom, and caught the dramatic moment on film. Historian Christopher Benson said Wright had "crossed a line that no one could remember a black man ever crossing in Mississippi". A reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote that it was "the most dramatic thing I saw in my career".

Mamie Till also testified, with the defense insinuating that she'd had her own son killed to get a $400 life insurance policy. Eyewitnesses testified to hearing Till beg for mercy while being beatenin Milam's shed, while Sheriff Strider testified that the body retrieved from the river was white.

On September 23, the all-white jury acquitted both defendants after 67 minutes. One juror said, "If we hadn't stopped to drink pop, it wouldn't have taken that long." In later interviews, the jurors acknowledged that Bryant and Milam were guilty, but did not believe life imprisonment or the death penalty was a fit punishment for whites who had killed a black man.

In November 1955, a grand jury declined to indict Bryant and Milam for kidnapping, despite the testimony given that they had admitted taking Till.

Fleeing white retribution, Mose Wright and two other black witnesses relocated to Chicago.

In October 1955, the Jackson Daily News reported the facts about Louis Till's rapes and murder. (It was the first Mamie knew of this, as the Army had previously only told her that he'd been executed for "willful misconduct".) Mississippi senators James Eastland and John C. Stennis then released Army records about Louis Till's crimes. More articles were written about Louis Till in Mississippi than about Emmett Till, and most whites in the state believed that Emmett had inherited his father's depraved traits.

Bryant and Milam told their story to Look magazine in 1956 for $4,000. Protected by constitutional prohibition against double-jeopardy, the two gleefully told how they'd kidnapped Till, brutally beaten him, and how Milam shot him in the head. Reaction to the interview was explosive. Their brazen admission led directly to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which allowed the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in local law cases when civil rights were being compromised.

In Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white bus rider, sparking a year-long grassroots boycott of the public bus system. Parks later said, "I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn't go back." Till's murder influenced Harper Lee's rendition of the character Tom Robinson in her novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

Support for Bryant and Milam swiftly eroded in Mississippi after the interview. They were ostracized, their shops went bankrupt, and banks refused them loans. Both relocated to Texas, but eventually returned to Mississippi. Milam operated heavy equipment operator, was convicted of a wide variety of petty crimes, and died of spinal cancer in 1980 at the age of 61. Bryant worked as a welder, went blind, divorced Carolyn, remarried in 1980, opened a store, and was twice convicted of food stamp fraud. He died of cancer in 1994 at the age of 63. In 1882, he told an interviewer that Emmett Till had ruined his life: "Emmett Till is dead. I don't know why he can't just stay dead."

Carolyn Bryant remarried and still lives in Greenville, Mississippi. As of 2015, she's 87 years old. She has never spoken about the events in the store.

Mamie Till married Gene Mobley, became a teacher, and changed her surname to Till-Mobley. She spent the rest of her life working to educate people about her son's murder. She died of heart failure on January 6, 2003, at the age of 81. The same year, her autobiography Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America, was published.

Mose Wright died in 1966, never having returned to Mississippi. Simeon Wright is now 73 and Curtis Jones is now 75. Both men live in Chicago.

Unresolved questions as to who was involved in the murder and cover-up led federal authorities to try to resolve the questions about Emmett Till's murder. Till's body was exhumed and an autopsy conducted by the Cook County coroner in 2005. DNA, dental records, and other analysis positively identified the body as Till's. The autopsy also revealed Till had a broken left leg, and two broken wrists.

The house where 14-year-old Emmett Till was abducted in the dead of night is long gone. The Bryant store still exists, but is in a severe state of decay. Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ, site of Till's funeral, is still open and holds services every Sunday.

Emmett Till's name is inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, as one of 40 martyrs to the civil rights cause. In 1991, a 7-mile stretch of 71st Street in Chicago was renamed "Emmett Till Road". McCosh Elementary School in Chicago, where Till had been a student, was renamed the "Emmett Louis Till Math And Science Academy" in 2005. The "Emmett Till Memorial Highway" was dedicated between Greenwood and Tutwiler, Mississippi, the same route his body took to the train station on its way to Chicago. In 2007, Tallahatchie County issued a formal apology to Till's family, recognizing the terrible miscarriage of justice. In 2008, Congress enacted the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act, which authorized the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights-era murders.

In July 2009, a manager and three workers at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois, were charged with digging up bodies, dumping them in a remote area, and reselling the plots. Hundreds of remains were cast aside. Till's grave was not disturbed, but law enforcement discovered the original glass-topped casket rusting in a dilapidated storage shed. The coffin was supposed to have been placed in storage for safekeeping at a planned Emmett Till memorial museum. The cemetery manager, who administered the museum fund, pocketed the donations.

Relatives of Mamie Till-Mobley donated the casket to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The casket will go on display when the museum opens in 2016.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I feel crappy. I'm achy all over, didn't sleep well last night, am completely lethargic, and my eyes are itchy and red. My cold is going gangbusters... Took some cold meds to keep the stuffy nose at bay, which is helping.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Many people are upset that Harper Lee had a much different Atticus Finch in mind before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. That Lee has agreed to publish Go Set A Watchman says something about authorial intent -- that the Mockingbird Atticus wasn't meant to be the final statement about the character. Lee could have said, "I'll publish the book, but only as a 'what might have been'." But she hasn't said that, which I think indicates her intent: She sees Watchman as a sequel to Mockingbird.

Many fans of Mockingbird are really upset. But let's be frank: It's not as if authors haven't radically re-invented their works before.

I think what's fueling a lot of the anger is the 55-year gap between Mockingbird and Watchman, which left readers making (reasonable) strong assumptions about the characters. Had Lee published "Watchman" in 1962, these decades of cultural assumption would never have piled up.

Is it upsetting when an author runs a beloved novel off the rails? Yes.

But that is every author's right.

As a reader, I am critical of everything I read. Not all of it is good. No one dispute's an author's right to their own vision, but I can also critique that vision and say, "You should have stopped here" or "that last novel shouldn't have been written"... or even "Boy, that stinks! I'll never read a second book of theirs!" I do not need to uncritically imbibe everything an author puts out. I make choices as a reader about what to read. I judge.

Yet, at the same time, it's important for a reader to keep an open mind. I may not like what an author has done. But I need to remain open to seeing the truth of it. An emotional reaction shouldn't be my only one -- especially if my reaction to the first novel was incredibly powerful.

Characters do change. And sometimes that change is not for the better. And yet, I may not "like" the change, but at some level -- the author's writing skill, the good rationales for the character's change, the need for the change, the consistency of the change with what went before -- a reader should acknowledge that the changes were good, even required.

Like film, I shouldn't just react emotionally to a novel. "I liked it" is not good enough. When it comes to film, there are issues of aesthetics, technical skill, craft, and art to consider. A viewer should be able to address cinematography, editing, sound, music, acting, even direction. Someone who really cares about cinema will try to learn the vocabulary of cinema, and the various elements that go into making a good film.

All of that is entirely apart from whether it spoke to a viewer on an emotional level. Many films "speak" on an emotional level, but completely suck from a cinema perspective. The verso is true as well. And when it comes to superb film, it works on both levels.

A novel is much the same.

I can appreciate a film that never speaks to me. I should be able to appreciate a novel that doesn't speak to me, either.

I wonder how many people desperately in love with To Kill a Mockingbird will remain open-minded enough to try to see the aesthetic, technical, and other kills which go into Go Set A Watchman and judge them honestly.

Monday, July 13, 2015

It was the best thing I ever did in my life, as every gay person will tell you. I grew up overnight, and I was born again. Everything went better, and it felt as if a great millstone had dropped from my back that I didn't know had been there.
- Ian McKellan, on coming out of the closet
YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Washington Blade used my photo of two hunky guys at the Watergate Steps to illustrate this article on "Breaking a Sweat in Washington, D.C."

Michael Bay is going to remake Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. God help us...

July 13, 1793 – Charlotte Corday stabbed to death Jean-Paul Marat, a leader in both the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, in his bathtub.

Later that year, French master-painter Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat -- one of the greatest paintings of the 18th century.

Marat was born in Boudry in the Prussian Principality of Neuchâtel (now Switzerland) on May 24, 1743. He was short and profoundly ugly, and his middle-class parents gave him an educated upbringing. He left home for France at the age of 16, he studied medicine in Paris, and two years later emigrated to England. He earned a medical degree from the University of St Andrews in 1775, while writing radical leftist political tracts and mingling with artists. He returned to Paris, and in 1777 was named physician to the bodyguard of the comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's youngest brother. He became a noted scientist, working in a wide range of fields (including optics).

Marat's outrage at how the common people (the Third Estate) were treated never waned, however. In 1788, he quit all his medical and scientific posts and began writing inflammatory tracts attacking the nobility, press, clergy, and Constituent Assembly. By this time, he was suffering from dermatitis herpetiformis, a chronic and painful blistering skin condition that covered most of his torso and head.

Marat founded a newspaper, Friend of the People (L'ami peuple), where he continued his radical attacks on the establishment. Under attack by the nobility, he hid in the Paris sewers in 1790, continuing to publish his newspaper.

Marat emerged from hiding only during the insurrection of 10 August 1792 -- one of the defining events of the French Revolution. A nobleman had called for harsh repression of the Revolution, and the National Guard and Third Estate stormed the Tuileries Palace. King Louis XVI and the royal family were forced to seek protection from the Legislative Assembly and the monarchy was suspended in favor of a new National Convention. The next month, the September Massacres occured as thousands of political prisoners across France were killed by the National Guard for fear that these monarchists would escape and raise armies to stop the Revolution.

Marat was elected to the National Convention in September 1792. France was declared a republic on September 22, and immediately put the deposed king Louis XVI on trial. Marat was fiercely independent, and said it was unfair to try Louis for any crimes committed before his speech in which he accepted the French Constitution of 1791. Nevertheless, he called for Louis' death.

Louis XVI was guillotined on January 2, 1793. Political turmoil followed as the Revolution was no longer unified in its opposition to the king. A very significant minority of the National Convention belonged to the Jacobin Club, a group which supported republicanism, the rule of law, radical reform of French society and economics, banishment of Catholic clergy, and war with Austria (whom they felt would eventually invade France to restore the monarchy).

There were two factions in the Jacobin Club, the Girondists (who wanted war) and the more radical Montagnards (who wanted radical domestic reform first). The Montagnards were led by Maximilien Robespierre, a politician and lawyer. A series of parliamentary maneuvers allowed the Montagnards to seize more and more power in the National Convention, and in May 1793 they fostered a coup (backed by the Paris mob) in which they toppled the government and began the Reign of Terror. Thousands would be guillotined (including 200 Girondist leaders), and the Montagnards would establish a "Republic of Virtue" in which almost every aspect of French society was reformed (right down to the name of months, and whether women should breastfeed). The Reign of Terror itself collapsed in July 1794, after which the Jacobin Club -- now leaderless -- ceased to exist.

It was as the Montagnards rose to power that Marat began his most vicious attacks on the Girondists, whom he felt were betraying the Revolution and seeking a restoration of the monarchy. Although not a Montagnard, he allied with them and began calling for the Third Estate to rise up and eliminate the Girondists. The Girondists managed to have him arrested, but Marat gave such a decisive and powerful speech during his trial that he was acquitted of all charges.

Charlotte Corday was a member of a minor aristocratic family in Normandy, born in 1768. Nuns took care of her when her mother died, and she read extensively in their library -- which included the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. She moved to Caen, where she inherited some wealth upon the death of her cousin.

Corday became increasingly influenced by Girondist newspapers and political tracts, and was horrified by the September Massacres of 1792. On July 9, 1793, Corday moved to Paris, where she rented a room at the Hôtel de Providence and bought a six-inch kitchen knife. She planned to assassinate Marat in front of the entire National Convention, but discovered that his skin disease had so disabled him that he no longer attended its meetings.

Just before noon on July 13, Corday appeared at Marat's home, claiming to have knowledge of a Girondist plot. Marat's wife turned her away. She returned that evening, and Marat told a servant to admit her. To alleviate the pain from his skin disease, Marat spent most of his time in a large copper bathtub, his head wrapped in a bandage soaked in vinegar. Corday was admitted to Marat's bathing room. He asked her to write down the names of the Girondist plotters, and she did so. This apparently put the servants at ease, who withdrew.

Then she pulled out the knife and plunged it into his chest, piercing his lung and heart. He called out, "Aidez-moi, ma chère amie!" ("Help me, my dear friend!") and died. Servants rushed in, and Corday -- who offered no resistance -- was arrested.

Marat was buried at the cemetery of the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.

Charlotte Corday was put on trial the same day. She defended herself in Girondist style, declaring that Marat was fostering a civil war. "I knew that he was perverting France. I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand!" she declared. On July 17, 1793, Corday was found guilty and guillotined a few hours later. Her corpse was disposed of in a mass grave in Madeleine Cemetery.

The assassination of Marat helped fueld the Montagnard coup, bringing about the very Reign of Terror which Charlotte Corday had hoped to avoid.

Marat's tub was in the shape of an old-fashioned high-buttoned shoe and had a copper lining. After Marat's death, his wife sold to a neighbor, who sold it to the writer Saint-Hilaire. It was inherited by his daughter, who sold it to a French clergyman. The clergyman sold the tub to the Musée Grévin, where it remains today.
YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thrillist used my photo of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery for this article on "53 free things to do in Washington, D.C."

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Something About Science used my photo of a panda at the San Diego Zoo eating bamboo for this article on "Pandas are lazy – for a good reason"!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Neil Thomas (aka Terry Gardner [another pseudonym]) was born May 19, 1969, in Riverside, California. He is of Dutch/German descent, and stands a whopping 5'7" tall. When he was 19, he got into adult film -- instantly zooming to the top of the heap.

He did 24 films in three years, and then bailed. Some of his performances (like those in Head of the Class 2, Rites of Winter, Foxhole, Private Workout, Revenge: More Than I Can Take, and Stiff Competition) are simply astounding. He had a really spectacularly long, thick cock and the ability to pump as many as 15 spurts as far as three or four feet. His performance in Private Workout is astonishing -- as is Ric Ricer's cumshot. Neil returned to make one more film, in 1997, and then left the business again.

He lives in Seattle now, and under his real name is on Facebook, even.

I had a huge huge huge crush on him.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts originally required the Argonne Cross Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery to be landscaped by 19 pine trees planted in an arc behind the memorial and that a "street of grass" lined with deciduous trees should lead to the memorial from Grant Avenue -- but that all of these trees are now gone, and the memorial is no longer landscaped?

Monday, July 6, 2015

July 6, 1892 -- The Homestead Strike, one of the greatest labor strikes in American history, culminates with a pitched gun battle between striking steelworkers at the Homestead Works in Homestead, Pa. (a suburb of Pittsburgh).

The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (the AA) was an American labor union formed in 1876 which represented skilled iron and steel workers. Workers at the Homestead Works organized a union under the AA's auspicies in 1882. Determined to break the union, steel mill owner Andrew Carnegie placed the brutal Henry Clay Frick in charge of the Homestead plant. With the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on June 30, 1892, Frick demanded a 22 percent wage cut, and then locked out the workers on June 28. Frick swiftly built sniper towers along the plant walls, and installed cannons capable of spewing boiling-hot water at key points near the gates.

The union announced an immediate strike in response, and more than 5,000 picketers ringed the plant and refused to allow supervisors or strikebreakers access to it.

Frick had planned for this. A month earlier, he had contracted for 300 armed Pinkerton Detective Agency thugs to be imported to Pittsburgh. Now he armed each one with a shotgun, loaded them on barges, and tried to have them land on the plant's unprotected riverbank at 2:30 AM. No one knows who shot first, but within 10 minutes there were 12 dead (three of them Pinkertons) and and twice as many wounded.

During the rest of the night, the strikers huddled behind the pig and scrap iron in the mill yard, and built a rampart out of finished steel which they used for protection while firing down at the barges. The Pinkertons cut holes in the side of the barges so they could fire on any who approached. Hundreds of women crowded on the riverbank between the strikers and the "detectives", calling on the strikers to "kill the Pinkertons!" More than 5,000 local townspeople congregated on the hills overlooking the steelworks.

The Pinkertons attempted to disembark again at 8:00 AM. A firefight again broke out, and four strikers were killed. Many of the Pinkerton agents refused to participate in the firefight any longer and crowded onto the barge farthest from shore. More than 300 striking riflemen positioned themselves on the high ground and kept a steady stream of fire on the barges.

In the afternoon, the strikers attempted to burn the barges by loading a raft with oil-soaked timber and floating it toward the barges. But the fire burned itself out before it reached the barges. The strikers then loaded a railroad flatcar with drums of oil, set it afire, and rolled it down the rails toward the mill wharf where the barges were docked. But the car stopped at the water's edge and burned itself out. Dynamite was thrown at the barges, but it only hit the mark once and caused little damage. The workers even poured oil onto the river, hoping the oil slick would burn the barges, but attempts to light the slick failed.

At 5:00 PM, the Pinkertons surrendered. They were taken to the Homestead opera house, running a gauntlet of jeering people who hurled rocks and bottles at them, beat them, and spat on them. The press -- once sympathetic to the strikers -- was horrified by the attacks, and started condemning the strike. A special train whisked the Pinkerton agents out of the city at 10:00 AM on July 7.

Behind the scenes, the AA was desperately trying to convince Governor Robert E. Pattison that law and order had been restored. Pattison, who had been elected with the backing of the Carnegie-supported political machine, called out the state militia to break the strike.

The militia arrived secretly at Homestead on July 12, six days after the violence had ended. More than 4,000 soldiers surrounded the plant, arresting all strikers they could find. Another 2,000 troops camped on the high ground overlooking the city. On July 18, the town was placed under martial law, even though no additional violence had occurred and the strike had been broken for a week.

Support for the strikers evaporated. The state militia stayed in Homestead until October 13, a 95-day occupation. The Homestead chapter of the AA voted to return to work on November 20, 1892. But no union members were ever rehired.

The Homestead strike broke the AA as a force in the American labor movement. Organizing drives at the Homestead plant in 1896 and again in 1899 were borth crushed by Frick. Emboldened by Frick's actions, other steel plants also broke their unions. By 1900, not a single steel plant in Pennsylvania remained unionized.

The AA maintained a rump membership of a few hundred workers, scattered in plants nationwide, until its takeover by the Steel Workers Organizing Committee in 1936.

In 1999, the Bost Building -- the AA's headquarters throughout the strike -- was designated a National Historic Landmark. It is used as a museum devoted to not only the strike but the steel industry in the Pittsburgh area. A railroad bridge over the Monongahela near the site of the battle is named Pinkerton's Landing Bridge in honor of the dead.

The site where the Pinkertons attempted to land is both a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark and a Pennsylvania State Landmark. The cemeteries of St. Mary's and Homestead (where the remains of six of the seven dead workers are buried) are also both Pennsylvania State Landmarks.

WE DO NOT FORGET-------------------------------------

July 6, 1999 - 21-year-old Pvt. Barry Winchell dies after being beaten with a baseball bat by 18-year-old Pvt. Calvin Glover, assisted by 26-year-old Specialist Justin Fisher, for being "a fucking faggot".

Winchell had been assigned in early 1999 to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After Winchell's girlfriend dumped him, his roommate, Justin Fisher, took him to The Connection, a drag and transgender club in Nashville. There, Winchell met pre-operative MTF performer Calpernia Addams (an ex-Navy medic), and the two began to date.

Fisher swiftly began accusing Winchell of being gay, and he and Winchell had several fist-fights. Fisher did his best to ensure that others on the base believed Winchell was gay, and Winchell was viciously harassed for months. (Winchell later told the wife of a fellow soldier that he was gay.) In violation of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, Sgt. Michael Kleifgen launched a probe into Winchell's sexuality. Kleifgen's superior, Sgt. 1st Class Roger Seacrest, began to ask questions about Winchell's sexuality, too, and went on public tirades against "faggots" in the military. NCOs and officers later said they didn't stop the harassment because "everybody was having fun".

On July 4, Winchell and Glover had a fistfight which Glover lost. Fisher harassed Glover about being beaten by "a fucking faggot" like Winchell. At 2:00 AM on July 5, Glover took Fisher's baseball bat and beat Winchell's head in while he slept. Blood poured from his skull, brains oozed from the left side of his head, and the walls and floor were covered with crimson blood. Fisher panicked, and pulled the fire alarm as Glover tried to dispose of evidence and washed the bat. Winchell died of massive head injuries on July 6 at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The U.S. Army immediately tried to cover up the crime. Winchell's parents, Wally and Patricia Kutteles, were told he'd been kicked in the head by a steel-toed boot, while local news reporters said Winchell had been in a fight.

Fisher was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison in a plea-bargain agreement. He served seven years, and was released in October 2006. (The Kutteles called the sentence "shockingly lenient", but they were not part of the plea bargaining.)

Glover was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Although he initially served his sentence at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, he has since been transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Texarkana, a low-security U.S. federal prison for male inmates located at Texarkana, Tex. He will be eligible for parole in October 2019.

Major General Robert T. Clark refused to take responsibility for the virulently anti-gay climate at Fort Campbell, which he commanded. Although his promotion was delayed briefly, he was promoted to Lieutenant General in November 2003. He retired in 2007. No officer or NCO in the 101st Airborne was prosecuted or even reprimanded for the numerous violations of DADT that occurred in the Winchell case.

The U.S. Army was accused of turning the "don't ask, don't tell" policy into a witch-hunt against suspected gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender members of the military. An investigation into the homophobic at Ft. Campbell by Lt. Gen. Michael W. Ackerman exonerated all NCOs and officers at the base. Army brass said that if anti-gay harassment occurs, servicemembers should report it. But the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, an organization fighting to end DADT, said that such reports merely trigger investigations into a servicemember's sex life and more discharges for being homosexual.

A second investigation by Defense Secretary William S. Cohen found that that harassment of servicemen perceived to be gay was widespread throughout the military. The report included an action plan to end harassment of gays in the military. The plan was never implemented.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

America! America!
Please shed your cum on me!
And drown my face
And then thy cock emplace
'Twixt my buttocks 'til I squee!

America! America!
Please shed your cum on me!
And drown my face
And then thy cock emplace