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Friday Fun: The Absurd, The Serious, And The Useless In History Trivia (4/11/2008)

April 11, 2008

On this day in…

1775, “The last execution for witchcraft in Germany takes place.” … I wonder if Enlightenment scholars measure the beginning of their era from when the last person in the West was executed for this crime? If they don’t, perhaps they should.

1876, “The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is organized.” … This is today’s strongest candidate for the useless-information-of-the-day designation. I mean this isn’t even the founding date! See the first sentence in this Wikipedia entry for more.

1921, “Iowa became the first state to impose a cigarette tax.” … Midwestern common sense at its best.

1951, “President Truman relieved Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his commands in the Far East.” … This is one of the most important events in U.S. military and political history. It reasserted civilian control at a time when MacArthur was sounding and acting like Curtis LeMay would later. Although my dearly departed grandfather—a Korean War tank commander—would disagree with me on this, you might say that ~democracy~ made a stand at the Yalu River.

1970, “Apollo 13 blasted off on a mission to the moon that was cut short when an explosion crippled the spacecraft.” … You know what I want to say here: “_______, __ ____ _ _______.” Okay, that’s a dud. But we can joke about it because everything turned out okay.

1980, “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued regulations prohibiting sexual harassment of workers by supervisors.” … I wonder why it took so long for sexual harassment to become a legal issue? I know the answer is rooted in cultural changes, ethics, and psychology, but seriously. Women began replacing men as secretaries and clerks around 1900 (Sharon Hartman Strom has documented this), but it took 80 years for the tension to build before the law stepped in.

2002, “U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., D-Ohio [right], was convicted of taking bribes and kickbacks from businessmen and his own staff. (He was sentenced to eight years in prison.)” … Another pro-lifer who abused the public trust. An all-too-common happening among politicians. [Aside: Did he not have the worst toupee and clothing tastes?]

2007, “North Carolina’s top prosecutor dropped all charges against three former Duke University lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting a stripper at a party.” … What a sad affair—all the way around. – TL

[Sources: NYT, Wikipedia]

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