Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
It’s going to be a Sousa weekend here. The piece above is one I bet you haven’t heard before. President Chester A. Arthur ordered Sousa to compose a replacement for 1812’s “Hail to the Chief,” which had announced Presidents since John Quincy Adams, although it went in and out of fashion. (President Polk, it is said, always had “Hail to the Chief” played because he was so physically unimpressive that nobody noticed when he entered a room without the fanfare!) After Arthur left office, Presidents returned to to”Hail to Chief,” and Eisenhower made it the official tune of the office in 1954.
1. A First Amendment stretch. Julian Assange has been indicted. Good. He conspired with a weak-minded and troubled soldier to prompt him, now her, to steal U.S. secrets so he could publish them and promote his anarchist website, Wikileaks. The act almost certainly got U.S. agents killed and did other irreparable harm. Assange isn’t a journalist, and publishing stolen classified information isn’t journalism. Naturally journalists are lining up to defend Assange, especially the New York Times, which was the beneficiary of the Pentagon Papers ruling. They see a conviction of Assange the way abortion zealots see bans on late-term abortions: a camel’s nose in the tent, the slippery slope.
The use of journalistic publications as illegal document laundering devices has always been the least compelling aspect of First Amendment protection of freedom of the Press. I have never believed that it was a wise and fair protection, and if Assange’s just desserts weaken the right of newspapers to publish troop movements, private citizens’ tax returns, and grand jury proceedings, good.
2. Did Conan O’Brien steal a writer’s jokes? You decide! Here is a joke Robert Kaseberg wrote on Twitter on June 9, 2015:
“Three towns, two in Texas, one in Tennessee, have streets named after Bruce Jenner, and now they have to consider changing them to Caitlyn. And one will have to change from a Cul-De-Sac to a Cul-De-Sackless.”
The very same night on “Conan,” O’Brien delivered this joke in his monologue:
“Some cities that have streets named after Bruce Jenner are trying to change the streets’ names to Caitlyn Jenner. If you live on Bruce Jenner cul-de-sac it will now be cul-de-no-sack.”
In an open letter , however, O’Brien announced that he and Kaseberg, had agreed to “resolve our dispute amicably,” meaning that they arrived at a settlement. That doesn’t prove that O’Brien or his writers ripped off the jokes.
I suspect that jokes are an area where multiple people have the same idea simultaneously with great frequency, and that joke stealing is extremely hard to prove. I tend to believe O’Brien regarding the Jenner joke simply because Kaseberg’s joke is better constructed; cul-de-no-sack isn’t as funny as cul-de-sackless. If you are going to steal a joke, and it’s going to be obvious that you did, at least maintain its quality.
3. Wow! Here’s one for the Author and Editor Incompetence Hall of Fame, “Bias Makes You Stupid” wing! Feminist author Naomi Wolf’s upcoming book, “Outrages,” states that dozens of men were executed in Great Britain for having homosexual relationships long after the practice was believed to have ended. BBC radio host Matthew Sweet told her on-air that her thesis was wrong, and that she constructed her book around a misreading of official British court lingo.
“I don’t think you’re right about this,” Sweet said in the interview, noting that all of the cases Wolf cited resulted in sentences of “death recorded,” but that didn’t mean that anyone was actually executed. It was a legal term of the times that allowed judges to avoid executions in capital cases.
“I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened,” Sweet told Wolf. After a long pause, Wolf said, “Well, that’s a really important thing to investigate.”
Actually, it was a really important thing to investigate before she wrote the book.
4. Will the madness never end? OK, quick: what’s offensive about the Massachusetts coat of arms, which decorates the state flag?
Any ideas? The design has been used in the Commonwealth since the Revolutionary War, though it was only made official in 1908. The Algonquian Native American with the arrow pointing down (to symbolize peace) is believed Wampanoag tribe chief Ousamequin, who signed the first treaty between the tribe and the Pilgrims in 1621. The state motto Ense Petit Placidam, Sub Libertate Quietem (“By the Sword We Seek Peace, But Peace Only Under Liberty”) surrounds the picture, and above the shield is an arm holding said sword, both arm and sword supposedly belonging to Myles Standish.
Boy, they had to work overtime being offended by this one, but nevertheless, Harvard declared the flag “offensive” and demanded its replacement, and apparently the fact that the university is now officially bats, legislators are taking this as an order, and the flag is considered doomed. Hartman Deetz, a spokesperson for the Wampanoag tribe, told WGBH that Standish’s ARM “represents the death of native people. He represents the threat of the sword, the threat of arms to enforce the will and the place of colonists here to be able to take from us our land and our home.”
Whatever you say, Hartman. Once the design is gone. there will be nothing to remind anyone that your tribe even existed, or played any role in the establishment of the Massachusetts colony.