Many of the world’s languages are in deep trouble. There are about 6,000 of them at the moment, but they are dying out at the rate of one every two weeks as those who use them as a native tongue die and their children prefer to speak one of the major languages instead.
In the fall of 1914, as the newly born World War I raged in Europe, there was another, more quiet death in the Cincinnati Zoo. That day Martha, the last passenger pigeon on earth, breathed her last and fell lifeless to the bottom of her cage.
I can think of two examples off the top of my head of military actions that rational people would not have predicted. I don’t think Macedonian bonds would have sold well in Amsterdam when Alexander the not-yet-Great set out to conquer the Persian Empire. And would speculators have bet on Nimitz instead of Yamamoto before the Battle of Midway, even if they were in on the secret that Nimitz was reading the Japanese naval code?
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and current Republican presidential candidate, was on Fox News Sunday this morning. According to two polls, he is suddenly a contender in Iowa, despite having spent only a tiny fraction of what Mitt Romney has spent there. He is now running an amusing ad.
Paul Tibbets has died at the age of 92. He was a retired brigadier general in the Air Force, and his death would have been of interest chiefly to family and friends, except for one mission in a long military career. That one mission, however, earned him a reefer on the front page of the New York Times.
It was twenty years ago today Black Monday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 508 points, or 22.6 percent, on a record volume of 600 million shares, three times the previous volume record. The equivalent numbers today would be more than 3000 points on the Dow and a volume of around fifteen billion.The market had been very strong for months. It began 1987 at 1985 and on August 25 reached its peak at 2722, up 44 percent for the year. But the next two months were volatile, to put it mildly, with the market trending downwards, a pattern reminiscent of 1929. On Wednesday, October 16th, it fell 95.46, a record in point terms. The next day it fell 58 points and on Friday 108.35.
The Term “Great Powers” has been around since the end of the Napoleonic wars. It was first used by Lord Castlereigh, the British foreign minister, in 1814, and the term was used at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to describe Great Britain, France, Prussia, Austria, and Russia, who called the shots at that conference.
The judicial fashion statement of the Chief Justice wearing four gold stripes on his sleeves, while the sleeves of associate justices are unadorned, is a lot more recent than his official title, which, as Frederic Schwarz points out, dates to late in the nineteenth century. In fact it only dates to the middle of the late Chief Justice Rehnquist’s term, after he saw a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe.
Five years ago, I wrote a piece about future political realignment for The Wall Street Journal, called “The Next Great Divide.” (The interested reader can find it at the Wall Street Journal website, but he will have to fork over $2.95 to see it, even subscribers. In fact even the author, I am not happy to report.)
This country often takes a very cavalier attitude toward ceremony and punctiliousness. I often get letters and e-mails from total strangers who address me as “Dear John,” or even “dear john,” capital letters having become optional in e-mails. That’s fine with me and quite in keeping with the character of this bumptious, informal, everyone’s-a-friend-until-proven-otherwise, howdy-pardner country of ours.
In 1914 the developed world exported manufactured goods to the undeveloped world (much of which the developed world had sovereignty over) and imported mostly raw materials and agricultural products in exchange. The United States by that time had become a major exporter of manufactured goods while remaining a major exporter of raw materials (such as petroleum and copper) and agricultural products (such as cotton and wheat). As has so often been the case in recent economic history, the United States had the best of both worlds. For a history of American foreign trade see here.