Sunday, June 3, 2012


On this day in 1839, in Humen, China, Lin Tse-hsü destroys 1.2 million kg of opium confiscated from British merchants, providing Britain with a casus belli to open hostilities, resulting in the First Opium War. And now, in Afghanistan, the poppy fields are... well... as you can see, 'twas ever thus, folks.

Czech novelist Franz Kafka dies on this day in 1924 at the age of 41. His last will and testament ordered that all his writings should be burned. Fortunately, his friends refuse his dying wish, and the world gets to read his many works of genius.

On this day in 1937, the Duke of Windsor abdicates his rightful place as the King of England in order to marry his American divorcee girlfriend Wallis Simpson. And it's a good thing, too, seeing as the Duke was a Hitler-admiring, Nazi-sympathizing reprobate.

After being arrested on suspicion of having broken into a Florida poolroom, Charles Gideon was put on trial and immediately found guilty... thanks mostly to the fact that he couldn't afford a lawyer. In Florida at the time, that meant he had to defend himself. It also pretty much guaranteed he was jail-bound. Afterwards, while in jail, Gideon made multiple appeals on the grounds that he had a constitutional right to be represented in court by a professional lawyer. Eventually, his case made its way to the Supreme Court of the USA, which declared: "a fair trial cannot be realized if the poor man charged with the crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him." And that's how, on this day in 1960, the ceaseless whining of one petty thief permanently changed the way the nation's legal system works, for the better... a rare thing indeed!

On this day in 1968, radical feminist and SCUM Manifesto author Valerie Solanas shoots superstar artist Andy Warhol three times. He survives.

On this day in 1989, Chinese military troops and tanks storm through Beijing's Tiananmen Square which, unfortunately for them, just happened to be chock full with nearly a million pro-democracy protesters at the time. At the time, Western witnesses estimated between 300 and a thousand protesters had been killed - either shot by soldiers or trampled in a mad dash to avoid getting shot - and nearly 10,000 were arrested for taking part in the protests. Then-President George Herbert "Poppy" Walker Bush reacted swiftly to this massive assault on human rights by granting China Most Favored Nation trade status.

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