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Disasters Come in Threes or Maybe Fours if You Count Elections

Severe flooding in Guatemala leaves 80,000 homeless. Then they are hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, killing 2,000. At about the same time, two volcanoes in the Caribbean rumble to life. The first volcano is located on the island of Saint Vincent which is the location of the largest population of Carib Indians... or at least it was until now. The volcano explodes, killing 1,680. They had no chance. The second volcano is called Mount Pelée, also known as "Fire Mountain", located on the island of Martinique. The city of Saint-Pierre is situated on the coast nearby. The volcano erupts, sending a cloud of super-heated gases flowing into Saint-Pierre and across the small bay to engulf the ships at anchor. A telegraph operator reports that all is well. It is his last transmission. A handful of people survive the disaster: a prisoner being held in a poorly ventilated cell, a girl who rows her boat into a cave, and a baby and her nurse who manage to live while their ship bursts into flames and sinks. An estimated 30,000 people are dead within minutes. One wonders if all of it could have been avoided. The answer is yes. A lot of it, anyway. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Why didn't more people evacuate and why were those ships still at anchor so close to shore? The reason was POLITICS! The island Governor of Martinique was up for reelection, and he needed to give the voters a reason to stay. The volcano had been making unusual noises for a while, and the sulfur smell had become unbearable. Farm animals were dropping dead. The citizens had every indication that they should evacuate, so to ease the anxiety of the people, the Governor appointed a commission to judge whether the volcano posed an immediate threat. The report they returned said, "...the safety of St Pierre is completely assured." (I feel better already.) People WANTED it to be OK, and what if the volcano had NOT exploded? What then? It could have been embarrassing. Eh? That is why I practice embarrassing myself. I do a few harmless things that make people laugh, like facing the wrong way in an elevator, raising my hand to ask a dumb question. When my wife asks me if that dress makes her look fat, I tell her... oh... wait... scratch that one. What I'm saying is, be your own captain. Sometimes you will make the wrong decision, or the right decision that turns out to be a reaction to a false alarm. Own it. You are just doing your job as best you can. Someday, the people you love will thank you for it... that is... if you all live through it.

Striking for a Middle Ground

Strike violence has been kept to a minimum until now. John Mitchell, the president of the United Mine Workers of America is willing to compromise for a 10% raise and reduced work hours, but the owner's representative, George Baer, sees his willingness as a weakness. The owners hold fast. The coal miner's strike turns ugly when they catch the police attempting to smuggle a scab into the railroad yard. The policemen blockade themselves in a locomotive, but a by-stander attempting to help the police is clubbed to death. The police fire into the mob, and get away. This has to stop. Years ago, President Cleveland, a Democrat, would have sent Federal troops against the strikers. A couple of years ago, the Republicans strong-armed the owners into concessions to end a strike. Not this time. Powerless to force compliance on either side, President Theodore Roosevelt goes on the campaign trail. He gives speeches with strong statements that are sure to be quoted by the press, but immediately follows them by partial retractions. Thus if you read the headlines, you have one impression, but if you read the text of his speeches, you have another. As union violence escalates, the governor of Pennsylvania is forced to do something drastic. He issues a shoot-to-kill order. (No kidding.) With winter approaching, the need for coal is placing pressure on President Roosevelt. He brings the union and the owners together. By clever language, and without recognizing the United Mine Workers as official negotiators, the union gets most of its demands met. This is the first time that the US government has acted as a neutral party to end a strike. [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
A lot was going on that is not apparent. Roosevelt was confined to a wheelchair during negotiations which kept him from beating up one of the owners. Was a physical fight a possibility? Yes it was. There had already been a physical fight between an owner and the Attorney General. (They met by chance. There was some drinking involved, and loud talk. The Attorney General lost a few buttons, and it was over.) Regarding the union strategy, the United Mine Workers had convinced the (bituminous) soft-coal miners to go back to work. That left the (anthracite) hard-coal mines shutdown. This is tricky, but the coal grates used for heating were designed for either hard coal or soft. A conversion could be performed, and many customers were converting over to soft coal which was slightly less expensive. Given that three-fourths of the UMW members were soft-coal miners, the union had the power to kill off the hard-coal industry, and still keep most of their members happy... delirious, in fact. The owners were in a bad position and they knew it, but when offered a face-saving alternative, they took it. [6] [7]

Notable Births

  • Charles Lindbergh (He will fly the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic, solo.... and there is more... much more.) [8]
  • Felix Wankel (He will invent the Wankel Engine. It will catch on after Mazda buys it and die after Mazda drops it.) [9]
  • Mortimer J. Adler (He will edit Encyclopedia Britannica, bringing education within easy grasp of all... which is why John Dewey will HATE HIS GUTS! Learning should be HARD! Right?) [10]

In Other News

  • Beatrix Potter's "Peter Rabbit" is a storybook hit! And so are the stuffed rabbits! The book will be one of the best sellers of all time. [14]
  • The Teddy Bear is born. Two German toy makers name their new stuffed bear after Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt HATES the name, but the public goes wild! [15]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1902, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Withington, John. Disaster! A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 9781602397491. “Now the island's governor, Louis Mouttet, appeared in town, ostensibly to assess the situation. In fact, he had a hidden agenda. Important local elections were due to be held in a week's time, and he did not want them disrupted by people fleeing St Pierre, so he appointed a commission to investigate the volcano. Although the only person on the commission with any scientific experience was a local schoolteacher, it confidently reported that 'the safety of St Pierre is completely assured'.” 
  2. 1902 Guatemala earthquake. wikipedia.org (November 21, 2016). Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  3. Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex. Random House. ISBN 0394555090. “THE COAL STRIKE was five months old. Every mail, every newspaper proclaimed an escalation of violence in anthracite country. There had been, by various estimates, six to fourteen murders, sixty-seven aggravated assaults (from eye-gougings to attempted lynchings), and sundry riots, ambushes, and arson. Bridges were being blown up, trains wrecked, mines flooded. Seven counties in northeastern Pennsylvania were under military surveillance. Governor Stone authorized state troops to 'shoot to kill' at any provocation.” 
  4. John Mitchell (United Mine Workers). wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  5. William A. Stone. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  6. Anthracite. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  7. Bituminous coal. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  8. Charles Lindbergh. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  9. Felix Wankel. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  10. Mortimer J. Adler. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  11. The Sting. imdb.com (1973). Retrieved on November 18, 2016. “In Chicago in September 1936, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker.”
  12. Joplin, Scott (1902). The Entertainer. youtube.com. Retrieved on November 18, 2016.
  13. Joplin, Scott (November 18, 2016). The Entertainer. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 18, 2016. “One of the classics of ragtime, it returned to international prominence as part of the ragtime revival in the 1970s, when it was used as the theme music for the 1973 Oscar-winning film The Sting. Composer and pianist Marvin Hamlisch's adaptation reached #3 on the Billboard pop chart and spent a week at #1 on the easy listening chart in 1974.”
  14. Potter, Beatrix (1902). Tale of Peter Rabbit, The. gutenberg.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.
  15. Teaddy bear. wikipedia.org. Retrieved on November 21, 2016.

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