Saturday, January 30, 2010

On this day: Obama wins the Iowa Caucus

Just two years ago (although it seems like longer) some big-eared black dude won the Iowa caucuses and then, apparently, went on to win the White House and now we are all socialist. But the launching pad for Obama was the Iowa caucuses.

While the caucuses are now a quadrennial fixture on the political calendar, they're a relatively recent phenomenon. The first caucuses were in 1976, when Jimmy Carter came in second to an uncommitted slate (and claimed a win). But they were bigger news in 1980, and rose through 1988. In 1992, native son Tom Harkin won the state without competition, but the relevance grew through Howard Dean's scream in 2004. With the date of the caucuses moved so early in 2008, that year didn't eclipse '04, but the cycle, with 2007 garnering nearly as much press as 2008, did.

How big are the Iowa caucuses in an otherwise not-that-interesting (no offense, Iowa) state? Well, you can pick them out on a chart of, simply, Iowa:

Of course, compare that to New Hampshire, where, apparently, there's really no industry outside of the primary

especially since 1988, when New Hampshire seems to get double the press play in election cycle years as it does at other times.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

On this day: Air Florida goes down

IN 1983, discount airline Air Florida had a flight leaving National Airport in DC (well, in Virginia) for Florida. After some time in the snow, the pilots, who did not want to return to the terminal for de-icing and had attempted to keep the plane snow-free by moving close to planes in front of them, elected to take off. It was the wrong choice—the last of many the pilots made. Flight 90 crashed in to the freezing Potomac, killing nearly everyone aboard, and several people on the bridge into which it crashed. Flight 90 peaked news coverage for Air Florida, which would only be surpassed two years later when the airline folded.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On this day: human cloning

No, no humans were cloned on this day. But, back in 1998, an international treaty banning human cloning was signed in Paris. The late 1990s and early 2000s were the heyday of the controversy over human cloning—it's since declined dramatically as a concern.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On this day: Earhart crosses the Pacific

In the second-to-last major flight of her career, Amelia Earhart flew from Honolulu to Oakland, the first solo flight from Hawai'i to the mainland. Two years later, she'd again visit Hawai'i, this time as her final stop before the ill-fated journey west across the Pacific.

The 1937 peaked news coverage of Earhart, which dropped rather precipitously with the coming of the war. Other peaks in news have generally had to do with various searches for or conspiracy theories about her demise, although none has found any concrete information. If any ever turns up, it may change this graph considerably, but that's unlikely.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On this day: Standard Oil incorporated

One of the worlds great monopolies began today—140 years ago. John Rockefeller incorporated Standard Oil and built it in to a mega-corporation, which was dissolved by the trustbusting Teddy Roosevelt in 1911 (actually, it was dissolved by the courts as TR was out of office.)

Standard continued to be a dominant brand through the 1930s, but has slipped significantly since, as various Standard Oils (as the broken-up companies were called) were remerged and renamed. Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, Texaco, Chevron—all are descendants of Standard.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

On this day: the longest run

On this day in 2006, the Phantom of the Opera became the longest running Broadway musical of all time. It jumped in relevance in the late 1980s, and again in 2004-5, when it was made in to a movie, although the 2006 milestone was merely a blip against these other events.

"Phantom" replaced another Lloyd Webber production, Cats, as the longest-running show, although Cats' chart has kept news relevance for a longer period of time, even since it was canceled in 2002.

Friday, January 8, 2010

On this day: War on Poverty declared

The US has fought many wars which weren't wars, one of which was the War on Poverty. It was started by Lyndon Johnson on this day in 1964 and never became more relevant than that first year, declining to nearly zero by the end of Johnson's term. There were some mentions of it going forwards, but it has never regained a foothold in the American news cycle.