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.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On this day: Impeach!

In 1999 the US House started impeachment hearings against President Clinton, for only the third time in history. Not surprisingly, impeach has only leapt up during presidential impeachments in the US (as opposed to judicial impeachments, or foreign impeachments), but it is interesting how quickly it has fallen. After Nixon resigned (and ended the long national nightmare), impeachment fell off the map, to pre-Nixonian levels, if not lower. After the Clinton impeachment failed, impeachment disappeared—it was not made an issue in the next election and only crept up after calls to impeach the next president.

And that other impeachment? Well, the little peak in the late 1860s was the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, which also fell rather precipitously, even as he survived by just one vote.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On this day: Four Freedoms

In 1941, during the run-up to the United States joining World War II (aided by Japan), FDR gave his "Four Freedoms" speech. While it has fallen from prominence some since, it had a lot of play during the war.

Even though the speech was in early 1941 and there were a few intervening events later that year, it was referenced more in 1942 and then in 1943. The freedoms, of speech and religion, and from want and fear, were incorporated in to the UN declaration of human rights, and while a man on the street might not be able to rattle off the Four Fears today, they likely could 65 years ago.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

On this day: Sonny pulls a "Sonny"

In 1998, a week after Michael Kennedy died while skiing, Sonny Bono did the same thing. Bono had shown up in the news some starting in the mid-1960s, and moreso in the 1980s and 1990s when he moved from music to politics. Still, relevance jumped up following his death in 1998, although it's subsided some since.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On this day: Charles Stuart leaps off the Mystic River Bridge

In one of Boston's last big race-war stories, Charles "Chuck" Stuart abandoned his car in the middle of the Mystic River Bridge, and leapt to his death on January 4, 1990. Stuart had claimed that a black man had carjacked him and his pregnant wife, killed her, and shot him as well. In a city still reeling from a decade of race relations issues, this was big news.

But it didn't stand up. While Stuart's wounds were not likely self-inflicted, his brother stepped forwards and said that it was a ruse to get a hefty life insurance payment. With the new allegations swelling, Stuart drove to the apex of the highest bridge in the city, parked his car, and jumped. Well, case closed.

The case has had some staying power, and while it peaked in 1989 and 1990, Charles Stuart has been rather constant coverage of the case for the last two decades.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

On this day: Alaska is #49

On this day in 1959, Alaska was admitted to the Union. Hawaii would follow soon thereafter. Peaks in its relevance have occurred, several times, but the last frontier has never had a watershed event for publicity, nor dramatic growth.

This might be a fun time to play "guess the peaks." Each date is linked to a relevant Wikipedia article.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

On this day: The Double Nickel

When gas prices skied in 1973, one idea to bring down consumption was a national speed limit. Before 1973, many western states had speed limits of 75 or even 80, which led to higher gas consumption. Congress passed a national speed limit in 1974, and mandated 55 as the speed limit nationwide.

It was modified in the mid 1980s to allow for some roads to be 65 mph, and repealed in 1995, hence the big jump. The other bumps are in 2008, when gas prices led some to renew a call for a limit, and the early 1940s, when driving was curtailed by the war, but the lack of interstate highways did not allow for truly high (and wasteful) speeds.

The chart for speed limit is has similar peaks; it's interesting to see how the relevance of speed limit only began in 1900, and has otherwise peaked whenever national limits were set or repealed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

On this day: Remember Y2K?

So, 10 years ago, no one celebrated anything because we were afraid about planes and satellites falling out of the sky, right? And then nothing happened. Y2K peaked in 1999 and was almost unheard of after 2000—early 2000.

There was a minor peak in early 2007, however. Why? Well, daylight savings changed in 2007, and it was referred to as a mini-Y2K. And just like the real Y2K, nothing happened.