Day By Day

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Day In History

Today is "Penguin Awareness Day", not to be confused with "World Penguin Day" which doesn't come until April. What did the little critters do to get two whole days dedicated to them? I suspect it has something to do with the incessant global warming propaganda to which we have been so mercilessly subjected for the past few decades. Today you can celebrate by reading about penguins, watching a film about penguins [I would recommend "March of the Penguins"] or do as these guys did. eat one. I hear they taste a lot like chicken.

On this day in 1801 President John Adams nominated his Secretary of State, John Marshall of Virginia, to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This was a momentous decision on Adam's part. Marshall turned out to be by far the greatest Supreme Court justice in our nation's history. In a very real sense we live in a world made by John Marshall. He instituted new procedures in the Court, allowing it to speak with one voice [and almost always the voice was that of John Marshall]. Under his leadership the Court established the fundamental principle of "judicial review" that made it the final arbiter of what was and what was not constitutional. It took a while for that principle to be accepted. Andrew Jackson felt that the President, being the only figure chosen by all the people, should be the final arbiter of what the Constitution meant; Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both argued that the power ultimately lay with the State legislatures. The question was still being debated at the time of the Civil War, but was finally settled by force of arms. Other decisions written by Marshall established the supremacy of the Federal Government over the States and private corporations, greatly expanded the scope of the Court's interpretive powers, and made of the Court a governmental entity fully the equal of Congress and the Presidency. In a very real sense, the Constitution we have today is the Constitution as John Marshall interpreted it.

On this day in 1942 the Wannsee Conference began. This was a meeting of several leaders of the National Socialist regime in Germany to discuss a "final solution" to the "problem" of what to do about Europe's Jewish minority. The conference only lasted ninety minutes and it is still a matter of debate as to whether most of the participants recognized its full significance, but it led to one of the greatest crimes against humanity perpetrated in the past century. It was at Wannsee that a program proposed by Reinhard Heydrich was adopted that prescribed the deportation of Jews, their employment as slave laborers, and their ultimate extermination. This was the death panel of all death panels for here was the genesis of the Holocaust.

On this date in 1981 the Iran Hostage Crisis came to an end as the Islamic Republic released 52 American hostages it had held for 444 days. The timing of the release was a calculated insult to one of America's weakest and most inept presidents -- Jimmy Carter. They were held until he left office so the credit for ending the crisis would accrue to his successor, Ronald Reagan.

And one year ago today Barak Hussein Obama was sworn in as the nation's chief executive. What a strange journey it has been since then.