and the life of a county clerk
Michigan Democrats back down. The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, meeting in Belleville on Saturday April 26, voted to set the date of the presidential nominating caucus for February 7, 2004, formally abandoning the move to set the caucus for the same day as the New Hampshire primary.
I wasn't able to attend the meeting, but I will provide more details when I get a copy of the proposal.
U.S. Senator Carl Levin and others have argued for years that Michigan should challenge New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation supremacy by scheduling the caucus for the same date as the New Hampshire primary. The party's national office fought back, threatening to penalize the state (1) by refusing to seat half of its delegates at the national party convention, and (2) by withholding campaign funds.
The first threat is widely dismissed here, because no one expects the nomination to still be at issue by the time of the national convention. In other words, an early impact on the "spin" of the presidential race is likely to be more critical than a hundred or so votes on the convention floor. Further, if Michigan actually went ahead and smashed the New Hampshire monopoly, it would all be ancient history by the summer; if the penalty was imposed, it could be challenged and reversed in a floor vote at the convention.
On the other hand, if the penalty were made to stick, about a hundred party insiders would lose their convention credentials -- presumably including quite a few members of the state central committee who voted on the question Saturday.
The second threat carried more weight in 2000: then-US-Rep. Debbie Stabenow was running for U.S. Senator then, and she feared a loss of national party money would endanger her bid; her supporters vigorously opposed doing anything with the caucuses which would upset the national party.
In 2004, Michigan will have no headline statewide races except president, so the threat to withhold national party campaign funds is less potent. However, there are a couple of districts where Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents (specifically Joe Knollenberg and Thaddeus McCotter) might need national party funds.
Some thought that an early-date Michigan caucus would provide a boost to the presidential hopes of Dick Gephardt. Though Carl Levin has consistently advocated an earlier date across numerous election cycles, the Gephardt factor may have lent steam to the effort this time. But that doesn't mean supporters of other presidential candidates were opposed -- indeed, what Michigander could really argue with the benefit of seizing more influence for the state?
However, on April 15, the state AFL-CIO voted against supporting the early date, thus dooming the effort. At this writing, I'm not sure specifically why that happened.
The state party committee didn't even vote on the January date, but adopted instead the February 7 compromise.
(Also posted to Political State Report.)
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum Comments
The Ville du Havre. Wanting more information about the death of New York Court of Appeals Judge and former Congressman Rufus W. Peckham (1809-1873), who died in a mishap at sea on November 22, 1873, I sought an obituary in the New York Times (on microfilm).
I started with the date of death and scanned the news columns day after day. There were reports of marine disasters almost every day, but no mention of Peckham.
Then, finally, in the paper published ten days after the event, I found the news of the sinking of the Ville du Havre. It was apparently one of the largest and most advanced steamers of its day; the coverage and commentary seems an ironic foreshadowing of the sinking of the Titanic nearly 30 years later.From the New York Times, December 2, 1873, front page, left column (paragraph breaks added):
AN OCEAN DISASTER
The loss of the Ville du Havre is one of those dreadful accidents incidental to sea voyages which, by the magnitude of the calamity, throws a gloom over the public of two continents. At London, at Paris, and New-York the news was received almost simultaneously, and everywhere with surprise and a feeling akin to horror.
It was an accident which seems to discredit the statement often made that ocean traveling may be robbed of its perils by proper precautions on the part of ship-owners and navigators. The lost steamer was one of the best vessels afloat. She had been fitted with all the latest improvements in marine engineering, both for speed and safety; in construction and equipment, everything had been done for her which ingenuity could suggest; her accommodations for the comfort of her passengers were of the most complete and costly character, and an able and experienced navigator commanded the vessel, with a crew of picked men under him.
Nothwithstanding this, an ordinary sailing vessel, coming down in the dead of night, strikes the ponderous steamer amidships, and sends her almost instantly to the bottom, with four-fifths of her living freight.
The place of this accident, according to the latest accounts, would appear to be as nearly in mid-ocean, the fog which the Ville du Havre had encountered having doubtless delayed her, as she left this port on the 15th of November, and the collision occurred on the 23d or 22d. The weather at the time of the disaster was clear, and the steamer had her lights up; and the fact that a large number of the officers and crew were saved goes to prove that they were then on watch. Under these circumstances, the cause of the collision seems a mystery.
Its fatal effect is, unhappily, too clear. The Loch Earn was a vessel of 1,200 tons burden. She undoubtedly was going before the wind with all canvas set, and the crash of the collision must have been terrific. As the main and mizzen masts of the steamer fell a few minutes after the crash, it is plain that all the supports of the mainmast had been wrenched to pieces. No element of horror seems wanting to the scene. A heavy sea running, a bitterly cold Winter night, falling masts, boats crushed with their loads of frantic men and women, a vessel rapidly settling in mid-ocean--this seems enough to appal the most courageous.
The Captain and crew of the ill-fated steamer, and that of the Loch Earn, appear to have done all that brave men could do to save the passengers. There is some doubt about the degree of damage sustained by the latter vessel, as also of the number of survivors, still aboard. The earlier dispatches say she put back to Queenstown, and was dangerously injured; also, that she transferred to the Trimountain all but three of the rescued passengers. Later dispatches state that she continued on her voyage to this port, and was subsequently spoken, with ten of them on board.
It is possible that some might have been picked up after the Trimoutain left the scene; at least it may be hoped that later advices will bring some information of this character, and thus tend to mitigate, if ever so slightly, the horrors of this catastrophe.
See the December 2 and succeeding issues of the NYT (on microfilm at your local research library) for column-feet of additional details.
....Posted by Lawrence Kestenbaum Comments
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