This Day in History
1480 — Massacre at Otranto. Otranto was a city in southern Italy that had a citadel. The region was invaded by a large Ottoman army. They laid siege to the city and on August 11th it fell and many people sought refuge in the citadel. On August 12th the citadel surrendered and those captured were offered the opportunity to convent from Christianity to Islam. Led by Bishop Pendinelli, who was later sawed in half while still alive, 813 refused. They were taken to the Hill of Minerva and beheaded. In 2013 those 813 were canonized as saints in the Catholic Church.
Brave and noble as their act might have been, and sainthood notwithstanding, I think I might have considered a fake conversion.
2013 — Whitey Bulger found guilty. Bulger, operating out of South Boston, was a hit man and crime boss in addition to being an FBI informant. He had numerous stints in prison and during one of them, in exchange for a reduced sentence, agreed to participate in a CIA experiment involving LSD. Over the years Bulger was believed to have committed 19 murders. His FBI handler told him he was about to be arrested and Bulger disappeared for 16 years. Finally tracked down, he was arrested and brought before the court on charges of racketeering, money laundering, extortion and murder. Found guilty on most of the charges he was sentenced to two life terms in prison. In 2018, while in a wheelchair, he was beaten to death at a prison in West Virginia. One of the jurors who convicted him later regretted her vote. Bulger claimed to have had hallucination his whole life after the LSD experiment. It wasn’t introduced as a defense at his trial and she said if she had known about it she would have voted differently.
You have to wonder if there are any official agencies in the world with less scruples than the CIA.
2017 — Unite the Right march. Protesting the removal of Confederate monuments a far right rally took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. Participants, including Neo-Confederates, Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, KKK, and white militias, gathered on 8/11 & 8/12. There were physical confrontations between them and counter-protesters. The state police declared the rally to be an unlawful assembly. In the afternoon on August 12th a white supremacist, James Fields Jr., smashed his car into a group of counter-protestors, injuring 35 and killing Heather Heyer.
I’m not sure what point he was trying to make but I suppose in his mind he accomplished it. I’m also unsure what principle the marchers were trying to espouse. Hate? From what I could see that’s all they stood for. I’ve never understood the racist point of view. Even as a child when the Civil Rights Movement faced so much opposition. Maybe it had something to do with the church I attended. The Jesus I was taught about brought love and acceptance to the world, not hate and division. I would hope that any Christian church that values its beliefs stands on the side of rights and justice and not hate and suppression.
1856 — Diamond Jim Brady. Financier, philanthropist. Brady, born to an Irish immigrant family in New York City, began his career as a bellhop, became a salesman in the railroad industry, and worked his way to the top of Wall Street. He had a habit of bedecking himself with fine jewelry and diamonds gaining him his nickname. Immensely wealthy, not all of it acquired legally, he purchased a stable of thoroughbreds and was a fixture at Saratoga Race Track. Brady had a prodigious appetite and, according to legend, could eat an unbelievable amount of food at one setting. A restaurant owner once said Brady was his 25 best customers. When Brady died his stomach reportedly was six times the size of a normal stomach. He never married but had a long time relationship with actress Lillian Russell. He contributed a large amount of money to Johns Hopkins Hospital and left his estate to various institutions including New York Hospital. Brady died of a heart attack at age 61 in 1917.
In researching him just about every source I found focused mostly on his eating habits. Given everything else he did, seems a strange legacy.
1886 — Keith Murdoch. Journalist. Born in Melbourne, Australia, Murdock struggled with a stuttering problem. He went into journalism, moved to England to work with a therapist to control his stammering and it did improve. Not before it did cost him one job however. Back in Australia he became a war correspondent during WWI. He covered the campaign at Gallipoli where the Turkish army was inflicting a heavy toll on British, Australian and New Zealand forces. There was strict military censorship and the journalists covering the action were frustrated at being unable to convey the true story. Murdoch agreed to carry a secret letter from another journalist, Ellis Bartlett, to England to the Prime Minister. The letter was highly critical of the general staff conducting the Gallipoli campaign. Murdoch was arrested and the letter confiscated. But he re-wrote most of it from memory and soon it was circulating among senior government officials. Bartlett was expelled from the Dardanelles and together the two men exposed what a military disaster the Gallipoli campaign had been. The commanding officer was replaced and soon thereafter all Allied troops were removed.
After the war Murdoch’s career continued to flourish. He became chief editor of the Melbourne Herald and eventually managing director. Soon he was building a media empire by destroying the opposition or buying them out. Competing newspapers accused his of “crude sensationalism” or “Yellow Journalism”. His newspapers became involved in politics, trying to make or break politicians. During WWII he obtained a government post, Director General of Information, giving him authority for what public news would be released. Somewhat hyperbolically he was compared to Joseph Goebbels and was eventually forced to resign. He fell ill with cancer in 1949 and died in 1952. Keith Murdoch is the father of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
That apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Although the father did some real investigative journalism with the expose of the disaster at Gallipoli, thereby saving many allied lives.
1936 — John Poindexter. Rear Admiral, National Security Adviser. Poindexter lied to Congress while attempting to conceal President Reagan’s and his administration’s role in the Iran-Contra affair. He was found guilty on five felony charges for these lies. On appeal his conviction was overturned on a legal technicality. After that Poindexter worked as a defense contractor and then had a role in the administration of President George W. Bush.
It seems mere lying will never deny someone from having a prominent place in the inner workings of our government. There is a great book titled “The Nightingale’s Song” detailing the careers of five graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy, including Poindexter, John McCain and Oliver North.