Archive for April 20th, 2015


“happy” birthday

5130719It seems that almost every year around this date, some malcontent or another blows up something or kills somebody to commemorate the birthday of an infamous man born in 1889.

Most famously, April 20th is the anniversary of the day in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold attacked Columbine High School in Colorado, using an arsenal of guns and homemade bombs. They killed 13 people and injured 21 others before killing themselves—and poisoned the political waters for young people (like Nathan Ybanez) who had the misfortune to have committed their acts around the time of Columbine.

However, in point of fact, the entire third week in April—from the 14th through 20th—is a period which seems to attract a disproportional amount of violence and tragedy.

On April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater in 1865. Assassin John Wilkes Booth famously shouted “Sic semper tyrannis,” his motivation for the attack being a response to the Civil War, which was coming to an imminent end.

Boston-Marathon-BombingOn April 15, 2013, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev placed pressure-cooker bombs near the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and injuring nearly 200.

On April 16, 2007, Seung Hui Cho went on a shooting spree at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, killing 32 people. Cho was reportedly mentally ill, making his motivation inherently irrational to some degree. In a later discovered video, however, Cho referred to Columbine High School shooters Harris and Klebold as “martyrs.”

On April 17, 2008, Basque Nation and Liberty set off a bomb in Bilbao, Spain, injuring 7 police officers outside a ruling Socialist Party locale. A warning call came in only minutes before the 6:00 am explosion.

On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a car bomb into the US embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. This was a turning point in how extremist groups directed their violence, seeing the impact asymmetric warfare can have on larger military forces.

Waco-SeigeOn April 19, 1993, the FBI inserted tear gas canisters into the Branch Davidian compound at Waco TX in an attempt to force an end to a 53-day standoff. A fire started that engulfed the compound, killing 76 men, women and children inside. Two years later, in 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City OK. The attack killed 168 people. McVeigh later sent a letter to Fox News calling the bombing retaliation for the government’s actions against the Branch Davidians.

And now we have come to April 20th. What misfortune might the day bring this year?

I’m sorry to be stating the obvious, but a lot of other people besides the Führer were born on this date. Click on the year, and you’ll discover even more people than appear below who were born on this date:

..702 Jafar Sadiq, Muslim scholar (d. 765)
1442 Edward IV, King (England, 1461-83)
1494 John Agricola, [Schneider], German theologist/prime minister
1586 Saint Rose of Lima, Peruvian saint (d. 1617)
1592 John Eliot, St Germans Cornwall, English MP/author
1594 Matthaus Apelles von Lowenstern, composer
1633 Emperor Go-Komyo of Japan (d. 1654)
1646 Charles Plumier, French botanist (d. 1704)
1650 William Bedloe, English informer (d. 1680)
1668 Yuri Troubetzkoy, Governor of Belgorod (d. 1739)
1705 Balthasar Schmid, composer
1718 David Brainerd, American missionary (d. 1747)
1723 Cornelius Harnett, American delegate to the Continental Congress (d. 1781)
1725 Johann Friedrich Kloffler, composer
1726 Jozef de Ferraris, French/Austrian earl/general/cartographer
1745 Philippe Pinel, physician, founder of psychiatry
1748 Georg Michael Telemann, composer
1761 Johann Gottlieb Karl Spazier, composer
1808 Louis-Napoleon (Napoleon III), emperor of France (1852-71)
1809 John Smith Preston, Brigadier General (Confederate Army), (d. 1881)
1818 Heinrich Göbel, German-born inventor (d. 1893)
1824 Alfred Holt Colquitt, Brigadier General (Confederate Army), (d. 1894)
1826 Dina M Craik, writer
1827 John Gibbon, Major General (Union volunteers), (d. 1896)
1839 Carol I, King of Romania (1881-1914)
1850 Daniel Chester, French/American sculptor (Minute Man)
1851 Young Tom Morris, Scottish golfer (d. 1875)
1857 Charles LP “Philip” Zilcken, painter/author (HW Knife Day)
1858 Auguste Chapuis, composer
1860 Charles Gordon Curtis, US attorney/inventor (Curtis Turbine)
1866 Victor Hollaender, composer
1870 Simeon Roncal, composer
1871 William Henry Davies, Wales, poet (Autobiography of a Super Tramp)
1876 Gerard J Arbous, actor/publicist (Prince William of Orange)
1879 Robert Lynd, Irish writer/critic (Pleasures of Ignorance)
1881 Nikolai Miaskovsky, Novogeorievsk Poland, composer (Kirov is With Us)
1882 Holland Smith, US General (d. 1967)
1884 Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (d. 1966)
1889 Adolf Hitler, Braunau, Austria, Austrian-born Führer of Germany (1933-45)
1890 Maurice Duplessis, premier of Québec, known as “Le Chef” (d. 1959)
1893 Harold Lloyd, Burchard Neb, silent comic (Why Worry, Safety Last)
1894 Martinus Nijhoff, poet/interpreter/linguistic (spelling)
1895 Emile Christian, American musician (d. 1973)
1896 Senor Wences, ventriloquist (Close the Door)
1897 Bernard Verhoeven, poet/literature (About the Laugh)
1900 Fred Raymond, composer
1901 Michel Leiris, French cultural anthropologist
1902 Donald Wolfit, England, actor (Lawrence of Arabia, Becket, Accursed)
1903 Dagmar Edqvist, Swedish author (Kamrathustru-Wife & Comrade)
1904 Bruce Cabot, Carlsbad NM, actor (Diamonds are Forever, King Kong)
1907 Miran Bux, cricketer (his one season of Test & 1st-class play 1954-55)
1908 Lionel Hampton, orchestra leader/vibraphone improviser (Depths Below)
1909 Guido Alberti, literary patron/businessman
1910 Robert F Wagner, (Mayor-D- 1954-65) [or May 15], born in NYC, New York
1911 Kukrit Pramoj, politician
1912 David Townsend, cricketer (3 Tests Eng v WI 1935)
1913 Dick Wessel, WI, actor (Dick Tracy vs Cueball, Beware of Blondie)
1914 Betty Lou Gerson, American actress (d. 1999)
1915 Joseph Wolpe, South African-born psychotherapist (d. 1997)
1919 Richard Hillary, Australian Spitfire pilot and author (d. 1943)
1920 John Paul Stevens, Illinois, 103rd Supreme Court Justice (1975- )
1921 Donald Gunn MacRae, sociologist
1923 Tito Puente, Puerto Rico, bandleader (Dance Mania)
1924 Gerhard Samuel, composer
1925 Ernie Stautner, NFL tackle (Steelers)/WLAF head coach (Galaxy)
1926 Harriett Elizabeth Byrd, politician (Wyoming house of Reps)
1927 Karl Muller, Switzerland, superconductivity physicist (Nobel 1987)
1928 Johnny Gavin, Irish footballer (d. 2007)
1929 Bob Braun, Ludlow Ky, singer (Dotty Mack Show)
1930 Alan Oakman, cricketer (England batsman against Australia 1956)
1931 Lee H Hamilton, Daytona Beach Fla, (Rep-D-Ind, 1965- )
1934 Lindsay Oliver John Boynton, furniture historian
1936 Pat Roberts, Topeka, Kansas, US Senator (Rep-R-KS, 1981-1997)
1938 Johnny Tillotson, Jacksonville Fla, singer (Gidget, Poetry in Motion)
1939 Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norwegian premier (1981-82, 86-89, 90- )
1940 George Takei, actor (Sulu-Star Trek, Green Berets), born in Los Angeles, California
1941 Ryan O’Neal, actor (Love Story, Paper Moon)
1943 Edie Sedgwick, actor (Ciao Manhattan), born in Santa Barbara, California
1945 Jimmy Winston, organist (Samll Facres-Itchycoo Park), born in London, England
1946 Julien Poulin, French Canadian actor
1947 David Leland, Cambridge England, actor/director (Nothing But Trouble)
1948 Craig Frost, keyboardist (Grand Funk Railroad-Some Kind of Wonderful)
1949 Jessica Lange, Cloquet Minnesota, actress (King Kong, Tootsie)
1950 Itumeleng J Mosala, S Afr president (Azanian People’s Org)
1951 Luther Vandross, rock vocalist (Dance with my Father), born in NYC, New York (d. 2005)
1952 Tamara Sergeyevna Zakharova, Russian cosmonaut
1953 Sebastian Faulks, British novelist
1954 Gilles Lupien, French Canadian ice hockey player
1955 Donald R Pettit, Silverton Oregon, PhD/astronaut
1956 Beatrice Ask, Swedish politician
1957 Graeme Fowler, cricketer (England left-handed opener early 80s)
1958 Viacheslav Fetisov, Moscow, NHL defenseman (Team Russia, Detroit)
1959 Clint Howard, Burbank California, actor (Gentle Ben)
1960 Rodney Holman, NFL tight end (Detroit Lions)
1961 Don “Hitman” Mattingly, Evansville IN, American MLB 1st baseman (NY Yankees/MVP 1985)
1963 Brett Edward Garsed, Victoria Australia, heavy metal artist (Nelson)
1964 John Carney, NFL kicker (San Diego Chargers)
1965 Jim Terrell, Cincinnati OH, sprint canoe (Olympics-96)
1966 David Chalmers, Australian philosopher
1967 Townsend Saunders, White Sands NM, freestyle wrestler (Oly-sil-92, 96)
1968 LeShundra Nathan, Birmingham AL, heptathlete
1969 John van Halst, soccer player (FC Twente)
1970 Ben Weir, Rock Island IL, Canadian Tour golfer (1993 Bogey Hills-2nd)
1971 Chris Penn, NFL wide receiver (KC Chiefs, Chicago Bears)
1972 Carmen Electra [Tara Leigh Patrick], Sharonville OH, American model and actress
1973 Itula Mili, tight end (Seattle Seahawks)
1974 Ben[jamin] Lincoln Holbrook, Hartland WI, rower (Olympics-1996)
1976 Joey Lawrence, Philadelphia PA, actor (Gimme a Break, Blossom, Summer Rental)
1977 Lisa Ervin, figure skater (US Nationals-4th-1992)
1978 Mirei Kuroda, Japanese gravure idol
1980 Jasmin Wagner, German singer

…and so forth.

Isn’t it about time we have gotten over our fixation on Hitler and April 20th? I know that Adolf Hitler is someone we’ve been encouraged to hate in the most uncritical ways, but it seems deranged to allow his memory to forever besmirch the date of his birth. There are some people, like British historian David Irving, who have asserted that Hitler is blamed for things the record shows he didn’t even do. That would apparently include dishonoring April 20th by his mere existence.

150325111104-15-oklahoma-city-bombing-restricted-super-169Yet anniversaries—especially those of violent events—do attract extremists. The April 19th raid on the Branch Davidian compound, as well as the start of the Revolutionary War (which also occurred on April 19), were factors in the official story of the timing of McVeigh’s bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. Years later, the Columbine shooters are said to have had McVeigh in mind when launching their assault on their high school, though not because they shared McVeigh’s motivations.

Rather, they sought to emulate and even surpass the spectacle and attention McVeigh garnered through his attack. And the Columbine shooting was a source of inspiration for Seung Hui Cho’s April 16th attack at Virginia Tech.

Anniversaries can help legitimize and associate an attack with a larger cause, perhaps better than the terrorist’s own words. Violent attacks can also capture greater public interest when they coincide with a significant date. Following the Boston bombing, journalists and commentators zeroed in on April 15th as Patriot’s Day, a primarily Bostonian holiday. The bombing would have dominated public attention without the holiday, but given what has been learned about the Tsarnaev brothers, it seems the date may have had significance in their planning.

Indeed, law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals can likely find more success assessing and securing vulnerable targets than by anticipating the date on which soft targets will be attacked. Yet, it is not simply an academic exercise to determine after the fact what relevance a date holds for a terrorist. It can be valuable intelligence that feeds into the overall effort to prevent terrorist action.

Given the history of large violent incidents, the third week in April merits caution. Terrorism can occur on any day, although evidently, on some days more than others.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Toby Keith performing “The Taliban Song”


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