Friday, February 15, 2008

Who was Mario Contasino, really?

A British game company is about to release an "alternate reality" video game called "Turning Point: Fall of Liberty." It is my understanding that this is one of a series of games they've produced that takes a moment in history that went one way, and imagines what would have happened if something else had happened.

Here's the scenario:

On December 13, 1931, a man looked the wrong way before crossing Fifth Avenue in New York City and was struck by a car going 30 miles an hour. He was badly injured and spent the next 8 days in Lennox Hill Hospital. The New York Times said the car was driven by a man named Mario Contasino, who lived at 300 Yonkers Ave. in Yonkers, N.Y, and who had been driving more than 8 years without an accident. He was the sole support of his father, who had been in the U.S. for 50 years, and his 2 sisters.

The pedestrian was a fellow named Winston S. Churchill. Churchill blamed himself (another Englishman looking the wrong way before crossing) and autographed a book (according to the Times) for Mr. Contasino.

What would have happened to the world if Churchill had been killed? That's the premise of the video game.

To kick off the PR for the game, the company is trying to find Mario Contasino or, more likely, his descendants. So they've enlisted an Oxford historian to help them out, and the historian has enlisted the volunteer help of genealogists in the United States. And here's what's been produced so far:

There is no record in the U.S. Census, from 1790 - 1930, of anyone with the last name of Contasino. A street-by-street check of the Yonkers Census in 1930 indicates there is no street address of 300 Yonkers Ave. A search of Ellis Island and Castle Garden immigration records records only one Contasino, Giuseppe, who arrived in 1913 at the age of 1. There are no Social Security records that record the death (from 1950 to present) of anyone named Contasino.

So far, it's a dead end.

Do you think it's possible the hospitalization was a cover-up to explain why Churchill was not seen for a while, while he travelled to [fill in the blank] to meet with [fill in the blank] about [fill in the blank]? Conspiracy theorists will have a hey-day.

Monday, February 11, 2008

This says it about right

From Lance Mannion via Atrios:

If the Government is a car setting out to give every one a ride to work, then for 40 years the Republicans have been puncturing the tires, pouring sand in the gas tank, stealing the distributer cap, and, whenever they can get their hands on the wheel, driving it straight into the nearest ditch and then, pointing to the wreckage as the tow truck backs up to it, saying, See, this proves that people were meant to walk.

And they do this so that they don't have to chip in on gas.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Republican Hilarity

Governor Mike Huckabee is upset that they stopped counting votes in the Washington caucus while John McCain was ahead. The campaign released a statement that said in part (thanks to TalkingPointsMemo):

"The Huckabee campaign is deeply disturbed by the obvious irregularities in the Washington State Republican precinct caucuses. It is very unfortunate that the Washington State Party Chairman, Luke Esser, chose to call the race for John McCain after only 87 percent of the vote was counted. According to CNN, the difference between Senator McCain and Governor Huckabee is a mere 242 votes, out of more than 12,000 votes counted-with another 1500 or so votes, apparently, not counted. That is an outrage.

"In other words, more than one in eight Evergreen State Republicans have been disenfranchised by the actions of their own party. ...

"This is not about Mike Huckabee. This is not about Senator John McCain. This is about the failings of the Washington State Republican Party. All Republicans should unite to demand an honest accounting of the votes, so that Republicans can have full confidence in the results, and full confidence in the eventual Republican nominee. As I said, we are prepared to go to court, and we are also prepared to take our case all the way to the Republican National Convention in September.

"Our cause is just. We must reemphasize the sacred American principle that all ballots be counted in a free, fair, and transparent manner."

I guess Huckabee forgot that five Republican members of the U.S. Supreme Count decided that was no longer a sacred American principle.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Chelsea Bashing

The recent dust-up concerning the MSNBC reporter asking why the Clintons were "pimping out" their daughter Chelsea brought to mind a "joke" once told by John McCain at a Republican Senate fundraiser:

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno."

This when Chelsea was a teenager. McCain apologized, so I guess we should forget about it.

The talking heads say Hillary and McCain are cordial with each other, but if Hillary wins the nomination, this will be a very personal campaign, I think.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama Rally

Suellen and I got to the Obama Rally before 7:00. There was a big screen TV tuned to CNN, but that's about all they had to entertain us for the next 4 hours, until Obama came out. We learned that there were two kinds of tickets: the blue tickets, which were the preferred tickets because they gave you the maximum exposure to Obama, and the white tickets, which were our tickets, of course. We staked out a place along the ropes between the two sections and began to do what we did for the rest of the evening: stand in place.

After about 3 hours things started happening. The bleachers behind the main stage had been empty, and they started picking groups of people and asking them if they wanted to stand behind Obama during his talk. It was clear that the quality of the spot we had staked out was rapidly deteriorating as blue ticket people (who knew better than to arrive before 10:00) started filling in. So when they asked us, we said, "Sure!" They then opened the ropes and led us through the blue ticket group to the bleachers. But as I was about to climb up, the person who was leading us saw my camera said, "You can't take pictures up there." Unable to believe this rule, I said, "You mean no FLASH pictures, right?" And she said, "No, no pictures at all." Now the reason I came was to take pictures, so at this point I bailed on the bleachers, and Suellen went ahead. As I'm walking back through the blue ticket group I realize nobody is paying any attention to me, nobody knows what color ticket I have, and maybe I should just sort of blend into this crowd. Which I did, in a pretty excellent place to be taking pictures from.

Suellen wound up in the bleachers behind Obama, but because she's short, I don't think you could have seen her on TV. She stood up there under the blazing TV lights for about 2 hours, and after a while she signaled to me in American Sign Language, "H-O-T!" We were dressed for a Winter Storm Warning, after all. After a while I spotted Jesse Jackson about 20 feet from me and signaled her, "J-E-S-S-E," and pointed in the direction. The rest of the time we just waved back and forth to each other. Secret Service agents were all over the place (I had been wanded by one on the way in), and there was one Hispanic woman agent who kept staring at me, and I don't think it was because she wanted to give me her room number. I considered smiling and waving, but decided that might be interpreted as smart alecky, and I didn't want to be tazed. Or shot. So I didn't.

I guess it's too late to make a long story short, but the next stuff happened in less than 20 minutes, which was just a small part of the evening. Senator Dick Durbin came out and introduced Barack, and he and Michelle came out. He gave his speech (most memorable line: "
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek," which is a good line to make you want to get up off your butt and get involved), then he and Michelle came out and worked the ropes. I stopped taking pictures long enough to shake hands with both of them, which was cool. And then they were gone.

We walked about 10 blocks back to the L, which we took up to our stop
, then walked the 2 blocks from there. Got home at 12:55. Seriously past my bedtime.

Final observation: he is a seriously impressive person in person.