This Day in Failure: March 12

2011: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann tells a GOP crowd in Concord, New Hampshire: “You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world at Lexington and Concord.” Unbeknownst to Bachmann, the Revolutionary War began, not in New Hampshire’s capital, but in Concord (and Lexington) Massachusetts. The remark continues a pattern in which the Republican presidential hopeful gets basic facts about U.S. history wrong.

2009: Three months after his arrest for swindling investors out of billions of dollars in the largest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history, Bernard Madoff, 70, pleads guilty to charges that include fraud, perjury and money-laundering. Following his prepared plea Madoff goes directly to jail, a decision that meets with the approval of defrauded investors sitting in the courtroom, who lead spectators in applauding the judge’s decision to deny Madoff the opportunity to remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing.

2008: Not a single voter casts a ballot in an annexation referendum for an unincorporated Broward County (Florida) community. If just one of the 68 registered voters had shown up, that one vote would have decided the neighborhood’s fate. The cost of keeping a polling site open for 12 hours: $2,500.

2002: As it moves away, astronomers discover a 165-foot-wide asteriod that passed within 288,000 miles of earth on March 8. The astronomers didn’t notice the asteroid's approach because it came from the direction of the sun. A similar-size object flattened a 20-mile-wide portion of Siberia in 1908.

1928: The two-year-old St. Francis Dam—a curved concrete gravity arch structure located thirty-five miles north of downtown Los Angeles—suffers a catastrophic failure, one that occurs in the wake of a massive landslide that occurs along the dam’s left abutment. A wave up to 140 feet high sweeps down through San Francisquito Canyon, killing upwards of 500 people. In the book Floodpath, author Jon Wilkman tells the story of this largely-forgotten disaster.