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Good To Know

Biking for Fun & Safety

Whether you do it for work or exercise, biking is fun.  Biking helps you stay in shape, saves on the environment, lowers your blood pressure … but for safety sake, we need to train drivers how to watch out for us. The best way to do that is with specific rules, and by watching out for them. My brother recently got hit at a four way stop. He said he'd stopped but then started and so did the car. I guess she just didn't see him. Or maybe she felt he was waiting for her. This is exactly what I'm talking about. Who had the right of way? For that matter, have you ever tried to ride a bike on a roundabout? Here's a tip. Don't. I know of one roundabout I'd ride, and that's in a quiet street, where I could take it like a car.

 

I have always dreamed of being involved in city bike planning. Maybe if enough people find this guide handy, I can use it as an in to a city council committee here.

 

This bike/car safety manual is divided into sections designed to help new and experienced bikers learn how to train cars to watch for them—a technique mostly called defensive biking. 

 

SIZE & MAINTENANCE

Always test ride your bike before purchase. None of those online bike purchases. You can always find a bike shop where you can test ride your purchase. Get them to adjust the seat. Get them to add accessories, depending on what you'll use it for. Some like saddlebags, others want a front basket. Get your water bottle mounted, a 16 oz is always preferable when you're biking. I recommend city wheels if you're mostly city biking. There are also hybrid wheels which will also carry you off road a little easier. If it's only for dirt biking, get the wide wheels. Know your purpose for biking before you buy.

 

My bike was purchased in 2012, the first I've owned for more than a couple years, bought at a bike store, not Fleet Farm. In 2019 I had it thoroughly maintenanced, including new tires, and brakes tested. Don't ride it and forget it.

 

GENERAL AND COMMON SENSE

You need to keep yourself alert and attentive so these next tips will help you while you're on the road.

 

Stay hydrated. Don't just carry water, drink it. If you know a place to refill it, good, otherwise, a few sips every few miles is fine. If you can carry a lightweight back-pack a second water bottle wouldn't hurt. Taking the bottle in your bike carrier may only take you so far, if there's no place to refill. If you get a bottle with a filter you can refill it even in a gas station bathroom.

 

Do not wear earphones or anything that might block your hearing. You're on wheels now and need to be just as responsible and responsive as if you are driving a car. If you want drivers to respect you, you need to respect them. You have to remain alert to those situations where conflict with cars can happen. You won't always be on a designated bike trail, but even there you have to remain alert for other bikes, and pedestrians. Diverting your concentration makes you an erratic biker.

 

Learn to ride safely by riding with experienced cyclists who welcome newcomers or by taking a class offered by area bike shops. Parents need to ride with their children (who only belong on a sidewalk bike for so long.) To learn by doing, start with low traffic streets. If you're uncomfortable in a high traffic area, take a sidewalk, and walk the bike.  Cross at crosswalks until you're comfortable with the rules.  Observe other bikers.

 

There are three hand signals to indicate to cars which way you're turning. Use your left arm because drivers see it easier, because you ride a bike with the flow of traffic (not against). Arm straight out means you're turning left, straight down means you're stopping and straight up means you're turning right. This helps them plan for you, just the way a blinker does in your car.

 

The most difficult challenge, and the one to do only if you've become an expert and feel comfortable, is to get into the left hand vehicle lane to make a left hand turn. This is perfectly legitimate on busy but slow moving traffic streets, like in any downtown area. Just be sure when you make that left hand turn that you're able to veer as far as possible to the right, avoiding any traffic turning right from the adjacent corner, of course.

 

Biking in traffic is challenging enough – try and avoid rainy days. But as Cindy Johnson on Facebook reminded me, this is not always an option, because some people depend on their bikes for work. I suspect those folks already pretty well know what to do. She recommends you get small battery-powered red LED flashers that clip to the back of the seat and make bikers highly visible, day or night. "Bike riders, whether motorized or pedal, often have no idea how invisible they are to drivers. They're small, have few if any lights, and they blend in with all the background clutter, especially on city streets." And car drivers don't anticipate them, if they're few in number.

 

There are a number of authorized trails in the city, but if you need to get somewhere where there aren't any, try a cut-through of a residential neighborhood.

 

But never ever expect that drivers see you and always exercise caution. Like the person who's a good swimmer is the one likely to drown, an experienced biker is more likely to get hit, or one that doesn't follow safety rules. Don't get so comfortable that you forget caution.

 

ROUNDABOUTS

Personally, I play it safe and find a route around one. So I'm not a good one to be advising here because I've never done it. If I have to, here's what I'd try:

 

Roundabout traffic is typically quite slow and if you remain to the right of the lane, you really shouldn't have any trouble, either being spotted, or getting to the road you need. The biggest problem will be if you somehow end up next to another car, and you're going straight while they're trying to exit right.  Always stay behind or ahead of another car in a roundabout.

 

The other option, and the preferred one, is to take the lanes exactly as if you are a car.  Do this when you're comfortable with the idea. There are no bike lanes in roundabouts, so you will be expected to take the lane that directs you to where you want to go. All lanes are marked.  Some are just to the right.  Some are ahead with the option to go right.

 

SIDEWALKS

Sidewalk riding is for bicyclists at the learning stage; you are better off being on the road, obeying traffic laws. It is also illegal for bikers to be on sidewalks unless the community has passed an ordinance specifically permitting sidewalk riding; in some places they've widened the sidewalk for that purpose.

 

Pedestrians have right of way.  If you have to use the sidewalk, remember to pass pedestrians on the left, but don't assume they know you're there.  Call out "passing on the left" so they don't suddenly step in front of you.  

 

Even better, if you have to use a sidewalk, walk the bike.

 

PARKED CARS

Be especially mindful of parked cars with doors that can open unexpectedly. You can't always tell if someone is in there and they rarely look for bikers. I've never been hit by one and have never hit a biker, but it still scares me to pass them. Authorized bike lanes are often alongside or within parking lanes. Parking lanes are nice to use for bike trails. But weaving in and out of parked cars is not recommended -- remember, there's traffic around them.

If you're in the parking lane, you will have to slow up and look for traffic behind you before you go around the parked car. No swerving.

 

COUNTRY AND LOW TRAFFIC AREAS

There are still cars out there, and they rarely go as slow as in the city. In the country, bikers are often in the middle of the back roads. It's easier to see a biker in the country than in a congested city.  If you're riding on a county trunk they will use the other side of the road to pass you, but often they do this in a non-passing zone section of the road. Some drivers will slow down in a no-passing zone and wait for the vehicle coming from the other way to pass, but many won't.  Few country roads have bike trails, and you should have a "rearview" mirror on your bike to see when you might want to travel the gravel or grass side off the road on occasion to allow opposing cars to safely pass each other, and you.

 

STOP SIGN

If you break traffic laws and a car hits you, I don't know how you'll be treated in court. You're better off stopping at all stop signs, to be safe. Always be cautious at stop signs if you don't feel like stopping entirely.  At a four-way stop, for instance, you might be able to see ahead of time that you'd beat anyone else to the stop, and decide to just keep going.  But if you have a stop sign and opposing traffic does not, always stop.

 

Finally, here's a fun tip from PeopleForBikes.Org to get you out on a bike: Go for a type of bike ride that you normally wouldn't. If you're a road rider, try a mountain bike ride. If you've never ridden your bike to work, give bike commuting a shot. And if the ride to work isn't something you can tackle this year, ride your bike to run an errand you would normally do by car, even if it's just a trip to the coffee shop or ice cream parlor. Remember—forty percent of trips Americans take are two miles or less, an easy bicycling distance.

 

 

RESOURCES:

Spratling, Cassandra, "Cycling: Fitness Means Fun," Green Bay Press Gazette, May 15, 2012.

WDOT General Bike Rules

Cindy Johnson, Facebook Friend

PeopleForBikes.Org

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History Lesson #13: Vaccination Protests in History

 First note the photo accompanying the article that I lifted from Facebook (source unknown). Let's confirm data:

 

1. I know that all living presidents, including Trump, are vaccinated.

2. Has every governor in the US been vaccinated? I couldn't find the definitive answer, but Abbot and DeSantis have, and DeSantis does encourage vaccinations, just not masking. I'd say it's probably true.

3. Congress? Nearly 100% sounds true

4. 96% of American physicians? Probably true

5. Biden has made a demand that they all be vaccinated.

 

Who's not vaccinated? Nearly all COVID deaths in US are now among unvaccinated (apnews.com). This indicated that deaths could be practically zero if we were all vaccinated.  More interesting is how an NFL star like Cam Newton could jeopardize his career for his decision of not getting the shot.

 

But there's reason for hope: in this week's The Week (September 10:17) noted that among adults only 20% are now saying they are not likely to get vaccinated. Did this come on the heels of some pretty well-known naysayers who died? The same magazine (12) listed among them the Texas rally organizer Caleb Wallace, talk show host Phil Valentine, and radio host Dick Farrel, who once called Dr. Fauci a "power-tripping lying freak."

 

Are we of a spoiled nation of want-getters that we cannot foul our existence by covering our smiles? Is this protest unprecedented? True, having a president to completely and deliberately keep us divided is pretty unprecedented. Presidents in history have been seen as uniters, not dividers, especially if they want a second term. Too bad Trump cannot see beyond his own ego.

 

But having disease deliberately punctured into our veins? I mean, how crazy are we? Let's talk a walk through inoculations in history.

 

The first one I heard about was during the Revolutionary War, and how Washington had to insist his soldiers be inoculated against smallpox. Is it possible that there was such a thing back that early? I didn't think so, but I've been corrected. You can see a letter Pat Fitzgerald sent me from the National Archives dated 1777 at a link I shared in my sources, where Washington thanked a doctor for innoculating them. 

 

I found this in several sources:

 

During a smallpox epidemic in the west of England in 1774, farmer Benjamin Jesty decided to try something. He scratched some pus from cowpox lesions on the udders of a cow into the skin of his wife and sons. None of them contracted smallpox.

 

Another source takes us back even farther, to Massachusetts in 1721, and even earlier in Europe, where the Ottoman Empire at Constantinople mentioned inoculation in 1714 against smallpox having been used for the past 40 years.

 

"Jacob Pylarinius, also writing from Turkey, reported that inoculation had been introduced into Constatinople by a Greek woman about 1660. It had been widely used by poor Christians until, during a severe smallpox epidemic in 1700, the practice spread throughout the Christian community more generally."

 

We learn in this article that a number of Muslims refused to get innoculated because "because it was believed by them to interfere with divine providence." This was by no means universal among them, however. So you see, some conservative Christians today are just following the example set by some Muslims centuries ago.

 

Several other sources noted, making history a difficult subject, that the first smallpox vaccination was created in 1796 by Edward Jenner, who created an injection with "cowpox," which at the time was rare but could jump to humans. I suspect that our historical difference is between innoculation and injection. Here's how innoculation was described in those early treatments:

 

"Then the Surgeon makes an incision upon the Back of the Hand, between the Thumb and Fore-finger, and puts a little of the Matter, squeezed out of the largest and fullest Pustules, into the Wound."

 

It was learned through this experimentation on humans that it also treated people for smallpox. The boy victim was only 8, suffered from cowpox, and felt ill for a few days after the inoculation but recovered. Then the boy gamely allowed himself to be exposed to a smallpox victim, but didn't catch it.

 

It took two years for word to spread, during which he treated 22 more people. You can imagine though, with people who knew the history of the black plague, that getting that inoculation against smallpox would have people lining up, as they did in the early days of 2021. In 1980, the World Health Organization announced that smallpox has been eradicated and inoculations were no longer needed, but there is a stockpile of the vaccine, just in case.

 

A quarantine due to no known cure occurred even earlier. Here's a report from History News Network:

 

A string of yellow fever outbreaks erupted between 1793 and 1798, taking thousands of lives and leaving the nation dizzy with loss. Shortly after the outbreaks, John Adams signed and established the first federal quarantine law against the recurrent epidemics of yellow fever. According to Carleton B. Chapman, an MD, the Federal Quarantine Proposal of 1796 met "virtually no opposition."

 

Virtually none. You see, because doctors didn't know it all back then, they all valued their lives more than any reason to dissent. Why aren't we like that today? Because we believe the hospitals can save us, regardless of the overload they now suffer from that they cannot help real patients with real problems.

 

"Jefferson favored a bill that required the federal government to "guarantee and distribute effective vaccine" and signed it into law in 1813. Ultimately, Congress decided that the best approach was to leave the implementation of vaccination efforts up to state and local authorities." Jefferson as not president in 1813 and could not sign anything into law, so it's hard to know what this author meant. I did find this at History of Vaccines.org dated 1813.

 

The U.S. Congress authorized and James Madison signed "An Act to Encourage Vaccination," establishing a National Vaccine Agency. James Smith, a physician from Baltimore, was appointed the National Vaccine Agent. The U.S. Post Office was required to carry mail weighing up to 0.5 oz. for free if it contained smallpox vaccine material—an effort to advance Congress's ruling to "preserve the genuine vaccine matter, and to furnish the same to any citizen of the United States."

 

This is in complete opposition to the statement about Jefferson, but I'm leaving it in here because you can see how the internet information needs follow-up.

 

Did smallpox vaccinations lead to protests? You bet, which is why it took until 1980 to eradicate it. History News Network noted that the Puritans vaccinated after an outbreak in New England but immunizations weren't required anywhere until Boston in 1809. States began to adopt similar legislation, and incidents of smallpox declined between 1802 and 1840 (Massachusetts became the first to encourage the use of vaccines in 1802), but made a comeback so that by the 1850s because "irregular physicians" challenged the practice with "unorthodox medical theories."

 

What goes around, comes around, right? Those same unorthodox medical opinions exist today and have a wider platform. This reminds me, too, of archaeologists who like to challenge the theories of those who came before them, so they can make a name for themselves. That happened with smallpox vaccinations, too; so-called professionals who laugh in the face of what works with something so outrageous that people afraid of the needle or being injected with disease want to believe these quacks, instead. One doctor even claimed that the injections caused 80% of the smallpox cases, when smallpox ran rampant before any vaccine was known.

 

It was also around this time that the Indians were dying of smallpox following their first encounter with Europeans and some even believed that these Americans were deliberately infecting them; and that 25,000 children died in Britain each year because of being inoculated. I wonder how they found the stats to back that up?

 

But as we see today, anti-vaxxers don't believe stats. I suppose that's why it seems more prevalent today, due to all the junk that travels the internet social networks. (By the way, it has never been confirmed that Indians were deliberately exposed to smallpox to kill them off.)

 

In 1902 Massachusetts mandated the vaccine to ward off a resurgence of the disease. Some people rejected on religious grounds, and today it's felt that some blacks refuse because of the experiments performed on them at Tuskegee. One protester refused and took his case to court. In 1905 the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the state against Jacobson; the Court having found that an immunization rate of 85-90 percent confers protection on the entire group. The landmark Supreme Court case Jacobson v Massachusetts served as the precedent for future court decisions and the foundation of public health laws.

 

We have had mandatory vaccination laws, especially for children going to school. You had to show an immunization record for your child so they could attend classes. These diseases are mostly eradicated today, which perhaps is why so many young parents are resisting now. There were protests to vaccinations when my kids were going to school. Perhaps that's where the whole home-schooling issue came in (a lesson for another time). We know the Amish don't vaccinate anyone in their community, nor do they report on their health conditions.

 

A good point about protests was made in an article at OAH.org (Organization of American Historians):

 

Anti-vaccinationism was relatively muted, however, when our modern era of vaccination got underway in the 1960s. In that decade, a series of new vaccines—to prevent polio, measles, mumps, and rubella—were developed in rapid succession. Just a few years before, the American public had greeted the first polio vaccine, released in 1954, with wild enthusiasm. Parents so dreaded polio that they were quick to seek the vaccine for their children, and coercive policies never became necessary. A few voices spoke out against the vaccine, but they got little traction in a nation overwhelmingly desperate to prevent the disease.

 

Media was muted on the anti-vaxxers back then, but with so much social networking now, it would be hard to mute those voices. An effort should be made however, and especially mute QAnon and Trump supporters, such as those who recently booed him at a rally when he told them to get inoculated. The creator lost control of his monster.

 

But during the era of feminism combined with environmentalism, and all we learned about carcinogens and other poisons in what we eat and drink, some mothers got wind of what we weren't being told about the vaccinations. I guess the prevention rate wasn't enough; they started to believe autism was a result of prevention, and felt it wasn't worth the risk.

 

From there, here we are. With people who would rather eat cow dung. There will always be those who feel (via religion) that God will protect them, but we will all suffer the risk if we lose control of COVID, a mutating monster that feeds on anti-vaxxer lunacy.

 

New information on the symptoms of the Delta make it seem to mimic a cold, at least at first. Since I have allergies, wearing a mask in public places, even outside in crowded areas, makes the most sense. Because I'm not going to get a COVID test every day, to protect myself against both the vaccinated and unvaccinated who refuse to mask and could create infected air around me.

 

Do I live in fear? No. I take precautions, so that I don't. Yes, anything could kill me. But I don't want to die of stupidity.

 

This is, of course, an incomplete examination of protests, updated to add new and fascinating information. I thank Bill Bright and Pat Fitzgerald for providing the last two sources here.

 

Sources:

 

The Week, September 10 - 17, 2021.

Johnson, Carla K and Mike Stobbe, June 29, 2021, "Nearly All COVID Deaths in the US are now Among Unvaccinated," AP News, https://apnews.com/article/coronavirus-pandemic-health-941fcf43d9731c76c16e7354f5d5e187?fbclid=IwAR1KWENVq8b18Pj0Z6zZVZB7MGxGSxoqBJAdCx1XM2ZoosgEm7AOYxfb5u0. 

World Atlas, https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/when-was-the-first-vaccine-created.html. 

OAH.org, https://www.oah.org/tah/issues/2015/august/vaccination-resistance/. 

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-history/developments-by-year. 

BBC.com, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200928-how-the-first-vaccine-was-born. 

History of Vaccines.org, https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/government-regulation. 

Good information on Jefferson can be found at his site on Wikipedia.org.

From George Washington to William Shippen, Jr., 6 February 1777 (archives.gov)

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, The origins of inoculation (nih.gov)

 

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History Lesson #12: A Graveyard of Empires

We can all see what's happening with the US pull-out of troops and civilians in Afghanistan. You might not remember this, but no president wanted to pull out of Vietnam and become known as the one who made America lose. That's what's happening to Biden now, but he had the courage to face the criticism. We were never going to get anywhere there.

 

I read an interesting comment somewhere about how governing Afghanistan could destroy the Taliban, so let them try. Problem, of course, is in how many innocent people are losing their lives there in the process. Could he have done better? We are armchair coaches in both support and criticism. But there has been so many already, names we've forgotten or have never known. Since Bush's invasion in 2001, there have been 47,000 civilians killed, along with so many military. Back in 2001 they wanted to get at Al Qaida and the Taliban, and after that, the mission was to transform the country into a democracy, though it was tribal, desperately poor, largely illiterate and deeply religious, according to The Week (August 27, 2001: 6). Mission a failure, and could never possibly succeed once Bush dropped that ball.

 

But the difficulties there didn't start with Bush. That's what we'll look at here; the history of attempts to govern here, and why it's such a difficult country in the first place.

 

When bin Laden escaped capture and the Taliban left Afghanistan, Bush switched his focus to something he felt he could win -- Iraq. This left Afghanistan open to becoming - what it was all along - a war we could not win. But it was all due to 9/11. Whatever impact those attackers hoped to have on that date, they were successful. The attitude in the U.S. changed dramatically. No longer "to stop communism," as the goal in Vietnam, but "to protect America." Nationalism increased dramatically, as did anti-Muslim and anti-black attitudes in this country.

 

The photo shows Panjshir Valley, where the anti-Taliban forces are maintaining a stronghold. There's only one way in. According to The Week (September 3, 2021), Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh fled there to join with Ahmad Massoud, son of an assassinated former warlord. As noted at BBC.com:

 

"The son of an Afghan army general, Ahmad Shah Massoud was born in the valley. His portrait can still be found in many places throughout Panjshir Province and in Kabul - from monuments to billboards and shop windows. Because of him, the Panjshir valley become a centre of anti-Communist resistance, after the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) won power in 1978 - and the Soviet Union moved in forces a year later."

 

Massoud was assassinated just two days before 9/11. And there are people who say he was a war criminal. I suspect you could say that about GW Bush, too. Say what you want against Trump. He was unable to start a war.

 

Panjshir Valley continues to be the anti-Taliban stronghold, where appeals are sent out for weaponry from the US and other countries to help them continue the fight. The resistence could become a civil war there.

 

The Soviets previously did better in Afghanistan; the Soviet-backed government there lasted for three years beyond the time the Soviet troops left. The U.S. government of Ashraf Ghani "was seen as a band of corrupt American puppets," and why not? They were corrupt nearly everywhere else they tried to help. (Read "From Lincoln to Trump" to see what Eisenhower did to Iran.)

 

As the above demonstrates, we need to see Afghanistan's long history to truly understand what's going on there. The BBC.co.uk reported the following:

 

"Once a cultural crossroads, Afghanistan has been ravaged by 22 years of war and the Taliban regime whose systematic destruction of the country's cultural heritage culminated in the blowing up of the Bamiyan Buddhas. Early in 2002, Dan Cruickshank travelled to Kabul to investigate what treasures remain and find out how Afghanistan's people have dealt with attempts to destroy their culture and national identity."

 

As early as 3,000 years ago, this country was a meeting point for the Chinese, Indian and European civilizations. Alexander the Great conquered the region in 300 BCE, allowing the silk road to pass through the center of the country. In relation to the comment above:

 

"The monastery of Bamiyan - where the trade route coming south from India met the route from China to the Roman Empire in the west - is a product of Afghanistan's rich past. Buddhist monks, moving along the Silk Route, created a monastery within the cliff face overlooking the road by hollowing out cells, halls and chambers and - in the 4th to the 6th centuries - carved there two colossal statues of Buddha. This was the first time the 'enlightened one' had been expressed not in abstract but in human form."

 

According to Wikipedia:

 

"Afghanistan's significant ancient tangible and intangible Buddhist heritage is recorded through wide-ranging archaeological finds, including religious and artistic remnants. Buddhist doctrines are reported to have reached as far as Balkh even during the life of the Buddha (563 BCE to 483 BCE), as recorded by Husang Tsang."

 

It wasn't until the 7th Century CE that Mohammed came into the religious picture.  "After the Kushan Empire's rule was ended by Sassanids— officially known as the Empire of Iranians— was the last kingdom of the Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. Named after the House of Sasan, it ruled from 224 to 651 AD."

 

From the Middle Ages to around 1750 the eastern part of Afghanistan was recognized as being a part of India while its western parts parts were included in Khorasan. Again in Wikipedia (the only source I found with complete history): "The early Arab forces did not fully explore Afghanistan due to attacks by the mountain tribes. Much of the eastern parts of the country remained independent, as part of the Hindu Shahi kingdoms of Kabul and Gandhara, which lasted that way until the forces of the Muslim Saffarid dynasty followed by the Ghaznavids conquered them."

 

From the 16th century to the 17th century CE, Afghanistan was divided into three major areas.

 

Loyn told NPR's Renee Montagne that "Afghanistan's sprawling deserts and 16,000-foot mountains are a key reason why the country has come to be known as the "graveyard of empires." The Panjshir Valley is nearly impregnable and a stronghold to whoever has it, and it's not far from Kabul.

The British invaded in the 19th Century, and found that to get through the country, there simply isn't another passable route. Loyn noted:

 

"Afghans tend to ally against a foreign enemy when the enemy comes in. But then they tend to fall apart like sand when you try to govern them from inside, and many Afghan kings have discovered that." He calls government corruption their biggest obstacle. As we learned in an earlier lesson, that's also been a problem for Haiti. But attempts at colonization didn't help. If only the Soviets hadn't walked in.

 

Here's where we tie past and present together, again, from Wikipedia:

 

"The Emir Dost Mohammed Khan (1793–1863) gained control in Kabul in 1826 and founded (c.  1837) the Barakzai dynasty. Rivalry between the expanding British and Russian Empires in what became known as "The Great Game" significantly influenced Afghanistan during the 19th century. British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and over Russia's growing influence in West Asia and in Persia in particular culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars and in the Siege of Herat (1837–1838), in which the Persians, trying to retake Afghanistan and throw out the British, sent armies into the country and fought the British mostly around and in the city of Herat. The first Anglo-Afghan War (1839–1842) resulted in the destruction of a British army, causing great panic throughout British India and the dispatch of a second British invasion army. The Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–1880) resulted from the refusal by Emir Shir Ali (reigned 1863 to 1866 and from 1868 to 1879) to accept a British mission in Kabul."

 

"In the wake of this conflict Shir Ali's nephew, Emir Abdur Rahman, known by some as the "Iron Emir", came to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880–1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan. The British retained effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs. Abdur Rahman's reforms of the army, legal system and structure of government gave Afghanistan a degree of unity and stability which it had not before known. This, however, came at the cost of strong centralization, of harsh punishments for crime and corruption, and of a certain degree of international isolation."

 

While Afghanistan became officially established as a 'state' in 1880 after the second Anglo-Afghan war, recorded history of the land mass goes back to 500 BCE under the First Persian Empire. It became part of the empire under Xerxes I, who conquered much of Greece, including Athens, in 480 BCE.

 

After Alexander the Great died, it was ruled by a couple other empires until "the Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the 2nd century BC under the Parthian Empire." The Persians were an Iranian people who arrived in what is today Iran c. 1000 BC and settled a region including north-western Iran, the Zagros Mountains and Persis alongside the native Elamites.

 

Gets complicated, doesn't it?

 

Conquered variously in those very early centuries established certain locations as places where people could live and trade. In the later centuries, colonization and overpopulation tended to destabilize and control people who may have been happy as they were.

 

The question Biden finally asked was: what the heck are we doing there? No, withdrawal is not pretty. But neither is conquest. Let's let history guide our future, for once.

 

Sources:

 

The Week, August 27 and September 3, 2001.

 

Afghanistan: At the Crossroads of Ancient Civilisations, Dan Cruickshank, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/recent/sept_11/afghan_culture_01.shtml 

 

Afghanistan: The 'undefeated' Panjshir Valley - an hour from Kabul

By Paul Kerley & Lucia Blasco, BBC News, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-58329527. 

 

BBC's Loyn: Afghanistan's History Of Defying Invaders

October 8, 2009, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113582498 

 

"History of Afghanistan," Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Afghanistan 

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History Lesson #11: History of Conflict between Judaism and Islam

When Spain kicked out the Jews and Muslims in the late 1400s, The Ottoman Turks in Constantinople took them in because they felt they were great people and merchants who could help them rebuild the city shortly after they captured it. The city had been in decline.

 

Why the friendliness? When Islam broke out under Mohammed in the 7th Century, they felt they had more in common with Judaism, as in not believing Jesus as a godhead. They adopted Moses as one of their most important, and perhaps first, prophets.

 

Here's an interesting timeline:

 

Muslims believe the Quran was verbally revealed by God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel over approximately 23 years, beginning on 22 December 609 CE, when Muhammad was 40, and concluding in 632, the year of his death.  It is regarded as a proof of his prophethood.  In the sixth century the Arabs were desert nomads, in the seventh century they were conquerors on the march, in the eighth century they were masters of an empire that made the Mediterranean a Mohammedan lake, and in the ninth century they were the standard-bearers of a dazzling civilization, leaders in art, architecture, and science, while Western Europe was sinking deeper and deeper into a dark morass of its own making. Damascus fell to them in 635. Palestine in 638, Syria in 640. Egypt in 641 and the Sassanid Empire in 636.

 

There were periods of political persecution of the Jews, or any non-Muslim, after this, but that dissipated so that by the time of the Ottoman Empire, which consolidated under Osman I in 1299 and continued to conquer through 1500 CE. They had developed ways of working together, again, because of political expediency, as noted above.

 

"The British Vice Consul in Mosul, wrote in 1909: The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed."

 

In 1916 the British and French split the weakened Ottoman Empire; this would be during World War I, with Palestine governed by the British, per League of Nations. This led to the growth of Jewish and Arab nationalism, and as we've all noted by now, nationalism means an attitude of us against them. The United Nations split Palestine between the Muslims and the Jews, which must have led at times to conflict.

 

It's a fallacy, however, to believe they cannot get along.  Here's another excerpt:

 

Jews and Muslims live side by side not only in the Middle East but in many metropolitan centers. Relations between the two communities are often overshadowed by the specter of the Middle East, occasionally extending violence well beyond the confines of the Middle East. This situation is thus a significant concern for common life in most parts of the Western world.

 

Jerusalem and THE GAZA STRIP:  

 

The Ottoman Empire ruled the area for 400 years, until 1917. Just recently Donald Trump recognized Israel as the ruler of Jerusalem. Islam actually held the later claim to it, and a lesser degree of occupancy, so by all rights should give up its desire to rule there. Even better, they should be able to learn to accept each other's presence with respect. But is that even possible anymore? (Personally I do not think of it as US territory and Trump had no right interfering.)

 

As you can see by the map, the fight in the Gaza is not over Jerusalem. Israel captured the Gaza in 1967, when it was inhabited by well over a million Muslims. Israel removed its citizens later, in 2005. Because everything I thought I knew about the conflict was wrong, I'm sharing this excerpt:

 

"In June 2007, Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip. The Islamic resistance movement wants to 'liberate' Palestine from Israel and establish its own Palestinian state. Because Hamas is a threat to Israel, the country set up a blockade around the area in 2006. Imports of goods have been strictly monitored since that time. From the coast, the Israelis check ships from the outside. With these measures, Israel wants to protect its inhabitants. Egypt has also hermetically closed its border with Gaza."

 

Today, according to a 2021, Gaza has constant problems including missile attacks by Israel.  This tragic story has been going on for years, noted one source, and it appears there was no solution in sight. Is it because religious leaders there are unable to talk to each other? Who's really at fault? The Islam empire fell apart also due to internal issues, such as the inability of Sufism to accept the Ottoman empire from the start.

 

What are Hamas? They formed in the 1980s as a Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim brotherhood. It appears that Islam itself cannot unite its followers. But then, there are moderates and conservatives in ALL these major religions, as well as in our political structures. We know, for instance, that Trump's followers are inherently Christian, and many considered him appointed by God, which is why he's been able to protest the 2020 election and get away with it.

 

This is perhaps a topic for another time, but I'm researching a book I call "Scourge of the Soul," and the following information will definitely be expanded on there:

 

"The Crusades, The Spanish Inquisition, The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572, that slaughtered 20-30,000 French Protestants during the French Wars of Religion, and the thirty year war in 17th century Germany which killed one third of the civilian population, were bloodier than all the polytheistic religious conflicts in Asia, Africa and the Americas prior to the 20th century. How can this be explained?"

 

What's needed is more media focus on where they are living and doing great things together, than on a small piece of land they can't seem to share in common. A final comment from a source I completely agree with - if the religion is not a part of the solution, it is part of the problem:

 

"If religion is not to be utilized to further the conflict, it must play a constructive role in shaping, presenting and developing an alternative to it, namely more positive relations between the two communities."

 

Sources:

Ottoman Turk Empire - Great Course series lecture

http://www.jewishwikipedia.info/islam_part1.html 

https://elijah-interfaith.org/sharing-wisdom/judaism-and-islam 

https://www.eurasiareview.com/16082021-islam-and-judaism-on-the-father-of-religious-conflicts-oped/

https://www.history.com/news/why-jews-and-muslims-both-have-religious-claims-on-jerusalem 

https://www.c4israel.org/news/history/gaza-strip/ 

https://www.arabamerica.com/the-tragic-history-of-the-gaza-strip/ 

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History Lesson #10: Who Can Save The Amazon Rainforest?

According to The Week on 6/6/21 (p.21), parts of the Amazon now emit more carbon dioxide than they clean. In the past, the Amazon has been considered the "lungs" of the world, soaking up emissions that otherwise powered climate change. This was also reported on CNBC.com.

 

Today it pumps out 1.1 billion tons of carbon per year, mostly from the deliberately set forest fires meant to clear land for beef and soy production (sorry vegans, you're at fault, too).  This reduces overall rainfall, which increases the risk of fires.

 

One researcher, Luciana Gatti, from whom the report came, noted: "We need a global agreement to save the Amazon."

 

Unfortunately, the only global agreement could come out of the U.N., which seems hampered by ineffectiveness of late. This was said as early as 2019 by the Independent Media Institute noting the number of fires there (see photo).  They wrote:

 

"August 2019 stands out because it has brought a noticeable increase in large, intense, and persistent fires burning along major roads in the central Brazilian Amazon," according to the space agency. "While drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought." Much of the Amazon's land clearance is to satisfy the world's taste for meat: 91 percent of its deforestation since 1970 is due to cattle ranching, according to the World Bank.

 

Back at you, meat lovers. No one needs meat more than once a day, if even that.  

 

Truthdig.com confirms that in 2019:

 

Since August 10, a spate of intentionally set fires have been raging in the Amazon. But Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, let them burn for two weeks before sending firefighters to put them out following an international outcry.

 

On August 22, 2019 the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, wrote that the U.N. must act to protect the Amazon from those fires, but Bolsonaro said they were interfering with Brazil's sovereignty -- cries of neocolonialism.

 

How can the UN help? There's this:

 

"As empowered by the United Nations Charter, the Security Council should find that the fires in the Amazon pose a 'threat to the peace' and order measures to restore and maintain international peace and security. Those measures 'may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations,'" she writes. "The Council should require that member states refrain from entering into trade agreements with Brazil unless and until it agrees to allow international economic and physical firefighting assistance."

 

Their link contains a place to sign a petition to be sent to the U.N.  Go here. https://independentmediainstitute.org/united-nations-amazon-rainforest-fires/

 

And Truthdig noted this:

 

All UN member countries are bound by the resolutions of the Security Council. Article 25 of the Charter says, "The members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council." And Article 49 states that the UN members "shall join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures" upon which the Council decides.

 

Why hasn't the United Nations acted against Brazil? It's odd that no action has been taken, as the Amazon actually spans nine South American Countries. There is simply no place else on earth like it. It has, for instance, 41 different plants that can treat malaria. It is -- or was -- known to play a crucial role in stabilizing world rainfall. And if we take a look around the world, that has become pretty unstable lately, thanks to far right politics of that Brazilian leader.

 

But he has apparently convinced others. On June 4, 2020, the U.N. put out this statement from a representative of Colombia:

 

The United Nations has observed World Environment Day on 5 June every year since 1974. In recognition of its high level of biodiversity, Colombia will host the 2020 celebration with the purpose of highlighting the role of nature for every citizen of the planet and to underline the importance of making the right decisions at this crucial moment, when the world's nations are fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As part of its commitment to the planet, we will also host the Third meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. It will be a unique opportunity for the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to negotiate a global framework and to reiterate their commitments under the Convention.

 

This is the time to recognize once again that nature offers incalculable benefits for people and society. Therefore, we must provide greater benefits through livelihoods. Recovery from the coronavirus pandemic must go hand in hand with fostering sustainable growth and honouring international environmental commitments, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

 

But not a word on the Amazon. In other words, to read between the lines here, human recovery trumps nature.

 

Oh, in this week's "The Week" we find that Bolsonaro is pulling a "trump." He warns that the next election looks like it'll be fraudulent. But he's running at poll rating of only 23% compared to his rival. He is threatening to cancel elections if changes to voting aren't made. The trump effect continues and here is another who let the virus rage, killing 557,000 Brazilians. No wonder they want him gone.

 

 

Sources:

 

The Week, August 13, 2021, p. 10

Truthdig.com https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-un-could-save-the-amazon-with-one-simple-decree/

CNBC.com https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/15/amazon-rainforest-now-releasing-more-carbon-than-it-absorbs-study.html 

Global Landscape Forum.org https://www.globallandscapesforum.org/glf-news/as-fires-sear-amazon-rainforests-u-n-secretary-general-urges-protection/. 

Nature and Culture.org https://natureandculture.org/ecosystems/amazon-rainforest/.  This site will take donations to protect the rainforest, but I'm not sure anything can help until that president is gone.

U.N.org "The Transformative Change We Need to Live in Harmony with Nature," https://www.un.org/en/un-chronicle/title 

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History Lesson #9: Colonizing Haiti

In 1862, Lincoln became the first president to extend diplomatic recognition to Black nations, such as Haiti and Liberia, but the reason was in part to secure a place to send Black citizens once they were freed:

 

"I think your race suffers very greatly many of them by living among us, while ours suffers from your presence … if this is admitted, it affords a reason at least why we should be separated."

 

Lincoln used the same logic as President Andrew Jackson that sent civilized Indians like the Cherokee across the Mississippi to Indian Territory starting in 1830. 

 

Haiti's history is turbulent, starting with Columbus's claim of the island for Spain, though it was well occupied by Taino and other tribes. Spain ceded the western third of the island to France in 1697, renamed the island and turned to intense coffee and sugar making. By the time the French arrived, nearly all native tribes had been exterminated, so they imported Africans to work as slave labor to produce goods for the trade market.

 

There's actually a question as to who destroyed the native population; an article in The Week, July 30, 2021 (12), noted that the French not only denuded the land of timber they also wiped out the indigenous people. I suspect they merely finished what the Spanish started. They learned, as they did in the US, that natives do not care to be enslaved in their own country.

 

By 1789 slaves outnumbered the free population four to one. The Haitian revolt against the French started in 1791 and lasted until 1804, during which time Napoleon sold the US the Louisiana purchase. When they gained their independence from the French, they changed the name from Saint Domingue back to Haiti, its Taino name.

 

Haiti is the first black republic and even had an army that fought for the US in the American Revolution. This is perhaps where the idea of revolting against the French came from, as a number of them also moved to the US at this time. Before this, however, slaves had been abandoning the plantations in growing numbers, and established their own communities in remote corners of the island.

 

This link has a lot more detail but I find this section important:

 

During the 1790s, the dissolution of the Bourbon dynasty by the French Revolution and France's embrace of an egalitarian ethos emboldened Saint-Domingue's free people of color to press for their rights. In 1790 the National Assembly in Paris granted suffrage to landed and tax-paying free blacks. When the white planter-dominated colonial assembly refused to comply, Saint-Domingue became engulfed in violence.

 

But white Americans leading up to their Civil War, did not want to recognize Haiti as an independent republic, in part because of their use of slaves. Lincoln's recognition in 1862, then, was a logical step for him toward announcing his Emancipation Proclamation.

 

Historians today are still reluctant to admit the truth about Lincoln, that he bought into Senator Doolittle's idea of sending freed blacks to other countries. Here's what I found on that 1862 idea:

 

There were several emigration movements led by leaders such as Martin Delany and James Theodore Holly, who encouraged African-Americans to settle in Haiti. Although the majority of those who moved to Haiti returned to the U.S. due to linguistic and climatic issues, close to 20 percent of free blacks from the northern United States went to Haiti before the Civil War. This migration between Haiti and America forged links between the two countries.

 

It is interesting, though, to note some black leaders agreed with the idea, although most did not. Delany's experiences are especially interesting, if you want to read further.

 

Their history after revolution against France is quite distressful, with a number of assassinations of presidents to follow. It was during one of the more peaceful reigns that the US recognized the nation under General Nicholas Geffrard (1859−67).

 

Relations after that were cordial but distant, until July 1915, when civil unrest surrounding the assassination of President Vilbrun Guillaume Sam provided a pretext for intervention. It wasn't until 1930 that the US allowed them to resume free elections. Here's something that indicates the long series of unrest there:

 

The president-elect, Sténio Vincent (1930−41), was a former senator with populist tendencies, and his election set Haiti on the path to reestablishing its autonomy. Vincent engaged in an ambitious program of infrastructure improvement, while insisting that the U.S. Marines end their active occupation. As a show of nationalism, he delivered his state addresses in Creole, rather than in French. Like many of his predecessors, however, Vincent also resorted to using the presidency to increase his own wealth and power.

 

Before the earthquake of 2010, as many as three million lived at Port-au-Prince. The earthquake killed 250,000 and 1.5 million were left homeless. The UN sent a relief effort, but brought cholera with them. The money that was pledged had no practical distribution management.

 

Haiti is today considered the western hemisphere's poorest country. The recently assassinated president, Moise, was a banana exporter who was widely detested. Today the US policy is hands off.

 

Why is Haiti so poor? It's not just environmental disasters. Yes, a series of revolts against their own leadership didn't help. But in their settlement with France in 1804, they had to pay 150 million francs in reparations for lost slaves. This was an impossible number; they spent the next century tolling to repay that debt rather than on their own infrastructure.

 

France has had a terrible colonial past. It's because of France that the war in Vietnam was fought. I suggest the French today invest that amount to help Haiti rebuild.

 

The U.S occupation there in 1915 was in fear that the Germans were going to use it as a Caribbean base. What did the US do?

 

Confiscated Haiti's gold reserves, imposed racial segregation and created a gendarmerie controlled by Marines … consolidated Haiti's debt to France and replaced it with debt to U.S. banks.

 

As Haitians tried to rebel, US forces fought back, killing 2,000 in just one skirmish. When the U.S. finally pulled out, during the Depression, they left behind a desperately poor and unstable nation.

 

Oh, but the U.S. wasn't done. In the 1950s they feared it would turn communist and installed Papa Doc and Baby Doc, dictators who stopped at nothing to make themselves richer. In 1990 they got a democratically elected president who was deposed in two coups, supported by both the US and UN.

 

What does the US owe them today? Along with France, just about everything.

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History Lesson #8: Taxing the Rich

Summary: No, the goal of the U.S. is not to help the rich get richer. 

 

 

It seems that somehow the GOP has forced Biden to reconsider raising taxes on the rich, or at least reversing Trump's tax cuts, in an effort to pay for infrastructure and everything else Biden wants.

 

But why? Isn't a study of economics in history able to give Biden the guidance he needs? Let's give Biden the tools he needs to raise the taxes on the rich before the U.S. comes crashing down around our feet.  But also, it's the GOP's job to make Biden fail.

 

Here's a report from CBS News: "Poll after poll show that people favor higher taxes to reduce the deficit. That's because, while susceptible to demagoguery, most of us aren't total idiots. The case for balancing the budget in part by raising taxes on top income-earners is compellingly simple. Better yet, it's good economics."

 

Good economics. What does that mean? According to this site the Bush era tax cuts during his war contributed greatly to our deficit. That's not hard to believe. Even if the taxes on the rich were raised, their income gains would still dramatically increase compared to the rest of us. Can Bezos stand to pay more in taxes? There's really very little doubt about that.

 

(I would love to stop supporting Amazon but that's the only place my books are currently available. But I will say that my sales have screeched to a halt the better part of this month, so I'm sure others are boycotting.)

 

And there's this: "Recent income gains for the highest-income one percent have far exceeded gains for everyone else, leading to dramatic income concentration at the top of the scale. Now, more than ever, the highest-income households are in a better position to pay taxes."

 

Don't believe CBS? Let's look at another source.  The PEW Research Center has a pretty good rap. Here's what they say about what we think about raising taxes: "By two-to-one (44% to 22%), the public says that raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 would help the economy rather than hurt it, while 24% say this would not make a difference. Moreover, an identical percentage (44%) says a tax increase on higher incomes would make the tax system more fair, while just 21% say it would make the system less fair."

 

Okay, I get it. More of us are in favor than against, which is proportional to more of us voting Democrat to Republican. What are the Republicans afraid of? That rich people will no longer have the money to help them cheat at elections? Okay, you know I'm biased, right? The Republican Party needs a new image, a new mission statement, in order to align with voters today in a more honest and direct way.

 

Now, granted, that was an old survey, but fair enough because of the references above to GW Bush.

 

Here's one from Marketplace.org in 2018, a little more recent.  "One of the most pernicious economic falsehoods you'll hear during the next seven months of political campaigning is there's a necessary tradeoff between fairness and growth. By this view, if we raise taxes on the wealthy the economy can't grow as fast," noted Robert Reich. He noted that taxes were higher on the rich in the first three decades after World War II than they've been since. He also said Clinton's taxes on the wealthy contributed more to the growth of the economy than did Bush's tax cuts after him.

 

"What we should have learned over the last half century is that growth doesn't trickle down from the top. It percolates upward from working people who are adequately educated, sufficiently rewarded, and who feel they have a fair chance to make it in America."

 

Let's look at an opposing opinion to see how much sense it makes.  "Luckily, there are some people out there who understand why higher taxes are bad for the economy and society. Steven Horowitz of Libertarianism.org is certainly one of them and he does a terrific job of explaining just why the current tax-scheme regime is hurting America. In his recent article, "The Social Harms of Taxing Private Wealth," Horowitz does a great job of defending capitalism and the current private financial system and he explains why the Democrats are so misinformed about wealth and what a wealth tax would mean for not only our nation's billionaires but also every other productive member of society."

 

Oh my goodness. We cannot take a chance on hurting billionaires? Maybe someone who has 5 billion will end up with 4 billion and that will just destroy him? I'm sorry, it's hard to take those people seriously. Please look at their link if you want to read more. I'd rank those comments right up there with QAnon lies about mass shootings being fake.

 

When did trickle down start? How about Coolidge? Coolidge both cut taxes and cut the federal budget. He knew that to cut taxes you had to cut spending. Fair enough. No brainer, really. He served during the roaring Twenties, a time of tremendous economic boom, during which a middle class was created. The war was over -- it was time to dance. The tax was reduced on the wealthiest from 77% to 7% he was the one to start Reagan's "trickle down" economics by lowering taxes on businessmen.

 

Economic historian Steve Fraser felt that the Coolidge administration perfected "crony capitalism," where you could no longer tell the difference "between the representation of a political constituency and the servicing of a corporation client."

 

This was a happiness bubble that grew too big and finally burst. But not under Coolidge. He didn't like to see what was happening to the stock market but he felt it wrong for the government to interfere. He chose not to run again, Shlaes said, because he'd had enough.

 

So that particular trickle down, if left uncorrected under Hoover, led to the crash of 1929. From what I could find, Hoover further cut taxes, believing in hands-off capitalism. He too believed people would benefit if the rich business owners had more money.  So low taxes on the rich directly led to the depression, it seems.

 

Most of us remember Ron Reagan as being the one who created trickle-down. It didn't start with him, but obviously he didn't know his history. Reagan called his program of cutting taxes to produce more jobs and reducing regulations to get the federal government out of business interests as "The New Federalism."

 

Reagan's package offered no relief when the country went into a devastating recession. High interest rates put the stopper on everything from home mortgages to factory prosperity. They finally realized they had to drop oil prices and Reagan also cut domestic programs. The federal deficit, however, continued to grow, because Reagan funneled domestic savings into the defense budget, while the taxes for the wealthy were cut dramatically to create that 'trickle-down' that would produce jobs.

 

Did you notice that today even your CDs get very little interest? I wonder why that is. Yes, no economic growth thanks to the pandemic. But maybe taxing the rich would help.

 

In 1981 there was a serious recession, with unemployment as high as 11%. Growth from tax cuts failed to materialize; he thought slashing income tax up to 25% would encourage people to reinvest in the economy. "Debt interest payments became the government's third largest bill after defense problems and entitlements such as public assistance." As Reagan assured the people to stick with him, Congress enacted a $100 billion tax increase. By 1983 the country again experienced a period of growth.

 

Hey, I'm not making this stuff up. Some of the above, by the way, you can find in "From Lincoln to Trump."

 

Here's a summary found online.

 

"As projections for the deficit worsened, it became clear that the 1981 tax cut was too big. So with Reagan's signature, Congress undid a good chunk of the 1981 tax cut by raising taxes a lot in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1987. George H.W. Bush signed another tax increase in 1990 and Bill Clinton did the same in 1993. One lesson from that history: When tax cuts are really too big to be sustainable, they're often followed by tax increases."

 

So now it's time for that tax increase, Mr. Biden. Congress must act.

 

"The other argument that advocates of tax cuts for the rich make is that many small-business owners would be see their taxes go up and thus would be discouraged from hiring workers. The facts do not support this. "Only 3 percent of small-business owners are in the top bracket," notes Roberton Williams, a senior fellow with the Tax Policy Center, which is sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. And, he adds, "They are not all what we think of as job-creating small businesses. A lot of them are hedge-fund managers and law-firm partners." So other than perhaps a few restaurateurs on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the workforce is unlikely to be affected."

 

This was another article about the Bush tax cuts expiring.  Jeepers, I sure hope they did because if not, we have Trump tax cuts on top of them. No wonder rich men can afford to build spaceships.

 

Oh wait …

 

The Bush tax cuts were two tax code changes that President George W. Bush authorized during his first term. Congress enacted tax cuts to families in 2001 and investors in 2003. They were supposed to expire at the end of 2010. Instead, Congress extended them for two more years, and many of the tax provisions remain in effect—and continue to affect the economy—to this day.

 

Son of a gun.

 

 

SOURCES:

 

From Lincoln to Trump: A political transformation

 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-raising-taxes-on-the-rich-is-good-economics/ 

 https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2012/07/16/raising-taxes-on-rich-seen-as-good-for-economy-fairness/ 

 https://www.marketplace.org/2012/04/18/taxing-rich-good-economy/ 

 https://genzconservative.com/why-higher-taxes-are-bad-for-the-economy/ 

 https://www.thebalance.com/president-hoovers-economic-policies-4583019 

 https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2017/12/08/what-we-learned-from-reagans-tax-cuts/ 

 https://www.newsweek.com/would-raising-taxes-rich-hurt-economy-74041. 

 https://www.thebalance.com/president-george-bush-tax-cuts-3306331 

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History Lesson #7: Wild West Madison

The "Wild West" began after the Civil War and west of the Mississippi River. But Wisconsin had its share of wild western times before the Civil War, as the Americans moved westward from the Atlantic seaboard after the Revolutionary War. The Madison area developed after War of 1812, which ended in 1815. This was the second clash over land between the Americans and British. In 1816 the first American fort in Wisconsin, Fort Crawford, was built at Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi River.

 

Desire for resources had a major impact on western migration. Two were especially prized; lumber and lead. Mining for lead was a major industry by 1822 from Galena up through Prairie du Chien soon after. The first sustained and commercial lumbering sawmill was established north of Green Bay in 1827 by J.P. Arndt; the first uprising over the lead regions south of Madison happened that same year. Arndt built Durham boats to ship lead from the lead mining district via a portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers after the Erie Canal opened in 1825. Fort Howard in Green Bay was much older; first a French fort and then a British one.

 

The Winnebagoes (now Ho-Chunk), however, had pretty good control of the lead mining region all the way up to the Portage area, similar to what Americans would witness by the Sioux and Cheyenne later in the Black Hills. The Winnebagoes tended to charge Americans for trespass and mining privilege, and even began a kind of working relationship with some in the area. This was not to the liking of the Americans, however.

 

We all know that miners wanted the Sioux out of the Black Hills, and this led to that famous battle at the Little Bighorn. A lesser known battle happened in southern Wisconsin over lead mining. Said Spoon Decorah, years later: 

 

When the whites began to come among the mines, the Big Father said to his Winnebago children: ' I want this land and will have my own people to work it, and whenever you go out hunting come by this way, and you will be supplied with lead.' But this agreement was never carried out by the White Father or his agents. Never was a bag of lead or a bag of shot presented to us. For many years there was much sorrowful talk among the Winnebagoes, at the manner in which the Big Father had treated them, with regard to the mines. No, we never saw any of our lead again, except what we dearly paid for; and we never will have any given to us, unless it be fired at us out of white men's guns, to kill us off.

 

The Winnebago War of 1827 began with the attack and rape of Indian women. This same kind of event caused the Paiute War in Nevada in 1860, during the on-rush of speculators to rumors of gold and silver in the Comstock around Virginia City. Wise Paiute heads attempted to keep the peace there, until two men abducted two Paiute girls, molested and then hid them. Here in Wisconsin, during a drunken party between keelboat traders and some Winnebagoes near Prairie du Chien, their women were taken.

 

When the Winnebago men sobered up and found them missing, they became upset and demanded action. So Red Bird and his two companions visited some friends in Prairie du Chien, where they had always been received with friendly trust. But because word of these missing women may have reached that community, mistrust, anger, and perhaps lack of judgment led these former friends to reach for weapons and were killed by Red Bird and his party. Around this same time, another group of Winnebagoes went to the river to watch for the keelboats to return. When they saw the first keelboat they attempted to row out to get their women back but were fired on. So they fired back. This attack was exaggerated by the keel boatmen.

 

Alcohol was the reason for Red Bird's War, along with desire for the lead mines. In Wisconsin's Wild West, alcohol and soldiers who wanted women were a deadly combination. The Paiutes never tried to fight the Europeans again after their 1860 war, even though they'd won, and the Comstock Lode area around Virginia City came fully under European control. The Sioux beat Custer in 1876 over the government's desire for gold, but ultimately lost the Black Hills.

 

The first cattle drive west of the Great Lakes mimicked the later ones to Abilene, Kansas, and likely traveled through the Madison area. Around 1826 Ebenezer Childs was hired by J.P. Arndt to help with his timbering, but also to drive cattle for him from St. Louis back to Fort Howard in Green Bay. Childs started with 262 head and made it with 210, not bad in those days, especially since that may have entailed crossing the Mississippi River. There's a good chance he sold a few along the way, too.

 

Black Hawk's War

Indian cession of land in 1829 of the lead mining region encouraged the arrival of more Easterners. There were some Winnebagoes, however, still living in Madison in 1833; moving them across the river was not fully accomplished until 1855, and after that they continued to slip back into Wisconsin. 

 

In similar fashion to those later clamoring for the Black Hills were those in southern Wisconsin complaining that Indians were still in the way of the lead. In 1832 the Black Hawk War was fought between the U.S. Army and some Sauk and Fox who wanted to continue to work their corn fields on their homeland as they always did. There was a series of misunderstandings on both sides that led to war. Decades later, in 1867, the government sent a Civil War general, William S. Hancock, into Kansas to talk to the Sioux and Cheyenne, but he ended up threatening them, scaring them, and then burning their village. This led to general unrest that summer that resulted in the Treaty of Fort Laramie.

 

Here Colonel Dodge convinced the Winnebagoes not to join with the Sauk and Fox, and General Henry Atkinson was given the task of forcing Black Hawk's people back to Iowa to stay. They were accustomed to raising corn at their village near Rock Island but suddenly they were being forced away.

 

After a successful repulse of Atkinson's detachment under Stillman by Black Hawk's people in May (after trying to stop the attack with a white flag), there came a series of confrontations all that summer. On August 2nd the Sauk and Fox faced final defeat at Bad Axe River north of Prairie due Chien, now considered more of a massacre.

 

They were confronted by 4,000 military while trying to get across the Mississippi to the western side in any way possible. Black Hawk for the last time tried to surrender, but the captain of the steamboat professed to believe the flag of truce was a ruse and opened fire with a six-pounder and musketry. He ceased only when his supply of fuel gave out. The infantry now came up, pushing the Indians from behind. Men, women, and children were driven into the river at the point of bayonets, to be drowned or picked off by sharpshooters. This lasted three hours and at least 150 were killed and an equal number drowned.

 

President Andrew Jackson formulated the Indian Removal Act two years before this event; the Five Civilized Tribes were in their way. While Jackson remained president until 1837, the tide of opinion, or Congress, at least, must have turned against him by 1834. That was the year Congress organized the Department of Indian Affairs, and the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act.

 

By this time all the tribes in Wisconsin were in line to be moved out, including the Menominees, who signed a treaty in 1831 that gave J.P. Arndt control of the timber lands he had leased from them for his trees.

 

The Winnebagoes were continually told they were not welcome here. They signed a treaty in 1832 relinquishing lands south and east of the Wisconsin and Fox rivers. They were told they would no longer be protected from the settlers who were moving in at a rapid rate. The Treaty of 1837 forced them to cede all their lands east of the Mississippi River, along with some land west of the river. The Treaty of 1846 contained completely ambiguous language pertaining to the land they still occupied that they had to give up; they were dealing with remnants of the tribe who refused to move or who had wandered back.

 

The final treaty of removal from Wisconsin was in 1855, coincidentally through the same commissioner who handled the final land purchase of the Black Hills in late 1876, George Manypenny. This 1855 treaty was an exchange of one area of land in Minnesota for another parcel further west in that territory, with the money to be paid them expended to help them make this final move.

 

By 1838 there was some reluctance to continue this movement of Indians to the West, where they might form a "confederation" of common property. The president was now Martin Van Buren. The official reason given to discontinue the notion was that they might not all get along, not because they might provide an impenetrable force against further westward movement. As a result, the Menominees, Potawatomies and the Chippewas were given their own permanent reservations in Wisconsin, making Wisconsin the most eastern state to still have a large viable Indian population.

 

Building a Town

While these negotiations continued, so did fur trade in the Madison area on a large scale until 1835. Madison was only a "paper town" when Judge James B. Doty proposed it that year for the state's territorial capitol. Doty held court at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien but arrived in Madison in 1829 on his first trip to the area. Doty had also been the judge chosen for Red Bird's trial the year before, but he kept stalling because traveling to the area of the uprising put him at great risk, and, not being pro-Indian, wanted extra money for the job. Red Bird died of dysentery at Fort Crawford awaiting his day in court.

 

Cheyenne, Wyoming, a spirited western town, was settled in 1867 as a good location for a train stop, surveyed by Grenville Dodge (no direct relation to Henry Dodge). Settlement came so fast they called it "Magic City of the Plains." They immediately wanted to get into the Black Hills. To a lesser degree Madison grew, more as a trickle than a boom, and without the accompanying "hell on wheels" that the railroad tended to provide.

 

But similarly, in 1835 the first road was built to Madison that connected Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien to Fort Winnebago in Portage, the fort built on the spot where Red Bird surrendered in 1827. His statue should be here; however, you will see this greater than life statue at High Cliff State Park. You can also still see parts of this "military road" marked on maps. Doty designed the road, after successfully lobbying for its creation. And then he proceeded to buy real estate and with others formed "The Four Lakes Company." 

 

Doty wanted to take the importance off the port of Green Bay and bring that importance to the southern part of the state, where he felt the location was more beneficial to capital enterprise. Land offices opened in 1835 in Mineral Point and Green Bay for land sales around Madison and Dane County. Milwaukee got a land office in 1838. 

President Jackson created Wisconsin Territory in 1836 and appointed General Henry Dodge as its first governor. Dodge and Doty did not get along. Doty once accused Dodge of taking more credit than he deserved for the removal of the Winnebagoes from the lead mining region.

 

Dodge tried to establish the capitol at Belmont; their historic museum is south of Madison off 151. Doty entered this gathering of legislators to push for his townsite of Madison. When I gave tours at Marinette Logging Museum, I was told to tell visitors that the buffalo robe on display was like the ones that Doty gave to the legislatures at Belmont who were shivering in the cold of November for lack of firewood. With Doty's persuasive manner, including handing out choice corner lots, they moved their headquarters to Madison. 

 

At the time of Madison's creation, Dane County had all of 40 non-native inhabitants.

 

The Panic of 1837 slowed Madison's growth, caused by Jackson's "Specie Circular," which required payments for public lands in either silver or gold instead of the growing use of "paper money" in circulation. Because of this, land sales were sharply curtailed. The first sawmill in the area was built that year, too, and trees were cut regardless of any potential ownership, because now a state capitol had to be built. Probably because of the panic, this took four years.

 

This compares to the Panic of 1873 out west, which was the results of abnormal railroad growth between 1866 and 1873. Jay Cooke's firm, Philadelphia Banking, had invested heavily; during its plans to build the Northern Pacific, Cooke realized it had over-invested and declared bankruptcy. Investment money dried up and construction in some areas ceased for two years. During that time 18,000 businesses failed, which led unemployment to rise to 14% by 1876.

 

Madison's growth remained slow here as well; in 1843, only 40% of the survey lots were owned by locals. Lead mining was still the area's primary occupation. Madison's future was uncertain because of sickness, mosquitoes, wolves, prairie fires and Indians—many Winnebagoes still defied banishment. Also poor roads, high prices and labor shortages all took their toll on its development. And quicksand. Yes, quicksand; the Great Central Marsh had a quicksand scare for at least one local resident.

 

School was first held in Isaac Palmer's log cabin in 1838, but by 1846, with education on everyone's mind, they got their first schoolhouse for 60 kids. Ten years later, only 450 of the city's 1600 children could attend public schools, which were classes held in that school house and any other building they could find, with one teacher to every 125 children. Indignation appeared in the newspaper: "We have plenty of saloons and tippling houses!" This same indignation later ruled the west.

 

Also in 1846, locals supported separate status for the races. Black suffrage was rejected by a vote of 176-18. There weren't many slaves in Wisconsin and there were several freed blacks who settled in the area before the Civil War; this population appeared to be just enough to make the ruling against allowing them to vote, even if they were gainfully employed. 

 

Carl Schurz, who founded the Republican Party in Ripon in 1854, was a German who lost taste for his fellow Germans when he couldn't win them to the party with suffrage as the party's platform. 

 

Crazy Wild Inhabitants

All kinds of colorful characters moved into the area, following Doty's establishment of the territorial capitol. In 1837 Madison got its first public house with a woman proprietor who had as tough a life as any pioneer woman out west. Doty talked her into opening a boarding house for visiting politicians and others destined to make the area boom. To sweeten the deal he offered her a choice piece of property. After a year Rosalie Peck and her husband started clearing the land to develop their farm when Doty told them there had been a mistake. He never promised her any land. From here they moved to Baraboo, but her husband left her and the children for another woman, and then she was tossed out of that homestead by a drunk who claimed her property.

 

Even the first religion that came to Madison in 1837 could have been a scam. The fellow claimed to be a Methodist preacher and gave the religion-hungry folk a right nice sermon. His "ministry" came up with $20 for him, and when he was about to leave, his horse came up lame. So they gave him another one and an extra $15. When his horse died a few days later in their care, they grumbled about being conned—they never saw the fellow again. Madison finally got its first church building in 1846. 

 

Fourth of July in 1839 demonstrated the value of both the beef on the hoof and whiskey, when a fellow hid his steer so he could join the festivities and relax. Three days of whiskey cavorting passed before he remembered what he did with his beefsteak on the hoof—after the whiskey ran out.

 

Politics made the whiskey climate even livelier—or vice versa. When the Madison legislature was in session the local women were appalled by the "drinking, profanity and wickedness that characterized the tiny town." Gambling houses operated without fear of law, much the same as they did in Aurora, Colorado, Virginia City, Nevada, or San Francisco, years later.

 

Shootings against unarmed people were claimed as self-defense here as well. There was an event in 1867 in New Mexico where State Legislator Rynerson walked up to a judge who was having dinner in public, told him to take back the things the judge had said about him, or he'd shoot him. Judge Slough responded, "Shoot and be damned" so Rynerson killed him on the spot. He was later found innocent by reason of self-defense.

 

In Madison, the same defense was probably sought, but with a twist, when on February 11, 1842, Charles Arndt, son of lumberman J.P. Arndt, was shot and killed in the council hall by fellow politician J.R. Vineyard, and yes, Vineyard was also found not guilty. They had been having an argument over who to nominate for sheriff of Grant County. Vineyard, a Kentucky Democrat, called Arndt a liar; Arndt struck him, so Vineyard pulled a gun and shot him. 

 

Moses Strong was Vineyard's attorney and drank a pitcher of whiskey while he addressed the jury. Even with that (or maybe because of that) Vineyard was acquitted. The records don't indicate if Strong was trying to prove how capable a man can be as a politician with whiskey on his breath, but heaven knows what other reason he might have had to drink whiskey in court.

 

While Vineyard soon moved to California, Rynerson began practicing law in Santa Fe again.

 

In 1842 an English visitor saw, during drab rainy weather, drunks lying in the mud beside the road, heard his fill of coarse language, and was treated to crude accommodations and a revolting menu. He threatened to kill anyone who mentioned that he had been in Madison.

 

No wild west story is complete without the story of a man who could have been somebody except for gambling and liquor. Here let's pick on Moses Strong. He was a Mineral Point resident, a surveyor, friends with future railroad man John Catlin, and a lawyer from Vermont. He helped to survey the land around Madison's capital. He was also on the commission of the first bank at Mineral Point, but nearly got killed for opposing the bank's operator; Strong refused the request for a duel. He was likely a lead miner because he was adamant about the Winnebagoes being entirely at fault for the uprising in 1827, regardless of what others said. With all his connections, his legacy is to be a lesser known except for this whiskey tale.

 

On May 29, 1848, Wisconsin became the country's 30th state. In this same year, the entire Southwestern U.S. was acquired because of the Mexican War; only two years before, Oregon Territory had been claimed.

 

Madison wasn't tamed quite yet. Sidewalks were a mess until 1855 and public sanitation before that time read like a page out of Santa Fe in the late 1860s: "garbage tossed in the river, defecation and urination on sidewalks, streets, roads and lanes within the city limits, residential debris spilling onto the sidewalks." Here in Madison they complained of "garbage and slop dumped in the streets, dead animals decaying where they dropped, and offal from slaughterhouses thrown into lakes, and horse manure and urine creating a health hazard."

 

Cholera epidemics ran through Madison in 1849, 1852 and 1854, and finally public sanitation became a priority, as it did in Santa Fe starting in 1868. Madison's great pig roundup began in 1855.

 

Establishing the Roadways

The road created the town, and not vice versa, here as well as out west. Mollenhoft referred to the railroad as a "prerequisite for urban success." I would call law, public sanitation and settled property just as necessary, by American standards. The railroad, however, certainly aided the speedy transportation of goods necessary for growth, and we can understand how highly desired it was out West because of how wide, open (and dry) that land is. But the railroad alone brought no taming to the West; they still needed law, public sanitation and settled property.

Regular roads led to the establishment of Madison, but in 1836 the first railroad out of Chicago ran to the lead mines of Galena, called the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. Previous to 1854 the company had built a branch line from Belvidere, Illinois to Beloit, Wisconsin and in that year it leased the Madison & Beloit Railroad, a line projected and partly built from Beloit to Madison. This road, the name of which was changed about this time to the Rock River Valley Union Railroad Company, was consolidated in 1855 with the Illinois & Wisconsin Railroad Company, which was incorporated in Illinois in 1851. The title adopted after this consolidation was the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Railroad Company. 

 

According to Mollenhoft, however, the first rail line into Madison was the Mississippi and Madison Railroad, under John Catlin. Elsewhere referred to as the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad, ending at Prairie du Chien, the line passed through Madison with great fanfare in 1854 (see historic depot building).

 

As Fort Crawford in Prairie du Chien was built to protect the growing swell of Americans to the area, Fort D.A. Russell was built in 1867 to house the army that protected the Cheyenne Wyoming railroad, its workers and settlers who came to take advantage of this "terminus town." Real estate speculators, merchants, gamblers and tradesman all converged in the area, and trouble soon developed over who had the right to sell the land around the station. Land jumpers were run out of town and the railroad's rights confirmed. By the end of that first year, Cheyenne had 4,000 settlers along with churches and schools. 

 

Madison's west demonstrates what the westward ho priorities were for development. But even with all these civilizing factors, Cheyenne in 1867 was overrun in lawlessness.

 

By 1853 in Madison 75% of properties owned by locals, and the Madison "wild west" era could be said to have ended. In 1855 Horace Greeley called it "the most beautiful townsite in the west." So here we'll end the tale of the Wild West Madison era, with the railroad not a "hell on wheels" here as it was in Cheyenne but it was military roads that created Madison's "wild west." Because whatever brought settlers in for resources before law, you have the makings of some wild times that would probably make even State Street Halloween parties today seem tame in comparison.

 

***

 

WESTERN SITES TO SEE related to Madison's Old West: The Old Spring Tavern was built in 1854 by Charles Morgan, native of Connecticut who went "west" for his health. 3706 Nakoma Road, sitting on the historic Milwaukee to Platteville Road. Hyer's Hotel was built in 1854. David came to Madison to help build the first capital in 1837, the one that took four years because of the panic. He probably wanted to get the capitol done before working on his hotel at 854 Jenifer Street. Shortly after he built it, however, he sold it. And speaking of German immigrants and "tavern" fun, we have the Plough Inn, built in 1854 at 3402 Monroe Street. Sadly most of this has been recovered or rebuilt from its original stone by Frederick Paunack, who was a stonecutter and built his house from stone cut the sandstone from the nearby quarry that is now the Glenwood Children's Park. Book binding arrived with a German immigrant, Gottlieb Grimm, who bound the first book in Madison in 1850. The Grimm Book Bindery was founded in 1874 at 454 W. Gilman Street. Religion did come successfully to Madison, as this Grace Episcopal Church at 116 W. Washington Avenue shows, built in 1855 for the congregation that began in 1839. The earlier church mentioned is no longer standing.

 

SOURCES:

Jonathan Carver's Travels Through America, 1766-1768

 Larry Gara, Short History of Madison

Letters Received, Office of Indian Affairs, Prairie du Chien Agency, M234, R696, P90-1778

Dr. Herbert Kuhm, "Mining and Use of Lead by the Wisconsin Indians," Wisconsin Archeologist, Volume 32, #2.

The Story of Mineral Point, 1827-1941

 Lucy E. Murphy, A Gathering of Rivers

Nicolas Boilvin Letters, 1820-1823, Prairie du Chien Papers, 1809-1847, Box 1, Folder 3, David Mollenhoft, Madison: History of the Formative Year.

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The Indian Agency Video Host

Ryan first contact me in the spring of 2019. He told me they were looking for a host for a video series for an excavation project at the Portage Indian Agency House. He told me he felt like I was undiscovered talent, or something to that effect. He probably saw one of my copper videos. The truth is, it's easy to look like talent when you're talking about something you know a lot about and are passionate about. I knew very little about the Indian Agency House. But I was willing to find out.

 

As I thought about it, I was perfect -- a historian with a background in archaeology who was making her own documentary series, proven comfortable in front of a camera and  lifelong actress. Who better to act as host? And I knew a little something about the area already. In my work on Pensaukee, I discovered that J.P. Arndt was on the first committee that tried to get the portage built between the Wisconsin and Fox rivers back in 1844. The goal was to ship lead from the southern Wisconsin area, up the Wisconsin, to the Fox via this canal, through Green Bay, to the Great Lakes and up into the Erie Canal to New York. You see, the Fox River is unusual, in that it flows from south to north, so they thought that route would be easier than down the Missisippi to the Gulf and around Florida.

 

I'm not sure why they didn't have the right technology to build the canal at that time. After all, the Erie Canal was build in 1825. But the Portage Canal, though Arndt gave up on it early, wasn't built until the 1870s, by which time the railroad made it ineffective.

 

I've also done a ton of research on Red Bird's War. Red Bird surrendered in 1827 at what would later be the site of Fort Winnebago. I knew that the whole Red Bird War was staged by the Europeans as a way to get their hands on the lead mining lands in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.  The problem was, I couldn't get any history magazine or journal to publish my article. But maybe this involvement would help. For that and for Ryan's belief in me, I said, sure! I'd do my best.

 

I've been a member of Wisconsin Archeological Society for a number of years now. I was even their membership committee one year, and no, I don't know why they didn't keep me at it -- I was pretty darned good! But I also tend to rub some of the members the wrong way because I am not an archaeologist. To be fair, a lot of them are not, either. We all have a similar interest -- finding what's under ground.

 

For me, it's copper. Anything pre-contact copper. I make the Wittry copper typology with my updates free to anyone at my website. I have to. I never asked for permission to update it. I will say I'm sure I know more about copper artifacts in the Americas than anyone else in the world.

 

But this video series wouldn't be about copper, or anything pre-contact, or even about Red Bird. It would cover the excavation to find the location of the first blacksmith shop on the grounds of the Indian Agency, first operated by John and Juliette Kinzie. Much of what they know about it comes from her book, Wau-Bun.

 

Only one weekend in 2019 was all that they needed me for that year. We had to first determine where to dig using ground penetrating radar (GPR).

 

I was given a lot of people to interview, but Ryan could also be seen interviewing people. I think that was his assurance that we would cover all our bases. At one point I got bored and helped another archaeologist, John Wackman, with a metal detector flag his hits. I never heard if any of those hits made a difference in locating the excavation.

 

I also interviewed Dan with the GPR. That machine was a bitch to use. The ground was so rough that the buckets seen on the bottom started getting torn up. We all  took turns pushing the darned thing across the ground because it was so hot that weekend. Most of that area in sand and lighter green is what was tested. This was supposed to give us a good indication of where the 2020 excavations would be situated. I think the machine broke down and they had to go back again, but I wasn't needed.

 

I was in for a surprise in 2020. Yes, even with the pandemic we went ahead with the planned excavations, and invited the public in to help. If you think excavating in hot weather is hard, try excavating in hot weather while wearing masks. This time I had to be there for two weekends, and I had a different cameraman. He seemed unwilling to follow me around. I often had to hunt him down. Ryan wasn't with us that summer either, fighting Lyme disease, not COVID.

 

If I can blame anyone for the lack of organization, I suppose it would have to be me, because I was the only common factor. Museum curator Adam took control of most of the filming so I leaned on him a lot.

 

They had four different excavation grids that summer, based on what the GPR turned up. I was to talk to the volunteers about what they were finding, and be wherever an exciting find turned up. I got interviews with all the archaeologists, including Connie from La Crosse, who was in charge. I taped Adam giving a tour of the agency house; I even helped with a drone video of that area of the portage, the canal between the Wisconsin and Fox rivers.

 

What I didn't tape -- because there wasn't any -- was the exciting find of the first blacksmith foundation. Four days of excavations turned up a lot of nails, and rocks and some house debris like broken glass and pottery. But no signs of a foundation.  What went wrong? Why had the GPR failed?

 

I did a closing video of the archaeologists to talk about results and were do we go from here, and I don't think they took too kindly to my question about why didn't we find what we were looking for.

 

I found out the hard way in 2021 that they were doing yet another excavation this summer. Last summer they said they would try moving up closer to the house. They were talking about an area the GPR hadn't traversed.  This summer they wanted no video host. I saw no videos being shot at all, no cameraman hired. So I asked for permission and shot a couple of my own.

 

Sure enough, the excavations were closer to the agency house, and all I saw before people started packing up at 4 p.m. was that the ground in one area was more compacted than in another area, indicating a kind of burning process went on there. More nails, more pottery, about the same level of excitement.

 

This was a very low-key endeavor, not open to the public to dig but only to those who were members of the Agency House. They were going to finish the next day, but Saturday was my closure. I did not expect, even after all my involvement, that anyone was going to tell me how this year's excavation concluded.

 

My favorite part of the day was Adam's demonstration how the natives made a dugout canoe.

 

To be honest, I think that European history is becoming the only kind of excavation work we'll see much of in the future, as more and more native tribes demand control of their ancient history. And that's great.I cover this topic in my new novel, "Archaeology of the Dead: A murder mystery in two parts." And though I was paid minimal for my assistance for two summers, I got valuable material from this excavation for the novel.

 

My takeaways on this three-year "experience" is that I'm glad I'm not an archaeologist. As a historian, I feel much more rewarded by digging in primary and other records to find little noted materials and see how they fit the bigger picture. Things like nails and glassware just don't interest me. Copper, however, does, because it's looking more and more like the oldest metal industry in the world was right here in my back yard. And that's exciting. Plus, I discovered this past Saturday that I tend to suffer from sun exposure, and dehydrate quickly.

 

No experience is ever wasted. I don't I did the kind of job at video hosting as they would have liked. Someone else might have been more sincere and maybe more intuitive than I was.

 

I wish them the best with these excavations, but quite frankly, if they don't talk about Red Bird's surrender there, it's all a little dull to me. I would love to give a Red Bird's War talk there, but Adam knows how to reach me, if interested.

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History Lesson #6: Poisonous Progress

Many times in our rush for riches we don't stop to think what part of this could be bad for us. I'm doing physical therapy now because, in part, I worked really hard the first half of this year on three non-fiction projects. Two were second edition, but still required a lot of attention, as you'll see if you get one of them after reading first edition. And the third is very data intensive. So now I'm fighting shoulder, neck and arm pain. Minor, compared to what you're about to read.

 

This topic jumped out at me, as topics tend to do, while working on the first draft of "A Cartwright Ride through Virginia City History." Now if you want suggest a topic to explore further, I'd love it.

 

You've heard of Quicksilver, perhaps? It's a cool word, but it doesn't mean getting rich fast. Nor am I talking about a fictional Marvel hero.  Or a 1986 movie with Kevin Bacon. No, in this case, and it took me a while to find this, is it's a process utilizing mercury or another name for mercury, thusly:

 

"Mercury used to be highly regarded, for reasons both mystical and practical. Among the substances we deal with in our lives, mercury is pretty odd and amazing. The Latin name "hydrargyrum," from which its chemical symbol Hg comes, means water-silver. English speakers used to call it quicksilver, or living silver. The medieval alchemists felt that mercury must have a mighty mojo, some excess of spirit that could be tamed for their great work of turning base metal into gold."

 

Mercury as we know it today fuels our thermometers. But did you know they also used to put it in your teeth?  No, wait - they still do:

 

"As a practical matter, mercury does some very useful things. It dissolves other metals in it to make instant alloys or amalgams. A gold or silver amalgam made with mercury is an excellent material for filling tooth cavities, hardening rapidly and wearing well." (Dental authorities do not consider this a hazard to patients.)

 

Heaven knows if it is -- or isn't. In fact, dentists still use this amalgam in fillings, even while the use is debatable. Some claim it could lead to Alzheimers. But most say the amount of mercury is just too small.

 

The question that was posed that I'm going to try to answer here is whether the silver miners in Virginia City showed any signs of quicksilver poisoning, when the use of mercury was discontinued, and what are the lingering effects to the environment.

 

"These miners used mercury in the milling process -- tons of the liquid metal  in the process of ore reduction. They added mercury to the pulverized ore. They threw drew it off together with the gold and silver. The next step involved cooking away the mercury, which vaporized. They did try to recapture the mercury for re-use but lost most of it."

 

"The amount of quicksilver used by mills working the Comstock ores alone averages 800 flasks,  of 76.5 pounds each or 61,2000 pounds per month. This amount … of quicksilver had to go somewhere, and counting backwards for ten years shows 7,344,000 pounds that have gone somewhere --either up the flue or down the flume."

 

Mercury was poisonous and most deadly when inhaled. A question author James asked is how many had been affected? The symptoms at toxic levels caused hair loss, tremors, hallucinations, insanity and death. (But it's okay in our teeth.)  James was unable to share with us any data about the effects mercury had on the miners. 

 

The first effects of mercury were noted in the hat industry, of all places, because they used quicksilver in the making of felt. Remember "The Mad Hatter?" Lewis Carroll's character went mad because of mercury. I doubt you'll see that in the Disney version, though.

 

Here's a report on the beginnings of mining in the 1850s in California. By the mid-1850s, in areas with sufficient surface water, hydraulic mining was the most cost-effective method to recover large amounts of gold.

 

"Vast gravel deposits from ancestral rivers within the Sierra Nevada contained large quantities of placer gold, derived from the weathering of gold-quartz veins. Gold mining evolved from hydraulic mining of unconsolidated placer deposits in the early days of the Gold Rush, to underground mining of hardrock deposits, and finally to large-scale dredging of low-grade gravel deposits, which in many areas included the tailings from upstream hydraulic mines."

 

As mining progress into deeper gravels, the constant innovation to remove the gold and silver did not allow for "years of research" into safety measures. They built tunnels to discharge placer tailings to adjacent waterways. "Gold particles were recovered by mechanical settling in troughs (riffles) within the sluices and by chemical reaction with liquid mercury to form gold-mercury amalgam."

 

The result was highly contaminated sediments; in 30 years, more than 1.5 billion "cubic yards of gold-bearing placer gravels were processed by hydraulic mining in California's northern Sierra Nevada region."

 

As noted at this website, the high density of mercury allowed gold and gold-mercury amalgam to sink while sand and gravel passed over the mercury and through the sluice. This site does not tell us about any impact on the miners; it went on to say that mercury could still be consumed in the fish you catch in the area.

 

It's apparent that the human costs of working with metals tends to be hidden. I work with copper artifacts -- oh, not directly handling them, most of the time. But Henry Hamilton, in his days of the early 1900s, handled more copper artifacts than maybe anyone else in the world. He likely handled them without gloves and likely even while eating. He died of an unknown ailment in his late '50s. Could it have been arsenic poisoning? Possibly.

 

Even back in the 1860s the miners knew about foul odors. Ventilators were added to the top of the stamping buildings to encourage the escape of steam, gas, mercury vapors, and other foul airs. There was one instance noted that a man brought home a quantity of amalgam, and left it burning on the stove (for some unknown reason) while he ran errands. He came back to find his baby dead and his wife and German lodger rendered insensible. 

 

They had direct experience with the toxic effects back then. But they must have been taught that the benefits far outweighed the risks.

 

We all know today that these things can be poisonous but have we learned to care? Here's a current report from Indonesia:

 

"Fahrul's been working with mercury for many years, and he's showing the typical symptoms of mercury intoxication," says Bose-O'Reilly, a German medic who began studying the impact of mercury on Indonesians' health a decade ago. "He also has a tremor and a co-ordination problem."

 

Small scale miners like these supply 15% of the world's gold -- using old methods of mining. "I often have a headache, and I am weak. I have a bitter taste in my mouth." I suspect that upgrading to different mining methods takes money they don't have.

 

Here's another current report:

 

There are tiny flecks of gold deep inside Montaña d'Oro that miners extracted using liquid mercury to dissolve the gold from the dirt. Miners then heat the mixture of gold and elemental mercury, which evaporates the liquid mercury so the gold can be recovered. As a result of heating the elemental mercury, invisible, toxic mercury vapor is released in vast quantities into the air, poisoning everyone nearby, including babies and dogs.

 

There is a cool photo of quicksilver on this page.  But there's nothing cool about quicksilver, except in your thermometer. I haven't been able to find the date when they stopped the quicksilver process in Virginia City, but it sounds like it was used until mining came to an end there in the 1880s.

 

Carson River is a superfund site, on the list of the nation's worst toxic waste sites.

 

Mercury had been added to the gold because it would make the gold stick, as an amalgamate, and then the mercury would be burned off, leaving the gold behind. Unfortunately, mercury is also found in the ore of gold that is being mined. "Often where there are very large gold deposits in ore, there are also large mercury deposits, which is the case in Nevada. This is not the case for other US gold mining regions, such as Colorado."

 

Here in the U.S., mercury is no longer added to industrial scale gold mining. Now they can significantly reduce the amount of mercury released in the air by adding controls to the process that captures the mercury. You can imagine this process to be costly and beyond the reach of the small miners in other countries today, who are still sending amounts of mercury into the air.

 

The FDS says that too much mercury can cause:

 

anxiety

depression

irritability

memory problems

numbness

pathologic shyness

Tremors

 

Now all of these, in themselves, are not necessarily anything that we'd attribute to being poisoned. Pathological shyness? So it's not a surprise that miners did not note anything unusual in their working environment. Did that miner send out an alarm about what killed his child? Today small amounts come in the fish we eat. But if Carson River is a superfund site, what does large amounts of mercury do to the fish themselves?

 

Studies on mercury's effects on wildlife has been on-going since the 1970s.  Here's just one paragraph from a website you might want to look at more closely:

 

"In the earliest studies of these sublethal effects in the 1970s, Heinz reported that captive mallards fed mercury-laced food laid fewer eggs than control ducks and laid them outside the nest. Also, their ducklings didn't respond well to their calls. Numerous examples have accumulated since. Fish form loose, sloppy schools and are slow to respond to a simulated predator. Several bird species sing different songs. Loons lay smaller eggs, and they incubate their nests, forage, and feed their chicks less. Salamanders are sluggish and less responsive to prey, Hopkins and colleagues found. Egret chicks are similarly lethargic and unmotivated to hunt."

 

Sublethal means effects didn't cause death but this goes on to show it makes living less than normal for all living things. It's a cost of progress, right? And who can argue with progress, no matter how depressed it makes us?

 

So many very real things in nature are not meant to be tampered with. We may never learn the full costs of this lesson.

 

SOURCES:

 

https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-mercury-1440918. 

 https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-worry-about-mercury-in-your-silver-dental-fillings/ 

 James, Roar and the Silence, Reno: University of Nevada: 1998, p. 135-136.

 https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2005/3014/. 

 Crouch, Gregory. The Bonanza King: John Mackay and the Battle over the Greatest Riches in the American West (p. 178). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

 https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24127661. 

 https://emeramed.com/study-mercury-poisoned-gold-miners/. 

 https://ndep.nv.gov/environmental-cleanup/superfund/carson-river-mercury-superfund-site 

 https://archive.epa.gov/region9/toxic/web/html/merc-nv.html. 

 https://www.healthline.com/health/mercury-poisoning#:~:text=Food%20and%20Drug%20Administration%20Trusted%20Source%20says%20that,problems%205%20numbness%206%20pathologic%20shyness%207%20tremors 

 https://e360.yale.edu/features/mercurys_silent_toll_on_the_worlds_wildlife 

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