SEPTEMBER 2017

SEPTEMBER  2017
ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO - STANDARD OIL. Still dominating strangling the nation, a century later.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

FINDING OUR WAY

I believe we will create a better world, someday – just probably not while I am still breathing in it. My personal philosophy can best be expressed as  a “depressed optimist”.  Case in point -  recent research of the 3 inch fossil Fuxianhuia protensa, (above)  has postulated that about half a billion years ago, as the autotrophs were beginning to droolthey suffered a glitch during mitosis or meiosis, or some sort of reproduction, and begot a double pair of a particular genomic sequence in their proto-brains, and then passed that “oops” down to their daughter cells. As Neanderthals developed tools, this “double dose” of DNA strands gave rise to higher brain functions in humans. Evidently, it also gave rise to crazy.
As one brainiac involved in this study put it, “The price of higher intelligence and more complex behaviors is more mental illness.” What this implies is that whether you are studying religion or astronomy, Descartes or Deuteronomy, you are ingesting a degree of insanity right along with all the knowledge you acquire. The ability to use fire allowed us to break down meat proteins, but that also bestows the ability to burn down the house you live in. And we do it all the time – ask any Tea Party Member. Music or mythology, Einstein or astrology, nothing that humans have ever invented could not be used to destroy humans. Why should the Internet be any different from that?
You see some idiots have exploited a “hole” in the Java software system, putting, according to the United States Department of Homeland Security, one billion computers at risk, both Apple and Windows systems, and Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer browsers. According to TechNews Daily,  Java has offered an emergency fix, but it means “ users will have to approve every single instance of Java that they encounter online.”  In other words, the $8 trillion web is being destroyed because somebody found out a way to make 50 cents profit by blowing it up.
My question is , what kind of idiot would try to make a profit from destroying all future profits?  But the answer is obvious. The same kind of idiots who blew up the world wide economic system in 1929 and again in 2007, the same kind of idiots who are currently running the National Rifle Association, seemingly determined to convince the vast majority of Americans that the terms “gun owner” and “gun nut” are synonymous. As a famous fictional American once said, “Stupid is as stupid does”.
On the plus side, I also recently came across research from South Africa and Sweden, which reveals that the average dung beetle uses GPS in rolling their poop balls back home. But this G in GPS does not stand for global, but for galactic. We've always known that once the lady beetle gets a nice juicy ball of dung together, they climb on top and do a little dance. Entomologists assumed it was the beetle's way of saying to the universe “This ball of crap is mine!” But now it seems they are actually seeking to orientate themselves so they can find their way back to their burrow.  If the sun is up, they use the sun. At night they use the moon. And on moonless nights they use the Milky Way, that smear of billions of stars that runs across the night sky, that nobody ever figured a dung beetle was even aware of..
According to Professor Marcus Bryne, from Wits University in Johannesburg, “The dung beetles don't care which direction they're going in; they just need to get away from the big fight with the other beetles at the poo pile.”   And there appears to be a lesson on the relationship between Newtonian and Quantum physics here. The beetles can use the Milky Way to define a straight line back to their burrows, because they are so small, and the Milky Way is so far away. However, a moth, using the same basic methodology, circles a flame because they are bigger and closer to the light source. In other words, the moths think they are flying in a straight line, as long as they keep the light at an equal distance. Its the difference between walking from New York and Los Angeles, and flying there. It's the Flatland thought experiment, but with moths and poop, rather than circles and triangles.
But to get back to my original example, Fuxianhuia protensa, has been described as a “missing link”, or more accurately as “a mistaken link”. The problem is the little multi-legged beetle, which an average human would instantly step on if they spotted it in their closet, might have been the ancestor of all bugs – crickets, cockroaches, beetles, moths and honey bees. But it also might not.  I probably better explain my last statement, or rather let Professor Nicholas Strausfeld from the University of Virginia explain it. “There has been a very long debate about the origin of insects,” he says. And that, it seems, explains everything.
See, to put it simply, the grandaddy of all buggies was either a crab or a sea monkey (brine shrimp if you are over the age of twelve). Crabs are crustaceans, and sea monkey's are branchiopods. Crabs have much more complex bodies than do sea monkeys. So, ancient sea monkeys were thought to have evolved into insects, while ancient crabs evolved into everybody else. Or so the thinking used to go. But then along comes Fuxianhuia protensa, with a squiggly body and an organized brain, and a dependable dated age of 520 million years old. And that is old enough to have been the great-great-great-etcettera-granddaddy of both – which means that life  got smart and then found it might be more advantageous to get stupid again, but with fewer legs..
I can dig that. I can even empathize with how the little buggies felt. Every human male reaches some point in their lives when they realize that women often prefer bastards to nice guys. As your father might have told you at that point, “Life isn't fair”, and he may even have asked you, “If you ever figure women out, will let me know?” To put it in a more gender neutral way, most people reach a point when they suspect that their brains are just getting in the way of their hormones making them happy. And it appears that sometime in the Cambrian period, the squiggly crawly things wiggling across the ocean floor first confronted that basic philosophical conundrum: brains or balls? Which way will I go?
At that point it now appears that the balls returned to a simpler brain and instant gratification, while the brains tried the deferred reward path. And the amazing thing is, it appears we both ended up in the same place, standing atop a pile of our own shit and looking to the Milky Way for direction.
It's enough to make anybody a depressed optimist.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Twelve

I am amazed the Italian Bishop Mellitus thought he could easily convert the Vikings of England to Christianity. The first step in his master plan, begun the year he arrived in London - 604 C.E. - was to remake a Roman era temple dedicated to the goddess Diana into a church honoring St. Paul. In response the pagans chased Mellitius right out of London. Then they burned down his church. Although they rejected the new religion, not burning down the Bishop himself might be described as Viking religious tolerance. In any case, it was not until 1087, when William the Conqueror's Catholic confessor, Bishop Maurice, built a fortress St. Paul's (above), which would stand for another 600 years - proof in stone that Christianity had conquered London. St. Paul's Cathedral adopted a policy of growth by meiosis – the mother church granting “easements” for the devout to take most communions in off shoot chapels close to their homes, a practice practiced until London was over flowing with chapels pressed right up against the city walls.
In 1250 just the second easement was granted for a chapel outside Aldegate (Old Gate),  in the parish of Stepney. When it is completed in 1286 this church was dedicated to Jesus' mother, Mary, and it was called St. Mary Matfel – being a term for a new mother. Because this small house of worship, and its larger 1329 replacement (above), had walls of common white Kent chalk rubble held together with white plaster, and was clearly visible from the Conqueror’s Tower of London and the city walls, it came to be called The White Chapel. And thus the parish earned its name.
With time William's house of Normandy was defeated by the Plantaganents, who were followed by the houses of Lancaster, York and the Tudors, under whom the Catholic St. Mary's was rededicated as an Anglican St. Mary's. In 1673 “Whitechapel by Aldgate”, was rebuilt with red brick in a neoclassical Roman style. And in June of 1649, in the graveyard of this “Whitechapel” (above), five months after he had chopped off the head of Charles Stuart, King of England and Scotland,  Richard Brandon, a “rag man on Rosemary Lane” and public hangman, was laid to rest.
The Stuarts were followed by the House of Orange and then the German House of Hanover - whose most illustrious Queen - until modern times -  was Victoria, the Empress of India. The white chapel, at the junction of Adler Street, White Church Lane, and Whitechapel High Street, was rebuilt again in 1877 as a Victorian Gothic church, again with red brick (above). 
But three years later, on the night of Thursday, 26 August, 1880 a fire gutted the sanctuary, sparing only the bell tower and the vestry.
The red brick white chapel reopened again in December of 1882, with pews for 1,600 worshipers and an external pulpit to sermonize to the tide of sinners breaking against its walls. It is interesting to note that despite the image of Victorian piety , an 1881 survey of churches showed that on any given Sunday only 1 in 3 residence of England were sitting in pews. 
It was just across the High Street from this church, on the corner of Whitechapel and Osborn (above),  that Emily Holland met the inebriated Polly Nichols early in morning of Friday 31 August 1888. And it was the bell in the 200 foot tower of this church which interrupted their conversation. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, Polly Nichols, it tolls for thee.
The parish of Whitechapel in 1888 was bisected by two primary roads. However, this being London, both were drawn using a whimsical compass, and both were badly congested with traffic and horse manure. Whitechapel High Street ran roughly a mile from Aldegate east northeast past the white chapel and the London Hospital, where it was known as Whitechapel Road. Curving parallel north of the High Street, was Wentworth, which after crossing Brick Lane became Old Montague Street, at the eastern end of which was located the mortuary, just around the corner from the Whitechapel Workhouse.
The next primary (sort of) street north of Wentworth and Montague Street was the disjointed Hanbury Street (above), named after local brewer,  Sampson Hanbury.  The west end of the dis-articulatied Hanbury began at the wide thoughfare of Commercial Street, a block north of the Spitafield Markets - operating since the middle ages - and Christ's Church. After crossing Brick Lane, Hanbury jogged south at Spital Street, and after Greaterox Street it jogged south again, converging toward Old Montague Street, before terminating, at it's eastern end, just north of Buck's Row. A decade earlier, Hanbury had been four separate named streets, and they had not been straightened or widened, with the name change - merely another example of the geographic anarchy which results by haphazardly imposing order upon preexisting anarchy.
Sandwiched north of Whitechapel and between that and Hanbury was the infamous “Wicked Quarter Mile”, jammed with dark dangerous poverty plagued short side streets like Bushfield, Dorest, White, Princelet, Fournier, Henege, Chicksand  and Fashion Streets and Petticoat Lane,  all little more than a block long, all packed with human beings like so many sardines - such as Mrs. "Flower-on-the-Flock", who was infamous for her abilities with a knife.
Along most of its contorted length, Hanbury Street was crowded with cheaply built apartment houses, called 8 by 4's, which had replaced older grander slums. 
Their front doors opened on a hallway running the length of one side of the building. At the rear, a staircase provided access to the higher floors – 4 in all, ground and 1 through 3 - while a doorway (above, right), provided access to the rear yard and an outhouse and 1 or 2 sheds, Two doors along each hall provided access to the apartments, each a single room of 8 feet square.
Typical were the eight rooms at 29 Hanbury Street (above, center), one block east of Commercial Street, which were occupied by 17 people. Since the tenants worked at various hours of the day and night, the front doors of such buildings were never locked, providing open dark hallways, backyards and staircase landings – like the one at George Yard – for “immoral purposes”, aka side businesses.  All all of the poor but eager denizens of Whitechapel had side businesses. 
Many of the front ground floor apartments were rented to small shops, pubs, or even light industry. The ground floor front room of 29 Hanbury, in the first block north of the Commercial Street,   was a shop run by the well named Mrs. Hardiman, who sold cat meat pies. And I do not mean meat pies for cats. Mrs. Hardiman also slept in the same 8 by 8 foot room, with her 16 year old son. At night they also shared the room with their landlord, Amelia Richardson, and Thomas, her 14 year old mentally challenged grandson.
Above this, in the first floor back room was an old man named Windsor, who slept there with his 27 year old mentally challenged son. The first floor front apartment was vacant and locked. The front room on the second floor was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and their adopted daughter. The third floor rear room was used by Mrs. Sarah Cox.,   
On the front ground floor of number 17 Hanbury Street,on the north corner with John Street and in the same block, was the “Weaver's Arms” public house, popularly known as “Coonies”. The name on the liquor license was William Turner, but the owner of the building was John MaCarthy. And he was the  “Stage Door Johnny” to the “Queen the English Music Halls”, the lively, vulgar and hilarious 18 year old Marie Lloyd. 
Marie (above) had been preforming since she was 15, and her first hit song, “The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery”, displayed a genius at double entrendre two generations before Mae West - “They call him a cobbler, but he's not a cobbler, allow me to state. For Johnny is a tradesman and he works in the Boro'l, where they sole and heel them, while you wait.” The diminutive Marie, famous for her generosity and good heart, gave all four of John MaCarthy's daughters their start in show business.
There was another pub in the same block, at 23 Hanbury, “The Black Swan”, managed by Thomas David Roberts. In the back yard and basement behind, officially listed as 23a Hanbury Street, was where brothers Joseph and Thomas Bailey made packing cases. And one of their subcontractors was Mrs. Amelia Richardson, who operated her own shop in the basement and rear yard at 29 Hanbury Street.
Three floors above Mrs. Richardson's business, lived John Davis (above), with his wife and three sons, in their own 8 by 8 foot room. They had moved into the third floor front room two weeks earlier. Such a drifting existence was not unusual in Whitechapel. Of the 1.204 families tracked by the Mr; Booth's new Salvation Army during 1888,  44% changed their address that year. The nomadic Whitechapel existence produced constant worry and tension, and like the woman on Buck's row two weeks earlier, on the morning of Saturday, 8 September, 1888, John Davis lay awake in his bed between 3:00am and 5:00am, unable to get back to sleep.
Although he appeared to be “an old and somewhat feeble-looking man”, John Davis held a porter's job at the Leadenhall Market (above) in central London, “famous for its poultry, game, bacon, leather and hides”. And although shortly after 5 that morning he fell back asleep, he was re-awakened at 5:45 by the tolling of the Spitafield church clock.  John surrendered to the need to earn a salary and climbed out of bed. He quietly made himself a watery cup of tea, and dressed.  Just before 6:00 am he went downstairs, intending to use the latrine in the back yard.  Oddly, he found the back door was closed. But having opened that door, and before stepping across the sill and down the two steps, John Davis was brought to a halt.
Lying on her back, with her left side touching the fence shielding the yard from the neighbor's view, with her head at his feet, John Davis saw the body of a woman. John remembered,  ... her clothing up to her knees, and her face covered with blood. What was lying beside her I cannot describe - it was part of her body.” It was, in fact, her intestines, pulled out from her bowel, and draped or tossed over her right shoulder.
Horrified, and in shock, John stumbled back through the house and out onto the street. He wanted to alert the Whitechapel Police Station house on Commercial Street. But a few steps out the front door of 29 Hanbury, he ran into three men, two preparing to work for the Robert's brother's at 23a Hanbury – James Kent and James Green - as well as passerby Henry Holland. Davis shouted to them in a panic, ““Men, come here! Here’s a sight, a woman must have been murdered!”  The three men followed Mr. Davis through 29 Hanbury to the back door. James Kent was under the impression that the victim was  "struggling…[and] had fought for her throat."  But after a quick look at the mutilated corpse,  all three men began running. Holland headed for the Spitafield Market,, expecting to find a Constable there. Henry Holland headed for the Black Swan, determined to drown what he had seen in beer. Davis and Green headed for the Commercial Street Metropolitan Police station (above) two blocks away, where they demanded to see a senior officer because  “Another woman has been murdered!” 
But not just been murdered, this time. This woman had been murdered and then butchered. The killer was growing more comfortable with letting his horror out into the world. He was finding its release satisfying, fulfilling, comforting, even calming. And he was speeding up.
-30-

Sunday, April 10, 2016

THE FIRST DAY Chapter Twelve

I know Gettysburg (above) has been portrayed as a sleepy agricultural center before Colonel Elijah White's Virginia “Commanches” galloped into town that rainy Friday noon – 26 June, 1863. Young student Tillie Pierce, was abruptly sent home from the Gettysburg Girls Seminary. “I had scarcely reached the front door” she wrote later, “when...I saw some of the men on horseback...Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling...brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left.” But a diverse community had already been gravely wounded before the Confederates even broached the city limits.
In 1860, the citizens of Gettysburg thought their future was bright. After four years of effort the Gettysburg Railroad Company had completed 17 miles of track from Hanvover Junction, through New Oxford, to the new 2 story station (above) at the corner of Carlise and Railroad Streets. 
What had financed this investment was a 20 year growth in the backyard construction of farm wagons and buggies, stamped with the good local German names of their makers, like Studebaker, CulpDanner, Ziegler and Troxell
Their customers were the plantation owners and farmers in Maryland, Virginia and further south. And with the outbreak of the civil war many of those markets were cut off...
...while the lucrative contracts for the northern war effort favored larger manufacturers (above)  in cities like Philadelphia and Harrisburg. By the third year of the war, ambitious young white men were leaving Gettysburg to join the army or for jobs they could not find in a small Pennsylvania town. Left behind were middle aged men, women and blacks, because neither were considered players in the larger community.
In 1860, being just 10 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line, there was a strong if small African American community in Gettysburg. But we have little contemporaneous record of what the 8 % of Gettysburg's 2,400 residents who were African American experienced during the 1863 invasion, such as diaries or letters, in part because revealing education was dangerous for people “of color” even in a “free” state. But there is reason to believe that two weeks earlier the 200 black adults in Gettysburg had gotten warning of the coming rebel invasion. Caucasian school teacher “Sallie” Myers, complained she got no sleep on the night of Monday, 15 June, because “the Darkies made such a racket.” Those “darkies” spent that night packing their belongings into wagons and heading north before dawn.
All knew that if the rebels captured them, even those born free, they would be driven south in bondage, and the women, it must be assumed, would be raped. Still, many stayed. Eventually at least fifty Gettysburg men, women and children - 1,000 from all of Pennsylvania - would suffer being sold on Virginia slave blocks or forced to slave for the rebel army. To say the American Civil War was not about slavery is to ignore the priority given to slave hunts by Rebel soldiers in the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania.
So why did some not run? For blacks, running meant freedom, but it also meant poverty, at least for a time. The fifty blacks who were employed in Gettysburg, such as 28 year old laundress Margaret "Meg" Palm (one of 17 working women) or Pennsylvania College janitor John Hopkins (above),...
...or tenant farmer Basil Biggs (above, with family). had to balance their salary against their freedom. For the dozen or so black property owners, like wagon maker Samuel Butler, restaurateur Owen Robinson, or farmer Abraham Brien, the choice was between freedom and loss of status.
But for Meg Palm (above) there was also a moral obligation to stay. Beyond her devotion to her husband Alfred and infant son, Joseph, Meg was a station master on the Underground Railroad, smuggling escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. Known as “Maggie Blue Coat”, for the used military jacket she wore, she was infamous to the slaver catchers in Maryland, who had already tried to kidnap her at lest once. But Meg was not a small woman in size or in courage, and she had battled her attackers bare handed. That night she saw Alfred and Joesph flee north, to safety, while she stayed behind to continue helping the weakest most recent survivors of the south's “pecular institution”.
Tillie Pierce (above) continued her story, writing, “Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest. They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away...Whatever suited them they took” Well, that was not quite the way it happened.
Just after General Gordon's men occupied the city square and chopped down the flag pole, his boss arrived from Mummasburg.
The cranky, hot tempered 46 year old Major General Jubal Anderson Early (above) set up office near the town square, and handed the city council a demand for 60 barrels of flour, 6,000 pounds of bacon, 1,000 pairs of shoes and 500 hats. If they did not hand over these items, he promised to burn the town. It was not an idle threat.
One of the rebel's primary justifications for invading Pennsylvania was to transfer the cost of supporting the war from the exhausted farms and towns of Northern Virginia, onto fat and prosperous Pennsylvania. Early had brought 15 empty wagons across the Potomac, to be filled with “confescated” food and clothing. Because so many of his men needed shoes, the rumor persisted that Gettysburg held a shoe factory, or a warehouse. It did not. And most private stocks of clothing and “dry goods” in town had already been sent across the Susquehanna River, to safety. The council explained this to General Early, and invited him to look for himself. So he did.
What he found was almost not worth the effort. In railroad cars left on a siding near the train station, his men located the food meant to support Colonel Jennings' 700 man militia regiment for three days - 2,000 Union army rations. Each individual ration was 10 ounces of canned salted meat and a 1 pound of 3 inch by 3 inch dehydrated baked briskets (above) - called" hardtack". The soldiers were expected to crumpled them into their coffee for breakfast, chew them for lunch on the march, and boil them into mash or grill them into paddies for dinner. Distributed to Gordon's 1,500 men, this would only give them enough energy to reach their next target – York, Pennsylvania – where they would have to repeat the effort.
Hidden in all of this was the truth of the rebel 1863 invasion. It was just a raid. General Robert E. Lee, commander of the 70,000 man Army of Northern Virginia, had no hope of holding or occupying any part of Pennsylvania. And come morning, Jubal Early (above) and his entire corps would be leaving Gettysburg, moving on to find enough food and clothing to keep moving.
So after stripping the 170 captured militia of their weapons, horses and shoes, “Old Jube” took a moment to discourage them from causing him any more trouble. He told the humiliated and frustrated men, “You boys ought to be home with your mothers and not in the fields where it is dangerous and you might get hurt.” The unionist were then locked in the Adams county courthouse until they could individually sign an oath pledging not to serve again until they had been exchanged for a rebel parolee.
To protect the looters, General Early sent White's cavalry out to “picket” the roads into Gettysburg. And on the Baltimore Pike these rebels surprised the men farmer-turned-Captain Robert Bell had earlier posted and then in his haste to retreat, forgotten. The rebels demanded the startled militia surrender. Instead the militia spurred their horses to run. The rebels fired.and several Gettysburg men fell from their saddles. Later, a horse with familiar tack was being led back into town, when a Gettysburg woman asked if the “Commanche” who held the bridle knew what had happened to the rider. The Virginian replied, “The bastard shot at me, but he did not hit me, and I shot him and blow ed him down like nothing, and here I got his horse and he lays down the pike.”
Mill owner James McAllister found the body of the horse's owner the next day, lying in a field along the Baltimore Pike, just south of Gettysburg. He identified the dead man as 21 year old George Washington Sandoe (above, right). George had joined the militia just nine days earlier, and he died within 2 miles of his own farm, south of Mt. Joy Church.. 
In the morning, after the rebels had abandoned the town, Mr. McAllister took George home to his wife of 4 months and 7 days, Dianna Anna Caskey Sandoe (above). She was carrying George's unborn son, Charles. Dianna never remarried. And George Sandoe would be the only man killed on Friday, 26 June, 1863, thus becoming the first of some 15, 500 men to die in and around Gettysburg over the next week.
- 30 -

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