Friday, April 25, 2014

How many patriots didn't have guns?

Here’s a Fractured Fact in American history:

Quite a few of the colonists didn’t have guns.

Try to imagine a Revolutionary War scene, or a “Last of the Mohicans” scenario, that doesn’t include every able-bodied male walking around with a flintlock musket or pistol.

Surely, soldiers in organized units were generally pretty well armed—although in 1776 Gen. Washington complained to the Committee of Safety in Pennsylvania that militiamen were reporting for duty without muskets.

Historian Thomas Verenna says colonial American probate records suggest there were roughly only about 5.4 guns for every 10 people in 1774—gun ownership varied among the colonies, in Pennsylvania the number was closer to 3 for 10 people..

Guns were expensive, and colonial manufacturing capabilities were limited.

Today, a distinct minority of households have firearms. The Pew Research Center said last year that only 37% of households reported having a gun. In 1973, the percentage was 49%.

The percentage is dropping. I think that’s a good thing.

p.s. I searched online to find an illustration of a “Revolutionary soldier” or a “colonial patriot” without a gun, but I couldn’t find one

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The “democracy” thing ain’t working….

What if we held an election, and almost nobody showed up?

In Florida’s 19th Congressional District, voters  on Tuesday nominated a Tea Party-endorsed, very wealthy businessman to be the Republican candidate in a special June election for the now-vacant seat in the U.S. House.

The 19th is considered a “safe” Republican district, so the primary winner, Curt Clawson, is more or less a shoo-in to go to Congress.

Just for the moment, ignore the fact that Clawson loaned his own campaign $2.6 million of his money, and much of that was spent on TV ads that dominated Gulf Coast television in recent weeks. In simplest terms, he and outside PACs bought the election.

An equally gruesome fact is that only 26,857 Florida Republicans voted for Clawson in the 4-way primary race—he got about 38% of the vote.

Now, there are roughly 525,000 voting-age adults in the 19th District.

So, the bad news is: about 5% of the voting-age population has chosen Florida’s newest member of Congress.

As far as I know, at no time in our history have we had sustained, full, informed participation in voting by everyone eligible to vote at the time.

The “democracy” thing ain’t working too well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Have you ever worked on the 8th floor?

Here are some Fractured Facts about the bad old days in New York City in 1911:

New York City Fire Chief Edward Croker was very up front about it: the ladders on his turn-of-the-century, horse-drawn firefighting vehicles could reach no higher than the 7th floor of the city’s growing number of high-rise buildings.

There were plenty of buildings with more than seven floors. The Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1913, had 60 stories.

In 1911 it’s estimated that half of New York’s office and factory workers—about 500,000 men, women and children—spent their work day at the 8th floor or higher.

I wonder how many of them knew that the city’s firefighters had no chance of rescuing them if they got trapped in a burning building?

On March 25, 1911, a fast-moving late afternoon blaze engulfed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in lower Manhattan, destroying the 8th, 9th and 10th floor work areas. The company had routinely and illegally locked the exit doors to prevent theft and keep employees at their work stations. When the inferno burned out, horrified firemen counted 146 bodies—mostly young immigrant women—at locked exits or on the sidewalks below windows where the desperate victims had jumped to escape the flames.

Here’s part of the printed account by the New York World:
“ . . . screaming men and women and boys and girls crowded out on the many window ledges and threw themselves into the streets far below. They jumped with their clothing ablaze. The hair of some of the girls streamed up aflame as they leaped. Thud after thud sounded on the pavements . . .”

One battalion chief of Engine Company 72 had to order spectators to clear the sidewalks so they wouldn’t be injured by the jumpers.

Chief Croker retired on May 1 of that year.

The owners of Triangle Shirtwaist Company were tried for manslaughter, but a jury acquitted them in less than two hours.

Later, lawsuits resulted in approximately $75 per victim in settlements by the insurance companies.

Have you ever thought that a fire drill at work was a pain in the ass?

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1492-Present (1980; repr., New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005), 326-27.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Not fit for a king….

Americans take patriotic, sometimes whimsical and sometimes vicious pleasure in telling each other what the American spirit is all about, but I think we can agree here:

This is not what America is all about, never was, never will be….

George Washington was right:  just say no.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Columbus didn’t “discover” America

Yeah, I know what I learned in school, and you know what you learned….

Fact is, though, Columbus never set  foot on the North American mainland—strictly speaking, he didn’t “discover” America.

He “discovered” Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, other islands in the Caribbean, Central American and South America during his four voyages from Europe in 1492-1504.

Strictly speaking, as far as we know, Ponce de Leon was the first European to put a footstep in the sand on a North American shore, in what we now call Florida, in 1513.

….and, strictly speaking, none of the Spanish conquistadores discovered America.

The First Peoples of  the American hemisphere got there first.

There were tens of millions of Native Americans in the North, Central and South Americas at the time of the first Spanish contact and conquests. In the Viceroyalty of New Spain—including Florida, the American Southwest, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean—an estimated 25 million indigenous people had already created advanced cultures and civilizations. Perhaps there were a similar number in the South American Empire of the Incas before the advent of the Spaniards. Within 100 years, 95% of these original people of America were dead as a result of war and disease.

The Spanish adventurers did not invade an empty wilderness. They conquered and killed millions of the original inhabitants, and took their riches and their land.

Let’s call it as it was.

Bernard Bailyn, Robert Dallek, David Brion Davis, David Herbert Donald, John  L. Thomas and Gordon S. Wood, The Great Republic: A History of the American People, 4th ed. (Lexington, MA: D. C.  Heath and Company, 1992), vol. 1, 7-14. 

Women who pioneered electronic music

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2014 All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

“. . . led by donkeys . . .”

At the outbreak of World War I, Britain had a relatively small professional army (247,000 men). Close to half of them were stationed overseas throughout the British Empire.

Thus, on the home island in August 1914, Britain’s generals mustered about 150,000 men to be the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that crossed the English Channel, to join the French in fighting the German attackers.

Within three months, that half of Britain’s professional army was gone. Most of the men in the BEF were dead.

p.s. Britain’s total WWI casualties: 673,375 dead and missing, 1,643,469 wounded

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States, 1492- Present (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005), 360.

See also: