On This Day: The Battle of Golden Hill.

Battle of Golden Hill — 19th century print

Many people think that the American War of Independence happened suddenly.  On the 17th of April 1775, we were grumbling but at peace.  On the 20th, we were at war. (Worse, folk think everything was fine on July 3, 1776, but on the 5th we were at war.)

However, the build-up, including violent clashes, had been going on for years before it turned into open warfare.

The Battle of Golden Hill, which could be considered the first blood spilled in the American revolutionary struggle, happened on this date (January 19) in 1770, five years before Lexington and Concord, before the “Boston Massacre”, before the “Tea Party”, before many of the events that we consider harbingers of the rise in rebellion of the American colonies.

The issue started several years before that, shortly after the Stamp Act, which had given the “no taxation without representation” idea its impetus, was repealed.

On May 21, 1765, the Sons of Liberty, a group dedicated to agitating for liberty in the colonies and their “rights as Englishmen” (Remember, at this time the American colonists thought of themselves as British, not as people of a new nation), erected a “Liberty Pole to commemorate the repeal of the hated Stamp Act.  (Note, another source claims the pole was erected on June 4, George III’s birthday.)  The pole carried with the words “King, Pitt, and Liberty”. Pitt, was the individual in Parliament who argued the colony’s case.

British officials hated the pole and soon, in retaliation for New York’s government refusing to enforce the Stamp Act, cut it down.  A second pole was quickly erected.  This, too, was soon cut down.

A third pole was put up which the British, no doubt with much shrugging and shaking of heads (“those crazy Colonials just will not give up”–some British officer, probably).  It remained until 1767 when New York celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act.  British officials, in response to this, had this third pole cut down.

The colonials, undeterred, put up a fourth pole.  This one secured with iron bands to make it much harder to cut down.

Not long after the erecting of the fourth pole, Parliament passed the Quartering Act, requiring people in the colonies to provide housing for British troops in excess to their local barracks’ capacity. (If you’ve ever wondered why the 3rd Amendment is in the Bill of Rights.  This is the reason.) New York, once again, mostly refused to enforce that law.  Parliament responded by dissolving the New York government and installing one of their own.  The Sons of Liberty responded to this by posting a broadside (basically large posters) titled “To the Betrayed Inhabitants to the City and Colony of New York.” All of this took time, and brings us to the beginning of 1770.

On January 13, 1770 the British military attempted to bring down that fourth liberty pole, using gunpowder (because of the iron bands).  This attempt failed but a second on the 16th succeeded.  They took the wreckage of the pole and dropped it on front of a tavern owned by a Mr. Montagne–where the Sons of Liberty were wont to meet.  They then began their own campaign of broadsides, calling the Sons of Liberty the real enemies of society who thought their freedom depended on a piece of wood.

On January 19th several individuals, including one Isaac Seares, tried to stop some British redcoats from posting their broadsides.  Seares managed to capture some of the soldiers while others ran to their barracks to call for reinfocements.  Seares marched his prisoners toward the mayor’s office.

The reinforcements, numbering about twenty men, arrived, but so did a crowd of townsfolk.  The townsfolk badly outnumbered the soldiers and surrounded them.  Other soldiers attempted their rescue but were ordered back to their barracks.  While being escorted back to their barracks they had reached Golden Hill when an officer ordered the soldiers to draw bayonets and “cut their way through them.”  The soldiers were armed with their bayonets while the citizens were either unarmed or armed with makeshift weapons.  According to one source those citizens with sticks stood their ground in the narrow passageway defending their defenseless compatriots.

While the scuffle was going on, more soldiers arrived to disperse the other soldiers before things got totally out of hand.

In the end several soldiers were badly bruised with one being seriously wounded.  A number of the townsfolk were wounded.  Some sources claim that one townsperson was killed but this is disputed.

Afterward, the Sons of Liberty asked the Mayor for permission to erect a fifth Liberty Pole on public land.  This was denied.  As a result, the Sons of Liberty bought a parcel of land where they erected their pole.  This one had iron bands extending two thirds the way up the pole.

Also, for some strange reason, this fifth pole lacked any mention of the King (or of Pitt).  This one simply said “Liberty and Property.”

 

If we don’t Redistribute Wealth…

…then a few oligarchs will end up controlling everything.

distribution

This idea, that without “wealth redistribution” (and Socialism/Communism) all wealth will soon end up in the hands of a few oligarches with the rest of us destitute is pure Marxism. (See Thomas Sowell’s book “Marxism” for details–note that Sowell was a Marxist for much of his youth.) It misses important factors. One is that the various goods and services that are popular, that the people at large value, changes over time. Another is that there’s a constant pressure to develop new, more economically efficient, means of bringing goods and services to the market. And when new ones arise, the folk invested in the old ones are rarely the ones to take advantage of them.

John D. Rockefeller cut the legs out of both the whale oil industry (and may be responsible for the survival of several species of whale long enough for groups like Greenpeace to even think about the idea) and rival petroleum companies by coming up with cheaper ways to produce kerosene, like making it several times cheaper.

Andrew Carnegie did much the same for Steel.

Then there was Henry Ford doing the same for the automobile.

James Cash Penny was a serious wakeup call to previous retail giants Sears and Montgomery Ward (mail order giants) with his chain of department stores that improved transportation (the automobile) and the growing network of roads made possible.  He got his start working literally for free just to “learn the business.”  Turned that experience into a major retail empire.

Sam Walton turned the retail industry on his ear. Came out of nowhere to, in a relatively short time, become the supreme retail giant in the US.

Ray Crock took an unknown little hamburger shop and turned it into a Giant.

Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Elon Musk of Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX. Both folk who came essentially from nowhere to become billionaires building huge businesses that nobody predicted before.

I remember when “Cyberbooks” was a cute science fiction idea by Ben Bova. Now, well, now I carry an entire library in my shirt pocket–literally, more books than some of the rural libraries that I dealt with as a kid had on the shelves. And online? Have you browsed Project Gutenberg?

All of that stuff sprang up, all ended up “reshuffling” the wealth “deck.” New people, producing new forms of wealth and accumulating wealth as a result. Older things falling out of favor and losing share in the overall economy leading to people moving from failing industries to newer growing ones.

And all the rest of us?  Even the poor know wealth that John D. Rockefeller couldn’t even dream of.

At any given time, there are a few people who own a lot of wealth.  Some more who own somewhat less wealth.    And all the way on down to the “poor.” However, the “poor” of today aren’t the same as the “poor” of yesterday.  Those earlier poor did not have air conditioned apartments, cars of their own, cell phones, access (through their local library if not themselves) of computers and internet connections.  Those earlier poor did not have obesity as a primary health problem.  It took a bit of “sleight of hand” promoted by Marx (which didn’t originate with him; indeed, it seems that very little actually originated with him and he stole freely from others who today are far less well known) that someone can get poorer, even with a higher standard of living, so long as their “share” of the total wealth of society is lower.  A nice trick to ensure a never-ending supply of people who can complain about their lot in life no matter how much it has improved over times past.  Weaponized envy.

In any case, the idea that without the action of government wealth will gravitate to a few hands leaving the rest destitute is utter tripe. Free enterprise and voluntary transactions never worked that way. The only thing that works that way is coercive force.  And government is, by definition, coercive force.

The conclusion is left as an exercise for the student.

“Cities Burn”

Or maybe “Cities Bernie”.

Bernie campaign staffer on hidden cam:

Bill Whittle et al also talk about it:

“There’s a reason Joseph Stalin had gulags, right?  And actually, gulags were a lot better than what the CIA has told us…”

Yeah, because Solzhenitzen was totally a CIA operative, right?  Yeah, about that:

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Let’s be clear here.  Bernie Sanders talks about “Democratic Socialism” as some kind of kinder, gentler form of socialism, but that’s a mask.  His policies are communist.  He honeymooned in the Soviet Union, back during the height of the cold war.  He’s a communist, pure and simple.  He sees himself as America’s Lenin.  The only difference is that he knows he doesn’t have the support for an armed overthrow of the Constitution so he’s trying to do it via the ballot.  That’s the only place where “Democratic” comes in.  The end game is the same.  He just hopes to get there by a different rout.

When I was in the Air Force, the military sent me to the Defense Language Institute to learn Russian. (It’s been a long time and I’ve forgotten most of it, but that’s beside the point.) One of my instructors, a Soviet ex-pat as most of them were, said that Lenin was “the most evil man who ever lived.”

One of my classmates challenged that assertion, pointing to the atrocities committed under Stalin (like those gulags that the Bernie staffer thought weren’t so bad), the holodomor, military purges, and so on.

The instructor’s response, “Lenin just didn’t have time.”

That’s the true face that hides behind the smokescreen of “Democratic Socialism.” That’s where he will take America if given the chance.

Don’t give him that chance.

 

Diversity in Publishing?

Open Book With Words Clipart

There has been whining, in part in response to Mike Resnick’s recent death (Mike was one of the most respected editor’s in Science Fiction and had been for decades), about the need for “diversity” in publishing.  Apparently, somehow “people of color” were being excluded and we needed a publishing form of affirmative action to create opportunity for these marginalized individual.

Excuse me, but can someone gag me with a backhoe?  This is so patently wrong as to be beyond absurd.

I made my first professional sales in 1990 for stories and articles published in 1991.  I had fantasy, science fiction, and non-fiction sales practically on the heels of each other.  Indeed, close enough that while I made the science fiction sale first, the fantasy sale reached print first. And Analog, the magazine I’d sold that Science Fiction story to, was not one to sit for a long time on stories that they’d already paid for.

They way things worked back then, and had for long before that, (and did for may years afterward as well), the only thing an editor knew about the writer in most cases was the words on the paper, the content of the story–plus whatever the writer might say in a cover letter and there was no guarantee that was at all accurate–was all the editor knew about the writer. That’s it. That’s all the editor had to go on to make the decision.

Oh, and conventional wisdom (which, unlike much “conventional wisdom” actually was wise) was that “less was best” in the cover letter.  Title of the story you’re submitting.  Genre.  Approximate length.  A listing of previous publication credits if you have some (or a brief summary of relevant credits if your list is long).  Maybe some relevant personal experience related to the story–more relevant for non-fiction than fiction.  That’s it.  Your cover letter was never going to convince an editor to buy your story, but it might well convince him or her to not even look at it.  Less was best.

If you didn’t sell it wasn’t because of your skin’s melanin content, the texture and curliness of your hair, the shape of your facial features, whether you’re an “innie” or an “outie”, or how you prefer to connect up various protrusions and orifices. It was the story and only the story.  Who you are might have some modest effect if your name was known (to the publisher if you’d sold stories before or to the public if you were a celebrity).

There was no “I’m not going to give this person a chance because they’re black” (or a woman, or gay, or trans, or from Mars for that matter) because the editor would not know.  All the editor had to go on was the story itself and their assessment on whether or not it would please their readers.  Who or what the author was, someone they did not know and had not met, simply did not matter.

Online interaction was just starting to become a thing back then (with SFWA’s–Science Fiction Writers of America’s–then official presence on the GEnie online service) and even that was limited to text so we still didn’t know what people looked like for the most part.  And, again, people had no idea what you looked like or any of that other stuff.  The readers certainly didn’t.  The readers certainly didn’t.

So if there’s any bias against authors, particularly new authors (for non-new authors the primary bias is always “do you sell to the readers” although the “push” model chan affect that, but that’s beyond the scope of today’s post), for those physical features or what not, it has to be recent, with the rise of “social media” making it not only possible but convenient for people, including editors, to see the “person” behind the submissions.

There’s just one problem with that.  I can’t speak to other fields but in science fiction and fantasy publishing was strongly left wing when I was getting my start back then.  It was patently obvious in those early forerunners to social media.  It was even more so in the “back channels” of SFWA (why, yes, I used to be a member).  Exceptions like the late Jim Baen and the late Jerry Pournelle were just that, exceptions and represented only a small fraction of the field.  So if there was any “bias” based on who or what the author was rather than the words they strung together on the page it was by folk on the Left.

Personally, I never really cared much about who or what the author was.  Left, right, man, woman, gay, straight, whatever.  I’ve bought and enjoyed stories by all of them.  Tell me a gripping story.  That’s all I ask.

The words on the page. That was pretty much it.

The Gamble of Gun Control: A Blast from the Past.

tian2

I don’t usually do back to back “blasts from the past” like this, but, well, I just saw an article on one of the Chinese “news” agencies talking about how private gun ownership in the US was a problem and should be ended.

The true irony in the article is this line:

Massacres and shootings should be deemed a serious violation of human rights.

Ironic because China slaughtered more than 45 million of its own people, whether “persecuted to death” or outright executed, in the 20th century for daring to speak out against the government.  It’s China that brutally put down the Tiannamen Square protests.  And it’s China that just got through massacring protesters in Hong King.  For China to talk about human rights violations is truly risible.

And these human rights violations, real human rights violations, are exactly why an armed population is so important.  As Mao said, “Every Communist must grasp the truth, ‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party.”

That, of course, is why they do not want anyone but those controlled by the Communist Party to have guns.

So, on to the blast from the past:


It has been said that if you permit the citizenry to be armed, you will have tragedies, but if you don’t you will have genocides.

In the US, out of a population of over 300 million, there are about 13,286 homicides by gun per year (2015 figures).  Some will tell you that’s an appalling figure, but you know what else is an appalling figure?  In the 20th century more than 100 million people were killed by their own governments.

Even assuming you could make all the homicides that are committed using guns go away by removing guns from private hands (you can’t, but let’s assume it for argument’s sake) it would take over 7500 years for the US gun homicide figures to add up to the number of people killed by their own governments in the 20th century alone.  Let’s take a look at what that means.  7500 years.

7500 years ago we had the Samarra culture in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq).  They were just beginning to use farming and irrigation.  In Europe we had the Danubian culture, also just starting to learn farming.  Likewise in China with the Xinle culture.  The earliest known writing is still 2000 years in the future.

During that time the longest any government has maintained any kind of continuity is possibly the Roman Empire (although an argument can be made for ancient Egypt), giving every benefit of every doubt, it stretches from it’s founding in the 8th century BC to the fall of Constantinople (the Byzantine Empire being simply the name given by historians to the Eastern Roman Empire) in the 15th AD.  That’s about a 2200 year existence.  But even with that “continuity” the remnants of the Roman Empire in the 15th century bore little resemblance to the Rome of Cicero, let alone that of Brave Horatius (of “at the gate” fame).  And even so, Rome is an exceptional case (as is Egypt).  Most governments have only lasted a few centuries at best without being overthrown, conquered, or otherwise replaced.

Going forward, how many changes can one expect over the next 7500 years?  How certain are you that at no time will it be necessary for the citizenry to resist a government turned malignant?  If you strip from the people the ability to resist, and that means having personal arms that are at least in the same ballpark as those issued to military troops then you are gambling that the lives “saved” by said restriction (which itself I dispute, but will allow for sake of argument here) will not be outweighed by the lives lost because an unresisted government turned malignant.

Now, I have so far only looked at the number of homicides in the US.  What about in the world?  Well, even though most of the world has more severe restrictions on owning firearms than does the US, the total number of homicides annually worldwide (2015 numbers) is estimated at about 160,000.  That’s more than 10 times as many as the US numbers.  But even so, we’re talking 625 years of criminal homicides to match the number of people killed by their own governments in the 20th century.  For comparison, that’s a period that stretches from 1394 to the present day.  In 1394, the vestiges of the Roman Empire (i.e. the Byzantine Empire) still existed.  There were still Viking settlements in Greenland.  The English Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, and other upheavals were still to come.  The Hundred Years War was merrily percolating along.  Martin Luther and the Protestant movement were more than a century in the future.  Monarchy was the government of the day, with the Dutch Republic still almost two centuries in the future.  And so on.

Can you even gamble a mere 625 years that there will be no need for a citizenry to forcibly resist a government turned malignant?

I can’t.

Where Have All the Heroes Gone: A Blast from the Past.

superheroesSome years back, I watched the deCappuccino version of The Man in the Iron Mask.  The movie was okay, but one line caught me.  It’s near the end, the second in command of the palace guard points to a dying d’Artagnon (it’s not a spoiler at this late date, is it?) and says, “All my life, all I wanted to be . . . was him.”

Damn . . . that moment.

You see, I grew up with heroes. I grew up with comics during the late Silver Age, Superman was the Big Blue Boyscout, when Batman wasn’t the cowled psychopath, when Robin was starting solo adventures with Batgirl (and while I knew I could never be Batman, I thought maybe Robin was achievable). I wanted to be the hero, dammit, or if not the hero, at least a competent sidekick.

Then I grew up and got “respectable”. But a part of me never quite grew out of that.

And so I like to write about heroes that are really heroes because I figure that there are other people out there, like me, who want to read about them.

I gave up on comic books, not because I outgrew them but because they “outgrew” (if you can call it that) me. In the interests of being “real” and “relevant” and “real” they wanted their heroes to be “flawed” by which they meant “scarcely better than the villains”.

I saw it in prose fiction as well. Bleah people living bleah lives with not a hero to be found.

When I saw the movie, I wrote out an anguished essay on the usenet group “rec.arts.comics” titled “Where have all the heroes gone.” The one line just struck so deeply to the core of my being.

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I will never be that hero. I like to think that the dream, however, might make me a better person than I would have been.

And that’s why I love the idea of Human Wave.

And so I leave you with this musical interlude:

(Yes, the production values are cheesy but I love it for the pure unvarnished emotion.)

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And pity Within Temptation doesn’t have an official video for this one.

Coping with Chaos, a Musical Interlude

There’s movie “Deathgasm” which I haven’t seen (but maybe I should) but which has been the source of more than one “meme.” One in particular has the metalhead guy (as in every pic I’ve seen him in has him all in black and heavily made up) explaining to his very non-metal girlfriend that when he feels sad he listens to metal music and it’s better because someone else knows the pain.

Whether someone else knows the pain or not is an open question.  The performers could simply be crafting the illusion that they actually “know the pain”. On the other hand, the illusion can be enough.

So when life seems too overwhelming.  When I can’t seem to cope.  I listen to metal (and I’ll add Goth to that too) and, yeah, it’s better because I’m not alone.  Even if that particular artist is just crafting an illusion and their own life is all sweetness and light, the fact that they’re able to craft that illusion shows that they’re drawing on sources that do share the pain.  And so I’m able to move on and, somehow, find the way to cope.

So here are some examples:

Evanescence has a number of songs that fit this theme–I could do this whole interlude just using their music, but I’ll try to limit myself to provide some variety today. 😉

Okay, I’ll do another Evanescence song here.  When I heard this one I thought it was about a love gone sour and it still works that way, but the video adds a whole new dimension to it which I very much like.  Both views work and both suit a mood.