- The Demon Of Unrest - The Seeds Of The War Between The States

Today's selection-- from The Demon of Unrest by Erik Larson. Though he had stellar credentials, President James Buchanan was a problem for the Democratic Party:

“A Democrat for nearly four decades, Buchanan had always been a problematic candidate in the eyes of the electorate, but this had nothing to do with his political competence. On paper, at least, he had one of the most illustrious records of any politician anywhere. From the age of twenty-three, when he won a seat in the Pennsylvania Assembly, he had won eleven straight elections, which moved him firmly into the heart of federal politics. James K. Polk made him secretary of state; Franklin Pierce selected him as his vice presidential running mate, though Buchanan declined the opportunity. Buchanan was tall, handsome, blond, and apparently never had to shave. He did have one conspicuous imperfection: a misalignment of his eyes that caused his gaze to diverge in an alarming fashion. To compensate, he would tip his head forward and to the side with one eye focused on his listener, thereby imparting a look of skepticism or keen interest. One Sunday Edmund Ruffin spotted Buchanan on Pennsylvania Avenue in the midst of one of the president's solo walks through Washington. ‘As we first passed,’ Ruffin wrote in his diary, ‘he had one eye shut, (as is his frequent habit,) and with the other he stared at me as if he thought he knew me.’

“Otherwise, Buchanan seemed to be an ideal catch for any woman, but therein lay the problem: He had no particular interest in being caught. Buchanan was a lifelong bachelor, a phenomenon American voters could not quite grasp. His one brush with marriage had occurred in 1819 when he became engaged to a young woman named Ann Coleman. She broke it off, complaining that he spent too much time attending to his public activities and not enough to her. Invariably, broken engagements raised public speculation. Coleman fled to Philadelphia both to recover her emotional health and to restore her social standing, but she died soon after her arrival, at twenty-three years of age, her demise attributed to ‘hysterical convulsions.’ Speculation further intensified when it became known that her father would not allow Buchanan to attend the funeral. The mystery of it all gave rise to questions as to whether Coleman might have killed herself or overdosed on some kind of sleep elixir, like laudanum, or had committed that worst of public sins, gotten pregnant out of wedlock, for clearly something had caused her father's callous treatment of Buchanan.

Portrait c. 1850–1868

“Buchanan had remained single ever since. Newspapers called him ‘Aunt Fancy.’ For years when he was in Washington he roomed with a fellow senator, William R. King of Alabama, himself an accomplished politician. The pair was so close both in public and in private that newspapers described them as a married couple, with Buchanan the husband, Senator King his wife. The death of King in 1853 left Buchanan bereft and alone.

“During the 1856 presidential election the Democratic Party wrestled with the problem of his bachelorhood and came up with a solution. Introducing him at the party's 1856 national convention, a fellow Pennsylvania Democrat announced, ‘Ever since James Buchanan was a marrying man, he has been wedded to THE CONSTITUTION, and in Pennsylvania we do not allow bigamy.’ Which prompted some wags to note that this particular wife was rather old. Others likened him to a spinster. Even Polk said that he ‘sometimes acts like an old maid.’ There was something fusty about him. A popular term of the day, ‘old fogey,’ seemed to apply. The press came to refer to him routinely as the ‘Old Public Functionary,’ or OPF for short.

“None of this seemed to bother Buchanan, who on occasion even referred to himself as OPF, but his situation often left him feeling isolated. Upon occupying the White House, he recruited his vivacious niece, Harriet Lane, to come live there as his companion and social hostess, a role she embraced wholeheartedly.

“From the start of his political career Buchanan had demonstrated a pronounced affinity for Southerners and the South, despite having lived his whole life in Pennsylvania, where he owned a three-story, seventeen-room mansion called Wheatland situated on twenty-two acres of plantation-like grounds outside Lancaster. In the political vernacular of the time, this made Buchanan a ‘dough face,’ someone who seems outwardly to be one thing but is actually another. The South returned the affection: In the 1856 presidential election, Buchanan won almost universal support from the slaveholding states, with only Maryland choosing to stray. Four of Buchanan's cabinet members were wealthy Southern planters. A fifth, Navy Secretary Isaac Toucey, was from Connecticut, but he, too, was a doughface, a Northerner who embraced the Southern states' rights doctrine. For Buchanan the cabinet served as more than an advisory body. Without a wife and children he was lonely, as he himself acknowledged; his cabinet members, especially Treasury Secretary Howell Cobb, a Georgian who once owned a thousand enslaved Blacks, were his personal companions, his friends, his family. This closeness had the effect of limiting his ability to view the political landscape with any degree of impartiality and caused him to act in ways that skirted the line between mere favoritism and treason. 

“As Senator Seward noted in a letter to his wife, Frances, ‘The White House is abandoned to the seceders. They eat, drink, and sleep with him.’”

The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War
author: Erik Larson

Lakota Elder Dan Explains English

We didn’t see that you had to name everything to make it exist, and that the name you gave something made it what it was.

In his fascinating book “ Neither Wolf nor Dog, On Forgotten Roads With an Indian Elder” researcher and author Kent Nerburn answers an ad and discovers Lakota Elder Dan who, after thinking deeply and for many years, has decided we pale-face could use some help.

Stuck in the boonies, researcher Nerburn buys a cheap recorder and carefully transcribes what Elder Dan has to say, here about the English language – – –

He [Lakota Elder Dan] had taken on his formal manner again. He was once more the solitary orator, speaking the truths that he had worked out over so many years, with only an old friend, a white man, and a sleeping Labrador to hear him. I said a silent prayer to the gods of technology that my little discount-store tape recorder would catch his words so I could pass them on.Neither Wolf nor Dog: ...Nerburn, KentBest Price: $2.13Buy New $8.69(as of 06:56 UTC - Details)

“I am going to say some things that you should think about.” He drew in a large breath and began. “I grew up speaking the language of my people. It wasn’t until school I had to learn English. They just marched us into the classroom and started talking in English. We had to learn. “I remember how funny it sounded when I first heard it. There were so many words. The teacher could talk for an hour and not even stop. She could talk about anything. She didn’t need to move her hands, even. She just talked. Some days I would sit and watch her just to see all the words she said. One other boy once told me he thought she said as many words in a day as there were stars in the sky. I never forgot that.

“When I learned English I realized it was a trick. You could use it to say the same thing a hundred ways. What was important to Indian people was saying something the best way. In English you had to learn to say things a hundred ways. I never heard anything like it. I still watch white people talk and I’m surprised at all the words. Sometimes they will say the same thing over and over and over in different ways. They are like a hunter who rushes all over the forest hoping to bump into something instead of sitting quietly until he can capture it.

“I don’t mind this, mostly. But I don’t like it when it is used to hurt us or other people. Now I’m going to tell you some of those things that hurt because of the way people say them. I wonder if you ever thought of them.

“The first one is about the battles. Whenever the white people won it was a victory. Whenever we won it was a massacre. What was the difference? There were bodies on the ground and children lost their parents, whether the bodies were Indian or white. But the whites used their language to make their killing good and our killing bad. They ‘won’; we ‘massacred.’ I don’t even know what a massacre is, but it sounds like dead women and little babies with their throats cut. If that’s right, it was the white people who massacred more than we did. But I have hardly ever heard anyone talk about the white massacres. I don’t like it when people use that word only about the killing we did. It makes our killing seem uglier than yours, so it makes our people seem worse than yours.

“Here’s another one: uprising. You use that word to talk about anytime our people couldn’t stand what was happening to them anymore and tried to get our rights. Then you should call your Revolutionary War an uprising. But you don’t. Why not? There was a government taking freedom away from you and you stood up against it. But you called it a revolution, like maybe the earth was turning to something better.

“When we did it, it was called an uprising, like everything was peaceful and orderly until we ‘rose up.’ Well, maybe we should make those words backward and call those ‘downkeep-ings,’ because to us, we were being kept down all the time. I’d like it a lot better if history books said, ‘Then the Indians were kept down again,’ rather than, ‘Then the Indians rose up again.’ It would be more of the truth.

“See, that’s how the English language is used on us. It is like a weapon you use against us now that you don’t use guns anymore.

What about ‘warpath’? When you came out against us you ‘formed an army.’ When we came out to defend our families we went on the warpath.’ I won’t even talk about words like ‘bloodthirsty’ and ‘savage.’

“But those are things from the old days, and you probably don’t even think they are real any more. Well, they are.

“My little great grandson came home one day and told me they were studying the frontier in American history. I asked him what it was. He told me it was where civilization stopped. I almost told him he couldn’t go back to that school anymore. “Just look at that! They were teaching him that civilization only existed up to where the white men had reached. That means everything on the other side of that line was uncivilized. Well, we were on the other side of that line. We had governments and laws, too. Our people were better behaved than the people that came into our lands. We thought we were at least as civilized as the white man. But here is my little great grandson coming home from school talking about the frontier and civilization. It was like we didn’t exist.

“Every time you talk about the frontier you are telling us that we don’t matter. I looked up the word. It means the edge between the known and the unknown. Whenever you use it you are saying that our people are part of the unknown. You are teaching your children and our children a history that says Indian people were part of a big, dangerous, empty space on the other side of the line where people had laws and culture. It is like there were wildcats and poisonous snakes and Indians, and they all were the same – just something unknown that made the land dangerous.

“See, this is part of the big story you don’t even see. You teach about the frontier. You talk about the wilderness and how empty the land was, even though to us the land was always full. You talk about civilization like we didn’t have any, just because we didn’t try to haul big chairs and wooden chests across the desert in a cart.

“The way you teach it, America started from some ships that came to Massachusetts and Virginia. The people got off and had to push their way through some big empty land that was full of danger. When they got to these plains, they sent the wagon trains across the mountains and the desert, like little streams cutting their way through the earth. Once they got across, then more people followed their paths, and things were built along the way, and it was like these little streams of people became big rivers of people that all flowed across to California and Oregon and Washington. It was like the place was empty and you filled it up, and history is the story of how you filled it up and what happened while you were filling it.

“You can tell me you don’t think that way, but you do. I look at the history books of the kids. They start in the east and come west, all of them, like that is the way history happened.

“Just think what that does to our kids. It tells them to see the past like white people. It teaches them to understand this country like they were on those boats and covered wagons. That’s not the way it was to us. For us, this was a big land where people lived everywhere. Then some people came and landed on the shores in the east while others came up from the south. They started pushing us. Then some others came down the rivers from the north. All these people were fighting each other. They all wanted something from us – furs, land, gold. They either took it or made us sell it to them. They all had guns. They all killed us if we didn’t believe that God was some man named Jesus who had lived in a desert across the sea. They wouldn’t leave us alone.

“Pretty soon they set up a government way back somewhere in the east and said this all was their land. Not just where they lived, but everywhere they had been or even where they had heard of. If they could get one man to go to a place and put a flag in the ground, they said they owned everything between where they started and that flag. They started pushing us backward on top of each other. All of us who had lived side by side leaving each other alone had to fight each other for hunting land.

“We had to make deals with the” white men or else fight them. There wasn’t enough food. Everything started to fall apart. We lost the land our ancestors were buried in. We got pushed into little ponds of land. We were like fish who had been swimming in the sea who were sent into little ponds.The Wolf at Twilight: ...Nerburn, KentBest Price: $2.88Buy New $10.09(as of 06:56 UTC - Details)

“See, to us, American history is how the big sea became little ponds and whether those are going to be taken from us or not. It doesn’t have anything to do with thirteen colonies and some covered wagons going west. Our land was taken from us from every direction. We can look at the same facts as you and it is something completely different. But you build your history on words like ‘frontier’ and ‘civilization,’ and those words are just your ideas put into little shapes that you can use in sentences. The big ideas behind them are weapons that take our past from us.

“I think that’s a lot of where our people went wrong with your people. We didn’t see the big ideas behind the words you used. We didn’t see that you had to name everything to make it exist, and that the name you gave something made it what it was. You named us savages so that made us savages. You named where we lived the wilderness, so that made it a wild and dangerous place. Without even knowing it, you made us who we are in your minds by the words you used. You are still doing that, and you don’t even know it is happening.

“I hope you’ll learn to be more careful with your words. Our children don’t know the old language so well, so it is your English that is giving them the world. Right now some of the ideas in your words are wrong. They are giving our children and yours the world in a wrong way.”

HERE For updates, additions, comments, and corrections.

The Birth Of Statistical Sampling

Today's selection-- from Against the Gods by Peter L. Bernstein. John Graunt and his breakthrough 1662 book, Natural and Political Observations made upon the Bills Of Mortality:

“Statistical sampling has had a long history, and twentieth-century techniques are far advanced over the primitive methods of earlier times. The most interesting early use of sampling was conducted by the King of England, or by his appointed proxies, in a ceremony known as the Trial of the Pyx and was well established by 1279 when Edward I proclaimed the procedure to be followed. 

“The purpose of the trial was to assure that the coinage minted by the Royal Mint met the standards of gold or silver content as defined by the Mint's statement of standards. The strange word ‘pyx’ derives from the Greek word for box and refers to the container that held the coins that were to be sampled. Those coins were selected, presumably at random, from the output of the Mint; at the trial, they would be compared to a plate of the King's gold that had been stored in a thrice-locked treasury room called the Chapel of the Pyx in Westminster Abbey. The procedure permitted a specifically defined variance from the standard, as not every coin could be expected to match precisely the gold to which it was being compared.

“A more ambitious and influential effort to use the statistical process of sampling was reported in 1662, eight years after the correspondence between Pascal and Fermat (and the year in which Pascal finally discovered for himself whether God is or God is not). The work in question was a small book published in London and titled Natural and Political Observations made upon the Bills Of Mortality. The book contained a compilation of births and deaths in London from 1604 to 1661, along with an extended commentary interpreting the data. In the annals of statistical and sociological research, this little book was a stunning breakthrough, a daring leap into the use of sampling methods and the calculation of probabilities—the raw material of every method of risk management, from insurance and the measurement of environmental risks to the design of the most complex derivatives.

“The author, John Graunt, was neither a statistician nor a demographer—at that point there was no such thing as either. Nor was he a mathematician, an actuary, a scientist, a university don, or a politician. Graunt, then 42 years old, had spent his entire adult life as a merchant of ‘notions,’ such as buttons and needles.

“Graunt must have been a keen businessman. He made enough money to be able to pursue interests less mundane than purveying merchandise that holds clothing together. According to John Aubrey, a contemporary biographer, Graunt was ‘a very ingenious and studious person ... [who] rose early in the morning to his Study before shoptime . . . . [V]ery facetious and fluent in his conversation.’ He became close friends with some of the most distinguished intellectuals of his age, including William Petty, who helped Graunt with some of the complexities of his work with the population statistics.

Table of Casualties in Natural and Political Observations Made Upon the Bills of Mortality (5th edition, published 1676)

“Petty was a remarkable man. Originally a physician, his career included service as Surveyor of Ireland and Professor of Anatomy and Music. He accumulated a substantial fortune as a profiteer during the wars in Ireland and was the author of a book called Political Arithmetick, which has earned him the title of founder of modern economics.

“Graunt's book went through at least five editions and attracted a following outside as well as inside England. Petty's review in the Parisian Journal des Stavans in 1666 inspired the French to undertake a similar survey in 1667. And Graunt's achievements attracted sufficient public notice for Charles II to propose him for membership in the newly formed Royal Society. The members of the Society were not exactly enthusiastic over the prospect of admitting a mere tradesman, but the King advised them that, ‘if they found any more such Tradesmen, they should be sure to admit them all, without any more ado.’ Graunt made the grade.

“The Royal Society owes its origins to a man named John Wilkins (1617-1672), who had formed a select club of brilliant acquaintances that met in his rooms in Wadham College. The club was a clone of Abbe Mersenne's group in Paris. Wilkins subsequently transformed these informal meetings into the first, and the most distinguished, of the scientific academies that were launched toward the end of the seventeenth century; the French Acadernie des Sciences was founded shortly after, with the Royal Society as its model.

“Wilkins later became Bishop of Chichester, but he is more interesting as an early author of science fiction embellished with references to probability. One of his works carried the entrancing title of The Discovery of a World in the Moone or a discourse tending to prove that 'tis probable there may be another habitable world in that planet, published in 1640. Anticipating Jules Verne, Wilkins also worked on designs for a submarine to be sent under the Arctic Ocean.

We do not know what inspired Graunt to undertake his compilation of births and deaths in London, but he admits to having found ‘much pleasure in deducing so many abstruse, and unexpected inferences out of these poor despised Bills of Mortality .... And there is pleasure in doing something new, though never so little.’ But he had a serious objective, too: ‘[T]o know how many people there be of each Sex, State, Age, Religious, Trade, Rank, or Degree, &c. by the knowing whereof Trade and Government may be made more certain, and Regular; for, if men know the People as aforesaid, they might know the consumption they would make, so as Trade might not be hoped for where it is impossible.’ He may very well have invented the concept of market research, and he surely gave the government its first estimate of the number of people available for military service.

“Information about births and deaths had long been available in parish churches, and the City of London itself had started keeping weekly tallies from 1603 onward. Additional data were available in Holland, where the towns were financing themselves with life annuities-policies purchased for a lump sum that would pay an income for life to the owner of the policy, and occasionally to survivors. Churches in France also kept records of christenings and deaths.

Hacking reports that Graunt and Petty had no knowledge of Pascal or Huygens, but, ‘Whether motivated by God, or by gaming, or by commerce, or by the law, the same kind of ideas emerged simultaneously in many minds.’ Clearly Graunt had chosen a propitious moment for publishing and analyzing important information about the population of England.

“Graunt was hardly aware that he was the innovator of sampling theory. In fact, he worked with the complete set of the bills of mortality rather than with a sample. But he reasoned systematically about raw data in ways that no one had ever tried before. The manner in which he analyzed the data laid the foundation for the science of statistics. The word ‘statistics’ is derived from the analysis of quantitative facts about the state. Graunt and Petty may be considered the co-fathers of this important field of study.

“Graunt did his work at a time when the primarily agricultural society of England was being transformed into an increasingly sophisticated society with possessions and business ventures across the seas. Hacking points out that so long as taxation was based on land and tillage nobody much cared about how many people there were. For example, William the Conqueror's survey known as the Domesday Book of 1085 included cadasters—registers of ownership and value of real property—but paid no heed to the number of human beings involved.

“As more and more people came to live in towns and cities, however, headcounts began to matter. Petty mentions the importance of population statistics in estimating the number of men of military age and the potential for tax revenues. But for Graunt, who appears to have been a tradesman first, at a time of rising prosperity, political considerations were of less interest.

“There was another factor at work. Two years before the publication of Graunt's Observations, Charles II had been recalled from exile in Holland. With the Restoration in full sway, the English were finally rid of the intellectual repression that the Puritans had imposed on the nation. The death of absolutism and Republicanism led to a new sense of freedom and progress throughout the country. Great wealth was beginning to arrive from the colonies across the Atlantic and from Africa and Asia as well. Isaac Newton, now 28 years old, was leading people to think in new ways about the planet on which they lived. Charles II himself was a free soul, a Merry Monarch who offered no apologies for enjoying the good things of life.

“It was time to stand up and look around. John Graunt did, and began counting.

“Although Graunt's book offers interesting bits for students of sociology, medicine, political science, and history, its greatest novelty is in its use of sampling. Graunt realized that the statistics available to him represented only a fraction of all the births and deaths that had ever occurred in London, but that failed to deter him from drawing broad conclusions from what he had. His line of analysis is known today as ‘statistical inference’—inferring a global estimate from a sample of data; subsequent statisticans would figure out how to calculate the probable error between the estimate and the true values. With his ground-breaking effort, Graunt transformed the simple process of gathering information into a powerful, complex instrument for interpreting the world—and the skies—around us."

Against the Gods The Remarkable Story of Risk
author: Peter L. Bernstein  
title: Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk  
publisher: Wiley  
page(s): 74-81

Profiles In Courage

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In new windProfiles in Courage: Vera Sharav

)When most people hear the name “Vera Sharav,” the first thing they think of is “Holocaust survivor.” But surviving the Third Reich was just the beginning of this feisty librarian’s hero’s journey.

Like many heroes, Vera’s greatness blossomed from tragedy. Born Vera Roll in Romania in 1937, she was nearly four when Romania allied with Germany in 1941. Vera and her parents wound up in the Mogilev concentration camp, where her father later died of typhus.

Speaking in a 1984 oral history interview, Vera’s mother, Mary Roll, recalled, “I couldn’t get a piece of bread, and [Vera] would cry so bitterly. Days and days, nothing in her mouth.”

Famine and disease stalked them daily. “Every morning,” Mary said, “they would bring out … loads of corpses, frozen to death, loaded like wood on these carts and transported to mass graves.”

Fearing her daughter would starve to death, Mary decided to lie. She got Vera into an international rescue mission for orphans by saying Vera was one, too.

In 1944 at the age of six-and-a-half, Vera was to set sail on the Mefküre merchant ship with sixty-one other children.

But she refused. “I was sitting there crying,” Vera remembers. “I didn’t want to go on that boat. Nothing would move me.”

Instead, she insisted on boarding the boat with the family she had befriended on the way to the harbor city, a family she trusted to take care of her.

“The voyage entailed crossing the Black Sea from Romania to Istanbul, Turkey, en route to Palestine by train along the Mediterranean,” Vera told me. “This route crossing Syria and Lebanon was only open for several weeks in 1944.”

She continued, “Between the time I was rescued from the concentration camp and the voyage to Palestine took about eight months.”

When I asked Vera where she stayed during those eight months, she recalled, “That was an odyssey—bouncing two months with one family, three months another, then three months with mother’s brother the banker, the family having converted and having a princess as friend. It’s during these months that I learned to discern people whom I could trust.”

Vera said, “For three years, I was raised by my mother’s sister and family on a family farm in Palestine. These were the happiest years of my childhood, during which I healed. After a four-year separation, I was reunited with my mother in New York in January 1948.”

Fusilladed by machine guns and cannons, the Mefküre was to sink two days later. Only 5 of the 320 refugees survived.

Vera would never forget this lesson about life-saving disobedience. “That’s where I would have been,” she notes, “had I listened to authority.”

The ultimate badass, Vera later traced her ungovernability to this experience. “I realized why sometimes I would be very stubborn—nobody, no ideology, no rationalization would change my mind.”

This fierce determination would empower Vera to transcend her devastating grief after tragedy struck again in 1994.

That is when Vera and her husband, Itzhak, learned about the cataclysmic consequences of not being given informed consent.

Their firstborn son, Ami, suffered a deadly reaction to clozapine, a purported “miracle” drug that had been prescribed for the schizo-affective disorder he’d been diagnosed with as a teenager several years prior.

When Vera reported Ami’s symptoms of weakness and difficulty walking to his psychiatrist, the psychiatrist not only failed to recognize the signature signs of neuroleptic malignant syndrome—a known potentially lethal reaction to antipsychotic drugs Vera had never been informed about—but he increased the dosage of clozapine and threw on another antidepressant.$100M Leads: How to Ge...Hormozi, AlexBest Price: $17.74Buy New $17.24(as of 06:47 UTC - Details)

Ami died three days later.

Her grief compounded by guilt, Vera lamented, “After all I had learned about not trusting authority, I trusted this doctor and pushed Ami to take the medication.”

This unfathomable loss lit a conflagration under Vera, who would go on to found the Alliance for Human Research Protection (AHRP), an organization committed to defending medical ethics from corrupting influences. Guided by the Nuremberg Code, Hippocratic Oath, and 2005 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, AHRP members advocate for freedom of choice; honest disclosure; informed consent; and truth and scientific integrity.

“I tried to find the best treatment, and I wound up bumping against the obscenity of the mental health system,” Vera told Nature reporter Charlie Schmidt in 2008. “I became an outspoken critic of modern medicine, a watchdog. And to my surprise, I had no competition, and I still have no competition.”

Pouring herself into her newfound calling as a human rights activist, Vera discovered the eugenicist underbelly of biomedical research.

Vera’s peer-reviewed article Children in Clinical Research: A Conflict of Moral Values appeared in the American Journal of Bioethics in 2003. The abstract reads in part:

“This paper examines the culture, the dynamics and the financial underpinnings that determine how medical research is being conducted on children in the United States. Children have increasingly become the subject of experiments that offer them no potential direct benefit but expose them to risks of harm and pain.… Emphasis, however, is given to psychoactive drug tests because of the inherent ethical and diagnostic problems involved in the absence of any objective, verifiable diagnostic tool.”

Vera—who earned a master’s degree in library science from the Pratt Institute in New York in 1971, nearly two decades after majoring in art history at City College of New York—has written other influential peer-reviewed articles, including:

Vera spoke out against unethical research on mentally ill subjects, organizing testimonies by victims and their families at the National Bioethics Advisory Committee (NBAC) that led to the cessation of twenty-nine National Institute of Mental Health clinical trials.

She raised awareness about the suicidal tendencies triggered by antidepressants, bringing together bereaved parents to testify at FDA hearings.

Vera would later break the story about an internal GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) memo acknowledging Paxil—which GSK had admitted in 2006 increased suicidal behavior—was no better than a placebo at treating depression, leading to its 2012 conviction for federal fraud charges and a $3 billion fine.

After discovering New York Psychiatric Institute researchers had conducted unethical experiments on black and Hispanic boys using the drug fenfluramine, Vera leaked the story to reporters, leading to the 1998 New York Times article Experiments on Children Are Reviewed and the Boston Globe series Doing Harm: Research on the Mentally Ill by Robert Whitaker.

Whitaker—who would go on to make a career out of covering medical research and pharmaceutical industry corruption, winning the George Polk Award for Medical Writing—credited Vera with setting him on that trajectory.

“It all came from Vera,” he said. “Her work brought me into this field.”

With her lifelong instruction in the hallmarks of totalitarianism, medical tyranny, and eugenics, it’s no wonder she was one of the first—if not the first—to expose the COVID propaganda and its authoritarian, democidal agenda.

Vera published Coronavirus Provides Dictators & Oligarchs with a Dream Come True on March 26, 2020—a mere thirteen days after President Trump had issued the COVID-19 Emergency Declaration.

In that article, she documents philanthropath Bill Gates’s digital surveillance aims and vaccine-profiteering scheme, quoting a Reddit AMA session where he stated, “Eventually we will have some digital certificates to show who has recovered or been tested recently or when we have a vaccine who has received it.”

Vera observes that this statement “acknowledges the intent to utilize digital technology to gain control over people’s compliance with government-dictated medical interventions—especially regarding compliance with vaccination—Bill Gates’ particular obsession.”

The Continental Reckoning

Today's selection -- from Continental Reckoning by Elliott West. The most ambitious big U.S. government project of the nineteenth century was the transcontinental railroad:

"No event in the West during these years commanded more public attention than the Pacific rail project. Journals and newspapers followed it in scores of articles, and few literary visitors resisted observing and writing about the spectacle. Its scale and visibility alone made it difficult to ignore, but it had more than that going for it. The simple fact of its being built, the particulars of how it was carried out, and imagined events and threats that in fact were not there were the ideal makings for myths around the emerging West and its meanings for a reconstructing America. 

“The most obvious theme was of western settlement as the unifying sequel to the Civil War's saving the Union. As if in relay, the Union Pacific's first rails were being laid simultaneously with the end of the war. Its most prominent field commanders came from high in the ranks in eastern campaigns. Maj. Gen. Grenville Dodge had served in Missouri, Tennessee, and Mississippi, and Brig. Gen. Jack Casement in engagements throughout the war, eventually marching through Georgia under William T. Sherman. Sherman himself would oversee protection along the route. Descriptions of construction evoked troops in mass array. Construction teams stood ‘like the grand reserve of an army’ behind the graders, and once at work their spiking of rails sounded up close like a ‘hotly contested skirmish’ and from a distance like the ‘roar of the wonderful advance.’ 

“In 1873 the popular Croffut's Transcontinental Tourist Guide recalled that in 1860 the nation had faced being riven, not into two, but into three parts—North, South, and West. It had taken the Civil War, that ‘carnival of blood,’ to convince naysayers into building the Pacific railroad that now joined all three into one. The next year Croffut's would feature on its cover John Gast's American Progress, with its floating female figure leading the railroad westward while stringing a telegraph line. Politicians hailed the project as truly national. A ‘free and living Republic’ would spring up along rail lines as ‘surely as grass and flowers follow in the spring,’ one promised. His reference was not to Nevada or Oregon but to the former Confederacy. Railroads were called agents of both reconstruction and recommitment. They would fuse all sections into one by tapping their resources, easing the movement of their peoples, and overcoming a bloody past with a binding prosperity.

The U.S. Post Office issued a commemorative stamp in 1944, on the 75th anniversary of the first transcontinental railroad in America.

“In this, the shift in the railroad's message could not have been sharper. An especially illuminating irony of the Union Pacific is this: Credit Mobilier, the corrupt engine that drove construction of what was now celebrated as the nation's great unifier, had been born in dedication to national division. Before it was acquired and renamed by Thomas Durant and George Francis Train, it was the Pennsylvania Fiscal Agency, brainchild of Duff Green, an ardent slavery apologist from Georgia who hoped to fund lines from New Orleans through Texas and then both westward to Southern California and southwestward through Mexico to Mazatlan. His was one of many visions of a powerful bi-oceanic Southeast resting on the institution ‘intended by a wise Providence’ for any civilized order—Black slavery. 

“Now, with the Union preserved, the rhetoric of sectional dissonance gave way to one of railroads as agents of coalescence. As with the telegraph, bodily metaphors seemed irresistible. When the Pacific line was completed, Chicago celebrated with a hundred thousand persons in a seven-mile-long procession that ended with a windy oration by Vice President Schuyler Colfax. His imagery was both tangled and revealing. The nation had been literally reborn. Before the war it had been divided north-to-south but also, overall, had been a sprawling, inchoate body, what France's Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand had called ‘a giant without bones,’ In the war that body had found its strength and now, reaching westward, it had found its form. The new America lay toward the Pacific, the railroad its spine and with ‘iron ribs in every direction’ and arms reaching for the commerce of Asia.

“This vision, of the railroad embodying a renewed nation, had distinctive western colorations. First among them was virility, a West of unbridled masculine energy. Its clearest description was in the towns, ‘Hell on Wheels,’ that served as supply and recreation points. North Platte in Nebraska, Julesburg in Colorado, Benton, Laramie, Cheyenne, and Green River in Wyoming, and Bear River in Utah—some had been snoozing stage stops before being shaken awake. Others were built from nothing. All were collections of tents and flimsy plank buildings along dust-blown streets. Like other western working sites, notably mining camps and cattle towns, they were dominated by young men with spending money and glands at full throttle, on the loose from monotonous grunt work done under tight discipline. There was open, rampant vice. Visitors like Henry Morton Stanley wrote of the many hard cases, sharpers, and especially prostitutes, ‘expensive articles [who] come in for a large share of the money wasted.’ A large, revolving population of over-liquored men translated into plenty of brawling and high-decibel disorder. There were a handful of homicides and in Bear River a riot that took at least a dozen lives. Cheyenne vigilantes hanged seven men in 1867 and 1868.  

“That rough reality, however, was consistently overstressed. An eastern reporter claimed absurdly that Julesburg hosted 750 brothels and gambling houses. Samuel Bowles wrote that the towns, ‘congregation[s] of scum and wickedness,’ averaged a murder a day. Stanley agreed on the homicidal clip and noted that men walked the streets of Julesburg who had murdered for five dollars. The going rate in Cheyenne was ten, wrote a Chicago Tribune correspondent. There is nothing to back up such claims, however. The Frontier Index, a newspaper that moved with the railroad, eagerly recorded the violence it witnessed from Laramie to Green River to Bear River, yet between March and November of 1868 it noted only a single murder and three lynchings (and dozens of arrests for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct).

“Even correcting for lively exaggeration, there seems something like a compulsive inflation of mayhem and dissipation that would be repeated over and again by visitors to the new country. The towns pictured at the tip of the railroad were expressions of expansion as national machismo. It was an image that would appear and prosper in various settings, a West of hairy chests and split lips.”

Continental Reckoning The American West in the Age of Expansion
author: Elliott West  
title: Continental Reckoning: The American West in the Age of Expansion  
publisher: University of Nebraska Press  
page(s): 196-198