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The Origin of the Bayonet *

A flat-bladed knife about a foot long and a long handle has been around since the 1590s. Soldiers carry it on their belt. It is made in the town of Bayonne, France and thus the name "bayonet". This year soldiers have come up with a great idea. After firing their muskets, they shove the handle of the knife into the barrel and charge upon the enemy. In most instances, a charge with bayonets unnerves the other side and they are cut down mercilessly. By the 1660s the British will be using the bayonet. A ringed bayonet that leaves the barrel open to be fired again will be introduce in 1689 after a particularly gruesome defeat under enemy fire. [1] [2] [3] [4]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK... running toward the enemy with a plugged barrel seems crazy but at that time, reloading a musket took 30 seconds. After the 1st volley, a soldier could run across the field and stab his opponent in 30 seconds. But as technology and tactics increased the rate of fire, armies would fire a volley, take a few steps forward and fire again until they were close enough for a charge. This took amazing intestinal fortitude. Rifles took 10 minutes to load but by the time of the American Revolution, the new Ferguson rifle fired 6 shots a minute and could be loaded from a prone position. The British, didn't like this innovation so they stayed with the musket to their sorrow. With all this innovation, why did World War 2 soldiers carry a bayonet? Because a bayonet is up-close and deeply personal. [5] [6] [7] [8]
"It is the cold glitter of the attacker's eye not the point of the questing bayonet that breaks the line."
-- George S. Patton. [9]

OMG! No Smoking in Church! #IsNothingSacred?

Smoking addiction is getting out of control. Soldiers are selling their weapons to buy smokes. Pope Urban the 8th has threatened to excommunicate anyone who uses snuff in church and he has prohibited his priests from smoking cigars during mass. Pope Innocent the 12th, who will succeed Pope Urban, will prohibit smoking entirely. Leaders should not issues orders that will not be obeyed. It weakens discipline. Centuries later, Pope Pius the 9th will have a tobacco factory built. Times change and then they change again. [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Rabbis of the distant past ruled that smoking is a pleasurable and healthy practice. Modern rabbis decided correct this embarrassing ruling in various ways. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (of blessed memory) took the same approach as Pope Urban and prohibited smoking in holy places such as synagogues and houses of study. Other rabbis prohibited smoking outright, but there is an unspoken rule that a rabbi should not issue a ruling that the laity will not follow. It doesn't fix the problem and it creates a flock of sinners who were not sinners prior to the rabbi's ruling. I asked an Orthodox rabbi if they checked to see if the prohibition against smoking was followed. Did it make a difference? Apparently no one thought to check. This is common in life. We pass a law, or make a pronouncement and we think we have done our job. We hardly ever go back to see if what we did was effective. Passing a law is not quite as useless as using a hash tag or wearing a ribbon to solve problems, but it sure is close. [15] [16]

Silver Prices Have Dropped by One Third

In the last 100 years the price (or actually the value of what silver can buy) has dropped by one third. That is what has happened as silver has flooded the world market. Yet no adjustment for inflation has been made by government for taxes. Taxes remain fixed at a certain weight of silver so the amount of silver they take in has remained the same but the buying power of that silver has effectively dropped. In simple terms, if I owed the government 12 silver dollars in 1540, and today I owe 12 silver dollars, then the government can only buy 8 silver dollars (in 1540 dollars) worth of stuff with my 12 dollars due to inflation. [17]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Recently (August 2015) China made an adjustment to the yuan, making goods cheaper for US customers, but it has increased the effective interest rate on the loans that the US Federal government takes out. That requires a little explanation. Yes... you can get a flat screen TV cheaper now. However, US Treasury bond interest rates have gone up as investors flee to the bond market. China is also selling off the US Treasury bonds it is holding. In a sense what they have done is make it more expensive for the USA to borrow money by devaluing the yuan, crashing their own stock market and ours, and not incidentally, making us dependent on cheap Chinese goods. Don't get me wrong. I love paying less for the stuff I buy, but this feels too much like a Nigerian princess offering me a deal I just won't believe. I believe someone is trying to fleece me. [18] [19] [20] [21]

This Year on Wikipedia

Year 1640, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Words from History (PDF), Books on Words, Houghton Mifflin. “About 1640, somewhere near the city of Bayonne in southwestern France, it occurred to someone to try a different tack. A short sword with a cylindrical handle could be plugged into the muzzle of a gun after the latter had been fired.” 
  2. Howard L. Blackmore. Hunting Weapons: From the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Walker. ISBN 0802701477. 
  3. Bayonet - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “The defeat of forces loyal to William of Orange by Jacobite Highlanders at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 was due (among other things) to the use of the plug-bayonet; and shortly afterwards the defeated leader, Hugh Mackay, is believed to have introduced a ring-bayonet of his own invention. Soon 'socket' bayonets would incorporate both ring mounts and an offset blade, keeping the bayonet well away from the muzzle blast of the musket barrel.”
  4. Alex Shrugged notes: I have only the one secondary source telling me that the bayonet was introduced in 1640, but it is a reasonable date, nevertheless, so I'm going for it. If someone has a better source for a date, I'm glad to be corrected.
  5. Infantry Tactics & Combat : Napoleonic Wars : Musket Fire : Bayonet. napolun.com (2009). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “General Jomini wrote 'This is important question of the influence of musket fire in battles is not new: it dates from the reign of Frederick the Great, and particularly from the battle of Mollwitz, which he gained - it was said - because his infantrymen, by the use of cylindrical rammers in loading their muskets, were able to fire 3 shots per minute more than their enemies.' (Before 1730 all European armies used wooden ramrods, the Prussians were the first to adopt the iron ramrod.)”
  6. German Matchlock Musket, circa 1640 (Pictures). milpas.cc (2005). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “German Matchlock Musket, circa 1640, probably of Suhl manufacture. Typical military matchlock used in the English Civil war and in the American colonies.”
  7. Hussar Firearms -Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, 17th C.. milpas.cc (2005). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “The procedure for loading a weapon was very time-consuming, and the loading speed for a careful job allowed only 2 or at most 1 shot per minute (although infantry skirmishers could fire 3 shots per minute, taking all possible short cuts.) The rate of fire was considerably lower at the start of the XVI century – by some reports, each rank took 10-12 -min. to prepare to fire.”
  8. Ferguson Rifle. milpas.cc (2009). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “The Ferguson rifle was most likely the first breech loading rifle to be adopted by any organized military force. It was a .65 (.648 true) caliber rifle used by the British Army in the American Revolutionary War at the end of the 1770s. Its superior firepower was unappreciated at the time because it did not conform to the usual tactics of armed soldiers standing face to face-- a technological need given the need to stand when reloading either muskets or rifles.”
  9. Bayonet - Wikiquote. en.wikiquote.org (2015). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “It is the cold glitter of the attacker's eye not the point of the questing bayonet that breaks the line. George S. Patton. Quoted in How We Are Changed by War: A Study of Letters and Diaries from Colonial Conflicts to Operation Iraqi Freedom (2010) by D.C. Gill, p. 70: Cited in Gill, D.C. (5 March 2010). How We Are Changed by War: A Study of Letters and Diaries from Colonial Conflicts to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Routledge. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-203-85626-0. Retrieved on 4 September 2013.”
  10. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (BOOK), Knopf. ISBN 9780307265722. “Nicotine addiction became so rampant so quickly in Manchuria, according to the Oxford historian Timothy Brook, that in 1635 the khan Hongtaiji discovered that his soldiers 'were selling their weapons to buy tobacco.' The khan angrily prohibited smoking. On the opposite side of the world, Europeans were equally hooked; by the 1640s the Vatican was receiving complaints that priests were celebrating Mass with lighted cigars. Pope Urban VIII, as enraged as Hongtaiji, promptly banned smoking in church.” 
  11. Meehan, Thomas (1886). The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist v28, History Of Tobacco. Charles H. Marot. Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “But if the memory of James I. is anathematised by all smokers, his action was absolutely mild when compared with that of Pope Urban VIII., and that of the King of Persia and Czar of Moscovy. The Pope threatened excommunication to all using tobacco in churches - certainly an unseemly and intolerable practice, but the King and Czar forbade its use under pain of death, with the pleasant alternative of having the nose cut off for enjoying it in the form of snuff.”
  12. Meiklejohn, A. (June 9, 1962). "Smoking And Health". British Medical Journal, The (BMJ) 1 (5292): 1618-1619. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20373637. Retrieved 07 September 2015. 
  13. Papal Cigar Factory. St. Holger's Cigar Club (May 1, 2012). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “Loosely translated, the the inscription is 'Pius IX, Pope. Office of Tobacco Works, Built 1863.' Nicotianis foliis means 'nicotine leaves,' which is clearly a reference to tobacco whose commercial possibilities were introduced to Europe by the French diplomat Jean Nicot.”
  14. Full text of 'Medals of the Roman pontiffs from Martin v., 1417, to Pius IX., 1870'. archive.org (2015). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “735. Inscription, etc., same as above. NICOTIANIS. FOLIIS. ELABORANDIS. OFFICINAM. APTIOREM. A. SOLO. EXTRUXIT. 1863. On the reverse, view of a manufactory of tobacco in Rome.”
  15. Jewish Law - Commentary/Opinion - Is Smoking Kosher?. jlaw.com (2015). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “While health and safety are halachic obligations, it does not mean that every health and safety risk are prohibited. It is normal for people to accept certain safety risks in the course of their regular activities. Regular activities such as driving, flying in a plane or giving birth to a child entail some risk. What needs to be determined is which risks are considered to be halachically acceptable and which are not.”
  16. Smoking in Jewish law - Wikipedia (2015). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “Responsa to prohibit (or virtually prohibit) cigarette smoking have been issued by several Orthodox rabbis, including Waldenberg, and Hayim David HaLevi, Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv) from 1973. Smoking is specifically prohibited by Solomon Freehof, other Reform rabbis, as well as rabbis in the Conservative movement in the U.S. and Israel.”
  17. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created (BOOK), Knopf. ISBN 9780307265722. “A million pesos in 1640 was worth about a third of what a million pesos had been worth in 1540.” 
  18. Sexuality on clearance at Target (PODCAST). The Blaze Radio Network (August 14, 2015). Retrieved on August 16, 2015.
  19. China Rattles Markets With Yuan Devaluation. Bloomberg Business (August 10, 2015). Retrieved on 16 August 2015. “The central bank cut its daily reference rate by 1.9 percent, triggering the yuan’s biggest one-day drop since China ended a dual-currency system in January 1994.”
  20. "Apple feels the pain of China's yuan move", USA Today, Gannett Company, August 11, 2015. Retrieved on 16 August 2015. “For some companies, the negative impact on sales may be offset by lower production costs, said Adolfo Laurenti, chief international economist for Mesirow Financial in Chicago. Apple, for example, assembles many of its products in China and therefore could benefit that way from the cheaper yuan.” 
  21. U.S. Government Bonds Pull Back. NASDAQ.com (Dow Jones Business News) (September 02, 2015). Retrieved on 6 September 2015. “Over the past week, China has sold Treasury debt to keep the Chinese yuan from plunging after surprising investors on Aug. 11 by devaluing the currency. Traders and analysts say China doesn't want a one-way bet on the yuan, and that it has been propping up the yuan ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's trip to the U.S. to meet with President Barack Obama at the end of September.”

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