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The Third Pandemic and Unmarked Cesspits

The cholera pandemic has hit the United Kingdom. Experts of the time believe that miasma (my-AZZ-mah) or "bad air" is the cause of disease, but Dr. Snow thinks that contaminated water is the problem. He plots cases of cholera on a map and interviews survivors in his area. He notices that the sick all drank from the same water well. He inspects the water under a microscope, but sees no germs. Nevertheless, he convinces the townspeople to remove the handle from the water pump and shuts down the well. The deaths from cholera drop and the local threat is over. What was really wrong? The water well had been dug 3 feet from an unmarked and abandoned cesspit. Unfortunately, the townspeople didn't really believe that the water was the problem, so they started using the well again. (Palm to forehead.) Dr. Snow's work on water contamination as a source of disease will eventually lead to a revamping of London's sewer systems. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
My biology teacher told me that human waste is not dirty per se, but when a person is ill, many human germs will pass out of the body through human waste. So as a precaution (and I think this is a really good idea) we treat human waste as if it contains disease. In a crowded situation where we don't know who is sick and who is well, maintaining good sewage discipline is critical. Years ago my job entailed spotting abandoned cesspits. It was not easy. When a bulldozer would scrape an area down to natural soil, I would look for a circular stain or pieces of brick in a circular pattern. The old cesspits were lined with brick but so were cisterns that collected water for gardens. (In the old days people didn't use drinking water for their plants. They collected rain water.) I have uncovered cisterns that went down 20 feet or more. It is a long way to the bottom so use care. There is a joke that the grass is always greener over the septic tank. If that is true then the septic tank is full or damaged. Call a professional. Your water supply can always benefit from filters and sterilization, but avoiding the major hazards of sewage disposal in the first place will go a long way to keep you disease free in an emergency. [3] [4] [5]

Unleashing Democracy in Australia

27 men lie dead after a protest over licensing fees goes terribly wrong. The Eureka Rebellion is considered Australian's version of "the shot heard around the world." The recent Australian Gold Rush has put economic, social and political pressure on what has been a pastoral country. (Think sheep grazing on the plains.) But now boom towns have sprung up, and prices are soaring. This sort of economic, social and political pressure is familiar to Californians, but for Australia, it is 1775. They have submitted a new charter (or constitution) to the British Parliament, but it looks like the Big Boys will get the mine and the Little Guys will get the shaft. The governor wants the gold miners to pay their licensing fees, but it looks more like harassment as the regulators check licenses 6 times a day. The annual fee is not that much if you have found gold, but a miner will be arrested if he does not have his license on his person... not in his tent, not in his saddle bag, not tucked in his Bible but on his person. This amounts to harassment so the miners build the Eureka Stockade to keep the regulators out. It is considered a political protest, but the government sees it as a rebellion and sends out the troops. 30 minutes later 27 people are dead... mostly miners. Democracy can be a deadly gift. The new Australian constitution will be approved next year, which will give the country more autonomy, but after this incident the government will be forced to establish a legislature, grant voting rights to non-land owners, and issue a secret ballot! (Is nothing sacred?) [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK... how was building a crude fort in Eureka, Victoria a political protest? Well... any time you lock out the government, the government wonders what you are doing. If you refuse to show your papers on demand... 6 times a day... you are in violation of the law. If you decide to protest your harassment, you have given the authorities an excuse to act. And if you take that protest far enough, civil discourse can come apart fairly quickly. I have provided examples in the notes, but when you refuse to submit to government demands, bad things can happen. If the police pull you over because you fit the description of a bank robber, do not jump out of your car and run for the woods. They will not be thinking that you needed to take a leak. My son was arrested for carrying a Nerf gun, all because there was a recent convenience store robbery and someone noticed him walking around the college campus shooting his friends with a TOY! [12] [13] [14]

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred. [15]

In every war mistakes are made. General Cardigan has been given the order to charge the guns. Which guns? Captain Nolan points to the guns down range about a mile away. Guns to the left. Guns to the right. Guns ahead. It is clearly suicide, but no one protests... or at least no one alive after this charge will remember anyone protesting. This is the British light cavalry. Fast horses. No armor. Sabers and a lot of guts. Their normal mission is reconnaissance and running down retreating infantry. General Raglan notices the Russians attempting to retreat with some naval guns. He sends an order to attack the guns. When the order finally reaches Cardigan, Cardigan does not see any guns except the ones down range... in the Valley of Death. Cardigan leads the charge and he doesn't look back. Captain Nolan seems to realize the mistake and tries to turn the brigade but the Captain is shot early on. Cardigan reaches his objective, engages the Russians and then returns. 110 are killed. 161 are wounded. Six week later, Lord Tennyson publishes his poem entitled, The Charge of the Light Brigade and they are made public heroes. [16] [17]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Cardigan and his light brigade were considered heroes, but the officers above them were considered goats. Nevertheless, they all escaped blame. My sense is that it was probably a misinterpreted order. Some experts claim that Cardigan would have lost more men if he correctly interpreted the order. Other say that the charge would have worked if the heavy brigade had followed in with them, but the leader of the heavy brigade said that it made no sense to do that and no one contradicted him at the time.

In Other News

  • "Ten Nights in a Bar Room" is published. It is the 2nd most popular book in America after Uncle Tom's Cabin. The story warns the public of the evils of demon alcohol. [18] [19] [20]
  • The Republican Party is formed. The Whigs are split North and South. They can do nothing on slavery whatsoever, so the northern Whigs form a new anti-slavery political party. [21] [22]
  • Henry Göbel invents the light bulb... NOT! Thomas Edison's patents will be challenged by the "Göbel Defense", but there is not enough evidence to prove that Göbel actually invented the light bulb, so the credit (and the money) will go to Edison. [23]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1854, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. John Snow (1813-58). The Science Museum's History of Medicine (2016). Retrieved on 18 August 2016. “John Snow was a leading British physician of the Victorian period. He is also considered one of the founders of modern epidemiology for his work in identifying the source of a cholera outbreak in 1854. This study suggested a means of disease transmission that clearly contradicted the prevailing miasma theory. Although overlooked at the time, his study would later be recognised as evidence for the germ theory of disease, which would come to prominence in the years after Snow’s death.”
  2. Miasma - definition of miasma (2016). Retrieved on 18 August 2016. “1. an unwholesome or oppressive atmosphere”
  3. Alex Shrugged notes: My remarks are based on my personal experience and watching a Do-It-Yourself TV show where a water well was being contaminated by runoff from lawn fertilizer.
  4. FDA: Infected Lettuce At U.S. Restaurants Traced To Mexico : The Two-Way : NPR. npr.org (August 3, 2013). Retrieved on 18 August 2016. “In a statement on Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration said its traceback investigation 'confirmed that the salad mix identified by Iowa and Nebraska as being linked to the outbreak of cyclosporiasis in those states was supplied to restaurants in those states by Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V., a processor of foodservice salads,' adding that the restaurants include Olive Garden and Red Lobster, both of which are owned by Darden Restaurants.”
  5. Citing Fecal Contamination, FDA Issues Import Alert for Some Mexican Cilantro -. Food Safety News (July 28, 2015). Retrieved on 18 August 2016. “Further, 'FDA believes the source of C. cayetanensis contamination is likely attributable to a broader source of contamination. Sources of contamination may include fecal contamination of growing areas, irrigation of fields with water contaminated with sewage, cleaning or cooling produce with contaminated water, and/or poor hygienic practices of workers that harvest and process the produce, and lack of adequate cleaning and sanitizing of equipment that comes in contact with the product.'”
  6. Constitutional development of Victoria, 1851-6 109-110 (1920). Retrieved on 22 August 2016.
  7. Eureka Rebellion - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 19 August 2016. “The Eureka Rebellion in 1854 was a rebellion of gold miners of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, who revolted against the colonial authority of the United Kingdom. The Battle of the Eureka Stockade, by which the rebellion is popularly known, was fought between miners and the Colonial forces of Australia on 3 December 1854 at Eureka Lead and named for the stockade structure erected by miners during the conflict.[2] The rebellion lasted for less than half an hour and resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people, the majority of whom were rebels.”
  8. Chartism - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 August 2016. “Chartism was also an important influence in some British colonies. Some leaders had been transported to Australia, where they spread their beliefs. In 1854, Chartist demands were put forward by the miners at the Eureka Stockade on the gold fields at Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. Within two years of the military suppression of the Eureka revolt, the first elections of the Victorian parliament were held, with near-universal male suffrage and by secret ballot.”
  9. Steffen, Jerome O. (November 1983). "Mining Frontiers of California and Australia: A Study in Comparative Political Change and Continuity, The". Pacific Historical Review (University of California Press) 52 (4): 428-440. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3639075. Retrieved 21 August 2016. "Historian Jay Monaghan, for exmple, emphasized the importance of the gold rush over all other factors, when he referred to Eureka as "the shot that was heard around the world." Scholars, such as Herbert Heaton, stressed the influence of radical ideas imported from abroad as the catalyst for Australian democracy. [...] Others have stressed the importance of an emerging laboring class and its demands for shorter hours and better wages, along with the demands of industrialists who sought higher tariffs on imported goods in order to allow them to be more competitive in the Australian market.". 
  10. Bastin, John (December 1956). "Eureka—An Eye-Witness Account". The Australian Quarterly (Australian Institute of Policy and Science) 28 (4): 76-83. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41317820. Retrieved 21 August 2016. "In a convincing article in the Eureka Centenary Supplement to Historical Studies: Australia and New Zealand (December, 1954), Dr. G. Serle has attacked any one cause interpretation, and the writer of the following eye-witness account of the rising agrees with this. He sees the licence fee as the beginning of the trouble, but he also points to the grievances of the more successful diggers against the land regulations.". 
  11. Irving, Terence H.; Irving, Terry (November 1994). "Roots of Parliamentary Socialism in Australia, 1850-1920, The". Labour History (Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, Inc.) (67): 97-109. http://www.jstor.org/stable/27509278. Retrieved 21 August 2016. "Even more dangerous for the bourgeoisie was the possibility of the working men adopting an alternative form of politics in which the 'general meeting' would create a situation of dual power. The mobilisations by radical democratic organisations in the towns and on the gold fields, the miners' rights movement that culminated in the Eureka rebellion of 1854, single-issue campaigns for the ending of convict transportation and land reform, and most impressively the mass 'conventions' that destabilised Victorian politics in the late 1850's all testified to this possibility.". 
  12. Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 August 2016. “The incident began on Saturday, January 2, when the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon was seized and occupied by an armed group loosely affiliated with various independent non-governmental U.S. militias, and with the sovereign citizen movement, and led by Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven D. Bundy. The standoff was initially justified by the militants as a response to the imprisonment of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond for their having been found guilty of arson of federal lands. The underlying rationale, underpinning the group's protest of the Hammond's incarceration was the group's belief that the Federal government, as it currently operates, is essentially illegitimate.”
  13. "FBI releases video of shooting death of Oregon protester", USA Today, January 29, 2016. Retrieved on 22 August 2016. “Robert 'LaVoy' Finicum, 56, died Tuesday during the arrest of occupation ringleader Ammon Bundy and four others during a traffic stop near the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. His death was captured on video taken from an FBI plane that shot footage as Finicum, driving a white truck, was pursued and ultimately confronted and killed by Oregon State Police officers.” 
  14. Waco siege - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 August 2016. “The search warrant commanded a search 'on or before February 28, 1993' in the daytime between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm. ATF made a claim that David Koresh was operating a methamphetamine lab, in order to establish a drug nexus and obtain military assets under the War on Drugs. However, the evidence was stale, partly based on an unreliable 'hot spot' detected by infrared surveillance, partly based on disgruntled ex-members who had left six years earlier, and it ignored all the evidence that the lab had been dismantled by Koresh when he took charge and had been given to the Sheriff for destruction.”
  15. The Charge of the Light Brigade (poem) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  16. Battle of Balaclava - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  17. Charge of the Light Brigade - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  18. Arthur, T. S. (Timothy Shay). Ten Nights in a Bar Room. J. W. Bradley. 
  19. Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 August 2016. “Ten Nights in a Bar-room was a financial success for Arthur and became the second most popular book of the Victorian Era, following Uncle Tom's Cabin.[4] The novel was easily transferred to play format, so it was frequently used to promote prohibition to large audiences. The play based on the novel continued to be popular even after the end of prohibition in the United States, although it was usually presented as a parody.”
  20. Timothy Shay Arthur - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 2 August 2016. “He is most famous for his temperance novel Ten Nights in a Bar-Room and What I Saw There (1854), which helped demonize alcohol in the eyes of the American public.”
  21. Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 418-419. 
  22. Republican Party (United States) - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 August 2016. “Founded in the Northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, modernizers, ex-Whigs, and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party quickly became the principal opposition to the dominant Democratic Party and the briefly popular Know Nothing Party.”
  23. Heinrich Göbel - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 August 2016. “In 1893, the Edison Electric Light Company sued three manufacturers of incandescent lamps for infringing Edison´s patent. The defense of these companies claimed the Edison patent was void because of the same invention by Göbel 25 years earlier, which came to be known as the 'Göbel defense'. Judges of four courts raised doubts; there was no clear and convincing proof for the claimed invention. A research work published in 2007 concluded that the Goebel-Defense was fraudulent.”

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