How well does Congress reflect the People it “serves”?

How well does Congress reflect the people it “serves” (“rules” might be a better word)? Not very well, it turns out. How else could lawyers make up 37% of the U.S. Congress, both now and in 1789? Not to pick on lawyers either…out of the 209 “businesspeople” in Congress, how many do you think are clerks, bakers, entrepreneurs, electricians, etc.? I’m guessing the answer is a big fat zero. So much for James Madison’s dream of the House of Representatives being a lower house for “the people.” Here’s more from Constitution Daily:

With that in mind, the staff of Constitution Daily compiled a comparison between the First U.S. Congress and the current one, looking at the occupational breakdown between their members. The results were, in some ways, predictable, but there were still a few surprises. (Who knew there was a comedian among their ranks?)…

Although the First Congress had a limited variety of professions, the general make up of both are relatively similar. As you can see, from the time the First Congress met, law has been a top profession; in both bodies, about 37 percent of the members are lawyers. It makes sense–the people writing the laws need to have a deep understanding of how the legal system works. But do lawyers make the best politicians?

(See the rest including the breakdown at Constitution Daily)

The End of the U.S. Postal Service?

And so Saturday mail comes to an end. Is anyone really that surprised? No competition = No reason to innovate or improve service. Where’s Lysander Spooner when you need him?

Here’s more on the U.S. Postal Service ending Saturday deliveries at Fox News:

The U.S. Postal Service plans to announce Wednesday that it will end Saturday mail delivery, in one of the most significant steps taken to date to cut costs at the struggling agency.

A source familiar with the decision confirmed the plan to Fox News.

Under the proposal, the Postal Service will continue to deliver packages six days a week. The plan, which is aimed at saving about $2 billion, would start to take effect in August.

(See the rest at Fox News)

Bruno Sammartino: History’s Greatest Wrestler?

I love professional wrestling, especially its long and storied connection to American history. Did you know George Washington was once a Collar-and-Elbow wrestling champion? Or that Abraham Lincoln was a renowned Catch-as-Catch-Can wrestler?

Last night, the WWE announced that Bruno Sammartino would be inducted into its Hall of Fame. He joins a stacked class including Mick Foley, Trish Stratus, and Bob Backlund. For years, the WWE Hall of Fame has been a bit of a joke really, thanks to celebrity inductions like Pete Rose and Drew Carey as well as that of thankless jobber Koko B. Ware. Glaring omissions like Sammartino and Backlund only made things worse. With this year’s class, the WWE appears to be shooting for a little legitimacy. Here’s more on Bruno Sammartino’s induction from Donald Wood at Bleacher Report:

Bruno Sammartino is the greatest professional wrestler in the history of the business, and the fact that he is going into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2013 class at Madison Square Garden is one of the biggest coups in the long existence of the company.

For those too young to know exactly who this man is or what he did, Sammartino was wrestling’s original face champion. Before there was Hulk Hogan or John Cena, there was Sammartino and his unbelievably long title reigns.

CM Punk has been heralded as a star for holding the WWE title for 434 days, but in the ’60s and ’70s, Sammartino held the title twice for a total of 4040 days (2803 and 1237 respectively.)

That’s over 11 years total as champion…

(See the rest at Bleacher Report)

Happy Birthday Income Tax (Now, go away already!)

It’s been one hundred years since the modern income tax was created, via the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Back then income tax rates ran from 1% for annual incomes over $3, 000 to 7% for annual incomes over $500,000 (that’s $11.6 million in today’s dollars!). Current tax rates run from 10% to 39.6%. Meanwhile, the income tax code has gone from a hefty 400 pages to a whopping 44,000 pages. My how times have changed. Here’s more from Delaware Online:

Pop Quiz: What book has more than 7 million words in multiple chapters, attempts to influence our behavior toward good ends, is complex and often contradictory, and requires interpretation by learned studiers of its texts to distill its basic principles for the masses of us for who this tome is supposed to provide benefit? It’s not the King James version of the Bible. It’s the current United States Tax Code.

The giveaway: While the U.S. Tax Code has more than 7 million words, The Bible is a relatively slim pamphlet at only 774,746 words. It wasn’t always this way. In 1913, the year the personal incomewe now labor under was instituted, the number of pages contained in the entire Tax Code stood at 400 (most of those dealing with tariffs). The Bible actually was longer at 1,291 pages.

As of 2010, the United States Tax Code stands at a whopping 71,684 pages (according to CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter, though in fairness, that includes repealed or modified portions of earlier versions of the tax code. The current, live portion runs a mere 44,000 pages.) The original 1913 Tax Form 1040 blissfully topped out at a rate of 7 percent – the “fair share” due of the uber rich in the eyes of then President Woodrow Wilson who obviously never had been a community organizer at any point in his career…

(See the rest at Delaware Online)

The Sound of a Nuclear Bomb?

On March 17, 1953, the U.S. military detonated an experimental nuclear weapons test. This test, part of Operation Upshot-Knothole, was designed to calm public fears about such weapons. The raw footage of this test was recently discovered. What does a nuclear weapons test sound like?

What was the Operation Upshot-Knothole Nuclear Weapons Test?

Operation Upshot Knothole was a series of 11 nuclear weapons tests conducted in Nevada during 1953. The March 17, 1953 test was called Annie. It was an “open shot” test, meaning reporters were allowed to view it. The purpose was to “calm public fears about weapon testing.”A secondary purpose was to study the effect of a nuclear blast on houses, cars, and bomb shelters. Researchers concluded people inside a car with open windows could survive if they were at least ten blocks from ground zero. They also decided a basement could protect people at 3,500 feet while the home itself could remain standing at 7,500 feet (assuming no flames).

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

You’ve probably seen videos of nuclear weapons tests in the past. Most of those are dubbed, probably with stock footage, so the detonation and its resulting noise occur at the same time.However, the speed of light travels at 671 million miles per hour. The speed of sound is much slower, just 768 miles per hour. Thus, we would expect to see the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion well before we actually hear it.

The video below comes from the National Archives. It’s the raw footage of the 1953 Annie test and was filmed about 7 miles away from the detonation. The explosion takes place at 2:37. You can see the mushroom cloud starting at 2:42. The sound doesn’t appear until 3:09, a full 32 seconds after the initial white light.

“The audio is what makes this great. Put on some headphones and listen to it all the way through — it’s much more intimate than any other test film I’ve seen. You get a much better sense of what these things must have been like, on the ground, as an observer, than from your standard montage of blasts. Murmurs in anticipation; the slow countdown over a megaphone; the reaction at the flash of the bomb; and finally — a sharp bang, followed by a long, thundering growl. That’s the sound of the bomb.” ~ Alex Wellerstein, The Sound of the Bomb (1953)

What is the Dead Man’s Hand?

On August 2, 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota. Suddenly, a pistol fired. Hickok died instantly. His hand at the time, “aces and eights,” has become known as the Dead Man’s Hand. But is that a legend? Or is it real?

Wild Bill Hickok

James Butler Hickok was originally known as “Duck Bill,” apparently due to a large nose and an upper lip that jutted out from his face. Eventually, he grew a mustache and in 1861, adopted the moniker, Wild Bill.

His exploits in the Old West were legendary. He was a skilled scout and an expert marksman. He fought and killed a bear with his bare hands, suffering severe injuries in the process. He killed Davis Tutt in the first known “quick draw duel.” He acted in a play called Scouts of the Plains with Buffalo Bill Cody and Texas Jack Omohundro. Calamity Jane, the famous American frontierswoman, claimed to have married him.

In July 1876, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota via wagon train. Some say he had a premonition of sorts regarding his impending death.

“Well, as to that, I suppose I am called a red-handed murderer, which I deny. That I have killed men I admit, but never unless in absolute self-defense or in the performance of an official duty. I never in my life took any mean advantage of an enemy. Yet, understand, I never allowed a man to get the drop on me. But perhaps I may yet die with my boots on.” ~ Wild Bill Hickok to Mrs. Annie Tallent, Several months before his death, Pioneer Days in the Back Hills, John S. McClintock

On August 2, 1876, Wild Bill Hickok entered Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10. He usually sat with his back to the wall. However, the only available stool required him to put his back to the door. He sat down and started to play five-card-draw. But he was uncomfortable with the arrangement and twice, asked another player named Charles Rich to switch stools with him. Rich refused.

Dead Man’s Hand

During the game, a former buffalo hunter named John McCall strode into the saloon. He parked himself a few feet away from Hickok and drew his pistol. “Take that!” he shouted as he fired it. The bullet careened through Hickok’s skull and Wild Bill died instantly.

According to popular legend, Hickok held two black aces and two black eights at the time of his death. The fifth card, or kicker, is a source of mystery. Some claim it was the queen of clubs. Others say it was the nine of diamonds, the jack of diamonds, the five of diamonds, or the queen of hearts. Still others say no fifth card ever existed, suggesting Hickok was in the middle of drawing a new card when he was murdered.

But what about the “aces and eights” part? Is that accurate? Well, no contemporary sources exist that indicate what cards Hickok was holding at the time of his death. “Aces and eights” was provided by Frank J. Wilstach in his 1926 book, Wild Bill Hickok: The Prince of Pistoleers. Wilstach quoted “Doc” Peirce, the town barber, who was asked to serve as an “impromptu undertaker.”

“Now, in regard to the position of Bill’s body, when they unlocked the door for me to get his body, he was lying on his side, with his knees drawn up just as he slid off his stool. We had no chairs in those days — and his fingers were still crimped from holding his poker hand. Charlie Rich, who sat beside him, said he never saw a muscle move. Bill’s hand read ‘aces and eights’ — two pair, and since that day aces and eights have been known as ‘the dead man’s hand’ in the Western country.” ~ Ellis T. “Doc” Peirce, Wild Bill Hickok: The Prince of Pistoleers

This account was published 50 years after Hickok’s death. It has yet to be collaborated by any outside source.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Take

If Peirce was right, then aces and eights was known as the dead man’s hand in “the Western country.” However, newspapers from that location and period tell a different story. The first known mention of a Dead Man’s Hand, a July 1, 1886 article in the Grand Forks Daily Herald, not only disagrees with the Hand itself but also its origin.

“I was present at a game in a Senator’s house one night and saw him win $6,000 on one hand. It was the dead man’s hand. What is the dead man’s hand? Why, it is three jacks and a pair of tens. It is called the dead man’s hand because about forty seven years ago, in a town in Illinois, a celebrated judge bet his house and lot on three jacks and a pair of tens…When his opponent showed up he had three queens and a pair of tens. Upon seeing the queens the judge fell back dead, clutching the jacks and tens in his hand, and that’s why a jack-full on tens is called the dead man’s hand.” ~ Grand Forks Daily Herald, July 1, 1886

Later accounts show different versions, including jacks and eights, tens and treys (threes), and jacks and sevens. Regardless, none of these articles connect the Dead Man’s Hand to Wild Bill Hickok.

At this point, the definitive origin of the Dead Man’s Hand remains an unsolved mystery. If the Wild Bill Hickok story could be proved by contemporary sources, it would be the oldest known version of the legend. For those of you in the New York area, consider taking a trip down to the New York Public Library. That’s where Wilstach’s papers are located. Perhaps there’s some additional information in “Doc” Peirce’s letter. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s some other evidence waiting to be found. If you find anything, let us know and we’ll cover your discovery right here on Guerrilla Explorer. Who knows? You just might solve one of history’s most puzzling unsolved mysteries!

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Wild West Coverage

Tweeting…to Aliens?

On August 25, 1977, Dr. Jerry Ehman detected an odd radio signal that appeared to be of alien origin. He circled the signal and wrote “Wow!” next to it. Now, almost 35 years later, mankind is finally preparing a definitive response to the Wow Signal.

Replying to the Wow Signal?

National Geographic has a new TV series coming out called Chasing UFOs. The series will feature investigators reexamining old, unexplained alien encounters. As part of the publicity, National Geographic plans to collect all tweets from 8pm EDT on June 29 to 3am EDT on June 30 that are marked with the hashtag #ChasingUFOS. The messages will be rolled into one message and beamed back at the constellation Sagittarius.

We first wrote about the Wow Signal back in February. Simply put, Dr. Ehman recorded the signal while working on a SETI project. It was extremely intense, some 30 times more powerful than ambient radiation. It also appeared to originate from outside the Solar System, specifically from the constellation Sagittarius, close to the Chi Sagittarii star group. However, it was a one-time thing and even Dr. Ehman eventually began to question its suggested origin.

Incidentally, this isn’t mankind’s first attempt to reply to the Wow Signal. But it’s definitely the most complex.

“We are working with Arecibo Observatory to develop the best way to encrypt the transmission. Earlier transmissions have focused on simplicity, whereas this one will rely more on creating a complex but noticeable pattern, hopefully standing out from other random, natural noise.” ~ Kristin Montalbano, Spokeswoman for the National Geographic Channel, Possible Alien Message to Get Reply from Humanity

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

So, will an alien race receive the transmission? And maybe even respond? It’s impossible to be sure. But just in case, you might want to head over to Twitter on June 29 or June 30 and add your two cents. We’ll see you there!

The First American Daredevil?

On October 7, 1829, Sam Patch ventured out onto a ladder and leapt 85 into the churning waters of the Niagara River. When he surfaced, the crowd went crazy. Who was the first American Daredevil?

Sam Patch: The First American Daredevil?

Sam Patch was born in Rhode Island in 1807. While still young, he began “to jump for purses of cash.” On September 30, 1827, Patch made his first of many historical leaps. On that day, he dodged a constable and leapt off the cliff next to Passaic Falls in New Jersey. By the time he lifted his head out of the water, he was famous.

Patch’s biography is largely incomplete. Most historians believe he jumped numerous times over the next two years. However, only a few of those jumps have been confirmed. One particularly memorable jump took place almost a year after Passaic Falls. On August 28, 1828, Patch survived a 100-foot jump from a ship’s mast in Hoboken, New Jersey. After that, he was ready to take on his most famous obstacle, Niagara Falls.

In 1829, Patch was invited to jump over Niagara Falls as part of an exhibition designed to bring business to the area. He was one of several acts. As hundreds of people watched, gunpowder was used to detonate large chunks of rock from the Falls. Then an unmanned schooner named Superior was sent over the Falls. The next day, Patch took the stage. Poor weather and the delay in his arrival limited the crowd. Still, he made the jump and the crowd loved it. He became the first person to, in essence, leap over Niagara Falls and live to tell about it.

He repeated the feat ten days later in front of a much larger crowd of 10,000 people. He survived again and came out yelling, “There’s no mistake in Sam Patch!”

“The jump of Patch is the greatest feat of the kind ever effected by man. He may now challenge the universe for a competitor.” ~ Buffalo Republican

Sam Patch vs. The High Falls of the Genesee River?

Patch was famous. His slogan, “Some things can be done as well as others,” became known throughout the nation. He went onto Rochester, New York to test the High Falls of the Genesee River. On November 6, 1829, he climbed onto a rock ledge in the middle of the river. Then he tossed a “begging pet bear” over the Falls. Seeing that the bear had survived, Patch followed suit, successfully leaping 97 feet in front of 7,000 to 8,000 people.

However, Patch was supposedly disappointed with the amount of money he raised. So, he decided to duplicate the jump on November 13. This time, he constructed a 25-foot stand, turning the jump into one that was close to 125 feet high.

“Napoleon was a great man and a great general. He conquered armies and he conquered nations, but he couldn’t jump the Genesee Falls. Wellington was a great man and a great soldier. He conquered armies and he conquered nations, but he couldn’t jump the Genesee Falls. That was left for me to do, and I can do it, and will.” ~ Sam Patch, November 13, 1829, Rochester, NY

Accounts differ as to what happened next. Patch usually dove with his hands plastered against his sides, his toes pointed, and his posture perfectly straight. But for some reason, his body crashed into the water at an awkward angle. He didn’t surface.

At first, Patch’s body wasn’t found. Rumors abounded that it was just another stunt. Eyewitnesses reported seeing him in Pittsford among other nearby towns. It wasn’t until the following spring that a hired hand found Patch’s corpse near the mouth of the river.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

At the young age of 22, Patch was dead. But why did he perform such risky jumps? And why were Americans so obsessed with his feats? In his book, Sam Patch, The Famous Jumper, Paul E. Johnson discusses some possible answers. Johnson sees Patch as a working class hero who mastered the “art of the jump” in a day and age when the individual art of craftsmanship was giving way to industrialization. Also, he postulates that Patch’s success showed working class people that fame could be achieved by anyone in America.

Patch was buried in Charlotte Cemetery with a wooden marker that read, “Sam Patch – Such is Fame.”

“Sam Patch belongs to history. He achieved fame in his day and generation, and his name will go down to posterity. Sam Patch was truly a great man. Not a great warrior like Alexander, or Julius Caesar, or Charles XII, or Napoleon, or lots of others, whom it is unnecessary to name, for ‘Heroes are much the same – the point’s agreed – from Macedonia’s madman to the Swede.’ Nor was he a great philosopher, in the common acceptation of the term, like Pythagoras, or Plato, or Newton, or Franklin. Nor a great statesman like Pitt, or Peel, or Webster. His greatness did not lie in this line. And yet Sam Patch was truly great – he was a great jumper.” ~ Life and Death of Sam Patch, United States magazine

Did Paul Revere Save the United States?

According to American Mythology, Paul Revere jumped onto a horse on April 18, 1775 and rode into the night, shouting “The British are coming!” But did Paul Revere’s Ride actually happen?

The Story of Paul Revere’s Ride

According to American mythology, Paul Revere’s ride was a solo one. He and other colonists knew the British were preparing to attack. So, he waited in Charleston for a signal from signal lanterns. One lantern in the Old North Church’s steeple would indicate a land invasion, two would mean a sea-based attack. He saw two lanterns and then rode through Medford, Lexington, and Concord to warn everyone, “The British are Coming!”

It’s a good story. One that has become a significant part of American history. It’s also severely flawed and in some respects, completely incorrect.

Paul Revere’s Ride: American History or American Mythology?

Interestingly enough, Paul Revere was little known for almost a century after his now-famous ride. Then in 1860, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned a famous poem entitled Paul Revere’s Ride. Longfellow was an abolitionist and wanted to convince his fellow northerners to take military action to keep the Union intact. As such, he deliberately romanticized his work in order to create a legend out of Revere.

“Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Paul Revere’s Ride

The truth as you might expect, is a bit more messy. The British Army was in Massachusetts that evening. They planned to disarm the colonists by seizing a weapons cache in Concord. They also planned to arrest the leaders of the budding American rebellion, including John Hancock and Samuel Adams.

Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, learned of the plan. He sent two riders, Paul Revere and William Dawes, to Lexington to warn Adams and Hancock. They were to alert colonial militias along the way.

Revere and Dawes rode to Lexington, delivering warnings to every house they passed. Other riders, perhaps as many as 40 of them, raced into the night to spread the message. No one shouted, “The British are coming!” Indeed, most of the colonists considered themselves British. The entire rebellion was about the colonists standing up for what they considered to be true British values.

According to Revere, the exact message was, “The Regulars are coming out,” with the Regulars referring to the Regular Army. And since the operation was a secret, it’s unlikely anyone actually shouted out the message.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Eventually, Revere and Dawes reached Lexington. They delivered the warning and picked up a third rider named Samuel Prescott. They proceeded to ride onto Concord. However, British troops spotted them in Lincoln. Revere was captured and questioned. Prescott jumped his horse over a wall and escaped. Dawes also escaped but later fell off his horse. Fortunately, Prescott reached Concord in time to warn the colonists. The next day, the British Army attacked. The Battles of Lexington and Concord raged. And out of that dust emerged the beginnings of a new country, the United States of America.

“‘Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear—
My name was Dawes and his Revere.” ~ Helen F. Moore, The Midnight Ride of William Dawes