Thursday, July 30, 2015

A New Hope for Control and Eventual Eradication of Malaria

Past and Current Malaria Prevalence Around the World
Source: World Development Report (2009) via Virtual History

I quote from an article in The Guardian:
The world’s first malaria vaccine has been given the green light by European regulators.....The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that RTS,S, or Mosquirix, should be licensed for use in young children in Africa who are at risk of the mosquito-borne disease. The shot has been developed by Britain’s biggest drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and part-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation..... 
According to the WHO, 627,000 deaths from malaria were reported globally in 2013, of which the vast majority (562,000) occurred in Africa, mostly among children under the age of five (82%).
WHO estimates that there are 198 million cases of malaria a year now.

Apparently this is not an "ideal vaccine" requiring multiple shots over a period of years to protect a child fully. In Africa, getting a child its shots on a regular basis will be very difficult -- perhaps beyond the ability of public health officials to achieve high levels of immunity in the population. Still, if researchers have the knowledge to develop one vaccine, there is hope that they may develop other malaria vaccines that are better tailored for African needs.

The development of DDT and of a basis of scientific knowledge about malaria led to efforts to eradicate the disease in a number of developed countries. It is worth remembering that when the USA was founded as an independent nation, malaria occurred over its entire extent, and that malaria was a problem not only in southern Europe but in England and much of northern Europe. The World Health Organization created its Global Malaria Eradication Program in 1955, based on the then existing successes, but the successes could not be maintained, and in 1969 the Program was abandoned, to be replaced by a less ambitious WHO Malaria Control Program.

Basic Facts

Malaria is caused by any one of four Plasmodia species. It is transmitted from human to human by any of a variety of mosquito species. Thus a mosquito takes a blood meal from a person with malaria, rests for a while, and (after the agent has gone through a transformation in the mosquito, bites another person injecting the agent as it takes blood. If one can eliminate malaria from a human population, eliminate the mosquitoes capable of transmitting the disease, keep the mosquitoes from biting people, and/or cure the patient before he can transmit the infection, then these public health measures can stop a malaria outbreak or end endemic malaria in a region.

Historically a number of approaches have been used to fight malaria:
  • Drugs to treat the disease, beginning with Quinine and Chloroquine (1946).
  • Use of pesticides, beginning with DDT, to kill mosquitoes.
  • Reduction of mosquito breeding sites, by such things as making sure that there are no open bodies of water in which the mosquito eggs may be laid or the larva develop.
  • Other ways to keep larva from becoming mosquitoes, from spraying oil on the top of ponds, to use of larvacides, to stocking ponds with larva eating fish.
  • Use of window screens and bed nets (including insecticide containing bed nets) to keep mosquitoes from biting people.
Vaccine Development

Dr. Lee Howard, then the Director of the USAID Office of Health, recognized in the mid 1960s that the then current arsenal of means to combat malaria was not adequate for its eradication. True, the disease exists only in man, so if all human cases could be eliminated, the disease would be gone for good. However, getting a human population completely free of malaria was difficult, requiring many approaches to be used simultaneously. Moreover, at least one of the forms of the disease could lie hidden for years, only to reappear and restart a epidemic or become endemic. Moreover, the governments of many of the countries that had the worst malaria problems were weak, and the operation of a large scale public health campaign for a long period with no slip-ups was beyond their capacity. 

Dr. Howard thought that adding a vaccine to the armament of the malaria control workers would be a potential way to get to eradication or at least control. Unfortunately, no one had much of an idea as to how to create a vaccine to an organism as complex as a Plasmodium. Indeed, it was not known how to grow the organism in the laboratory -- a necessary step for all future work. Nonetheless, Dr. Howard convinced his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health to join with USAID and begin basic research toward the development of a vaccine against malaria. Now, half a century later, we finally have a first such practical vaccine. The search has yielded a great deal of fundamental knowledge about the parasite and the immune response, and further research and development can be expected to improve the vaccines against malaria.

So What

If a vaccine can make people immune to malaria (for a period of time) then the prevalence of the disease will be reduced. Indeed, even if the protection is only partial, the danger to a person contracting the disease may be reduced.

Combine the protection of a vaccine (and better protection from future improved vaccines) with improved knowledge of mosquitoes, and full use of the available control techniques (described above) should make control efforts more effective and eradication efforts more possible. The Gates Foundation believes we are now at a point in history when eradication is foreseeable. Certainly governments and public health agencies around the world are generally more capable of managing such efforts well.

The world public health community has eradicated smallpox and Guinea Worm Disease, and is on the verge (I hope) of eradicating polio. Lets hope malaria is next!

Read more....

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

About What Followed the Civil War: 1862 to 1877

I am beginning to read A Short History of Reconstruction, Updated Edition by Eric Foner, published this year. Foner's 1988 book, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, won the Bancroft, Parkman, and Los Angeles Times Book prizes; this shorter book has been updated to include some of the more recent scholarship. Foner's The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery was published in 2011; it won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize. Professor Foner has served as president of the Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, and the Society of American Historians. 
The Civil War resulted in two major changes in American institutions:
  • Slavery was abolished and all slaves were emancipated. Thus the plantation system of agriculture, as it had depended on slave labor, was also forced to end or to find new institutional mechanisms for the supply of labor.
  • Disunion was no longer an institutional option, as it had seemed to many Americans since the creation of the nation; thus the United States of America was thereafter a singular noun, rather than the plural noun it had been in the past. The federal government emerged from the Civil War transformed into a much more forceful institution, capable of raising armies numbering millions of men, with a much increased budget. New initiatives included creating a national currency, supporting the development of a trans-continental railroad and telegraph, instituting a national system of land grant colleges with its national system of agricultural research stations and extension services, and creating the Homestead Act by which the federal government used its ownership of land to foster settlement of the west and its economic development.
Perhaps even more serious, it changed America. Hundreds of thousands of young men had died in the war, and huge numbers of civilians had died as well. Much of the country, especially in the South, had been decimated and left in ruins; however, northern manufacturing industries sometimes had been quite successful during the war. Millions of former slaves were now freed, seeking to find new ways of living, or even surviving. Cotton, the nation's main export before the war, had not been exported (even to the northern mills) in large quantities during the war, and the nation had to deal with new international competition in the cotton market.

The term Reconstruction Era, in the context of the history of the United States, has two senses: the first covers the complete history of the entire country from 1865 to 1877 following the Civil War; the second sense focuses on the transformation of the Southern United States from 1863 to 1877, as directed by Congress, with the reconstruction of state and society.
It seems to me that it may be useful to use different words to differentiate between the two concepts.
  • One concept is Governmental Reconstruction Programs. We have now a body of  experience now with post conquest efforts: Afghanistan and Iraq, South Korea, Germany and Japan, World War I, the Spanish American War. The 13th, 14th and 15 amendments and the Congressionally mandated reconstruction programs were of significant albeit limited size.
  • The other concept is more general social and economic development, which is brings in northern and western development as linked to the development of the south in a now single nation (albeit one with great internal divisions). Again, half a century of development theory may be useful here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sad News About Workers

Source: The Economist
Interesting information from these two graphs.

  • Left hand graph: Output per hour has increased nicely in the  USA since 1970, but median household income has scarcely increase, and is lower now than in 2000; thus half of American households are not benefiting significantly from the improvement in productivity of our workers. The Federal Minimum Wage is lower now in real terms than it was in 1970; increases have never brought it back to the same buying power it had then.
  • Right hand graph: Employee compensation bounced around but stayed at about the same portion of total national income from 1970 to the mid 10=990s. However, it is significantly lower now than it was in 1970. Three periods, each several years long, saw a significant decline in the portion of the national income going to workers, the steepest being the most recent.
Bush senior was president from 1989 to 1992; Clinton was president from 1993 to 2000; Bush junior was president from 2001 to 2008; Obama has been president since 2009 but Republicans have had control of the House of Representatives since 2011. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Basic Library for my Cousins

Here is the Wikipedia entry for Blind Raftery.

Raftery's poems; songs of life, love and liberty (my Grandmother's  and Julia Heneghan's brother, John Patrick). (Also available here free online.)

Reincarnations by James Stephens (English language versions of Blind Raftery poems)

Songs Ascribed to Raftery by Douglas Hyde (This is the book by the former President of Ireland, reflecting his collection of Blind Raftery's works; bilingual.) (Also available here free online.)

Poets and Dreamers: Studies and Translations From the Irish by Lady Gregory (This book by one of the founders of Ireland's Abbey Theater, reflects stories about Blind Raftery collected by the author and some of his poems translated into English. The Blind Raftery material is in the first part of the book.) (Also available free online.)

Blind Raftery by Criostoir O Flynn (relatively new, bilingual edition)

The old Irish bank note with the first verse of Blind Raftery's "Raftery the Poet" in Gaelic on the blackboard.
Mise Raifteirí an File
(I am Raftery, the poet)
by Antoine Ó Raifteirí

I am Raftery the poet,
Full of hope and love,
With eyes without light,
Calm without anguish.

Going back in my travels
With the light of my heart
Weary and tired
To the end of my journey.

Look at me now
And my back to the wall,
Playing music
To empty pockets.

Monday, July 20, 2015

On Being Black in America

There was a panel discussion at the recent Harlem Book Fair on “Wealth and Finance in Post-Civil Rights America”. I think one of the key points made by a panel member is that black people in the USA have significantly less wealth at all income levels than do whites at the same income levels. So why don't blacks save more?

  • The have more expenses related to police and court action. (Ferguson reminds us that many jurisdictions make money from tickets and charging for court and jail costs; blacks are much more likely to face such costs.
  • Blacks pay more in interest charges.
  • Blacks do more physical labor, that breaks down the body -- which contributes to health problems and shorter life expectancy.
  • Blacks get targeted more often by for-profit educational programs; they too often take out loans to pay for schooling that does not pay off in future earnings so they keep paying interest on loans that they can not pay off.
  • Blacks live in neighborhoods where shopping is harder and more expensive.
A legacy of past racism and impact of current racism in America is that we don't think of these things, and that they are embedded in our institutions and policies.

FYI: Panelists were": 
  • Dalton Conley, the author of Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America
  • William Tabb, the author of The Restructuring of Capitalism in Our Time, and 
  • Vesla Weaver, the author of Arresting Citizenship: The Democratic Consequences of American Crime Control
The panel was moderated by Damon Phillips, professor of business strategy at Columbia University.

I accuse American racists of killing women.

I quote from the article in The Economist that is the source of the graphs:
By 1987, fewer than eight women died for every 100,000 live births. Over the past quarter of a century, however, America’s maternal-mortality rate has been creeping back up (see chart). 
By 2013 the rate had ticked up to 18.5 women for every 100,000 births (these numbers include women who die within 42 days of childbirth). This makes America an international outlier. Between 2003 and 2013 it was one of only eight countries, including Afghanistan and South Sudan, to see its maternal-death rate move in the wrong direction. American women are now more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as their counterparts in Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany or Japan.
 I quote further:
American women are in poorer health when they become pregnant, and are failing to get proper care. Chronic health conditions, such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease, are increasingly common among pregnant women, and they make delivery more dangerous. Indeed the traditional causes of pregnancy-related deaths, such as haemorrhage, thromboembolism and hypertensive disorders, have been declining in recent years, whereas fatalities from cardiovascular conditions and other chronic problems have been on the rise. 
These health conditions are more common among black women, 40% of whom qualify as obese, compared with 22% of whites. African-Americans are also more likely to be poor, have limited access to health care and have higher rates of unexpected pregnancies: this may explain why they are nearly four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, almost double the discrepancy that existed 100 years ago.
Remember that many states refused to accept federal Medicaid expansion. The health conditions that cause high maternal morbidity and mortality are often results of poverty.  Good health services could ameliorate the risk, but you need health insurance to get those services if you are poor. The governors who turned down added medicaid for their states are guilty.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Income inequality has declined, as top incomes have increased

Thanks to William Easterly for posting this

Lone Star Rising -- The Texas Revolution Against Mexico

I just finished reading Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic by William C. Davis. I have posted three times before on this book:
If your ideas of the revolution that established the Lone Star Republic of Texas were formed by movies like The Alamo, this book tells a radically different story.

A sparsely settled area near the Gulf coast of the Caribbean in northern Mexico attracted settlers from the southern United States, seeking free land on which they could grow cotton using slave labor. They cared little that slavery was outlawed by the Mexican government, and they ignored requirements for receiving land grants such as loyalty to the government of the region and accepting the Catholic religion. The Anglo settlers, not unusual for their time,  were racists, with strong prejudice against people of African ancestry and Indians, not to mention Mexicans (who they saw as having European, African and Indian blood). The Mexicans, and perhaps the Criollos (those of Spanish ancestry who still dominated Mexican society) were also prejudiced against the Anglo settlers in the North (accepting them if they became more Mexican, created useful economic activities, and served as a barrier to the hostile Indian raiders).

We should remember how sparsely populated the state was at the time of the 1835-36 revolution (primarily of the Anglo settlers against the Mexican government). I quote from this source:
By 1750 some Indian tribes were using Spanish horses and French rifles to raid Spanish settlements in Texas. The plundering helps to explain why Texas was one of the most sparsely populated provinces on the northern frontier of New Spain. In 1790 the total population in Texas was 2,510, while in New Mexico it exceeded 20,000. At the same time, Indians thwarted efforts to establish catholic missions. In contrast to Texas, 40 percent of California’s Indian population had embraced Catholicism by 1803.....
Between 1821 and 1836 an estimated 38,000 settlers, on promise of 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) per family for small fees, trekked from the United States into the territory.......
In eastern Texas 20,000 settlers and 1,000 slaves outnumbered the 5,000 Mexicans in the area by 1830.......Later the immigration was stopped. The Mexican government grew alarmed at the immigration threatening to engulf the province. Military troops were moved to the border to enforce the policy. Still there was illegal immigration. Immigrants crossed the border easily and by 1835 there were ten times as many Americans (30,000) as Mexicans. The settlers demanded greater representation and more power from the Mexican Government.
Author Davis points out that few of the people living in east Texas (the small area where the revolution took place) had experience in government (Sam Houston excepted; Davy Crockett, who had been a member of the U.S. Congress was killed at the Alamo). There were few lawyers (William Travis was an exception, but he too was to die at the Alamo), and indeed few professionals of any kind. A government and a military had to be created on the fly at the beginning of the revolution, and not surprisingly they were not created very well, nor were they to be very effective.

While Mexico was more populated, it too was seeking to establish new forms of government and had a weak military (albeit strong enough to impose its will through coups from time to time). Moreover, Mexico was seeking to establish governance over a large area with many diverse populations. Northern regions between Mexico City (and the seat of government) and the revolutionary area of Texas were in frank revolt against the central government. General Santa Anna was the strong man in control of the Government in 1835.

So Davis presents something of a "tragedy of errors" as the history of the revolution, a revolution fought on a tiny scale in a area that would have had little importance except for future events such as the Mexican American War.

SourceL Wikipedia
A convention of Anglos living in Texas -- having real issues relating to distant rule from the state capital of Coahuila y Tejas and from the national capital of Mexico City -- dithered among three alternatives: redress of grievances, separation of Texas from Coahila in Mexico, or independence of (some part of the Mexican territory of) Texas. A small military force of volunteer Texans (mostly Anglos) fought small Mexican garrisons at Goliad and San Antonio de Bexar, wining both in 1835.

General (and President) Santa Anna led a Mexican Army force to put down the Texas insurrection. With a corps of professional soldiers, the number in the force was increased by forced enlistments to 6,500. One can only imagine the state at which that army arrived at San Antonio after the long march, with limited provisions available from the areas through which it marched (which were themselves in economic trouble). Santa Anna:
  • Declared that there would be no quarter given to insurgents;
  • Began a siege of the Alamo which killed all the occupying Texans, but also resulted in the loss of a large portion of the professional troops in the Mexican force;
  • Divided his remaining force into several smaller forces, to be separated in the field, each with a different mission.
Following the Alamo, one of the Mexican forces took the town of Goliad, and after the surrender of the insurgent garrison, massacred the prisoners. The Alamo and Goliad massacres aroused anger and fear among the Anglo Texans, who were reinforced by volunteers from the United States.

There followed a retreat of the insurgents to the west, towards the Louisiana border, and of the civilian population; this disordered retreat came to be known as the Runaway Scrape; it apparently served to convince Santa Anna that he had little more to fear from the insurgent irregulars.

Contrary to Santa Anna's expectations, a force of insurgents comparable to his own portion of the Mexican invasion army confronted Santa Anna's force at San Jacinto. Apparently, the Mexican forces chose to take a siesta in the afternoon of April 21st, 1836 and the Texans chose that time to attack, winning a great victory; many Mexican troops were captured, including eventually General Santa Anna himself. Bargaining for his freedom and his life, Santa Anna ordered the rest of the Mexican troops to leave the disputed area, and signed a treaty. The Texas Revolution was effectively over.

Davis estimates (page 302) that some 700 Texas troops died, or about one-fifth of the total army of the Revolution. He estimates that as many as 1000 Mexican troops died and 500 more were wounded. Compared with the horrendous totals of the U.S. Civil War, this total campaign might count as a minor skirmish.

The Texas Lone Star Republic lasted until Texas became a state in 1845, and the territorial dispute that the Revolution left in its wake served as a pretext for the Mexican-American War, and the acquisition by the USA of  a huge block of what is now South Western states.

Disputed Territory
Source: Wikipedia
Territory in the upper right hand portion of the map is part of the USA
The history here is quite different than that of California (see my recent post on Father Junipero Serra). I have also posted on the administration of President Polk, including the Mexican-American War. I have tried to make the point that the history of the portions of the United States acquired from Mexico is quite different than that of the East Coast of the country.

I came away from the book disliking the protagonists of the Texas insurgency. Of course, they appear incompetent, but that was perhaps to be expected when civilians are asked to create a government and an army. As described by author Davis, the key members of the cast were self serving, duplicitous, and often greedy. The exception was the men who fought to the death at the Alamo, resisting the much larger Mexican army. To top it off, the constitution that they wrote for their new republic corrected what they saw as the principal failure of its model, the U.S. Constitution; the Lone Star Republic of Texas constitution made the institution of slavery permanent in that country -- no surprise that Texas entered the United States as a slave state, and seceded in to join the Confederacy.

I suppose that there is an audience who want endless details about the people who led and participated in the Lone Star rising, but I found too many names that I would not remember. Still, the book was very interesting, if only because it suggested how a small conflict in an out of the way corner of the world can affect later events, and how that conflict can be inflated in local memory.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Decision Making Leading to the American Civil War

Last night I watched a TV program on the Surrender of the Confederacy. Gary Gallagher ably made the point that the Confederates fought on until they had no alternative. The Confederate economy was in ruins, the slaves who formed the basis of that economy were departing in droves, the Confederate military losses were huge and Lee's army had finally been defeated and surrendered, and the civilian population had undergone hardships and accepted governmental regimentation that could scarcely have been imagined before the Civil War had begun.

I have long wondered how the leaders of the southern states that seceded from the Union could have made so grave a mistake as to lead their people to secession and Civil War, given that it had that outcome. One answer, of course, is that they assumed that their brave young men would have quick success in the field, that the people of the states remaining in the Union would quickly lose heart, and that European powers would come to the aid of the Confederacy as they had come to the aid of Washington during the Revolutionary War.

It seems obvious from the 21st century that had the Confederacy not been formed and the Civil War fought, a better option could have been found. Perhaps slavery could have been abolished more gradually, without war, and in such a way that the economy of the southern states was less damaged. For example, perhaps there could have been some payment made to the owners of the slaves who were emancipated, and certainly there would have been less war damage and fewer people killed, disabled and injured.

It occurs to me that another answer to how the Civil War came to be is in the nature of the decision making involved. In January 1861, as states began to chose whether to form a Confederacy or stay in the Union, there were 34 states. Seven of these seceded from the Union before April 15, 1861 and four more (Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia) after that date; 23 remained in the Union. Of particular concern were several border states where slavery was still legal, which chose to remain with the Union, even though a number of their residents volunteered to fight for the Confederacy. (West Virginia was not a state in 1861, becoming a state during the Civil War when it seceded from Virginia and was accepted as a state by the Union.)

When South Carolina, the first state to secede, chose to do so, it had no way of knowing how many other states would join it. It would not have been difficult to guess, however, that the Confederacy if it were to be formed at all, would be formed by states that still maintained the institution of slavery -- a total of 14, with a smaller population and less industrial capacity than the 23 states that had already abolished slavery. Still, the South Carolina leaders could not be sure what would be decided by their sister states.

What if only one or two other states had joined South Carolina in secession? I suppose that so small a group would have realized that they had no chance, and would have reached some accommodation. The leaders of those states would have been repudiated, they would have remained in the Union, and (one hopes) some peaceful solution would have been found to the abolition of slavery.

What if Arkasas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia had chosen to stay in the Union? There was no way to know as the first states were voting to secede whether they would or world not. Perhaps there would have been a shorter war, certainly less destructive to those four states.

If the three border states that remained in the Union had instead chosen to joint the Confederacy, perhaps the cost of the war would have been so much greater to the Union that it would have been more willing to agree to a "two state solution". Perhaps the European powers would have been more willing to openly support the Confederacy. Who knows?

Today, it might be possible to make precise estimates of the likely behavior of the scores of political bodies making decisions, and of the relative military capacity of the likely combatants. I can not imagine that that was possible in 1860. While it seems clear today that the institution of slavery was evil, and that it would eventually be abolished in the modern world, it did not seem equally clear to the plantation owner class of the South in 1860.

There is probably a lesson for the modern world in this analysis somewhere.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Perhaps it is time to get rid of the death sentence in the USA

Source: The Economist
I quote from an article in The Economist:
The Western world’s chief executioner, America, is putting fewer people to death, too. Last year it executed 35; even if every execution scheduled for this year were to be carried out, which is unlikely, the total would be no more than 33. Of the 31 states that still have the death penalty, half have executed no one since 2010. In May Nebraska passed a law repealing it, the 19th state to do so—and the first conservative one for many years. 
In 1994 80% of Americans said they endorsed the death penalty in principle. The Pew Research Centre reckons that fewer than 60% do so today—and notes that young Americans are less keen than their elders. Blacks are solidly against, as are a small majority of Hispanics. Even the Supreme Court’s recent pro-death-penalty ruling gave comfort to abolitionists by providing a chance to rehearse their case. The death penalty, argued one of the four dissenting judges, Stephen Breyer, is “highly likely” to violate the constitution. Evidence suggested that innocent people, he wrote, had been executed. People on death row had frequently been exonerated. The system was blighted by racial discrimination. Delays between sentencing and executions may violate the eighth amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment. And he noted that it is not proven, anyway, to deter crime.
I am no expert, but as I understand the evidence the death sentence costs a lot of money, and there is no convincing evidence that it deters capital crimes.  Lets get rid of this punishment which looks to me to be an abuse of human rights.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

On Gun Ownership in the USA

Source: The Economist

Error Exposed of the left hand chart: Having a gun in the house does not make you safer:

Quoting Mother Jones:
Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
• 43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.
Comment on the Right Hand Chart

 I think having a gun for hunting is quite reasonable, if one hunts for a reason such as putting meat on the  table or controlling animal pests (e.g. for farmers: foxes that eat your chickens, crows that eat your grain). I think hunting licenses might demand proof that one can use a gun safely. I think many hunters should keep their hunting rifles out of the home, such as locked in a hunting club.

I was once a target shooter, and I still believe it to be a useful sport. I think most serious target shooters practice and compete at gun clubs or commercial ranges. Why not keep guns locked up at such places rather than at home.  Again, I think a license for such use might not only be appropriate, but might require proof of the ability to use the weapon safely.

Friday, July 03, 2015

A Thought About Indians and Texas

I am still reading Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic by William C. Davis. It tells how Spain weakened by the Napoleonic wars allowed revolutionary forces in the Americas to obtain independence for the once Spanish colonies. It also tells how the new Mexican republic was unable to quickly establish a strong state. Anglo immigrants to a relatively small area from Louisiana west, between the Caribbean and the Balcones Escarpment took advantage of the weakness of the Mexican Government to establish the Texas Republic.

The book seems to leave out the Indians (although it does deal with the Tejanos -- people of pure Spanish heritage and Mestizos). It mentions (63-54) Tlaxcalan Indians as residents of Texas (without mentioning that the tribe was located principally in Central Mexico, and the members found in Texas were colonists in Spanish times. The author does sometimes suggest that there are hostile Indians that are perceived by Texians as threats to their safety, without specifying their tribes. Davis mentions (page 178) that Edward Burleston had led Texas militia against Indians, again not specifying which tribe was involved. In Chapter 8, author Davis mentions that the Mexican soldiers who surrendered the Alamo to Texians were sent off with their weapons and a small canon in order that they might have protection against attack from Indians, again not specifying which tribe was of concern,

The Comanches

I think especially of the Comanches. Their territory, The Comancheria, was large, savagely defended, and served as a staging area for raids on nearby peoples. I would note this description from Wikipedia:
The area was vaguely defined and shifted over time, but generally was described as bordered to the south by the Balcones Fault, just north of San Antonio, Texas, continuing north along the Cross Timbers to encompass a northern area that included the Cimarron River and the upper Arkansas River east of the high Rockies. Comancheria was bordered along the west by the Mescalero Escarpment and the Pecos River, continuing north along the edge of the Spanish settlements in Santa Fe de Nuevo México. 
Today, this region makes up West Texas, the Llano Estacado, the Texas Panhandle, the Edwards Plateau (including the Texas Hill Country), Eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma including the Oklahoma Panhandle and the Wichita Mountains, southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas.
The Comancheria 
Pekka Hämäläinen (2008) argues that from the 1750s to the 1850s, the Comanches were the dominant group in the Southwest, and the domain they ruled was known as Comancheria. Hämäläinen calls it an empire. Confronted with Spanish, Mexican, and American outposts on their periphery in New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and Mexico, they worked to increase their own safety, prosperity and power. The Comanches used their military power to obtain supplies and labor from the Americans, Mexicans, and Indians through thievery, tribute, and kidnappings. (See Comanche-Mexico War) Although powered by violence, the Comanche empire was primarily an economic construction, rooted in an extensive commercial network that facilitated long-distance trade. Dealing with subordinate Indians, the Comanche spread their language and culture across the region. Their empire collapsed when their villages were repeatedly decimated by epidemics of smallpox and cholera in the late 1840s; the population plunged from 20,000 to just a few thousand by the 1870s.
The Apaches

 I quote from another Wikipedia article:
In general, the recently arrived Spanish colonists, who settled in villages, and Apache bands developed a pattern of interaction over a few centuries. Both raided and traded with each other. Records of the period seem to indicate that relationships depended upon the specific villages and specific bands that were involved with each other. For example, one band might be friends with one village and raid another. When war happened between the two, the Spanish would send troops, after a battle both sides would "sign a treaty," and both sides would go home. 
The traditional and sometimes treacherous relationships continued between the villages and bands with the independence of Mexico in 1821. By 1835 Mexico had placed a bounty on Apache scalps (see scalping) but certain villages were still trading with some bands. When Juan José Compà, the leader of the Copper Mines Mimbreño Apaches, was killed for bounty money in 1837, Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves) or Dasoda-hae (He just sits there) became the principal chief and war leader; in the same 1837 Soldado Fiero (aka Fuerte), leader of the Warm Springs Mimbreño Apaches, was killed by Mexican soldiers near Janos, and his son Cuchillo Negro (Black Knife) became the principal chief and war leader. They (being now Mangas Coloradas the first chief and Cuchillo Negro the second chief of the whole Tchihende or Mimbreño people) conducted a series of retaliatory raids against the Mexicans. 
Indian Lands in the USA: Note the Navajo/Pueblo/Apache Territory (Source)
The modern term Apache excludes the Navajo people. Since the Navajo and the other Apache groups are clearly related through culture and language, they are all considered Apachean. Apachean people formerly ranged over eastern Arizona, northern Mexico (Sonora and Chihuahua), New Mexico, west and southwest Texas, and southern Colorado. The Apachería consisted of high mountains, sheltered and watered valleys, deep canyons, deserts, and the southern Great Plains.
It would seem that when the United States absorbed the Republic of Texas, and especially after the U.S. land acquisitions in the 1840s relating to the Mexican-American War, Texas expanded to its current size. Eventually, U.S. military force eliminated military threats to Texas from the Apaches and Comanches.

Some Interesting Maps

Which Exports Make the Country Most Money

Most and Least Ethnically Diverse Countries

Access to Sanitation

Source of these maps: "32 Maps That Will Teach You Something New About the World"

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Good News from the SCOTUS

America's Most Gerrymandered Districts
I quote from a recent article in The Washington Post:
Gerrymandering is at least partly to blame for the lopsided Republican representation in the House. According to an analysis I did last year, the Democrats are under-represented by about 18 seats in the House, relative to their vote share in the 2012 election. The way Republicans pulled that off was to draw some really, really funky-looking Congressional districts.

The Supreme Court has now ruled on a case, deciding that a state can substitute a redistricting commission for a legislative body in redistricting, This would seem to be a major step in a process that would allow the people to take back the decisions on redistricting, and allow the more representative House of Representatives that the Founding Fathers intended when the Constitution was written and ratified. 

That might also make the Congress work a lot better for the American people. Fewer "safe" Congressional districts, in which only the primary really determines who will be elected means fewer districts in which candidates seek only to please the small number of voters who turn out for the primaries -- who tend to be on the extreme wing of their parties.