Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cholera Cemetery above Tredegar, Wales


Copyright Robin Drayton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
This is one of the bleakest, saddest places on earth up above Tredegar, Wales on Rhymney Hill. The cholera victims were buried up there because, well, cholera. While the story I am writing is not intended to be illustrated, this place makes an appearance.

We don't see much cholera today because of clean and safe drinking water and sewage systems generally through people united in governmental activity. During the Capitalist exploitation of the Industrial Revolution in Wales, there was no economic incentive to provide sanitary or sewers or clean drinking water. It was illegal for the workers to organize. The towns were controlled by the same wealthy men who controlled the pits and furnaces. When cholera struck, the masters left for houses deep in the country. If workers died, more were readily available from the poor of Ireland and elsewhere.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Unbridled Capitalism

Still working on my family history writing project, I said I wouldn't post. But, part of my project is the research, particularly of Tredegar in the 1840s and 50s. I am continually horrified by the abuses of unregulated Capitalism on the working poor in Wales during the Industrial Revolution. We're not just talking hard-working, tough guys, but women and children too.

I have yet to visit Tredegar in the Sirhowy Valley, but I was just one valley over in the Ebbw Vale and I drove by on the Heads of the Valleys Road, AKA the A465. And we visited Merthyr Tydfil two valleys over on the west side and went to church there in the beautiful Stake Center that sits with some irony up above the abandoned Cafarthfa Iron Works.

So, I share with you tonight some horrifyingly beautiful art pieces of what South Wales was like in the Industrial Revolution when the wealth of Britain and its Imperial war power was built on the blood and crushed bones of Welsh men, women, and children.

An Iron Forge at Merthyr Tydfil, Julius Caesar Ibbetson, 1789

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Note to Readers: Writing Project


Jane "Jeanette" Vaughan Lewis Johns
Born: 1827, Hay, Breconshire, Wales; Died: 1890, Jacks Valley, Nevada.
Mormon Handcart Pioneer of 1856
It may seem that I'm in a blog hiatus. There's not much more than I can say about the lunacy of trump in charge. I refuse to follow every foible and only hope and pray that the sleazy huckster does not launch off WWIII and nuke us all.

I am heavily involved in writing. It is far enough along that I can feel confident there will be some kind of finished product. It is a history of my 4th-Great Aunt, Jane "Jeanette" Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890). Her life was fascinating and I have so many pieces of it but not the full story. So . . . I'm taking some poetic license to write in the historical-fiction genre.

I'm modeling after John dos Passos or Aleksandr Soltzenitsyn who wrote historical fiction interspersed with real documents and contemporaneous newspaper articles of the day. I have some of those things for Aunt Jane and family so I'm putting them in and writing stories around them. I also have some themes and I think I can work it into an artistic whole.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Art of No Deal

Let's face it, trump is a fraud. The spectacular failure of "repeal and replace" brings that home today. It's not a good day for Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, either. You should at least be able to get the support of your own majority party. The bill was withdrawn because neither the ultra-conservative "freedom" caucus would support it nor the more "moderate" Republicans in the House who might like to get re-elected in districts that went for Secretary Clinton.

Two of my predictions about trump as president have already come to pass. (And I'm hoping some of the others don't!)

It has been seven long years since Obamacare passed and the best the Republican Party could come up with was a last-minute, slap-dash fraud of a bill that would reduce coverage for millions and be a nightmare to administer.

Remember, trump said he would repeal and replace with something much better with less expensive coverage for all! And if you believed that, I've got some steaks, vodka, and a college degree to sell you.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Constitution Is NOT A "Negative" Document!

I know what they mean. It's the whole conservative line that the U.S. Constitution's purpose was to establish a limited government. Even though it came after the failed Articles of Confederation to give the national government more, not less power. Don't believe the propaganda. Read the document itself.

Today someone posted a clip from the Senate hearings to confirm (or not) Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Senator Sasse of Nebraska set him up for this "negative" document thing.



So I had to respond:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Russian Interference and Interests, Yes. Collusion? Maybe Not

Glenn Greenwald
It s necessary to share a warning that there may not be evidence to come forth in the congressional investigations of trump and Russia to show any direct collusion to subvert the recent election.

A recent article by Glenn Greenwald, liberal investigative reporter who has been publishing Eric Snowden's revelations, explains that Democratic leaders worry that there is no such evidence found to date and that it will greatly disturb the Democratic base. It seems too many dots are being connected even if some of those dots of Russian interference and financial influence back and forth do exist.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Holland Saves Western Europe!

The Red, White, and Blue, and Orange!
Ziko-C - Own work. Kerktoren Oude St Mauritius, Silvolde, Koninginnedag 2008. Toren uit ca. 1570.
Not that I'm a big expert on internal or external Dutch politics, but the weak election results of the Partij voor de Vrijheid - PVV (Party for "Freedom") of yet another nationalist populist who shall remain unnamed on this blog was a good sign yesterday. It shows that the march of nationalism that resulted in so many millions of deaths in the horrific wars of the 20th Century may be turning a corner in 21st.

A friend an I discussed the cycles of history yesterday and how we fail to learn to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. The struggle keeps cycling around but blood and horror always seems to rule on this earth. Before the nationalistic wars of the 19th Centuries, we had the nations battling over colonies and slavery and the oppression of peoples of different cultures and tones of skin color. Before that were the feudal kingdoms of "might makes right" and he who had the most gold or bigger sword lorded it over the serfs, peons, or peasants.

But back to the plucky Dutch (I have some ancestry there, by the way, on both my Dad and Mom's side. 19th Century Mormon converts on my Dad's and back to Colonial New Amsterdam Dutch on my Mom's). In the 20th Century, the Netherlands were rolled over by the Nazi war machine surrendering but never quite as their resistance was strong. Many helped Jews escape to neutral Sweden. The resistance wore the hidden safety pins to flash their unity that have now become a symbol of support of immigrants and refugees in this country as I wear them. After the war, Mormon Dutch gathered their potato harvest to feed the starving survivors in . . . Germany. It was such a relief to see their rejection of nationalism yesterday.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Yes, Perpetual Change

NPR had some show on about studies of the brain and how ones favorite music resides in the same portion of the brain as personality. Pop psychology or Science is beyond me. And if true, my favorite music in all its diversity might explain my warped psyche.

On the way down to Provo for Welsh class today, I had to take a break from the news and go to a "happy place." That was Yes's Perpetual Change from The Yes Album (1971). Not quite the sound poetry that followed on Close to the Edge, it still has odd lyrics and amazingly complex rhythms and themes on a tune. There are passages that grind in hard rock riffs and others, lyrical and anthemic passages that soar.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Civil Service Heritage


Odd Coincidence that. I was entering wonderful details of my Grandpa's education and work history onto Ancestry.com from a civil service application dated 1943 when he applied for a management job at the Ogden Arsenal. It was the 33rd anniversary of my civil service computation date.

Yes, my Grandpa helped win the war building the bombs that blasted the Third Reich and Imperialist Japan to bits. A necessary job even with the tragedy of human suffering. Sometimes one must do the unpleasant things that are necessary. That seems the very nature of often disrespected government service.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Agents of V.O.I.C.E.

When trump announced his great, really great, idea to have a task force for Victims Of Immigrant Crime Engagement, a gasp and moan went up from the Democratic side of the House Chamber. I felt it too.

The problem is simply this:
Attempting to couch it in some kind of relief or service to victims, he doesn't hide the real nature that it is a list of crimes committed by immigrants. By so doing, he creates a new class that he can then treat differently than all other criminals because of their status as immigrants.

Maybe he only means illegal Immigrants. And I can see the point and don't even contest the valid interest of placing a priority on deporting undocumented immigrants who commit serious crime. But why create a victims list of only those impacted by Immigrants?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tweeting trump's Speech to Congress

  1. Babysitting Grandkids, this was the best I could do tonight. It's a miracle I could watch a whole hour-plus of a man frowning while reading from a teleprompter!
    1. "A Great GREAT Wall!"

    1. Harley Davidson will make America great again?
    1. The National Academy of Science calculated cost of immigrants to precisely "many billions of dollars."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Watergate

This is important. Republicans are starting to break in favor of independent investigation of Trump and Russian ties. Remember there are three problems starting from most solid to less so (and one and two are pretty solid):
1. Russian interference with US election.
2. Trump campaign and transition personnel contacts with Russia.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Historical Photos: Nevada to Australia and Back Again

There is this great guy in Hobart, Tasmania who became my friend through blogging. There ought to be a word for that like "Blogo-Amigo" or something except that he is probably a distant cousin anyway through the Welsh connection. He has photographic talents and helped out with a tricky little problem. 

We have our photo of Jane Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890) through miraculous means. From the context, we believed the photograph to be taken in Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. It is a carte-de-visite of the period and the style of her dress fits the time.

All we had was her identity as "Jeanette Vaughan Servis Johns" and it took some work through the history of the Johns Family clinched with the 1860 Census for Jacks Valley, Nevada, that this was indeed Jane Vaughan, born 1827 in Hay, Breconshire, daughter of John and Elinor Vaughan, and handcart pioneer of 1856. The original of this photo has been donated to the LDS Church History Library as should all photos of handcart pioneers.
Then the other day, I was doing my usual googling around on the internet and found a couple of photos identified as "Mrs. Blasdel, wife of the first Governor of Nevada" (Sarah Jane Cox Blasdel (1826-1904)). I looked closer and saw what I thought was the same stand or plinth next to the first First Lady of Nevada that is in Jane's picture. Not having the skills to manipulate photos all that well, I sent it off to my friend in Australia hoping he might take an interest and do some manipulation.

Electronic ties that bind struck the right spark and my friend across the world sent me back this beautiful video analysis matching up the feature in the two photos. He, his wife, and I all agree with 99% certainty that it's a match!



Well, that's great! But what does it mean? As a skeptical historian, all we can only conclude is that the two photos were likely taken in the same studio with the same prop in close proximity of time and place. The photo of Mrs. Blasdel has 1867 written on it, some evidence of its date. Carson City was the capital of Nevada where we might conclude the Governor's wife would have her picture taken but the real boom town was up the hills in Virginia. (It wasn't known as Virginia "City" until later).

I only found one reference to a photo studio in Carson City that opened in 1873. It was the Sutterley Brothers who already had a studio in Virginia City and even one in Great Salt Lake City! The only other studios I could find in the 1860s were also in Virginia City, one by Hedger & Noe, the other by someone named E. Hurd. Some entertainment followed as I searched the web for cartes-de-visite from pioneer Nevada with much hilarity and not much help from Pinterest and some really good files from the University of Nevada-Reno. But I could not match anything up with that furniture in the pics with Jane and Sarah.

There was one that popped up from an auction site of a photo collection from Virginia City, Nevada. And there it was!


Sadly, some private collector won the auction an there is no further information about the specific picture. Why can't people put these in museums and archives where they belong?

So what we have is one more piece of a hint that the pictures are from Virginia City. I think it's pretty clear they were all taken with the same prop and most likely in the same studio.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump and Republicans Are Threatening the First Amendment

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
As entertaining* as Trump's Press Conference last Thursday may have been, it and recent actions of Republican officials are evidencing serious threats to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Not all the fault lies on the Right, the Left in certain college campuses have restricted the expression of views of unpopular right-wingers. As obnoxious as they may be, all voices should be heard. And the voices restricted at some campuses are still loud and clear in many other fora.

But let's address the issues of Trump and his party.
1. "No law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Monday, February 13, 2017

Eagle Scout - The End of Childhood


Probably among the top-ten best days of my life was that Eagle Scout Court of Honor and LDS Ward Scout Dinner. That picture is full of joy and pride untainted in myself of the pains of adulthood. Oh, I'd been through some teenage angst, but my family and security were solid. And I was blissfully unprepared for the clouds of Wyoming coal-dust snow and mud-rain summer that were to descend upon us.

Note the Council patch on my dad's shoulder below. He had already been to Rock Springs, Wyoming, as the new Council Executive of the Jim Bridger Council, BSA. It was a great honor to get your own council even if such a small one in membership if not in size stretching for a hundred miles in any direction with few roads and fewer people in between.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nixon & Elvis


One of the strangest photographs ever of a President of the United States (well, until any photo of the current president over the last three weeks), was this one of Nixon meeting Elvis Presley. Presley presented himself to the President as one concerned about the way the liberal left and drug culture were leading the youth of America astray and away from the patriotic ideals represented by Nixon.

I just watched the Amazon production of Elvis & Nixon, my wife out of town so I could get away with it. I would give it four stars. ****

And the bigger point here is the realization that our current President is the perfect fusion of Nixon and Elvis. All the hypocrisy of both; espousing patriotic ideals while allowing personal demons to self-destruct in front of a national, no, international audience.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fools' Gold


Yes, the State Legislature is in session. Every winter, the crazies gather in the state capitol building and allow their brains to putrefy on the poisonous air of the inversion or maybe they just came that way.

I really try to stay out of the turmoil of states' rights declarations against the Union, hiding liquor behind the curtain, polygamy vs. orgies, and lobbying/legislating for their own business interests. And then I see Ken Ivory's mug in the news again.

State Rep. Ken Ivory wants the state to invest in gold to prepare for world economic collapse. What in Holy Heck's name does he think the value of gold will be in a complete financial collapse? What exactly will it buy if civilization is over? Something tells me he must have a few bars socked away in the closet that he wants to unload now that his public-lands grab got in trouble in some other western states where they don't take so kindly to filthy lucre/lecturing/lobbying/legislating.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Marching Home

We arrived early enough that the crowd wasn't that big
Political rallies, conventions, caucuses, candidates of various parties have all been witnessed first-hand. But this was my first ever political march. I mean, we weren't in formation or lock-step in any way. It's just that I have never been a part of a protest. And I wasn't alone.

It helped that my daughter went with me. I had posted on Facebook that I was going to march for refugees and had friends say that they might make it or were with me in spirit as they were occupied elsewhere. My daughter didn't surprise as she had been with me and a friend to caucus for Bernie. And the cause is just.

Remember the Mormon Pioneers as refugees from New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and, of course, the despair of the coal mines and iron works of South Wales. Remember the promise of the Statue of Liberty which was my theme noting several others with the same in the massive crowd of yesterday. Remember the Pilgrims and the Founders of religious liberty in this promised land and the promises of the First Amendment.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Yearning to Breathe Free"

This Saturday I plan to march in support of refugees now prohibited from entry into the United States by the current President. I found some basis in family history to give me a reason why:

Thomas Vaughan, born 1850 in Llanfoist, Wales, son of John and Maranah Vaughan, arrived in New York City, 1 June 1886. He arrived in Salt Lake City by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad on June 8 and settled in Ogden. His wife, Isabella, and seven children, the youngest, my Great Grandfather, George Robert Vaughn, arrived the next Spring, also through New York and on the same steamship, the S.S. Arizona of the Guion Line.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lawyers? Are Heroes?!

The guy in the White House has sparked something quite a bit larger than the tea party. And he's only been at it a week.

His "Muslim Ban," hugely part of his campaign, is going down before judges, protesters, and hopefully Congress now that we have enough Senate Republicans (McCain, Graham, Flake, at least) to reign it in.

What surprised me the most was the crowds cheering . . . the lawyers! Now, that's something you don't see every day!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Why Do You Keep Bringing Up Abortion?

A female friend of mine shared a thought:
Getting a little tired of the narrow-mindedness that thinks women's rights, women's concerns, women's interests begin and end with abortion.
Somehow the issue of abortion keeps coming up, most recently with some who question what the Women's March of last Saturday was all about. It was about a lot more than abortion.

Since this is a blog of an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church), it would be good to check out what the official policy of the Church actually is:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Science Student of the Month

My wife just finished this narrative for an 8th Grade Hispanic student. This is the real America.

[I have edited only to remove the names for obvious privacy concerns.]

Student of the Month Recognition Letter 
Dear X_____,

I am pleased to nominate you as a Mueller Park Junior High School student of the month for the month of JANUARY, 2017. I have enjoyed having you in 8th Science this year. As I considered all the amazing students I have, your name surfaced as the one I should select. You are a wonderful student with a cheerful smile and a positive attitude. You work hard to complete assignments. One quality you have that stands out the most is your kind and generous disposition. Let me briefly explain what I admire.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Another Family Link to the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal

Publication date was 14 October 1871:


I believe this is William Vaughan christened 1830 in Hay, Breconshire, and who died before 1881 when his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) is listed in the Llanfoist Census as "widow." It appears that he was engaged in dredging the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal and not in the illegal activity.

John and Elinor's first-born child, that we know of, was named William. He died in 1823. It was a common practice to name a child after a sibling that had already died. In fact, John's uncle William (1768-1851), who we believe may have trained him as a butcher, was the third William in that family after two others died as infants.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Yes, We Still Can!

Yesterday morning on the way to work I listened to the album produced for the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2008. I cried.

I haven't seen anything about a trump album. Maybe Lee Greenwood joining in with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or something.

The good news is that the "Yes We Can" album is still available from 3rd parties through Amazon.

"All rebellions are built on hope."

Here is a run-down from what I can link off of YouTube:




Monday, January 16, 2017

Harriet Tubman, My Long-time, Historical Friend

Harriet, upon obtaining Freedom
It's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. And Harriet Tubman will soon grace our twenty dollar bill. I rejoice as we've been friends for almost 50 years.

Scholastic Book Services was one of the great blessings of my childhood. My Mom loved reading and always scraped up some spare change to allow me one or two from the tantalizing list of books that my teachers at Thoreau Elementary gave me. In 1968, I believe in the Fifth Grade at 11 years of age, I chose a great one.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Big Pit, Blaenavon, Wales

Big Pit's wheel machinery for the ore and people lift.
It's interesting that mines are called "pits" in Britain when we would tend to associate that with a surface strip mine or something like the Kennecott Copper Mine, spiraling down to remove a whole mountain of ore.

It might be because the word in Welsh is "pwll" which is a cognate for "pool" and also means "mine." The Big Pit in Blaenavon, just over the hill from where my ancestors lived, is known as Pwll Mawr in Cymraeg.

We were not allowed to take pictures in the mine which was good in a way because my SD disk went haywire that day. That bothered me ever since because I had limited surface shots, but then I realized there would be pictures on the web!

I've been in potash mines in New Mexico. This was my first coal mine. And it was fascinatingly horrifying.

The Big Pit website even had a photo of the guide who took us down.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Some Kind Words for Trump Voters


There are those explanations on social media as to why liberal-minded souls are upset, hurt, and angry at their Trump-supporter friends and family. They are sincere about the concept that if you voted for the vile man who spouted and acted out such ugly views of the disabled, women, ethnic, racial, and religious minorities, etc., you  must be insensitive or complicit in such things. Let me take a slightly different tack.

One reason why we progressive, anti-Trump voters are so upset is that the election result was such a shock to our very being. Admit it. The results were a surprise to nearly everyone.

For myself, I was not a big fan of Hillary Clinton. I think you can see that in this blog especially if you go back to see some posts when I was supporting Bernie Sanders in the Primaries (although a Joe Biden would have been my ideal choice). After she locked up the nomination, I tried to support her to the best of my ability as a loyal Democrat agreeing with her on most issues. And my biggest issue was that she was the best and only chance to defeat the Republican nominee, the man for all malfeasons  [OK, I just made up a word. If Shakespeare can do it, I can, even if not as well].

So here's my idea.