The Donner Party — 1846

Now that winter has finally arrived in Colorado and Wyoming I thought it might be well to repost this on the Donner Party that spent the winter in the Sierra Nevada Mountains 171 yearsa ago.

From Bill Bennett’s American Patriots’ Almanac:

The Donner Party

On July 31, 1846, the band of settlers known as the Donner Party left Fort Bridger, Wyoming, on their journey to California, electing to take a new, untried route recommended by a promoter named Lansford Hastings. “Hastings Cutoff . . . is said to be a saving of 350 or 400 miles,” wrote party member James Reed in a letter that day. It turned out to be a road to disaster.

The nucleus of the emigrant party consisted of the families of George Donner, his brother Jacob, and their friend James Reed. They had set out in April from Springfield, Illinois, with dreams of new lives in California. Others joined them, and eventually the hopeful party numbered 87 people and 23 wagons.

Within a few days of leaving Fort Bridger, they were in trouble. Hastings Cutoff proved a tortuous route. The men had to chop a trail across the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. They ran out of water crossing the deserts. Oxen began to die, and some wagons were abandoned. The emigrants were way behind schedule when they reached the Sierra Nevada. Then came snow— eventually 22 feet of it—trapping them in a mountain pass in northern California.

They set up camp, hoping to ride out the winter, but provisions were dangerously low. Fifteen of them, calling themselves the “Forlorn Hope,” set off across the mountains for help. Only seven survived the trek.

Four relief parties went after the stranded settlers. When the first rescuers reached their camp and called out, a few bony figures crawled out of holes in the snow. “Are you men from California, or do you come from heaven?” one emaciated woman asked. Some of the starving settlers had been forced to eat their comrades’ dead bodies to survive.

Only 46 of the 87 Donner Party members lived through the cold and hunger. Their ordeal is a somber reminder of the fortitude of thousands who crossed the mountains and plains.


Ft. Bridger can be visited today by taking Exit 39 off I-80 in Wyoming (The exit number indicates it is 39 miles East of the WY/UT state line).  Go South to Mountain View, WY and follow a road going West just before State Road 414 (the main North/South street through town) makes a large curve to the Left.

The Hastings cutoff passed either through or very near present day Evanston, WY; Salt Lake City and Tooele, UT; then followed the same track as present-day I-80 to West Wendover, then along the track of present day U.S. 93 around the South end of the Ruby Mountains in Nevada before cutting back North to join up with the California trail.  Multiple delays along these desert and mountain parts of the Hastings cutoff proved to be the later undoing of the Donner party.

The deserts of middle Utah later became part of the route of the Pony Express that existed for 18 months in 1862-63.  The original Lincoln highway was to follow this route but was later relocated to the North where I-80 runs today.  The old road can still be driven today. It’s pretty interesting.  I drove it alone about 12 years ago, prompted by a fascinating account of it in American Road by Pete Davies.

Anyone who has traveled I-80 near Truckee, California and Donner Pass in Winter has had a taste of what the Donner party endured.  Anyone who has skied at Squaw Valley or Sugar Bowl Resort has seen the massive snow the Sierra Nevada Mountains are capable of producing.

Below is a table showing the mortality of the Donner party. Note the differing survival rates between male and female.

Note also that the greatest number of female deaths were children aged 1-4, a group particularly vulnerable to perishing from cold and starvation.  Factoring out those deaths shows the tremendous advantage the mature female human body has over the male body when it comes to surviving depravation during harsh weather and famine.  Two-thirds of males age 20-29 died (10 out of 15), but only 1 of the 7 females in that age group perished.

Of the 38 males between the ages of 5-39, nineteen of them died (50% survival).  There were 19 females age 5-39, all but one survived (94.7% survival).  That must be how nature (i.e., evolution) provided for the survival of the species as a priority over the survival of the individual.  This conclusion rests upon the demographic fact that the number of surviving females in any generation determines the size of the next generation. [These numbers are the ones who survived the Winter on “Donner Pass” and square with the table below if you add back the male and female 6 infants (age 1-4) who survived and the 7 “Forlorn Hope” members who survived their earlier trek].

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Table prepared by History Department of the University of New Mexico

Pearl Harbor was a surprise all right — but it needn’t have been

From an article by Art Cashin at the Business Insider on December 10, 2015:

On this day in 1941, the Imperial Japanese Naval Air Forces pulled off a major surgical strike (before that term became popular). In less than 110 minutes, they severely damaged or sank 8 huge battleships, 3 light cruisers and a score of lesser vessels. In addition, they destroyed almost 200 aircraft and killed nearly 3,000 men. And for the next 5 decades, American schoolboys have learned of the “surprise” attack on Pearl Harbor.

But it shouldn’t have been a surprise. First, nearly 10 hours before the attack Americans intercepted a fourteen-part Japanese radio message. They managed to decipher that by about4:30 a.m. (Washington time). But the message stayed in the code room awaiting the arrival of the officer of the day so he could see if it was important enough to awaken the President. FDR got it at 7:30 a.m. (still plenty of time). After some discussion it was determined by the Chief of Naval Operations to send the message to all areas of the Pacific. Because of re-encoding (so the Japanese wouldn’t know we knew) the message was not sent till 11:00 a.m.(still a little time). Out it went to everywhere but Hawaii because… the code receiver was not working. By the time it was relayed to Pearl, the Arizona had been on the harbor bottom for a bit over 3 hours.

A second reason it should not have been a surprise was a book titledThe Great Pacific War. In the book, the author predicted a Japanese ‘sneak attack’ to destroy the American fleet. When it was published (in 1925), it was the cover feature of a N.Y. Times Book Review.That happened to be the same year that a Japanese Ensign named Yamamoto was a Consular Aide in Washington D.C.

The final reason it shouldn’t have been a surprise is that it was an American idea. Ten years earlier, U.S. Adm. Harry Yarnell had tried to prove the vulnerability of Pearl Harbor. The plan he devised and demonstrated in 1932 was copied and used by the Japanese right down to the exact course that their carriers would use and the exact spot at sea for launching the planes. In a series of investigations after the war, congressmen refused to believe the Japanese had actually used Yarnell’s plan.

There’s also the ever-persistent conspiracy theory nonsense that FDR knew the attack was going to happen and hid that fact because he needed to overcome American’s unwillingness to ever again get entangled in a European war. Many sensible people believe that Roosevelt’s economic policies during the Great Depression did more harm that good, but nobody with any sense thinks he was the sort of evil man who would have failed to protect his country from the Pearl Harbor attack if he knew it was coming.

FDR was right that America needed to come to the aid of Great Britain by getting into the war. The American people were wrong. That wrong-headed belief was widely spread and deep into the psyche of America. In the space of a mere 110 minutes on December 7, 1941 the American people changed their mind about that.  Completely. Well, not everybody. The first woman ever elected to Congress, Jeanette Rankin of Montana, voted against the War Resolution right after FDR’s “day of infamy” speech. Her’s was the only vote against it. Watching the newsreel of that speech today, it’s hard to imagine what she was thinking.

Rankin was a commited pacifist who had also voted against America’s entry into WW I. She believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack in order to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany. During the roll call vote she stood up and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

Her vote against WW I was a bit more rational and she was not alone in her thinking on that one. But her vote against WW II was suicidal. That is the hallmark of extreme pacifism.

Rankin’s policital career seemed to have ended after her vote against WW I. She was turned out by voters at the next election. But then in 1940 she was again sent to Congress by Montanans, just in time to vote against WW II. She always said she didn’t care if her stance cost her poltically. Americans tagged her with the moniker “Japanette Rankin.” She knew she would not be re-elected after that and declined to run again when her term expired in 1942.  In 1968 she became a leader of the protest against the Viet Nam War, when she was 87.

Jeanette Rankin died in 1973 at age 93.

Powerful evidence that climate change alarmism is not science

Say a high school had a science club and a young Democrats club.  I guess they all do have the latter but probably call it something else. Some may have a science club.

How would the two clubs be different? Well, we might expect the science club to welcome dissenting opinions on the meaning of some experiment they conducted, or some members might think a certain way to conduct an experiment in the lab was faulty and could not produce reliable results. We wouldn’t want to waste time and materials on worhless experimenting, so we’d listen to this. We’d expect the dissenter to explain himself, of course. We’d be very interested in how he backed up his claims.  We be all that because we’d want to find out if he was right and we were wrong. We’re young scientists, we don’t want to be wrong.  We analyze data without any predetermined notions in mind. We share our data with others so they can test it to see if they can produce the same result. That is how science works, and we love science. It’s why we’re in the science club, and not the Democrat club.

The young Democrat club will operate much differntly because it’s politics. It’s not scence. We know that and we don’t pretend otherwise.  If we were ever accused of creating false scientific data to bolster one or our pet political views, we’d deny it. Maybe we’d consider whether the accusation was correct and do some soul searching. Yeah, if we were angels we’d do that. But we’re flawed human beings so we defend our political agenda fiercely. We advance it and try to sell it to others with force and dispatch. We do what needs to be done and we accomplish our goal of achieving poltical ascendance by any means necessary.  This is politics after all. Politics is war without guns (usually). Winning is everything.  When you lose you get no credit for playing the game well.  If we have to compromise science to win, then we will. We’re Democrats.  We’re winners, we are not ever going to accept losing.

Ok, that’s pretty much the difference between those of us trying to learn how to be scientists and those of us seeking a future political career. If you’re an old goat like me doesn’t this remind you of the jerks who were on student counsel in your high school?

A lot of those old high school student counsel jerks now make their living as government endowed jerks but they are calling themselves scientists.  They depend on government grants for their paychecks. Dwight Eisenhower warned us about them back in 1961, in the same speech in which he warned us about the military industrial complex. Joe Herring at the American Thinker talks about that part of Eisenhower’s speech:

Eisenhower’s famous warning about the military-industrial complex was soon greatly overshadowed by his lesser known warning from the same speech about the potential of a “scientific-technological elite” dominating policy, creating a “rule of experts” who derive both their funding and their marching orders from government.

Case in point: “climate change,” née “global warming,” née “global cooling,” etc.  When a nation’s institutions of higher learning derive upwards of 75% of their total research budgets from government, it is an impossible task to prevent the creation of a vast echo chamber, crafted to suit the whims of the funders.

This is precisely the danger of which Eisenhower spoke.

Just today we have clear new evidence that so-called climate scientists are just political hacks spreading false science to peddle a political agenda. We know them more by their deeds than their words, but in this case their actions match their devious words and are what we’d expect from a hypothetical young Democrats’ club, not a science club. We know them by how they react to one of their own who isn’t himself a political hack and has something more scientific to argue. What do they do? They drum him out of their club.

They do what the scam artists in the Democrat  club do to one of their comrades who slips and suggests maybe the minimum wage is not really helping those poor people Democrats claim to care about, or maybe completely unrestricted abortion on demand up to one second before a baby is born is not putting Democrats on the moral high ground. They aren’t having any of that. They will drum that person out of their party.  Just ask former former Pennsylvania Senator Henry Hyde or senate candidate Bob Casey, both of whom failed to tow the line on abortion and were vilified and ridiculed for it. In Casey’s case, he was run out of the party.

That’s what the Climatista’s at the University of Colorado are doing right now to Roger Pielke Jr., a climate researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Pielke had the temerity to challenge the conventional wisdom among the climate charlatans that human caused climate change is responsible for extreme weather becoming more severe. Pielke advanced an argument that extreme weather may indeed result in more property damage these days, but only because there is more development present on shore than there used to be so there is more in the path of destruction. Taking economic growth into consideration, Pielke wrote “the overall trend in disaster costs proportional to GDP since 1990 has stayed fairly level.”

Note the climate swindlers do not for one minute want to look at the data Pielke cites for his conclusion. They could not care less about that. Making Pielke shut up is what they want. All else is white noise to them.

The reaction from the climatistas and their accomplices in the press was quick like a snake bite. They are on the case and they are out to destroy Pielke and make sure he never again has a forum to speak his mind on the subject. They aren’t scientists, they have a political agenda to advance, and it’s to protect their status and the paychecks they derive from lavish government grants.

David Petraeus is wrong for Secretary of State

Donald Trump has recently expanded his search for a nominee to be Secretary of State. That’s a good thing and perhaps it means that neither David Petraeus nor Mitt Romney will be the nominee. Democrats are vehemtly opposed to Petraeus and normally that would be a recommendation for him. But Republicans and conservatives should also oppose Petraeus.

Petraeous has attacked the 2nd Amendment by teaming up with Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords to form the “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense”, a new gun control group. Peaceful law-abiding American gun owners worked hard to help Donald Trump win the election. The NRA endorsed Trump and spent a lot of money to help him win. He should not betray them with Petraeus.

As a four-star General Petreaus was and may still be protected by a cadre of men armed to the teeth. Anyone who enjoys the safety of armed security and who then wants to take away the right of ordinary citizens to protect themselves with the most effective tool for that purpose are despicable and should not be considered for any office that would give them the power to indulge themselves in such a manner.

The State Department has a lot of power over what guns and gun parts can be imported into the United States. Right now there are thousands of M1 Garand rifles and M1 Carbines sitting in a warehouse in South Korea. The M1 Garand is the quintessential American rifle. It has historic significance and many law-abiding Americans would like to own one.

These rifles were intened to be brought home and sold to qualified citizens through the Civilian Marksmanship Program, but Obama and Hillary Clinton stopped that project in its tracks. With Trump as president it is likely that restriction would be lifted and these pieces of American history could be repatriated. With someone such as David Petreaus as Secretary of State that might never happen. Romney is likely to be no better on that score. At least I don’t believe he can be trusted to take any steps that would expand the freedom of his fellow Americans. He sure never seemed to care about anyone’s freedom in 2008 and that is at least part of the reason he lost the election.

Just say no, Mr. President-elect, to both David Petraeus and Mitt Romney. Sadly, while there is much to like about Rudy Giuliani, he is also anti-gun and so the search should go beyond him as well. Expanding the search for the right person is a good idea.

Mad Dog Mattis — Trump’s Best Pick Yet

The  purpose of a military force is to kill people and break things.  If you prefer, the purpose is to have that ability so that it won’t have to be used.  Being strong and having one’s potential enemies know it is the most effective assurance of peace in a dangerous world. Weakness is provocative, whether it’s a nation’s standing in the world order or a school boy’s standing on the playground.

Truly “Smart Diplomacy” depends on the presence of an underlying threat of force that is known and feared. Once could say it’s a necessary condition for a nation to achieve peace, or for a school boy to be left alone by the bully on the playground. Machiavelli was correct. It’s good to be loved and feared, but if one cannot have both it is better to be feared. It’s the best way to win without fighting.

Here is what a former Marine Captain who worked for Four Star General James “Mad Dog” Mattis says:

America knows Gen. James Mattis as a character, Mad Dog Mattis, the font of funny quotes and Chuck Norris-caliber memes. Those of us who served with him know that he is a caring, erudite, warfighting general. We also know that there is a reason he uses the call-sign Chaos: he is a lifelong student of his profession, a devotee of maneuver warfare and Sun Tzu, the sort of guy who wants to win without fighting—to cause chaos among those he would oppose.

To Marines, he is the finest of our tribal elders. The rest of the world, very soon, will know how truly gifted he is. Our friends and allies will be happy he is our new secretary of war; our enemies will soon wish he weren’t.

After 8 years of Obama America’s foreign policy is in a shambles. The Middle East is on fire. Russia is once again acendant in that region after having been pushed out of it 40 years ago by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Former allies have cast their lot with China. South Korea and Japan wonder what is going on with America. Obama refused to even identify America’s enemies much less actually fight them. He was always too busy snarling at Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East, while making nice with dictators and sheiks who most likely see him as the useful idiot who paved the way for Iran to get a nuclear bomb. The traitorous and disloyal president who conveyed to Putin that he’d have more flexiblitlty to reduce America’s war-fighting capability after the 2012 election.

Here’s how we know for sure that General Mattis is just the right man for Secretary of Defense: Obama forced him into early retirement because he was troubled by Obama’s appeasement of Iran, and said so. Apparently, Mattis doesn’t want Iran to get a nuclear bomb. Obama probably thinks it would only be fair for Iran to have the capability to destroy Israel.

General Mattis didn’t get the nickname “mad dog” because he’s mercurial, but because he’s serious about fighting when that is the only option for keeping America safe in a dangerous world.   It’s going to be a big job to repair the damage to America’s standing in the world brought about by Obama’s feckless foreign policies. Men like General Mattis are much needed right now.

Colorado sets gun sales record on Black Friday

Colorado Springs Gazette:

Black Friday gun shoppers set a record in Colorado this year, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday.

On Nov. 25, CBI processed 4,329 background checks for firearms transfers – the highest number of requests the InstaCheck Unit has ever received in one day, according to a news release. Most – 4,242 – were approved, and 87 were denied.

Last year on Black Friday, 4,035 requests were approved and 80 were denied.

To prepare for Black Friday, the InstaCheck Unit expanded its hours from the regular 9 a.m.-9 p.m. to midnight to 9 p.m., CBI said. The InstaCheck Unit is Colorado’s point of contact for the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System program. Its staffers use eight databases as part of the background check process.

I love the smell of gun sales in the morning. Smells like victory. Eight databases!  American gun owners are clearly the most law-abiding, the most trust worthy people amongst us.

Identity Politics Was a Loser for Hillary and the Democrats

Yes, it was a loser because divide and conquer is a war-wining strategy but not an election winning strategy.  To win a national election you need support from all quarters, not just those you have lauded and praised. The people you have insulted and disparaged, the so-called “deplorables” in Hillary speak, won’t vote for you.

Callers to the Rush Limbaugh show frequently ask what message the GOP should speak to black Americans to win their vote. Rush usually gives the same answer. He counsels the GOP to have a message for all Americans, not to craft a message ofr each subset of Americans. Have a plan to elevate everyone, not one group over the another. I beleive that’s right. You win more applause when you preach togetherness than when you sew division.  Democrats are stuck with their incessant attacks on everything white as evil and racist. Hatred is the central component of their anti-hatred talk.

I’m Scot-Irish and proud of it. I have reason to be, all of America’s wars have been fought and won by the Scot-Irish. My group includes World War I hero Alvin York, World War II most decorated soldier Audie Murphy, General George Patton, and Ronald Reagan, the best President of the 20th Century after Calvin Coolidge.

I’d be a fool to argue that being Scot-Irish is superior in any way to other ethnic groups. The Scot-Irish are mostly drunks who like to fight. They’ve been run out of every place they’ve ever tried to inhabit, first from Scotland then Ulster and finally Boston. The signs that said “Dogs and Irish keep off the grass” were meant for the Scot-Irish, not the Boston Brahmin Catholic Irish (think Kennedys). The only place the Scot-Irish have been acccepted is Appalachia’s hillbilly mountains where a whole lot of them live today. That’s mostly because nobody else wants to live there.

For all their faults, the Scot-Irish are survivors. Some, like Ronald Reagan and the war heros mentioned above, have been able to turn their fighting spirit into a force for good not just for themselves but for their fellow man as well. To keep them from getting too overweening, God invented alcohol. Soldiers and cops and lawyers and plumbers are necessary things and the Scot-Irish shine in those roles. At least when they’re sober.

That they aren’t celebrated and pandered to by politicians has been good for them. Being left to their own talents has helped them stay self-reliant and rugged individuals who don’t think of themselves as a victim group.  The indentity politics played by Democrats hurts those to whom that sort of attention is paid by keeping them in low spirits believing the world is against them. It may get Democrats their votes for a while but the last election has shown it’s not enough when the rest of us figure out that we’re being singled out for ridicule we don’t deserve. The Democrats have convinced minority groups that we did something to hold them back, when it is their own self-appointed benefactors doing exactly that.

Shuffling chairs on the deck of the Titanic

As we debate transgender bathrooms and creating “safe spaces” on college campuses to protect students from ideas they don’t like, real threats exist that should be taken seriously.

Hypersonic  missiles From China, Russia Pose Growing Danger

The United States is vulnerable to future attack by hypersonic missiles from China and Russia and is falling behind in the technology race to develop both defensive and offensive high-speed maneuvering arms, according to a new Air Force study.

“The People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation are already flight-testing high-speed maneuvering weapons (HSMWs) that may endanger both forward deployed U.S. forces and even the continental United States itself,” an executive summary of the report says.

“These weapons appear to operate in regimes of speed and altitude, with maneuverability that could frustrate existing missile defense constructs and weapon capabilities.”

Hypersonic missiles are ultra-high speed weapons that travel along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere at speeds above Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The missiles also can maneuver to avoid current missile defenses—all of which were developed to hit ballistic missiles with predictable flight paths.

Hypersonic missiles can be developed for both strategic nuclear weapons and conventional rapid strike systems. They’re a new class of weapons that effectively combine speed, maneuverability, and altitude. They have both offense and defense capability which might tempt some into believing that the cold war strategy of “mutually assured destruction” will suffice as all the defense we need. That strategy may offer a false promise in a world of government sponsored fanaticism. A hypersonic missle could be delivered from within China (or North Korea) to Chicago within 20-45 minutes at a glide altitude of 18-35 miles above sea level.

Colorado now competes with California for lunatic status

Colorado was once the columbine state. Then the voters, in their wisdom, legalized marijuana, making Colorado the pot state.  A hopeful delusion holds that legalizing pot and taxing it will do two wonderful things. First, it is said, It will bring money into state coffers by taxing grass smokers.  The proponents say that will be really cool because it’ll eliminate the black market. The illegal dope trade and the violence it may create is a drain of state resources because of the need for more police to catch the drug dealers and stop the violence. It will also save the state money previously spent on rehab programs for the addicts that are created by a black market for ganja.

That prediction never rested on solid ground and experience so far shows that it was a false promise all along. The black market hasn’t gone awa. The drug dealers are still in business converting as many thousands as before into addicts.  Legalization doesn’t suddenly make pot smokers more resistant to addiction. It doesn’t necessarily make the cost to users lower than the illegal street price because the state, in it’s infinite greed, taxes it at the highest rate possible, sometimes making legal weed more pricey that the black market variety.

Legal dope (for dopes) probably increases addiction because, for many people, it gives legitimacy to the argument that pot smoking is harmless. Perhaps not every person who tokes up becomes a heroin addict, but every heroin addict started with marijuana.  Right now America is hosting the worst heroin addiction crises ever.  More options for bhang isn’t going to help that situation.

This wasn’t done by the Colorado legislature, it was a voter initiative pushed on us by milliions of dollars of out of state money, mostlly from the Southern California glamour world, Californicating Colorado.

The voters on November 8th last went one further in their effort to turn Colorado into a disfunctional niightmare on the order of San Francisco, Seattle and and Portland. They enacted Amendment 70 increasing the mandatory minimum wage from $8.31 per hour to $12 by 2020. Not quite as looney as California and Seattle’s $15/hour, but likely to wreak the same sort of destruction. Colorado now goes from being not just the pot state, but also the lunatic state.

I’ve written a lot here on how a minimum wage law hurts those it was intended to help, but it also hurts others, and the whole economic system as well. It heeps destructioin by creatung distortion in the economic system. Government cannot create wealth nor good jobs. Government can damn sure destroy wealth, both existing wealth and new wealth creation, and it can destroy jobs for those most in need of a job. If you are of a different mind on that I urge you to read this: Stay East, Young Man

For what’s wrong with minimum wage laws and the social destruction they sow, here is a compendium of articles on the subject. Actually it’s a great piece by Linda Gorman with an extensive further reading list attached.

Putting lots of young unskilled males out of work has serious social consequences. If you believe, and you should believe, that every new generation of young boys constitutes an invasion of barbarians, then you should not agree with anything that is going to make it harder to socialize young men and boys. Having a job where they can learn basic skills is an important step in the direction of domesticating them. When they aren’t working what would you expect them to be doing? Making trouble, of course.