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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Richard Nixon’s revenge on Mount Rushmore?

Just returned from touring the Joshua Tree National Park in California, and discovered something remarkable. President Richard Nixon, of Watergate fame, is not honoured by having his likeness carved into the side of Mount Rushmore, but it seems that Tricky Dick might have pulled a fast one on all of us!

We were driving from along the Keys View Road in the Park, towards Hidden Valley, when I spotted Nixon’s Revenge.

A large rock formation reared up on the side of the road. As we passed it, the side view of the rock showed the profile of Richard Nixon. No Ifs, Buts or doubts about it: it was the spitting image of Tricky Dick.

Saddle Rocks in Joshua Tree National Park aka Nixon's Revenge

Known as Saddle Rocks, the largest single rock formation in Joshua Tree National Park rises some 600 feet from the valley floor, just below the west flank of Ryan Mountain. Rock climbers divide the rock into three parts, the Saddle Rock Skirt, at the bottom, the Pommel in the middle, and the Cantle at the top.

You can find Nixon’s revenge in Queen Valley in Joshua Tree National Park, on the site of a former cattle ranch spread known as Ryan Ranch. Brothers Jepp and Tom Ryan laid pipe in 1896 to pump water from the natural spring to Lost Horse Mine, as well as raising cattle. Two adobe structures are all that remain of their ranch.

Saddle Rock has three summits – they make up the heavy chin of Nixon, his most prominent facial feature (the long, oddly shaped nose), and his prominent forehead. Rock climbers call these the Lower, Middle and Upper Summits.

When you compare the various photos of Nixon in this post with Saddle Rocks, you will note the similarities that struck me.

President Richard Nixon in repose


Rock climbers who love face climbing love Saddle Rock, but those who prefer crack climbing can find plenty on this big hunk of rock, and slab climbers will not be disappointed. There are routes for all up Nixon’s Revenge.

The names for the various routes up Nixon’s Revenge are interesting, and illustrative of the difficulty of the climbs: Walk on the Wild Side is one; then there is Right On, Harley Queen and Where Have all the Cowboys Gone.

Saddle Rocks


Nixon laid back - # 1


Nixon laid back - # 2

Nixon laid back - # 3



I find these names ironic, given Nixon’s secretive, buttoned-down and outwardly prim nature and behaviour.

One could never imagine Nixon walking on the Wild Side – the closest he got was probably that painful photo shoot with in the Oval Office with Elvis Presley! “I’m on your side,” The Pelvis told Nixon after Nixon talked about drugs and communists, and then asked Nixon if he would give Presley a Bureau of Narcotics badge ...

Here’s how that meeting was set up by Elvis:


Elvis was traveling with some guns and his collection of police badges, and he decided that what he really wanted was a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs back in Washington. "The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him," Priscilla Presley would write in her memoir, Elvis and Me. "With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished."
 After just one day in Los Angeles, Elvis asked Schilling to fly with him back to the capital. "He didn't say why," Schilling recalls, "but I thought the badge might be part of the reason."

On the red-eye to Washington, Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon. "Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out," he wrote. All he wanted in return was a federal agent's badge. "I would love to meet you," he added, informing Nixon that he'd be staying at the Washington Hotel under the alias Jon Burrows. "I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a federal agent."
Elvis Presley letter to Nixon asking for a meeting

After they landed, Elvis and Schilling took a limo to the White House, and Elvis dropped off his letter at an entrance gate at about 6:30 a.m. Once they checked in at their hotel, Elvis left for the offices of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. He got a meeting with a deputy director, but not approval for a bureau badge.

And let’s face it – the Watergate tapes that Nixon recorded in the Oval Office prove that Nixon was anything but a Right On kind of guy. His discussions with his aides about getting people, setting them up, and getting even, belie that. Nixon preferred the roundabout way to the straight and narrow.

Mount Rushmore with four presidents


Nixon would never have his face added to Mount Rushmore, not even if hell froze over. The antipathy towards this man is so great that any suggestion for something like that would be laughed out of court.

But when you look at Saddle Rocks, if you keep an open mind, you will have to agree that it is really a case of nature providing for Nixon’s Revenge by carving this granite mountain out over the millenia so that it shows Nixon in profile.

We might not revere Nixon, but is Nature doing that all on her own?

Saddle Rocks aka Nixon's Revenge


But first, a little bit about Mount Rushmore. Four sixty-foot high heads of presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln were carved into the granite face of this mountain near Keystone, South Dakota, by Danish-American Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln. Historian Doane Robinson came up with the idea for the heads, and he and Borglum settled on Mount Rushmore when the sculptor rejected the Needles mountain as unsuitable.

Gutzon Borglum with model


Borglum also persuaded Robinson to drop the idea of carving likenesses of some Western heroes into the mountain (such as Buffalo Bill and explorers Lewis and Clark), and to let him carve the four presidents instead. Borglum started carving in 1927, using 400 workers, and it was finished in 1941 by his son.

Money was a problem, so like Nixon’s Revenge, only the head of each of the four presidents is visible (the original plan was for each president to be shown from the waist up).

Before it got its final name, the mountain had been called Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain and Keystone Cliffs by settlers. The husband of the younger sister of the author of The Little House on the Prairies gave it the name of Rushmore.


Gutzon Borglum checking his carving of Mount Rushmore

Richard Nixon was connected through controversy to another massive carving, of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, on Stone Mountain in Georgia.

Stone Mountain, Georgia


The three Confederate leaders are riding their favourite horses, Blackjack, Traveller, and Little Sorrel. The biggest bas relief in the world, it covers an area equal to just over two football fields; the carving is four hundred feet above the ground, and is carved over forty feet into the side of the mountain. Lee’s sword is fifty feet long, and Traveller is 141 feet from nose to tail tip.

Mrs. Helen Plane, a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, dreamed up the idea of paying homage to Confederate leaders. Her husband had fought in the Civil War with General Robert E. Lee, and was killed at Gettysburg. She wanted Lee’s figure to  be carved on the largest piece of exposed granite in the world, and so persuaded the owners of Stone Mountain, the Venable Brothers, to hire the future sculptor of the Mount Rushmore heads – Gutzon Borglum – to do this in 1915.

Borglum visited the mountain and agreed that Lee should be carved into the granite side; he then added the idea of an army marching behind the famous general.

Plane thought of Borglum as a Yankee (he was a native of the Idaho Territory), but warmed to the idea of Lee being followed by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and five other generals, and a group of 65 officers – five each chosen by the 13 Confederate states – behind them.

Borglum began, but soon had disputes with the owners and backers. After going public through a newspaper interview, he was kicked off the project in 1925 and started work on Mount Rushmore instead. The carving was finished in 1972.

Scaffolding on Mount Rushmore during its carving


When he was fired, Borglum destroyed the  models he had done, and fled Georgia when he was charged with malicious mischief. The project committee then tried to extradite him from North Carolina, but found that they could not extradite him for a misdemeanor. Nothing daunted, the annoyed Committee promptly had legislation passed in Georgia to create a felony charge of larceny. Armed with this, they tried yet again to extradite Borglum, but North Carolina told them to take a hike, and that was that.

Sam Venable had deeded the Ku Klux Klan the right to hold their meetings on Stone Mountain. Georgia bought the mountain in 1958, and the state’s governor had to condemn its own land to remove the deed given to the Klan by Sam.

Before the carving was finally finished, the hat carved for President Davis caused a problem. A military hat had been carved into the granite by jet torch for him, but someone pointed out that Davis, a civilian, never had the right to wear a military hat. A civilian hat was carved into a piece of granite and inserted into the cliff face above Davis. Problem solved.

A new type of torch was used to carve the mountain:

Stone Mountain’s Confederate Memorial Carving was created with a specially designed torch, one rigged with separate hoses shooting water, oxygen and kerosene through a long tube. The kerosene and oxygen heated the granite and carved it away; the water cooled it back down to prevent cracking. Roy Faulkner’s predecessors used 10- to 12-foot tubes, but he used three- and four-foot versions for better control and improved attention to the gentle detail.
 “Faster” can be a relative term. Eight years, five months and 19 days — the tally Roy Faulkner still rattles off without blinking — were spent on that mountain, including the time setting up elevators and scaffolding. Lunches were eaten perched under the noses of Confederate heroes and Christmas trees were placed in granite enclaves.

The carving was to be dedicated on May 9, 1970, and Nixon was invited to attend this. Hoping to cement his standing with the South, Nixon was ready to attend, when all hell broke loose.

On May 4, 1970, the National Guard of Ohio opened fire on students at Kent State University who were protesting the Vietnam war. Nixon was tone deaf to the protests, and was determined to attend the dedication, until the uproar forced him to reconsider. After talking it over with many people, he finally backed off, and the hapless Vice President Spiro Agnew took his place at the dedication.

Note even the photograph on the front page of the New York Times of an girl screaming, with student Jeff Miller’s body beneath her, seemed to trigger a recognition by Nixon that his planned visit to the Georgia mountain might be the wrong thing to do at that time of upheaval.

The Gettysburg Times reported on the day of dedication that the theme of the dedication was Unity Through Sacrifice.

According to the Times report:

Agnew was named as [Nixon’s] substitute and a controversy immediately developed.
 A Civil War historian, Dr. Bell Wiley, told the Stone Mountain Memorial association, of which he is a member, that the vice president’s appearance would be an afront to Gen. Lee.

“Gen. Lee believed in the right of dissent,” Wiley said. “He had serious doubts about slavery. He joined the cause of the Confederacy because he believed in the sovereignty of the states.”

Agnew, famous for defending Nixon’s silent majority with his sayings, such as accusing opponents of being nattering nabobs of negativism, at the time was under a cloud of charges of income tax evasion and of taking bribes while governor of Maryland. Reverend Billy Graham bowed out due to illness, and when a black pastor was chosen to replace him, Imperial Wizard James R. Venable of the Ku Klux Klan boycotted the dedication ceremony. Only one-tenth of the hundred thousand expected at the dedication turned up, and the Wishbone Chicken Company was left with around eight thousand of the ten thousand boxes of fried chicken it expected to sell at the ceremony. Agnew said that Davis, Lee and Jackson “were bonded together in war, and now are bonded together for the ages on a great mountain  of granite.”

Mount Rushmore being carved


What about the dedication of the Mount Rushmore faces? That of Washington took place in 1934, followed by Jefferson in 1936 and Lincoln in 1937.

But civil rights reared its head in 1937, when a bill was tabled in the House of Representatives to add another head to the four presidents – that of civil-rights leader Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906). Anthony had fought fiercely for the rights of women, and against slavery. In 1878 she arranged for a constitutional amendment to allow women to vote to be tabled in Congress, and in 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, and known as the Anthony Amendment in her honour.

Anthony’s face was not added to Mount Rushmore  because a rider was tacked on to an appropriations bill providing that federal funds only be used to complete the heads already started in 1937. So, in 1939, the face of Teddy Roosevelt was dedicated.

Four men but no women grace this magnificent mountain.

Perhaps Americans might have to wait for a female president before a fifth head is added?

Mount Rushmore Hall of Records entryway


The 1979 dollar coin does depict Anthony’s face, though, so she did gain some belated recognition for her efforts!

There is another similarity between Stone Mountain and Mount Rushmore. The original plan for Rushmore was for the four presidents to be shown from the waist up, but in 1941 money ran out and only the heads now appear.

Also, Borglum, who had objected to the huge number of carvings proposed for Stone Mountain, had wanted to enlarge the Rushmore carvings to include a depiction of the Louisiana Purchase as a panel, showing the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and eight acquisitions of territories inside the panel. Lack of funding nixed this idea.

However, behind the four faces is a canyon, and in the canyon in 1998 a chamber was cut, some seventy feet deep into the rock, for a vault with sixteen porcelain enamel panels. Borglum’s own biography appears on one of the panels; others contain the biographies of the four presidents, the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution. The vault is the entryway to a Hall of Records.

Mount Rushmore laser projection by the Scottish Ten
In 2009 Mount Rushmore was scanned by lasers to create a digital model of the four faces, as part of the project funded by the Scottish Ten to create accurate models of ten heritage sites throughout the world. You can see the laser image at this site.

Here is one description of Borglum:

Borglum was stubborn, insistent, temperamental, perfectionist, high-reaching, and proud -- but these were also the characteristics that were required to carve a mountain. Big, brash, almost larger than life, only a man like Gutzon Borglum could have conceived of and created the monument on Mount Rushmore.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Harpers Ferry: The only bedroom shared by Generals Lee & Grant

After visiting the huge battlefield of Gettysburg, Loraine and I drove down to see Harpers Ferry, the first time for both of us.

A memorable place, it is a small town, located at a point where steep mountains sweep down into deep water. In 1859, before the Civil War broke out, this town was unfortunate to be located at the wrong spot, between the warring states.

When the Civil War broke out, the South, with a population less than half that of the North (just over 6 millions compared to over 13), had 347,000 slave owners – 1 in every 18 Southern whites. In the Capitol, there were 30 senators from the 15 slaveowning states, with 32 senators representing the 16 free states. In the House of Representatives, 90 representatives came from the slaveowning states, and 144 from the free states.

We were familiar with the battle hymn John Brown’s Body that was sung by soldiers from the Union marching into the Confederate states:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

So we wanted to learn a little bit more about this divisive figure, and the tiny village he chose as the launching pad for his attempted insurrection of slaves in the South.
 
John Brown's Fort

We wanted to walk down the narrow streets, getting a feel for how the place looked during the Civil War. Like so many of the Civil War sites, there were many well-drafted and very informative plaques which guided us, including period photographs which gave us a clear idea of what was there during the War.

John Brown’s 1859 Raid:

On October 16, 1859, the fiery John Brown and 21 followers invaded the federal Armory in Harpers Ferry. They had surprise on their sides, and swiftly took over the US armory, arsenal, and rifle works, and the bridges over the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

What on earth was this shaggy, bearded man up to? What did he want to achieve, and why did he fail in the takeover, but succeed – after his death – in becoming such a hero to the North? 

We strode the streets, reading the plaques, visiting the John Brown Museum and later on the Master Armorer’s House, searching for answers.
 
John Brown's pikes

As rain dripped down, on the street in front of the John Brown Museum, we met two men who were shooting a documentary of the times, and waiting for the rain to clear up so that they could get on with it. It was a question of light, the producer explained. From Maryland, they were delighted to fill us in on some of the details of events of the time.
 
Master Armorer's House at Harpers Ferry

We then spent some time inside the Museum itself, which was well laid out.

In 1857 Brown had ordered two thousand long, sharp pikes from Charles Blair of Connecticut, and intended them to be used by slaves rising up against their owners. Now, Brown’s target was the thousands of rifles, muskets and pistols in the two warehouse arsenals there.

John Brown’s Capture:

Brown expected locals to support him, but none did and hundreds of militiamen flocked into the small town to fight the raiders.

By midday Monday half of Brown’s forces were shot, and the townspeople used some of the bodies for target practice.

By nightfall on Monday, only Brown and four men were left, holed up in the building that became known as Brown’s Fort – the small armory fire engine house.

This is where young General Lee enters the picture.
 
Inside John Brown's Fort

Leading the U.S. Marines, Lee ordered his men to use sledgehammers and a heavy stepladder to break into the wooden door of the fort, shooting some of Brown’s raiders before rescuing the hostages trapped inside the little building.

One marine, twenty-four year old Private Luke Quinn, arrived late at night at Harper’s Ferry in a special train provided by the Baltimore & Ohio Tailroad; one of about ninety Marines sent from the capital to sort things out.
 
Private Luke Quinn memorial

Quinn was the only Marine who died. He was killed as he entered Brown’s fort, a bullet entering his abdomen. His body lies in the nearby St. Peter’s Catholic cemetery. Inside the Brown Museum, a plaque records his dying words:
“Oh, Major, I am gone: for the love of God will you send for the priest.”

Recently, a 3,500 granite monument has been erected to honor Private Quinn, some quarter of a mile up the road from Brown’s Fort. Quinn stands at attention, in full uniform (his birth year of 1835 incorrectly is used as the year Quinn emigrated to the US from Ireland).

Inside the Master Armorer’s House we listened to a park ranger explain some of the events of the day.

Lieutenant Green dashed inside the opening in the smashed door, and came to grips with Brown. He thrust his sword at Brown, but because he carried only a light dress sword, and not the heavy-duty one he carried into battle, the slash to the side of Brown’s throat did not kill the rebel, but only knocked him down. Green then thrust his sword into Brown’s chest, but its point bent back. So Green thumped Brown with the bent sword until he lost consciousness.

John Brown’s Trial:


The fight was over, Brown was jailed to await trial, before being found guilty and hanged.
Brown appeared in court in Charlestown, and in his statement to the court, he said:

“I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament ... It teaches me further to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction ... I feel entirely satisfied with the treatment I have received in court... But I feel no consciousness of guilt...”
 
Sledgehammer used by Lee's Marines to break into John Brown's Fort

Brown was dead, but the dispute over his raid, his role, and over whether the United States could survive half-free and half-slave, now deepened, leading to the outbreak of the vicious, bloody and lengthy Civil War.
 
Judge at trial of John Brown

Back to Brown’s plans.

John Brown hoped to use the nearby entry into the Appalachian Mountains – what he called The Great Black Way – to penetrate into the South, wage guerilla war and hide runaway slaves. He hoped to make the keeping of slaves too costly to continue.

Harpers Ferry and the Civil War:

Nestled on the border between the North and South, the sleepy little town of Harpers Ferry was one of the most contested pieces of real estate in the whole bloody Civil War, changing hands eight times during those long, dreadful years. The fighting drove the 3,000 inhabitants out, until only one hundred were left there. Harpers Ferry’s grim fate arose because it was on the Potomac River, the watery divide between the warring states, and because it was the gateway to the rich Shenandoah Valley.

In 1862 Stonewall Jackson beat the Union troops who defended Harpers Ferry during fierce fighting over three days, and forced the largest number of Union troops to surrender during the Civil War – 12,500 men. This victory allowed General Lee to go on to the bloody battle of Antietam.
 
Stonewall Jackson note on taking Harpers Ferry

After meeting with Grant at Monocacy Junction in 1864, General Phillip Sheriden took a one-car special train to Harpers Ferry, and then rode to Halltown to take over his command and launch his scorched earth invasion of the luckless Shenandoah Valley in 1864. He was to strip the Valley clean so that, in Grant’s words, a crow flying over it would have to take its own food along on its journey.

The Famous Grant & Lee Bedroom:

After our long visit to the remarkably interesting John Brown Museum, we strode kitty-corner across rainswept street to the Master Armorer’s House.
 
Pastor Lance K. Braun, Volunteer, Harpers Ferry National Park - in The Bedroom

A handsome, two-storeyed, brown-bricked building, that today looks the same as it did in 1859, sports high, green-shuttered windows on three sides.

Through one of its windows we could see tourists entering the small brick building known as John Brown’s Fort. Since its beginning in 1848, Brown’s Fort had been moved four times. The last time it landed where you can now see it through the windows of the Master Armorer’s House; only this time, when it was carefully put together again, brick by brick, a mirror image of the plans was used. The result? The small door on the right hand side of the building (viewed from the Armorer’s House) should really be on the left side!
 
John Brown's Fort through the window of the Armorer's House

The Master Armorer’s House was completed on July 5, 1859, just two days before Brown came in secret into the town to scout it out. Because the Master Armorer Benjamin Mills deemed the location of the house too dangerous for his family, the Paymaster’s Clerk John Daingerfield lived there instead. He became one of Brown’s hostages during the raid.

Inside, Pastor Lance K. Braun, a volunteer at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, gave us a brief lecture on the role of the Armorer’s House during the Civil War period. When he mentioned that both General Lee and General Grant had slept in the main bedroom upstairs, my ears pricked up.

He then kindly led me upstairs to view the room.

In 1864 General Ulysses S. Grant (known popularly as Unconditional Surrender Grant, after his successful taking of Fort Donelson), slept in the same bedroom in the house that Lee had slept in when he ended Brown’s insurrection.

A small metal-grilled fireplace is in the center of the large bedroom, with its own chimney rising up to the roof.

As the only house in all of America that these two enemy generals had used, the bedroom had a special interest for me. These two men are members of my personal Panel of Heroes – men and women from the present and past who inspire me by virtue of their thoughts and deeds.

I spent a few moments in the bedroom with the Pastor, thinking of the irony. Lincoln was desperate for a general who would wage total war, and when he finally found Grant, never let him go.

And Grant, once he locked horns with Lee’s army, sank his teeth into his enemy’s forces like some battle-trained bulldog, and steadfastly fought him, almost daily, for nearly nine months until finally these two courteous, dignified, and fearless men sat down opposite each other in the Maclean House in Appottomax, and America’s long nightmare was  finally over.

The two generals stood up, Lee left on his horse, Traveller, and Americans stopped killing Americans in battle. Over 620,000 men died during that brutal war, with 185,000 killed in battle (for every one who died in battle, two men died from illness0, and over 569,000 wounded.

When I left that room, I suggested to Pastor Braun that the Park should place a plaque on the wall, with details of this one room that both these fierce warriors had once slept in, one before the war began, and the other close to its ending.

 
John Brown in his jail cell


 
John Brown's Fort at the time of his raid


 
John Brown's hanging

Death Mask of Robert E. Lee from National Portrait Gallery

Death mask of General U.S. Grant, from National Portrait Gallery









Friday, October 31, 2014

Ebola: Will a US city have to be quarantined if it spreads?

USA problems in coping
Today we saw an ebola nurse defy the order of the Governor of her state to remain in quarantine, after she returned from ebola-stricken Africa. Kaci Hickox took to the streets to indicate her opposition, by riding her bicycle.

And Governor Paul LePage of Maine was not amused:

Kaci Hickox took her campaign against an Ebola quarantine out for a spin on Thursday.
The Maine nurse, openly defying an order to stay home after she treated patients in West Africa, sped off on a bike ride on a sunny morning with her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur. She returned after about an hour.

“I hope that we can continue negotiations and work this out amicably,” Hickox told reporters. “There is no legal action against me, so I’m free to go on a bike ride in my hometown.”

Authorities in Maine are pursuing a court order to enforce the quarantine through Nov. 10. Hickox says she is completely healthy and free of symptoms, and that the quarantine is unnecessary and unconstitutional.

Several hours after the bike outing, Gov. Paul LePage said that efforts to negotiate with Hickox had failed. Citing confidentiality laws, he did not specify his next steps. But his office pledged in a statement: “The governor will exercise the full extent of his authority allowable by law.”

In an interview with NBC affiliate WSCH, LePage suggested it was all right for Hickox to leave home, as long as she doesn’t touch anyone or go into a public establishment. He said a police cruiser outside the home was there for Hickox’s protection.

“Her behavior is really riling a lot of people up,” he said.

He said he hoped for legal clarification later in the day on enforcing restrictions on her movement. The governor said he was looking out for the 1.3 million people of Maine.

“I don’t want her within three feet of anyone,” he said.

Kaci Hickox’s stance throws into high relief a topic that right now concerns not only the President, but the Governors and Legislatures of several States. There is no vaccine for ebola, and the lethal disease (it has a very high mortality rate for those infected) has caused thousands of deaths in several countries of Africa.

Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox
The Problem: How to contain the Infector Pool

The countries in Africa grappling with this deadly scourge have been unable to date to solve this problem. Because ebola is spread by contact with an infected person during the infection period, it is very easy for those tending the sick to fall victim. So far, ebola has not been spread through the air, but only by bodily contact with fluids of the sick persons.

Preventing such contact is the primary goal of all efforts to prevent ebola spreading. This means putting infected people into containment structures that limit their contact with others, and making sure that all medical and other personnel wear appropriate biohazard clothing. Intense training in the removal of such clothing is also needed.

But what if there are not enough containment structures, and not enough protective clothing?

What then?

The simple answer is that ebola will spread, unless none of the sick are attended to.

Ebola container
Even if all helpers moved away from the sick, ebola will spread of infected people move into fresh populations.

This brings us back to the steps being taken by Governor LePage and by others, to require that any person who has – or might have – come into contact with a person infected with ebola, whether in Africa or in the US, be placed in physical quarantine for the incubation period of some 21 days.
Quarantine in the USA: Is it legal?

There is some doubt whether it is. Some Governors have said that they will insist on mandatory quarantine of persons at risk, regardless of legality, in order to protect the citizens of their states.

But what if ebola – or a similar, highly contagious and very lethal disease – should spread inside the USA? Would the US be prepared for this, on a massive scale? Would any developed country?

A US President might consider the spreading of such a highly contagious disease to be a national state of emergency, but even then there is some question whether compulsory quarantine of persons or of areas (or cities) would be legal.
An Example of a National State of Emergency caused by a contagious disease:

I was curious about how the US might react if this happened, and in my thriller, Silent Lips, this theme was developed.

Silent Lips can be described using the dedication in my novel:

During one of my visits to the city I was walking in Central Park when the thought struck me: What if something happened and this huge, bustling, energetic city was forced to shut its borders, to keep people inside and stop people entering? That thought stayed with me for several visits until one day I sat down, pen in hand, and sketched out the story of Silent Lips.
 It is a story of New York struck by a mysterious disease which forces the President to blockade the city. Nothing can leave; nothing can enter.

What is this disease? Where did it come from? Who made it? Can it be stopped?
 Inside the quarantined city, I thought of men and women fighting to find the answer to the mysterious sickness that raged in the streets and hotels and homes, while still more men and women came from all over the world to the city to help it fight for its survival. This is the story of the people inside the city, its sky blackened by the fires of its funeral pyres, and of those outside who watch with anguish the mounting crisis.
            The crisis immediately creates problems for the US President:

People inside and outside New York race against time to save the city from a genetically engineered virus created by mistake.
 With a quarantine of the city enforced by the Army, doctors in the ParkLab set up in Central Park try everything they can think of to cure people, and the U.S. President makes the most agonizing decision any president has ever made.
Why would quarantine of a US city be considered?

            Simple: if it appeared that the disease might spread. This was faced in Silent Lips:

One such unit had started tracking the outbreak in New York as soon as the second case had been admitted to hospital. 
 This unit believed that the disease was a brand new one. 

They weren't sure, the civilians said, but McGroarty noticed that General Grant seemed to have bought their conclusions; he did not look like the kind of man who bought crap easily. 

The group also believed that the disease was growing at a rapid rate; according to their calculations it was due to start a phase of exponential growth within the next day or two, and the thing could go out of control unless it was checked, or cured.

Or contained.

Everybody had nodded when the last option had been mentioned;  McGroarty didn't need to have it spelled out which option the seven gentlemen around the table thought was most feasible.

The President appointed a disease czar – similar to President Obama’s appointment of his own Ebola Czar – to coordinate the response to the disease, only in Silent Lips the disease is spreading inside New York City. The investigation team reports to the President:

The team's recommendation was terse, and strongly worded: the city of New York had to be quarantined. 
 All indications were that the disease was spreading so fast that it could break out of the city and travel elsewhere.

He remembered the discussion, and the expression used by one of the experts. We have to erect firebreaks and turn the disease back on itself, let it burn itself out, consume itself. 

You mean wait until all the trees are burnt, he had commented wryly, and the answer had come: Yes.

Until all the people die, he had pressed, and again the answer: Yes, if necessary.

The decision to quarantine a large American city:

Given the virulence of ebola, the lack of vaccines for it, and the response of the various Governors and States to the limited threat now posed by those returning from tending the sick in Africa, it is not too difficult to envisage a situation arising today that is very similar to the one described in my thriller, Silent Lips: a President of the United States decides not to allow a disease that originates in that country, to be exported:

The wrong people at the wrong place at the wrong time. 
 The net had been cast and they had been caught.     

The airports were the first to be closed because they were the gateways for the staggering traffic in bodies and cargo out of the city: more than forty percent of the country's overseas traffic and close on sixty percent of the total exports from America. 

The President of the United States of America had decided: he would not allow the disease to be exported.

A major role would have to be played by the US military forces, in enforcing the quarantine of the big city, and in keeping order inside the quarantine boundaries:

The air trembled above Base Three, the largest of the three staging bases located just outside Zone 5's boundaries. Airplanes of all sorts swooped down to land in the base, with the majority being huge transports carrying troops and supplies.  Gradually stocks were built up until whole acres of land were covered by row upon row of boxes and cans and trucks. An infrastructure the size of an average medium sized city was assembled.
 People, too, were processed in Base Three.

Civilians flew in and disembarked before being driven by truck into the city; they never came back nor did the trucks in which they travelled.

Soldiers also came, in their thousands. Platoons marched off the huge transports to the makeshift barracks that covered so much of Base Three; then they marched to the trucking depots and boarded them for the one way trip into the city. As the troops filed aboard the trucks they dropped their wills and government sponsored insurance policies into the 44 gallon oil drums converted for the purpose.

Treatment of those who died:

Until a cure was found, thousands could die from such a virulent disease, and this would mean finding the fastest way to get rid of the bodies, so as to lessen the risk of infecting others:

Burton reflected on this once more. How could they disinfect the  city? Disinfestation usually meant the destruction of small animals such as rodents, present on the person or clothing of the people or in their physical environment.

How did one disinfestate a whole city? Destroy the carriers... But the carriers were people in New York. So it must be impossible...

Hospitals were overflowing with the dead and dying, and military units were now making periodic sweeps of homes, block by block, to locate the dead and take them away for disposal.

There were no longer any burials. Bodies were cremated.

The temporary cremating ovens in the grounds of Central Park had been tripled in size in the past twenty-four hours, to cope with the people who died in the Parklab.

In various places throughout the city, several huge centers had been established to burn the bodies of the dead; daily convoys of military trucks trundled through the city's neighborhoods, guarded by troops, ferrying bodies to the new crematoria.

Some bodies were being burnt even before identification, if there were any delays. They were simply photographed and there were queues of people lined up before police precincts to check the books in search of missing friends or relatives.

The search for a cure:

A frantic search for a cure would be launched. In Silent Lips, suspicion fastens on the activities of a deceased young doctor, and the President’s Czar visits his makeshift laboratory to find out if there any clues as to how the disease started:

He pulled from his briefcase the large scale map of the city and looked again at the initial survey results of the spread of the disease. The map tracked the victims. They had assumed there might be a carrier or carriers and wanted to find his or their location.

But what if the location of the victims was a clue to the location of the maker of the bug, assuming it was made by someone and not a naturally occurring mutant? John Raymond's small laboratory was right in the centre of the initial area, in Zero Area.

Did it start here?

He leant back in the chair, teetering its legs. John Raymond had been here where it started.  

Had he carried it to the other areas? 

He rocked the chair back and forth, his eyes on the cages: there were several smaller ones next to three large ones. Burton noted idly that they were all empty. Probably rabbits or hamsters, he thought, looking at the little tuft of fur caught in the corner of the wires of one of the cages.

He plucked it out and rubbed it in his fingers: it was silky. He tried to brush it off and it clung to his fingers.

There were droppings on the floor of the cages. He scooped some into envelopes and numbered them, starting with the cage on the left as number one. 

Perhaps we made the Bug, he thought.

Perhaps it was a fortuitous mixture of viruses and one of the myriad chemicals in the city.

The debate about limits:

Very soon, the difficult issue would surface: what could be done to find a cure, given the high rate of infection, and of death? Would normal limits and protocols that apply to new cures and vaccines, be followed? They would be among the first casualties, I believe:

"We have tried all the conventional ways," Marshall began. "Now we will try everything we can think of. And I mean everything. Mix up the treatments. Speed them up. Push conventional methods to their extremes. Try everything. I know that will not sit well with many of you, but we do not have the time."
 Marshall raised his grey face and stared steadily at the team.

"I do not know what the cost will be in human lives. I do know there will be deaths as a result of our attempts. You must not worry about this. It is not your responsibility but mine." He closed his eyes briefly. "I do not want your effectiveness to be reduced by concern. Leave that to me. Any questions?"

"Colonel," Levine raised his hand, "surely there must be limits..." 

"No."

His reply was sharp.

"There are no limits." Raising his voice, he said commandingly: "I set the limits here, and I have just taken them off. There are no limits any more, doctor. None whatsoever. We do not have the time." 

There was anger in his voice. "Remember that the cure will save thousands more than will die here."

He reached for a pile of documents stacked in front of him.

"I have prepared the criteria you will apply in selecting subjects for treatment. As far as possible we will stick to these types of subjects. If it requires any modification then I will do so when that need manifests itself."

He handed out copies of a slim document stamped Top Secret: Not to be taken out of this room.

Inside the besieged city, disorder would break out, and the police and army would have to take steps to restore as much calm as was possible:

Down below, the police were moving in, the front row firing the snub teargas guns and stopping to reload while the second row stepped past them and fired.
 Fire stop reload; fire stop reload.

They worked their way steadily down the street, through the crushed mannequins the halftrack had ridden over. The teargas bullets thumped into the crowd, the wax containers splitting open and the white powder spreading for ten yards from each burst. White covered individuals crawled on the pavement or curled in agony, retching.

Strict steps might have to be taken to enforce the quarantine zone, both by keeping those inside the city inside, and those outside from trying to come inside to rescue their loved ones trapped in the city:

Miles from the building, the choppers came in low out of the early morning light, spreading out in a V with the lead chopper a little ahead of the other four, spotting the signs the sappers had erected the day before, and guiding the mine sowers between them. This was their third sortie since noon yesterday; another three trips and they would finish the work in their sector. The route hugged the outskirts of Zone Five, winding along the banks of rivers and next to boundary roads. In places it ran between coils of barbed wire, but in other places the ground was bare.
 The pilot jinked the stick slightly, edging the nose up to keep at the same altitude as the flock behind him, watching the small anti personnel mines spray behind the choppers. They bounced and tumbled on the soil, spinning in flashes of glinting light in the early sun.

The shiny ones were for warning purposes, designed to alert people to the presence of mines, but the really deadly ones were the sand colored ones that lay flat and hidden in the dusty fields, and the green and grey ones that fell into the grass. Contact mines were mixed with proximity mines. 

All were lethal.

The whole boundary of Zone Five, except for the checkpoints allowing traffic to enter, was being sown with the mines. The no man's land separating Zones Three, Four and Five had already been sown.        

The President would have to rely on those who governed the state and city affected by the quarantine, to help maintain order. In Silent Lips, this is done by the Governor of New York:

The crowd was on its feet now, cheering the old fighter.
 "One of our great Presidents went to a city that was in danger from another kind of enemy and told them: Ich bien ein Berliner! Now I say to you, I am proud to stand here and tell you and the world that I am a New Yorker!"

The singing had started in the corner of the hall and was spreading.

"If the only thing I can do in this terrible, terrible time is to wait this side of the wall and if necessary lay down my life for my fellow citizens, then I say: Take me! Take me! Take me!" 

He grabbed the microphone in both hands and joined in the song, starting at the beginning, his powerful voice roaring out Oh! Say can you see in the dawn's early light ...   and the crowd stood and sang with him, the pride they had shining in their eyes.

This, they were saying, as their massed voice rang through the huge hall and out to the nation through the television cameras, this is our moment. Tomorrow, in the cold light of the dawn, we will live with our fears again, but now we are marching with that wild, crazy, proud old man.

Now we are living our commitment to that wild, crazy, proud country of ours.

Again, if a cure is not found soon, what would happen to the limits on the rush to find one? Inside the ParkLab set up in Central Park, one of the researchers who voluntarily entered the city to work with others to find a cure, finds himself dragged into doing things that he never ever thought he would have to do:

He turned back to face her. 
 They were still doing it, pumping the solution into patients who were still dying from it, but how would she understand that they were desperate; that they had to keep on in case there was some faint hope that a slightly different strength of cyanate solution or some slight change in the atmospheric pressure in the tanks in which some patients were suspended might be the key to a cure?

They would keep on and on, until this whole mad insanity had come to an end.

He would agree with each experiment, and with the next and the next in an endless succession, because he knew of no other way.

"We have not been successful," he said, taking her arm and guiding her to the door. 

The Frenchman looked at her, his tired eyes compassionate.

The buck stops with the President:

Inevitably, the President would have to do something to save the rest of the country, and other countries as well. In Silent Lips, President Stanton visits the source of his inspiration in so many difficult moments as president – the spot in the Gettysburg cemetery where Lincoln had stood, delivering the famous Address. He bends down beside one of the simple small white blocks of marble, inscribed with a number because the dead soldier’s name was not known when he was buried there:

Gettysburg grave markers
The President caressed the cold stone one last time and rose, walking slowly down the path, watching the sudden flashes of brief light of the fireflies between the white stones.
 Sudden yellow firefly flashes at his feet, on the ground. He thought of the strength he found most telling in Lincoln: his uncanny foresight. Before that harsh, bitter tragedy had ended, long before the killing had halted, he was looking forward to the peace to come, reaching out to shape the peace even before the battle was over. 

Now, he, too, like Lincoln, would have to look forward, beyond the killing of Americans by Americans, beyond what had to be done, to shape the future.

He stood in front of the memorial to New York State, staring at the column; then he knelt in front of it and pressed his face against the cold step. New York had suffered then, in that war of Americans against Americans; she had lost men, young men, in those bloody battles.

Should she sacrifice now?

Tom Watts watched the slumped figure of the President in front of the memorial and a cold shudder shook his body in the hot night.
Holy shit.
The man was going to do it.

An Amazon Review of Silent Lips:

This is what one reader thought about the novel:

Reading Silent Lips by Glenn Ashton is like getting on a train heading up a long mountain. The suspense builds and builds until you reach the top and then swoops down into a very surprising ending. The level of detail involved in describing the battle against a plague-like virus attacking New York City is amazing and it feels like you are there in the laboratories and treatment rooms as well as in the highest offices in the land.
Beware that this book can keep you up well past your bedtime. The complexity almost demands a consistent dedication to finishing the book. Then you want to start over to make sure you understand the underlying science, but it's not really a necessity that you do, as it is just a very fine read.
It is definitely an amazing first book and I look forward to other books by this author.

If you would like to buy Silent Lips, a printed copy is yours from Amazon’s Createspace, for around $13, and an ebook from Kindle, for only 99 cents, at my Amazon author site.
Enjoy.


Some more of my random posts for you:

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