5 Myths About the Missouri River

5 Myths About the Missouri River – Debunked

1) Dead men are entombed in one or more of the Missouri’s dams.

The Truth: When the Army Corps of Engineers built the earthen dams across the Missouri, construction crews laid down soil and concrete in thin layers, making it impossible for anyone to be buried alive.  Nevertheless, a landslide at Fort Peck Dam in 1938 killed eight men, six of whom were never found.  Their bodies may or may not be in the dam.

2) Lewis and Clark were the first to explore the Missouri River.

The Truth: Centuries before Lewis and Clark, Native Americans explored the river and its tributaries.  Furthermore, during the 18th Century, French and Spanish traders explored the Missouri River at least as far as the Mandan villages near today’s Bismarck, North Dakota. Continue Reading »

LBJ and the Deescalation of the Ground War in Vietnam

ARCWHYContrary to popular belief, the decision to cap U.S. troop levels in Vietnam came months before the Tet Offensive of 1968.

On April 27, 1967, General William C. Westmoreland met in the White House with President Lyndon Baines Johnson to discuss future American troop levels in South Vietnam.  During the course of their discussions, Westmoreland told the president that the current authorized troop level of 470,000 men, scheduled for deployment by the end of 1967, would not be enough to attain U.S. goals in South Vietnam.  Specifically, those troops would neither bleed the enemy dry nor break his will to resist.  Westmoreland noted, “With the present program of 470,000 men, we would be setting up a meat grinder [in South Vietnam].  We would do a little better than hold our own.”[1]  In other words, with almost half a million U.S. troops in South Vietnam, the U.S. risked being stuck in a ground war that showed little progress or might even devolve into an indecisive stalemate. Continue Reading »

The Gravest Threat to Democracy – Corporate Authoritarianism

wallstreetIf “We the People” are going to preserve American democracy we need to clearly identify who threatens it.  At this crucial moment in history, the gravest threat to U.S. democracy is coming from corporate authoritarians, including members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, Fox News, right-wing talk radio, Silicon Valley, the oil, coal, and gas industries, and America’s arms manufacturers. Continue Reading »

The Frustration of the Kremlin Design: The United States and the Origins of Containment


The United States emerged from the Second World War a military and industrial powerhouse. In the summer of 1945, the U.S. Army Air Force, the predecessor to the U.S. Air Force, had in its inventory over 63,000 aircraft of all types, including the agile P-51 Mustang and the high-flying B-29 Superfortress.[1] America’s huge air force had played an instrumental role in the recent defeat of the Axis powers. During the war years, U.S. planes sank Japanese shipping, bombed German rail hubs, ports, and oil depots, and leveled scores of cities, including Hamburg, Cologne, Dresden, Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kobe. In August 1945, the B-29 carried the atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Continue Reading »

Trump is Going to War Against “We the People”


The billionaires Charles and David Koch are the big winners of the 2016 presidential election.  Nearly every member of Trump’s emerging administration has close ties to the two radical right-wing brothers.  Mike Pence, Tom Price, Scott Pruitt, Andy Puzder, Wilbur Ross, Mike Pompeo, Becky DeVos, Rick Perry, and Rex Tillerson are either current or former members of the Koch brothers’ ultra-conservative donor network or politicians who have taken their money.  Consider Scott Pruitt – he’s a Koch boy.  And because he’s a Koch boy, he hates the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  But Pruitt may be leading the EPA in little over a month. No one doubts that his main task at the EPA will be to strip it of its oversight authority and so demoralize its administrators that the institution will no longer have the ability to regulate the heavily polluting Koch Industries.  But gutting the EPA will come at a steep cost to the American public.  Air and water quality are sure to suffer under Pruitt. Continue Reading »

Dakota and the Geography of Racism

75-fb-497-moving-houseWhen the Army Corps of Engineers drew up its development plans for the Missouri River in the 1940s and 1950s, its officers repeatedly traveled from their headquarters in Omaha to Pierre and Bismarck to consult with the governors, senators, and business leaders of North and South Dakota.  At the time, the upper echelon of the Corps consisted entirely of middle-aged white males, as did the political and economic elite of the Dakotas.  Behind closed doors, these men collectively agreed to build five of the world’s largest earthen dams at locations, and to heights, harmful to the interests of the Missouri Valley’s Native American inhabitants.  After the dams went into the river, and the reservoirs filled to capacity, a string of Native American communities from Fort Thompson, South Dakota, to Sanish, North Dakota, sank beneath the dark waters of the Missouri.  Not surprisingly, the Pick-Sloan Plan spared from inundation the off-reservation communities of Chamberlain, Fort Pierre, Pierre, Bismarck, and Williston. Continue Reading »

The Wild Hare

HareIn late July 1999, Todd Siefker and I decided to hike the Thorofare Trail, which passes through some of the most scenic, awe-inspiring, bear-infested, mosquito-ridden terrain in North America. The Thorofare got its name from its past. In the early nineteenth century, it served as a major transportation route for Native Americans and European-American fur trappers working the beaver streams of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Continue Reading »

The Long Holy War: The Mahdi, ISIS, and the West

BritishTroopsintheSudan1898Mohammed Ahmed Ibn el-Sayyid Abdullah, otherwise known as the Mahdi, led one of the largest, most-successful anti-colonial Islamist rebellions in the Long Holy War between the Muslim world and the Christian West. In the early 1880s, the Mahdi’s armed followers, who referred to themselves as the Ansars, swept across the deserts and scrub brush plains of the Sudan, driving the British, the Egyptians and Ottoman Turks from the Upper Nile Basin. Continue Reading »

It’s Time for a Progressive Party

ProtestOnCapitalHill1971This year, the American two-party system has given the American people two of the lamest, least-likable presidential candidates in living memory.  On the Right, we have a fascist, who’s nickname is “The Donald” – a name befitting a mafioso rather than a presidential contender.  On the Left (actually the Middle Right) we have Hillary – a known political operator who, along with her husband, has jigged the system for decades.  Sadly, Hillary is a 2 for 1 offer.  If we elect her, we get Bill too. Continue Reading »

The Missouri’s Annual Rises

1952FloodLookingNorthTowardDakota.048Before the closure of Fort Randall Dam in 1952, the Missouri flooded two times a year. The first flood occurred in late March and early April. Old timers called this flood the April fresh (for freshet), the April rise, or the spring rise.  The melting of the plains and prairie snowpack caused the April rise.  The size and duration of the April rise depended on the depth of the snowpack, the moisture content of the snow, and how quickly the snow melted and ran off into the Missouri and its tributaries. Predictably, the worst spring rises occurred at the end of long, snowy winters. The April rise always began with ice-out – the moment when the Missouri shattered its icy surface. Continue Reading »

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