Whiskey and cigar day: Twain and Churchill

November 30, 2007

Mark Twain, afloat

November 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), and Winston Churchill (1874).

Twain had a comment on recent actions at the Texas Education Agency:

In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.

– Following the Equator; Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar

The Nobel literature committees were slow; Twain did not win a Nobel in Literature; he died in 1910. Churchill did win, in 1953.

Both men were aficianadoes of good whiskey and good cigars. Both men suffered from depression in old age.

Both men made a living writing, early in their careers as newspaper correspondents. One waged wars of a kind the other campaigned against. Both were sustained by their hope for the human race, against overwhelming evidence that such hope was sadly misplaced.


Both endured fantastic failures that would have killed other people, and both rebounded.

Both men are worth study.

Twain, on prisons versus education: “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” – Speech, November 23, 1900

Churchill on the evil men and nations do:

“No One Would Do Such Things”

“So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all.”

—1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, in The World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49.

Image of Twain aboard ship – origin unknown. Image of Winston S. Churchill, Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for 1941, copyright 1941 by Time Magazine.

More on Mark Twain

More on Winston Churchill

Orson Welles, with Dick Cavett, on Churchill, his wit, humor and grace (tip of the old scrub brush to the Churchill Centre):

Unintelligent designs in Texas

November 29, 2007

The Texas Education Agency has lost its mind.  Again, or still.

P.Z. has details. I’m off to discuss economics with economics teachers.  Talk among yourselves until I get back later tonight.

If someone organizes a march on the TEA with torches and other farm implements, somebody text message me, please.

Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute: ‘Don’t do this’

November 29, 2007

Steven Milloy won’t like this. It’s a parable, based on a true story, about why we shouldn’t willy-nilly increase DDT spraying, anywhere. Amory Lovins tells it quickly, and well.

So in this tranquil but unwavering spirit of applied hope, let me tell you a story.

In the early 1950s, the Dayak people in Borneo had malaria. The World Health Organization had a solution: spray DDT. They did; mosquitoes died; malaria declined; so far, so good. But there were side-effects. House roofs started falling down on people’s heads, because the DDT also killed tiny parasitic wasps that had previously controlled thatch-eating caterpillars. The colonial government gave people sheet-metal roofs, but the noise of the tropical rain on the tin roofs kept people awake. Meanwhile, the DDT-poisoned bugs were eaten by geckoes, which were eaten by cats. The DDT built up in the food chain and killed the cats. Without the cats, the rats flourished and multiplied. Soon the World Health Organization was threatened with potential outbreaks of typhus and plague, which it would itself have created, and had to call in RAF Singapore to conduct Operation Cat Drop–parachuting a great many live cats into Borneo.

This story–our guiding parable at Rocky Mountain Institute–shows that if you don’t understand how things are connected, often the cause of problems is solutions. Most of today’s problems are like that. But we can harness hidden connections so the cause of solutions is solutions: we solve, or better still avoid, not just one problem but many, without making new ones, before someone has to go parachuting more cats. So join me in envisioning where these linked, multiplying solutions can lead if you apply and extend what you’ve learned and take responsibility for creating the world you want. Details of this business-led future will be described this autumn in a book my team and I are now finishing, called Reinventing Fire.

[Here, used to be a Google Video of that part of the speech. O tempora, O mores! Is the format even available anymore?  Below, video of a 2011 commencement speech, with the same parable near the beginning.]

Amory Lovins is founder, president and Chief Scientist with the Rocky Mountain Institute.  This speech, from August 2007, can also be viewed at RMI’s site, where the full text is also available.

“Effects of DDT in Borneo,” a flow chart showing the need for “Operation Cat Drop,” the UN-sponsored parachuting of cats into Borneo after a DDT-caused disastrous avalanche of events. From ActionOutdoors.org

Jefferson DeBlanc, teacher, Medal of Honor winner

November 28, 2007

Jefferson DeBlanc, Sr, at the WWII Memorial - Medal of Honor Winner

You can just see the kid trying to get the goat of the physics teacher:“Hey, Teach! What do you think 5Gs feel like when one of those fighter pilots pulls a real tight turn?”

And you can see the teacher at the chalkboard scribbling a formula the kid doesn’t want to know, and a smile creeping over his face.

“It’s nothing like hitting the shark-infested Pacific — salt water, and you’re wounded — and then being traded for a ten-pound sack of rice! That’ll get your gut more.”

And don’t you wonder, did the kids ever think to ask him his view of the campaign against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands, for help on their U.S. history exams? Did they ever think he might have some knowledge to share?

Jefferson DeBlanc would have shared wisdom certainly, though it’s uncertain he would have shared his war experiences as a fighter pilot. He died last Thursday in St. Martinville, Louisiana. He was 86. DeBlanc was the last surviving Medal of Honor winner from World War II in Louisiana. Col. Jefferson DeBlanc, Sr.

What a story!

The incident that earned Jefferson the nation’s highest military honor took place Jan. 31, 1943, during operations against Japanese forces off Kolombangara Island in the Solomon Islands.

A Japanese fleet was spotted headed toward Guadalcanal. U.S. dive bombers were sent to attack the fleet, with fighter aircraft deployed to protect the bombers. In a one-man Grumman Wildcat fighter, DeBlanc led a section of six planes in Marine Fighting Squadron 112, according to the citation that accompanied his Medal of Honor.

At the rendezvous point, DeBlanc discovered that his plane, which was dubbed “The Impatient Virgin,” was running out of fuel. If DeBlanc battled the Japanese Zero fighter planes, he would not have enough fuel to return to base. Two of his comrades, whose planes malfunctioned, turned back, according to a 1999 article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“We needed all the guns we could get up there to escort those bombers,” DeBlanc said in the Times-Picayune article. “I figured if I run out of gas, I run out of gas. I figured I could survive a bailout. I had confidence in my will to survive. You’ve got to live with your conscience. And my conscience told me to go ahead.”

DeBlanc and the other pilots waged fierce combat until, “picking up a call for assistance from the dive bombers, under attack by enemy float planes at 1,000 feet, he broke off his engagement with the Zeros, plunged into the formation of float planes and disrupted the savage attack, enabling our dive bombers and torpedo planes to complete their runs on the Japanese surface disposition and withdraw without further incident,” the citation says.

Ultimately, DeBlanc shot down two float planes and three of the fighters. But a bullet ripped through DeBlanc’s plane and hit his instrument panel, causing it to erupt into flames. DeBlanc “was forced to bail out at a perilously low altitude,” according to the citation.

“The guy who shot me down, he saw me bail out,” DeBlanc said in a 2001 article in the State-Times/Morning Advocate of Baton Rouge, La.. “He knew I was alive. I knew they (the Japanese) were looking for me. But I’m not a pessimist. I knew I could survive. I was raised in the swamps.”

A Louisiana kid raised in the swamps, a Tuba City, Arizona, kid raised in a hogan on a reservation, a kid from Fredericksburg, Texas, a kid from Abilene, Kansas, another kid from Columbus, Ohio, a West Point graduate with a corn-cob pipe — the reality of the people who fought the war looks like a hammy line-up for one of the post-war movies about them. Maybe, in this case, there was good reason for the stereotypes.

After his plane was shot down in 1943, DeBlanc swam to an island and slept in a hut until he was discovered by islanders and placed in a bamboo cage. The man who gave a sack of rice for him was Ati, an islander whom DeBlanc later called a guardian angel, responsible for orchestrating his rescue by a U.S. Navy boat.

DeBlanc served a second tour of overseas service in Marine Fighting Squadron 22 in the Marshall Islands. By the end of his service, he had shot down nine enemy planes.

On Dec. 6, 1946, President Truman awarded DeBlanc the Medal of Honor. His other honors include the Distinguished Flying Cross, several awards of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In 1972, after serving six years as commander at Belle Chasse Naval Air Station, DeBlanc retired from the Marine Corps Reserve.

Then, as if to make the model for Tom Brokaw’s later book, DeBlanc went back home to mostly-rural Louisiana, and made the world a much better place.

At home, DeBlanc earned two masters’ degrees in education from Louisiana State University in 1951 and 1963, and a doctorate in education from McNeese State University in 1973. For years, he taught in St. Martin parish and supervised teachers.

Just a normal guy to his kids, neighbors and students:

Despite the illustrious awards, [daughter] Romero [DeBlanc] remembers a loving father first and dedicated educator second.

“I was very close to my father,” she said. “I could always talk to him. He taught me to drive. He taught school. He was very friendly with his students. He would come into the classroom and say, ‘I lost the test.’ Then he would look around and find it in the trash can. Of course he placed it in the trash can. He had a great sense of humor.”

Surely DeBlanc’s passing should have been worthy of note on national television news programs, and in the larger national print media. There was a note on the obituary page of the Dallas Morning News, and the Los Angeles Times obituary cited above. But DeBlanc has not yet gotten the recognition he probably deserved. A young cornerback for the Washington Redskins also died over the weekend.

No room for heroes in the news?

Resources for Teachers:

Read the rest of this entry »

Administrivia, and an apology

November 28, 2007

I have crises going on all ends of all candles at the moment.  This is essentially a leisure time activity.  There are lots of good things to talk about, and so little time.

Check out the sites on the blogroll, and check out the carnival buttons (there are lots more carnivals, undoubtedly some good ones I’ve never heard of).

Thank you for reading.  A thousand thank yous for providing comments, especially the really useful ones (you know whose comments those are).

Pragmatic, applied geography: Baghdad

November 27, 2007

Do your students ever ask why we bother to study geography? Consider these sources for a one-day exercise in geography, world history or U.S. history:

How U.S. forces took back Baghdad

al Quaeda map of Baghdad, used to take back Baghdad by U.S. forces

Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze alerts us to this interesting story of applied geography.

The map of Baghdad, above, was found in a raid on an al Quaeda house in the past year. It details the organization of al Quaeda, especially with regard to shipping guns, ammunition and explosives into Baghdad.

Armed with this knowledge, U.S. forces set about severing each of the cells from each other, separating the pieces of the snake to kill the beast.

Here is the New York Times story. (So much for wild claims that “mainstream media” do not cover such news.) Here is the Fox News story, with a link to a .pdf version of the map.

A map drawn by Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — who was killed last year by U.S. forces — turned up last December in an Al Qaeda safe house and essentially gave U.S. war planners insight into the terrorist group’s methods for moving explosives, fighters and money into Baghdad.

“The map essentially laid out how Al Qaeda controlled Baghdad. And they did it through four belts that surrounded the city, and these belts controlled access to the city for reinforcements and weapons and money,” said Maj. Gen. Bob Scales, a FOX News contributor who recently visited Iraq.

That’s what geographic knowledge can do. It can be the difference between peace and war, the difference between life and death.

Why give Holocaust denial a platform?

November 25, 2007


Deborah Lipstadt asks the key question at her blog: Why should any honorable, noble agency give a platform to people who don’t respect the facts and who have a track record of distorting history?

The distinguished debating group, the Oxford Union, has invited history distorter David Irving to speak. He was invited to speak with representatives of the British National Party (BNP), a group not known for tolerance on racial and immigration issues. While there is value to getting a range of views on any issue, Prof. Lipstadt and many others among us think that inviting a known distorter to speak is practicing open-mindedness past the point of letting one’s brains fall out (what is the difference between “open mind” and “hole in the head?”).

You know this story and these characters, right, teachers of history? You should, since these people play important roles in the modern art of history, and in the discussion over what we know, and how we know it. These are issues of “what is truth,” that your students badger you about (rightfully, perhaps righteously).

American teachers of history need to be particularly alert to these issues, since Holocaust deniers have been so successful at placing their material on the internet in a fashion that makes it pop up early in any search on the Holocaust. Most searches on “Holocaust” will produce a majority of sites from Holocaust deniers. It is easy for unwary students to be led astray, into paths of racist harangues well-disguised as “fairness in history and speech.”

Prof. Lipstadt practices history at Emory University in Atlanta, where she is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies. She chronicled much of the modern assault on history in her book, Denying the Holocaust, The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1994). In that book, she documented the work of British historian David Irving, much of which consists of questionable denial of events in the Holocaust.

Cover of Lipstadt's book, Denying the Holocaust

Cover of Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Denying the Holocaust, the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory

Irving sued her for libel in Britain in 2000, where it is not enough to establish the truth of the matter to mount a defense. In a stunning and welcomed rebuke to Holocaust denial and deniers, the judge ruled in her favor, and documented Irving’s distortions in his 350-page opinion.

While his claims are legal in England, in several places in Europe his denial of Holocaust events is not protected as free speech. Traveling in Austria in 2005, he was arrested and imprisoned for an earlier conviction under a law that makes it a crime to deny the events. Prof. Lipstadt opposed the Austrian court’s decision: “I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech. Let him go and let him fade from everyone’s radar screens.”

The drama plays out again. Serious questioning of what happened is the front line of history. Denying what happened, however, wastes time and misleads honest citizens and even serious students, sometimes with bad effect. Santayana’s warning about not knowing history assumes that we learn accurate history, not a parody of it.

This event will raise false questions about censorship of Holocaust deniers, and the discussion is likely to confuse a lot of people, including your students. U.S. history courses in high school probably will not get to the Holocaust until next semester. This issue, now, is an opportunity for teachers to collect news stories that illuminate the practice of history for students. At least, we hope to illuminate, rather than snuff out the candles of knowledge.



Diogenes, call your office: Honest man returns $2 million

November 25, 2007

Over 100 million boys in the U.S. have repeated the Scout Law, “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent.”

Jerry Mika of Draper, Utah, lives it.

Jerry Mika, of Draper Utah, with $2 million check sent to him in error - Jeremy Harmon photo, SL Tribune

Mika returned a check for $2,245,342 that the State of Utah had sent him in error (see the Associated Press story in the Provo Daily Herald — photo, above, by Jeremy Harmon, Salt Lake Tribune).

Mika returned the check — a mistake that occurred when an employee entered a serial number, not an amount — to state finance offices Wednesday.

“Clearly we have an honest, honest citizen. I wish I could do something more than say thanks,” commerce department director Francine Giani said.

Can’t Utah grant him a kingdom — half of Millard County or something? A little duchy in Fillmore, Utah?

Mika, who runs the nonprofit Providence Foundation to help Nepalese sherpas, said he’s had great fun showing off the state’s mistake.

“Everybody looked at it, started giggling and asked why I wasn’t already in Switzerland,” he said.

He admits to being tempted to deposit the money and draw a bit interest before the state asked for its return.

“That money would have gone a long way,” he said.

When a company comptroller complained to me once that the $4 million in refunds to our company would mess up his quarterly bookkeeping because he expected the money in the next quarter, I volunteered to park the money in an account for him. He quickly came to his senses. At low, passbook interest rates, the $4 million would have paid $141/hour, 24 hours a day — more than $3,300 a day. A few weeks of that and you’re talkin’ big money.

Because the check was state-issued, cashing it would probably have been easy, despite the large amount, Giani said.

“It was a valid check,” said Rick Beckstead, the state accounting operation manager whose signature is stamped on the check.

How honest are you, Dear Reader? How much of a temptation would it have been to cash that check? (I’ll wager this man is a former Boy Scout; how much does that account for his actions?)

Perhaps you could reward Mr. Mika’s honesty with a contribution to the foundation he operates, The Providence Foundation.

Teachers: Can you see how to make this into a bell-ringer, warm-up exercise?

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Puncturing gas bags

November 24, 2007

Bad, from The Bad Idea Blog (the guy who uses that amazingly ugly fish with the huge proboscis-like thing as his avatar), has done a fine job of defending Darwin, evolution, science, reason, manners, Mom, apple pie, the American flag, free markets, liberty, and the 8th Amendment, over at a blog called Seedlings.

The proprietor of Seedlings is unhappy with people who contest his claims. That he’s let Bad go so long is a tribute to Bad — and worthy of your looking in. There is nothing quite so pompous as a creationist ruling that biologists don’t know beans about biology. It’s astounding such rooms full of balloons don’t attract more kids with pins.

Don’t forget to see Bad’s blog, too.

Paul Davies bucks the trend toward reason in physics – faith instead?

November 24, 2007

In 2003 Physics Nobel Winner Steven Weinberg made a stunning presentation to the Texas State Board of Education on why evolution needs to be in biology texts.

Live by the physicist, die by the physicist: Paul Davies takes it back, giving aid and comfort to the intelligent design/creationist camp, in Saturday’s New York Times. While he doesn’t mention evolution or biology, the Public Spin Department at the Discovery Institute is probably at work on press releases touting Davies’ piece right now.


Worried about plagiarism? You don’t know the half of it

November 24, 2007


Larry Lessig, speaking at TED, makes the case for kids who use stuff borrowed from others in their classroom presentations.

First, this speech should open your eyes to the danger of our only preaching against plagiarism to kids who borrow copyrighted stuff off the internet (see especially the last two minutes of his almost-19 minute presentation). What’s the alternative, you ask? See what Prof. Lessig says. What are the alternatives?

Second, Lessig shows how to use slides in a live presentation, to significantly increase the content delivered and the effectiveness of the delivery.


Tip of the old scrub brush to Presentation Zen. Go there now and read Garr Reynolds’ take on Lessig’s presentation.

Who is Larry Lessig? You don’t know TED? See below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Slap in the face for America’s soldiers

November 23, 2007

Put your coffee down. If you’re not ready to be outraged, don’t read any farther. Go on to the next post.

To demonstrate the barbarity and brutality of communist systems, or totalitarian governments, people often point to execution practices used in Stalinist Russia or, currently, in the People’s Republic of China. When a person is executed, usually with a bullet to the head, the family of the executed person is billed for the bullet.

Insult to injury, injury on injury, it’s heartless, the critics rightly say — and evidence of the inhumanity, the complete lack of human emotion in the government.

That’s not what this post is about. Can there be something worse?

U.S. soldiers disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan so that they cannot continue their military service are being billed by the Pentagon for their recruitment bonuses. Marty Griffin at KDKA television in Pittsburgh got the story, about a local Pennsylvania soldier (I have highlighted some parts of the story):

One of them is Jordan Fox, a young soldier from the South Hills.

He finds solace in the hundreds of boxes he loads onto a truck in Carnegie. In each box is a care package that will be sent to a man or woman serving in Iraq. It was in his name Operation Pittsburgh Pride was started.

Fox was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle. He was knocked unconscious. His back was injured and lost all vision in his right eye.

A few months later Fox was sent home. His injuries prohibited him from fulfilling three months of his commitment. A few days ago, he received a letter from the military demanding nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus back.

“I tried to do my best and serve my country. I was unfortunately hurt in the process. Now they’re telling me they want their money back,” he explained.

It’s a slap for Fox’s mother, Susan Wardezak, who met with President Bush in Pittsburgh last May. He thanked her for starting Operation Pittsburgh Pride which has sent approximately 4,000 care packages.

He then sent her a letter expressing his concern over her son’s injuries, so she cannot understand the U.S. Government’s apparent lack of concern over injuries to countless U.S. Soldiers and demands that they return their bonuses.

No kidding.

See the video — it’s even more compelling.

Do you agree with me that this is an outrage? Do you agree this should not happen in the United States of America?

Should we act? Wait just a moment.

This is such a clear outrage, that when the news broke, the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department scrambled to say it is not so bad as it looks. Talking Points Memo Muckraker tracks the story; by now the government says it’s a mistake, and soldiers shouldn’t have to pay back the bonus.

So the official answer is that not as many soldiers were billed as Griffin claimed, and the Pentagon says they excuse the debts if the soldier complains.

What if the soldier doesn’t complain, but just pays?

How could any system do this in the first place?

Can we believe an administration that has lied to get out of accountability for so many other scrapes in this war?

Keep checking for followups.

Also, if you have received one of these letters, or if you know someone who has, please tell us.

Be ready to act by noting these numbers:

Watch the news.  If this outrage is not corrected, your voice will be important.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Unread scripture: Come, let us reason together*

November 23, 2007

The right-wing nominally Catholic journal First Things features another assault on the quest for reason in its October issue.

Pope John Paul II said evolution is a scientific understanding of creation and should be studied by people, with no claim that it conflicts with Christianity. Since his death, and since the installation of Pope Benedict, Benedict and several cardinals have been backpedaling as fast as they can. When they get called on some of their more radical statements, they claim that “radical atheists” have forced them to their public relations firms and far-right magazines. So far, Pope Benedict has not directly claimed Pope John Paul II to have been in error about evolution. He seems happy to let others make that inference explicitly, however.

I am particularly troubled by Cardinal Dulles’ citing of an article by Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, published on July 7, 2005, as an op-ed in the New York Times. Schönborn’s view sounded oddly as if it squared completely with the fundamentalist Christian view espoused from the Discovery Institute in Seattle. It turns out that Schönborn had not written the piece at all, but instead was asked to sign his name to a piece written by one of the Discovery Institute’s commercial public relations groups.

It is probably not fair yet to say that Pope Benedict has been purchased by the Discovery Institute. But it would be good if Catholic officials were to stick to Catholicism and leave the petty, erroneous science politics and destructive education politics to the Discovery Institute; it would be better still if the Discovery Institute were to abandon such things, too.

Tip of the old scrub brush to a commenter at Telic Thoughts. [And, yes, this sat for a while in my draft box.]

* Isaiah 1:18

The verse is almost always cited out of context. In this verse a prophet Isaiah recites words he’s been given from God, by his account. This opens an invitation, from God, to the people of Judah, to discuss their actions. God was particularly concerned about injustices and inequities practiced by the people; for example, in the verses immediately preceding, Isaiah quotes God (CEV): “No matter how much you pray,/I won’t listen./You are too violent./Wash yourselves clean!/I am disgusted with your filthy deeds./Stop doing wrong/and learn to live right./See that justice is done./Defend widows and orphans and help those in need.” It is my view that Cardinal Dulles is missing that context here. The scriptures call us to see that justice is done, first. Slamming evolution and the rest of science is not such action.

Other sources

Oswald’s Ghost appears in Texas Theatre, 44 years later

November 22, 2007

President John F. Kennedy died 44 years ago today. Five year anniversaries tend to get more attention.

High school U.S. history students have been alive less than half the time since the assassination. To them it is ancient history, even more than the Vietnam War. Teachers need to find ways to make the history stick even in years that are not multiples of 5.

President Kennedy greeting a crowd in Ft. Worth, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963

A new film offers some aid.Oswald’s Ghost” had it’s world premiere at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, the place where Lee Oswald was arrested. Restoration of the theater is not complete, but it is far enough along to host events.

The movie is in severely limited release prior to a January 14, 2008 premier on PBS stations. Director Robert Stone places the assassination in history and tells some of the effects on America, rather than dwelling on facts or controversies around the shooting. The movie got a good review from the Dallas Morning News:

“Nobody had stepped back and told the story of the debate itself,” he says.

“How did these ideas come about? Who propagated them and why were they so widely believed? And what had they done to this country? Seventy percent of Americans still believe the government was involved in the Kennedy assassination or has worked to cover it up. And that’s had a huge impact.”

In the end, a seemingly disparate chorus of voices – including the late Norman Mailer – accomplish the filmmaker’s objective.

As he says, Oswald’s Ghost is “a way of explaining the ’60s. We’re not arguing anymore about what happened in Dealey Plaza. It’s an argument about explaining what came after … and how did everything go so wrong.”

With luck, it will be on DVD for classroom use by early February.

Dallas’s PBS outlet, KERA, is showing another locally-produced film this week that I have found useful in the classroom, focusing on the news coverage that day, JFK: Breaking the News. For slightly more adult teachers, there is the fun of finding news people in their infant careers, people like Robert McNeil then of NBC, Peter Jennings, and then-local Dallas reporters Jim Lehrer and Dan Rather, and Fort Worth reporter Bob Schieffer. Few other one-day events have produced such a stable of news greats — the Kennedy assassination spurred the careers of more new people than any other event with the possible exception of World War II. Jane Pauley narrates the story.

The Baltimore Sun’s Frank James offers serious thought on the historical influence of the day in a blog post, “The Big ‘What If?‘”

There is a webcam view of Dealey Plaza from the Texas Book Depository Building — the cam claims to be from the 6th floor window from which Oswald shot, but it looks like the top of the building to me.

The Kennedy assassination kicked the wind out of America. In many ways it was the event that triggered 1968, perhaps the worst single year in American history.

44 years, and we still don’t know the full set of ramifications of the events of that day. Historians keep chipping away.

Grateful for heroes

November 22, 2007

As her physician I would have told her to stay down. As her parent, I don’t know what I would have done. As a bystander, after the fact, I can only admire the courage of this high school cross-country runner (from Fox News in Cleveland):

Claire [Markwardt] made it within forty feet of the finish line when her leg broke. She tried to get up, but it broke again.

“I knew I really couldn’t stay there and I didn’t wanna let my team down and I had gone that far, so there wasn’t really a point in laying there.” she said.

Amazingly, with a leg broken in several places, Claire crawled the rest of the way across the finish line. “It was my last race of my senior year and I didn’t know how my team was doing in the race, but I wanted us to be as high as we could.” she said.

Good write up about it at Education and Technology alerted me to the story. Surprisingly to me, Ray Ebersole writes:

When I was in my 20’s I was reading the print copy of SI, it was the only copy back then, when I read about a female high school track runner who broke her leg 100 yards from the finish of her race. She was the anchor for the 4×400 relay in a state meet and was leading by a lot when she broke her leg. Not wanting to let her teammates down she crawled to the finish line.

That high school girl inspired me to do a lot of things. She showed me what loyalty, courage and guts were all about. I never thought I would see anything like it again in my lifetime, but I see it everyday in the news.

Go see the examples he offers.

And be openly grateful we have such people among us.

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