Human Liberty Bell: Tribute to photos of Mole & Thomas

December 12, 2007

Surely you’ve seen some of these photos; if you’re a photographer, you’ve marveled over the ability of the photographer to get all those people to their proper positions, and you’ve wondered at the sheer creative genius required to set the photos up.

Like this one, a depiction of the Liberty Bell — composed of 25,000 officers and men at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The photo was taken in 1918.

Mole & Thomas photo, Human Liberty Bell The Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago featured an exhibit of these monumental photos in April and May, 2007:

The outbreak of World War I and its inherent violence engendered a new commitment by the world’s photographers to document every aspect of the fighting, ending an era of In A Patriotic Mole, A Living Photograph, Louis Kaplan, of Southern Illinois University, writes, “The so-called living photographs and living insignia of Arthur Mole [and John Thomas] are photo-literal attempts to recover the old image of national identity at the very moment when the United States entered the Great War in 1917.

Mole’s [and Thomas’s] photos assert, bolster, and recover the image of American national identity via photographic imaging. Moreover, these military formations serve as rallying points to support U.S. involvement in the war and to ward off any isolationist tendencies. In life during wartime, [their] patriotic images function as “nationalist propaganda” and instantiate photo cultural formations of citizenship for both the participants and the consumers of these group photographs.”

The monumentality of this project somewhat overshadows the philanthropic magnanimity of the artists themselves.Instead of prospering from the sale of the images produced, the artists donated the entire income derived to the families of the returning soldiers and to this country’s efforts to re-build their lives as a part of the re-entry process.

Eventually, other photographers, appeared on the scene, a bit later in time than the activity conducted by Mole and Thomas, but all were very clearly inspired by the creativity and monumentality of the duo’s production of the “Living” photograph.

One of the most notable of those artists was Eugene Omar Goldbeck. He specialized in the large scale group portrait and photographed important people (Albert Einstein), events, and scenes (Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees in his home town, San Antonio) both locally and around the world (Mt. McKinley). Among his military photographs, the Living Insignia projects are of particular significance as to how he is remembered.

Using a camera as an artist’s tool, using a literal army as a palette, using a parade ground as a sort of canvas, these photographers made some very interesting pictures. The Human Statue of Liberty, with 18,000 men at Camp Dodge, Iowa?




Most of these pictures were taken prior to 1930. Veterans who posed as part of these photos would be between 80 and 100 years old now. Are there veterans in your town who posed for one of these photos?


Good photographic copies of some of these pictures are available from galleries. They are discussion starters, that’s for sure.

Some questions for discussion:

  1. Considering the years of the photos, do you think many of these men saw duty overseas in World War I.
  2. Look at the camps, and do an internet search for influenza outbreaks in that era. Were any of these camps focal points for influenza?
  3. Considering the toll influenza took on these men, about how many out of each photo would have survived the influenza, on average?
  4. Considering the time, assume these men were between the ages of 18 and 25. What was their fate after the Stock Market Crash of 1929? Where were they during World War II?
  5. Do a search: Do these camps still exist? Can you find their locations on a map, whether they exist or not?
  6. Why do the critics say these photos might have been used to build national unity, and to cement national identity and will in time of war?
  7. What is it about making these photos that would build patriotism? Are these photos patriotic now?

These quirky photos are true snapshots in time. They can be used for warm-ups/bell ringers, or to construct lesson plans around.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Gil Brassard, a native, patriotic and corporate historian hiding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


How to tell if someone is wrong about DDT and Rachel Carson

December 12, 2007

Here is one surefire way to tell someone is bluffing, and perhaps doing a bit of planned prevarication, about Rachel Carson and the safety of DDT: Look for a footnote like this:

31 Sweeney EM. EPA Hearing Examiner’s recommendations and findings concerning DDT hearings. 25 April 1972 (40 CFR 164.32).

Why is that a sign of a bluff?

The volume and paging, “40 CFR 164.32,” is a reference to the Code of Federal Regulations. One knows that codes do not contain hearing records, and sure enough, this one does not. 40 CFR covers the rules of administrative hearings in federal agencies, but there is nothing whatsoever in that entire chapter about DDT, or birds, or chemical safety.

40 CFR is the chapter of the Code of Federal Regulations that pertains to the rules, regulations and procedures of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); it does not contain transcripts of regulatory hearings.

40 CFR is the chapter of the Code of Federal Regulations that pertains to the rules, regulations and procedures of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); it does not contain transcripts of regulatory hearings.  Anyone who cites a hearing to this publication is giving you a bogus citation, probably to promote bogust history and bogus science.

If that citation shows up in a screed against environmentalists, or against Rachel Carson, or urging that we spray poison till the cows come home to die, you can be pretty sure that the person offering it has copied it wholesale from Steven Milloy’s junk science purveyor shop, and that the person has not read it at all.  If the person has a law degree, or was ever a librarian or active in interscholastic debate, you can be pretty sure the person knows the citation is wrong, and is insulting you by listing it, knowing it’s unlikely you’ll ever find it in your local library.

(What is the accurate citation for the hearings? I’m not sure; but 40 CFR is not it. See the current section of CFR below the fold — it’s one page, not more than 100 pages.)

I have posted about this before. The hearings Judge Sweeney presided over were conducted early in the existence of the EPA. They were conducted under court orders requiring EPA to act. The transcripts are not in usual legal opinion publications, so far as I have been able to find. Many claims have been made about the hearings, most of the claims are false. Jim Easter at Some Are Boojums did the legwork and extracted a copy of the actual decision out of EPA’s library. He’s posted it at his blog, so you can see. Check the pages — “40 CFR” is a bogus citation, designed to keep you from learning the truth.

So the footnote is intended to make the gullible or innocent think there is a reference, where there is no reference.

But read the analysis of the hearings at Some Are Boojums. It is more than just the citation is wrong. Contrary to Internet Legend claims, Sweeney did not determine that DDT was harmless. Sweeney determined that DDT usage provided some benefits that outweighed the harms, considering the dramatically reduced use of DDT then allowed. DDT use had been severely restricted prior to the Sweeney hearings; Sweeney was not looking at all uses, nor even at historic uses. Sweeney was looking at dramatically reduced DDT use under the registrations then allowed. His conclusions of “no harm” where he actually concluded that, were based on greatly reduced use of DDT. This finding cannot be used today to urge an expansion of use — or should not be so used, by honest people.

Not to mention that at Caosblog, footnotes are not even listed in the text. The listing of the footnotes is a gratuitous error, there is no footnote 31 in the text.

Read the rest of this entry »

Founders online, great interactive site

December 12, 2007

Our friends and benefactors at the Bill of Rights Institute put up a great branch of their site, Founders Online. A grant from the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation made the project possible.

Bill of Rights Institute logo

Check it out:

John Adams | Samuel Adams | Alexander Hamilton | Patrick Henry
Thomas Jefferson | James Madison | GeorgeMason | Gouverneur Morris
James Otis | Thomas Paine | George Washington | John Witherspoon

This page should be a first stop for your students doing biographies on any of these people, and it should be a test review feature for your classes that they can do on the internet at home, or in class if you’re lucky enough to have access in your classroom.

Good on-line sources are still too rare. This is stuff you can trust to be accurate and appropriate for your students. Send a note of thanks to the Bill of Rights Institute, and send your students to the site.

Just in time for Bill of Rights Day, December 15 . . .

Ranan Lurie Award cartoon winners, 2007

December 12, 2007

Winning cartoons revealed.

2007 Lurie Award Winner, 1st place, Ahmet Aykanat, Turkey

1st place to this haunting cartoon from Turkey’s Ahmet Aykanat, a free lancer.

Hunger, war and its unfair, collateral damage got attention from the cartoonists in the past year. Same themes as the previous years, actually. There is a lot of work to do.

The Ranan Lurie competition highlights cartooning on political and economic issues from around the world. Here in the U.S. we get some great cartoons — Oliphant, Sherffius, Grondahl, Telnaes, Toles, Sargent and dozens of others — but we miss out on great cartooning in Asia, South America, the Mediterranean, Europe and Africa.

One of my favorite North American cartoonists Clay Bennett of the Christian Science Monitor won a Citation for Excellence.

Cartoons carry a powerful punch. They make great lesson openers, or great lessons all in themselves.

Let the candidates debate science!

December 12, 2007

Oh, yeah, good debates are hard to come by.

Still, wouldn’t you like to see the final presidential candidates debate science issues seriously?

Science Debate 2008 logo

Lawrence Krauss got through the muddle at the generally science-averse Wall Street Journal to make the case.

The day before the most recent Democratic presidential debate, the media reported a new study demonstrating that U.S. middle-school students, even in poorly performing states, do better on math and science tests than many of their peers in Europe. The bad news is that students in Asian countries, who are likely to be our chief economic competitors in the 21st century, significantly outperform all U.S. students, even those in the highest-achieving states.

While these figures were not raised in recent Democratic or Republican debates, they reflect a major challenge for the next president: the need to guide both the public and Congress to address the problems that have produced this “science gap,” as well as the serious consequences that may result from it.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Almost all of the major challenges we will face as a nation in this new century, from the environment, national security and economic competitiveness to energy strategies, have a scientific or technological basis. Can a president who is not comfortable thinking about science hope to lead instead of follow? Earlier Republican debates underscored this problem. In May, when candidates were asked if they believed in the theory of evolution, three candidates said no. In the next debate Mike Huckabee explained that he was running for president of the U.S., not writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book, and therefore the issue was unimportant.

Apparently many Americans agreed with him, according to polls taken shortly after the debate. But lack of interest in the scientific literacy of our next president does not mean that the issue is irrelevant. Popular ambivalence may rather reflect the fact that most Americans are scientifically illiterate. A 2006 National Science Foundation survey found that 25% of Americans did not know the earth goes around the sun.

Our president will thus have to act in part as an “educator in chief” as well as commander in chief. Someone who is not scientifically literate will find it difficult to fill this role.

Chris Mooney makes the case in Seed Magazine.

Science is too important, too big a player in too many issues, to not have a major focus of its own in the final debates. Failing to have such a discussion is tantamount to failing to ask whether the candidates are capitalist or communist in economic policy (as if such a question could be unanswered by a wealth of other campaign material).

Science Debate 2008 argues for a science debate, lists supporters of the idea (it’s an impressive list, really), and offers advice on how you can help the campaign for science discussion at the presidential level. You can track the issue at the Intersection, or at Bora’s place, A Blog Around the Clock.

If nothing else, a science debate might make it clear to the candidates that we need to revive the Office of Technology Assessment, in addition to making the candidates aware that the president needs to have a strong, independent science advisor to whom the president actually pays attention.

Science literacy is to important to leave it up to chance, or partisans alone — in the case of our kids in school, and in the case of the person we elect president.

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