Railroad maps!

September 30, 2008

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, 1899 - from the Library of Congress

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, 1899 - from the Library of Congress

American Memory at the Library of Congress features dozens of historic railroad maps of U.S. railroads.

This is a great collection for U.S. history presentations on development of the railroads, or on settlement of the west, in particular.

The Railroad maps represent an important historical record, illustrating the growth of travel and settlement as well as the development of industry and agriculture in the United States. They depict the development of cartographic style and technique, highlighting the achievement of early railroaders. Included in the collection are progress report surveys for individual lines, official government surveys, promotional maps, maps showing land grants and rights-of-way, and route guides published by commercial firms.

Heck, if nothing else, these make great backgrounds for PowerPoint presentations.

Bookmark the site — kids working on projects specific to a state or region should have a field day with these things.

Thanks a million

September 29, 2008

Sometime Monday afternoon or evening at approximately 4:40 p.m. Central Daylight Time, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub will pass passed the million total views milestone.

It’s nowhere near the readership of Pharyngula, Eduwonks, Daily Kos or others.   For some reason, many readers feel no need to scrawl on the bathroom wall here (comments are always welcomed, edited only for profanity), so the comments don’t reflect total readership, I think.

Thank you to each and every reader, and especially to the faithful readers who keep coming back day after day.  Thank you to the large handful who send story ideas.

In periods like the current one, when there is so little time to post on key issues, it’s especially gratifying that readership continues to rise.

Thank you, Dear Readers.

Michael Crichton’s errors worshipped by warming deniers

September 28, 2008

The Millard Fillmore soap-on-a-rope* started spinning in the shower this morning.  I knew some mischief was afoot.

Sure enough, as soon as we turned the gas on to the computer and the screen warmed up, what should pop up but a group claiming to be opposed to junk science and arrogant ignorance, but arrogantly spreading the ignorance of junk science:  Climate Change Fraud, “The Crichtonian Green.”

I caught the site with a news reader that looks for idiocy about DDT.  This is the line the automoton caught:

“DDT is not a carcinogen…the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people…”

We’ve washed out the dirt from Crichton’s claims before in the Bathtub, in “Michael Crichton hysterical for DDT.”  Go read his errors there (there’s a YouTube video of his assaulting innocent school children with his hysteric errors, too, in case you think I’m joking).

Among the anti-science crowds, this stuff is holy writ.  Dogma insists that scientists are craven political creatures driven to silly programs that waste money and hurt poor people.  Never mind the facts.  They believe it religiously — and they treat efforts to educate them as assaults on their faith.

DDT is a well-established carcinogen in animals, including mammals, and every cancer-fighting agency on Earth lists DDT as a probable human carcinogen.  The various “bans” on DDT all allow DDT to be used to protect poor people against disease, but DDT’s overuse by its advocates led to rapid evolution of resistance and immunity in insects targeted by DDT — DDT use was stopped when it stopped being effective.  Inaction on the part of DDT advocates, and their unwillingness to use other methods to fight malaria, have been culprits in the too-slow program to reduce malaria among poor people.   Spraying DDT advocates with DDT will do absolutely nothing to get them off their butts to act.

(Go to the search feature on this blog, search for “DDT.”  The truth is out there.)

Oy.  This is how the week starts?


No, I never did get a Millard Fillmore soap-on-a-rope; but it makes a good gambit to open a post, don’t you think?

McCain on Eisenhower’s two letters

September 27, 2008

In the first of the 2008 debates between presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain pointed to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s two letters, written on the eve of the D-Day invasion in June 1944.  One letter would be released.  The first letter, the “Orders of the Day,” commended the troops for their work in the impending invasion, giving full credit for the hoped-for success of the operation to the men and women who would make it work.

The second letter was to be used if the invasion failed.  In it, Eisenhower commended the troops for their valiant efforts, but said that the failure had been in the planning — it was all Eisenhower’s fault.  (It was not a letter of resignation.)

You can find the first letter, the one that was released, through links at this post at the Bathtub, “Quote of the Moment:  Eisenhower at D-Day Eve.”

The second letter, you’ll find in image and text with links to other sources at this Bathtub post, “Quote of the Moment:  Eisenhower, duty and accountability.”  Last year I wrote:

In a few short sentences, Eisenhower commended the courage and commitment of the troops who, he wrote, had done all they could. The invasion was a chance, a good chance based on the best intelligence the Allies had, Eisenhower wrote. But it had failed.

The failure, Eisenhower wrote, was not the fault of the troops, but was entirely Eisenhower’s.

He didn’t blame the weather, though he could have. He didn’t blame fatigue of the troops, though they were tired, some simply from drilling, many from war. He didn’t blame the superior field position of the Germans, though the Germans clearly had the upper hand. He didn’t blame the almost-bizarre attempts to use technology that look almost clownish in retrospect — the gliders that carried troops behind the lines, the flotation devices that were supposed to float tanks to the beaches to provide cover for the troops (but which failed, drowning the tank crews and leaving the foot soldiers on their own).

There may have been a plan B, but in the event of failure, Eisenhower was prepared to establish who was accountable, whose head should roll if anyone’s should.

Eisenhower took full responsibility.

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

Who in the U.S. command would write such a thing today?

It was a case of the Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, taking upon himself all responsibility for failure.

McCain has called for the resignation of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he points to as part of his plan for accountability.  The analogy fails, I think.  The proper analogy would be George Bush taking blame for the current financial crisis.  In his speech earlier this week, Bush blamed homebuyers, mortgage writers, bankers and financiers.  If Bush took any part of the blame himself, I missed it.

I wonder if McCain really understands the Eisenhower story.  I still wonder:  Who in the U.S. command would write such a thing today?

Bush readies troops to suppress American dissent

September 26, 2008

William K. Wolfrum writes “satire and commentary.”  This would make great satire — but, darn it, it’s not:  “Bush unleashes surge in War on Americans.”

What sort of riots does Bush expect?  When?

Is there a Poe’s Law of politics?  Can we impeach someone who follows that law, and quickly, please?

From Army Times:

The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.

Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.

*     *     *     *     *

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.

“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds … it put me on my knees in seconds.”

The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).

“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home … and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”

You read it right.  The Army is coming to “take care of you in your home town.”

Were they being deployed to rebuild New Orleans, I’d regard it as a noble undertaking.  Am I wrong to worry about what is up with this?

Whatever happened to the posse comitatus nuts?

Comments are open.  What do you think?


Lookin’ good, for 4.28 billion years old

September 25, 2008

New candidate for “oldest rocks on Earth,” from Canada.  They come in perhaps as old as 4.28 billion years.

They’re older than John McCain!

90 years ago today, the fighting 369th won the war

September 25, 2008

You won’t find it phrased that way in any of the textbooks, but it would improve the telling of history of World War I if we did tell it that way.  This retelling promises to be a good one.

It might improve race relations in the U.S., too.

The story of the Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th Infantry Regiment, and their bravery and fighting acumen in World War I, make for a gripping day of war stories, if you’re looking for stories of heroism.

Edge of the American West is one of those blogs that will make you smarter as you read it, rather than angrier.  If someone is wrong somewhere on the internet, Edge of the American West will help you keep it in perspective.

“Isn’t that how the last depression started?”

September 25, 2008

Econ, government teachers:  Are you ready to explain this one?

China banks told to halt lending to U.S. banks

And then this one:

China denies shunning foreign banks

“Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Dallas to cut nearly 700 teachers

September 25, 2008

Let’s get back to education nuts and bolts for a while.  I have not commented on this partly because I’ve been on the road and just busier than most teachers with three preps, and partly because this is just jaw-droppingly unbelievable stuff.

Education nuts, anyway, maybe without the bolts.

Officials at Dallas Independent School District (DISD) announced over a week ago they had discovered an accounting error that led to hiring too many new teachers, and a $64 million shortfall.  The Board of Trustees asked for more details to a plan proposed last week that includes layoffs of teachers, including some that were newly-hired.

The second report is due this afternoon, and the DISD Board will meet tonight to consider action.  If people are not cut, the budget shortfall will double in the rest of this fiscal year.

Most teachers have been working on estimates that 750 teachers will be axed, which works out to about 3 from each campus.

The Dallas Morning News’s DISD Blog says fewer than 750 will go.

More employees could be laid off than expected. We’re hearing from a good source that 1,209 employees would be let go if the board approves to have a reduction in force at today’s 3 p.m. meeting.

The layoff numbers breakdown like this:

Central office – 164
Campus non-contract support staff – 250
Campus administrators – 50
Teachers – 675
Non-teaching campus support staff – 70

One more battle lost in the War on Education.  For Dallas, this is a big one, for the effects on morale alone.

Coupled with the collapse of schools in Milwaukee, lack of gasoline in Tennessee, the unmitigated and unreported natural disaster from the storm named Gustav that hit Baton Rouge, the known disaster caused by Hurricane and Tropical Depression Ike, one might be excuse for thinking much of the U.S. is sinking to second- or third-world status.  Oh, and did I mention that most of our larger financial institutions are in ruins, too?

As one of the more recent hires in Dallas ISD, excuse me while I go back to working with the kids.

What?  You thought I’d have time to chew my fingernails?  You don’t know jack about teaching, or teachers, if you thought that.

Stay tuned.  Check out resources listed below.


Palin slashes Special Olympics Budget: Accurate statement still unfair?

September 24, 2008

This is how bad it is:  Even accurate statements about Gov. Sarah Palin are called unfair by McCain campaign operatives and hard-shell, stiff-necked partisans.

Conservatives are complaining about media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin.  For example, they say, she is accused of cutting funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics in half.  Not fair they say, and they offer the actual figures:  The budget for Special Olympics for 2007 from the Alaska legislature was $650,000.  Palin used her line-item veto, and cut the funding to $275,000.

Hello?  Half of $650,000 would be $325,000.  Palin cut the Special Olympics budget by 58%. Last time I looked at the math tables, 58% was more than half of 100%.

So, why would it not be fair to say that Palin cut the funding by half?  She cut it by more than half.

Oh, no, the conservatives say:  ‘You have to let us jigger the numbers first — the final total, after Palin cut it, was still more than the previous year’s allocation from the state.’

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media takes up the conservatives’ cudgel, that it’s unfair to Sarah Palin to report her budget cuts accurately (you know, not even Dave Barry could make this stuff up).

And then Glenn Reynolds joins the morning howl, complaining that “main stream media” isn’t interested in debunking the “rumor.”

Excuse me?  Why should anyone be interested in “debunking” a “rumor” which is, as the sources indicate and the conservatives’ own research demonstrates, neither rumor nor error, but hard fact?

If you needed a demonstration that conservatives cannot count, or that they will not count accurately when only honor is at stake, these sorts of stories will do.

Below the fold, for the sake of accuracy, you’ll find a longish excerpt from Charlie Martin’s analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »

Somebody get that on tape: August 4, 1964, and the Dallas Symphony

September 22, 2008

The piece just premiered — I hope some lucky recording company has the good sense to take the tapes of the Dallas Symphony’s performances this past week, and release them quick.

“August 4, 1964,” is an oratorio covering a remarkable and fantastic coincidence in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.  On that day, the bodies of three civil rights workers who had been missing for nearly seven weeks, were found in shallow graves near Philadelphia, Mississippi — they were the victims of violence aimed at stopping blacks from voting.  The incident was a chief spur to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

And also on that day, the U.S.S. Maddox reported it had been attacked by gunboats of the North Vietnamese Navy, in the Gulf of Tonkin.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the authority to expand and escalate the war in Vietnam, which he did.

The Dallas Symphony commissioned the work, from composer Steven Stucky and librettist Gene Scheer, in commemoration of President Johnson’s 100th birth anniversary — he would have been 100 on August 27.

The music is outstanding, especially for a modern piece.  The Dallas Symphony was at its flashiest and most sober best, under the baton of new conductor Jaap van Zweden.  It was a spectacular performance.  According to the New York Times:

Mr. van Zweden, hailed in his debut as music director a week before, scored another triumph here. And the orchestra’s assured and gritty performance was rivaled by that of the large Dallas Symphony Chorus, both corporately and individually, in shifting solo snippets charting the course of the fateful day.

The strong cast, mildly amplified, was robustly led by the Johnson of Robert Orth, last heard as another president in John Adams’s “Nixon in China” in Denver in June. Laquita Mitchell and Kelley O’Conner, wearing period hats, were touching as Mrs. Chaney and Mrs. Goodman. Understandably, the taxing role of a high-strung McNamara took a small toll on the tenor of Vale Rideout in his late aria.

The entire thing deserves more commentary, perhaps soon.  There is stellar history in the choral piece.  And there is this:  Consider that Lyndon Johnson, the best legislator and second most-effective executive we ever had as president, got hit with these two crises the same day.  On the one hand the nation got the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, executive orders and government support to end segregation and the evils it created.  On the other hand, we got stuck with the disaster of the Vietnam War.

How would the nation fared had a lesser person been in the White House on that day?

Does mood affect how well you do homework?

September 22, 2008

Interesting discussion around how a student’s mood affects retention of material covered in homework, from the students at Extreme Biology.

What is your experience?

Let your students blog

September 22, 2008

One way to get better use out of technology is to let your students use it.  How about having students make posts to a blog, for credit?  They learn how to write, they learn technology, and they learn the class material.

Here’s a great example of a classroom-driven blog, where the students do most of the work: Extreme Biology. Miss Baker’s Biology Class holds forth from a school in the northeast, with 9th grade and AP biology students doing most of the work.

Here’s another good example, from another biology class (in Appleton, Wisconsin — close to you, James!):  Endless Forms Most Beautiful (every biologist will recognize the title from biology literature).

The idea is attracting some attention in science circles, especially with an idea that working scientists ought to drop by from time to time to discuss things with students.

How do your students use technology to boost their learning?

Private, personal historian?

September 21, 2008

Here’s a career you don’t often see touted at high school career days:  Professional personal historian.

I’ve known of companies and non-profits who hire a historian to document their feats of derring-do, but this is the first I’ve heard of a personal historian.  Dan Curtis appears to be trying to make a career out of it.

It’s counterintuitive, but it might work.  As lawyers, we see a lot of people who would rather hide their histories than have them known more broadly.  But in the public relations game, we see professionals helping to polish the image and the stories of organizations and people.  Why not do it for yourself?

Perhaps, with professional help, you can find the narrative of your own history that will give you the hope, tenacity and guts to change your life for the better?

Seriously, check out the guy’s site.  He proposes several solutions for problems we have all faced — capturing history from terminally ill relatives, will-making, resolving end-of-life concerns, and simply recording the family history for posterity.

Robert Reich: Prophet? Or just a very good observer?

September 21, 2008

Is Robert Reich a prophet, an economic and employment Jonah sent to Nineveh-on-the-Potomac?

Read Reich’s remarks, about the economics conditions of most Americans, including people in Pennsylvania, and Barack Obama’s observation that some people left behind by our economy are bitter.

Especially read the final three paragraphs, where he warns we are headed into even more turbulent economic waters.

Now notice the date of that piece.

What is your definition of “prophet?”

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