September 30, 1794: George Washington marches on tax protesters

September 30, 2015

On September 30, 1794, President George Washington mounted his horse to lead a 13,000-man all-volunteer army, against Americans who refused to pay, or threatened to not pay taxes on whiskey.

Tea Partiers and Republicans might do well to spend a few minutes refreshing their memories from history class — or getting the information they didn’t get the first time around.  Citizens in western Pennsylvania, and that part of Virginia that would be come West Virgina, and the Ohio Territory, complained that federal taxes on whiskey were “theft.”

No, taxes are not “stealing.”  Here’s an offending but explanatory poster I found on Facebook:

Who are the history-illiterates who make these offensive posters? Taxes are not

Who are the history-illiterates who make these offensive posters? Taxes are not “stolen,” at least, not according to patriots like George Washington.

I told one guy who posted it that I thought it was a crude misrepresentation of George Washington, there on the left — but that I had always suspected he didn’t like the “founders,” and was grateful to have any doubts I may have had, removed.

He said, “Huh?”

This Prominent Americans series stamp of the U...

Pay your taxes, maybe they’ll put you on a stamp. This Prominent Americans series stamp of the United States from 1968 features Oliver Wendell Holmes. Wikipedia image

One could always refer to that wonderful line from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., about how he liked to pay taxes because “with them I buy civilization.”  But I suspect most tax revolters in the U.S. don’t much like civilization (and they have the guns to prove it).

Instead I simply told the story of George Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion, the first, and mostly-forgotten, case of U.S. tax rebels.  You know the story.

I wrote:

Yeah, in 1794, a bunch of farmers out in western Pennsylvania got ticked off at taxes. They said paying taxes was like the government stealing from them. And, they had their representatives explain to President George Washington, didn’t they fight a war against paying taxes?

Washington, you may recall, was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the great American Revolution against Great Britain. “No taxes without representation” was one of the original war cries.

Washington said, ‘It takes money to run the government, and that money is collected from the people in taxes fairly levied by their elected representatives.’

The farmers weren’t having any of that. They were way out in western Pennsylvania, near the wilderness Fort Pittsburgh. The federal government, what little bit of it there was, was in Philadelphia. ‘How are they going to make us pay taxes?’ the rebel leaders shouted to crowds.

George Washington

A more friendly portrayal of George “Pay Your Taxes or Swing” Washington – Wikipedia image (which bust is this? Library of Congress?)

Washington got a dozen nooses, and a volunteer army of 13,000 Americans, and marched to western Pennsylvania to hang anyone who wouldn’t pay the tax. Oddly, by the time Washington got there with the nooses, the rebels decided maybe it was a good idea to be patriotic about it after all.

So I assumed you just updated the pictures a little. [In the poster] There’s George Washington on the left, with his Smith and Wesson “noose,” telling the big corporate farmer to pay his taxes.I think your portrayal of Washington is a bit crude, but it’s historically accurate, with regard to taxes.

I always suspected you didn’t like George Washington. Now I know for sure you don’t.

You could have looked it up: The Whiskey Rebellion – http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/peopleevents/pande22.html

And it was on this day in 1794, September 30, that Washington and the army set out to put down the rebellion.

How would Washington have dealt with secession, or the Texas Republic movement?

I don’t much like crude political dysfunction and disinformation from people who don’t know U.S. history, and won’t defend American principles.  Am I being unreasonable?

More:

Gen. Washington, astride his favorite white horse, reviewing his troops at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, before the march to the western part of the state to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Image from the Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

Gen. Washington, astride his favorite white horse, reviewing his troops at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, before the march to the western part of the state to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. Image from the Department of the Treasury, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (Just try to find who painted it!)

” . . . to execute the laws . . .” a painting by Donna Neary for the National Guard, on the Whiskey Rebellion. National Guard Caption: In September 1791 the western counties of Pennsylvania broke out in rebellion against a federal excise tax on the distillation of whiskey. After local and federal officials were attacked, President Washington and his advisors decided to send troops to pacify the region. It was further decided that militia troops, rather than regulars, would be sent. On August 7, 1794, under the provisions of the newly-enacted militia law, Secretary of War Henry Knox called upon the governors of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania for 12,950 troops as a test of the President’s power to enforce the law. Numerous problems, both political and logistical, had to be overcome and by October, 1794 the militiamen were on the march. The New Jersey units marched from Trenton to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There they were reviewed by their Commander-in Chief, President George Washington, accompanied by Secretary of the Treasury and Revolutionary war veteran Alexander Hamilton. By the time troops reached Pittsburgh, the rebellion had subsided, and western Pennsylvania was quickly pacified. This first use of the Militia Law of 1792 set a precedence for the use of the militia to “execute the laws of the union, (and) suppress insurrections”. New Jersey was the only state to immediately fulfill their levy of troops to the exact number required by the President. This proud tradition of service to state and nation is carried on today by the New Jersey Army and Air National Guard.

Tip of the old scrub brush to the historians and other fine people at Mount Vernon, for the reminder:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


September 29, 1936: FDR warned Republicans would try to take away Social Security

September 29, 2015

How can this still be true, 79 years later to the day?

FDR warned us in 1936, that Republicans would try to gut federal programs that help people and make America great. It’s as if we have a haunting by Santayana‘s Ghost, on Social Security, unemployment insurance, job training, job creation and budget deficits:

Update: Shorter excerpt of speech, leaving out the parts I really wanted; the video originally featured is not available. Rats.

Our friend SBH pointed us to the text of the speech.  FDR addressed the New York State Democratic Convention, in Syracuse, on September 29, 1936  (Can you imagine — does any state have such thing still —  state party conventions so late in the year, today?).  He found it at UC-Santa Barbara‘s American Presidency Project website.  Here’s the text of the excerpt above, plus a little:

In New York and in Washington, Government which has rendered more than lip service to our Constitutional Democracy has done a work for the protection and preservation of our institutions that could not have been accomplished by repression and force.

Let me warn you and let me warn the Nation against the smooth evasion which says, “Of course we believe all these things; we believe in social security; we believe in work for the unemployed; we believe in saving homes. Cross our hearts and hope to die, we believe in all these things; but we do not like the way the present Administration is doing them. Just turn them over to us. We will do all of them — we will do more of them, we will do them better; and, most important of all, the doing of them will not cost anybody anything.”

But, my friends, these evaders are banking too heavily on the shortness of our memories. No one will forget that they had their golden opportunity—twelve long years of it.

Remember, too, that the first essential of doing a job well is to want to see the job done. Make no mistake about this: the Republican leadership today is not against the way we have done the job. The Republican leadership is against the job’s being done.

Read more at the American Presidency Project: Franklin D. Roosevelt: Address at the Democratic State Convention, Syracuse, N.Y. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15142&st=Roosevelt&st1#ixzz1T2VHx1tx

More:

Social Security Poster: old man

Social Security Poster: old man (Photo from the Social Security Board, via Wikipedia)

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 


EPA intervenes to clean up mystery toxic dump threatening Texas county’s water

September 29, 2015

Maybe EPA should take Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s advice, and go door to door asking who did it.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Monday the agency will work to stop a toxic plume of tetrachloroethylene (PCE) that threatens to contaminate well waters in Burnet County.

The source of the plume, and who dumped the stuff, are unknowns.

EPA’s announcement:

EPA Adds Burnet Co., TX, Groundwater Plume to National Priorities List of Superfund Sites

Five hazardous waste sites added, seven proposed nationally

(DALLAS – Sept. 28, 2015)  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Main Street Groundwater Plume site in Burnet Co., TX, to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment. Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country and converts them into productive community resources by eliminating or reducing public health risks and environmental contamination.

The site lies about one mile south of the city of Burnet between County Road 340 and County Road 340 A. A plume of tetrachloroethylene, or PCE, was found in the groundwater in this area during monitoring of the Bertram Public Water Supply in 2010. The source of the contamination is unknown.

“Texans understand how precious water resources are for families and businesses,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “Addressing contamination helps alleviate the risk to the community and return property to economic use.”

The plume released into the Ellenburger-San Saba Aquifer, and contaminated two public water supply wells and seven private wells. Monitoring indicates levels in drinking water wells are below EPA’s health-based maximum contaminant level (MCL). Two wells that exceeding the MCL are used for irrigation and livestock watering. Exposure to PCE could harm the nervous system, liver, kidneys, and reproductive system, and may lead to higher risk of some types of cancer.

EPA regularly works to identify companies or people responsible for the contamination at a site, and requires them to conduct or pay for the cleanup. For the newly listed sites without viable potentially responsible parties, EPA will investigate the extent of the contamination before assessing how best to treat it.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the Comprehensive Environmental, Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program. Superfund’s passage was a giant step forward in cleaning up legacy industrial waste sites to help ensure human health and environmental protection. The Superfund law gives EPA the authority to clean up releases of hazardous substances and directs EPA to update the NPL at least annually. The NPL contains the nation’s most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites. The list serves as the basis for prioritizing both enforcement actions and long-term EPA Superfund cleanup funding; only sites on the NPL are eligible for such funding.

Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the final and proposed sites:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

Information about how a site is listed on the NPL:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm

Superfund sites in local communities:
http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/index.htm

More information about the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the law establishing the Superfund program, can be found at:
http://epa.gov/superfund/policy/cercla.htm

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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Tetrachloroethylene is a commonly used solvent, often used in dry cleaning of fabrics and degreasing metal parts.  The chemical is also known as perchloroethane, or perc. It was first synthesized in 1821 by Michael Faraday. It is volatile, but highly stable and not flammable.

EPA documents say, “Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.” It is classed as a Type 2A chemical for carcinogenicity, which means it is a probable human carcinogen, but not a potent one.

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Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County, outlined in red, covers parts of five different watersheds. EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

Burnet County is in Central Texas, in red on this EPA map

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Gold Star Mothers Day, 2015

September 27, 2015

President Barack Obama hugs Gold Star mother Michelle DeFord following a roundtable with veterans and Gold Star mothers regarding the Iran nuclear agreement, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2015. Secretary of State John Kerry also participated. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hugs Gold Star mother Michelle DeFord following a roundtable with veterans and Gold Star mothers regarding the Iran nuclear agreement, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2015. Secretary of State John Kerry also participated. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Ceremonies and gatherings mark Gold Star Mothers Day in cities across the United States. Gold Star Mothers Day officially is the last Sunday in September, September 27 in 2015.

The Tampa Tribune offers an article covering several meetings in the Tampa area, and the families honored and affected.

Photo and caption from the Tampa Tribune: Thea Kurz became a Gold Star mother on Aug. 20, 2014, when her son, Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Leggett, 39, was killed in Afghanistan. She says she gets helpful support from other Tampa Bay families who have lost loved ones serving in the military.

Photo and caption from the Tampa Tribune: Thea Kurz became a Gold Star mother on Aug. 20, 2014, when her son, Army Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Leggett, 39, was killed in Afghanistan. She says she gets helpful support from other Tampa Bay families who have lost loved ones serving in the military.

Photo and caption from the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette: Kendra Johnson/Gazette Maria Lane holds her son's dog tags on Tuesday. These were the dog tags David was wearing when he passed and Lane has since worn them everyday in memory of him.

Photo and caption from the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette:  Maria Lane holds her son’s dog tags on Tuesday. These were the dog tags David was wearing when he passed and Lane has since worn them everyday in memory of him. Photo: Kendra Johnson/Gazette


Gold Star Mothers Day 2015 – fly your flag today, September 27

September 27, 2015

Fly your U.S. flag on September 27, 2015, in honor of the Gold Star Mothers of fallen U.S. soldiers.

Gold Star mother Jennifer Owens views a photo of her daughter Spc. Ember Marie Alt at the Survivor Outreach Services Remembrance Hall in Fort Hood, Texas. Owens credits Survivor Outreach Services staff members for helping her cope with her loss of her daughter. U.S. Army photo

‘Gold Star Mothers’ become bedrocks of support for survivors of the fallen’: Gold Star mother Jennifer Owens views a photo of her daughter Spc. Ember Marie Alt at the Survivor Outreach Services Remembrance Hall in Fort Hood, Texas. Owens credits Survivor Outreach Services staff members for helping her cope with her loss of her daughter. U.S. Army photo and caption

Gold Star Mothers Day is the last Sunday in September, designated under U.S. law, 36 U.S.C. §111:

The President is requested to issue a proclamation calling on United States Government officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings, and the people of the United States to display the flag and hold appropriate meetings at homes, churches, or other suitable places, on Gold Star Mother’s Day as a public expression of the love, sorrow, and reverence of the people for Gold Star Mothers.

Gold Star Mothers grew out of the grief and charity of mothers of soldiers who died in World War I, gaining formal organization in 1928.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often socially active but are non-political. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor.[1] The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code.

Proclamation from President Obama for Gold Star Mothers Day, 2015:

Presidential Proclamation — Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day, 2015

GOLD STAR MOTHER’S AND FAMILY’S DAY, 2015

– – – – – – –

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, A PROCLAMATION

At every crossroads in the American story, courageous individuals of all backgrounds and beliefs have answered our Nation’s call to serve.  Today, the sacrifices of our fallen heroes echo in safer towns and cities, countries and continents — resonating throughout a world they forever made freer.  Their legacies are solemnly enshrined in the history of our eternally grateful Nation, as well as in the hearts of all who loved them.  Today, we honor the Gold Star Mothers and Families who carry forward the memories of those willing to lay down their lives for the United States and the liberties for which we stand.

The proud patriots of our Armed Forces never serve alone.  Standing with each service member are parents, spouses, children, siblings, and friends, providing support and love and helping uphold the ideals that bind our Nation together.  While most Americans may never fully comprehend the price paid by those who gave their last full measure of devotion, families of the fallen know it intimately and without end.  Their sleepless nights allow for our peaceful rest, and the folded flags they hold dear are what enable ours to wave.  The depth of their sorrow is immeasurable, and we are forever indebted to them for all they have given for us.

Despite their broken hearts, the families of these warriors are full of love and they continue to serve their communities and comfort our troops, veterans, and other military families. Our country is constantly inspired by their incredible resilience, and in their example we see the very best of America.  On this day of remembrance, we honor our Gold Star Mothers and Families by living fully the freedom for which they have given so much, and by rededicating ourselves to our enduring obligation to serve them as well as they have served us.

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936 (49 Stat. 1985 as amended), has designated the last Sunday in September as “Gold Star Mother’s Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 27, 2015, as Gold Star Mother’s and Family’s Day.  I call upon all Government officials to display the flag of the United States over Government buildings on this special day.  I also encourage the American people to display the flag and hold appropriate ceremonies as a public expression of our Nation’s gratitude and respect for our Gold Star Mothers and Families.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.

BARACK OBAMA

Here is a series of short videos on Gold Star Mothers, Gold Star Parents, and even notes on Veterans Benefits available to survivors of soldiers lost in conflict.

From Montana's Daily Interlake: Sgt. Chuck Lewis, U.S. Marine Corps, of Ronan folds the American Flag at the Gold Star Mother's Day event at Brockman Park in Ronan on Sunday, September 28 (2013). (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

From Montana’s Daily Interlake: Sgt. Chuck Lewis, U.S. Marine Corps, of Ronan [Montana] folds the American Flag at the Gold Star Mother’s Day event at Brockman Park in Ronan on Sunday, September 28 (2013). (Photo by Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

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Windows on art: Happy birthday, Mark Rothko, wherever you are

September 25, 2015

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City:

“Silence is so accurate.” —Mark Rothko, born on this day in 1903. http://met.org/1Wjh0gO

From a Tweet by the Met: “Silence is so accurate.” —Mark Rothko, born on this day in 1903. http://met.org/1Wjh0gO

So many take satisfaction in claiming Rothko simple. My experience is museums buzz with alertness wherever his paintings are displayed. Good conversation starters for modern-eras in history, and not just art history.

Mark Rothko was born September 25, 1903, in Daugavpils, Latvia.  He defied categorization, but is usually regarded as an abstract expressionist, a member of the New York School.

In the photo:

Who is the woman in the photo?

More:


Geography from space: Nile at night, a river of light

September 25, 2015

Geography teachers love the Nile Delta because it so well epitomizes what a river delta is — clear demonstration of the delta form, in real photos.

From the International Space Station, the model gets ramped up a bit:

A stunning pic taken by @StationCDRKelly while on @Space_Station shows the Nile River at night http://go.nasa.gov/1iAE3EV

Twitter caption: A stunning pic taken by @StationCDRKelly while on @Space_Station shows the Nile River at night http://go.nasa.gov/1iAE3EV

The Nile becomes a river of light, showing the advance of electrified human settlement along the banks, and providing stark contrast to the unlighted desert on either side of the river.

What other cities, landmarks, or geographical features can you identify in the photo?


Typewriter of the moment: Birthday boy William Faulkner

September 25, 2015

Faulkner at typewriter, Aug 12, 1954 - AP Photo, ShelfLife

William Faulkner at his typewriter, August 12, 1954, at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. Associated Press photo, via ShelfLife

William Faulkner at his typewriter, August 12, 1954, at his home in Oxford, Mississippi. Associated Press photo.

The photo was probably posed; the two books to the left of the typewriter are Faulkner books. Faulkner may have written in a pressed shirt and tie, but I doubt it.

Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950, and delivered a memorable speech about “the human condition” and the importance of art, especially poetry and prose, at his acceptance. His 1954 book, A Fable, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, in 1955.

The typewriter is a Royal KHM.

Faulkner was born September 25, 1897 — 2015 marks the 118th anniversary of his birth.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

—Gavin Stevens

Act I, Scene III, Requiem for a Nun, by William Faulkner

More:


September 25, 1789: Bill of Rights sent to American people for approval

September 25, 2015

From the Atlanta Coin Show: A commemorative gold-clad silver half-dollar provides an image of Madison writing the Bill of Rights with his quill pen with a view of Montpelier in the background.

From the Atlanta Coin Show: A commemorative gold-clad silver half-dollar provides an image of Madison writing the Bill of Rights with his quill pen with a view of Montpelier in the background. “LIBERTY,” “JAMES MADISON,” “FATHER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS” and “IN GOD WE TRUST” along with “1993” are shown on the half dollar’s obverse.

September 25, 1789, Congress had approved and enrolled the proposals, and sent twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification.  Ten of the twelve amendments were approved, rather quickly, and by 1791 the were attached to the Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights.

The two proposals that failed to earn the required approval of three-fourths of the 13 states fell into a special limbo for Constitutional amendments that became clear only in the late 1970s when Congress discussed how long to wait for states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (this is a much-simplified explanation, I know).  Congress put deadlines on the ratification process in the late 20th century, but the first twelve proposals had no deadlines.  In the 1980s, Congress passed a law that said any amendments floating around, unapproved, would be considered dead after a date certain.  Senate Judiciary Committee investigation found six such amendments, yet unratified.

Before that deadline passed, more states took a look at one of James Madison’s 1789 proposals, liked it, and passed it.

That amendment became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution, on May 7, 1992, 203 years after it was proposed:

No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.

This means James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, also proposed the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, ratified by 1791; and he also proposed the 27th Amendment, the last at the moment.

Patience is a virtue in legislative action, sometimes.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Autumnal equinox, September 23, 2015

September 23, 2015

You can only get this shot on two days each year.

I was sad to discover most of my U.S. history students (juniors) didn’t know what an equinox is. So the autumnal equinox always offers a teaching moment that ticks off the teacher raters.

Summer 2015 ended at 4:15 a.m., September 23.

This is what an equinox looks like, from 2013 photos.

From Astronomy Picture of the Day: Earth at Equinox. From the Russian meteorological satellite Elektro-L

From Astronomy Picture of the Day: Earth at Equinox. From the Russian meteorological satellite Elektro-L

Explanation from NASA:

Equinox Earth
Image Credit: Roscosmos / NTSOMZ / zelenyikot.livejournal.com
Courtesy: Igor Tirsky, Vitaliy Egorov Explanation: From a geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the equator, Russian meteorological satellite Elektro-L takes high-resolution images our fair planet every 30 minutes. But only twice a year, during an Equinox, can it capture an image like this one, showing an entire hemisphere bathed in sunlight. At an Equinox, the Earth’s axis of rotation is not tilted toward or away from the Sun, so the solar illumination can extend to both the planet’s poles. Of course, this Elektro-L picture was recorded on September 22nd [2013], at the northern hemisphere’s autumnal equinox. For a moment on that date, the Sun was behind the geostationary satellite and a telltale glint of reflected sunlight is seen crossing the equator, at the location on the planet with satellite and sun directly overhead (5MB animated gif).

Wait. Animated .gif?  Cool!

The Earth at equinox, 2013; from Russan space program, via NASA.

The Earth at equinox, 2013; from Russan space program, via NASA.

The autumnal equinox is at 8:22 GMT or 4:22 am EDT on Wednesday. The two satellite images below from the European Meteosat show the sun angle on Earth from June 22 near the summer solstice and then today at the same time.  Notice the sun angle has changed dramatically, and the High Arctic is no longer seeing 24 hour daylight.

June 22 2015 from Meteosat.

Below is today at the same time.

Seviri Sep22

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is partly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


September 23, 1858: DON’T wash your hands!

September 23, 2015

Ignaz Semmelweiss

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis

This is one of the classic stories of public health, an issue that most U.S. history and world history texts tend to ignore, to the detriment of the students and the classroom outcomes.

This is the story as retold by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky in The Experts Speak:

In the 1850s a Hungarian doctor and professor of obstetrics named Ignaz Semmelweis [pictured at left] ordered his interns at the Viennese Lying-in Hospital to wash their hands after performing autopsies and before examining new mothers. The death rate plummeted from 22 out of 200 to 2 out of 200, prompting the following reception from one of Europe’s most respected medical practitioners:

“It may be that it [Semmelweis’ procedure] does contain a few good principles, but its scrupulous application has presented such difficulties that it would be necessary, in Paris for instance, to place in quarantine the personnel of a hospital during the great part of a year, and that, moreover, to obtain results that remain entirely problematical.”

Dr. Charles Dubois (Parisian obstetrician), memo to the French Academy
September 23, 1858

Semmelweiss’ superiors shared Dubois’ opinion; when the Hungarian physician insisted on defending his theories, they forced him to resign his post on the faculty.

Gotta wonder what Dr. Dubois would make of the suits and sanitation procedures required today for health professionals who treat Ebola victims.

More: 

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Milky Way over Argentina observatory

September 22, 2015

From NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Milky Way over Bosque Alegre Station in Argentina Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastián D' Alessandro. To see the picture in its unadorned glory without the explanatory overlay, click on the image to get to NASA's APOD site.

Milky Way over Bosque Alegre Station in Argentina Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastián D’ Alessandro. To see the picture in its unadorned glory without the explanatory overlay, click on the image to get to NASA’s APOD site.

Stars in the Southern Hemisphere differ a lot from what we see in the North, most famously with the Southern Cross (Crux, in the image above).

Glorious anyway; more glory to go around.

If you click over to the APOD site, you can also see this photo without the overlay, which is another whole world of wonderfulness.

APOD said:

Explanation: What are those streaks of light in the sky? First and foremost, the arching structure is the central band of our Milky Way galaxy. Visible in this galactic band are millions of distant stars mixed with numerous lanes of dark dust. Harder to discern is a nearly vertical beam of light rising from the horizon, just to the right of the image center. This beam is zodiacal light, sunlight scattered by dust in our Solar System that may be surprisingly prominent just after sunset or just before sunrise. In the foreground are several telescopes of the Bosque Alegre Astrophysical Station of the National University of Cordoba in Argentina. The station schedules weekend tours and conducts research into the nature of many astronomical objects including comets, active galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. The featured image was taken early this month.


Throwing reason out the window: Scott Bailey’s book attacking science and environment protection

September 18, 2015

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson's book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself

Photo of New York Times article in 1962. Chemical companies spent $500,000 to slam Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, and Carson herself. A special panel of the nation’s top entomologists and biologists reported to President Kennedy in 1963 that Carson’s book was accurate, but that the problems she cited were more urgent than she said. Critics never give up. Image from Pop History Dig.

Very brief, glowing but not deep book review at PanAm Post on a new book by Scott Bailey, taking aim at environmental protection: “The apocalypse isn’t coming any time soon.”

Bailey’s book comes with a title determined to push lack of action: The End of Doom.

Such reviews bring small-but-building catastrophes much closer, alas.

Reviewer Nick Zaiac said:

The book is a great primer for someone new to environmental policy who would like to begin with a more sober look at the topic, rather than an over-dramatized introductory book like Rachel Carson’s famed Silent Spring — a book that Bailey takes pains to rebut.

What? Rachel Carson was right, in Silent Spring. Why would anyone “take pains” to refute good science?

I smell policy hoaxing here, another guy trying to sell us junk science.

I’ve not read the book. Frankly, I don’t really know much about Scott Bailey, either, other than he writes at Reason, a site for libertarians and skeptics that has, in the past decade, taken a puzzling turn against science and reason.

Anyone read the book?

At the review, I offered my alarm at the claim to have refuted Carson’s careful, and still valid science references.

Rachel Carson offered 53 pages of careful citations to science studies backing every point she made, in Silent Spring. since 1962, not a single peer-reviewed study has challenged any of that research she documented.  Quite to the contrary, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed papers have been published on the topic of DDT’s effects on birds alone — every one confirming what Carson cited, or providing evidence of new and greater dangers.

Carson was careful to note that hard studies of DDT’s carcinogenicity had not been done. But now they have been done, and it turns out DDT is carcinogenic to humans, though perhaps only mildly so to those exposed directly. Since DDT is an estrogen mimic, an endocrine disruptor, its greatest cancer effects may be in the children of those exposed.

In any case, DDT was not banned as a carcinogen to humans.  It was banned as a poison that bioaccumulates and so is uncontrollable in the wild, a poison that can take down entire ecosystems of non-target species.

So, what is Bailey “refuting?” I’ll wager his research is victimized by hoax claims that Rachel Carson got it wrong, when study after study has shown she went easy on DDT.

We got bailed out of “environmental apocalypse” in the 1970s by wise policies that paid attention to what people like Rachel Carson and Paul Ehrlich said.  We passed laws stopping pollution of air and water from many sources, by many different pollutants — but not all. And we got lucky. Norman Borlaug’s green revolution staved off catastrophic starvation crises.

Norman Borlaug is dead, and there is nothing like a new green revolution in the works. Bailey joins forces with anti-science crusaders to block further action to clean up pollution, especially air pollution.

Were we wise, we’d not be gambling with our future and our grandchildren’s future, with claims to have “refuted” past wisdom on environmental issues.

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Constitution Day 2015 – Fly your flag

September 17, 2015

Happy Constitution day!  (Remember to fly your flag today.)

Have you read the U.S. Constitution lately?

Contrary to what your local Tea Party claims, it hasn’t changed.  But most people need a refresher from time to time.

First page of the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration photo

First page of the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration photo

Okay, maybe that’s a little tough to read.  Check out the on-line display of the National Archives and Records Administration in the Charters of Freedom section:

The Constitution Center in Philadelphia plans a full day of celebration, much of it streamed online for classroom use:

Watch as we kick off the day with a rousing reading of the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States on the museum’s front lawn!
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer meets with students for a town hall conversation about his work with the Constitution and the ins and outs of his job!
Join a virtual tour of the museum, including Signers’ Hall and The Story of We the People, followed by a conversation with Judge Marjorie O. Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit!
Justice Stephen Breyer returns to discuss his latest book, The Court and the World: American Law and the New Global Realities, as well as how American law applies in international contexts.
Catch the newest edition of our award-winning video series and join our staff for a live discussion about Constitution Day! The chat will be available until September 23, from 7 AM to 6 PM EDT.
Follow along with our festivities on social media and share your own celebration! Join the conversation with @ConstitutionCtr and #ConstitutionDay!

Justice Stephen Breyer’s interview alone should be worth the price of admission. He’s taking on the bizarre notion that U.S. judges should never look to see what foreign courts and legislatures do. That view has led to state laws recently that claim to ban local courts’ use of foreign law.

In the year of the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta? Hello?

Odd fact for Constitution Day: There is no direct mention of a U.S. flag in the Constitution.

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Rotunda for the charters of Freedom at Nationa...

Rotunda for the charters of Freedom at National Archives (NARA) building in Washington, D.C. Here displayed are the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#ConstitutionDay

This is an encore post.

This is an encore post.


September 16, 2015, Mexican Independence Day celebrated: Grito de Dolores!

September 16, 2015

It’s almost painful how much residents of the U.S. don’t know about our neighbor to the south, Mexico.

No, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That would be September 16.

Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 16.

Dolores Hidalgo Church at night.

Dolores Hidalgo Church at night. Wikipedia image

But just to confuse things more, Mexico did not get independence on September 16.

September 16 is the usual date given for the most famous speech in Mexico’s history — a speech for which no transcript survives, and so, a speech which no one can really describe accurately.  A Catholic priest who was involved in schemes to create an armed revolution to throw out Spanish rule (then under Napoleon), thought his plot had been discovered, and moved up the call for the peasants to revolt.  At midnight, September 15, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla declaimed the need for Mexicans to rise in revolution, from his church in the town of Dolores, near Guanajuato.  The cry for freedom is known in Spanish as the Grito de Dolores.

Hidalgo himself was hunted down, captured and executed.  Mexico didn’t achieve independence from Spain for another 11 years, on September 28, 1821.

To commemorate Father Hidalgo’s cry for independence, usually the President of Mexico repeats the speech at midnight, in Mexico City, or in Dolores.  If the President does not journey to Dolores, some other official gives the speech there.  Despite no one’s knowing what was said, there is a script from tradition used by the President:

Mexicans!
Long live the heroes that gave us the Fatherland!
Long live Hidalgo!
Long live Morelos!
Long live Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez!
Long live Allende!
Long live Galena and the Bravos!
Long live Aldama and Matamoros!
Long live National Independence!
Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico! Long Live Mexico!

Political history of Mexico is not easy to explain at all.

Hidalgo’s life was short after the speech, but the Spanish still feared the power of his ideas and names.  In Hidalgo’s honor, a town in the Texas territory of Mexico was named after him, but to avoid provoking authorities, the name was turned into an anagram:  Goliad.

In one of those twists that can only occur in real history, and not in fiction, Goliad was the site of a Mexican slaughter of a surrendered Tejian army during the fight for Texas independence.  This slaughter so enraged Texans that when they got the drop on Mexican President and Gen. Santa Ana’s army a few days later at San Jacinto, they offered little quarter to the Mexican soldiers, though Santa Ana’s life was spared.

Have a great Grito de Dolores Day, remembering North American history that we all ought to know.

Check out my earlier posts on the Grito, for a longer and more detailed explanation of events, and more sources for teachers and students.

Father Hidalgo: Antonio Fabres, Miguel Hidalgo, oil on canvas, image taken from: Eduardo Baez, military painting in the nineteenth century Mexico, Mexico, National Defense Secretariat, 1992, p.23. Wikipedia image

Father Hidalgo: Antonio Fabres, Miguel Hidalgo, oil on canvas, image taken from: Eduardo Baez, military painting in the nineteenth century Mexico, Mexico, National Defense Secretariat, 1992, p.23. Wikipedia image

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


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