Frank Hewlett, journalist/poet: The Battling Bastards of Bataan

July 7, 2015

Photos of Frank and Virginia Hewlett, and Frank's reporting colleague William MacDougall, in post-war life. Images found at The Downhold Project.

Photos of Frank and Virginia Hewlett, and Frank’s reporting colleague William McDougall, in post-war life. Images found at The Downhold Project.

Frank Hewlett told me all about Washington, D.C.  In my youth, in the potato fields of southern Idaho, and on the slopes of the towering Wasatch Front in Utah, Frank Hewlett came on the pages of the Salt Lake Tribune nearly every day, telling what happened in Washington and how that might affect us in the west.

Two doors north of our home on Conant Avenue in Burley was the home of Henry C. Dworshak. Though we rarely saw him at home, Dworshak’s work in Washington as U.S. Senator was detailed by Hewlett. (Irony never far away, when my older brother Wes won a competitive appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy from Dworshak, the first they met was to pose for a picture for the local newspaper.)

Frank Hewlett told me, and a half-million other people, about the ins and outs of getting authorization and funding to build massive dams on the Colorado River, at Flaming Gorge, Utah, and at Glen Canyon.

In 1979 I moved to Washington, D.C., doing press work for a Utah senator.  First full day on the job, who strides into the office but Frank Hewlett.

I got there late in Frank’s career. He was nearing retirement, and he was battling cancer.  His wife, Virginia, still suffered from the effects of imprisonment in the Philippines by Japanese forces in the World War II.  Editors at the Tribune seemed to want to push him out of the job. That didn’t seem to phase him much.  He’d seen much worse.

Hewlett reported for UPI during World War II — UPI’s glory days, the same agency from which Edward R. Murrow hired some of his best reporters in London (including Walter Cronkite).  Frank had been a personal friend of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, close enough that when the U.S. got back to Manila and pushed the Japanese out, MacArthur loaned Frank his personal jeep, so Frank could drive around to the Japanese prison camps to try to find his wife, who’d been captured because she stayed behind to burn the U.S. flag from the embassy, when the Japanese invaded.  Hewlett found Virginia, weighing way under 100 pounds and needing years of loving care to get back to a semblance of the beautiful young bride the war stole from Frank.

As with every other veteran of World War II I ever knew, Frank Hewlett didn’t talk about the war much. Once over lunch, he told me I could go look up his reports, but he wasn’t going to rehash them.

You might wonder why I fondly recall a guy who could be so curt and acerbic, who wouldn’t tell me the stories I wanted to  hear from him about the war. There were other tales he was happy to talk about — from where comes the old political saw, “You can’t go back to Pocatello,” how Republicans and Democrats combined to make National Parks and great Bureau of Reclamation dams, how Dwight Eisenhower was so concerned about snow and cold messing up John Kennedy’s inauguration that he ordered troops with flamethrowers out in the early morning to melt the ice and dry the streets of Washington.  Great history, great stories.

Didn’t hurt when he learned I had lived in Burley, Idaho.  Two refugees from the spud fields, together in D.C.

When I made a goof in a press release, when our legislation ran into problems, Frank wouldn’t barge into the office and head to the coffee pot.  He’d poke his head through door, say, “Can I buy you a coffee?” Then in one of the Senate eateries he’d quietly tell me how he’d fix whatever problem I was having.  Most often he had good advice, but always he had great concern that the youngest press guy in the Senate get through the trouble.

Once I mentioned how “fighting the bastards” reminded me of war, and he corrected me: Organizational conflict is nothing like war, and the bastards, well, often they are the good guys.  He said he’d written a poem about that.  He was sure he had a copy, and he’d get it to me.  He couldn’t remember all the lines, he said — but he gave me a recitation of what he said he could remember: “The Battling Bastards of Bataan . . . No one gives a damn.”  He explained that soldiers at Bataan despaired that no one knew their faite

Virginia grew ill. Cancer eventually took her. Kathryn and I visited Frank at his Virginia home, intending to take him out to dinner. His own cancer and other ills bothered him, he didn’t want to go out — we ended up eating hot dogs he had in the refrigerator.  Frank reminded me he’d get me a copy of his poem.

Didn’t happen. At his funeral at that little Catholic Church in Alexandria, the eulogist told about Frank’s love for Virginia and how it survived the war, and said he’d been a correspondent in a lot of tight places.

Today, I found a website with poems about World War II, and in a quick scroll found Frank’s name.

Battling Bastards of Bataan

We’re the battling bastards of Bataan;
No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam.
No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces,
No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces
And nobody gives a damn
Nobody gives a damn.

by Frank Hewlett  1942

Now I have a copy of Frank’s poem.

Bataan Memorial at Capas Concentration Camp, Philippines, photo by Rachael Tolliver

From Army.mil, the U.S. Army’s home page: Photo Credit: Rachael Tolliver/ The names and units of those U.S. military personal who died at, or in route to the Capas Concentration Camp during the Bataan Death March, are etched on marble and titled “Battling Bastards of Bataan.” The memorial is located at the Capas National Shrine, in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines. “Battling Bastards of Bataan” was a limerick poem penned by Frank Hewlett, Manila bureau chief for UP and the last reporter to leave Corregidor before it fell to the Japanese. “We’re the battling bastards of Bataan/No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam/No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces/No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces/And nobody gives a damn.”

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89 years ago, May 23, 1926: Mencken confessed Fillmore bathtub hoax, “any facts . . . got there accidentally”

May 23, 2015

Reasons for my annual observance of a moment of silence, here on May 23, for the failed confession of Mr. Mencken should be obvious to even a sleepy reader.  Alas, annually the need grows to call attention to the dangers of hoaxing, as hoaxes particularly in the political life of the U.S. grow in number, in viciousness, and in the numbers of gullibles suckered.  Here, again, is our annual reading of the confession with a few photographs and new links thrown in for easy learning:

May 23, 1926, H. L. Mencken‘s newspaper column confessed his hoax of nine years earlier — he had made up whole cloth the story of Millard Fillmore‘s only accomplishment being the installation of a plumbed bathtub in the White House (in the 1850s known as the Executive Mansion).

H. L. Mencken, America's "wittiest defender of liberty," according to a story in the resurrected American Mercury. Image from American Mercury.

H. L. Mencken, America’s “wittiest defender of liberty,” according to a story in the resurrected American Mercury. Image from American Mercury.

Alas, the hoax cat was out of the bag, and the hoax information still pollutes the pool of history today.

Text of Mencken’s confession, from the Museum of Hoaxes:

Melancholy Reflections

On Dec. 28, 1917, I printed in the New York Evening Mail, a paper now extinct, an article purporting to give the history of the bathtub. This article, I may say at once, was a tissue of absurdities, all of them deliberate and most of them obvious…

This article, as I say, was planned as a piece of spoofing to relieve the strain of war days, and I confess that I regarded it, when it came out, with considerable satisfaction. It was reprinted by various great organs of the enlightenment, and after a while the usual letters began to reach me from readers. Then, suddenly, my satisfaction turned to consternation. For these readers, it appeared, all took my idle jocosities with complete seriousness. Some of them, of antiquarian tastes, asked for further light on this or that phase of the subject. Others actually offered me corroboration!

But the worst was to come. Pretty soon I began to encounter my preposterous “facts” in the writings of other men. They began to be used by chiropractors and other such quacks as evidence of the stupidity of medical men. They began to be cited by medical men as proof of the progress of public hygiene. They got into learned journals. They were alluded to on the floor of congress. They crossed the ocean, and were discussed solemnly in England and on the continent. Finally, I began to find them in standard works of reference. Today, I believe, they are accepted as gospel everywhere on earth. To question them becomes as hazardous as to question the Norman invasion.

* * *

And as rare. This is the first time, indeed, that they have ever been questioned, and I confess at once that even I myself, their author, feel a certain hesitancy about doing it. Once more, I suppose, I’ll be accused of taking the wrong side for the mere pleasure of standing in opposition. The Cincinnati boomers, who have made much of the boast that the bathtub industry, now running to $200,000,000 a year, was started in their town, will charge me with spreading lies against them. The chiropractors will damn me for blowing up their ammunition. The medical gents, having swallowed my quackery, will now denounce me as a quack for exposing them. And in the end, no doubt, the thing will simmer down to a general feeling that I have once more committed some vague and sinister crime against the United States, and there will be a renewal of the demand that I be deported to Russia.

I recite this history, not because it is singular, but because it is typical. It is out of just such frauds, I believe, that most of the so-called knowledge of humanity flows. What begins as a guess — or, perhaps, not infrequently, as a downright and deliberate lie — ends as a fact and is embalmed in the history books. One recalls the gaudy days of 1914-1918. How much that was then devoured by the newspaper readers of the world was actually true? Probably not 1 per cent. Ever since the war ended learned and laborious men have been at work examining and exposing its fictions. But every one of these fictions retains full faith and credit today. To question even the most palpably absurd of them, in most parts of the United States, is to invite denunciation as a bolshevik.

So with all other wars. For example, the revolution. For years past American historians have been investigating the orthodox legends. Almost all of them turn out to be blowsy nonsense. Yet they remain in the school history books and every effort to get them out causes a dreadful row, and those who make it are accused of all sorts of treasons and spoils. The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.

* * *

As a practicing journalist for many years, I have often had close contact with history in the making. I can recall no time or place when what actually occurred was afterward generally known and believed. Sometimes a part of the truth got out, but never all. And what actually got out was seldom clearly understood. Consider, for example, the legends that follow every national convention. A thousand newspaper correspondents are on the scene, all of them theoretically competent to see accurately and report honestly, but it is seldom that two of them agree perfectly, and after a month after the convention adjourns the accepted version of what occurred usually differs from the accounts of all of them.

Political boss Harry M. Daugherty (later Attor...

Political boss Harry M. Daugherty (later Attorney General of the United States), left, with Senator Warren G. Harding (later President of the United States) at Harding’s home in Marion, Ohio during the 1920 presidential campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I point to the Republican convention of 1920, which nominated the eminent and lamented Harding. A week after the delegates adjourned the whole country believed that Harding had been put through by Col. George Harvey: Harvey himself admitted it. Then other claimants to the honor arose, and after a year or two it was generally held that the trick had been turned by the distinguished Harry M. Daugherty, by that time a salient light of the Harding cabinet. The story began to acquire corroborative detail. Delegates and correspondents began to remember things that they had not noticed on the spot. What the orthodox tale is today with Daugherty in eclipse, I don’t know, but you may be sure that it is full of mysterious intrigue and bold adventure.

Ambassador Myron T. Herrick was part of the U....

Ambassador Myron T. Herrick was part of the U.S. delegation to the International Chamber of Commerce which sailed on Kroonland in 1920. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the facts? The facts are that Harvey had little more to do with the nomination of Harding than I did, and that Daugherty was immensely surprised when good Warren won. The nomination was really due to the intense heat, and to that alone. The delegates, torn by the savage three cornered fight between Lowden, Johnson, and Wood, came to Saturday morning in despair. The temperature in the convention hall was at least 120 degrees. They were eager to get home. When it became apparent that the leaders could not break the deadlock they ran amuck and nominated Harding, as the one aspirant who had no enemies. If any individual managed the business it was not Harvey or Daugherty, but Myron T. Herrick. But so far as I know Herrick’s hand in it has never been mentioned.

* * *

English: Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier i...

Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in arena before fight at Boyle’s Thirty Acres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I turn to a more pleasant field — that of sport in the grand manner. On July 2, 1921, in the great bowl at Jersey City, the Hon. Jack Dempsey met M. Carpentier, the gallant frog. The sympathy of the crowd was overwhelmingly with M. Carpentier and every time he struck a blow he got a round of applause, even if it didn’t land. I had an excellent seat, very near the ring, and saw every move of the two men. From the first moment Dr. Dempsey had it all his own way. He could have knocked out M. Carpentier in the first half of the first round. After that first half he simply waited his chance to do it politely and humanely.

Yet certain great newspapers reported the next morning that M. Carpentier had delivered an appalling wallop in the second round and that Dr. Dempsey had narrowly escaped going out. Others told the truth, but what chance had the truth against that romantic lie? It is believed in to this day by at least 99.99 per cent of all the boxing fans in Christendom. Carpentier himself, when he recovered from his beating, admitted categorically that it was nonsense, but even Carpentier could make no headway against the almost universal human tendency to cherish what is not true. A thousand years hence schoolboys will be taught that the frog had Dempsey going. It may become in time a religious dogma, like the doctrine that Jonah swallowed the whale. Scoffers who doubt it will be damned to hell.

The moral, if any, I leave to psycho-pathologists, if competent ones can be found. All I care to do today is to reiterate, in the most solemn and awful terms, that my history of the bathtub, printed on Dec. 28, 1917, was pure buncombe. If there were any facts in it they got there accidentally and against my design. But today the tale is in the encyclopedias. History, said a great American soothsayer, is bunk.

[Emphasis in that last paragraph added here.]

Mencken’s confession gets much less attention than it deserves.  In a just world, this essay would be part of every AP U.S. history text, and would be available for printing for students to read individually in class and to discuss, debate and ponder.  Quite to the contrary, state legislatures today debate whether to require teaching of the hoax that disastrous climate change is not occurring, only 45% of Americans claim to know better for certain; more legislatures work hard to devise ways to insert hoaxes against biology (evolution and human reproduction, notably), astronomy and physics (Big Bang), history and even education (Islam is a root of socialist thought, President Obama is not Christian, weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, teachers are socialists).

In 2013, the governing body of the Boy Scouts of America voted on whether to allow homosexual boys to be Scouts — as if an 8-year-old kid joining Cub Scouts knows enough about sex and love, and sex predation, to threaten the Constitution of the U.S. if we allow him to learn how to put alphabet macaroni onto a board spelling out “Mom,” or to learn how to carve an automobile out of a block of wood and race it on a closed-course track.  The so-called Family Research Council (FRC) has conducted a campaign of vicious hoaxes against the measure, even going so far as to purloin official logos of the Boy Scouts to suggest they speak for BSA.  The hoax has millions of victims, they claim.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., GOP Members of Congress call for investigations into wrongdoing evidenced in e-mails between the White House and State Department and CIA, over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.  To hear the GOP describe it, you’d never know that the GOP opposed President Obama’s actions to save the city of Benghazi from destruction by dictator Muammar Gadhafy a few months before, that the GOP slashed the security budget for all U.S. diplomatic missions, leaving Ambassador Stevens underprotected, that the GOP was opposed to much of the work of Ambassador Stevens, or that the incriminating e-mails were hoaxed up by GOP Congressional staff.  [This paragraph was written two years ago; still oddly valid in 2015.]

Other hoaxes that plague our nation, national security, and freedom from fear:

  • Texans fret that President Obama will invade Texas and annex it into the United States of America.
  • Many business lobbyists scream that rogue scientists cooked up global warming, and tell us that all of us frogs will know when the water is too warm, and can leap to safety later.
  • Any Google or Bing search turns up high dudgeon ne’er-do-gooders who scream that we need to bring back DDT to beat malaria, Ebola, West Nile virus and tooth decay, though DDT has always been available to fight disease-carrying insects, and it won’t work against Ebola, and it’s inappropriate against West Nile.
  • Et cetera.
  • Et cetera.
  • Et cetera.

If you see pale faces among the GOP Congressional staff or the FRC this morning, it may be because the ghost of H. L. Mencken appeared to them last night to give them hell.  We could hope.

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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, and repetition of the facts.


Typewriter of the moment: Bill Moyers

June 6, 2014

From Moyers's Facebook feed:  Happy 80th Birthday, Bill Moyers! Here he is at 16 years old as a cub reporter at the Marshall News Messenger newspaper in Marshall, Texas, the town (pop. 25,000) where he grew up

From Moyers’s Facebook feed: Happy 80th Birthday, Bill Moyers! Here he is at 16 years old as a cub reporter at the Marshall News Messenger newspaper in Marshall, Texas, the town (pop. 25,000) where he grew up

A newsroom Royal. A lot of good writers started out on those.

Moyers went astray after a while, and got a divinity degree and ordination in Dallas, at Southwest Theological Seminary — but Lyndon Johnson had been watching him before at the University of Texas and University of North Texas, and snatched him up as a press aide.

You probably know Moyers from Public Television.  Yesterday was his 80th birthday — he was born June 5, 1934, in Hugo, Oklahoma.

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Typewriters of the moment: Mitford and Carson, two environmental journalists

September 24, 2013

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the gender dimension of the controversy over Carson and Silent Spring. In this 27 October 1963 cartoon he pairs her with Jessica Mitford, author of The American Way of Death, a scathing indictment of the funeral home industry. Men from both industries have been flattened under the platens of the women’s typewriters.  All rights reserved © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of Bill Mauldin Estate LLC

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the gender dimension of the controversy over Carson and Silent Spring. In this 27 October 1963 cartoon he pairs her with Jessica Mitford, author of The American Way of Death, a scathing indictment of the funeral home industry. Men from both industries have been flattened under the platens of the women’s typewriters. All rights reserved © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of Bill Mauldin Estate LLC

Captured from Mark Stoll’s “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book that changed the world,” at the Environment and Society Portal.

A well-fitting image in the few days before the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) opens its 2013 convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee (October 2-4).  It was the power of the typewriter in 1963; the power of the word processor in 2013, more likely.  In either case, it’s the hard work of environmental journalists, who are out to make the world a better place by showing us what it is, what shape it’s in, and how we might conserve it.

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Quote of the moment: James Madison, education, or farce and tragedy

August 31, 2013

James Madison Building, Library of Congress -- the official Madison Memorial

James Madison Building of the Library of Congress, the official James Madison Memorial for the nation

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it,
is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both.
Knowledge will forever govern ignorance.

And a people who mean to be their own governours,
must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

— James Madison in a letter to W. T. Barry, August 4, 1822

This is an encore post, partly.

Photo of inscription to the left (north) of the main entrance on Independence Ave., of the James Madison Building, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Photo of inscription to the left (north) of the main entrance on Independence Ave., of the James Madison Building, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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2013 RFK book and journalism awards

July 18, 2013

Press release from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, July 15, 2013:

Announcing the 2013 RFK Book & Journalism Award Honorees

Author Joseph E. Stiglitz will receive the 2013 Book Award for The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future

(July 15, 2013 | Washington, D.C.) The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights announced the winners of its annual RFK Book and Journalism Awards.

Joseph E. Stiglitz will receive the 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future.  Stiglitz presents a forceful argument against America’s vicious circle of growing inequality, examining the impact it has on our economy, our democracy, and our system of justice. Stiglitz explains how inequality affects and is affected by every aspect of national policy, and with characteristic insight he offers a vision and a plan for a more just and prosperous future.

“Joseph Stiglitz in The Price of Inequality explains in graphic detail the most compelling crisis of our time – the punishing impact that has resulted from the growing chasm of financial inequality in our society,” said John Seigenthaler, Chair of the 2013 Judges Panel. “The judges for the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award unanimously agreed that this book by a Nobel Prize-winning economist is most deserving of this year’s prize.

The 33rd annual RFK Book Award will be presented by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy at a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on September 26.

The ceremony will also feature the presentation of the 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, which include student and professional categories. All honorees will receive a cash gift and a bust of Robert F. Kennedy by Robert Berks in recognition of their award.

This year’s winning journalists, in eight professional and three student categories, are:

  • International TV: Lobster Trap; Catherine Olian/Natalie Morales; NBC News/Rock Center with Brian Williams
  • Domestic TV: Poor Kids; Jezza Neumann; PBS/Frontline
  • International Print: The iEconomy; Charles Duhigg; The New York Times
  • Domestic Print: Prognosis: Profits; Ames Alexander, Karen Garloch, Joseph Neff, David Raynor, Jim Walser, and Steve Riley; The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer
  • New Media: Beyond 7 Billion; Kenneth Weiss and Rick Loomis; Los Angeles Times
  • Radio: An “Occupational Hazard”: Rape in the Military; Bob Edwards; The Bob Edwards Show, SiriusXM Radio
  • Cartoon: Cartoons by Jen Sorensen; Kaiser Health News, Austin Chronicle, NPR.org, Ms. Magazine, The Progressive
  • Photography: Embracing Uncle Charlie; Marc Asnin; CNN Photos
  • College Journalism: M-Powered: University of Mississippi students learn through service in Belize; Patricia Thompson, Director of Student Media; University of Mississippi
  • High School Print: Special Needs Cheer Squad Volunteer; Alexis Christo; North Star

The distinguished panel of judges for the Book Award included chair John Seigenthaler, acclaimed journalist, editor, publisher, and former aide to Robert Kennedy, as well as Michael Beschloss, American Historian and Author; Donna Brazile, Political Strategist, Commentator, Author; and Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law Professor, Civil Rights Expert, and Author. For the Journalism Awards, the expert judges panel included chair Margaret Engel, Director, Alicia Patterson Foundation, as well as Jennifer 8 Lee, Journalist and Advisor to Upworthy; Roberta Baskin, Investigative Reporter and Advisor, HHS Office of Inspector General; Kevin Merida, Managing Editor, The Washington Post; Delia Rios, Producer, CSPAN; Alicia Shepard, Freelance Journalist; and Karen Tumulty, Political Reporter, The Washington Post.

About The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award

The RFK Center presents an annual award to the book that, in the words of award founder Arthur Schlesinger, faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy, his concern for the poor and powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity. Past winners of the RFK Book Award include Vice President Al Gore, Congressman John Lewis, Taylor Branch, Toni Morrison, Jonathon Kozol, and Michael Lewis.

About The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards

The RFK Journalism Awards recognize outstanding reporting on issues that reflect Robert Kennedy’s dedication to human rights and social justice, and his belief in the power of individual action. Winning entries provide insights into the causes, conditions, and remedies of human rights violations and injustice, and critical analyses of the movements that foster positive global change.

Impressive bunch — good to see Bob Edwards still pulling down awards.  I hope the Foundation will make the cartoons available online, and any other material they can.  Several tough environmental issues in the mix; Stiglitz adds to his list of awards (now, if only we could get any GOP Member of Congress to read the book . . .).

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May 23, 1926: Mencken confessed the Millard Fillmore bathtub hoax, “any facts . . . got there accidentally”

May 23, 2013

Reasons for my annual observance of a moment of silence, here on May 23, for the failed confession of Mr. Mencken should be obvious to even a sleepy reader.  Alas, annually the need grows to call attention to the dangers of hoaxing, as hoaxes particularly in the political life of the U.S. grow in number, in viciousness, and in the numbers of gullibles suckered.  Here, again, is our annual reading of the confession with a few photographs and new links thrown in for easy learning:

May 23, 1926, H. L. Mencken‘s newspaper column confessed his hoax of nine years earlier — he had made up whole cloth the story of Millard Fillmore‘s only accomplishment being the installation of a plumbed bathtub in the White House (in the 1850s known as the Executive Mansion).

Alas, the hoax cat was out of the bag, and the hoax information still pollutes the pool of history today.

Text of the confession, from the Museum of Hoaxes:

Melancholy Reflections

On Dec. 28, 1917, I printed in the New York Evening Mail, a paper now extinct, an article purporting to give the history of the bathtub. This article, I may say at once, was a tissue of absurdities, all of them deliberate and most of them obvious…

This article, as I say, was planned as a piece of spoofing to relieve the strain of war days, and I confess that I regarded it, when it came out, with considerable satisfaction. It was reprinted by various great organs of the enlightenment, and after a while the usual letters began to reach me from readers. Then, suddenly, my satisfaction turned to consternation. For these readers, it appeared, all took my idle jocosities with complete seriousness. Some of them, of antiquarian tastes, asked for further light on this or that phase of the subject. Others actually offered me corroboration!

But the worst was to come. Pretty soon I began to encounter my preposterous “facts” in the writings of other men. They began to be used by chiropractors and other such quacks as evidence of the stupidity of medical men. They began to be cited by medical men as proof of the progress of public hygiene. They got into learned journals. They were alluded to on the floor of congress. They crossed the ocean, and were discussed solemnly in England and on the continent. Finally, I began to find them in standard works of reference. Today, I believe, they are accepted as gospel everywhere on earth. To question them becomes as hazardous as to question the Norman invasion.

* * *

And as rare. This is the first time, indeed, that they have ever been questioned, and I confess at once that even I myself, their author, feel a certain hesitancy about doing it. Once more, I suppose, I’ll be accused of taking the wrong side for the mere pleasure of standing in opposition. The Cincinnati boomers, who have made much of the boast that the bathtub industry, now running to $200,000,000 a year, was started in their town, will charge me with spreading lies against them. The chiropractors will damn me for blowing up their ammunition. The medical gents, having swallowed my quackery, will now denounce me as a quack for exposing them. And in the end, no doubt, the thing will simmer down to a general feeling that I have once more committed some vague and sinister crime against the United States, and there will be a renewal of the demand that I be deported to Russia.

I recite this history, not because it is singular, but because it is typical. It is out of just such frauds, I believe, that most of the so-called knowledge of humanity flows. What begins as a guess — or, perhaps, not infrequently, as a downright and deliberate lie — ends as a fact and is embalmed in the history books. One recalls the gaudy days of 1914-1918. How much that was then devoured by the newspaper readers of the world was actually true? Probably not 1 per cent. Ever since the war ended learned and laborious men have been at work examining and exposing its fictions. But every one of these fictions retains full faith and credit today. To question even the most palpably absurd of them, in most parts of the United States, is to invite denunciation as a bolshevik.

So with all other wars. For example, the revolution. For years past American historians have been investigating the orthodox legends. Almost all of them turn out to be blowsy nonsense. Yet they remain in the school history books and every effort to get them out causes a dreadful row, and those who make it are accused of all sorts of treasons and spoils. The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.

* * *

As a practicing journalist for many years, I have often had close contact with history in the making. I can recall no time or place when what actually occurred was afterward generally known and believed. Sometimes a part of the truth got out, but never all. And what actually got out was seldom clearly understood. Consider, for example, the legends that follow every national convention. A thousand newspaper correspondents are on the scene, all of them theoretically competent to see accurately and report honestly, but it is seldom that two of them agree perfectly, and after a month after the convention adjourns the accepted version of what occurred usually differs from the accounts of all of them.

Political boss Harry M. Daugherty (later Attor...

Political boss Harry M. Daugherty (later Attorney General of the United States), left, with Senator Warren G. Harding (later President of the United States) at Harding’s home in Marion, Ohio during the 1920 presidential campaign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I point to the Republican convention of 1920, which nominated the eminent and lamented Harding. A week after the delegates adjourned the whole country believed that Harding had been put through by Col. George Harvey: Harvey himself admitted it. Then other claimants to the honor arose, and after a year or two it was generally held that the trick had been turned by the distinguished Harry M. Daugherty, by that time a salient light of the Harding cabinet. The story began to acquire corroborative detail. Delegates and correspondents began to remember things that they had not noticed on the spot. What the orthodox tale is today with Daugherty in eclipse, I don’t know, but you may be sure that it is full of mysterious intrigue and bold adventure.

Ambassador Myron T. Herrick was part of the U....

Ambassador Myron T. Herrick was part of the U.S. delegation to the International Chamber of Commerce which sailed on Kroonland in 1920. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What are the facts? The facts are that Harvey had little more to do with the nomination of Harding than I did, and that Daugherty was immensely surprised when good Warren won. The nomination was really due to the intense heat, and to that alone. The delegates, torn by the savage three cornered fight between Lowden, Johnson, and Wood, came to Saturday morning in despair. The temperature in the convention hall was at least 120 degrees. They were eager to get home. When it became apparent that the leaders could not break the deadlock they ran amuck and nominated Harding, as the one aspirant who had no enemies. If any individual managed the business it was not Harvey or Daugherty, but Myron T. Herrick. But so far as I know Herrick’s hand in it has never been mentioned.

* * *

English: Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier i...

Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in arena before fight at Boyle’s Thirty Acres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I turn to a more pleasant field — that of sport in the grand manner. On July 2, 1921, in the great bowl at Jersey City, the Hon. Jack Dempsey met M. Carpentier, the gallant frog. The sympathy of the crowd was overwhelmingly with M. Carpentier and every time he struck a blow he got a round of applause, even if it didn’t land. I had an excellent seat, very near the ring, and saw every move of the two men. From the first moment Dr. Dempsey had it all his own way. He could have knocked out M. Carpentier in the first half of the first round. After that first half he simply waited his chance to do it politely and humanely.

Yet certain great newspapers reported the next morning that M. Carpentier had delivered an appalling wallop in the second round and that Dr. Dempsey had narrowly escaped going out. Others told the truth, but what chance had the truth against that romantic lie? It is believed in to this day by at least 99.99 per cent of all the boxing fans in Christendom. Carpentier himself, when he recovered from his beating, admitted categorically that it was nonsense, but even Carpentier could make no headway against the almost universal human tendency to cherish what is not true. A thousand years hence schoolboys will be taught that the frog had Dempsey going. It may become in time a religious dogma, like the doctrine that Jonah swallowed the whale. Scoffers who doubt it will be damned to hell.

The moral, if any, I leave to psycho-pathologists, if competent ones can be found. All I care to do today is to reiterate, in the most solemn and awful terms, that my history of the bathtub, printed on Dec. 28, 1917, was pure buncombe. If there were any facts in it they got there accidentally and against my design. But today the tale is in the encyclopedias. History, said a great American soothsayer, is bunk.

Mencken’s confession gets much less attention than it deserves.  In a just world, this essay would be part of every AP U.S. history text, and would be available for printing for students to read individually in class and to discuss, debate and ponder.  Quite to the contrary, state legislatures today debate whether to require teaching of the hoax that disastrous climate change is not occurring, only 45% of Americans claim to know better for certain; more legislatures work hard to devise ways to insert hoaxes against biology (evolution and human reproduction, notably), astronomy and physics (Big Bang), history and even education (Islam is a root of socialist thought, President Obama is not Christian, weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, teachers are socialists).

In 2013, the governing body of the Boy Scouts of America votes today on whether to allow homosexual boys to be Scouts — as if an 8-year-old kid joining Cub Scouts knows enough about sex and love, and sex predation, to threaten the Constitution of the U.S. if we allow him to learn how to put alphabet macaroni onto a board spelling out “Mom,” or to learn how to carve an automobile out of a block of wood and race it on a closed-course track.  The so-called Family Research Council (FRC) has conducted a campaign of vicious hoaxes against the measure, even going so far as to purloin official logos of the Boy Scouts to suggest they speak for BSA.  The hoax has millions of victims, they claim.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., GOP Members of Congress call for investigations into wrongdoing evidenced in e-mails between the White House and State Department and CIA, over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens.  To hear the GOP describe it, you’d never know that the GOP opposed President Obama’s actions to save the city of Benghazi from destruction by dictator Muammar Gadhafy a few months before, that the GOP slashed the security budget for all U.S. diplomatic missions, leaving Ambassador Stevens underprotected, that the GOP was opposed to much of the work of Ambassador Stevens, or that the incriminating e-mails were hoaxed up by GOP Congressional staff.

If you see pale faces among the GOP Congressional staff or the FRC this morning, it may be because the ghost of H. L. Mencken appeared to them last night to give them hell.  We could hope.

More:


What news organizations need to know about “no-fly” zones over disaster areas

April 4, 2013

Lots of chatter around the internet today on the discovery that the Federal Aviation Agency posted a notice making the area over the oil spill in Arkansas off limits to aircraft.

Some people claimed they were certain that it was because Exxon-Mobil paid to get a special favor; others wondered why the government would be complicit in such a deal. Several of the comments linked to aerial photos of the spill, and said ‘obviously’ Exxon Mobil doesn’t want photos of the severity  of the spill to get out.  Bill McKibben’s tweet alerted me to the controversy (take a look at that video, too).

Actually, it’s common procedure to make sport flying and other unnecessary flying over disasters, off limits — FAA has a special set of regulations for that.  Rescuers and disaster fighters, and relief workers,  don’t want sight-seers on visual flight rules posing hazards to flights necessary to work on disaster relief or clean up of a spill of a toxic or hazardous substance.

But this doesn’t mean that news organizations cannot fly — in fact, there is a special regulation to ALLOW news aircraft over the zone, for photography and other reports.

Here’s the notice at FAA’s website (I’m sure that link will be unworkable in a few weeks):

FAA notification, NOTAMs notice of Mayflower, Arkansas, temporary flight restrictions; screen grab April 3, 2013.

FAA notification, NOTAMs notice of Mayflower, Arkansas, temporary flight restrictions; screen grab April 3, 2013.

Most announcements of restrictions of any public activity by a federal agency contain a notice of from where the agency draws that authority; I didn’t include it in the screen grab, but FAA notes the authority flows from Title 14 CFR section 91.137(a)(2).  That’s the Code of Federal Regulations, the set of volumes that list all the regulations the federal government has.  This was also published in the Federal Register — and I suspect the NOTAMs is also published there — but CFR is the more permanent set of books for finding government rules.

In the interests of open government, of course the FAA makes these rules available online.  They are available at several sites.  Here’s the meat of the regulation:

Section 2. Temporary Flight Restrictions in the Vicinity of Disaster/Hazard Areas (14 CFR Section 91.137)

19-2-1. PURPOSE

This section prescribes guidelines and procedures regarding the management of aircraft operations in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas in accordance with 14 CFR Section 91.137. TFRs issued under this section are for disaster/hazard situations that warrant regulatory measures to restrict flight operations for a specified amount of airspace, on a temporary basis, in order to provide protection of persons or property in the air or on the ground.

19-2-2. RATIONALE

TFRs in accordance with 14 CFR Section 91.137 are issued when necessary to:

a. 14 CFR 91.137(a)(1) – Protect persons and property on the surface or in the air from an existing or imminent hazard associated with an incident on the surface when the presence of low flying aircraft would magnify, alter, spread, or compound that hazard.

b. 14 CFR 91.137(a)(2) – Provide a safe environment for the operation of disaster relief aircraft.

c. 14 CFR 91.137(a)(3) – Prevent an unsafe congestion of sightseeing and other aircraft above an incident or event that may generate a high degree of public interest.

NOTE-
This provision applies only to disaster/hazard incidents of limited duration that would attract an unsafe congestion of sightseeing aircraft.

Specific  rules of restrictions, who in the FAA declares them, who can grant waivers, and to who the restrictions apply, get spelled out following that  part.

Notice that, generally, these restrictions apply only to flights below 1,000 feet.  A good camera in a television station’s helicopter can get a lot of great shots from 1,000 feet out (three football fields) — this is a distance often seen in the videos of police car chases.  So it’s not a complete ban.

Savvy news organizations will know how to get news photos using the specific exemption for news aircraft, with procedures spelled out so the FAA knows it’s a news gathering operation; I’ve put the critical clauses in red:

c. Section 91.137(a)(3). Restrictions issued in accordance with this section prohibit all aircraft from operating in the designated area unless at least one of the following conditions is met:

1. The operation is conducted directly to or from an airport within the area, or is necessitated by the impracticability of VFR flight above or around the area due to weather or terrain, and the operation is not conducted for the purpose of observing the incident or event. Notification must be given to the ATC facility that was specified in the NOTAM for coordination with the official in charge of the activity.

2. The aircraft is operating under an ATC approved IFR flight plan.

3. The aircraft is carrying incident or event personnel, or law enforcement officials.

4. The aircraft is carrying properly accredited news representatives and, prior to entering that area, a flight plan is filed with FSS or the ATC facility specified in the NOTAM. Flight plans must include aircraft identification, type, and color; radio frequencies to be used; proposed times of entry to and exit from the TFR area; the name of news media or organization and purpose of flight.

Well-run news organizations already know this; in an age when more and more news rooms operate on a shoe string, it may be that this information about how to cover disasters is not passed along in the newsroom, though.  So I’m reposting it here, so you’ll know, so news organizations now, so environmental reporters can get a copy of the regulations  to carry with them when they head out to cover spills, fires, floods, and other disasters.

I’m waiting, too.  It’s only a matter of time until somebody figures out a local kid has a good radio control helicopter, and it can carry a GoPro camera; or until a local news station invests in a news-gathering drone.  Here in Texas, we’ve already had one environmental disaster uncovered by a drone operated by a guy just checking on real estate.

If you see some footage of the disaster filmed on or after April 3, would you let us know, in comments?

And spread the word to any reporters you know.

More:

Amateur video of the spill:


Obama H8rs complain, “Obama’s not emperor!”

February 18, 2013

President Obama at 2nd Google+ Fireside Hangout, February 14, 2013

Obama’s got good answers and is willing to discuss policy with American citizens; critics keep making stuff up to complain about. Caption from the White House: President Barack Obama participates in a “Fireside Hangout” on Google+ with Americans from around the country to discuss his State of the Union Address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. February 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Can’t make this stuff up as fast as the unthinking anti-Obama folks can dish it out.

Their criticisms often vaporize at the slightest investigation, though.  Why not talk serious policy?  They won’t do it.

Wednesday night, President Obama participated in a Google+ ” Fireside Hangout.”  These sessions take their cue in part from FDR’s Fireside Chats.  In the modern, Google+ version, it’s not just the president talking.  He takes questions from a panel of interrogators, and from people who send in questions by Tweet or e-mail.  Obama took questions from citizens.

One woman, Jackie Guerrero (sp?) complained that the Obama administration enforces our immigration laws with much more toughness than any previous administration, ever.  She said too many people who shouldn’t be deported, are being deported.  She asked President Obama to explain why his administration has done that.

Obama said he’s the executive, and he’s required to carry out the laws.  He urged the woman to support changes in the laws, but he pointed out that must come from Congress.  His answer took two-and-a-half minutes, and he outlined the need for immigration reform.  In a few seconds, he started his answer with this:

“This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency,” said Obama. “The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

You as a reasonably intelligent and perceptive Dear Reader recognize that Obama is asking for citizen pressure on Congress to pass reform of our immigration laws.

You as a reasonably intelligent and perceptive Dear Reader are also well aware there is a group of people loose in America who say that, whatever Obama says, Obama is wrong.

So, what do those Obama H8rs say?  Do they complain about immigration reform, saying we don’t need it?

No, they don’t even give their listeners and viewers the dignity of talking about the issues. Here’s how Michael Savage butchered the video of the Google session:

Savage posted this wan explanation:

Published on Feb 15, 2013

In a Google hangout last evening February 14, 2013, President Barack Obama explained that his problem is that he’s “not the emperor of the United States”: “This is something I’ve struggled with throughout my presidency,” said Obama. “The problem is that I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

In a very technical sense, that’s accurate reporting of part of Obama’s statement.

But it’s not the whole truth, as you can see.  There is no mention whatsoever of the issue at hand, immigration reform, for example.  How can they report it correctly, if they don’t even report what happened?

How have others reacted?  Our old friend Joe Leavell leapt at the opening Michael Savage provided, with a Facebook post linking to the video:

“The problem is, I’m the President of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States.” – President Obama.
This is a problem? Yikes!

Can you tell Joe’s views on immigration reform?  On enforcing laws?  On not enforcing laws?  Just try to pin him down.

Leavell on Obama as emperor

On Facebook, a complaint leaving the impression that Obama said he wants to be emperor, though of course, that’s not at all what Obama said.

One more demonstration we don’t need that people who truly hate Obama with no good reason will make up crap to claim against him, regardless what he says.

Some wag said, “I hope President Obama comes out tomorrow with a warning against eating yellow snow, just so I can see these guys explain the benefits of eating yellow snow.”

I wish they’d just wake up, read the old Boy Scout Citizenship Merit Badge booklet, and be good citizens without all the hoax complaints.

No, Obama did not say he wants to be emperor.  No, he did not.

No, he didn’t.

Alas, Joe Leavell on Facebook is not the only one who had what should be embarrassing conniptions over the mined quote.

Wall of shame, commenters who fuzzed up the news and ran with the political smear; count ’em:

  1. Weekly Standard (apparently all their fact checkers died; I didn’t realize they really have no regard for the accuracy of stuff they report, before).
  2. Obama: ‘The Problem is … I’m not the Emperor of the United States’ (radio.foxnews.com)
  3. Obama Says the “The Problem Is…I’m Not Emperor of the United States” (gunmartblog.com)
  4. Obama: “The Problem Is I’m President of the United States, I’m Not the Emperor” (Video) (thegatewaypundit.com)
  5. Obama: ‘The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States’ (givemeliberty01.com)
  6. Obama Says ‘The Problem Is That I’m Not The Emperor Of The United States’ (vineoflife.net)
  7. ‘The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States’ (ConservativeActionAlerts.com)
  8. I’m Not The Emperor of the USA (tarpon.wordpress.com)
  9. “The Problem is I’m not Emperor:” Obama’s Freudian Slip (rjblack.wordpress.com)
  10. Barack Obama: ‘The Problem Is … I’m Not the Emperor of the United States’ (ijreview.com)
  11. Obama: ‘The Problem Is I’m Not The Emperor Of The United States’ (conservativebyte.com)
  12. Barack Obama: I’m not emperor of the United States (Twitchy)
  13. Obama made a Freudian slip, The Rio Norte Line
  14. Of course The Blaze misreported it, too
  15. Washington Times blog screwed it up
  16. Victor Medina, a Dallas Republican operative, in the Examiner
  17. TeaParty.org copied the Weekly Standard, a weakly slandering practice of theirs
  18. WeaselZippers honestly stated they got the report “scouring the bowels of the internet” and came up with the same old offal; this is the quality of reporting we’re talking about here
  19. Before It’s News reported it, though it wasn’t news at all
  20. Nothing but the Truth misses its named target, copying the false report at Gateway Pundit

Some of you may remember Spike Jones’s send-up of that classic show tune, “I’m in the Mood for Love.”  One verse of the lyric is, “Funny, but when I’m near you, I’m in the mood for love.”  In Spike’s version, an indignant voice interrupts with, “Funny butt!  Who’se got a funny butt?”

That’s rather what Savage and others have done with Obama’s answer here.

How many of those sites do you think would like it if Obama had said, “Okay, we’ll stop deportations of all but criminal and dangerous undocumented aliens tomorrow?”  How many of those sites will favor action on immigration reform?  How many of them will want their children to know they wrote these things, in ten years?

This cheap and misleading criticism ignored the two-and-a-half-minute response Obama gave to the immigration and deportation question, in which he concisely explained the problems and the urgent need for immigration reform to benefit the U.S. economy.  See the complete answer in the video of the entire session, at the bottom of this post.

Obama’s critics don’t dare allow him a fair chance to state his position.  They have no answers for his clearly thought-out plans.

More:

See for yourself how Obama’s views were covered up and his meanings distorted.  Here’s the entire Google Fireside Hangout, all 47 minutes of it (in HD and stereo); the question on immigration comes about 19 minutes in, and Obama’s answer took about two and a half minutes, all ignored completely by Obama’s H8rs:

Update, post script:  CBS’s guy who keeps all the records, Mark Knoller, accurately reported Obama’s words in a Tweet, with just 140 characters; why can’t conservative wackoes get it right with 1,000 words and video?  They probably don’t intend to get it right, like Knoller works to get it right every day, day in, and day out.


Typewriter of the moment: Abigail van Buren’s IBM

January 17, 2013

“Dear Abby,” Abigail van Buren, sorts through letters asking advice. Newseum photograph, from publicity photo.

“Dear Abby,” Abigail van Buren, sorts through letters asking advice. Newseum photograph, from publicity photo.

News flash, on Facebook, from the Newseum:

Abigail Van Buren, author of the “Dear Abby” advice column, died Jan. 16, 2013. She was 94.

NPR’s e-mail added a couple of details:

NPR BREAKING NEWS:

‘Dear Abby’ Dies; Pauline Phillips Was Adviser To Millions

Writing under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she wrote the world’s most widely syndicated column. The daily readership grew to more than 100 million. The column is now written by her daughter, Jeanne.

More at NPR.org:

http://n.npr.org/NPRI/jN375186981_1570913_1570912_Z.htm

What an incredible melange of history in that photo!  You can read about Mrs. Phillips at the NPR site, but consider just this photograph:

  1. “Dear Abby” which used to be regular reading in most households in the morning — literally millions of American households.  She and her chief competition, “Ann Landers,” could each by herself move the nation, to change habits, to question manners, to change behaviors with vaccinations or new medical procedures, and in a few cases, move legislation through Congress.  No one in newspapering or broadcast today has the clout this woman had, but rarely used.  Not even Rupert Murdoch with his empire, had so much clout as Dear Abby.  (Many of us were surprised to learn later that the women who wrote Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers were twin sisters — another one of those twists in real history that no one would believe in fiction.)
  2. Isn’t that an early IBM electric typewriter? Our local Fry’s doesn’t stock even electric typewriters anymore, nor could I find one in my last run through Staples and Office Depot (catalog sales, perhaps). IBM probably hasn’t made one 20 years, and not one like that one in at least 40 years — that is not a Selectric.
  3. Dial telephone.  Not just a land-line, but an actual, analog, dial telephone.  Without seeing any identifying characteristics, we can assume that her telephone provider was the AT&T regional company — unlikely that it was Continental, the only other major provider in the U.S. at the time.
  4. The Yellow Pages telephone book under the phone.  I think even Yellow Pages stopped printing those things; we haven’t had a good update on our white pages in years.
  5. Newspaper syndication meant EVERYONE had access to her columns — no internet.  A dime for the local paper, and you had Dear Abby.
  6. The fountain pen in her hand, perhaps for more than just signing letters (what do you say, Office Supply Geek?).
  7. No computer, which in addition to replacing the typewriter, would probably also replace the four-drawer file cabinet in back of her (a locking cabinet, perhaps a HON?)
  8. Is that flowered pattern the wallpaper in the place? They don’t make orchid wallpaper like that any more.
  9. Look at that stack of mail.  Each came in an envelope, stamped, for less than 8¢ (1st class rates topped a dime for the first time in 1974).  No e-mail; no electronic version to cut and paste from.  Each letter to appear in the column had to be retyped on that IBM typewriter.  Most high school students today have probably never sent a letter through the mail, and many have never received one, either.

The Newseum didn’t credit the photo, nor say when or where it was taken; I’ve not found more details yet. At the Newseum site, the photo is credited to Phillips-Van Buren, Inc., the company that runs the column.  I’m guessing 1970 at the latest, and this may be in the 1960s or even 1950s.

Some of us old timers get future shock just looking at that photo.  Can your students date that photo with the clues in it, history teachers?  Journalism teachers?  (Photos at OzTypewriters suggest this photo could have been made in the 1960s.)

More:

Heck, it may be a 1950s typewriter (do you read German?):

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus d...

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus den 1950er Jahren Lizenz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  (Translated roughly, “IBM electric typewriter from the 1950 license.”)


Fox News, still geographically challenged (Arkansas? What’s that?)

September 15, 2012

Bret Corum calls our attention to another Fox News remaking of the map of the world:

Fox News lost Arkansas, moved Missouri

Misreporting the news is bad enough — but changing the map? Nations go to war over such things . . .

It appears that, in the Fox News view of the world, Missouri conquered Arkansas, and Alabama and Mississippi either swapped spouses and houses, or are in the middle of some geographic square dance, and the satellite caught them in the middle of a do-si-do into each other’s old territory.

Look on the bright side — so far they only screwed up 8% of the United States with their mapping errors.  On the other hand, they named nine states, and made four errors — 55% correct.  That’s probably not a passing score even under No Child Left Behind rules.

One gets the sinking feeling that such sloppiness with the facts infects everything Fox does, though.

I wonder what kinds of errors and screw-ups one could find, if one seriously paid attention to what Fox claims.

More:

  • Why Fox News – yet again – needs a copy editor (apple.copydesk.org)  (Charles Apple’s column on news design is always a good read — but this piece lists several, maybe a hundred, other instances of copy editor-less screw-ups on the news and other places.  God bless copy editors, and let’s hope these errors were all caused by a lack of one.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to the ever-vigilant, accuracy stickler Bret Corum.


Sen. Marco Rubio’s call for a mediocre America

July 19, 2012

As good ideas go, it’s difficult to top the idea of public broadcasting, and particularly Lyndon Johnson‘s creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the subsequent formation of NPR and PBS, and the proliferation of public broadcasting stations across the U.S.

For a small pittance of money from public coffers, the nation gets the massive advantage of working news networks dedicated to informing the public accurately, and great cultural preservation, including education of the very young.

Big Bird, wikipedia image from PBS

Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants to kill the Big Bird that lays the golden eggs for our kids. Big Bird doesn’t make rude comments in response.

For-profit broadcasting has been absolutely unable to equal quality programs on television like “Sesame Street,” or “Masterpiece Theatre,” or “American Masters,” or “American Experience.  For-profit radio has nothing to equal “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” “Prairie Home Companion,” or even “Car Talk.”

You know some politician is playing to the yahoos and anti-civilization types when he takes a swipe at schools, libraries, or public  broadcasting.

So, we know Marco Rubio‘s questioning of funding for CPB is a swing for the foul territory, an appeal for ignorance, to ignorance and ignorants.  ABC News, a rival of both NPR and PBS, reported the story with all its ironic drippings:

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., expressed worry this morning about broadcasting outlets that use taxpayer money to stay on the air.

But Rubio made his comments on NPR, a broadcasting outlet that uses taxpayer money to stay on the air.

“I do have concerns about spending money on public broadcasting,” Rubio told Diane Rehm during an hourlong Q&A on NPR.

NPR has been a source of criticism from congressional Republicans who view it as a liberal refuge that espouses its views courtesy of public funding. Although only 2 percent of NPR’s funding comes from government grants, the loss of federal funding would undermine the ability of NPR stations to pay for NPR programming, NPR says.

Rubio argued that private donations should support such an enterprise as NPR, and that plenty of outlets are available to house that ideology and format. He admitted, though, that he enjoys Rehm’s show and that NPR’s funding is low on the list of costs that should be cut.

A caller pointed out the irony of Rubio’s position, saying, “He’s spending an entire hour on the show today.”

Rubio countered that a half-century ago, a station like NPR might have been necessary, but “today there is no shortage of options” for news and opinion.

“I have 300 stations on my satellite radio,” Rubio boasted.

300 stations on his satellite — which most Americans cannot afford — and not a single station equal to the worst of NPR’s network.

Shame on Marco Rubio.  Tighten your seatbelts, America, it’s going to be a bumpy election, with lots of appeals to ignorance and praise for doing less than the best.

Do you know where the word “yahoo” comes from?  Rubio is one of the epitomes.

Now, here’s the trouble:  Is he making this appeal in hopes of winning votes, in hopes of getting Mitt Romney’s attention for the vice president’s slot on the ticket?  Or is he really just that anti-quality, anti-American?  Bet he doesn’t like baseball or apple pie, either — we won’t even mention Mom.


Walter Cronkite – gone three years

July 17, 2012

Walter Cronkite died on July 17, 2009.

I miss his broadcasts, still, and they were gone a good 20 years earlier.

Here’s an earlier post on Cronkite:

Walter Cronkite at his office typewriter:

Walter Cronkite at his typewriter, in his office

Walter Cronkite at his typewriter, in his office – from The Typewriter blog

Pipe rack to his left, on the shelf above; full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica to his right (probably a 1960s set); A lot of books, some dealing with space exploration, among his favorite topics; models of the X-15 and early versions of the Space Shuttle; award from the Boy Scouts to his right, where he can see it easily.

When was this photo taken? 1970s? Earlier? Maybe someone who follows Dixie Cups could date the cup to Cronkite’s left.

This is probably the same office, redecorated, and stripped down to move – and with a different typewriter (a Smith-Corona electric?):

Cronkite in his office minutes before his final broadcast.  SF Chronicle photo

Caption from the San Francisco Chronicle website: “In this March 6, 1981 file photo, Walter Cronkite talks on the phone at his office, prior to his final newscast as CBS anchorman in New York City. Behind him is a framed Mickey Mouse cartoon and his Emmy award. Famed CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, known as the ‘most trusted man in America’ has died, Friday, July 17, 2009. He was 92.”

More:


Rachel Carson in history — great post at Pop History Dig

February 22, 2012

It’s a long post, but it’s got great images and graphics, solid citations, and very few errors — go read Jack Doyle’s profile of Carson, featuring a solid and thorough discussion of the controversy over DDT.

Español: Fachada Rocsen-Rachel Carson

Statute honoring Rachel Carson at the Rocsen Museum, in Nono, Cordoba, Argentina

Jack Doyle, “Power in the Pen, Silent Spring: 1962,”
PopHistoryDig.com
, Feburary 21, 2012.

Doyle is a good writer and his site is a great idea with wonderful execution, The Pop History Dig.

Short of Linda Lear’s biography of Carson, Doyle’s piece presents the facts squarely, with no axes grinding.  (Steve Milloy, Rutledge Taylor, The Competitive Enterprise Institute, Roger Bate, Richard Tren, the astroturf group Africa Fighting Malaria, Anthony Watts, Jay Ambrose and Christopher Monckton, and other purveyors of anti-Carson and anti-science vitriol will not like Doyle’s piece and will claim it to be biased.)


Arab Spring spreads to Europe?

January 16, 2012

English: Emil Boc speaking.

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc - Image via Wikipedia

Eric Koenig wondered, and wrote:

On December 17, 1989, Romanian security forces fired into a crowd in the city of Timişoara. Scarcely a week later, the Romanian revolution was over and Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife had been toppled and tried and summarily executed. Now thousands of people are protesting in Romania and calling for the ouster of their President (who has been in some political hot water himself, being “suspended” briefly and narrowly escaping impeachment in 2007, during his first term) and many of the protests started in the same city.

Is history repeating itself?  Stay tuned …

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2012/Jan-15/159949-romania-protests-spread-despite-health-bill-withdrawal.ashx#axzz1je7ndQhJ

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16570860

The story isn’t being followed by many US newspapers. Yet.

I think it’s not quite so simple, nor a repeat of 22 years ago.  Romanians protest austerity cuts to their government-paid health plans, according to BBC:

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc has called for dialogue and an end to violence after four days of protests against austerity cuts.

Dozens of people were hurt on Sunday, as demonstrators and riot police clashed for a second day running in the capital Bucharest.

The rallies began in support of an official who quit in protest against health care reforms.

But they have grown into a broader hostility towards government policies.

The alliance of opposition parties has called for early elections.

I think the economic grievances are not of the same kind as those in Africa and Arabia, nor are they so deep as the extreme discontent with Ceaușescu’s communist government 22 years ago.

But, who can tell what’s really going on?  We have to depend on reports from Lebanese newspapers, and rewrites of those stories from the Associated Press?

Government change poses astonishing opportunities in the past year, especially these home-grown, nationalist liberation movements.  New resources, cut back from a century ago, leave us without eyes and ears on the ground in too many foreign capitals.

English: Grave of the former dictator Nicolae ...

Bucharest grave of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu - Image via Wikipedia

Why aren’t we hearing more about the Romanian crisis in U.S. news media?  Well, there’s the war in Afghanistan, the ending war in Iraq, and trouble in Nigeria.  Then there is the South Carolina circus.   For all I know, American Idol is in the news today, too.

It’s not like either you are, or I am, Marie, the Queen of Roumania, right?  What could go wrong that might affect us?

Watch.  U.S. papers will pick up the story in small snippets over the next week or so.

Could you find Romania on an unlabeled map?

Map of Romania, from GreenwichMeanTime.com

Map of Romania, from GreenwichMeanTime.com

Location map of Romania, GreenwhichMeanTime.com

Location map of Romania, GreenwhichMeanTime.com


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