Justice Sutherland is probably storming around his tomb, more than just rolling in his grave.
Putting words in the mouths of historic figures. de Tocqueville did not say this — and the quote doesn’t appear until 1951. Barely pre-John Birch Society.
Ho, ho, ho. This ugly distortion of democratic operations in the American republic comes around every time some Democrat proposes to spend money to make America great. Oddly, it never comes around when a Republican proposes to spend money to build death machines or take America to war.
The sentiment assumes that Congress is inherently corrupt — which it is only in Mark Twain quips. Your congressman isn’t corrupt, you say, as about 80% of Americans agree. Only when they get together . . .
Who said it? Where did it come from? Wikiquote, again:
This is a variant expression of a sentiment which is often attributed to Tocqueville or Alexander Fraser Tytler, but the earliest known occurrence is as an unsourced attribution to Tytler in “This is the Hard Core of Freedom” by Elmer T. Peterson in The Daily Oklahoman (9 December 1951): “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.”
Who was Elmer T. Peterson — and more importantly, why should anyone pay heed to his distortion of the operations of the Constitutional republic we have?
Peterson published two studies in collaboration with Dr. Everet F. Lindquist, Malcolm P. Price and Henry A. Jeep: “A Census of the Public School Teaching Personnel of Iowa for the School Year 1928-29”, published by the state of Iowa in 1932, and “Teacher Supply and Demand in Iowa,” published by the University of Iowa in the same year.
Brian Williams was suspended from the NBC Nightly News for less. Will the Sutherland Institute resign, now?
The Sutherland Institute is a right-wing, states rights and anti-government group in Utah, mis-named (IMHO) after Utah’s only U.S. Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland; to the best of my knowledge, Sutherland avoided returning to Utah as much as possible after he left the Senate, a continuing part of his trials after bolting from the LDS Church; as a justice, Sutherland represented a much discredited philosophy, but keeps respect among modern scholars despite “the distinction of having more opinions overruled than any other justice in the history of the Court” (John Fox, writing for the PBS series on the Supreme Court; yes, it’s an odd claim)
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
Star-spangled Banner and the War of 1812 – The original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem, is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Every school kid learns the story of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” or should.
During the War of 1812, Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key, stood aboard a British ship in Baltimore Harbor to negotiate the release of his friend, Dr. William Beanes, who had been taken prisoner while the British stormed through Bladensburg, Maryland, after burning Washington, D.C. Key witnessed the British shelling of Fort McHenry, the guardian of Baltimore’s harbor. Inspired when he saw the U.S. flag still waving at dawn after a night of constant shelling, Key wrote a poem.
It’s a wonderful history with lots of splendid, interesting details (Dolley Madison fleeing the Executive Mansion clutching the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, the guy who had introduced Dolley to James Madison and then snubbed them after they were married; the British troops eating the White House dinner the Madisons left in their haste; the gigantic, 42 by 30 foot flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow trying to support her family; the rag-tag Baltimore militia stopping cold “Wellington’s Invicibles;” the British massing of 50 boats and gunships; and much more).
It’s a grand and glorious history that stirs the patriotic embers of the most cynical Americans.
And it’s all true.
So it doesn’t deserve the voodoo history version, the bogus history created by some person preaching in a church (I gather from the “amens”) that is making the rounds of the internet, stripped of attribution so we can hunt down the fool who is at fault.
We got this in an e-mail yesterday; patriots save us, there must be a hundred repetitions that turn up on Google, not one correcting this horrible distortion of American history.
There was no ultimatum to to Baltimore, nor to the U.S., as this fellow describes it.
Key negotiated for the release of one man, Dr. Beanes. There was no brig full of U.S. prisoners.
It’s Fort McHenry, not “Henry.” The fort was named after James McHenry, a physician who was one of the foreign-born signers of the Constitution, who had assisted Generals Washington and Lafayette during the American Revolution, and who had served as Secretary of War to Presidents Washington and Adams.
Fort McHenry was a military institution, a fort defending Baltimore Harbor. It was not a refuge for women and children.
The nation would not have reverted to British rule had Fort McHenry fallen.
The battle was not over the flag; the British were trying to take Baltimore, one of America’s great ports. At this point, they rather needed to since the Baltimore militia had stunned and stopped the ground troops east of the city. There’s enough American bravery and pluck in this part of the story to merit no exaggerations.
To the best of our knowledge, the British did not specifically target the flag.
There were about 25 American casualties. Bodies of the dead were not used to hold up the flag pole — a 42 by 30 foot flag has to be on a well-anchored pole, not held up by a few dead bodies stacked around it.
You can probably find even more inaccuracies (please note them in comments if you do).
The entire enterprise is voodoo history. The name of Francis Scott Key is right; the flag is right; almost everything else is wrong.
Please help: Can you find who wrote this piece of crap? Can you learn who the narrator is, and where it was recorded?
I keep finding troubling notes with this on the internet: ‘My school kids are going to see this to get the real story.’ ‘Why are the libs suppressing the truth?’ ‘I didn’t know this true story before, and now I wonder why my teachers wouldn’t tell it.’
Item from The Associated Press‘s “Today in History” feature, for December 21: “1620 – Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Mass.” Why in December? The arrived at the place almost a month earlier, but because of delays in getting out of England due to the leaky second boat (which didn’t make the trip), and difficulties encountered en route, when the group anchored, they first had to come to an agreement how to govern the colony, so far out of the territory of the charter they had been granted, as explained below. Originally, a version of this desultory ran here, on July 26, 2006.
From the Library of Congress, one of the few illustrations of the event that makes it clear it was near winter: The Pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock, December 1620 Credit: Sarony & Major. “The landing of the Pilgrims, on Plymouth Rock, Dec. 11th 1620.” c1846. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
One of the grandest canards in current thought about U.S. history is that the Mayflower Compact set up a theocracy in Massachusetts. Lofton and Moore banter about it as if it were well-established fact — or as if, as I suspect, neither of them has looked at the thing in a long time, and that neither of them has ever diagrammed the operative sentence in the thing.
The Mayflower Compact was an agreement between the people in two religiously disparate groups, that among them they would fairly establish a governing body to fairly make laws, and that they would abide by those laws. Quite the opposite of a theocracy, this was the first time Europeans set up in the New World a government by consent of the governed.
That is something quite different from a theocracy.
I think people get confused by the run-on sentences, and the flattering, intended-to-be-flowery language in the clauses prefacing the meat of the document.
First, a very brief history: There were two groups aboard the ship in 1620, about 70 artisans and craftsman along to provide the real work to make sure the colony made money, and about 30 religious refugees. The London Company (accurately) thought the religious refugees lacking in key skills, like trapping, hunting and hide tanning, and barrel-making (barrels were needed to ship goods to England). So the London Company had insisted the craftsman go along, to make sure somebody knew how to harvest stuff and ship it back.
The London Company had a charter to establish a colony in Virginia. Because of delays with leaky ships and uncooperative winds, the Mayflower got to America late, and much farther north. The Mayflower landed well outside the territory the company was chartered to colonize, and the 70 craftsmen announced they were striking out on their own. Bradford realized his group would freeze, or starve, or both, and at gunpoint he kept both groups aboard ship to work out a compromise.
In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord, King James, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, e&.
Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
In Witness whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord, King James of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini, 1620.
See what I mean? It’s loaded with clauses that tend to obscure what is going on. Starting out with the standard contract language of the day, “In the name of God, Amen,” it loses modern readers. We tend to think that with so many mentions of God without a “damn” following, it must be a religious document. But it’s not.
Here’s the meat the the document, the money quote:
We, whose names are underwritten . . . do by these presents, solemnly and mutually in the Presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid; And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.
Got that? They promised to form a government, enact fair laws, and obey those laws — government by consent of the governed, by mutual compact, not by divine right.
Just because God is mentioned in the document doesn’t change its nature. It’s a secular compact, an agreement between men, outside the stricture of any church, outside any particular belief.
As we noted over at Ed Brayton’s site, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, many New England settlements and towns became little theocracies. But it wasn’t the Mayflower Compact which set that up, or encouraged it.
I first posted a version of this back in August 2006. Since that time not much showed up on the internet to commemorate the story of Mel Mermelstein, nor to burn his deeds into the history books. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub had many fewer readers each day, then too. This is a story that should not be forgotten about a story that must not be forgotten.
Mr. Mel Mermelstein, in 1993, recording an oral history for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum
In early August 1985, Melvin Mermelstein struck a powerful blow against bogus history and historical hoaxes. Mel won a decision in a California court, in a contract case.
A group of Holocaust deniers had offered a $50,000 reward for anyone who could prove that the Holocaust actually happened. Mermelstein had watched his family marched to the gas chambers, and could testify. He offered his evidence. The Holocaust deniers, of course, had no intention of paying up. They dismissed any evidence offered as inadequate, and continued to claim no one could prove that the Holocaust actually occurred.
Mermelstein, however, was a businessman and he knew the law. He knew that the offer of the reward was a sweepstakes, a form of contract. He knew it was a contract enforceable in court. He sued to collect the offered reward. The reward was an offer, and Mel Mermelstein accepted the offer and, he said, he performed his part of the bargain. The issue in court would be, was Mermelstein’s evidence sufficient?
Mermelstein’s lawyer had a brilliant idea. He petitioned the court to take “judicial notice” of the fact of the Holocaust. Judicial note means that a fact is so well established that it doesn’t need to be evidenced when it is introduced in court — such as, 2+2=4, the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 degrees Celsius, etc.
The court ruled that the evidence presented overwhelmingly established that the Holocaust had occurred — the court made judicial note of the Holocaust. That ruling meant that, by operation of law, Mermelstein won the case. The only thing for the judge to do beyond that was award the money, and expenses and damages.
As co-directors of Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies, Rennie Brantz and Zohara Boyd are always eager to expand and improve the center’s methods of education. Seldom, though, does this involve airfare.
Brantz and Boyd recently visited Israel to participate in the Fifth International Conference for Education: Teaching the Holocaust to Future Generations. The four-day conference was held in late June at Yad Vashem, an institute and museum in Jerusalem that specializes in the Nazi Holocaust. [link added]
“Yad Vashem is an incredible institute,” Brantz said. “It was founded in the ’50s to remember and commemorate those who perished in the Holocaust, and has been the premier international research institute dealing with the Holocaust.”
As Santayana advises, we remember the past in order to prevent its recurring. Clearly, this is a past we need to work harder at remembering.
Despite having been ordered to acknowledge the Holocaust, pay up on their sweepstakes offer, and apologize to Mr. Mermelstein, Holocaust deniers continue to publish claims that Mr. Mermelstein’s account is not accurate, or that it is contradictory or in some other way fails to measure up to the most strict tests of historical accuracy. So it is important that you remember the story of Mel Mermelstein, and that you spread it far and wide.
Lord help us. Alabama Public Television (APT), a voice of reason in a state that often seems to have very little, is apparently succumbing to the crazies.
Last week, the two top executives of the network were summarily fired by the Alabama Educational Television Commission, APT’s governing body, after they resisted an effort by a new commissioner to air DVDs produced by a far-right theocrat who has been roundly condemned by historians. In the days that followed, three members of a foundation set up to raise money for APT also resigned.
The videos were produced by David Barton, an evangelical propagandist who claims falsely that America was founded as a Christian nation and has also become Glenn Beck’s unofficial — and completely untrained — “historian.” The DVDs were suggested by commissioner Rodney Herring, an Opelika-based chiropractor who was appointed to the panel last year and elected its secretary in January.
Immediately after meeting in executive session June 12, commissioners ordered APT Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, to clear out their desks and leave APT’s Birmingham headquarters. Pizzato had been APT executive director for 12 years; Howland was his deputy director and the network’s chief financial officer.
Pizzato would not comment on the reasons for the firing, other than to say commissioners were seeking to go in “a new direction.” But Howland, in an interview with Current.org, a news service of the American University’s School of Communication, said that Pizzato and his staff had “grave concerns” about airing the videos, which strongly advocate a religious interpretation of the past that historians say is simply wrong. She said she was “baffled” by the firings but recalled Pizatto asking his staff for advice on how to respond to Herring’s proposal.
Commission Chairman Ferris Stephens disputed Current’s report in an interview with The Associated Press, but gave no specifics. Herring, for his part, claimed that disagreement over the Barton DVDs played an “at best minimal” role in the firings, which he described as part of an overall restructuring effort. “We believe it to be a positive change,” wrote another commissioner, conservative talk radio host J. Holland, in response to AP’s queries about the firings. “Simple as that.”
As simple as that? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I don’t believe it.
Stephens told the AP that Barton’s videos had been discussed in the last meeting before the one that produced the firings last week. He said there was another item related to Barton’s organization, WallBuilders, on the agenda for last week’s meeting, but that the commission didn’t get to that item before adjourning. Herring, for his part, denied knowing that Pizzato and Howland had any opinion at all about the DVDs, although Howland told Current that Pizzato had made it clear that he thought the films were “inappropriate” for APT.
Why is it that Pizzato and Howland were fired just as the matter seemed to be coming to a head? Why won’t Stephens and the other commissioners cough up the real reason for the firings, if it wasn’t what seems obvious? When the AP story ran last week, Herring was quoted saying the station may indeed broadcast some of the Barton videos. In fact, he said the commission had consulted attorneys about that possibility. That’s a funny thing to do if you’re just deciding whether to show a film on public television, not making controversial personnel decisions.
The sad truth is, this kind of extremism is getting to be par for the course in Alabama. We passed the immigrant-bashing H.B. 56 and, when legal problems with it came up, our legislators responded by actually making the draconian bill even worse. Last month, the same legislature, after the John Birch Society warned hysterically about a United Nations global sustainability plan, actually passed a law saying that property here cannot be confiscated as part of Agenda 21 — even though that entirely voluntary plan does not and could not require that. One of our current congressmen even claimed a few years back that he knew of 17 “socialists” in the U.S. Congress — although, like Joe McCarthy, he declined to name them.
Why does Rodney Herring want to show Barton’s videos? He isn’t saying. But what Barton has to say should make Alabamians’ hair stand on end.
Barton doesn’t only not believe in global warming — he thinks reducing carbon dioxide emissions would actually devastate the planet. Barton fought to have the names of Martin Luther King Jr. and labor activist Cesar Chavez removed from public school textbooks. He says God set the borders of nations, so immigration reform is unnecessary. He argues that homosexuality should be regulated because gay people “die decades earlier than heterosexuals” and more than half of all gays have had more than 500 sex partners — both falsehoods.
It isn’t only liberals who dislike Barton. Derek Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute on Church-State Studies at Baylor University, says “a lot of what he presents is a distortion of the truth.” J. Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, says his writings are “laced with exaggerations, half-truths and misstatements of fact.” Mark Lilla, a scholar who has taught at University of Chicago and Columbia University, says Barton’s work is “schlock history written by [a] religious propagandist” and uses “selective quotations out of context.”
But none of this apparently came up when the commissioners, in their great wisdom, decided to fire Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howland. Instead, it looks like Barton’s backers succeeded, by a reported 5-2 vote, in silencing their own eminently sensible executives, and then refusing to come clean with the public about their action.
Once again, Alabama will be the poorer. Lord help us.
David Barton is, of course, the voodoo history promoter from Texas, former vice-chairman of the Texas Republican Party who led the party into a variety of anti-education policies. Barton’s organization to spread his bogus history claims is Wallbuilders.
Here’s a post from Barton’s supporters: SPLC’s Potok Again Lies about David Barton (americanclarion.com) (I cannot vouch for the odd and disturbing ads you may get when you click to that site, and afterward, nor can I adequately warn you.) (Also, if you insist on posting the facts, you’ll get banned there. Fair warning.)
2012 is an election year, a time when we make history together as a nation. Potential turning points in history often get tarred with false interpretations of history to sway an election, or worse, a completely false recounting of history. Especially in campaigns, we need to beware false claims of history, lest we be like the ignorants George Santayana warned about, doomed to repeat errors of history they do not know or understand. How to tell that a purported piece of history is bogus? This is mostly a repeat of a post that first appeared at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub six years ago.
Robert Park provides a short e-mail newsletter every Friday, covering news in the world of physics. It’s called “What’s New.” Park makes an art of smoking out bogus science and frauds people try to perpetrate in the name of science, or for money. He wrote an opinion column for the Chronicle of Higher Education [now from Quack Watch; CHE put it behind a paywall] published January 31, 2003, in which he listed the “7 warning signs of bogus science.”
And it got me thinking about whether there are similar warning signs for bogus history? Are there clues that a biography of Howard Hughes is false that should pop out at any disinterested observer? Are there clues that the claimed quote from James Madison saying the U.S. government is founded on the Ten Commandments is pure buncombe? Should Oliver Stone have been able to to more readily separate fact from fantasy about the Kennedy assassination (assuming he wasn’t just going for the dramatic elements)? Can we generalize for such hoaxes, to inoculate ourselves and our history texts against error?
Perhaps some of the detection methods Park suggests would work for history. He wrote his opinion piece after the Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in which the Court laid out some rules lower courts should use to smoke out and eliminate false science. As Park described it, “The case involved Bendectin, the only morning-sickness medication ever approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It had been used by millions of women, and more than 30 published studies had found no evidence that it caused birth defects. Yet eight so-called experts were willing to testify, in exchange for a fee from the Daubert family, that Bendectin might indeed cause birth defects.” The Court said lower courts must act as gatekeepers against science buncombe — a difficult task for some judges who, in their training as attorneys, often spent little time studying science.
Some of the Daubert reasoning surfaced in another case recently, the opinion in Pennsylvania district federal court in which Federal District Judge John Jones struck down a school board’s order that intelligent design be introduced to high school biology students, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
Can we generalize to history, too? I’m going to try, below the fold.
Here are Park’s seven warning signs, boiled down:
Justice Stephen G. Breyer encouraged trial judges to appoint independent experts to help them. He noted that courts can turn to scientific organizations, like the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to identify neutral experts who could preview questionable scientific testimony and advise a judge on whether a jury should be exposed to it. Judges are still concerned about meeting their responsibilities under the Daubert decision, and a group of them asked me how to recognize questionable scientific claims. What are the warning signs?
I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs — even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate. [I have cut out the explanations. — E.D.]
The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
The discoverer has worked in isolation.
The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.
Here, with thanks to Robert Park, is what I propose for the warning signs for bogus history, for voodoo history:
The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, sometimes for pay.
The author says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work. Bogus history relies more on invective than investigation; anyone with an opposing view is an “idiot,” or evil.
The sources that verify the new interpretation of history are obscure, or unavailable; if they involve a famous person, the sources are not those usually relied on by historians.
Evidence for the history is anecdotal.
The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.
The author has worked in isolation, and fails to incorporate or explain other, mainstream versions of the history of the incident, and especially the author fails to explain why they are in error.
The author must propose a new interpretation of history to explain an observation.
Any history account that shows one or more of those warning signs should be viewed skeptically.
In another post, I’ll flesh out the reasoning behind why they are warning signs.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
First: American Elephant, a blog that insults pachyderms with its mendacious ways, stretches for ways to complain about President Obama. In a recent post, the author tried to poke ill-humored fun at Obama and companies he’s visited over the past couple of years. It’s the headline that caught my attention:
I left a response there, but don’t expect the blog owner to show the decency of allowing it through moderation:
President Obama worked for a private group providing services to people below the poverty line, and then he worked for a very large private law firm, while teaching at the privately-run University of Chicago. He had never worked for government until his election to the Illinois State Senate (is that salaried?).
You should probably correct the headline.
As if. Not only is the headline wrong, but the evidence doesn’t support the second premise, and there are other serious problems with the claims and arguments advanced there. True American elephants probably take to drink to try to forget what’s being done under their name.
Second, and probably third: There is the minor kerfuffle of the hoax report out of Pakistan that nuclear power plants in Nebraska are either near meltdown, or already melted down, and you don’t know about it because President Obama ordered a news blackout to avoid panic but at the same time condemning hundreds of thousands of Midwesterners to radiation poisoning deaths. It’s an absurd story on several fronts and several levels — news of the flood plight of the power plants has been reported around the world, for example — but those bent on being suckered by every conspiracy claim to come down the pike, or bent on criticizing President Obama no matter how much they must twist the fact to do it, cannot be dissuaded.
Take for example this odd blog: A discussion of the imagined meltdown quickly disintegrates into defense of holding on to birther views despite Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (no good information goes un-urinated upon). Then discussion veers off into all sorts of paranoia — UN “control” of U.S. lands, occupation of several states by rogue Transportation Security Agents (you didn’t hear about it due to the news blackout, most likely), Obama’s being controlled by or controlling GE (‘didn’t GE have something to do with the design of those nuclear reactors?’), Army Corps of Engineers plots to flood the Midwest (????), Obama’s overturning the Constitution through the use of executive orders (which no one there can find at the moment, but they’re sure they exist, somewhere . . . gee, did we misplace it?) including a wholly imaginary order to take over all rural lands in the U.S. (why?), and complaints that the U.S. is not deporting U.S. soldiers or their families quickly enough.
Such a ball of delusional paranoia and errors of history, law, and other facts! One might imagine these people so involved in tracking down misinformation and distorting real information that they forget to kick their dogs. (Seriously, I’d tend to think these people could be helped by having a dog or a cat, except for the very real fear I have they’d forget to feed the creatures; like a drowning person, fighting all efforts to save them.)
Our nation has a collective inability to deal with the facts of too many situations, because too many people simply deny the facts in front of our collective national face. Jonathan Kay’s recent book, Among the Truthers, gets at the problem — you can imagine how strongly any of these bloggers and commenters would resist even reading Kay’s book. It’s not that they seek information to make good decisions on policy, but that they seek the misinformation to justify their paranoid claims that “we are all really, really screwed!”
As with the blogs noted above, we witness the birth of voodoo history, bogus history, and intentional ignorance.
There is a great danger from these cesspools of willful ignorance. As more people refuse to grant credence to facts, to reality, it becomes more difficult to muster a consensus on what to do about any particular problem. Wildfires and drought in Texas this year already wiped out more than three-fifths of the state’s wheat harvest; floods in the upper Midwest will surely do serious damage to wheat crops there. We face a shortage of the surpluses of wheat the nation has used to bring peace and vanquish hunger around the world for the past 60 years — think of our “sale” of wheat to the old Soviet Union, stopping the starvation death toll under 10 million and indebting the USSR to the U.S. and the non-communist West — a debt the USSR never could pay off, and a debt which was the hammer to start the crumbling of the foundations of Soviet Communism. In short, we have a wheat supply problem, caused in no small part by weather extremes that are, mostly likely, aggravated by global warming.
Can we agree to take action? Probably not, not so long as so many people deny that warming is happening and throw every roadblock in the path of action, in the name of “preventing government takeover.”
As a nation, we have problems with flood control, and emergency preparedness, and the management of undeveloped lands and farm lands — not to mention the many urban problems we face. What are the odds we can get a consensus on any of those problems, at least enough of a consensus to take constructive action?
For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost, begins the old saw. We can’t even get agreement that horseshoes should be nailed to a horse’s hoof — how can we get the consensus to make sure there are enough nails to do the job?
Jerome Corsi, that serial fictionalizer of vital issues, has a book out promoting his slimy schemes besmirch President Obama. Goddard urges people to buy it.
But they really pile on in the comments. It’s almost as if Casey Luskin had a whole family just like himself, and they got together to whine about Judge Roberts again.
Warming denialism, creationism and birthers — is it all just three minor variations on the same brain-sucking virus? Or could three different diseases produce the same sort of crazy on so many different issues?
I’m reminded of the old saw that you cannot reason a person out of a position he didn’t reach by reason. These guys will never see the light. Heaven knows, it ain’t evidence that gets ’em where they are now.
In Concord, New Hampshire, on March 11 and 12, 2011, apparently testing to see whether that little state has bad enough education standards before announcing a presidential bid, Michelle Bachmann butchered history and geography once again, according to the conservative Minnesota Independent:
“You’re the state where the shot was heard around the world in Lexington and Concord,” she said, referencing Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” an ode to the lives lost at the start of the American Revolution in Concord, Massachusetts, not New Hampshire.
How many bites at the apple does stupid get? Has Ed Brayton picked up on this yet?
New American did its damnedest to explain it away as a slip of the tongue — either assuming Bachmann is too reckless not to use prepared remarks for her first foray into New Hampshire (maybe a more serious indictment), or not paying attention to her written remarks (Was it just one more in a long string of really stupid slips of the tongue? Loose tongues sink as many ships as loose lips . . .); in another article New American falsely claimed a worldwide ban on DDT, falsely claiming the ban killed 30 million kids, and said that it disrupted food growing in America, though food crops hadn’t been sprayed with DDT for nearly a decade when its use was banned on agricultural crops in the U.S. alone. Accuracy isn’t in that animal
This week, EPA bashing took front and center on the performance stage that passes as Congress these days. There is a school of thought that thinks EPA should be eviscerated because EPA is carrying out the mandate an earlier Congress gave it, to clean up the air. Especially, the recent assailants claim, EPA should not try to reduce carbon emissions, because clean air might cost something.
Steven Milloy, who makes crude and false claims against William Ruckelshaus, a great lawyer and the hero of the Saturday Night Massacre. Why does Milloy carry such a pathetic grudge?
Wholly apart from the merits, or great lack of merits to those arguments, the anti-EPA crowd is just ugly.
78-year-old William Ruckelshaus, the Hero of the Saturday Night Massacre, a distinguished lawyer and businessman, and the founding Director of EPA who was called back to clean it up after the Reagan administration scandals, granted an interview on EPA bashing to Remapping Debate, an ambitious, independent blog from the Columbia School of Journalism designed to provide information essential to policy debates that too-often gets overlooked or buried. [Remapping Debate sent a note that they are not affiliated with CSJ; my apologies for the error.]
Ruckelshaus, as always, gave gentlemanly answers to questions about playing politics with science, and bashing good, honest and diligent government workers as a method of political discourse.
He’s the 20th century’s only mass murderer to survive and thrive (as a venture capitalist) in the 21st century.
Milloy owes Ruckelshaus an apology and a complete retraction. I rather hope Ruckelshaus sues — while Milloy will claim the standards under New York Times vs. Sullivan as a defense, because Ruckelshaus is a public figure, I think the only question a jury would have to deal with is how much malice aforethought Milloy exhibits. Malice is obvious. Heck, there might not even be a question for a jury — Milloy loses on the law (nothing he claims against Ruckelshaus is accurate or true in any way).
This is much more damning than what got two NPR officials to lose their jobs.
Who will stand up for justice here? Rep. Upton? Rep. Boehner? Anthony Watts?
I tried to offer a correction, and since then have written Milloy demanding an apology and retraction — neither comment has surfaced yet on Milloy’s blog. Here’s the truth Milloy hasn’t printed:
20. DDT can have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish and estuarine organisms when directly applied to the water.
21. DDT is used as a rodenticide. [DDT was used to kill bats in homes and office buildings; this was so effective that, coupled with accidental dosing of bats from their eating insects carrying DDT, it actually threatened to wipe out some species of bat in the southwest U.S.]
22. DDT can have an adverse effect on beneficial animals.
23. DDT is concentrated in organisms and can be transferred through food chains.
On that basis, two federal courts ruled that DDT must be taken off the market completely. Sweeney agreed with the findings of the courts precisely, but he determined that the law did not give him the power to order DDT off the market since the newly-proposed labels of the DDT manufacturers restricted use to emergency health-related tasks. With the benefit of rereading the two federal courts’ decisions, Ruckelshaus noted that the courts said the power was already in the old law, and definitely in the new law. [See, for example, EDF v. Ruckelshaus, 439 F. 2d 584 (1971)]
DDT was banned from use on crops in the U.S. as an ecosystem killer. It still is an ecosystem killer, and it still deserves to be banned.
Ruckelshaus’s order never traveled outside the U.S. DDT has never been banned in most nations of the world, and even though DDT has earned a place on the list of Dirty Dozen most dangerous pollutants, even under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty of 2001, DDT is available for use to any country who wishes to use it.
Please get your facts straight.
Would you, Dear Reader, help spread the word on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, or any other service you have, that the Brown Lobby has gone too far in it’s error-based propaganda against clean air and those who urge a better environment? Please?
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Tuesday morning, March 8, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce opened hearings on global warming, staging an assault on science with a series of witnesses, some of whom recently have made a career out of mau-mauing scientists.
Dr. Donald Roberts’ testimony to the House Committee on Energy and Power, on March 8, 2011, presented a grand collection of Bogus History, coupled with Bogus Science. Roberts has an unfortunate history of presenting doctored data and false claims to Congress.
One witness took after the EPA directly and Rachel Carson by implication, with a specious claim that DDT is harmless. Donald Roberts is a former member of the uniformed public health service. Since retiring, and perhaps for a while before, he started running with a bad crowd. Of late he’s been working with the Merry Hoaxsters of the unrooted Astroturf organization Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), a group dedicated to publishing editorials tearing down the reputation of Rachel Carson, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
(That would all be purple prose, were it not accurate in its description of people, organizations and their actions.)
Why was Roberts testifying at a hearing on global warming? He’s carrying water for the anti-science, “please-do-nothing” corporate crowd. It’s a tactic from the old tobacco lobbyist book: Roberts claims that scientists got everything wrong about DDT, and that the ban on DDT done in error has wreaked havoc in the third world. Therefore, he says, we should never trust scientists. If scientists say “duck!” don’t bother, in other words.
Roberts is in error. Scientists, especially Rachel Carson, were dead right about DDT. Because corporate interests refused to listen to them, the overuse and abuse of DDT rendered it ineffective in the fight against malaria, and DDT use as part of a very ambitious campaign to eradicate malaria had to be abandoned in 1965. The entire campaign had to be abandoned as a result, and more than 30 million kids have died since.
So don’t grant credence to Roberts now. He’s covering up one of the greatest industrial screw-ups in history, a screw up that, by Roberts’ own count, has killed 30 million kids. What in the world would motivate Roberts to get the story so wrong, to the detriment of so many kids?
Putting issues of EPA budget aside, I want to introduce my technical comments with a quote from a recent Associated Press article with a lead statement “none of EPA’s actions is as controversial as its rules on global warming.” In my opinion, this is wrong.
Dr. Donald Roberts testifying to the House Energy Committee, March 8, 2011. Screen capture from Committee video.
Roberts is correct here in his opinion. It is simply wrong that EPA’s rules on global warming and controls of the pollutants that cause it should be controversial. Among air pollution scientists the rules are not controversial. Among climate scientists the rules are not controversial. Roberts and his colleagues at the so-called Competitive Enterprise Institute, Africa Fighting Malaria (AFM), and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) work hard to manufacture controversy where the science does not support their case.
It is wrong. Roberts should be ashamed.
Almost forty years ago EPA banned DDT in the United States. Its action against DDT was extraordinarily controversial, and still is. As activists advanced fearful claims against DDT, the EPA was warned, over and over again, a ban would destroy critically important disease control programs and millions upon millions of poor people in developing countries would die as consequence. Leaders of the World Health and Pan American Health Organizations, and even the U.S. Surgeon General warned against the ban. The EPA banned DDT anyway, and the doomsday predictions of those public health leaders proved prescient.
EPA’s ban on DDT in the U.S. was limited to the United States. Roberts doesn’t say it flat out, but he implies that the U.S. ban on spraying DDT on cotton fields in Texas and Arkansas — and cotton was about the only crop where DDT was still used — somehow caused a ban on DDT in Africa, or Asia, or South America, or other places where malaria still occurs.
I’m also not sure that health officials “pleaded” to stop the U.S. ban on any grounds, but certainly they did not plead with Ruckelshaus to keep spraying DDT on cotton. Roberts is making stuff up in effect, if not in intent.
Probably more to the point, health officials had stopped significant use of DDT in Africa in 1965, seven years before EPA acted in the U.S., because overuse of DDT on crops in Africa had bred mosquitoes that were resistant and immune to the stuff. Since 1955, in close cooperation with the malaria-fighting experts from the Rockefeller Foundation including the great Fred Soper, WHO carried on a methodical, militant campaign to wipe out malaria. The program required that public health care be beefed up to provide accurate malaria diagnoses, and complete treatment of human victims of the parasitic disease. Then an army of house sprayers would move in, dosing the walls of houses and huts with insecticide. Most malaria-carrying mosquitoes at the time would land on the walls of a home or hut after biting a human and getting a blood meal, pausing to squeeze out heavy, excess water to make flight easier. If the wall were coated with an insecticide, the mosquito would die before being able to bite many more people, maybe before becoming capable of spreading malaria.
DDT was Soper’s insecticide of choice because it was long-lasting — six months or more — and astonishingly deadly to all small creatures it contacted.
But, as Malcolm Gladwell related in his 2001 paean to Soper in The New Yorker, Soper and his colleagues well understood they were racing against the day that mosquitoes became resistant enough to DDT that their program would not work. They had hoped the day would not arrive until the late 1970s or so — but DDT is such an effective killer that it greatly speeds evolutionary processes. In the mid-1960s, before an anti-malaria campaign could even be mounted in most of Subsaharan Africa, resistant and immune mosquitoes began to stultify the campaign. By 1965, Soper’s crews worked hard to find a substitute, but had to switch from DDT. By 1972 when the U.S. banned DDT use on cotton in the U.S., it was too late to stop the resistance genes from killing WHO’s anti-malaria program. In 1969 WHO formally abandoned the goal of malaria eradication. The fight against malaria switched to control.
Roberts claims, implicitly, that people like those who worked with Soper told EPA in 1971 that DDT was absolutely essential to their malaria-fighting efforts. That could not be accurate. In 1969 the committee that oversaw the work of the UN voted formally to end the malaria eradication project. In effect, then, Roberts claims UN and other health officials lied to EPA in 1971. It is notable that Soper is credited with eradicating malaria from Brazil by 1942, completely without DDT, since DDT was not then available. Soper’s methods depended on discipline in medical care and pest control, and careful thought as to how to beat the disease — DDT was a help, but not necessary.
Interestingly, the only citation Roberts offers is to his own, nearly-self-published book, in which he indicts almost all serious malaria fighters as liars about DDT.
Can Roberts’ testimony be trusted on this point? I don’t think we should trust him.
In fact, DDT and the eradication campaign had many good effects. In 1959 and 1960, when DDT use was at its peak in the world, malaria deaths numbered about 4 million annually. The eradication campaign ultimately was ended, but it and other malaria-fighting efforts, and general improvements in housing and sanitation, helped cut the annual death toll to 2 million a year by 1972.
After the U.S. stopped spraying DDT on cotton, mosquitoes did not migrate from Texas and Arkansas to Africa. As noted earlier, the EPA order stopping agricultural use, left manufacturing untouched, to increase U.S. exports. So the ban on DDT in the U.S. increased the amount of DDT available to fight malaria.
Malaria fighting, under Soper’s standards, required great discipline among the malaria fighters — the sort of discipline that governments in Subsaharan Africa could not provide. Had WHO not slowed its use of DDT because of mosquito resistance to the stuff, WHO still would not have been able to mount eradication campaigns in nations where 80% of residences could not be sprayed regularly.
Advances in medical care, and better understanding of malaria and the vectors that spread it, helped continue the downward trend of malaria deaths. There was a modest uptick in the 1980s when the parasites themselves developed resistance to the drugs commonly used to treat the disease. With the advent of pharmaceuticals based on Chinese wormwood, or artemisinin-based drugs, therapy for humans has become more effective. Today, the annual death toll to malaria has been cut to under a million, to about 900,000 per year — a 75% drop from DDT’s peak use, a 50% drop from the U.S. ban on farm use of DDT.
With the assistance of WHO, most nations who still suffer from malaria have adopted a strategy known as Integrated Vector Management, or IVM (known as integrated pest management or IPM in the U.S.). Pesticides are used sparingly, and insect pests are monitored regularly and carefully to be sure they are not developing genetic-based resistance or immunity to the pesticides. This is the method that Rachel Carson urged in 1962, in her book, Silent Spring. Unfortunately, much of the malaria-suffering world didn’t come to these methods until after the turn of the century.
Progress against malaria has been good since 2001, using Rachel Carson’s methods.
Don Roberts’ blaming of science, EPA, WHO, and all other malaria fighters is not only misplaced, wrong in its history and wrong in its science, but it is also just nasty. Is there any way Roberts could not know and understand the facts?
These are the facts Roberts works to hide from Congress:
“Science” and scientists were right about DDT. DDT is a dangerous substance, uncontrollable in the wild according to federal court findings and 40 years of subsequent research. If we were to judge the accuracy of scientists about DDT, we would have to conclude that they were deadly accurate in their judgment that use of DDT should be stopped.
If the ban on DDT was controversial in 1972, it should not be now. All research indicates that the judgment of EPA and its director, William Ruckelshaus, was right.
EPA was not warned that a ban on agricultural use of DDT would harm public health programs, in the U.S., nor anywhere else in the world. In any case, EPA’s jurisdiction ends at U.S. borders — why would WHO say anything at all?
DDT use to fight malaria had been curtailed in 1965, years before the U.S. ban on farm use, because overuse of DDT on crops had bred DDT-resistant and DDT-immune mosquitoes. Consequently, there was not a huge nor vociferous lobby who warned that health would be put at risk if DDT were banned. Claims that these warnings were made are either false or grossly misleading.
Malaria death rates declined to less than 50% of what they were when DDT was banned from farm use in the U.S. — there was no “doomsday” because the U.S. stopped spraying DDT on cotton, and there never has been a serious shortage of DDT for use against malaria, anywhere in the world.
How much of the rest of the testimony against doing something about global warming, was complete hoax?
[Editor’s note: My apologies. I put this together on three different machines while conducting other activities. On proofing, I find several paragraphs simply disappeared, and edits to make up for the time of composing and fix tenses, got lost. It should be mostly okay, now, and I’ll add in the links that disappeared shortly . . . oh, the sorry work of the part-time blogger.]
Update, 2015: Video of the hearing, from YouTube:
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Retired teacher of law, economics, history, AP government, psychology and science. Former speechwriter, press guy and legislative aide in U.S. Senate. Former Department of Education. Former airline real estate, telecom towers, Big 6 (that old!) consultant. Lab and field research in air pollution control.
My blog, Millard Fillmore's Bathtub, is a continuing experiment to test how to use blogs to improve and speed up learning processes for students, perhaps by making some of the courses actually interesting. It is a blog for teachers, to see if we can use blogs. It is for people interested in social studies and social studies education, to see if we can learn to get it right. It's a blog for science fans, to promote good science and good science policy. It's a blog for people interested in good government and how to achieve it.
BS in Mass Communication, University of Utah
Graduate study in Rhetoric and Speech Communication, University of Arizona
JD from the National Law Center, George Washington University