We might pause to reflect, too: Recent years have seen the media rise of actual beheadings. This practice, which now strikes many of us as barbaric, occurs in reality as well as memory and literature; unlike St. Denis, those beheaded do not usually carry on to do anything at all; like St. Denis, they are martyred. Vote well in your local elections, and national elections. Your vote should be directed at preventing anyone’s losing their head, even just figuratively.
Who? He’s the patron saint of Paris (and France, by some accounts), and possessed people. Take a look at this statue, from the “left door” of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris: portail de gauche). He was martyred by beheading, in about 250 C.E.
A later painting of the martyring of St. Denis. Though I can find a couple copies of this painting, neither lists who was the painter, nor where the painting is.
According to the Golden Legend, after his head was chopped off, Denis picked it up and walked two miles, preaching a sermon the entire way. The site where he stopped preaching and actually died was made into a small shrine that developed into the Saint Denis Basilica, which became the burial place for the kings of France. Another account has his corpse being thrown in the Seine, but recovered and buried later that night by his converts.
Clearly, he is the guy to pray to about Donald Trump, Bill Barr, Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, intelligent design, and the Texas State Board of Education, no? In 2013, we added Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louis Gohmert, the entire Tea Party, and the entire GOP crew of the House of Representatives. You catch my drift. In 2018 we added a raft of people: Marsha Blackburn, Ryan Zinke, Sid Miller, Denny Marchant, Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham. We’ve left 253 Republicans off for lack of space.
Who would you nominate to pray about for 2020?
Perhaps you can use this factoid to some advantage, enlightenment, and perhaps humor. In Catholic lore, St. Denis is one of the “14 Holy Helpers,” and his aid is sought to help people with headaches, or who have been possessed.
Crazy GOP members who I suspect of having been possessed give me and America a headache. St. Denis seems to be our man. Or saint.
Who else do you know of in this modern, vexatious time, who keeps talking after losing his/her head?
Another portrayal, in sculpture, of St. Denis. Notice how this one’s face doesn’t really look like the one above? Ouvre du Musée de Cluny, Wikipedia photo by Guillaume Blanchard (Aoineko), June 2001, FinePix 1400Z.
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. I had hoped to have to retire this post someday. I still hope. Perhaps this will be the last year we’ll have so many wackaloons running loose. Pray to St. Denis.
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“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” — John Adams to Abigail Adams, July 3, 1776
Surely John Adams knew that July 4 would be Independence Day, didn’t he?
In writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, John Adams committed one of those grand errors even he would laugh at afterward. We’ll forgive him when the fireworks start firing.
Two days later, that same Congress approved the wording of the document Thomas Jefferson had drafted to announce Lee’s resolution to the world.
Today, we celebrate the date of the document Jefferson wrote, and Richard Henry Lee is often a reduced to a footnote, if not erased from history altogether.
Who can predict the future?
(You know, of course, that Adams and Jefferson both died 50 years to the day after the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, 1826. In the 50 intervening years, Adams and Jefferson were comrades in arms and diplomacy in Europe, officers of the new government in America, opposing candidates for the presidency, President and Vice President, ex-President and President, bitter enemies, then long-distance friends writing almost daily about how to make a great new nation. Read David McCullough‘s version of the story, if you can find it.)
Joe Biden’s campaign is sharing personal stories about Biden — this one was shared originally in September 2019. It’s a way to get to know him, and to show his character (or lack of it).
This one, you should read. It’s the Joe Biden I met first in 1974, and the Biden I know him to be. But I hadn’t heard this story before.
I Know Joe Biden: Rabbi Michael Beals
The story I’m about to share with you about Joe Biden is special — in fact, I’m fairly certain I’m the only living person left who actually witnessed it firsthand.
It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan — a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didn’t know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together — a minyan — to say the Mourners’ Kaddish. It usually happens in a person’s home — somewhere intimate.
In this case, the deceased individual — her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory — had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment had been too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the building’s communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.
We assembled the ten elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead the kaddish. Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened, and who walks in but Senator Joe Biden, his head lowered, all by himself.
I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.
Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.
At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Senator Biden — what are you doing here?”
And he said to me: “Listen, back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”
Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith — its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.
There were no news outlets at our service that day — no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.
Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because he’s a mensch.
And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country — we need a mensch.
I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.
Because I think that, in their heart of hearts, when people are trying to think about the decision they’ll make next year — this is the kind of story that matters.
September 25, 1789, Congress had approved and enrolled the proposals, and sent twelve proposed amendments to the Constitution to the states for ratification. Ten of the twelve amendments were approved, rather quickly, and by 1791 the were attached to the Constitution. These ten we now call the Bill of Rights.
James Madison proposed the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, and the 27th Amendment; the 203 years it took to ratify the 27th Amendment is the longest legislative process in the history of the U.S., and probably the world.
The two proposals that failed to earn the required approval of three-fourths of the 13 states fell into a special limbo for Constitutional amendments that became clear only in the late 1970s when Congress discussed how long to wait for states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment (this is a much-simplified explanation, I know). Congress put deadlines on the ratification process in the late 20th century, but the first twelve proposals had no deadlines, nor did any other proposal before the Equal Rights Amendment proposal. In the 1980s, Congress passed a law that said any amendments floating around, unapproved, would be considered dead after a date certain. There were six amendments in that category.
Before that date certain passed, more states took a look at one of James Madison’s 1789 proposals. They liked it, and they ratified it — 34 states total.
No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
This is the longest legislative procedure in U.S. history, perhaps the longest ever — it lasted much longer than many nations. By that ratification in 1992, James Madison became the person who proposed both the first, and last amendments to the Constitution.
Madison’s reaching out from the grave 156 years after his death — he died on June 28, 1836 — is one of the greatest legislative coups in history, too.
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One reason? A requirement for the badge was to file for and get a patent from the U.S. Patent Office. Much easier to do in 1911-1914 than today, but still a hurdle probably too high to require from Scouts.
Ten Scouts did it, though — one of the patents was displayed in the blog for Scouting Magazine. So I searched patents to see if I could find some of the other ten.
Not yet. But I did find this patent for a dandy semaphore signaling device (back in the day, Scouts had to learn either semaphore or Morse code). On October 29, 1929, H. C. Meyer got a patent on a device that looks like a Boy Scout with two semaphore flags — with mechanisms to position the flags for semaphore signaling.
Why a dummy instead of a Scout? Not sure. All I found was the drawing. No hint on whether the device was ever built.
National poetry Month may be even more important when we’re avoiding other social interactions, poetry being a very intimate interaction that spans distances and time.
Plans for National Poetry Month 2020 were made months ago; the only difference will be cancellations of actual physical gatherings.
But, literature and history teachers, is there a topic better adapted for virtual learning than poetry?
The Academy of American Poets described it:
National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.
We hope National Poetry Month’s events and activities will inspire you to keep celebrating poetry all year long!
April’s a good month for poetry. I like using Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” on April 18th or 19th in 10th and 11th grade history classes — sadly, most Texas students appear unfamiliar with the poem, which can help them on several key questions on the state test. It can be followed up with Emerson’s “Concord Hymn,” which contains a phrase they are required to know — but again, in a poem they are not taught otherwise.
And there are, or would be in a normal year, pending ceremonies of various types that demand poetry. Graduations, farewells, awards ceremonies, and more that cry out for just a few verses of poetry to put frosting on the cake, or gravy on the potatoes depending on which metaphor floats your particular watercraft.
Happy to see so much material out there for National Poetry Month. Where will you start?
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Science historian Paul Halpern Tweeted this photo recently, saying:
Albert Einstein and psychologist Sigmund Freud greatly admired each other. Here is a portrait of Einstein, painted by Ferdinand Schmutzer, that was part of Freud’s personal collection. It is now housed in the Freud Museum, Vienna.
It’s an image of Einstein I don’t recall seeing before. Einstein was not camera shy, but there are only a handful of photos of him that make the rounds regularly. I like to find other images that are less well-known, and which may offer some graphic insight into neglected facets of the man.
I did not realize that Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein regarded each other as friends, so. An interesting commentary on the times they lived and worked, I suppose. How much of each other’s work did they study, or understand?
Ferdinand Schmutzer was an Austrian professor (where?), photographer and painter, who published this picture of Einstein in 1921, the year Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the photoelectric effect. Perhaps ironically, Einstein did not win for his work on relativity, or other work more famous that photoelectric effect.
Einstein didn’t sit for this picture. Schmutzer worked from a photograph he took, or perhaps a series of photos. One photo negative was discovered in Austria in 2001. It provides an interesting comparison to the finished portrait.
In his younger days, far from being a disheveled-appearing, perhaps-absent-minded professor, Einstein cut a handsome figure. Educators may note with some jealousy he had good skills on the chalkboard, too.
It looks like Sch
Einstein’s birthday was March 14. That’s Pi Day (3.14), if you’re looking for coincidences that strike a humor chord among scientists and science aficionados.
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February 15th is Shoulders of Giants Day (unless you’re still on the Julian calendar).
Or should be.
Famous quotations often get cited to the wrong famous person. ‘Somebody said something about standing on the shoulders of giants — who was it? Edison? Lincoln? Einstein? Jefferson?’ It may be possible someday to use Google or a similar service to track down the misquotes.
The inspiration, perhaps
Robert Burton, melancholy scholar at Oxford
A dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant may see farther than a giant himself.
Robert Burton (February 8, 1577-January 25, 1640), vicar of Oxford University, who wrote The Anatomy of Melancholy to ward off his own depressions
The famous quote
Sir Isaac Newton, by Sir Godfrey Keller, 1689
If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.
Sir Isaac Newton, letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675, Julian/February 15, 1676, Gregorian
Newton consciously paid tribute to others who had plowed his science fields before, even if he came up with different crops, er, answers. All science is based on something that comes before it, and in the modern world science advances, oddly, by trying to disprove what scientists thought happened before.
But the sentiment applies equally well in business, in politics, in raising children. We are products of what we learn, and what we learn is a result of culture, which is a result of history. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
It’s our job to try to see farther, and not just look down, at how far up we are.
Someone will ask (since we so often discuss it), ‘can we fly our flags today?’
Of course you may fly your U.S. flag today. It’s not a day designated by law, but you may fly it in honor of Sir Isaac Newton’s letter if you wish. The U.S. flag code suggests times Americans may fly their flags, but does not require it, nor does law forbid flying the flag for other occasions, or just for every day.
Maybe better, climb to the top of the flag pole. What can you see, aided by a giant’s height?
Lincoln would become one of our most endeared presidents, though endearment would come after his assassination. Lincoln’s bust rides the crest of Mt. Rushmore (next to two slaveholders), with George Washington, the Father of His Country, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt, the man who made the modern presidency, and the only man ever to have won both a Congressional Medal of Honor and a Nobel Prize, the only president to have won the Medal of Honor.
In his effort to keep the Union together, Lincoln freed the slaves of the states in rebellion during the civil war, becoming an icon to freedom and human rights for all history. Upon his death the entire nation mourned; his funeral procession from Washington, D.C., to his tomb in Springfield, Illinois, stopped twelve times along the way for full funeral services. Lying in state in the Illinois House of Representatives, beneath a two-times lifesize portrait of George Washington, a banner proclaimed, “Washington the Father, Lincoln the Savior.”
Darwin would become one of the greatest scientists of all time. He would be credited with discovering the theory of evolution by natural and sexual selection. His meticulous footnoting and careful observations formed the data for ground-breaking papers in geology (the creation of coral atolls), zoology (barnacles, and the expression of emotions in animals and man), botany (climbing vines and insectivorous plants), ecology (worms and leaf mould), and travel (the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle). At his death he was honored with a state funeral, attended by the great scientists and statesmen of London in his day. Hymns were specially written for the occasion. Darwin is interred in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton, England’s other great scientist, who knocked God out of the heavens.
Lincoln would be known as the man who saved the Union of the United States and set the standard for civil and human rights, vindicating the religious beliefs of many and challenging the beliefs of many more. Darwin’s theory would become one of the greatest ideas of western civilization, changing forever all the sciences, and especially agriculture, animal husbandry, and the rest of biology, while also provoking crises in religious sects.
Lincoln, the politician known for freeing the slaves, also was the first U.S. president to formally consult with scientists, calling on the National Science Foundation (whose creation he oversaw) to advise his administration. Darwin, the scientist, advocated that his family put the weight of its fortune behind the effort to abolish slavery in the British Empire. Each held an interest in the other’s disciplines.
Both men were catapulted to fame in 1858. Lincoln’s notoriety came from a series of debates on the nation’s dealing with slavery, in his losing campaign against Stephen A. Douglas to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate. On the fame of that campaign, he won the nomination to the presidency of the fledgling Republican Party in 1860. Darwin was spurred to publicly reveal his ideas about the power of natural and sexual selection as the force behind evolution, in a paper co-authored by Alfred Russel Wallace, presented to the Linnean Society in London on July 1, 1858. On the strength of that paper, barely noticed at the time, Darwin published his most famous work, On the Origin of Species, in November 1859.
Darwin and Lincoln might have got along well, but they never met.
What unusual coincidences.
Go celebrate human rights, good science, and the stories about these men.
A school kid could do much worse than to study the history of these two great men. We study them far too little, it seems to me.
Anybody know what hour of the day either of these men was born?
Yes, you may fly your flag today for Lincoln’s birthday, according to the Flag Code; the official holiday, Washington’s Birthday, is next Monday, February 15th — and yes, it’s usually called “Presidents Day” by merchants and calendar makers. You want to fly your flag for Charles Darwin? Darwin never set foot in North America, remained a loyal subject of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to the end of his days. But go ahead. Who would know?
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It’s something I’ve seen in a thousand kids. Why do they sign up to be Scouts?
Girl or boy, it’s the adventure they sign up for. Parents like the idea of a kid learning how to be a good citizen, but the kids like the adventure.
It’s an old story, it turns out. Browsing images at the Library of Congress, I came across this one.
It’s a color print drawn by Crawford Will (1869-1944), for Keppler and Schwarzmann, a print company in the old Puck Building. Published on June 5, 1912, two years after Scouting got going in the U.S.
According to the description from the Library of Congress, the image shows a young Boy Scout coming out of his tent and meeting “Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack [Omohundro], Kit Carson, California Joe, [and] Dan’l Boone.” Better, that group of frontiersmen welcome the new Scout as one of them.
Know what? With just a bit of luck, that’s what a Scout gets: A lifetime of adventure. Scouting, I went all over Utah, and got to the wilds of New Mexico at Philmont National Scout Ranch. Scouting got me a job chasing air pollution in Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, got me a job tramping New York and canoeing the Adirondacks. As a Scout leader in four different councils I’ve camped long term in Colorado and Tennessee, Texas (a lot!). Scouting opened doors for me all over Washington, D.C., and gave me a boost on jobs in policy and journalism. Scouting delivered good adventures to our sons and my wife who joined one son on an 86-mile trek at Philmont.
I’ve been to those places haunted by Davy Crockett, Buffalo Bill, Texas Jack, Kit Carson, California Joe and Daniel Boone, and I’ve learned what they did wrong as well as what they did right.
More than once we’ve arrived at a camp at dusk or later, pitched tents, gone to sleep — then awakened in the morning to see young Scouts coming out of the tent and realizing they are on a big mountain, next to a grand lake, deep in a forest, in redrock country — somewhere adventures happen every day.
Like that young Scout in the picture.
Its the same for the girls in Scouting, too.
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Years ago Jim Easter tracked down the actual decision document from EPA’s Administrative Law Judge Edmund Sweeney, in which detailed his findings from the months of hearings at EPA on whether to pull registration as a pesticide from DDT.
It was great sleuthing, taking him through several EPA regional libraries, for a document that just falls into the cracks of most history of environmental law, DDT and regulation.
Jim posted the document at his blog, Some Are Boojums, and linked to his .pdf of the document. A great historical record.
Then his blog went out of commission, then it came back. And now, it’s gone again.
Meanwhile, I’d linked to the post, and have over the years sent a few hundred people to the old blog to find the .pdf and read Jim’s write-up of EPA’s hearings, findings and effects.
Some time in the late-Bush/early-Obama years EPA posted a copy of Judge Sweeney’s decision. That disappeared with the Trump administration, and I’ve not found it anywhere.
So to defend myself, make linking easier, and to aid any stray researchers who are having difficulty finding Judge Sweeney’s real decision, perhaps to debunk the pro-DDT lobbyists’ shouting that Sweeney said DDT is perfectly safe and should be used to bath every newborn, I’ve recaptured Jim Easter’s post from Some Are Boojums, and put it all here.
Warning: I’ve not rejiggered any links. I suspect many of them have gone sour. I may come back to fix a few, but you should know that at one time they all worked well.
Comments were quite lively, but I haven’t quite figured out how to post them; that may come later, or it may not.
On June 2nd, 1972, William D. Ruckelshaus, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, issued an order effectively ending the agricultural use of DDT in the US.
Thirty-five years later, that order is still the subject of fierce controversy.
One claim often made by proponents of renewed DDT use is that Ruckelshaus’ decision was capricious and unsupported by the evidence — specifically, that he acted in willful disregard of his own hearing examiner’s findings. For example, in a post co-authored with the late J. Gordon Edwards, Steven Milloy states that Ruckelshaus “ignored the decision of his own administrative law judge.”
Milloy’s distortion of the history and science surrounding DDT is shameless, and deserves to be the subject of a separate post. But let’s stick with the Ruckelshaus order for now.
Did Ruckelshaus ignore the conclusions of his hearing examiner? You’d think, since this claim is made so relentlessly by DDT advocates, that we could find the relevant document somewhere on the Web. But it’s not that easy. Ruckelshaus’ order itself is readily available (see below for a more readable copy), but the hearing examiner’s findings … not so much. The document is sometimes cited as “Sweeney, E.M., 1972. ‘EPA Hearing Examiner’s Recommendations and Findings Concerning DDT Hearings,’ April 25, 1972. 40 CFR 164.32.” — which helps a bit, but only a bit, since “40 CFR 164.32″ is just the Federal Regulation governing administrative hearings at EPA. Anyone who offers that to you as an actual cite for the opinion is blowing smoke. A better cite is the one given in the order, viz.: “Stevens Industries, Inc. et al., I.F&R. Docket Nos. 63 et al. (Consolidated DDT Hearings)”. But even that will not get you anything online. EPA does give its Decisions and Orders online, but only back to 1989. A good deal of fruitless searching convinced me that the Sweeney opinion would not be mine with the click of a mouse; it was old-school or nothing. After several weeks, a dozen or so phone calls and the help of some very nice university librarians, I was able to get my hooks on all 173 glorious manually typewritten pages of Edmund M. Sweeney’s “Recommended Findings, Conclusions and Orders.”
Here it is.(56 Mb pdf!) EPA’s librarians indicated that they would not post it online, because of the wretched quality. I’m not so picky. While we’re at it, here is a (slightly) more readable copy of Ruckelshaus’ order. (UPDATE: See  below.)
The following are some of the more notable things we can observe if we look at both documents:
Did Sweeney’s findings generally support the Petitioners (DDT registrants)?
Yes. Sweeney found no evidence to indicate that DDT causes mutations or birth defects in humans, considered the evidence for DDT’s carcinogenicity in humans to be inconclusive, and, though he found that DDT is harmful to wildlife, he deemed that harm to be outweighed by DDT’s value as a pesticide. Sweeney’s findings of fact are summarized in pages 91-92, and his conclusions of law in pages 93-94. Milloy quotes (#17) part of those conclusions:
The EPA hearing examiner, Judge Edmund Sweeney, concluded that “DDT is not a carcinogenic hazard to man… DDT is not a mutagenic or teratogenic hazard to man… The use of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect on freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds or other wildlife.”
That partial quote is misleading. Sweeney also found (p. 92) that
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.
22. DDT can have an adverse effect on beneficial animals.
23. DDT is concentrated in organisms and can be transferred through food chains.
It is not true that Sweeney found no harm caused by DDT. Rather, he found that, using a “preponderance of the evidence” test, DDT users and USDA had shown that DDT’s usefulness to agriculture outweighed the demonstrated harm.
Did Ruckelshaus ignore Sweeney’s opinion?
No, but he disagreed with substantial portions of it. Ruckelshaus quotes extensively from Sweeney’s opinion, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law noted above. He repeats arguments made by the petitioners, and describes how he differs. Choosing one example:
Group Petitioners and USDA argue that the laboratory feeding studies, conducted with exaggerated doses of DDE and under stress conditions, provide no basis for extrapolating to nature. They suggest that the study results are contradictory and place particular emphasis on documents which were not part of the original record and the inconsistencies in Dr. Heath’s testimony as brought out during cross-examination. Group Petitioners also contend that the observed phenomenon of eggshell thinning and DDE residue data are tied by a statistical thread too slender to connect the two in any meaningful way.
Viewing the evidence as a total picture, a preponderance supports the conclusion that DDE does cause eggshell thinning. Whether or not the laboratory data above would sustain this conclusion is beside the point. For here there is laboratory data and observational data, and in addition, a scientific hypothesis, which might explain the phenomenon.
This is exactly the kind of language that sent J. Gordon Edwards ballistic (detailed discussion reserved for another post). Then as now, DDT advocates felt that the existence of studies with negative results created enough doubt that a ban could not be justified. Ruckelshaus felt just the opposite — that the bulk of the evidence supported a ban — and explained why. For eggshell thinning, 35 years of research have shown that Ruckelshaus was right. A follow-up report issued in 1975 cited 179 studies related to eggshell thinning alone (pp. 69-81). Today, a quick check of PubMed for “ddt eggshell” turns up 50 papers since 1969, and it is clear from the abstracts that the association of thinning and DDT is well established. Bald eagle populations have rebounded since the DDT ban, so successfully that they are now delisted as threatened, a result accepted matter-of-factly by wildlife biologists as a benefit of the DDT ban.
How did Ruckelshaus’ order differ from Sweeney’s recommendation?
One word: cotton. Sweeney ruled on six separate applications for DDT registration, affirming the cancellations for two, vacating the cancellations for three, and allowing a sixth to start the application process. Two of the cases where Sweeney restored the DDT registration were for public health uses: Wyco’s for treatment of mosquito larvae and Eli Lilly’s for use against body lice. Ruckelshaus permitted both applications, as well as public health use of DDT generally, but required a label restricting it to that use. As to DDT’s application worldwide against malaria (the topic of so much dispute nowadays), Ruckelshaus took pains to say that he was not restricting it:
It should be emphasized that these hearings have never involved the use of DDT by other nations in their health control programs. As we said in our DDT Statement of March, 1971, “this Agency will not presume to regulate the felt necessities of other countries.” (p. 26)
The remaining case in which Sweeney vacated the cancellation of DDT registration, permitting its use, was a biggie: USDA and Group Petitioners (31 users of DDT). These had argued collectively that DDT was “essential” for economical production of various crops and control of pests such as the spruce budworm. Of these applications, by far the most important was cotton production, accounting for at least half of all DDT consumption in the US. Other crops were discussed, with sweet peppers in the Delmarva peninsula used as an example. In his order, Ruckelshaus carved out specific exceptions for several crops where DDT was considered the only acceptable alternative, and said that
… if these users or registrants can demonstrate that a produce shortage will result and their particular use of DDT, taken with other uses, does not create undue stress on the general or local environment, particularly the aquasphere, cancellation should be lifted.
The fact that a few loopholes were left open for a while does not change the fact that Ruckelshaus intended to eliminate use of DDT on crops in the US, and his order did have that effect. Even for the “essential” uses, alternatives were found and DDT was dropped. The largest impact of the order was on cotton production. And this is where it gets even more interesting. One of Sweeney’s conclusions of law (p. 94) was that
13. The use of DDT in the United States has declined rapidly since 1959.
The EPA’s 1975 report gives a table (p. 149) that I’ve represented graphically below.
Although exports, and overall production, continued to rise until 1963, US consumption of DDT peaked in 1959, before any significant restrictions were placed on its use, and declined steadily thereafter. A reasonable person might wonder why that would be. Guess what? The boll weevil and the bollworm were becoming resistant to DDT. Sweeney refers to this fact (p. 86) and observes that
While the evidence convinces me that the use of DDT on cotton is declining and should be reduced as soon as effective replacement means of controlling pests are developed, I do not feel that the evidence to date permits any conclusion to the effect that DDT should be banned for use on cotton at this time.
Ruckelshaus disagreed. With his order, use of DDT on cotton pests became history. The economic impact on cotton growers was significant but far from catastrophic: costs to cotton producers were estimated at $7.75 million nationally, and for consumers at 2.2 cents per capita per year (p. 193).
Even in the one arena where the DDT ban was argued to be unbearably burdensome, its use was already declining, the hearing examiner recommended that it be reduced further in favor of alternative methods, and in the event, the ban’s effects were easily absorbed. Well, then — did it have any impact that we should care about?
“There is persuasive evidence that antimalarial operations did not produce mosquito resistance to DDT. That crime, and in a very real sense it was a crime, can be laid to the intemperate and inappropriate use of DDT by farmers, especially cotton growers. They used the insecticide at levels that would accelerate, if not actually induce, the selection of a resistant population of mosquitoes.”
That’s right. The 1972 DDT ban did nothing to restrict the chemical’s use against malaria, but had the effect of eliminating the single most intense source of selection pressure for insecticide resistance in mosquitos. As the rest of the world followed suit in restricting agricultural use of DDT, the spread of resistance was slowed dramatically or stopped. By this single action, William Ruckelshaus — and, credit where it’s due, Rachel Carson — may well have saved millions of lives.
Steven Milloy is invited to add that to the DDT FAQ any time it’s convenient.
 A footnote explains that the post is “largely drawn from materials compiled by J. Gordon Edwards, professor of entomology at San Jose State University.” How much actual collaboration took place, if any, is not stated.
 Technically, it’s not a “decision”, but an opinion stating “recommended findings, conclusions and orders.” A fine point, to be sure, but it makes a difference.
 “It has been estimated that two-thirds of the DDT that is used in the United States is used in agriculture, and that 75% of the DDT that is used on agricultural crops is used on cotton.” (Sweeney, p. 83). According to the 1975 report, cotton’s share had increased to 80% by 1971-1972.
UPDATE: EPA has now posted its DDT archives, complete with the Sweeney opinion, here. You can now download a better-quality copy of the opinion at a fraction of the size, so do that. If my copy is adding no value, I’ll probably take it down eventually. I see that the EPA page was last updated September 25th, roughly a month after this post. I’d like to think that my prodding was a factor, but there’s no way to know.
(Hat tips are due Ed Darrell, for the best historical coverage, Bug Girl, for the best scientific coverage, and Tim Lambert, for the best overall coverage of this issue.)
This entry was posted on Sunday, August 26th, 2007 at 6:25 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use. Creative Commons copyright.
Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born on January 7, 1800.
That was 24 days after the death of our first President, George Washington.
Fillmore’s birthday isn’t such a big deal anymore, since fun organizers discontinued the bathtub races once word got out that the story of Millard Fillmore putting the first bathtub in the White House, is a hoax.
Historians from the University of Buffalo — an institution founded by Fillmore after his presidency — usually hold a graveside ceremony with speeches. In 2020 the service was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. EST, at Fillmore’s grave. No news I can find about whether it occurred. The ceremony has been cancelled for snow, ice and cold in recent years. (About as cold as the response I get from the University of Buffalo when I ask for a copy of the speech or paper to publish here.)
Millard Fillmore and his first wife, Abigail, read books all the time. Deprived of the opportunity of going to school much in his youth, Fillmore became an ardent reader, read for the law, became a lawyer, got into politics and was selected Vice President for President Zachary Taylor. When Taylor died (probably of typhoid) in 1850, Fillmore succeeded to the presidency. In the White House, the Fillmores found few books to read, and so established the White House Library. Say prayers that library survives the current president.
Fillmore thought globally, and he could see world trade as a huge opportunity for a young nation with a strong navy and army, and a lot of resources including intellectual capacity to manufacture things. Trade in the Pacific was problematic, and a large number of problems stemmed from Japan’s closing itself off from the world. Japan had coal, which could refuel steamships. Japan instead closed its ports. An occasional U.S. sailor would be executed if he washed up on Japanese shores. Fillmore sent a small fleet of “black ships” under Commodore Matthew Perry, to tell Japan it was time to open up to trade and assume its place among nations. Perry was successful, after a second visit and a small round of cannon fire. Japan became a strong economic power in the West Pacific, and in its march to glory decided to take over resources of several other Asian nations. We might say Fillmore started the slide to World War II in the Pacific.
History should be kept to accuracy. Mencken upset the ship of accuracy with his essay, and America has not recovered, nor has Millard Fillmore’s reputation. There’s a moral there: Don’t spread hoaxes; seek the truth, and glorify it. (Mencken apologized for the hoax, but too late.)
Rapid City, South Dakota, is a booming town. Mineral wealth and oil in the state combine with a nearby Air Force Base, great housing prices and good weather to benefit the town. One of its civic watchdogs got the idea of putting statues of all U.S. presidents on downtown corners. That is how Millard Fillmore comes to be seated with a book to read, at the corner of 9th Street and St. Joseph Street, where I met him in August 2017. Altogether a fun little history enterprise for Rapid City, very well executed, and worthy of a stop there if you’re passing by.
Perhaps someday Rapid City will take to decorating the statues on the birthdays of the men (so far!) represented. I hope they won’t be frozen out like Buffalo, New York, is, if they commemorate Millard Fillmore’s birthday.
We can reflect on happier times, when even our disrespected and forgotten presidents were good people who did great things.
Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017; photo by Kathryn Knowles
President William Howard Taft signing the proclamation that made New Mexico a state, on January 6, 1912. (Other people in the photo, I have not yet identified; can you help?). Image from Library of Congress Harris and Ewing Collection, via Albuquerque Historical Society.
New Mexico became the 47th member of the Union on January 6, 1912. New Mexicans should fly their U.S. flags today in honor of statehood, the U.S. Flag Code urges.
U.S. and New Mexico flags fly from the state education administration building in Santa Fe, 2014. The third flag is the U.S. POW/MIA flag.
I don’t think Statehood Day is a big deal in New Mexico. New Mexicans love art, though, and statehood and history of the land and the peoples who live there are celebrated throughout Santa Fe and New Mexico. The New Mexico Art Museum features a lot about history.
The New Mexico State Capitol is one of the more unique in the U.S. There is no grand dome. Instead, the building is a large, circular structure, a giant kiva, honoring New Mexico’s ancient residents and ancestors.
“Emergence,” a representation of the creation of the present Earth and people, by Michael A. Naranjo, 2000. Part of the massive collection of New Mexico Art at the State Capitol — this one outside the building itself.
“Simple Pleasures of New Mexico,” stunning painting in acrylic by Gary Morton, 1992
If you’re in Santa Fe, plan to spend a half of a day, at least, looking at the Capitol and its art collections. There are more than 400 pieces on display, sculpture, paintings, mixed media, and more. It’s a world class gallery, free for the browsing. Much of the art packs a powerful emotional punch, too, such as the sculpture outside the building honoring the vanished native tribes of North America.
“Raising the first American flag, Somerville, Mass., January 1, 1776.” Harper’s Weekly painting by Clyde Osmer DeLand, 1897. From the digital collections of the New York Public Library
January is loaded with flag flying dates, when we add in statehood days, dates those states are invited to fly their U.S. flags.
In January 2020, the U.S. Flag Code urges citizens to fly flags on these dates, listed chronologically:
New Year’s Day, January 1, a federal holiday
January 2, Georgia Statehood Day
January 3, Alaska Statehood Day
January 4, Utah Statehood Day
January 6, New Mexico Statehood Day
January 9, Connecticut Statehood Day
Martin Luther King’s Birthday, a federal holiday on the third Monday of January; that date is January 20, in 2020; King’s actual birthday is January 15, and you may fly your flag then, too
Inauguration Day, January 20, the year after election years; 2020 is not an inauguration year; 2021 will be
January 26, Michigan Statehood Day
January 29, Kansas Statehood Day
You may fly your flag any other day you wish, too; flags should not be flown after sundown unless they are specially lighted, or at one of the few places designated by Congress or Presidential Proclamation for 24-hour flag flying. According to Wikipedia’s listing, those sites include:
Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland (Presidential Proclamation No. 2795, July 2, 1948).
Flag House Square, Albemarle and Pratt Streets, Baltimore, Maryland (Public Law 83-319, approved March 26, 1954).
White House, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4000, September 4, 1970).
Washington Monument, Washington, D.C. (Presidential Proclamation No. 4064, July 6, 1971, effective July 4, 1971).
Any port of entry to the United States which is continuously open (Presidential Proclamation No. 413 1, May 5, 1972).
Grounds of the National Memorial Arch in Valley Forge State Park, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania (Public Law 94-53, approved July 4, 1975).
Flag House in 1936, where Mary Pickersgill sewed the garrison-sized, 15-star flag that flew over Fort McHenry at the Battle of Baltimore in 1814; one of the sites where the U.S. flag may be flown 24 hours. The house is at 844 East Pratt & Albemarle Streets (Baltimore, Independent City, Maryland). Cropped image courtesy of the federal HABS—Historic American Buildings Survey of Maryland.
Spread the word; friends don't allow friends to repeat history.
Chimney Rock National Monument, Colorado, and Moon. NPS image.
It’s off the tourist-beaten path, it’s relatively new to the National Parks system, and it’s not highly developed.
All of which means you can have a fantastic, unhurried adventure among ruins of ancient Americans, without the crowds.
We found it almost accidentally, driving by on our way to Abiquiue, New Mexico. Film from CRIA (Chimney Rock Interpretive Association?) recently dropped into my in-box.
I tried to get the definitive photo of a rufous hummingbird male who was trying to keep a dozen other hummers of three different species away from a battery of hummingbird feeders, but he was too fast.
Chimney Rock is a good example of the vast number of ruins from Puebloan Indian tribes and tribes even more ancient, found across the desert Southwest, mostly unprotected, uncatalogued, and unknown to any but local people who hunt pots, mostly illegally. As a nation, we should fund better preservation and more study of these human habitations.
Another short video:
Note there is at least one other formation in southern Colorado called Chimney Rock, and another formation in North Carolina that is probably more famous.
A view of the kiva and other ruins atop the small mesa formation of Chimney Rock N.P. USDA photo via OutThere Colorado.
Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.
We've been soaking in the Bathtub for several months, long enough that some of the links we've used have gone to the Great Internet in the Sky.
If you find a dead link, please leave a comment to that post, and tell us what link has expired.
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. 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