Frederick Douglass Book Award nominees (read ‘em!)

August 16, 2009

What to read this year for U.S. history?

Kevin Levin at Civil War Memories notes three worthy candidates for outside reading, for student projects, and other good use (I’ve stolen his whole post — you’d do well to go visit his site and see what else he has):


Out+of+the+House+of+BondageI‘m a little late in posting this, but wanted to point your attention to the three finalists for this year’s Frederick Douglass Book Award that is sponsored by Yale’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

The finalists are Thavolia Glymph for Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge University Press); Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton and Company); and Jacqueline Jones, “Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers).  The prize comes with a generous check of $25,000.  I’ve read both Annette Gordon-Reed’s book (a National Book Award winner) and Glymph’s study.  Although the publisher sent me a copy of Saving Savannah, I have not had a chance to look through it.   My money is on Glymph’s Out of the House of Bondage.


New junk science movie: “Not evil, just wrong”

August 16, 2009

I warned you about it earlierCrank science sites across the internet feature news of another cheap hit on Rachel Carson and science in movie form.

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” is slated for release on October 18. This is the film that tried to intrude on the Rachel Carson film earlier this year, but managed to to get booked only at an elementary school in Seattle, Washington — Rachel Carson Elementary, a green school where the kids showed more sense than the film makers by voting to name the school after the famous scientist-author.

The film is both evil and wrong.

Errors just in the trailer:

  1. Claims that Al Gore said sea levels will rise catastrophically, “in the very near future.”  Not in his movie, not in his writings or speeches.  Not true.  That’s a simple misstatement of what Gore said, and Gore had the science right.
  2. ” . . . [I]t wouldn’t be a bad thing for this Earth to warm up.  In fact, ice is the enemy of life.”  “Bad” in this case is a value judgment — global warming isn’t bad if you’re a weed, a zebra mussel, one of the malaria parasites, a pine bark beetle, any other tropical disease, or a sadist.  But significant warming as climatologists, physicists and others project, would be disastrous to agriculture, major cities in many parts of the world, sea coasts, and most people who don’t live in the Taklamakan or Sahara, and much of the life in the ocean.  Annual weather cycles within long-established ranges, is required for life much as we know it.  “No ice” is also an enemy of life.
  3. “They want to raise our taxes.”  No, that’s pure, uncomposted bovine excrement.
  4. “They want to close our factories.”  That’s more effluent from the anus of male bovines.
  5. The trailer notes the usual claim made by Gore opponents that industry cannot exist if it is clean, that industry requires that we poison the planet.  Were that true, we’d have a need to halt industry now, lest we become like the yeast in the beer vat, or the champagne bottle, manufacturing alcohol until the alcohol kills the yeast.  Our experience with Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Clean Air Acts and the Clean Water Act is that cleaning the environment produces economic growth, not the other way around.  A city choked in pollution dies.  Los Angeles didn’t suffer when the air got cleaner.  Pittsburgh’s clean air became a way to attract new industries to the city, before the steel industry there collapsed.  Cleaning Lake Erie didn’t hurt industry.  The claim made by the film is fatuous, alarmist, and morally corrupt.

    When the human health, human welfare, and environmental effects which could be expressed in dollar terms were added up for the entire 20-year period, the total benefits of Clean Air Act programs were estimated to range from about $6 trillion to about $50 trillion, with a mean estimate of about $22 trillion. These estimated benefits represent the estimated value Americans place on avoiding the dire air quality conditions and dramatic increases in illness and premature death which would have prevailed without the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act and its associated state and local programs. By comparison, the actual costs of achieving the pollution reductions observed over the 20 year period were $523 billion, a small fraction of the estimated monetary benefits.

  6. “Some of the environmental activists have not come to accept that the human is also part of the environment.”  Fatuous claim.  Environmentalists note that humans uniquely possess the ability to change climate on a global scale, intentionally, for the good or bad; environmentalists choose to advocate for actions that reduce diseases like malaria, cholera and asthma.  We don’t have to sacrifice a million people a year to malaria, in order to be industrial and productive.  We don’t have to kill 700,000 kids with malaria every year just to keep cars.
  7. “They want to go back to the Dark Ages and the Black Plague.”  No, that would be the film makers.  Environmentalists advocate reducing filth and ignorance both.  Ignorance and lack of ability to read, coupled with religious fanaticism, caused the strife known as “the Dark Ages.”  It’s not environmentalists who advocate an end to cheap public schools.
  8. The trailer shows a kid playing in the surf on a beach.  Of course, without the Clean Water Act and other attempts to keep the oceans clean, such play would be impossible.  That we can play again on American beaches is a tribute to the environmental movement, and reason enough to grant credence to claims of smart people like Al Gore and the scientists whose work he promotes.
  9. “I cannot believe that Al Gore has great regard for people, real people.”  So, this is a film promoting the views of crabby, misanthropic anal orifices who don’t know Al Gore at all?  Shame on them.  And, why should anyone want to see such a film?  If I want to see senseless acts of stupidity, I can rent a film by Quentin Tarantino and get some art with the stupidity.  [Update, November 23, 2009: This may be one of the most egregiously false charges of the film.  Gore, you recall, is the guy who put his political career and presidential ambitions on hold indefinitely when his son was seriously injured in an auto-pedestrian accident; Gore was willing to sacrifice all his political capital in order to get his son healed.  My first dealings directly with Gore came on the Organ Transplant bill.  Gore didn't need a transplant, didn't have need for one in his family, and had absolutely nothing to gain from advocacy for the life-saving procedure.  It was opposed by the chairman of his committee, by a majority of members of his own party in both Houses of Congress, by many in the medical establishment, by many in the pharmaceutical industry, and by President Reagan, who didn't drop his threat to veto the bill until he signed it, as I recall.   Gore is a man of deep, human-centered principles.  Saying "I can't believe Al Gore has great regard for real people" only demonstrates the vast ignorance and perhaps crippling animus of the speaker.]

That’s a whopper about every 15 seconds in the trailer — the film itself may make heads spin if it comes close to that pace of error.

Where have we seen this before?  Producers of the film claim as “contributors” some of the people they try to lampoon — people like Ed Begley, Jr., and NASA’s James E. Hansen, people who don’t agree in any way with the hysterical claims of the film, and people who, I wager, would be surprised to be listed as “contributors.”

It’s easy to suppose these producers used the same ambush-the-scientist technique used earlier by the producers of the anti-science, anti-Darwin film “Expelled!

Here, see the hysteria, error and alarmism for yourself:

Ann McElhinney is one of the film’s producers.  Her past work includes other films against protecting environment and films for mining companies.  She appears to be affiliated with junk science purveyors at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an astro-turf organization in Washington, D.C., for whom she flacked earlier this year (video from Desmogblog):

Remember, too, that this film is already known to have gross inaccuracies about Rachel Carson and DDT, stuff that high school kids could get right easily.

Anyone have details on McElhinney and her colleague, Phelim McAlee?

More:

Related posts, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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Obama on health care: With an eye and an ear to history; with heart to those who hurt

August 16, 2009

Did you catch Obama’s op-ed in the New York Times yesterday?

OUR nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America.

Of what famous speech does that line remind you?

Obama is looking to past presidents’ efforts to push legislation, too — learning from the failures and hoping not to repeat (think Wilson and the campaign to ratify the Treaty of Versailles), learning from successes and hoping to expand (think of Lyndon Johnson and the creation of grants to college students).

Mostly, Obama’s hoping to give a boost to health care reform efforts slowed by the vicious, false rumor campaign against it.

See what Obama himself wrote, below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


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