Romney 2012, vs. Obama 2008

February 26, 2012

It’s not really a fair comparison, is it?  In 2008, Sen. Barack Obama was in a hotly contested race for the Democratic nomination to be president.  His team worked to get the crowds out, at a rally before Super Tuesday.

In 2012, it’s former Gov. Mitt Romney who is in a hotly-contested race for the nomination — but of the GOP, not the Democrats.  So it’s not really a fair comparison, Democrats against Republicans, just before Super Tuesday, is it?

Still, we see these two photos making the rounds.  These two photos were taken four years and 20 days apart:

Romney vs. Obama, gate in Detroit (from MoveOn.org)

Political rallies for presidential candidates, in Detroit, Michigan, 2012, and Hartford, Connecticut, 2008

Oh, that’s not straight up, is it. One was in Detroit, the other in Hartford.  Okay, let’s compare Detroit rallies.  Here’s Mitt Romney in Detroit:

And here is Obama in Detroit in 2008, in Joe Louis Arena:

If you’re a red-blooded American, you’ll find Obama’s speech in Detroit frustrating, in retrospect.  Where Obama said America can’t wait to solve problems, Republicans since then have said “Yes, We Can Wait,” and they’ve frustrated action to fix so many problems.   We’ve lost so much time.


Religion and the presidential campaign . . . what is a Christian?

February 26, 2012

Wow.

Of course, C. S. Lewis was a Brit, and Britain is close to Europe — heck he’s almost a Frenchman, and Russian communists used to like to go to Paris.  On one of those hooks, Obama bashers will hang their refusal to agree with Martin Bashir.


Quote of the moment, Daniel Boorstin channels Kin Hubbard: Pretension to knowledge more dangerous than ignorance

February 26, 2012

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, Information Bulletin January 2003

Daniel Boorstin, Librarian of Congress, Information Bulletin January 2003

In an earlier post I asked about the origins of this quote, and a reader capable of searching well gave us a good enough citation:   Daniel Boorstin, the late historian and former Librarian of Congress, wrote:

I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.

Boorstin wrote that in an essay in  a book published in 1990, “The Amateur Spirit,” in the update of 1935′s Living Philosophies (edited by Clifton Fadiman).  You can see a more complete version of the quote here.

Isn’t that eerily similar to Kin Hubbard’s observation?  From Boorstin, the former Librarian of Congress, it carries the heft of more academic language than Hubbard’s version, but it clearly echoes the idea, doesn’t it?

Below the fold, the statement in greater context of the duty of historians.

Tip of the old scrub brush to j a higginbotham.

Read the rest of this entry »


Robert Redford, for NRDC, on the Keystone Pipeline fight

February 24, 2012

My old sometime nemesis and rescuer Robert Redford keeps chugging along — getting sharper, politically, as he ages, I think.

Here’s his succinct summary of the Keystone Pipeline issue so far — with a plea for funds for the NRDC tacked on.  Any factual errors?

189,888

Secret life of books, captured on video

February 23, 2012

Yeah, we sorta knew that:

Explanation at YouTube:

After organizing our bookshelf almost a year ago (http://youtu.be/zhRT-PM7vpA), my wife and I (Sean Ohlenkamp) decided to take it to the next level. We spent many sleepless nights moving, stacking, and animating books at Type bookstore in Toronto (883 Queen Street West, (416) 366-8973).

Everything you see here can be purchased at Type Books.

Grayson Matthews (http://www.graysonmatthews.com/) generously composed the beautiful, custom music. You can download it here: http://itunes.apple.com/album/awakenings-single/id496796623


Bathtub myth still haunts the ghost of Millard Fillmore

February 23, 2012

Presidents Day this year brought out columns and commentary in newspapers and other media across the country, with trivia about presidents.

Millard Fillmore in March, 1849, daguerreotype by Matthew Brady - Wikipedia image

Millard Fillmore in a daguerreotype by Matthew Brady in March, 1849, in a sitting at the U.S. Capitol. In 1849 the presidential inauguration took place in March — this may be a photo taken on inauguration day, but almost certainly when Fillmore was Vice President. Wikipedia image

What did we learn?  We learned that the old hoax, that Millard Fillmore put the first bathtub in the White House, still stands strong.  The ghost of H. L. Mencken, the guy who started the hoax, high-tails it to the nearest hotel bar for a beer; the ghost of Santayana smiles and shakes its head.  Fillmore’s ghost looks around for a good book to read.

Did one of the wires services run a story on the trivia that reporters picked up?

In the Diamond Bar (California) Patch, in a column of presidents trivia, editor Catherine Garcia reported:

  • Millard Fillmore installed the first bathtub and kitchen stove in the White House.

In that version of history, presidents were both dirty and hungry from 1801 to 1850, I suppose.

In the Quincy (Illinois) Herald-Whig, Steve Eighinger seconded the error:

º For some reason, Millard Fillmore, the 13th president, has been the butt of a lot of jokes over the years and I don’t know why. The guy seems pretty upstanding. When Fillmore moved into the White House, it didn’t have a Bible, so he corrected that oversight. He and his wife, Abigail, installed the first library at the White House, plus the first bathtub and kitchen stove. Fillmore could not read Latin and refused an honorary degree from Oxford University, saying a person shouldn’t accept a degree he could not read. (So how did the first 12 presidents take a bath?)

Give Mr. Eighinger credit.  In that parenthetical question, he begins to see the problems with the story, the hoax Mencken wrote.  Too bad he didn’t chase it down.

Yes, the Fillmores installed the first library in the White House — though it was more out of their love of books than a lack of a Bible.  And they updated the kitchen, but certainly someone had some sort of stove to cook on prior to 1850.

Punditty (a nome de plume, I hope) got the facts right at AllVoices:

13. Millard Fillmore wasn’t really the first president to have a bathtub installed in the White House. The actual answer is more complicated. See the link below under “Additional Sources.” He was, however, a member of three political parties during his lifetime: Anti-Masonic (1828-1832); Whig (1832-1856, including his presidency of 1850-53); and American (1856-1860).

I didn’t find the link to “Additional Sources.”  Perhaps the author referred to the notes under the Wikipedia article on Fillmore, which was linked from the site.  You should remember that the “American Party” to which Fillmore belonged, and on whose ticket he ran for the presidency in 1856, was also known as the “Know-Nothing Party.”

How many other newspapers carried the hoax in the past week, that my news hounds did not find?

Even in 1952, when President Harry Truman told the hoax, there was general knowledge that the story was false.  Why does it still circulate, 95 years after Mencken invented it?

When did the first plumbed bathtub go into the White House, and who was president at the time?

Read the rest of this entry »


Once more: Where do I sign the petition? Ronald Reagan Memorial National Debt

February 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich is still whining about national debt, as if there were no one out of work, as if the economy were humming along fine, and as if we wouldn’t have a better chance at balancing the budget and reducing the debt with a stimulated economy?

Maybe it’s time we start asking the real serious questions, again:

Where do I sign the petition? Ronald Reagan Memorial National Debt.

Or, we could name the George W. Bush Wing of the Ronald Reagan Memorial National Debt.

Could we do that properly, while decreasing the debt ceiling?

(When you read that article, please note carefully what is the most expensive government building ever built.)


Rachel Carson in history — great post at Pop History Dig

February 22, 2012

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

Español: Fachada Rocsen-Rachel Carson

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

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

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

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


Climate change deniers in high dudgeon as leaked memos reveal their deceptions

February 21, 2012

Previously:  John Mashey finished another epic analysis of the climate denialist world showing clear wrong-doing and potential violations of federal tax law on the part of denialists.  But as it was going to press, someone hacked the executive board of the anti-science Heartland Institute, and dropped the notes exposing the group as a propaganda bunch working hard against science into a couple of blogs.

Contrary to the stonewalling of the denialists, when scientists figured out who might have had access to the documents, the fellow confessed and resigned from several positions (honor on the science side, but not on the denialist side, once again).

News takes two or three years to penetrate to Rick Santorum, however, and he continued his soulless presidential campaign through the weekend claiming, contrary to the facts, that global warming is not happening.

Funny how he accuses those he opposes of doing the things his side does, isn’t it?

Anthony Watts, the leader of the anti-science mau-mauing breathlessly covered the resignation of Peter Gleick, the conscience-striken whistle-blower, but tended to ignore the evidence Gleick revealed.  So much for talking about real science.

(Watts also makes much of the California Institute of Science changing its exhibit on climate change after three years, as if when museums change exhibits, it means the science behind the old exhibit is no longer valid.  Is it just me, or is Watts really stretching to find the propaganda angle since his own data let him down, and demonstrated that warming, and the “hockey stick,” are real problems?)

Here are a few places you should visit to get the news and the facts:

This post likely will be updated.  Watch.  (Already updated to fix my error above about Seitz and SEPP.)


No cookies for this misogynist/misanthrope

February 21, 2012

Conservatives get crazier every day:  In Indiana, a state representative urges colleagues to vote against a resolution honoring Girl Scouts of America, for imaginary reasons.

A state legislator has sent a letter to fellow Republican members of the Indiana House saying he will not support a resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts because he believes it is a “radicalized organization” that supports abortion and promotes homosexuality.

In a letter obtained by The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne on Monday, Rep. Bob Morris of Fort Wayne said he did some research on the Internet and found allegations that the Girl Scouts are a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood, allow transgender females to join and encourage sex.

“After talking to some well-informed constituents, I did a small amount of web-based research, and what I found is disturbing,” Morris wrote in his letter, which also accused the group of promoting “homosexual lifestyles.”

Morris sent the letter to House Republicans on Saturday.

Ashley Sharp, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana, said Monday a statement on the group’s website states that it leaves sex and reproduction questions to parents. The group accepts transgender youth on a case-by-case basis.

Morris is the only House member to refuse to sign a resolution honoring the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts that lawmakers approved last week. He told the Journal Gazette that others would join him in opposing the resolution but later recanted that statement in an interview with The Associated Press.

That old “some research on the Internet” as a source.

It’s scary people can be so delusional without resorting to psychotropic drugs. Is this guy smoking the same stuff Rick Santorum and Rick Perry smoke?

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Automaton from “Hugo,” alive and well and living in Philadelphia

February 20, 2012

You saw and loved Scorsese’s “Hugo.”  You rushed home and Googled “Georges Melies,” and you rediscovered a thrilling character from history You wondered:  Surely the automaton was wholly fictional, right?  No one could really make something like that!

Oh, but they did.  The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia has one restoredCBS Sunday Morning reported it:

(And then CBS disabled embedding — you’ll have to go watch at YouTube.  Sorry.)

Here, watch this longer piece demonstrating the device:

Steampunkers everywhere are suddenly filled with hope.

But, should we be surprised that mere mechanical devices can do such seemingly wonderous stuff?  Remember the “bird pistols” that were auctioned a few months ago?  And what about all those mechanized clocks in towns and cities across Europe? See the clock tower in Poznan, Poland, for example:

At Mid day everyday, 2 mechanical goats bang their heads together and a guy plays a trumpet.

Amazing stuff was possible, without electronics.  2D animation on film is fantastic.  3d animation of a real object?  It appears just short of miraculous, and then only because we know something about how it was done.  Arthur C. Clarke’s famous Third Law screams to be noted here:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  But of course, no one is making such automata today.  Maybe they are miracles, no?  Bugs Bunny sang, “Carrots are sublime/You get a dozen for dime/It’s magic!”

Magic of and on film, one of the great themes of the movie “Hugo.”

Updated:  More sources (courtesy of Zemanta): 


Get your Texas Drought Survival Package from Texas Parks & Wildlife

February 20, 2012

We’ve had serious rain in Dallas, but most of the state still resides well in the thrall of drought.  Plus, the rains in Dallas have been unseasonal, which suggests the drought is not done with Dallas yet, either.

Texas Parks & Wildlife has words of advice:

More information from TPWD:

The drought has taken a toll on everything from wildlife to water bills. To help Texans cope, Texas Parks and Wildlife is offering a Drought Survival Kit http://www.texasthestateofwater.org/


Presidents Day 2012: Fly your flag today

February 20, 2012

Presidents Day is February 20, 2012 — fly your U.S. flag today.

National Park Service photo, Lincoln Memorial through flags at Washington Monument

The Lincoln Memorial, seen through flags posted at the Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.; National Park Service Photo via About.com

Oddly enough, some controversy arises from time to time over how to honor President Washington and President Lincoln, and other presidents.  Sometimes the controversy simmers over how to honor great Americans — if Lincoln deserves a day, why not FDR?  Why not Jefferson? — and sometimes the controversy covers more mundane ground — should the federal government give workers a day off?  Should it be on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend to boost tourism?  About.com explains the history of the controversy:

Presidents’ Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or “New Style” calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or “Old Style” calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split – some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.

When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington’s identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday “Presidents’ Day”, but the idea didn’t go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition.

Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.” From that point forward, the term “Presidents’ Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.

In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington’s Birthday be “officially” called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

Fly your flag, read some history, enjoy the day.

More, Resources, and Related Articles:

English: Air Force One, the typical air transp...

President's airplane, Air Force 1, flying over Mount Rushmore National Monument, in South Dakota - Image via Wikipedia


Grand Old Tinfoil Hat Party — really?

February 19, 2012

According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 23.9% of American adults are Catholics.  That translates to 68.5 million Americans, approximately

The GOP race seems to have come down to a Mormon and two Catholics.

How can it be that they got the two craziest Catholics in America to run for the GOP nomination? Surely they do not represent the best we could find among Catholics.

Did you see Rick Santorum yesterday, or today on Face the Nation?  What makes him feel free to be that ill-informed and crazy?  (No, the federal government does not run education in America.)

If we still made tinfoil hats in America, the economy would be booming, from either Santorum’s camp or Gingrich’s camp.

Update:  Video from CBS is now available.  Bask in the insanity:

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Quote of the moment: Abraham Lincoln on job creators, ‘labor is the superior of capital’

February 16, 2012

Abraham Lincoln as working man, Charles Turzak woodcut - Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

Abraham Lincoln as working man, woodcut by Charles Turzak circa 1933 – Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum; caption on this image at the Lincoln Library site notes that Turzak portrayed Lincoln as the working man Lincoln himself never aspired to be, though he well respected those who did labor.

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.

Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

President Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1861 (the “State of the Union”)

Abraham Lincoln took great inspiration from Americans and their striving to move up in the world.  He admired inventions and inventors, he admired working people and their drive to become their own managers and proprietors of their own businesses.  Lincoln had been there himself.

By the time he stopped at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1859 — a full year before his campaign for the presidency — Lincoln was a relatively wealthy lawyer, a good trial lawyer whose better-paying clients included the largest industrial companies of the day, railroads.  Lincoln grew up on hard-scrabble farms, though, and he had been a shopkeeper and laborer before he studied law and opened his practice.  Lincoln also owned a patent — a device to float cargo boats higher in the Sangamon River that served Sangamon County where he lived, the better to make the entire area a figurative river of free enterprise.

Lincoln was invited to comment on “labor,” at an exhibit showing new machines to mechanize America’s farms.  At the Wisconsin fair Lincoln complimented farmers, inventors, inventions, and all laborers.  Just over 24 months later, excerpts from that speech showed up at the close of his State of the Union declaration, his December 3 remarks delivered to Congress as the Constitution required.  Lincoln probably did not deliver the remarks as as a speech, but they appear in the Congressional Record as a speech, and it is often cited that way.  He spoke something like these words in Wisconsin, and they were his views at the end of the first year of the Civil War, expressing yet again his hope that the union would survive, and continue to prosper, for all working people.

Below is a more complete quoting of his remarks from the Message to Congress.

It continues to develop that the insurrection is largely, if not exclusively, a war upon the first principle of popular government– the rights of the people. Conclusive evidence of this is found in the most grave and maturely considered public documents, as well as in the general tone of the insurgents. In those documents we find the abridgment of the existing right of suffrage and the denial to the people of all right to participate in the selection of public officers except the legislative boldly advocated, with labored arguments to prove that large control of the people in government is the source of all political evil. Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people.

In my present position I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism. It is not needed nor fitting here that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions, but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

Now there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed.

Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and with their capital hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class–neither work for others nor have others working for them. In most of the Southern States a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters, while in the Northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men, with their families–wives, sons, and daughters,–work for themselves on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital; that is, they labor with their own hands and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.

Again, as has already been said, there is not of necessity any such thing as the free hired laborer being fixed to that condition for life. Many independent men everywhere in these States a few years back in their lives were hired laborers. The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all. No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

From the first taking of our national census to the last are seventy years, and we find our population at the end of the period eight times as great as it was at the beginning. The increase of those other things which men deem desirable has been even greater. We thus have at one view what the popular principle, applied to government through the machinery of the States and the Union, has produced in a given time, and also what if firmly maintained it promises for the future. There are already among us those who if the Union be preserved will live to see it contain 200,000,000. The struggle of to-day is not altogether for to-day; it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us.

[Excerpted here from the online Classic Literature Library, Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 5; the complete Message to Congress of December 3, 1861, begins here; the section quoted above can be found on pages 143 and 144.]

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