December 20, 1620: Mayflower passengers finally disembark at Plymouth, after agreeing to the Mayflower Compact

December 21, 2013

Item from The Associated Press‘s “Today in History” feature, for December 21:  “1620Pilgrims 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.

Credit: Sarony & Major.

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.

Dispatches from the Culture Wars features a set of comments on an interview right-right-wing pundit John Lofton did with Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court who lost his job when he illegally tried to force his religion on the court and on Alabama. In 2006 Moore ran for governor of Alabama, losing in the primary election.

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.

Here is the full text, from the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law site:

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.

 


Especially on his birthday, don’t call Darwin racist — he wasn’t

February 12, 2013

Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, and several other anti-science and historical revisionist groups come unglued every February about this time — February 12 is Charles Darwin’s birthday.  He was born in 1809, on the exact same day as Abraham Lincoln.

Part of creationists’ coming unglued revolves around that fact that the science behind evolution grows stronger year by year, and at this point no argument exists that creationists can make against evolution that has not been soundly, roundly and thoroughly.  This makes creationists nervous in a discussion, because even they recognize when they lose arguments.   Creationists don’t like to lose arguments about how well Darwin’s theories work, because they erroneously believe that if Darwin is right, God and Jesus are wrong.

God and Jesus cannot be wrong, in their view, but intellectually they see they are losing the argument, and they grow desperate.  In their desperation they grasp for claims that shock uneducated or unfamiliar viewers.  Since about 1970, among the more shocking arguments one can make is to claim one’s opponent is racist.

Claiming Darwin, and hence evolution, boost racism, slaps history with irony.  Creationism’s roots were in denying that Europeans and Africans are evolutionarily equal, a claim necessary to allow slave holders to enslave Africans and go to church on Sundays.  The Civil War is 150 years away, the Emancipation Proclamation 148 years old, and even die-hard creationists generally have forgotten their own history.

Creationists accuse Darwin of being a racist, they claim evolution theory is racist, and they claim, therefore, it cannot be scientifically accurate.  There are a lot of holes in that chain of logic.

This is Darwin’s birthday.  Let me deal with major wrong premise, and give creationists room to correct their views with accurate history, so we don’t have a shouting match.

Way back in 2008, nominally-liberal evangelical preacher Tony Campolo got suckered in by a conservative evangelicals claim to him that evolution and Darwin are racist.  Below is my answer to him then — I think Campolo learned his lesson — but this builds on the claims Campolo made which are really copied from creationists.

In short, Darwin is not racist, and here are some explanations why, with a few updated links and minor edits for Darwin’s birthday, and Lincoln’s birthday, in 2013:

Tony Campolo is an evangelical Christian, a sociology professor and preacher who for the past 15 years or so has been a thorn in the side of political conservatives and other evangelicals, for taking generally more liberal stands, against poverty, for tolerance in culture and politics, and so on. His trademark sermon is an upbeat call to action and one of the more plagiarized works in Christendom, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming” (listen to it here).

Tony Campolo, from his website

Tony Campolo, in a publicity still from his website. He should be more gray by now (this photo is no later than 2008, and probably earlier).

Since he’s so close to the mainstream of American political thought, Campolo is marginalized by many of the more conservative evangelists in the U.S. Campolo is not a frequent guest on the Trinity Broadcast Network, on Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” nor on the white, nominally-Christian, low-budget knock-off of “Sabado Gigante!,” “Praise the Lord” (with purple hair and everything).

Campolo came closest to real national fame when he counseled President Bill Clinton on moral and spiritual issues during the Lewinsky scandal.

His opposite-editorial piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer back in 2008, “The real danger in Darwin is not evolution, but racism,” is out of character for Campolo as a non-conservative evangelistic thinker — far from what most Christians expect from Campolo either from the pulpit or in the college classroom. The piece looks as though it was lifted wholesale from Jerry Falwell or D. James Kennedy, showing little familiarity with the science or history of evolution, and repeating canards that careful Christians shouldn’t repeat.

Campolo’s piece is inaccurate in several places, and grossly misleading where it’s not just wrong. He pulls out several old creationist hoaxes, cites junk science as if it were golden, and generally gets the issue exactly wrong.

Evolution science is a block to racism. It has always stood against racism, in the science that undergirds the theory and in its applications by those scientists and policy makers who were not racists prior to their discovery of evolution theory. Darwin himself was anti-racist. One of the chief reasons the theory has been so despised throughout the American south is its scientific basis for saying whites and blacks are so closely related. This history should not be ignored, or distorted.

Shame on you, Tony Campolo.

Read the rest of this entry »


One more time: “Do we really know who Donald Trump is, or where he came from?”

October 26, 2012

Donald Trump is at it again.  His $5 million offer to get Obama’s grades mystifies me, and irritates me (why doesn’t he just call Harvard, and see what GPA was required to graduate with the honors on Obama’s diploma?).  It’s clear Trump has not bothered to see whether information is available on Obama, but is instead attempting a political smear.

Should we be concerned at all?  David Letterman savaged Trump on his show October 24, but then invited Trump to appear on October 25, and let Trump get away without challenging most of his big whoppers.  Letterman seemed to sense he was not witnessing a political exposé, but instead was witness to the dying throes of a man whose talent and time seem to be restricted to hair design, these days.

Heh.  Why should we believe Donald Trump?  In addition to the manifold reasons you may have already accumulated to dismiss the guy as a crank and a crackpot, consider that we don’t have a clue about his bona fides.

Who is Donald Trump, really?  I posted this originally in February 2011 — and since then, Trump has failed to release any whiff of evidence to clear up his murky background.  He’s not released his birth certificate (except a forgery), he’s not been able to establish that he ever attended a college in America.   In short, he’s vulnerable exactly to the type of unfair and churlish attack he’s making on President Obama.

Here’s how it unfolds:

Donald Trump demonstrated his ability to spread hoax information at the CPAC Conference recently — a group who love to hear hoaxes and spread them, as much as fourth-grade boys love to hear and spread jokes about flatulence.

But can he take it?  [Note the hoax insinuations below are underlined.]  Could Donald Trump withstand the kind of attack* he made on President Obama?

I mean, he claims President Obama may not have attended Columbia because Trump hasn’t personally interviewed anyone who knew him there — despite years of stories in alumni magazines, major media interviews with the people who knew Obama there, etc., etc.

Donald Trump and unidentified woman

Gratuitous picture that makes trump look funny or evil, with gratuitously misleading caption: “Donald Trump wants people to stop asking why no one, in America, can remember his high school and college days.” Alternative caption: “Donald Trump, two of his closest friends and an unnamed woman discuss politics and government policy.”

Does Trump have room to talk?  His Wikipedia bio claims he attended Fordham University for a brief period (got kicked out, maybe?), but didn’t graduate.  It claims he got an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

A search found no one from Wharton who remembers Donald Trump as a student there.  Jon Huntsman, the founder of Huntsman Container and Huntsman Chemical, the guy who invented the “clamshell box” for McDonalds, is one of the most famous and wealthy Wharton grads (and also the father of Jon Huntsman, Jr., the recently resigned Obama Ambassador to China).  He never saw Trump on campus at Wharton.  James DePriest, the outstanding conductor now with the Oregon Symphony (and fun to watch, trust me) — he never ran into Trump on campus when he attended Wharton.  There’s no record of Trump having had a roommate there. Alan Rachins, the famous actor who graduated from Wharton — not only never took a class with Trump, but said he never heard of Trump attending classes at the time.

Who is Donald Trump?  Where did he come from?  How come no one remembers him?

But the fog gets inkier.

Trump was not only a football standout in high school, he was a social standout, winning awards for his community involvement (although, no one at the high school in his hometown remembers his attending classes there).

But during the time he claims to have attended Fordham, no one remembers him.  No social standout.  No football hero.  Was he ever really at Fordham?

And what about his odd religious beliefs?  There are jokes about his worship of money — but what sort of religion would lead a man to claim that the 2008 economic collapse was “an Act of God?”  Yes, he really believes that.  His “god” appears to have a grudge against the United States and its economy.  Even in his greatest economic ventures, he pays homage to Hindu religious landmarksWhat is his secret agenda on religion?

Where did Donald Trump come from?  Why does no one in his hometown high school remember him?  Why did he drop out of sight at the time he claims to have attended Fordham University?  Did he buy his way into a listing as an alumnus of Wharton, after so many Wharton grads don’t remember seeing him there?   Who can trust a guy who worships (if he does worship at all) a “god” who strikes down the U.S. economy?

Who is Donald Trump?  Why did no one at CPAC check his questionable credentials before giving Trump a national platform?  Why is CPAC mum about this entire affair?  Why did Fox News conspire to obscure the message and candidacy of Ron Paul, with their new darling, Donald Trump?

Worse for Trump, most of the things in this screed are factually accurate.  Those who live by the inaccurate spin can die by it, too.

Scarier:  Which conservative sites will have the guts to question** Trump’s secret credentials?

Read more here, at Oh, For Goodness Sake (and here at “Donald Trump Pants On Fire”), and here, at PolitiFact.

_____________________________

*   That is, “completely hoaxed up.”

**  Oh, yeah — that should have read, “gullibility to fall for.”  When will the blog owner correct that glaring error?***

*** Not until Trump apologizes to President Obama.

More:


Mermelstein: The man who forced us to remember

August 20, 2012

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.

Mel Mermelstein, photo from Auschwitz Study Foundation

Mel Mermelstein, photo from Auschwitz Study Foundation

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.

You can read the case and other materials at the Nizkor Holocaust remembrance site.

Appalachian State University takes the Holocaust seriously — there is a program of study on the issue, reported by the Mountain Times (the school is in Boone, North Carolina — not sure where the newspaper is).

Teaching the Holocaust to Future Generations

Mountain Times, August 17, 2006

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.

More:


One more time: Recognizing bogus history

May 14, 2012

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.

Recognizing bogus history, 1

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.”

Please go read Park’s entire essay, it’s good.

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?

Bogus science section of Thinkquest logo

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:

Park wrote:

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.]

  1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
  3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
  5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
  6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
  7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Voodoo history

Here, with thanks to Robert Park, is what I propose for the warning signs for bogus history, for voodoo history:

  1. The author pitches the claim directly to the media or to organizations of non-historians, sometimes for pay.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Evidence for the history is anecdotal.
  5. The author says a belief is credible because it has endured for some time, or because many people believe it to be true.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


How to start a hoax about Donald Trump: “Do we really know who Donald Trump is, or where he came from?”

February 19, 2011

Donald Trump demonstrated his ability to spread hoax information at the CPAC Conference recently — a group who love to hear hoaxes and spread them, as much as fourth-grade boys love to hear and spread jokes about flatulence.

But can he take it?  [Note the hoax insinuations below are underlined.]  Could Donald Trump withstand the kind of attack* he made on President Obama?

I mean, he claims President Obama may not have attended Columbia because Trump hasn’t personally interviewed anyone who knew him there — despite years of stories in alumni magazines, major media interviews with the people who knew Obama there, etc., etc.

Donald Trump and unidentified woman

Gratuitous picture that makes trump look funny or evil, with gratuitously misleading caption: "Donald Trump wants people to stop asking why no one, in America, can remember his high school and college days." Alternative caption: "Donald Trump, two of his closest friends and an unnamed woman discuss politics and government policy."

Does Trump have room to talk?  His Wikipedia bio claims he attended Fordham University for a brief period (got kicked out, maybe?), but didn’t graduate.  It claims he got an undergraduate degree from the Wharton School in Pennsylvania.

A search found no one from Wharton who remembers Donald Trump as a student there.  Jon Huntsman, the founder of Huntsman Container and Huntsman Chemical, the guy who invented the “clamshell box” for McDonalds, is one of the most famous and wealthy Wharton grads (and also the father of Jon Huntsman, Jr., the recently resigned Obama Ambassador to China).  He never saw Trump on campus at Wharton.  James DePriest, the outstanding conductor now with the Oregon Symphony (and fun to watch, trust me) — he never ran into Trump on campus when he attended Wharton.  There’s no record of Trump having had a roommate there. Alan Rachins, the famous actor who graduated from Wharton — not only never took a class with Trump, but said he never heard of Trump attending classes at the time.

Who is Donald Trump?  Where did he come from?  How come no one remembers him?

But the fog gets inkier.

Trump was not only a football standout in high school, he was a social standout, winning awards for his community involvement (although, no one at the high school in his hometown remembers his attending classes there).

But during the time he claims to have attended Fordham, no one remembers him.  No social standout.  No football hero.  Was he ever really at Fordham?

And what about his odd religious beliefs?  There are jokes about his worship of money — but what sort of religion would lead a man to claim that the 2008 economic collapse was “an Act of God?”  Yes, he really believes that.  His “god” appears to have a grudge against the United States and its economy.  Even in his greatest economic ventures, he pays homage to Hindu religious landmarksWhat is his secret agenda on religion?

Where did Donald Trump come from?  Why does no one in his hometown high school remember him?  Why did he drop out of sight at the time he claims to have attended Fordham University?  Did he buy his way into a listing as an alumnus of Wharton, after so many Wharton grads don’t remember seeing him there?   Who can trust a guy who worships (if he does worship at all) a “god” who strikes down the U.S. economy?

Who is Donald Trump?  Why did no one at CPAC check his questionable credentials before giving Trump a national platform?  Why is CPAC mum about this entire affair?  Why did Fox News conspire to obscure the message and candidacy of Ron Paul, with their new darling, Donald Trump?

Worse for Trump, most of the things in this screed are factually accurate.  Those who live by the inaccurate spin can die by it, too.

Scarier:  Which conservative sites will have the guts to question** Trump’s secret credentials?

Read more here, at Oh, For Goodness Sake (and here at “Donald Trump Pants On Fire”), and here, at PolitiFact.

_____________________________

*   That is, “completely hoaxed up.”

**  Oh, yeah — that should have read, “gullibility to fall for.”  When will the blog owner correct that glaring error?***

*** Not until Trump apologizes to President Obama.


Stupidity is easy, parody is hard: Jesus removed from Texas Bibles

September 18, 2010

First, read and laugh with this:  “Jesus removed from Texas Bibles”

The Texas Board of Education announced Monday that it will order new Bibles for Texas schools that remove all references to Jesus on the grounds that his teachings are “too liberal” for the classroom. The changes will likely impact Bibles sold throughout the U.S. because Texas buys more Bibles than any other state.

The board approved the changes in a 10 to 5 party-line vote with unanimous support from Republicans.  Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist and leader of the board’s conservative faction, said the changes were approved without any input from theologians, in keeping with the board’s practice of editing schoolbooks on its own and ignoring experts.

“I know there’s folks who will say we in Texas have no business teaching religion in the classroom, well frankly a bunch of ignorant zealots like us have no business meddling with textbooks either but that’s didn’t stop us from doing so,” McLeroy said. “Here in the republic of Texas we don’t give a lick what the rest of the country thinks, unless of course we need federal money or help with stuff like hurricanes.”

Quotes from Don McLeroy are a little creepy, no?  You know it’s parody — isn’t it? — and yet the quotes and tone just ring so  . . . true.

It’s a parody, right? Isn’t it?  This can’t be accurate, right?

Oh. My. Cthulu.  Look at this:  “Blessed are the conservative in Bible translation.”

The project, an online effort to create a Bible suitable for contemporary conservative sensibilities, claims Jesus’ quote is a disputed addition abetted by liberal biblical scholars, even if it appears in some form in almost every translation of the Bible.

The project’s authors argue that contemporary scholars have inserted liberal views and ahistorical passages into the Bible, turning Jesus into little more than a well-meaning social worker with a store of watered-down platitudes.

“Professors are the most liberal group of people in the world, and it’s professors who are doing the popular modern translations of the Bible,” said Andy Schlafly, founder of Conservapedia.com, the project’s online home.

Wait.  That’s got to be a parody, right?  No?

That’s not parody?  “Andy Schlafly” really exists, and despite his appearing to be so stupid as to have to be reminded to breathe, he’s complaining about Jesus’s liberal views?

Gods forgive them For Christ’s sake, God, stop them now, for they know nothing.  They know NOTHING.

You can be sure that, were Glenn Beck still alive today, he’d be out there to complain about people like Schlafly “rewriting the words of the founders.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kathryn, whose friend observed of Andy Schlafly, “This just goes to show you that the shit doesn’t fall very far from the bat.” The line has already been copyrighted, but feel free to use it in pursuit of enlightenment, education, and human rights.


Tea Party history, Texas textbook version

July 21, 2010

A mostly historically accurate view of history of Tea Party-like movements:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Unreasonable Faith and earthaid.


Republicans snub Vietnam vet (again – Connecticut this time)

May 29, 2010

Details here, with Gail Collins.


Texas education: Social studies on the gallows today

May 18, 2010

Social studies curricula climb the scaffold to the gallows set by the “conservative” majority of the Texas State Board of Education today.  If they get their way — and signs are they will — they will hobble social studies education for at least a half generation.

As The Dallas Morning News explains this morning, lame-duck board members fully intend to change Texas and American culture with their rewriting of history, de-emphasis of traditional history education, and insertion of what they consider pro-patriotic ideas in social studies.

AUSTIN – When social conservatives on the State Board of Education put the final touches on social studies curriculum standards this week, it will be a significant victory in their years-long push to imprint their beliefs upon what Texas students learn.

We in the part-time blogosphere can’t cover the meeting as it deserves — nor have we been able to mobilize pro-education forces to do what was needed to stop the board — yet.

McLeroy will make the most of his remaining time on the panel. He proposed several additions to the social studies standards for the board to consider this week. One would require students to “contrast” the legal doctrine of separation of church and state with the actual wording in the Bill of Rights that bars a state-established religion.

McLeroy has resurrected the old Cleon Skousen/David Barton/White Supremecist argument that “separation of church and state” does not appear in the Constitution, disregarding what the document and its amendments actually say.  Jefferson warned that such discussions poison children’s education, coming prematurely as this one would be as McLeroy wants it.

Watch that space.  Tony Whitson at Curricublog will cover it well, and probably timely — read his stuff.  Steve Shafersman’s work will be informative.  The Texas Tribune offered great coverage in the past.  Stay tuned.  And the Texas Freedom Network carries the flag and works hard to recruit the troops and keep up morale.

People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have already chimed in.

It is discouraging.  Under current history standards, Texas kids should know the phrase “shot heard ’round the world,” but they do not get exposure to the poem from which the phrase comes, nor to the poet (Emerson), nor exposure to Paul Revere whose ride inspired Longfellow later to write a poem that children have read ever since — except in Texas.

But under the new standards, Texas children will learn who Phyllis Schlafly is.  Patriots are out; hypocrites and demagogues are in.


But it could always be worse: Maine Republicans trash classroom for teaching the Constitution

May 15, 2010

You couldn’t get fiction like this published.

Republicans in Maine voted to scrap the Republican platform and write a new one — not enough unholy discrimination in the old one, too much Eisenhower, too much Lincoln, or something like that.  The convention spilled out into a local middle school for some of the platform writing shenanigans.

In one 8th grade classroom, the Maine Republicans found something they objected to, something they don’t want taught to 8th graders:  The U.S. Constitution.

Pharyngula has the story and comments here.  ThinkProgress has more gory details here. Portland (Maine) Press-Herald story here. Bangor Daily News story here.

The Republicans were particularly incensed by a poster showing a collage used to open a project assigned to the Portland 8th graders.  The 8th graders make poster collages elaborating on the Four Freedoms speech of Franklin Roosevelt, and the accompanying posters by Norman Rockwell.  Norman Rockwell.  You know.  The guy who started his professional career as art director for the Boy Scouts of America . . .

“Brainwashing” the Republicans called U.S. history.  Brainwashing.

Speaking of the children, they got into the act Tuesday after a note from “a Republican” was found in Clifford’s classroom. “A Republican was here,” it read. “What gives you the right to propagandize impressionable kids?”

Responded eighth-grader Lilly O’Leary, one of several students who sent e-mails to this newspaper decrying the behavior of their weekend guests, “I am not being brainwashed in his class under any circumstances. I am being told that I have the right to my own opinion.”

She added, “These people were adults and they were acting very immaturely.”

Remember when Republicans used to complain that we can’t jail flag-burning protesters?  When did those guys get kicked out of the party, and who are these new thugs?

When did it become the Re-Poe-blican Party?  When did they take up the Blackshirt tactics?

C’mon, Republicans.  Come back to America.  Repent now.

And — as for us Texans?  This is the stuff Don McLeroy wants to see happen in Texas social studies standards — vandalism of the U.S. Constitution and American law and tradition.

As a Scouter, as a teacher, as a fan of the U.S. Constitution, I’m concerned.  Should I be scared?

“I saw nothing in the room — and nobody pointed out anything in the room — that appeared to give a more balanced view,” [Knox County Republican Party Chairman William] Chapman said.

[Teacher Paul] Clifford and the school’s principal, Mike McCarthy, pointed out in media accounts that the posters were part of projects on freedom and free expression. [Bangor Daily News]

Maybe everyone should be scared.

_______________

Hmmmmm.  Ken County, Maine, Republicans offer rewards to people who rat out others who vandalize campaign signs.  How about they extend that to rat out the Republicans who vandalized Paul Clifford’s classroom?  You know, in the interest of free speech and all . . .

More:

Norman Rockwell, poster of his paintings on the Four Freedoms (Library of Congress image)

Norman Rockwell, poster of his paintings on the Four Freedoms (Library of Congress image). This is part of what the Maine Tea Party Republicans objected to.

Exercise your right to stand up for freedom and educationspread the word:

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Especially Texans: Please stand up for high-quality, non-political education

May 13, 2010

I get e-mail, this time from the Texas Freedom Network:

The State Board of Education meeting is next week, and we need YOU to make a difference.

“Am I a religious fanatic? Absolutely. You’d have to be to do what I do.”
- State Board of Education member Don McLeroy

Don't White Out our education - Texas Freedom Network

Don't White Out Our History! - Texas Freedom Network

Is this who you want to decide what Texas schoolchildren learn? Or would you rather entrust that task to someone who believes public education is a “tool of perversion,” as board member Cynthia Dunbar believes? Or maybe any one of the board members who believe the separation of church and state is a myth?

If this is not what you want for Texas children, NOW is the critical time to take a stand.

The controversial social studies curriculum process is coming to an end. Public testimony will be heard at the State Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, May 19, and we expect a vote on these standards to take place the following day. We need you to stand up to the State Board of Education by attending our rally on Wednesday, May 19. Or testifying in front of the board. Or both!

“Don’t White-Out Our History”  Rally
Wednesday, May 19 at 1:00 p.m.
William B. Travis building (where the state board meets).
Click here to sign up to attend the rally
.

Also on Wednesday, the State Board of Education will hear public testimony on the social studies curriculum standards. Since you are already planning to be at the William B. Travis building for the rally, you can also sign up to testify! Read below for more information on registering to testify with the Texas Education Agency. (Testimony will begin in the morning and likely stretch into the evening — so if you wish to testify, be prepared for a long day.)

We look forward to seeing you next week. If you have any questions, e-mail Judie or call us at 512-322-0545.



SBOE dare not say his name: “Obama”

May 3, 2010

What?  The Texas State Board of Education is doing such a shoddy job of writing social studies standards that they don’t even name the current president of the U.S.?

It’s a cautionary tale of overprescribing, and of looking at everything as if it has some ulterior motive.  But is there any rational reason why the SBOE refuses to utter the name “Obama?”

President Barack Obama

Who is this man? Texas social studies standards let his identity remain a mystery, despite the historical significance of his election.

SBOE should stop gutting social studies standards and vote to simply accept the updates provided by teachers, historians, economists and geographers.  The process is out of control, embarrassing to Texas, and damaging to education.

Grading Texas has the story (from TSTA), here in its entirety (but go check out that blog):

April 28, 2010

The president has a name: it’s Barack Obama

TSTA President Rita Haecker created a stir among legislators today when she testified, at a hearing hosted by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, that the State Board of Education, in its recent rewrite of social studies curriculum standards, had refused to name President Barack Obama.

That bit of news seemed to catch several lawmakers by surprise. They already knew that the right-wing bloc on the board had attempted to rewrite history. But to go so far as to omit the name of the historic, first African American president of the United States seemed preposterous, even by conservative leader Don (the Earth is 5,000 years old) McLeroy’s standards.

Haecker was correct. Barack Obama’s name, so far, has not been included in the history curriculum standards on which the SBOE is scheduled to take a final vote next month. The standards do note the “election of first black president” as a significant event of 2008, but they don’t say who that black president is.

Haecker urged legislators to make changes, if necessary, to the curriculum setting process to protect educator input and ensure that “scholarly, academic research and findings aren’t dismissed or diminished at the whim of a board member’s own political or religious view of the world.”

State Education Commissioner Robert Scott accepted the caucus’ invitation to voluntarily testify on the curriculum adoption process. He said his and the Texas Education Agency’s role was mostly in technical support of the SBOE.

Board Chairwoman Gail Lowe of Lampasas, who also had been invited, declined to attend, even though the caucus had offered to pay her travel expenses.

Predictably, Lowe was skewered for her failure to show up by the mostly Democratic legislators who attended the caucus hearing. Lowe must have figured it was better to be skewered in absentia than in person.

You can read Rita Haecker’s prepared testimony here:

http://www.tsta.org/news/current/

Oh, go on — you can say it — tell your friends:

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Education board shames Texas: Ben Sargent and Texas education follies, part B

March 31, 2010

Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman, on Rick Perry and Texas social studies standards

Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman (GoComics) March 17, 2010

(I first saw a Ben Sargent cartoon published in the Daily Utah Chronicle in about 1974.  35 years of great stuff from that guy.  He officially retired from the Austin American-Statesman in 2009, running one cartoon a week now.)

Tip of the old scrub brush, again, to Steven Schafersman and What Would Jack Do.

Also note this January cartoon from Sargent:

Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman, January 24, 2010

Texas State Board of Education social studies curricula - Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman, January 24, 2010


A little sauce with that? Words Mitt Romney may want to eat

March 29, 2010

This appeared in the Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages on April 11, 2006 — almost exactly four years ago.

Sound like recent events?

GOOD GOVERNMENT

Health Care for Everyone?
We’ve found a way.

by MITT ROMNEY
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 12:01 A.M. EDT

BOSTON–Only weeks after I was elected governor, Tom Stemberg, the founder and former CEO of Staples, stopped by my office. He told me, “If you really want to help people, find a way to get everyone health insurance.” I replied that would mean raising taxes and a Clinton-style government takeover of health care. He insisted: “You can find a way.”

I believe that we have. Every uninsured citizen in Massachusetts will soon have affordable health insurance and the costs of health care will be reduced. And we will need no new taxes, no employer mandate and no government takeover to make this happen.

When I took up Tom’s challenge, I assembled a team from business, academia and government and asked them first to find out who was uninsured, and why. What they found was surprising. Some 20% of the state’s uninsured population qualified for Medicaid but had never signed up. So we built and installed an Internet portal for our hospitals and clinics: When uninsured individuals show up for treatment, we enter their data online. If they qualify for Medicaid, they’re enrolled.

Another 40% of the uninsured were earning enough to buy insurance but had chosen not to do so. Why? Because it is expensive, and because they know that if they become seriously ill, they will get free or subsidized treatment at the hospital. By law, emergency care cannot be withheld. Why pay for something you can get free?

Of course, while it may be free for them, everyone else ends up paying the bill, either in higher insurance premiums or taxes. The solution we came up with was to make private health insurance much more affordable. Insurance reforms now permit policies with higher deductibles, higher copayments, coinsurance, provider networks and fewer mandated benefits like in vitro fertilization–and our insurers have committed to offer products nearly 50% less expensive. With private insurance finally affordable, I proposed that everyone must either purchase a product of their choice or demonstrate that they can pay for their own health care. It’s a personal responsibility principle.

Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.

Another group of uninsured citizens in Massachusetts consisted of working people who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford health-care insurance. Here the answer is to provide a subsidy so they can purchase a private policy. The premium is based on ability to pay: One pays a higher amount, along a sliding scale, as one’s income is higher. The big question we faced, however, was where the money for the subsidy would come from. We didn’t want higher taxes; but we did have about $1 billion already in the system through a long-established uninsured-care fund that partially reimburses hospitals for free care. The fund is raised through an annual assessment on insurance providers and hospitals, plus contributions from the state and federal governments.

To determine if the $1 billion would be enough, Jonathan Gruber of MIT built an econometric model of the population, and with input from insurers, my in-house team crunched the numbers. Again, the result surprised us: We needed far less than the $1 billion for the subsidies. One reason is that this population is healthier than we had imagined. Instead of single parents, most were young single males, educated and in good health. And again, because health insurance will now be affordable and subsidized, we insist that everyone purchase health insurance from one of our private insurance companies.

And so, all Massachusetts citizens will have health insurance. It’s a goal Democrats and Republicans share, and it has been achieved by a bipartisan effort, through market reforms.

We have received some helpful enhancements. The Heritage Foundation helped craft a mechanism, a “connector,” allowing citizens to purchase health insurance with pretax dollars, even if their employer makes no contribution. The connector enables pretax payments, simplifies payroll deduction, permits prorated employer contributions for part-time employees, reduces insurer marketing costs, and makes it efficient for policies to be entirely portable. Because small businesses may use the connector, it gives them even greater bargaining power than large companies. Finally, health insurance is on a level playing field.

Two other features of the plan reduce the rate of health-care inflation. Medical transparency provisions will allow consumers to compare the quality, track record and cost of hospitals and providers; given deductibles and coinsurance, these consumers will have the incentive and the information for market forces to influence behavior. Also, electronic health records are in the works, which will reduce medical errors and lower costs.

My Democratic counterparts have added an annual $295 per-person fee charged to employers that do not contribute toward insurance premiums for any of their employees. The fee is unnecessary and probably counterproductive, and so I will take corrective action.

How much of our health-care plan applies to other states? A lot. Instead of thinking that the best way to cover the uninsured is by expanding Medicaid, they can instead reform insurance.

Will it work? I’m optimistic, but time will tell. A great deal will depend on the people who implement the program. Legislative adjustments will surely be needed along the way. One great thing about federalism is that states can innovate, demonstrate and incorporate ideas from one another. Other states will learn from our experience and improve on what we’ve done. That’s the way we’ll make health care work for everyone.

Mr. Romney is governor of Massachusetts.

What changed in the last four years?  It wasn’t the need for health care reform.

Four years ago Republicans thought it was a great idea.   It was a great way to stimulate business and solve a nagging problem facing all Americans.

At Waterloo, what do you think happened to soldiers from Britain and Prussia who defected to Napoleon’s cause?  Did they regret their decision?


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