Nope, Patrick Henry didn’t say that

April 8, 2013

More misquoting of “the Founders”:

For America misquotes Patrick Henry

For America’s poster featuring a quote falsely claimed to be from Patrick Henry.  The racial right wingers won’t tell you, but the painting is a portrait by George Bagby Matthews c. 1891, after an original by Thomas Sully.

It’s baseball season.  I love a pitch into the wheelhouse.

The radical right-wing political group For America — a sort of latter-day Redneck Panther group — invented this one, and pasted it up on their Facebook site this morning.

You know where this is going, of course.  Patrick Henry didn’t say that.  The poster is a hoax.

Your Hemingway [Excrement] Detector probably clanged as soon as you pulled the poster up.  Patrick Henry was a powerful opponent to the Constitution.

Opposed to the Constitution?  Oh, yes.  It helps to know a bit of history.

Henry was at best suspicious of the drive to get a working, central government after the Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. While George Washington needed an interstate authority, at least to resolve disputes between the states, in order to create a commercial entity to build a path into the Ohio Valley, Henry was opposed.  To be sure, Washington was scheming a bit, with his dreaming:  Washington held title to more than 15,000 acres of land in the Ohio Valley, his fee for having surveyed the land for Lord Fairfax many years earlier.  Washington stood to get wealthy from the sale of the land — if a path into and out of the Ohio could be devised.  Washington struggled for years to get a canal through — seen today in the remains of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal from Washington, D.C., up along the Potomac River.

Henry was so opposed to the states’ working together that he refused to notify Virginia’s commissioners appointed to a commission to settle the fishing and title dispute to the Chesapeake Bay, between Maryland and Virginia especially, and including Delaware.  When Maryland’s commissioners showed up in Fairfax for the first round of negotiations, they could not find the Virginia commissioners at all.  So they called on Gen. Washington at his Mt. Vernon estate (as about a thousand people a year did in those years).  Washington recognized immediately how this collaboration could aid getting a path through Maryland to the Ohio.

Perplexed at the abject failure of Virginia’s government, Washington dispatched messages to the Virginia commissioners, including a young man Washington did not know, James Madison.  Washington was shocked and disappointed to learn the Virginians did not know they had been appointed.  He suggested the Marylanders return home, and immediately began working with Madison to make the commission work.  When this group settled the Chesapeake Bay boundaries and fishing issues, and Washington’s war aide Alexander Hamilton was entangled in a separate but similar dispute between New York and New Jersey over New York Harbor, Washington introduced Hamilton and Madison to each other, and suggested they broaden their work.  Ultimately this effort produced the Annapolis Convention among five colonies, which called for a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation.  The Second Continental Congress agreed to the proposal.

When the delegates met at Philadelphia, they determined the Articles of Confederation irreparably flawed.  Instead, they wrote what we now know as the Constitution.

Patrick Henry opposed each step.  Appointed delegate to the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, he refused to serve.  Instead, he was elected Governor of Virginia, and proceeded to organize opposition to ratification of the Constitution.  Madison’s unique ratification process, sending the Constitution to conventions of the people in each state, instead of to the state legislatures, was designed to get around Henry’s having locked up opposition to ratification in the Virginia Assembly.

Henry led opposition to ratification at the Virginia convention.  Outflanked by Madison, Henry was enraged by Virginia’s ratification.  Virginia had called for the addition of a bill of rights to the document, and the ratification campaign was carried partly on Madison’s promise that he would propose a bill of rights as amendments, as soon as the new federal government got up and running.  Henry sought to thwart Madison, blocking Madison’s appointment as U.S. senator, in the state legislature.  When Madison fell back to run for the House of Representatives, Henry found the best candidate to oppose Madison in the Tidewater area and threw all his support behind that candidate. (James Monroe was that candidate; in one of the more fitting ironies of history, during the campaign Monroe was persuaded to Madison’s side; Madison won the election, and the lifelong friendship and help of Monroe.)

When the new federal government organized, Henry refused George Washington’s invitation to join it in any capacity.  Henry continued to oppose the Constitution and its government to his death.

Consequently, it is extremely unlikely Henry would have ever suggested that the Constitution was a useful tool in any way, especially as a defense of freedom; Henry saw the Constitution as a threat to freedom.

There are good records of some of the things Henry really did say about the Constitution.  Henry regarded the Constitution as tyranny, and said exactly that in his speech against the Constitution on June 5, 1788:

It is said eight states have adopted this plan. I declare that if twelve states and a half had adopted it, I would, with manly firmness, and in spite of an erring world, reject it. You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

In the same speech, Henry challenged the right of the people even to consider creating  a Constitution:

The assent of the people, in their collective capacity, is not necessary to the formation of a federal government. The people have no right to enter into leagues, alliances, or confederations; they are not the proper agents for this purpose. States and foreign powers are the only proper agents for this kind of government.

Probably diving into hyperbole, Henry portrayed the Constitution itself as a threat to liberty, not a protection from government:

When I thus profess myself an advocate for the liberty of the people, I shall be told I am a designing man, that I am to be a great man, that I am to be a demagogue; and many similar illiberal insinuations will be thrown out: but, sir, conscious rectitude outweighs those things with me.

I see great jeopardy in this new government. I see none from our present one. I hope some gentleman or other will bring forth, in full array, those dangers, if there be any, that we may see and touch them.

Anyone familiar with the history, with the story of Patrick Henry and the conflicting, often perpendicular story of the creation of the Constitution, would be alarmed at a quote in which Henry appears to claim the Constitution a protector of rights of citizens — it’s absolutely contrary to almost everything he ever said.

Perhaps most ironic, for our right-wing friends:  The quote on the poster above was invented as a defense against abuses of the Constitution by the right.  Wikiquote tracked it back to its invention:

The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government — lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.

  • As quoted in The Best Liberal Quotes Ever : Why the Left is Right (2004) by William P. Martin. Though widely attributed to Henry, this statement has not been sourced to any document before the 1990s and appears to be at odds with his beliefs as a strong opponent of the adoption of the US Constitution.

“History?” For America might say. “We don’t got no history. We don’t NEED NO STINKIN’ HISTORY!”

And so they trip merrily down the path to authoritarian dictatorship, denying their direction every step of the way to their ultimate end.

The rest of us can study history, and discover the truth.

More:


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:


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.


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.


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.


SBOE shames Texas, part H: Luckovich on Texas education follies

April 17, 2010

Mike Luckovich on Texas education board gutting social studies standards, March 18 or 20, 2010Mike Luckovich on Texas education board gutting social studies standards, March 18 or 20, 2010

Mike Luckovich on Texas education board gutting social studies standards, March 18 or 20, 2010 - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

I found this brilliant Mike Luckovich cartoon from March 18, just in time for the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, and the anniversity of Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.”  What will SBOE members be reading for poetry to their kids, on April 18?


Education board shames Texas: Social studies follies, part A

March 31, 2010

John Sherffius, one of my favorite editorial cartoonists, laid out the problem in his cartoon of March 18:

John Sherffius, Boulder Daily Camera, March 18, 2010 - Texas social studies standards

John Sherffius, Boulder Daily Camera, March 18, 2010

You may purchase a copy of the cartoon — or the original — here.

SBOE isn’t exactly asking that the Bible be rewritten — or at least, not directly.  Suggesting we replace Thomas Jefferson as a founder with John Calvin in high school standards, is just as silly.

Tip of the old scrub brush to What Would Jack Do, “Lone Star Laughing Stock,” and Steven Schafersman.


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?


Encore post, new coda: Worldview of Texas education policy makers

March 18, 2010

From a post many weeks ago, “Speaking of Texas education policy,” made more salient by events of the past month:

Moon landing and wrestling in America

from Funnyjunk

This is a troubling piece of humor. From Funnyjunk.

  • “America.  A country where people believe the moon landing is fake, but wrestling is real.”

And now we can add even more captions:

  • A country where state curriculum officials go to churches that warn against belief in ghosts, but who believe Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin came back from the grave to wrestle the quill from Jefferson and write the Declaration of Independence.
    [Heh.  Wouldn't you love to see Aquinas and Calvin in the same room, trying to come to agreement on anything?]
  • A country with Barack Obama as president and where women’s basketball is a joy to watch during March Madness thanks to the the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title IX, but Cynthia Dunbar believes the Civil Rights Act itself was a mistake.
  • A country where Barbara McClintock did the research that showed how evolution works and won her a Nobel, but where Texans deny that a woman should do such work, and deny evolution.
  • A capitalist nation where Jack Kilby invented the printed circuit and had a good life, but where the Texas SSOE thinks “capitalism” is a dirty word.
    (No, ma’am, I couldn’t make that up.  They did it.  They took out the word “capitalism” because they say those “liberal economists” like Milton Friedman can’t be trusted.  Seriously.  No, really.  Go look it up.)
  • Home of Thomas Jefferson, whose words in the Declaration of Independence so sting tyrants and dictators that today, in the most repressive nations, even oppressive systems must pretend to follow Jefferson — hence, the “Peoples Republic of Korea,” “the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” “Peoples Republic of China,” and the provisions of the old Soviet Union’s Constitution that “guaranteed” freedom of speech and freedom of religion; but where Thomas Jefferson is held in contempt, and John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas claimed as the authors of American freedom. [I wonder what the Society of the Cincinnati have to say about that?]
  • Where Mark Twain’s profound, greatest American novel Huckleberry Finn made clear the case against racism and oppression of former slaves, but where school kids don’t read it because their misguided parents think it’s racist.
  • A nation where Cynthia Dunbar thinks Thomas Jefferson gets too much credit, but Barack Obama is a foreign terrorist
  • A nation where conservatives complain that the Supreme Court should never look at foreign laws for advice, wisdom, or precedent, but believe that Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican friar from Italy, and John Calvin, a French dissident who fled to Switzerland, pulled a religious coup d’etat and is infamous for executing people who disagreed with his religious views, wrote the Declaration of Independence.

I’ll wager there are more, more annoying, more inaccurate statements from the Texas SSOE members in the Texas Education Follies, which will make much briefer complaints and better bumper stickers.

Other posts at the Bathtub you should read, mostly featuring Ms. Dunbar:

Also:


Reagan years: A contrarian’s view

June 4, 2009

California abandoned the memory of the guy who worked tirelessly to keep California in the Union during the Civil War, Unitarian Universalist preacher Starr King, replacing his statue in the U.S. Capitol’s pantheon of state heroes (two to a state) with a statue of Ronald Reagan.  June 4 marks the fifth anniversary of Reagan’s passing.

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Older son Kenny sent a note today, saying he now understands why I was so troubled by the Reagan years.  Some guy at The Free Speech Zone added it up — it has what AP history classes call a “point of view,” but calculate the serious factual error to fact ratio:

1) Treason: As a private citizen, and BEFORE the election, in contravention of both law and tradition, Reagan’s minions and handlers illegally negotiated with the Iranians to induce them hold the American Embassy hostages until after the elections,to embarrass President Carer and to prevent his successful negotiation of an “October Surprise.” Sent future VP George Bush, Sr., and future CIA chief William Casey to Paris to negotiate the deal.

2) Sent arms, including chemical weapons, to both Iraq and Iran during the decade-long Iran-Iraq war, making those two countries the two biggest US arms trading partners at precisely the time when it was illegal to trade with either due to both US and UN laws.

3) Iran/Contra: Used drug traffickers to transport illegal arms to Nicaragua, ignoring the contraband which was brought back on the return trip, creating  a massive and immediate increase in cocaine trade in urban California. Illegally used the CIA to mine harbors and ferry Contra troops in Nicaragua. Eventually, several administration staffers were convicted of crimes ranging from lying to Congress to conspiracy  to defraud the U.S. The scandal involved the administration selling arms  to  Iran and using proceeds from the sales to fund a guerrilla insurgent group in Nicaragua

4) Created alQaeda in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet puppet/occupation there

5) Sponsored right-wing, State terrorism in El Salvador,  Honduras, Haiti, and Guatemala against indigenous insurgents who were fighting the dictatorial, hereditary regimes there. Illegally invaded  and occupied Grenada, overthrowing the democratically elected President

6) Lied about ALL of this activity before Congress, and suborned his Secretary of Defense to perjury, as well.

7) Rescinded Carter policy that all US international financial support be based upon valid human rights records.

8) Took the world to the brink of nuclear war, putting nuclear weapons into Europe, violating the very provision that was the settlement to the Cuban missile crisis.

9) Instituted the so-called “Mexico City” doctrine, effectively barring recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a  method of family planning.

10) Instigated trickle-down/voodoo economics, which was the beginning of what has recently culminated in the crash of the bubbles. Here is a subset of his regime’s economic sins:

a) Within the first year of the policy, we were in a depression caused in large measure by the policy. The “historic” 27% tax-cut was skewed two to one in favor of those making over $200,000 per year, in percentages, and far more in real dollars. By the end of the second year, increases in state and local taxes more than replaced the cuts for the middle class. b) Wages throughout Reagan/Bush remained stagnant in real dollars for the next 12 years, the longest and worst growth performance in middle class wages in US history. Average national growth was the lowest since the early 30s.

c) Conspired with corpoRat and congressional allies to sustain spending by loosening credit, to replace the wages they were  not going to increase.

d) Named Ayn Rand acolyte and free-market apostle Alan Greenspan as Chief of the Federal Reserve.

11) The HUD/DoI Scandals: Samuel Pierce and his associates were found to have rewarded wealthy  contributors to the administration’s campaign with funding for low  income housing development without the customary background checks, and lobbyists, such as former Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt, were rewarded with huge lobbying  fees for assisting campaign contributors with receiving government loans and  guarantees. Sixteen  convictions were eventually handed down, including several members of the Reagan  administration.

12) Appointed some of the “worst” Federalist Society/strict constructionists to the federal bench, including Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor, ALL of whose votes were crucial in (illegally) installing GW Bush in the presidency in 2000, and named Rehnquist Chief Justice.

13) Ordered the revocation of the FCC regulation called “the Fairness Doctrine,” and opened up the Press to the rash of consolidations which has led, now, to a compromised, toothless, stenographic, lap-dog “Fourth Estate.”

14) Initiated the attack on labor unions by attacking PATCO, the Air Traffic Controllers union, creating a crisis in airport control towers nation-wide, and importantly, started the slow erosion of US worker wages and benefits.

15) Through the appointment of James Watt, who claimed that the environment was “expendable” since the “second coming of Christ was at hand,”, Reagan reduced clean water and air standards, reduced labor, mine, and industrial safety standards,and cut funding to supervisory and regulatory agencies charged with monitoring those industries.

16) Increased the defense budget to 240% previous levels.

17)  Systematically ignored the beginning of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, blaming the victims publically.

18)The S&L collapse: Reagan’s “elimination of loopholes” in the tax code included the elimination of  the “passive loss” provisions that subsidized rental housing. Because this was  removed retroactively, it bankrupted many real estate developments made with  this tax break as a premise. This with some other “deregulation” policies  ultimately led to the largest political and financial scandal in U.S. history:  The  Savings and Loan crisis. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD $150 billion, about $125 billion of which was consequently and directly subsidized by the U.S.  government, which contributed to the large  budget deficits of the  early 1990s.

19) Called ketchup a vegetable for the purposes of school-lunch funding and reduced early education and head-start funding.

20) Symbolically ripped the solar panels, installed by Pres. Carter, from the White House,and blamed trees for causing air pollution.

I had thought the savings and loan crisis more the result of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn’s doing, but the dates are right.  Nobel Economics Memorial Prize winner Paul Krugman offered some insight there, don’t miss Krugman’s column on our current economic woes.

He didn’t mention the killing of the program to wipe out measles, in the 1981 Budget Reconciliation.  Paltry program cost $3 million a year, should have been done by 1985.  Savings of about $12 million.  Without the program, measles roared back.  I could come up with a half dozen similar stories.

History teachers, got enough for a POV question on Reagan?

Scared yet?


Call for help: Real story behind the Holocaust?

May 4, 2008

Historians, help me out here. I’ve recently become aware that many creationists have swallowed as accurate Richard Weikart’s book making Darwin complicit in the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.

I have always dismissed Weikart. His claims fly in the face of history recorded by too many reputable and trustworthy hands. Others aren’t concerned with what history really shows, or are simply ignorant of history (candidates for Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment). I am working to assemble what I hope will be a short piece showing the error of Weikart’s claims.

It seems to me there are many holes in the history case Weikart tries to make. And the history case needs to be nailed down, accurately.

Scientists already have responded. The American Academy for the Advancement of Science complains that the scientific inaccuracies in the film muddy the waters between science and religion unfairly and unnecessarily (see video here). The Jewish Anti-Defamation League has complained about the unholy Holocaust claims. Movie reviewers have not been kind to the film, with reviews like the New York Times:

One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.

Still there are creationists, and other people of faith out there, who grant credence to Weikart’s claims. So we need a clear rebuttal to Weikart’s claims, from the history viewpoint.

The National Center for Science Education has a brief that touches on these arguments; what other sources do you recommend on these specific claims listed below?

Weikart makes six claims (I’ve borrowed here from an article he wrote for American Spectator):

1. Darwin argued that humans were not qualitatively different from animals. The leading Darwinist in Germany, Ernst Haeckel, attacked the “anthropocentric” view that humans are unique and special.

That seems directly contrary to the view of Darwin presented in the better biographies. I don’t recall Darwin ever arguing this point at all. Is Weikart imagining this?

2. Darwin denied that humans had an immaterial soul. He and other Darwinists believed that all aspects of the human psyche, including reason, morality, aesthetics, and even religion, originated through completely natural processes.

Darwin never denied the existence of human souls. While Darwin made rather brilliant arguments for how morality could arise through evolution, going so far as to say that morality is necessary for the survival of a social species such as humans, at no point in his arguing for the natural processes does he deny or disavow the supernatural. Descent of Man will offer Darwin’s work on the rise of morals and art — what other sources would you recommend?

3. Darwin and other Darwinists recognized that if morality was the product of mindless evolution, then there is no objective, fixed morality and thus no objective human rights. Darwin stated in his Autobiography that one “can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones.”

Notes from Evil Bender, Creationist quotemining of Darwin: moral relativism edition, has already called out the gross error in Weikart’s claim here — this is quite contrary to what Darwin actually argued and said. But again, there should be a few other sources to rebut Weikart’s claim. Which do you recommend?

4. Since evolution requires variation, Darwin and other early Darwinists believed in human inequality. Haeckel emphasized inequality to such as extent that he even classified human races as twelve distinct species and claimed that the lowest humans were closer to primates than to the highest humans.

Actually, Darwin was a potent advocate of legal equality, for example in his advocacy and support for ending slavery. Weikart’s claim here completely steps away from reality. I admit to not being overly familiar with Haeckel’s work, partly because Haeckel doesn’t represent Darwin, partly because I have just never found the guy’s work particularly interesting or useful. What sources and arguments do you recommend here?

5. Darwin and most Darwinists believe that humans are locked in an ineluctable struggle for existence. Darwin claimed in The Descent of Man that because of this struggle, “[a]t some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.”

That’s a complete distortion of what Darwin wrote, of course — the NCSE site has a short rebuttal. Darwin was writing of the clash between colonists and natives, largely between Europeans and aboriginals, or between Europeans with guns and aboriginals without them. Key case in point: The Tasmanian “Wars,” which led to the almost complete extinction of native Tasmanians, a sad circumstance Darwin saw on his voyage. Got other sources you recommend?

6. Darwinism overturned the Judeo-Christian view of death as an enemy, construing it instead as a beneficial engine of progress. Darwin remarked in The Origin of Species, “Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.”

This claim is so full of hooey I’m not sure where to start. What do you think? Can you imagine how quickly Darwin would have gotten his shotgun out for some fool who suggests, like Weikart does here, that Darwin was not grieved by the death of Annie? Are you outraged at the butchering of the last paragraph from Origin of Species?

There are a lot of Christians who should know better who have been misled by this claptrap. Will you help me make a brief against Weikart’s claims?

Comments are open. Please chime in.


Dangers of creationism: Synapse shutdown

May 3, 2008

One of the ultimate defenses of creationism, once you’ve demonstrated that there is no science and no good theology in it, is the creationist claim “it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

Well, yes, it does. Over the years I’ve noticed that creationism appears to suck the intelligence right out of otherwise smart or educated people. I also note that it tends to make otherwise good and honest people defend academic debauchery and dishonesty.

It’s as if claiming to be creationist hogs all the available RAM in their brains and forces a near-total synapse shutdown.

Cases in point: Creationists are scrambling to the defense of the mockumentary movie “Expelled!” in which Ben Stein trots out almost every creationist canard known to Hollywood in defending some of the greater misdeeds of the intelligent design hoaxers. Otherwise sane, good people, claiming to be Christian, make atrocious defenses of the movie.

I cannot make this up: Go see Mere Orthodoxy and Thinking Christian. Bad enough they defend the movie — but to defend it because, they claim, Darwin and Hitler were brothers in thought? Because evolution urges immoral behavior? I stepped in something over at Thinking Christian, and when I called it to the attention of Tom Gilson in the comments, he deleted the comment. (I’ve reposted, but I wager he’ll delete that one, too, while letting other comments of mine stand; he’s got no answer to any of my complaints.)

The stupid goes past 11, proudly, defiantly. The Constitution specifically protects the right of people to believe any fool claptrap they choose. These defenses of a silly movie come awfully close to abuse of the privilege.

Other useful things:

Update: Holy mother of ostriches! Tom Gilson at “Thinking Christian” has a nifty device that bans people from viewing his blog. Paranoia sticks its head into a whole new depth of sand!  Here’s a truism:  Creationists who like to claim Darwin was the cause of Stalin and Hitler, which is by itself an extremely insulting and repugnant claim, almost never fail to resort to Stalinist and Hitlerian tactics when their claims are questioned.  Call it Darrell’s Law of Evolution History Revisionism.


Fighting history hoaxes

May 11, 2007

Daily Kos I don’t get to daily. But here’s a post I did see that all history teachers ought to read, if only to raise their consciousness about the frauds that plague us every day: Help Fight Fake History that Powers the American Right.

Fight fake historyChris Rodda needs help supporting her research against all the old dogs of history revisionism, and the post from Troutfishing goes through most of the dishonor roll: D. James Kennedy, David Barton, Catherine Millard, and Chuck Norris

Rodda’s blog series can be found at Talk2Action.

My interest in getting history done right was kindled when high school teachers mentioned early versions of David Barton’s work — stuff that showed up on tests, though anyone who had read our texts and had a passing knowledge of real history would have known was in error. As a staffer in the U.S. Senate I had to got to read letters from people who bought the Barton tales lock, stock, and monkey barrel, and who consequently felt that everyone else on Earth was lying to them.

I wish Rodda luck.


National Humanities Medal to Bernard Lewis . . .

November 26, 2006

Generally there is just too much going on to follow all of it in the news, let alone understand it.

PanArmenian.net complains that historian Bernard Lewis’ being honored with the National Humanities Medal is a problem, labeling him a denier of the Armenian genocide. He was found to be so by a French court (does that increase his appeal to Bush?).

Lewis’ work is influential — here is a 2004 Washington Monthly piece by Newsweek correspondent Michael Hirsch, pointing out that Lewis is the guy who probably first coined the phrase “clash of civilizations” with regard to international relations with modern Islamic nations. Is he just one more Princeton University faculty member, like Ben Bernanke, who happens to have the ear of the President?

Teachers of history certainly should be familiar with the controversy over the Armenian genocide, its relation to post-World War I history, its salience in European politics today, and its effects on U.S. history (and especially U.S. literature — think William Saroyan, George Deukmejian, etc.). I admit I know very little about Lewis. I don’t know enough about him to make a judgment on whether the charges of the Armenian partisans are fair.

In my previous post I noted the rise of a superstar natural history prof, in England. Here in the U.S. the National Humanities Medal was awarded to nine people and one institution — one of the people is a Nobel Prize winner — and the news sank like a small, round stone in a small pond, without making much of a ripple.

If we can’t name some of the stars among historians and others in the humanities, are we doing our jobs? Are our newspapers and broadcasters doing their jobs if we don’t get this news?

Did President Bush honor a denier of the Armenian genocide? Our future relations with Islamic nations and peoples may depend on the answer. I don’t know. Do you?

Here is Lewis’ biography from the awards press release:

Bernard Lewis is considered by many to be the greatest living historian of the Muslim world. He has pursued his primary interest, the history of the Ottoman Empire, producing groundbreaking works including The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, The Jews of Islam, and Islam and the West. His most recent publication is From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East. Other titles by Lewis: The Crisis of Islam: Holy War & Unholy Terror; What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East; Western Impact and the Middle Eastern Response; A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters and History; The Multiple Identities of the Middle East; and The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. Born in London, England, in 1916, Lewis became attracted to languages and history at an early age. Lewis’s interest in history was stirred thanks to his bar mitzvah ceremony, during which he received as a gift a book on Jewish history. He graduated in 1936 from the then School of Oriental Studies (SOAS, now School of Oriental and African Studies) at the University of London with a B.A. in history with special reference to the Near and Middle East, and obtaining his Ph.D. three years later, also from SOAS, specializing in the history of Islam. During the Second World War, Lewis served in the British Army in the Royal Armoured Corps and Intelligence Corps in 1940-41, and was then attached to a department of the Foreign Office. After the war he returned to SOAS, and in 1949 he was appointed to the new chair in Near and Middle Eastern history at the age of 33. In 1974 Lewis accepted a joint position at Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study, marking the beginning of the most prolific period in his research career. In addition, it was in the United States that Lewis became a public intellectual. After his retirement from Princeton in 1986 as the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Lewis held many visiting appointments. Lewis has been a naturalized citizen of the United States since 1982.


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