Typewriter of the moment: Alan Lomax, folk music historian, 1942

October 18, 2009

Alan Lomax at the typewriter, 1942 - Library of Congress photo

Alan Lomax at the typewriter, 1942, using the "hunt and peck method" of typing - Library of Congress photo

Who was Alan Lomax?  Have you really never heard of him before?

Lomax collected folk music, on wire recorders, on tape recorders, in written form, and any other way he could, on farms, at festivals, in jails, at concerts, in churches, on street corners — anywhere people make music.  He did it his entire life.  He collected music in the United States, across the Caribbean, in Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Lillie Mae Ledford and an obscured Sonny Terry, New York, 1944 (Library of Congress Collection - photographer unknown)

Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie, Lillie Mae Ledford and an obscured Sonny Terry, New York, 1944 (Library of Congress Collection - photographer unknown)

Almost all of that collection is in the Library of Congress’s unsurpassed American Folklife collection, from which dozens of recordings have been issued.

Born in 1915, Alan Lomax began collecting folk music for the Library of Congress with his father [John Lomax] at the age of 18. He continued his whole life in the pursuit of recording traditional cultures, believing that all cultures should be recorded and presented to the public. His life’s work, represented by seventy years’ worth of documentation, will now be housed under one roof at the Library, a place for which the Lomax family has always had strong connections and great affection.

Were that all, it would be an outstanding record of accomplishment.  Lomax was much more central to the folk revivals in the both England and the U.S. in the 1950s and 19602, though, and in truth it seemed he had a hand in everything dealing with folk music in the English-speaking world and then some.  Carl Sagan used Lomax as a consultant to help choose the music to be placed on the disc sent into space with the exploring satellite Voyager, “the Voyager Golden Record.”

Have you listened to and loved Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo,” and the famous passage, “Hoedown?”  How about Miles Davis, with the Gil Evans-produced “Sketches of Spain?”  [Thank you, Avis Ortner.]  Then you know the work of Alan Lomax, as Wikipedia explains:

  • The famous “Hoedown” in Aaron Copland‘s 1942 ballet Rodeo was taken note for note from Ruth Crawford Seeger‘s piano transcription of the square-dance tune, “Bonypart” (“Bonaparte’s Retreat”), taken from a recording of W. M. Stepp’s fiddle version, originally recorded in Appalachia for the Library of Congress by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in 1937. Seeger’s transcription was published in Our Singing Country (1941) by John A. and Alan Lomax and Ruth Crawford Seeger.
  • Miles Davis‘s 1959 Sketches of Spain album adapts the melodies “Alborada de vigo” and “Saeta” from Alan Lomax’s Columbia World Library album Spain.

Lomax died in 2002.

Other resources:


“To Hear Your Banjo Play” featuring Pete Seeger, written and produced by Alan Lomax.
Trailer for the PBS P.O.V. film, “The Song Hunter,” by Rogier Kappers

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “POV – Lomax the Songhunter | PBS“, posted with vodpod

Sing out!

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Chess games of the rich and famous: Begin vs. Brzezinksi

October 18, 2009

Israel's Prime Minister Menachim Begin and Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski square off, at Camp David, Maryland - 1978

Israel's Prime Minister Menachim Begin and Carter administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski square off, at Camp David, Maryland - 1978 (September?)

Zbigniew Brzezinski likes chess.  One of his books on diplomacy compares good diplomacy to a chess game – 1997, The Grand Chessboard. In 1978, a nearly two-week negotiating session with President Jimmy Carter acting as intermediary between Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachim Begin led to the peace treaties between Egypt and Israel, known as the Camp David Accords.

This photograph probably was taken sometime during that period in September 1978.

Your move:

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Monckton lies again (and again, and again, and again, and again . . .)! The continuing saga of a practicer of fictional science

October 18, 2009

When Monckton claimed that Jackie Kennedy was responsible for malaria in Africa, I thought it a great stretch.

Holy cow!  Monckton gave a speech in Minnesota, and if this quote is representative, it was a one man re-enactment of the Burlington Liar’s Club quarterfinals for 2002 through 2008 (he was disqualified for lack of humor).  Monckton spoke at Bethel University in St. Paul on October 15, 2009:

Here is an excerpt from his speech:

Here is why the truth matters. It was all very well for jesting Pilate to ask that question and then not to tarry for an answer. But that question that he asked, “what is the truth?” is the question which underlies every question and in the end it is the only question that really matters. When you ask that question what you are really asking is “what is the truth about the matter?” And we are now going to see why it matters morally, socially, and politically, as well as economically and scientifically. That the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth should inform public policy on this question. Now, 40 years ago, DDT, the only effective agent against the malaria mosquito was banned. And you saw in that film [Cascade Policy Institute film “Climate Chains” was shown prior –ed] what the effect of that ban was. Before the ban, the inventor of DDT got the Nobel Peace Prize because he had saved more lives than anyone else in the history of the planet. Malaria, one of the greatest killers of children in the Third World had all but been eradicated. There were still 50,000 deaths per year. But when DDT was banned by exactly the same faction, that is now trying to tell us we must close down five sixths of the United States economy that figure is actually in the Waxman- Markey bill. That same faction banned DDT worldwide. The consequences are on the slide there. The number of deaths went up from 50,000 to a million a year and stayed there. For 40 years. 40 million people, nearly all of them children, died of malaria solely and simply because DDT had been banned for no good scientific reason or environmental reason whatsoever. And it was only after every single one of the people responsible for that dismal, murderous decision had retired or died that on September the 15th 2006, Dr. Arata Kochi of the World Health Organization said “Normally in this field, science comes second and politics comes first. But we will now take a stand on the science and the data, and he ended that ban on DDT and made it once again the front line of defense against the malaria mosquito. After pressure from me, among others.

Right there Monckton disqualified himself from ever being a Boy Scout with egregious disregard for the first point of the Scout Law. Oh, Monckton is dependable, but dependable only to tell falsehoods and stink up the place.  That excerpt provides the Recommended Annual Dose of both voodoo science and voodoo history.  Count the problems with me:

1.  DDT has never been the only effective means to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes. DDT was  a very effective pesticide, though dangerous — but never the “only effective agent against the malaria mosquito.”  The U.S., for one example beat malaria (and yellow fever, and other mosquito-borne diseases) well enough to finish the Panama Canal in 1915 without DDT, by controlling mosquito breeding areas and using screens to protect sleeping workers from mosquitoes.  Malaria, once endemic in much of the U.S., was practically eliminated by 1939.  DDT was used in limited fashion to complete the eradication in the U.S., after World War II — but most of the work had already been done.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (founded to control malaria) relates at its website:

Control efforts conducted by the state and local health departments, supported by the federal government, resulted in the disease being eradicated by 1949. Such measures included drainage, removal of mosquito breeding sites, and spraying (occasionally from aircrafts) of insecticides.

Aircraft spraying insecticide,  1920's
Aircraft spraying insecticide, 1920s
Drainage activities, Virginia, 1920's
Drainage activities, Virginia, 1920s

We still have the non-pesticide solutions, and they still work.  But 40 years ago, there were other pesticides that worked against the malaria vector mosquitoes.

The national library of the ancient Kingdom of Ghana had volumes on how to eradicate malaria, more than 500 years ago.  Monckton can’t even be bothered to Google the topic, let alone visit one of America’s more than 15,000 free county libraries, to get the facts?

2.  No Nobel Peace Prize was ever given for DDT, and the prize given wasn’t for saving malaria victims. Paul Müller won the Nobel in Physiology or Medicine in 1948, for his discovery that DDT killed insects.  There was no Peace Prize awarded in 1948.  A chemist working in biological chemicals won the Peace Nobel later — but it was Linus Pauling, who won in 1962 for his work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  [UPDATE:  Listening to Monckton’s speech, I note that the transcriber made a serious error.  Monckton did not specify the Nobel Peace Prize; it is still true that the Medicine Prize that Müller won was not on the basis of DDT’s saving an uncountable number of lives.  The chief medical advantage cited was the use of DDT fighting typhus; malaria gets a mention.  Monckton can’t be bothered with accuracy on such things, however, as is clearly shown.]

The bizarre claim about saving “more lives than anyone else in the history of the planet” comes from a wacko claim of the Lyndon Larouche cult, apparently based on a typographical error in a 1980 book from the National Academy of Sciences.

3.  Malaria rates have been greatly reduced in the 20th century, but malaria has never been “all but eradicated.” In the past 120 years, malaria has always killed more than 900,000 people a year; for most of the past 60 years, the death toll has been more than a million people a year, sometimes as high as 4 million people killed.  Annual malaria deaths have never been under a half million, let alone as low as 50,000.

4.  DDT has never been banned for use to control malaria. 40 years ago, in 1969, DDT was freely available world wide.  Sweden banned the stuff from agricultural use in 1970; the U.S. followed with a ban on agricultural use of DDT, especially sprayed from airplanes.  DDT for fighting malaria has always been a feature of the U.S. ban.  As a pragmatic matter, DDT manufacture on U.S. shores continued for more than a dozen years after the restrictions on agricultural use of the stuff.  In an ominous twist, manufacture in the U.S. continued through most of 1984, right up to the day the Superfund Act made it illegal to dump hazardous substances without having a plan to clean it up or money to pay for clean up — on that day the remaining manufacturing interests declared bankruptcy to avoid paying for the environmental damage they had done.  See the Pine River, Michigan Superfund site, or the Palos Verdes and Montrose Chemical Superfund sites in California,  the CIBA-Geigy plant in McIntosh, Alabama, and sites in Sand Creek, Colorado, Portland, Oregon, and Aberdeen, North Carolina, for examples.

5.  Nothing in Waxman-Markey anticipates closing down any part of the U.S. economy. This is a claim Monckton appears to have plucked from between his gluteals.  Here’s one summary of the bill (notice the money allocated to boost industry), here’s another, and here’s the summary from the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

6.  There’s no way to blame malaria deaths on a lack of DDT. As noted, DDT has been available for use in Africa and Asia since its patent.  More importantly, malaria death rates have been influenced by the failure of effectiveness of pharmaceuticals against the malaria parasite itself in humans.  DDT fights only the mosquitoes that carry the parasite.  But the difficulty wasn’t in beating the mosquitoes; the difficulty was in curing humans (from whom the mosquitoes get the parasite to pass along).

7.  DDT was restricted on the basis of overwhelming evidence of harms. This is one of those charges that is self-refuting in the hands of DDT advocates and anti-science people.  You don’t have to go far to find claims that EPA acted contrary to an extensive hearing record that took months to compose.  But then they turn around and claim, as Monckton does here, that there is no such record?  The facts are that the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) hearings were conducted under the gun.  Two different federal courts had ordered the review, which had been started with the Department of Agriculture before the creation of EPA.  The hearing record itself fell out of favor with some officials, and even EPA’s library had difficulty finding a copy of the decision by Administrative Law Judge Edmund Sweeney — but intrepid fact seekers like Jim Easter tracked down the documents and posted them for all to see.  Easter notes that the record is clear on harms to wildlife, bio-magnification, and other dangers of DDT.  In fact, the only place Ruckelshaus differed from Sweeney was on the issue of cotton.  Sweeney thought he couldn’t prohibit use on cotton, Ruckelshaus found authority in the law and did so.

Be clear:  EPA banned DDT use on agricultural products, especially cotton, and broadcast spraying.  EPA’s “ban” allowed continued manufacture of DDT, and it allowed use for health emergencies and other emergencies.

8.  There never was a ban on DDT by the World Health Organization (WHO). So Monckton’s bizarre fiction that “. . . it was only after every single one of the people responsible for that dismal, murderous decision had retired or died that on September the 15th 2006, Dr. Arata Kochi of the World Health Organization said normally in this field, science comes second and politics comes first,” and then Kochi ended the ban, is whole cloth.

9.  There is no evidence anybody ever paid any attention to Monckton on DDT, but Monckton took credit for the imaginary end of the imaginary ban: ” After pressure from me, among others.”  There’s a distant possibility that Monckton might have written a letter to WHO — but let Monckton produce the thing from the archives of WHO.  Until that time, we should classify Monckton as an emboldened prevaricator, perhaps a victim of Munchausen’s Syndrome (not by proxy in this case).   I’m calling Monckton’s bluff.   Let’s see his cards on this issue:  When did he say anything to WHO about DDT, to whom, and what did he say?  He’ll not be able to produce any documentation, I’ll wager — and I’ll bet he can’t even produce hearsay testimony.

Nine falsehoods in a paragraph — a rate of falsehood not equalled even by Jon Lovitz’s pathological liar character. What is wrong with the excrement detectors of the people who sit in those audiences with this guy?

How far out of bounds is Monckton?  Even the shrill discussion at Little Green Footballs puts Monckton in the not-to-be-taken-seriously category.

Monckton, the Burlington Liars Club called:  They want their good reputation back.  Check your answering machine, too — the Bethel College group should be calling any minuted, to ask you to pay for the exorcism of their building after you spoke there.

By the way, how do we know Monckton is a coward?*  He has refused to debate me.  As he notes, anyone who refuses a debate is a coward.  And yet, he refuses each of my challenges.  Now he’s refusing to debate a Tenderfoot Boy Scout using Boy Scout Law rules.  How much of a coward does that make him?

_______________

* Of course that logic is flawed.  But he uses it against Al Gore.  Monckton can’t get Gore to suffer him, and so, Monckton, a moral pipsqueak, calls Gore a coward.  The “Freemarket Institute” people ate it up.  It’s more likely that Gore simply refuses to get into a urination contest with a known skunk.  Still, Monckton refuses to debate — what is he afraid of?

No lie!

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