June 25: Virginians fly flags to commemorate statehood, and Col. Van T. Barfoot

June 24, 2015

June 25 is Virginia Statehood Day.  The U.S. Flag Code urges Americans to fly the U.S. flag on the statehood date of their states.

Virginia is counted as the 10th state, by virtue of the Virginia ratifying convention’s having voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution on June 25, 1788 — over the strong objections of Gov. Patrick Henry, and with the skilled legislative work of James Madison.

The Constitution became effective upon the ninth state’s ratification, but Virginia, being the largest state in the union at the time, was considered a make-or-break vote.

June 25 is the last U.S. flag flying date in June 2015.

So, Virginians: Fly your U.S. flags on June 25, as Col. Van T. Barfoot did every day until his death.

From the Washington Post: Retired Col. Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his daughter Margaret Nicholls lower the flag outside Barfoot's home in the Sussex Square subdivision in Henrico County, Va., in 2009. Barfoot died March 2 [2012] at a hospital in Richmond. He was 92. (Photo by Eva Russo/AP)

From the Washington Post: “Retired Col. Van T. Barfoot, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his daughter Margaret Nicholls lower the flag outside Barfoot’s home in the Sussex Square subdivision in Henrico County, Va., in 2009. Barfoot died March 2 [2012] at a hospital in Richmond. He was 92. (Photo by Eva Russo/AP)”

You may remember the story of Col. Barfoot. As a veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, he flew Old Glory every day. In 2009 his Henrico County, Virginia homeowners association complained, ordered him to stop flying the U.S. flag and take down his flag pole, erected in violation of HOA “curb appeal” rules.

Col. Barfoot refused.  Eventually the public outcry, including pressure from President Barack Obama, got the HOA to back down.  Obama said Barfoot was a good example, and had earned the right to fly Old Glory.

Barfoot had a particularly compelling case to fly the flag. Barfoot was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Italy, against German troops, in 1944.  The Washington Post explained: 

Early in the war, he participated in the Army’s invasion of Italy. As his unit moved inland, the soldiers took up defensive positions near Carano.

On May 23, 1944, Col. Barfoot was ordered to lead an assault on German positions. He went out alone and crawled to within feet of a German bunker.

According to his Medal of Honor citation, he tossed a grenade inside, killing two Germans and wounding three others. He then moved to another bunker nearby and killed two more German soldiers with his submachine gun while taking three others prisoner. A third machine gun crew, watching Col. Barfoot’s methodical assault, surrendered to him. In all, 17 Germans gave themselves up to Col. Barfoot.

In retaliation, the Germans organized a counterattack on Col. Barfoot’s position, sending three tanks toward him.

Col. Barfoot grabbed a bazooka grenade launcher and stood 75 yards in front of the leading tank. His first shot stopped it in its tracks. He then killed three of the German tank crew members who had attempted to escape.

The other two tanks, witnessing the destruction, abruptly changed directions, moving away from Col. Barfoot. Returning to his platoon, he helped carry two wounded U.S. soldiers almost a mile to safety.

Commending his “Herculean efforts,” Col. Barfoot’s citation praised his “magnificent valor and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire.”

Col. Barfoot served in the Korean War and later in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. His other military decorations included the Silver Star; two awards of the Legion of Merit; the Bronze Star; three awards of the Purple Heart; and 11 awards of the Air Medal.

So, Virginians, would it inconvenience you much to fly your U.S. flags today — in honor of Col. Van T. Barfoot, as well as in honor of your state’s entry into the Union?

What do we do to deserve the loyalty and service of such men?


Early history of EPA: Pesticides regulation and DDT

June 24, 2015

This is an excerpt from EPA’s official shorthand history, online since the 1990s.  I include this part here, dealing with the EPA’s famous regulation of the pesticide DDT, because I refer to it and link to it in several posts — and because over three different administrations, the URL has changed several times.  I fear it will one day go dark.  Here it is for history’s sake, found on June 24, 2015 at http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/guardian-epas-formative-years-1970-1973#pest.

Opening to the entire piece; links to subsections go to EPA’s site:

The Guardian: EPA’s Formative Years, 1970-1973

EPA 202-K-93-002
September 1993
by Dennis C. Williams

Table of Contents

The section on DDT hearings and regulation:

Pesticides and Public Health

Unlike the air controversy, which erupted after the agency’s establishment, EPA’s creation coincided with the culmination of the public debate over DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane). A chlorinated hydrocarbon, DDT proved to be a highly effective, but extremely persistent organic pesticide. Since the 1940s, farmers, foresters, and public health officials sprayed it across the country to control pests such as Mexican boll weevils, gypsy moths, and pesky suburban mosquitoes. Widespread public opposition to DDT began with the publication of Rachel Carson’s influential Silent Spring. Reporting the effects of DDT on wildlife, Carson demonstrated that DDT not only infiltrated all areas of the ecological system, but was exponentially concentrated as it moved to higher levels in the food web. Through Carson, many citizens learned that humans faced DDT-induced risks. By 1968 several states had banned DDT use. The Environmental Defense Fund, which began as a group of concerned scientists, spearheaded a campaign to force federal suspension of DDT registration–banning its use in the United States. Inheriting Department of Agriculture (USDA) pesticide registration functions, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) of 1964, EPA was born in the midst of the DDT storm.

In January 1971, a tribunal of the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia ordered Ruckelshaus to begin the process of suspending DDT’s registration, and to consider suspending its registration immediately. At the end of a sixty-day review process, the administrator reported that he had found no good reason to suspend DDT registration immediateIy. It and several other pesticides–including 2, 4, 5-T (Agent Orange), Dieldrin, Aldrin, and Mirex–did not appear to constitute imminent health threats. This action infuriated many environmentalists.

By 1971, the Environmental Defense Fund had mobilized effective public opposition to DDT. The furor created by Ruckelshaus’s refusal to stop DDT use prompted many to look for sinister political motivations. Some suggested that Mississippi Congressman Jamie Whitten had used his position as chairman of the agricultural appropriations subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee to make Ruckelshaus conform to the interests of the agrichemical lobby. While actually, Ruckelshaus took his cautious stance for less menacing reasons.

At its creation, EPA not only inherited the function of pesticide registration from USDA, but also the staff that served that function. The USDA economic entomologists who designed the pesticide registration process in the first place preached the advantages of effective pesticides and minimized discussion of debatable health risks. The same staff that had backed USDA Secretary Clifford Hardin’s earlier claim that DDT was not “an imminent hazard to human health or to fish and wildlife” 8 provided Ruckelshaus with the same counsel.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring led to banning DDT and other pesticides.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring led to banning DDT and other pesticides.

Between March 1971 and June 1972, American newspapers reported both sides of the pesticide debate. Some articles recalled the glory days when pesticides saved thousands of lives in World War II; how they had increased agricultural productivity and allowed relatively few farmers to feed the world’s growing population; and how the most besieged insecticides, such as DDT and Mirex, had little human toxicity. Other journalists praised alternative approaches to pest management such as biological controls (predator introduction, sterile males, and pheromone traps), integrated controls (crop rotation and carefully delimited pesticide use), and refinement of other, less persistent chemicals. Some reported the near panic of Northwestern fruit growers facing beeless, and therefore fruitless, seasons. They attributed the lack of pollinating insects to pesticide use.

Throughout the spring of 1972, Ruckelshaus reviewed the evidence EPA had collected during the agency’s hearings on DDT cancellation and the reports prepared by two DDT study groups, the Hilton and Mrak Commissions. Both studies suggested that DDT be phased out due to the chemical’s persistent presence in ecosystems and noted studies suggesting that DDT posed a carcinogenic risk to humans. In June, he followed the route already taken by several states he banned DDT application in the United States. Though unpopular among certain segments of EPA’s constituency, his decision did serve to enhance the activist image he sought to create for the agency, and without prohibitive political cost.

The DDT decision was important to EPA for several reasons. While it did not stop the debate over what constituted appropriate pesticide use, DDT demonstrated the effect public pressure could have on EPA policy decisions. It also made very visible the tightrope act a regulatory agency performs when it attempts to balance the demands for protection of human and environmental health against legitimate economic demands. Furthermore, EPA’s decision set a precedent for regulatory decision-making. As an advocate of the environment, Ruckelshaus and the agency chose to risk erring on the side of protecting human health at the expense of economic considerations–a course that would bring the agency under heavy criticism before the end of its first decade.


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