NOAA’s chief scientist reminds everyone that accuracy with honor is necessary for science to be good.
March 5, 2019, was the 73rd anniversary of Winston Churchill’s speech in Fulton, Missouri. He called the speech “Sinews of Peace,” but it is better known as the speech in which Churchill first used the phrase “Iron Curtain” to describe events in Eastern Europe after World War II.
“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”
Some historians mark the beginning of the Cold War from this speech, in which a respected world leader (though without portfolio at the moment) first spelled out the enormous stakes at issue, and also pointed out that Russian, communist totalitarian governments were replacing more democratic governments in nations only recently freed from the spectre of Nazi rule, in World War II.
In June 2012, son James and I stopped off in Fulton, on the way back from James’s graduation from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. We were treated royally by the people at the Churchill Centre, and got a chance to spend time in a first rate museum. More people should make Fulton a destination, or pause in their summer travels, for the sake of the kids.
Below the fold is the speech in its entirety, from the transcript at the Churchill Centre. Read the rest of this entry »
Actions convey messages. Actions communicate. How one acts in regarding the U.S. flag, at different times when action is required, tells something about character — whether one was even paying attention when respect for the flag, and the ideals it portrays, was explained.
President Ford’s casket lies in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. New York Times photo by Todd Heisler.
Back in early 2007 I discussed some of the flag etiquette we saw at the funeral of President Gerald R. Ford. We see these things again at the funeral of President George H. W. Bush. Let’s repeat the observations.
Here are a few things you may have observed during the services for President Ford, which you may observe again at the funeral of George H. W. Bush, with minor edits:
1. On his coffin, the U.S. flag’s union will always be over President Bush’s left shoulder. This is a reversal from the usual display method for the flag; in display on a wall, the field should always be in the upper left as one observes it, the “northwest” corner (as if looking at a map); on a coffin, that would put the flag over the person’s right shoulder. Instead, on a coffin the flag is draped so the union is over the left shoulder, usually explained as being over the soldier’s heart. Also, note that a flag-draped casket should be carried foot first to the grave.
2. Since Bush is a military veteran, the flag should accompany the casket to the grave, but not into it (I believe this applies also to presidents if they did not serve, but in any case it applies to Bush). The flag will be folded in the traditional seafaring triangle fold, and presented to the Bush family before the casket is lowered into the grave.
3. When the flag is folded at the cemetery, watch how carefully the military people will work to get each fold just right. Their goal is a perfect fold, which will leave only the blue field of stars from the union showing, in a triangular fold. To get it right, the color guard (pall bearers, I presume in this case) will take its time. Occasionally the flag team will halt and unfold the flag, and refold, if the process is not proceeding just exactly right. But that is rare; the flag folding team sacrifices speed, for care. If the ceremony proceeds very quickly, I would be surprised.
4. It is unlikely that there will be any ceremonial reading during the folding of the flag. Any reading given, however, would be selected by the family. In the past couple of decades, presidential funerals have been planned out well in advance of the event. Differences between Bush’s funeral in 2018, Ford’s funeral in 2007 and Reagan’s funeral in 2004, are due to the different plans of the families, not due to any formal procedure required by U.S. law or tradition. We’re a democratic nation, and such ceremonies are not sacred writ. (I have written here before about the mistaken idea that there is an “official” flag folding ceremony with specific meaning given to each of the 13 foldings of the flag; there is no official ceremony. There is no official meaning ascribed to the folding of the flag; the triangular fold is a convenience at sea, where flags folded into the triangle will unfurl without fouling or snagging as they rise up the mast. We continue that tradition on land.)
In general, the flag will be treated respectfully. Do not expect to see a lot of flag waving during the service. When the flag is present, it will be treated soberly, with care, with special attention to getting official ceremonial details correct.
Students, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts should pay attention.
- Associated Press photo by Lawrence Jackson. Telephoto showing some of the 50 flags surrounding the Washington Monument flying at half-mast in honor of the late President Gerald Ford, with the dome of the U.S. Capitol in the background. The Capitol is more than a mile away from the Washington Monument; compression of the images by the telephoto lens makes the dome appear much closer.
Minor update: The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Press has an informative article about flag etiquette in this situation, here.
- Flags at half-mast to honor President Ford
- News coverage of “new” flag ceremony for Air Force
- Fisking a flag fold flogging
- Flag ceremony update
- Flag ceremony update, 2
2018 update: President George H. W. Bush’s casket lies in state, in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, on the catafalk originally constructed to hold the casket of President Abraham Lincoln.
You’ve been watching news on TV all your life (you should have been reading your local daily newspaper, too . . . but I digress), and you hate to admit you’re having a tough time telling when Trump lies to you, or someone lies about Trump.
There is help available, for thinking people.
EdTechAdvocate features technology the editors consider useful for teachers and students in schools.
Occasionally school overlaps with real life.
Here are eight apps the publication recommends for teachers and students, to help them use their critical faculties to determine what news is accurate, and what news isn’t. From an article by Micheal Lynch.
No reason we shouldn’t use these tools for everyone, even people out of school for decades.
The recommendations, and links to the eight tools:
As fake news, biased media, and internet hoaxes abound, students need to be taught digital literacy from the time they start using computers. Fortunately, there are resources available for students to check their facts.
This site provides balanced news from all perspectives, so students can sort through facts and distinguish between differences in opinions easily. The site also offers a specialized search option where you filter results. Additionally, it offers a school toolbox with a variety of useful resources and lesson plans.
Teaching students how to evaluate websites and information is a necessary skill. The CRAAP Test designed by Meriam Library, California State University, Chico is helpful in guiding students through evaluating the currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose of information.
This website is a non-profit, nonpartisan site which is a Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center allows students to ask questions and search. Additionally, it also allows students to ask science questions on public policy issues.
This website focuses on debunking hoaxes or urban legends, as well as email hoaxes and internet scams. It also provides information on how to protect your email and computer.
Using a Truth-O-Meter (true, mostly true, mostly false, and false), Politifact rates the accuracy of claims. It focuses on politicians.
One of the original fact-checking websites, Snopes is a popular site for identifying misinformation and debunking internet rumors. Students can search with keywords or by plugging in a URL.
The Ted-Ed video, “How to Choose Your News” by Dan Brown is designed for students. Using imagery and explanations they will understand, Dan Brown explains how to be a critical thinker and savvy evaluator when it comes to reading (or watching) the news.
Another website that focuses on debunking internet rumors, e-mail hoaxes, and questionable images where students can search information as well.
Teachers need to explain how media biases work and change facts to fit their needs. By teaching students to use fact checking tools, teachers are strengthening their digital literacy skills.
What are your favorite sources of solid information, and what are your methods of determining who is pulling your leg, and who is not?
We see it almost daily — probably because we’ve got searches set to find comments on malaria and DDT.
Some well-meaning guy (or woman) writes a long piece about conscience, and then claims to have lost respect for science, or medicine professionals, or the World Health Organization (WHO), or Rachel Carson or environmentalists, or all of them at once, because Rachel Carson’s ban on DDT meant malaria infections and deaths exploded, and libruls just won’t allow anyone to fix it.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that story is impossible, because:
- DDT resistance arose by 1948, and though Rachel Carson had hoped it wouldn’t, mosquito resistance to DDT caused super mosquito killer Fred Soper to end WHO’s malaria eradication program in 1963. That’s one year after Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was published, and nine years before the U.S. banned DDT use in agriculture in the U.S. (Soper quit all “eradication” activities by 1965; WHO formally ended the program in 1969. By the way, Soper was no friend of Carson, and didn’t like her book.) Today, every mosquito on Earth carries alleles that make it resistant or immune to DDT.
- Rachel Carson wanted to cut back on non-disease-fighting uses of DDT, in order to prevent disease vectors like malaria-carrying mosquitoes from developing resistance. She wanted to save DDT to fight malaria, not ban it.
- When the U.S. eventually got around to acting against DDT, it was years after mosquito resistance had ended WHO’s campaign. EPA resisted action at first, spent most of 1971 with an administrative law hearing on changing the label for DDT, then issued a rule limiting DDT use to fighting disease effective at the end of 1972.
- When EPA regulated DDT, the regulations applied only to the U.S.; the only nations that also banned DDT use on crops were nations where there was no active malaria problem. DDT was never banned in Africa, nor Asia, nor is it banned today under the Persistent Organic Pollutants Treaty (POPs, or Stockholm Convention), for any nation who wishes to use DDT.
- When EPA regulated DDT, EPA countermanded the federal law and court orders that prohibited manufacturing of DDT in the U.S. Chemical companies dedicated all their DDT production to export, to fight disease. EPA’s order allowed DDT use to fight malaria in any US state or territory; it was a ban on spraying DDT on crops.
- When Fred Soper ended WHO’s ambitious malaria eradication campaign in 1963, malaria was nowhere near eradication. WHO estimates 4 million people died each year from malaria around the world, and a half-billion, or 500 million people suffered malaria infections in a year.
- Despite WHO’s getting out of the malaria eradication business, people still fought malaria. Better medical care, better housing, decreasing poverty and sheer will power cut the malaria death toll to between 2 million and 3 million per year, by 1972, the year the U.S. banned DDT on crops.
- Malaria deaths and malaria infections fell steadily until the 1980s, when malaria parasites developed resistance to the pharmaceuticals used to cure the disease in humans (most DDT advocates appear to forget that curing humans is the most important part of any malaria-fighting program). Then malaria deaths stayed mostly steady, with slight increases, until 1999, when WHO and a variety of other organizations took advantage of new pharmaceuticals and newly-developed drug administration programs, and the availability of cheap, insecticide-impregnated bednets, to make major assaults on malaria again.
- Between 1999 and 2015 WHO estimates, malaria deaths were cut 45%.
- Malaria collapsed, not exploded. From 1963’s ~4 million annual deaths to malaria, annual death toll in 2014 was less than 600,000. Deaths were cut by more than 80%. From 1963’s 500 million people infected, totals fell to fewer than 220 million in 2014. Infections were cut by more than 55%.
The standard rant against Rachel Carson in favor of DDT is impossible in three ways:
- EPA’s regulation cannot travel back in time to cause an end to WHO’s malaria eradication campaign (1963) nine years before the rule was made (1972); nor can history and international law be changed to make EPA’s campaign stop the use of DDT outside the U.S.
- Mosquitoes do not migrate thousands of miles, across oceans. EPA’s ban on spraying U.S. crops with DDT, chiefly cotton, did not cause mosquitoes to migrate from Arkansas to Africa to spread malaria. Had they done so, DDT in Africa had a pretty good chance to getting them, anyway.
- A reduction of malaria deaths from 4 million to 584,000, is not an increase in deaths.
These impossibilities do not even act as speed bumps to people in a hurry to condemn science, Rachel Carson, malaria fighters and environmentalists, in a mad rush to praise DDT, a deadly poison that doesn’t do what we hoped it would, any more.
Those undeterred from slandering Rachel Carson and environmentalists often don’t want to be informed of any errors in their rant. And so, Pointman, with a nasty false indictment of science, law and environmentalists, refuses to allow my posts to correct his errors.
His screed here. It contains at least 6 gross errors, repeating all the impossibilities listed above, and slandering both Rachel Carson and William Ruckelshaus as “mass murderers,” with the false claim that EPA stopped DDT use against malaria.
My response, dealing with a small part of the errors, below (and here at Pointman’s blog; but in moderation, so you can’t see it, at the time of this posting).
EPA’s order banning DDT use in the U.S., on crops, specifically lifted the court-imposed ban on DDT manufacture, and specifically allowed use of DDT in the U.S. or anywhere else on Earth to fight vector-borne diseases — that is, malaria.
DDT manufacture continued in the U.S. until late 1984, when a new law made DDT manufacturers responsible for not poisoning their neighbors and neighborhoods. Most DDT manufacturing arms of larger chemical companies were spun off as separate enterprises, and they declared bankruptcy rather than assume any liability for the poisons they made for huge profits.
See description of EPA order and links to the original documents here: https://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/oh-look-epa-ordered-ddt-to-be-used-to-fight-malaria-in-1972/
I waited several days, and send two notices asking to spring the comment from moderation. I don’t think “Pointman” is interested in discussion.
Further reflection, a further thought — “Pointman” probably is not interested in discussion, not because he fears it — he’s probably armed, what does he have to fear? — but because he no longer cares. He’s seen the effects of good intentions gone wrong, and if it ever occurs to him it’s not his intentions, nor his going, that might be wrong, he’ll never let on.
- Sonia Shah, the author of The Fever: How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal describing the real state of the fight against malaria. See also her TEDS talk, “3 Reasons We Still Haven’t Gotten Rid of Malaria” below
- William Souder’s biography of Rachel Carson On a Farther Shore, was a finalist for a Pulitzer. On Rachel Carson’s birth’s 100th anniversary, he explained the hoaxes against her.
- What really happened in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)? It wasn’t a ban on DDT. Tim Lambert explains.
89 years ago, May 23, 1926: Mencken confessed Fillmore bathtub hoax, “any facts . . . got there accidentally”May 23, 2015
Reasons for my annual observance of a moment of silence, here on May 23, for the failed confession of Mr. Mencken should be obvious to even a sleepy reader. Alas, annually the need grows to call attention to the dangers of hoaxing, as hoaxes particularly in the political life of the U.S. grow in number, in viciousness, and in the numbers of gullibles suckered. Here, again, is our annual reading of the confession with a few photographs and new links thrown in for easy learning:
May 23, 1926, H. L. Mencken‘s newspaper column confessed his hoax of nine years earlier — he had made up whole cloth the story of Millard Fillmore‘s only accomplishment being the installation of a plumbed bathtub in the White House (in the 1850s known as the Executive Mansion).
Alas, the hoax cat was out of the bag, and the hoax information still pollutes the pool of history today.
Text of Mencken’s confession, from the Museum of Hoaxes:
On Dec. 28, 1917, I printed in the New York Evening Mail, a paper now extinct, an article purporting to give the history of the bathtub. This article, I may say at once, was a tissue of absurdities, all of them deliberate and most of them obvious…
This article, as I say, was planned as a piece of spoofing to relieve the strain of war days, and I confess that I regarded it, when it came out, with considerable satisfaction. It was reprinted by various great organs of the enlightenment, and after a while the usual letters began to reach me from readers. Then, suddenly, my satisfaction turned to consternation. For these readers, it appeared, all took my idle jocosities with complete seriousness. Some of them, of antiquarian tastes, asked for further light on this or that phase of the subject. Others actually offered me corroboration!
But the worst was to come. Pretty soon I began to encounter my preposterous “facts” in the writings of other men. They began to be used by chiropractors and other such quacks as evidence of the stupidity of medical men. They began to be cited by medical men as proof of the progress of public hygiene. They got into learned journals. They were alluded to on the floor of congress. They crossed the ocean, and were discussed solemnly in England and on the continent. Finally, I began to find them in standard works of reference. Today, I believe, they are accepted as gospel everywhere on earth. To question them becomes as hazardous as to question the Norman invasion.
* * *
And as rare. This is the first time, indeed, that they have ever been questioned, and I confess at once that even I myself, their author, feel a certain hesitancy about doing it. Once more, I suppose, I’ll be accused of taking the wrong side for the mere pleasure of standing in opposition. The Cincinnati boomers, who have made much of the boast that the bathtub industry, now running to $200,000,000 a year, was started in their town, will charge me with spreading lies against them. The chiropractors will damn me for blowing up their ammunition. The medical gents, having swallowed my quackery, will now denounce me as a quack for exposing them. And in the end, no doubt, the thing will simmer down to a general feeling that I have once more committed some vague and sinister crime against the United States, and there will be a renewal of the demand that I be deported to Russia.
I recite this history, not because it is singular, but because it is typical. It is out of just such frauds, I believe, that most of the so-called knowledge of humanity flows. What begins as a guess — or, perhaps, not infrequently, as a downright and deliberate lie — ends as a fact and is embalmed in the history books. One recalls the gaudy days of 1914-1918. How much that was then devoured by the newspaper readers of the world was actually true? Probably not 1 per cent. Ever since the war ended learned and laborious men have been at work examining and exposing its fictions. But every one of these fictions retains full faith and credit today. To question even the most palpably absurd of them, in most parts of the United States, is to invite denunciation as a bolshevik.
So with all other wars. For example, the revolution. For years past American historians have been investigating the orthodox legends. Almost all of them turn out to be blowsy nonsense. Yet they remain in the school history books and every effort to get them out causes a dreadful row, and those who make it are accused of all sorts of treasons and spoils. The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.
* * *
As a practicing journalist for many years, I have often had close contact with history in the making. I can recall no time or place when what actually occurred was afterward generally known and believed. Sometimes a part of the truth got out, but never all. And what actually got out was seldom clearly understood. Consider, for example, the legends that follow every national convention. A thousand newspaper correspondents are on the scene, all of them theoretically competent to see accurately and report honestly, but it is seldom that two of them agree perfectly, and after a month after the convention adjourns the accepted version of what occurred usually differs from the accounts of all of them.
I point to the Republican convention of 1920, which nominated the eminent and lamented Harding. A week after the delegates adjourned the whole country believed that Harding had been put through by Col. George Harvey: Harvey himself admitted it. Then other claimants to the honor arose, and after a year or two it was generally held that the trick had been turned by the distinguished Harry M. Daugherty, by that time a salient light of the Harding cabinet. The story began to acquire corroborative detail. Delegates and correspondents began to remember things that they had not noticed on the spot. What the orthodox tale is today with Daugherty in eclipse, I don’t know, but you may be sure that it is full of mysterious intrigue and bold adventure.
What are the facts? The facts are that Harvey had little more to do with the nomination of Harding than I did, and that Daugherty was immensely surprised when good Warren won. The nomination was really due to the intense heat, and to that alone. The delegates, torn by the savage three cornered fight between Lowden, Johnson, and Wood, came to Saturday morning in despair. The temperature in the convention hall was at least 120 degrees. They were eager to get home. When it became apparent that the leaders could not break the deadlock they ran amuck and nominated Harding, as the one aspirant who had no enemies. If any individual managed the business it was not Harvey or Daugherty, but Myron T. Herrick. But so far as I know Herrick’s hand in it has never been mentioned.
* * *
I turn to a more pleasant field — that of sport in the grand manner. On July 2, 1921, in the great bowl at Jersey City, the Hon. Jack Dempsey met M. Carpentier, the gallant frog. The sympathy of the crowd was overwhelmingly with M. Carpentier and every time he struck a blow he got a round of applause, even if it didn’t land. I had an excellent seat, very near the ring, and saw every move of the two men. From the first moment Dr. Dempsey had it all his own way. He could have knocked out M. Carpentier in the first half of the first round. After that first half he simply waited his chance to do it politely and humanely.
Yet certain great newspapers reported the next morning that M. Carpentier had delivered an appalling wallop in the second round and that Dr. Dempsey had narrowly escaped going out. Others told the truth, but what chance had the truth against that romantic lie? It is believed in to this day by at least 99.99 per cent of all the boxing fans in Christendom. Carpentier himself, when he recovered from his beating, admitted categorically that it was nonsense, but even Carpentier could make no headway against the almost universal human tendency to cherish what is not true. A thousand years hence schoolboys will be taught that the frog had Dempsey going. It may become in time a religious dogma, like the doctrine that Jonah swallowed the whale. Scoffers who doubt it will be damned to hell.
The moral, if any, I leave to psycho-pathologists, if competent ones can be found. All I care to do today is to reiterate, in the most solemn and awful terms, that my history of the bathtub, printed on Dec. 28, 1917, was pure buncombe. If there were any facts in it they got there accidentally and against my design. But today the tale is in the encyclopedias. History, said a great American soothsayer, is bunk.
[Emphasis in that last paragraph added here.]
Mencken’s confession gets much less attention than it deserves. In a just world, this essay would be part of every AP U.S. history text, and would be available for printing for students to read individually in class and to discuss, debate and ponder. Quite to the contrary, state legislatures today debate whether to require teaching of the hoax that disastrous climate change is not occurring, only 45% of Americans claim to know better for certain; more legislatures work hard to devise ways to insert hoaxes against biology (evolution and human reproduction, notably), astronomy and physics (Big Bang), history and even education (Islam is a root of socialist thought, President Obama is not Christian, weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, teachers are socialists).
In 2013, the governing body of the Boy Scouts of America voted on whether to allow homosexual boys to be Scouts — as if an 8-year-old kid joining Cub Scouts knows enough about sex and love, and sex predation, to threaten the Constitution of the U.S. if we allow him to learn how to put alphabet macaroni onto a board spelling out “Mom,” or to learn how to carve an automobile out of a block of wood and race it on a closed-course track. The so-called Family Research Council (FRC) has conducted a campaign of vicious hoaxes against the measure, even going so far as to purloin official logos of the Boy Scouts to suggest they speak for BSA. The hoax has millions of victims, they claim.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., GOP Members of Congress call for investigations into wrongdoing evidenced in e-mails between the White House and State Department and CIA, over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. To hear the GOP describe it, you’d never know that the GOP opposed President Obama’s actions to save the city of Benghazi from destruction by dictator Muammar Gadhafy a few months before, that the GOP slashed the security budget for all U.S. diplomatic missions, leaving Ambassador Stevens underprotected, that the GOP was opposed to much of the work of Ambassador Stevens, or that the incriminating e-mails were hoaxed up by GOP Congressional staff. [This paragraph was written two years ago; still oddly valid in 2015.]
Other hoaxes that plague our nation, national security, and freedom from fear:
- Texans fret that President Obama will invade Texas and annex it into the United States of America.
- Many business lobbyists scream that rogue scientists cooked up global warming, and tell us that all of us frogs will know when the water is too warm, and can leap to safety later.
- Any Google or Bing search turns up high dudgeon ne’er-do-gooders who scream that we need to bring back DDT to beat malaria, Ebola, West Nile virus and tooth decay, though DDT has always been available to fight disease-carrying insects, and it won’t work against Ebola, and it’s inappropriate against West Nile.
- Et cetera.
- Et cetera.
- Et cetera.
If you see pale faces among the GOP Congressional staff or the FRC this morning, it may be because the ghost of H. L. Mencken appeared to them last night to give them hell. We could hope.
- Portraits: Millard Fillmore (mowryjournal.com)
- Rachel Carson/DDT hoaxing from the Ayn Rand Institute (timpanogos.wordpress.com)
- Mallard Fillmore comic strip is misleading (thegazette.com)
- Recognizing bogus history, part I, and part II