Interesting Obituary

MARK TWAIN

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Mark Twain

I am supposing Mark Twain ever really said this. If he didn’t then he should have. Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, lived from 1835 to 1910. The saying is as true today as during his time. Only now there is the Internet, and a lie can go to the moon and back.

I encounter these frequently on the Internet. Things that have little basis in fact, but still get floated from one party to another, seeming to possess more lives than the Energizer Bunny. Here is one of them. At first appearance it seemed humorous. At second appearance it seemed ludicrous. Further examination demonstrated it to be all of the above and of poor quality, besides. It came to me in an email, joyously passed along, destined to fill my day with light. But that’s another story. Read it here in much the form as I received it:

THIS IS SAD—- BUT THINK ABOUT IT AFTER YOU READ IT, THEN READ IT AGAIN!

In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh , had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior: “A democracy is always Temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent Form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until The time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous Gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority Always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from The public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally Collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a
Dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the Beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 Years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage.”

The Obituary follows:
“United States of America”, Born 1776, Died 2016

It doesn’t hurt to read this several times.

Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, points out some interesting facts concerning The last Presidential election:

Number of States won by: Obama: 19 Romney: 29
Square miles of land won by: Obama: 580,000 Romney: 2,427,000
Population of counties won by: Obama: 127 million Romney: 143 million
Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by:
Obama: 13.2 Romney: 2.1

Professor Olson adds: “In aggregate, the map of the territory Romney won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the country.

Obama territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in low Income tenements and living off various forms of government Welfare…”

Olson believes the United States is now somewhere between the “complacency and apathy” phase of Professor Tyler’s definition of Democracy, with some forty percent of the nation’s population Already having reached the “governmental dependency” phase.. If Congress grants amnesty and citizenship to twenty million Criminal invaders called illegal aliens – and they vote – then we can say Goodbye to the USA in fewer than five years .

If you are in favor of this, then by all means, delete this message. If you are not, then pass this along to help everyone realize just how Much is at stake, knowing that apathy is the greatest danger to our Freedom..

And that’s about it. I have not taken on myself to fix the curious use of capitalization. I suppose this was meant to serve some purpose in the original. But take a look and consider.

What a grand piece of patriotic inspiration this is aimed at. How much more inspiration it would be were there ever much truth to it. Where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with Alexander Tyler.

Those are wonderful words of Alexander Tyler. Rather they might be if Alexander Tyler ever said them or wrote them.

The following quotation has been attributed to Tytler, although it has also been occasionally attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilisations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith; From spiritual faith to great courage; From courage to liberty; From liberty to abundance; From abundance to selfishness; From selfishness to complacency; From complacency to apathy; From apathy to dependence; From dependence back into bondage.

This text was popularised as part of a longer piece commenting on the 2000 U.S. presidential election, which began circulating on the Internet during or shortly after the election’s controversial conclusion.

There is no reliable record of Alexander Tyler’s having written any part of the text.In fact, it actually comprises two parts which didn’t begin to appear together until the 1970s. The first paragraph’s earliest known appearance is in an op-ed piece by Elmer T. Peterson in the 9 December 1951 The Daily Oklahoman, which attributed it to Tytler:

Two centuries ago, a somewhat obscure Scotsman named Tytler made this profound observation: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy”.

The list beginning “From bondage to spiritual faith” is commonly known as the “Tytler Cycle” or the “Fatal Sequence”. Its first known appearance was in a 1943 speech by Henning W. Prentiss, Jr., president of the Armstrong Cork Company and former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, delivered at the February 1943 convocation of the General Alumni Society of the University of Pennsylvania. The speech was subsequently published under the titles “The Cult of Competency” and “Industrial Management in a Republic”.

By spinning a decades-old yarn, this bit of political wisdom gets off to a very bad start. How much further can it go? It’s something to be seen and to be appreciated. Sourcing “Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law” follows that and piles on additional absurdity:

Law Professor Points Out Some Interesting Facts Concerning the Presidential ElectionFiction!

Summary of eRumor:

A forwarded email about a “Hemline” University School of Law Professor named Joseph Olson who pointed out some interesting facts concerning the Presidential election and the murder rate in red and blue counties.

The Truth:

Joseph Olson  is a real Professor at Hamline University School of Law  in St. Paul Minnesota but he did not write this, according to his faculty bio page on the university site.  Olson called it “bogus” in his disclaimer and said that the eRumor dates back to 2000 and originally was a commentary about the Bush/Gore election which quoted an 1800’s Scottish philosopher Alexander Tyler.

updated 01/21/09

After I had choked down that bit of bad news, something else occurred to me. So, what if “Professor Joseph Olson of Hamline University School of Law” never put forth this list of “facts” about the 2008 (or 2012) election, that doesn’t mean there is no truth. A little research should bring light to bear. Now comes more bad news:

Q: What’s the deal with Prof. Joseph Olson’s “unreported stats” from the 2008 election?

A: This chain e-mail is a hoax. The “statistics” are grossly incorrect, and Prof. Olson says he didn’t write it.

Full Question

Is this true?

INTERESTING FACTS —– NOTICE LINK AND MAP AT BOTTOM

Some unreported stats about the 2008 election

Professor Joseph Olson of Hemline University School of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, points out some interesting facts concerning the 2008 Presidential election:

-Number of States won by: Democrats: 20; Republicans: 30

-Square miles of land won by: Democrats: 580,000; Republicans: 2,427,000

Full Answer

First, Joseph Olson is a professor at Hamline (not Hemline) University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn. None of what appears in this e-mail was written by him. He has been denying authorship of this old hoax since earlier versions first cropped up after the 2000 election. Most recently he posted a disclaimer about the 2008 version on his university profile page:

Olson: There is an e-mail floating around the internet dealing with the 2008 Obama/McCain election and the 2000 Bush/Gore election, remarks of a Scottish philosopher named Alexander Tyler, etc. Part of it is attributed to me. It is entirely BOGUS as to my authorship. I’ve been trying to kill it since December 2000. For details see: <http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/tyler.asp.

Not only did Alexander Tyler never give birth to the leading quote, and not only did Professor Joseph Olson never come across with those “unreported facts,” but the “unreported facts” turn out to be short on truth. For example:

  • President-elect Barack Obama actually carried 28 states (and the District of Columbia), not 20 as claimed in the message. Sen. John McCain carried only 22 states, not 30.
  • The total area of states won by Obama is actually 1,483,702 square miles, significantly more than the 580,000 stated by the e-mail. McCain’s states have an area of 2,310,315 square miles, not the 2,427,000 claimed.
  • The population of counties carried by Obama is just under 183 million, not the 127 million claimed. McCain carried counties with a total population of just under 119 million, far fewer than claimed in this message.
  • The murder rate for counties carried by Obama was 6.56 per 100,000 inhabitants, less than half the rate claimed in the message. The rate for counties carried by McCain was 3.60 per 100,000, much higher than claimed in the message.

Obviously the above relates to the 2008 election. By the time I received it in my mail box it had been updated for the 2012 election.

Thus aroused, I took time to check some of the claimed statistics. For starters, what the author of this piece of fiction wants us to come away with is that patriotic Americans voted for Romney (many did), and the dregs voted for Obama (many did). In particular:

Murder rate per 100,000 residents in counties won by:
Obama: 13.2 Romney: 2.1

When I read this it had a rather odd appearance. For one, I know that in 2012 Obama carried most of the Northeast, and Romney carried most of the Old Confederacy. From my rusty memory I have that the murder rate in the rural South is greater than in the Northeast. I found these statistics for 2013:

Alabama: 7.2 per 100,000 in the population

Georgia: 5.6 per 100,000

New York: 3.3 per 100,000

New Jersey: 4.5 per 100,000

Massachusetts: 2.0 per 100,000

Please note the appearance that the phony statistics from the 2008 election have been copied into the supposed statistics for the 2012 election. It is possible that the only change between 2008 and 2012 was to put in Governor Mitt Romney’s name in place of Senator John McCain’s.

Obviously this is not the entire picture. Readers are invited, readers are encouraged, to go to the library or to the Internet, whichever is the closest, pull out the actuals and do the calculations.

Others have chimed in. David and Barbara Mikkelson have for 20 years operated the snopes.com site dedicated to squelching urban legends. Here is what Snopes has to say on the matter:

Claim:   Law professor’s analysis demonstrates that the results of the last presidential election correspond to a prediction about the downfall of democracy.

The verdict from Snopes is:

MOSTLY FALSE

Snopes elaborates:

Origins:   The item cited above began circulating on the Internet since shortly after the 2000 U.S. presidential election, reappeared briefly after the 2004 presidential election, saw a strong resurgence in a modified form which replaced the names “Bush” and “Gore” with “McCain and “Obama” after the 2008 presidential election, and was circulated again after the 2012 election in a shortened version with the names “Obama” and Romney” replacing the original’s “Bush” and “Gore”:

At this point I will stop with the reciting of facts. Readers are invited to track down the facts on their own. However, recall what Mark Twain supposedly said about the lie and the truth. I will mention the following.

A large part of this odorous email is crafted to appeal to the baser instincts of its intended reader. Let’s take this piece of text:

“In aggregate, the map of the territory Romney won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the country. Obama territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in low Income tenements and living off various forms of government Welfare…”

The conclusion: People who voted for Barack Obama are trash. People who voted for Mitt Romney are upright citizens. The implication: Obama and his administration cater to trash and may, themselves, be trash. Romney was the proper choice, and voters have doomed this country by not voting for him.

That mention of “land owned by the taxpaying citizens” has an implication. The implication is people who rent don’t pay taxes. People who own their own homes pay property taxes, and they are contributing to the support of the government. This thought ignores something basic: People who rent also pay property taxes. They pay it in the form of rent that pays 100% of the taxes. If you doubt this, then you should check with anybody who has ever owned rental property. You can start with me. And to finish out, some of the wealthiest people do not own their own homes. They rent. Enough said about that.

From a top view this spurious email says as much about those who would forward it as it does about those who would compose it. Maybe more. The person who crafted this out of mostly wishful thinking at least knew what he was doing. He was doing propaganda. Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the day that Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, and his wife murdered their six children and then killed themselves. Goebbels was a Master of Deception:

In Berlin, Goebbels saw that propaganda, at the first level getting out the Party’s message and making it attractive, and at the second level managing the proper mixture of truth and deceit that constantly outflanked the political opposition, was forcefully and skillfully invoked. More than any other person Goebbels wielded the political manipulations that put Hitler and the Nazis into power.

Few would doubt Goebbels’ skill at his nefarious task, a task for which he was an acknowledged master. What then of the people who accepted and even reveled in his stream of lies and half truths? Furthermore, what is to be said of those who grab at salacious offerings off the Internet and pass them on as truth without any concern for verification? It happens with people when the half-truth is more palatable than the real thing. The imperative is to get out the joyous news. The truth has become just a sometime thing.

Update

Earlier this month Ray Hamling left a comment. He said, in part, “You put the numbers for a few states, but leave off the information from each of the sites you quote that say that the information was somewhat correct.”

At the time I made a note to myself to dig into this and provide a response. Here it is.
In particular, Ray said, “maybe you could have left on the statistics that show that the crime rates were more like 6/100,000 in the Dem won areas and 4/100,000 in the Republican won areas.”

I could have left in such statistics except I did not need to. The complete statistics are in the page I linked to.

Additionally, had I put in all the statistics the conclusions would not have changed. It turns out somebody else has performed the pertinent analysis, and those results refute Ray’s “the statistics that show that the crime rates were more like 6/100,000 in the Dem won areas and 4/100,000 in the Republican won areas.” When I did attempt to track down additional numbers I found the following:

The average violent crime rate (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault) in 2008 for the 28 states that voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election was 389 incidents per 100,000 residents. The average violent crime rate for the 22 states that voted for John McCain was 412 incidents per 100,000 residents – or a 5.8 percent higher incidence of violent crime.

This item was posted in September 2009 by:

Eric J. Ostermeier (Ph.D., University of Minnesota, Department of Political Science, 2006; J.D., The University of Michigan Law School, 1995), Research Associate at the Humphrey School’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.

Ostermeier has additional commentary of interest:

Looking back to the 2004 Presidential election, the 19 states that voted for Democrat John Kerry had an average violent crime rate in 2004 of 361 incidents per 100,000 residents. The 31 states that voted for George W. Bush had an average violent crime rate that year of 419 incidents per 100,000 residents – or a 16.3 percent higher rate. Bush states also had an 18.6 percent higher rate of property crimes in 2004 (3,648 incidents per 100,000 residents) than the Kerry states (3,077).

Reiterating: the original post was due to an email I received from an acquaintance. He was not the person originating the email. He just forwarded it to me and several others. It’s Mark Twain’s famous remark about a lie going half way around the world while the truth is still getting its boots on. That email (repeating from above) mentions the following:

In aggregate, the map of the territory Romney won was mostly the land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the country. Obama territory mostly encompassed those citizens living in low Income tenements and living off various forms of government Welfare…

Ostermeier has something to say about that, as well:

The per capita income difference was still present, although less pronounced, when grouping states by partisan control of the legislature and the governor’s office. States with Democratic-controlled legislatures have an 11.1 percent higher per capita income ($44,470) than states with Republican-controlled legislatures ($40,018). States with Democratic governors had a 2.5 percent higher per capita income in 2008 ($42,955) than those with Republican governors ($41,892).

Ostermeier’s post exhibits data to back up his conclusions, but he does not cite the sources. Readers are invited to follow up and let me know if there are sources at odds with these data.

A number of readers have browsed this post. Statistics show a daily readership. Hopefully one of these readers can throw additional light on the topic.

10 thoughts on “Interesting Obituary

  1. Nice breakdown and well written. However, you to miss the point in that the message has much truth in it.

    • Balue commented: “However, you to miss the point in that the message has much truth in it.”

      Having examined the message and having failed to find much resembling truth, I must turn to you. If you claim to find truth you are obliged to disclose it. If your reply is too elaborate to post as a comment, send it to me by email, and I will create a new post under your name.

      John Blanton jf_blanton@yahoo.com

  2. Wow, your breakdown leaves a lot to be desired. You put the numbers for a few states, but leave off the information from each of the sites you quote that say that the information was somewhat correct, but exaggerated. maybe you could have left on the statistics that show that the crime rates were more like 6/100,000 in the Dem won areas and 4/100,000 in the Republican won areas. Seems there is more truth to it than you are letting on. Picking the states you will use is just as bad as the exaggerations used in the original piece.

  3. Ray,
    Thanks for reading and for leaving your comment. I encourage you to comment more fully. Please accept my invitation to draft a complete response, giving your point of view on the matter and providing a comprehensive rebuttal of my post. i will post your response as a guest post on the blog. Forward it to me by email: jf_blanton@yahoo.com

  4. Earlier this month (see above) Ray Hamling left me a comment. He said, in part, “You put the numbers for a few states, but leave off the information from each of the sites you quote that say that the information was somewhat correct.”
    At the time I made a note to myself to dig into this and provide a response. Here it is.
    In particular, Ray said, “maybe you could have left on the statistics that show that the crime rates were more like 6/100,000 in the Dem won areas and 4/100,000 in the Republican won areas.”
    I could have left in such statistics except I did not need to. The complete statistics are in the page I linked to.
    Additionally, had I put in all the statistics the conclusions would not have changed. It turns out somebody else has performed the pertinent analysis, and those results refute Ray’s “the statistics that show that the crime rates were more like 6/100,000 in the Dem won areas and 4/100,000 in the Republican won areas.” When I attempted to track down some numbers I found the following:

    “The average violent crime rate (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault) in 2008 for the 28 states that voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election was 389 incidents per 100,000 residents. The average violent crime rate for the 22 states that voted for John McCain was 412 incidents per 100,000 residents – or a 5.8 percent higher incidence of violent crime.”

    I am updating the post to include this information. As always, I welcome comments, and I will be interested in seeing sources that contradict the above. Unfortunately, Ray did not provide a source for his 6/100,000 and 4/100,000 numbers. See the update post above and follow the link to my source.

  5. In retrospect it is indeed an apt quote for the article. Twain wasn’t the original author of the quote but people just believe he is, falsely.

    If people already believe the conclusion before the “facts” are presented to support it then they would have really little problem that the “facts” themselves aren’t true.

  6. I received this hoax email today and was suspicious right away. A Google search led me here.
    Unfortunately I had to inform my very good friend that he had been had.

    GOOD JOB guys.

  7. I landed at your blog as a result of searching for accurate information about “the cycle of nations” that I’d heard about in a Bible study. You can imagine my surprise when I came upon these statistics of crime attributed to either political party’s demographics. Your blog does a great job of debunking these stats. (Another quote attributed to Mark Twain says, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies and statistics.” LOL) All of that to say, I wanted more information about the actual rise and fall of nations and to find the validity of the initial quote, as well as to the accuracy of the cycle. And I thought you might be interested in reading this article: http://www.lorencollins.net/tytler.html Quite revealing as to its true source . . . and my questions remain unanswered. Thanks so much for your work.

  8. Pingback: Fact Deficit | Skeptical Analysis

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