Master of Deception

DrGoebbels

This is being posted on the 70th anniversary of the Death of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. I’m not going to dissect Goebbels and his life. This is a review of Dr. Goebbels, His Life & Death by Heinrich Fraenkel and Roger Manvell. The book came out in 1960, 15 years after Goebbels and his wife killed their six children and themselves in the ruins of the Nazi capital. This summary is based on the Kindle edition.

The authors size up Goebbels, the subject, in two opening paragraphs:

“Our broadcasts in English are, after all, very effective. However, an aggressive, superior, and insulting tone gets us nowhere. I have often said so to our various departments . You can only get anywhere with the English by talking to them in a friendly and modest way . The English speaker, Lord Haw-Haw, is especially good at biting criticism, but in my mind the time for spicy debate is past… during the third year of a war one must wage it quite differently from the first year… today they want nothing but facts. The more cleverly, therefore, the facts are put together, and the more psychologically and sensitively they are brought before the listening public, the stronger is the effect.”

Dr Joseph Goebbels

“The‘little doctor’ was probably the most intelligent, from a purely brain point of view, of all the Nazi leaders. He never speechified; he always saw and stuck to the point; he was an able debater, and, in private conversation astonishingly fair-minded and reasonable.”

Sir Neville Henderson British Ambassador to Germany, 1937– 1939

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 2-11). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

Fraenkel and Manvell produced at the same time two other books, covering the lives of Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering. All three killed themselves rather than face the retribution of outraged civilization. I will post the other two reviews on the appropriate anniversaries.

The authors have given these biographical treatments a depth of research perhaps unique among their peers. Earlier the dust of continental Europe’s most disastrous war had not settled, and critical resources were unavailable. The Soviets overran the headquarters of the Nazi bureaucracy and retained a grip on captured documents for years. Came much later, and death had overtaken key witnesses to the events and the people.

Fraenkel was, himself, a surviver of the Nazi uprising and contributed a wealth of personal contact as well as first-hand knowledge:

Long before we planned to write this book together Heinrich Fraenkel had already collected sufficient facts, stories and unpublished testimonies to make him realise that Goebbels’ life and character would repay much more detailed investigation. He himself escaped from Germany just in time to avoid being arrested on the night of the Reichstag fire, and he subsequently took part in the foundation of the Free German movement in Britain. He also assisted at the independent legal investigations into the causes of the fire which were conducted in Britain by Sir Stafford Cripps and other world-famous lawyers, and he has written a number of books and pamphlets on Germany under the Nazis.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 98-103). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

Subsequently Frankel attended the war crimes trials at Nuremberg and interviewed surviving participants in the Nazi government, including  German Vice Chancellor (under Hitler) Franz von Papen, early Nazi Parter leader Otto Strasser, head of Goebbels’ radio propaganda ministry Hans Fritzsche, Reich Commissioner for the German Film Industry Max Winckler, President of the Reichsbank and Minister of Economics under Hitler Hjalmar Schacht, Reich Minister for Economic Affairs Walther Funk and Karl Kaufmann, the Nazi Gauleiter in Hamburg—head of the Nazi Party and government of Hamburg from 1933 until 1945. Fraenkel was also professionally associated with the German film industry, which came under Goebbels’ mechanizations for propaganda purposes.

There’s no way to cover this work about Goebbels without delving into the man. Following the course of his life through Manvell and Fraenkel it’s hard to miss the impression of Goebbels as a self-made intellectual who early in his life learned to manipulate those around him in order to pull himself up from his humble beginnings. Polio partially crippled him, and he even worked this affliction, using his limp to advantage when suitable. His family was of modest means, and his prospects for higher education were dicey. Self-reliance coupled with chicanery got him through:

In spite of his poverty, Goebbels managed in 1917 to enrol for a single term at Bonn University, the first of several universities that he was to attend before he gained his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Heidelberg in 1921 at the age of twenty-four. After his initial term at Bonn, his further education became dependent on receiving a university scholarship from the important Catholic charitable institution, the Albertus Magnus Society. It is in connection with this institution that one of the earliest and most interesting of the Goebbels legends is associated.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 258-261). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

In all between 1917 and 1920 the Albertus Magnus Society lent Goebbels a total of just 964 marks. Had they known the difficulty they were eventually to experience in getting the repayments out of him, they would undoubtedly never have lent him a single mark. They had in the end to resort to legal pressure and they did not achieve a final settlement of the debt until 1930, when Goebbels was already a member of the Reichstag and a notorious anti-Catholic.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 305-308). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

The young Goebbels, like his fellows, eagerly volunteered when Germany entered what was to become World War One, his polio affliction sidelined him and allowed him to pursue his education. His youthful experiences can be seen in parallel to those of his future idol, Adolf Hitler. His lofty aspirations gave him an inflated self worth, and the blunting of his early ambitions shaped his character for later life:

Goebbels, therefore, in company with his friend passed through a phase of nihilism which left a destructive adolescent element in his nature which he never outgrew. In later life he would frequently act with the petulant cruelty of a very young man determined to avenge himself on a society that seemed to him insufficiently perfect for his taste. He thought of himself as a mature revolutionary. Only too often he seems to be avenging the humiliations of the early days when his numerous articles for the Berliner Tageblatt were being rejected by its Jewish editor, Theodor Wolff, and Richard Flisges was pressing him to read the works of the Jewish writers, Marx and Rathenau.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 492-497). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

Of the Nazi leadership, few besides Hitler expressed a more fiery hatred for Jews. An excerpt from a cabinet meeting on 12 November 1938 confirms Goebbels as a principal exponent for persecution of Jews:

Goebbels: … Furthermore, I consider it necessary to eliminate Jews completely from appearing in public, particularly whenever such appearance might have a provocative effect . Do you realise that even today it is quite possible for a Jew to share a compartment in a sleeper with a German? I think the Reich Minister for Transport should issue an edict whereby there would have to be special compartments for Jews, stipulating further that when that particular compartment happens to be filled up, no Jew would be entitled to claim any other seat; that Jews must not under any circumstances mix with the Germans in the train, in fact they should not have the right to be seated at all unless every German in the train has seating accommodation; and rather than have a Jew sitting in one compartment filled or half-filled by Germans, I would have him stand outside in the corridor.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 2820-2826). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

Even Heinrich Himmler, the person entrusted with the extermination of European Jewry, ultimately flinched at the task of mass murder. Reading of Goebbels’ life one gets the impression he would have taken on the task with gusto.

In the harsh times that followed Germany’s defeat in 1918, Goebbels formed his political mindset and found himself attracted to the early Nazi Party:

Among the odd jobs Goebbels was always ready to do there occurred one at this time that brought him directly into politics. He became secretary at one hundred marks a month to Franz von Wiegershaus, Reichstag Deputy of the Völkische Freiheitspartei, one of several small right-wing groups that shared substantially similar nationalistic views to those being so loudly advocated by the Nazis in Munich. Wiegershaus lived in Elberfeld and edited there the paper belonging to his minority, the Völkische Freiheit (People’s Freedom). Goebbels’ duties included helping to edit this journal, and soon he found that he was also expected to speak at public meetings. It was at these local meetings of the Freiheitspartei that he came into close contact with members of the Nazi movement , to which he seemed at first to have been strongly opposed. Towards the end of the year, however, he approached Karl Kaufmann, who was at that time Gauleiter of the Nazi Party for the Rhine-Ruhr District, and offered him his services. Kaufmann discussed the matter with Gregor Strasser, who was the leading figure in the movement in the north of Germany and who was considering at the turn of the year producing a small weekly journal to be what the Strassers rather bombastically called the Party’s geistiges Führungsorgan (organ of spiritual leadership). Gregor was to be the publisher and Otto the editor, and they needed an editorial assistant. Hearing of Goebbels through Kaufmann, they wondered if he might be suitable for the position at a salary of two hundred marks a month, double what he was getting from Wiegershaus.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 810-822). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

Ultimately Goebbels was to find the Strasser brothers too socialistic for his political taste, but his involvement with the Party eventually brought him into contact with and under the spell of Adolph Hitler. He eventually abandoned the Strassers and gave his allegiance, even his abject worship, to Hitler. This was likely a fortunate move for Goebbels, for within a few years the Strasser wing of the Party split from the main body. Otto Strasser fled Germany and survived. Gregor was expelled from the Party and eventually murdered in the purge Hitler instigated on 30 June 1934.

With the expulsion of the Strassers, Hitler gave Goebbels authority over Berlin as Party Gauleiter for Berlin, a position he held for the remainder of his life. 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. More than any other he took the decisive action that tightened Hitler’s grip on power, once in office, and crushed all political and social opposition.

Even so, Goebbels’ burning ambition for power in the Party was never to be fully realized until the day of his own death. One root to his frustration was Hitler’s own need to keep his subordinates in check by playing them against each other. Hitler may have realized that Goebbels was the one person with the drive and the ability to wrest control of the Party from him. Another stumbling block was one of Goebbels’ own personal failings.

A least likely lady’s man in the Nazi hierarchy would seem to have been Joseph Goebbels. Small of stature, a partial cripple, he was yet a skilled and successful sexual predator. With his rise from poverty into the upper levels of power came a need for him to stoke his ego through conquest. At this he was a master. If there really was “what women want,” Goebbels knew what it was. Women he wooed and conquered were seldom regretful. He realized and practiced diligently the necessity of giving the woman of the moment the full attention she desired.

In 1931 he married a divorced woman, Magda Quandt, of considerable wealth. Hitler was best man at the wedding. So it came to pass that years later, when Goebbels fell madly in love with Czech actress Lida Baarova, he lost considerable favor with the Fuhrer. When Magda grew intolerant of her husbands infidelity she began to make plans to divorce him. Hitler became alarmed at this and forcibly broke up the relationship, exiling Lida to Italy and blunting Goebbels’ political ambitions for the remainder of his life. Tireless a sexual partner as he was a political manipulator, Goebbels fathered six children with Magda.

History acknowledges Joseph Goebbels as a leader in the mastery of political propaganda. During the early days in Berlin, when Party funds were scarce, he made the best use of minimal materials and human resources. The Party message hit the streets in a stream of pamphlets, posters and newsletters. The following is from Google Images and represents the anti-Jewish message prevalent in Goebbels’ propaganda prior to 1933. After Hitler’s rise to power there was little need to demonize Jews so crudely. They were already being stripped of their citizenship, their property and their lives.

NaziPoster

Goebbels was not the only master of cartoon pricking. The following is from Cartoons of World War II by Tony Husband. Here cartoonist David Low depicts Goebbels, in vain, attempting to restructure Hitler’s image.

Location 269

Location 269

Goebbels properly realized Hitler’s folly in starting the war and further in expanding it. Although Goebbels was, during the last years of their lives, Hitler’s closest confident among the Nazi leadership, he felt that Hitler was poorly advised by others who exerted unwarranted influence. Goebbels embraced National Socialism with religious fervor. As Germany’s fortunes crumbled he saw its looming defeat not as a matter of bad actions coming home to roost. Instead he saw the world powers allied against Germany as criminals looking to take the spoils so rightly belonging to the Reich.

It all ended in Berlin. As armies of retribution squeezed the Third Reich into a pocket centered on the Reichstag, Goebbels, Magda, and their six children moved into the underground bunker with Hitler. In the final days all others abandoned the Fuhrer and sought escape. Hitler and his new bride, the former Eva Braun, killed themselves on 30 April 1945. On the following day Joseph and Magda poisoned their six children and then themselves. Joseph shot his wife in the head after she had taken her poison, and then he took his own poison, shooting himself before the poison took effect.

Magda’s son by her first marriage, Harald Quandt served in the Luftwaffe and was captured in Italy. He finished out the war in a POW camp in England and eventually was killed in an airplane crash in 1967.

The Fraenkel and Manvell book is not a strict chronology. The story cannot be told as such, and the authors follow multiple sub plots that overlap in time. For the reader not already familiar with the chronology this can be confusing. For example, I note the following:

When the raids came, Goebbels behaved with exemplary courage. On the night of 21st November, when the first raid on Berlin took place, Goebbels was speaking in a suburb when the bombers arrived. In the height of the raid he and Semmler drove back to Berlin’s Air-Raid Centre in the Wilhelmplatz. There Goebbels stood chainsmoking, watching the reports come in until “he nearly loses control of himself” at the magnitude of the damage.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Locations 4337-4340). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

The Brits first bombed Berlin in September 1940, so this was not actually the first raid on Berlin. But the casual reader will be left dangling as to which year. More instances abound.

My copy is a Kindle edition. The original was a print edition. That’s all they had in 1960. Appearances are that many Kindle editions are generated by taking printed pages and scanning them using OCR (optical character recognition) technology to convert the scanned images to text. When not done carefully this can produce character substitutions and other missteps. Here is an example:

There is some evidence that Goebbels would have preferred a ministry with greater executive power, and later he was continually to show his ambition to control the internal affairs of Germany. He remained Gauleiter for Berlin for the rest of his life, and this office, especially during the war, enabled him to control the civil population in certain respects. But Hitler recognised that Goebbels could serve him best in the field where his real genius lay, and the new ministry was created especially for him. He was given the Leopoldpalast on the Wilhelmplatz, opposite the Chancellery, in which to set up his Government department. It was here that he built up the network of controls that made him master of every medium of expression Germany pissessed.

Fraenkel, Heinrich; Manvell, Roger (2010-09-06). Doctor Goebbels: His Life and Death (Kindle Location 2202 – 2207). Frontline Books. Kindle Edition.

Something is obviously wrong in the last line: “It was here that he built up the network of controls that made him master of every medium of expression Germany pissessed.”

That aside, I prefer electronic versions of book for a number of reasons. They are considerably more compact than paper copies. A 32 G card is the size of a postage stamp and can hold a library. When I am reviewing, the ability to search for text, coupled with copy and paste, eliminates mountains of tedium. Kindle also provides the ability to bookmark places in the volume, a feature that allowed me to mark and later return to the text I just displayed. Further, electronic books are cheaper, and they are delivered in seconds. I have used this capability before when, in the middle of drafting a post for this blog, I needed a reference. I had it on my computer within minutes and finished my draft before dinner. Despite its detractors, modern technology daily makes our lives brighter. Would that Joseph Goebbels had this technology at his disposal. We will never know.

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Cartoons of World War II

Mauldin-01

Location 521

I was browsing a book display and noticed this. It’s available in Kindle, and I clicked the Buy button. It’s Cartoons of World War II, compiled by Tony Husband.

Bill Mauldin was born in New Mexico in 1921 and enlisted in the US army in 1940 after serving in the Arizona Guard. As a sergeant with the 45th Division, Mauldin landed in Sicily and worked as a cartoonist for Stars & Stripes as well as the company magazine. He was given his own personal jeep to drive around in and produced around six cartoons a week, providing a warts-and-all version of what life was like for regular US soldiers, known as ‘dogfaces’, on the front line in Europe and elsewhere. His work was distributed throughout the US army at home and abroad and it was phenomenally popular among serving men. Mauldin’s most famous creations were Willie and Joe, two dirty, unshaven GIs (opposite) who constantly cast doubts over the leadership qualities of their officers and whose laconic utterances left the reader in no doubt that war was a very hard slog indeed – so terrible you had to laugh.

Husband, Tony (2013-07-05). Cartoons of World War II (Kindle Locations 521-528). Arcturus Publishing. Kindle Edition.

It wasn’t originally Bill Mauldin’s famous depictions of military life that got me going originally. I was reading Dr. Goebbels, His Life & Death by Roger & Fraenkel and Heinrich Manvell for a review I’m going to post next year on the 70th anniversary of the death of the Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment. I needed some Goebbels-inspired propaganda cartoons to illustrate. Besides the priceless Mauldin graphics, this book does have some classic Goebbels:

Location 38

Location 38

This is from 1941 by Joseph Goebbels’ favorite cartoonist, Erich Schilling. It says ‘The Baubles of a Prime Minister – When the war is over we can start the rebuilding process.’ It depicts British Prime Minister Winston trying to construct a house of cards.

GoebbelsHimmlerGoering

Location 209

This is by E.H. Shepard following the attempt by Johann Georg Elser’s to kill Hitler with a bomb. Hitler’s three jealous henchmen, Goebbels, Himmler and Goering are attempting to put the best face on the debacle.

The Soviet Union made good use of cartoons during the war. Three artists, Porfirii Krylov, Mikhail Kuprilianov and Nikolai Sokolov were known collectively as Kukryniksy.

Kukyrniksy

Location 320

 

The caption says “Let’s destroy the enemy mercilessly.” The book notes Kukryniksy eschewed subtlety and that this represents one of their more restrained products.

The book illustrates propaganda cartoon evolution chronologically through the progress of the war from 1939 to 1945. It’s entertaining to observe how the slant and the voice of opposing sides changed as fortune shifted to the Allied side, and the Axis powers,  slid into their ultimate doom.

The Ape-Man Within

TheApe-ManWithin

Husband and wife writing team Sprague and Catherine de Camp moved to Plano, Texas, about 25 years ago in semi-retirement. We got to know them, and they joined our group, The North Texas Skeptics. This was Sprague’s next to last published book, and I received a copy in the mail for review. The following review appeared in the January 1996 issue of The North Texas Skeptic.  It’s The Ape-Man Within.

L. Sprague de Camp.  Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1995.  266 pages (bibliography).  $25.95.

Reviewed by John Blanton

Where we came from has made us what we are.  This is the theme of Sprague de Camp’s latest non-fiction work.  Our ancestors were wild animals who somehow domesticated themselves and ratcheted their way up in steps to what we know as civilized society.  We dress ourselves in fine silk and go to the opera and to the ballet, and we probe the depths of the atom and visit nearby planets, but our daily actions belie all this pretense and show us to be the product of our forefathers after all.

The “theratics” were the hunter-gatherers, little removed from roving packs of ground-dwelling apes.  Next came the “georgics,” who improved their lot over the theratic existence by staying in one place and obtaining reliable sources of food from the land and from captive animals.  Then came the “astics,” builders and inhabitants of cities.  The development of crafts is prominent in this stage.  Finally, we have become the “dynatics,” exerting our power over our environment.  This progression has come as a consequence of, and often in spite of, the psyche we inherited from our unwashed predecessors.

Critics of social Darwinism stand clear, for your nemesis runs free in this book.  Darwinism explains all:  love, jealousy, rage, hatred, racism, and even self-sacrifice.  Whether the connections be cause and effect or just post hoc rationalization, the reader cannot deny the compelling arguments.  Why do people kill without profit?  Why do we divide ourselves by erecting artificial boundaries of race and culture?  Why does belief in religion persist in the face of overwhelming counter evidence?
In this book we are pointedly reminded of much that we already know (or should know).  There is less genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees than there is between chimpanzees and gorillas, and in the social and sexual antics of chimps and other apes we see reflections of our own society.  Despite all this, the author emphasizes that heredity does not excuse antisocial activity; morality, after all, being a human invention.  There are also some surprises for those of us who haven’t checked out the sections on archeology and anthropology in the library.  For example, the tales of Moses and the exodus from Egypt seem contrary to evidence that the people involved really migrated down from the North.  (Furthermore, if the Jews did migrate from Egypt, they forgot to tell the Egyptians they were leaving, or else the Egyptians forgot to write it down.)  And finally we are told more about a certain female gorilla named Congo than we really wanted to know.

Do not look here for hope and reaffirmation.  On this matter the writer is gloomy and more pessimistic than I can allow myself to be.  Sprague de Camp’s views on religion are no secret, and one would expect to find in him a general condemnation of it.  However, with surprising cynicism he acknowledges its necessity.  Never having inherited real altruism, we require an imaginary, authoritarian presence to continually threaten us with punishment and to cajole us with the promise of reward in order to keep us from seeking short term gain through socially destructive conduct.

This book is not based on objective science, though there are research citations aplenty to establish its modern knowledge base.  Prominent Darwinists, Stephen Jay Gould included, will disagree with many of its conclusions.  Instead, this is a statement of the philosophy, the observations, of a modern man.  It is told, not in narrative form, but more as a diary, as though the author is gathering a lifetime of experience and revealing it in a conversation with the reader.  Several points are restated frequently throughout the book whenever discussion of a new subject recalls them.  Read this as the wisdom of one who has trod the length and breadth of the Twentieth-Century.  You will hardly find a better perspective.

Bye, bye Bachmann

NoBachmann

Nothing new here. I’ve done this before:

Well, we need to grow the middle class and what the middle class needs are jobs. That’s really the problem that the president has to explain. It’s tough to blame President Bush for the current economic woes. We have five years of Obama policies and what do we have? We have people who are really suffering because people made more money. If you look at the median income level, people actually made more money seven years ago than they’re making now.

Truly, Bachmann never ceases to amuse. Wait, there’s more:

WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) roused a sleepy gathering of social conservatives on Friday with a spirited speech railing against Hillary Clinton, whose record at the State Department “should disqualify her from ever being considered for the presidency.”

“Hillary Clinton reinforces daily to the American people that she is not commander in chief material. She fails to inspire confidence in practically anything that she’s touched,” Bachmann said at the Road to Majority Conference, an annual gathering sponsored by the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

First of all “Faith and Freedom Coalition?” Call me opinionated, but I find that to be a mixed bag.

Disqualified from consideration? Bachmann is telling a conservative crowd they should not vote for Clinton? They were planning to before?

There is another way to tell if you’re not qualified. If nobody votes for you then you are sort of disqualified. You might also be disqualified if you have don’t have a working relationship with the legal system. Bachmann should know.

Representative Michele Bachmann’s presidential hopes ended 20 months ago, but her brief and chaotic campaign continues to be the focus of ethics investigations.

The latest is a federal inquiry into whether an outside “super PAC” improperly coordinated strategy with Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign staff, including her husband, in violation of election laws.

The Department of Justice demanded records from the super PAC last week of its finances and its communications with Mrs. Bachmann; Marcus Bachmann, her husband; and former staff members, according to a grand jury subpoena reviewed by The New York Times.

Bachmann is not running for re-election this year, likely ending her political career. I mourn. A cadre of political cartoonist mourn. We all should.

Size One Hat Alert

 

prasad06

The intellectual prowess of elected officials continues to underwhelm me:

SC lawmaker calls to undercut evolution in high schools because ‘eyeball = creation’

By Scott Kaufman
Thursday, May 1, 2014 10:43 EDT

The phrase “teach the controversy” was coined by former Modern Language Association president Gerald Graff to describe how college instructors should teach complex literary works like Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The point of “teaching the controversies” was to demonstrate for students how knowledge is debated before it becomes accepted by the academic community.

The phrase was later hijacked by creationist and Discovery Institute advisor Phillip Johnson, who contended before the Kansas State Board of Education that “[w]hat educators in Kansas and elsewhere should be doing is to ‘teach the controversy.’” Graff noted that his phrase doesn’t properly apply because “[f]rom a strictly scientific standpoint, there seems to be no real ‘controversy’ here that’s worth teaching, just a bogus one that the IDers have fabricated to paper over the absence of evidence in their critique of evolutionary science.”

South Carolina State Senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville) disagrees, and in February voiced opposition to a proposal that would limit discussion of biological evolution in high school classrooms to scientific theories.

“We must teach the controversy,” Fair said. “There’s another side. I’m not afraid of the controversy. That’s the way most of us learn best.”

The National Center for Science Education has more:

In February 2014, the EOC voted to approve the standards with the exception of a clause involving the phrase “natural selection.” Senator Mike Fair (R-District 6), a member of the EOC and a long-time opponent of evolution education in South Carolina, told the Charleston Post and Courier (February 10, 2014), “”Natural selection is a direct reference to Darwinism. And the implication of Darwinism is that it is start to finish.”

Subsequently, Fair seemed to reverse himself, telling the Charleston City Paper (February 13, 2014), “I support the scientific standards as they were given to our subcommittee,” adding, “I just needed a few days to look at the possible overreach of the terminology, and it’s not there.” It was expected, therefore, that the material about natural selection would be restored, and the standards would be approved, at the EOC’s April 2014 meeting.

But Fair reversed himself again during the EOC’s April 28, 2014, meeting, saying, according to the Post and Courier, “We must teach the controversy … There’s another side. I’m not afraid of the controversy.” He proposed to amend the standards to call for students to “[c]onstruct scientific arguments that seem to support and scientific arguments that seem to discredit Darwinian Natural selection.” The amendment passed on a 7-4 vote.

Rob Dillon, a professor of biology at the College of Charleston and president of South Carolinians for Science Education, described the events as “frustrating,” “irritating,” and “disappointing.” “There are exactly zero scientific arguments that discredit natural selection,” Dillon told the Post and Courier. “What there are is about 10,000 religious arguments that seek to weaken natural selection.”

There’s no religious test for holding public office. Should there be an awareness test?

Skeptical Cartoon

This may have been the first cartoon Prasad and I did. I was thinking about the supposed man tracks in the Paluxy River, near where I was born. They don’t really look like man tracks, but I got to wondering that if they did look like man tracks, how could they have been created back in the time of the dinosaurs. I hit upon one possible explanation, hence the cartoon.

prasad02

Bill Nye the Science Guy

“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” This is a quote from Winston Churchill referring to the sacrifice and the immense contribution made by British and Allied pilots in the Battle of Britain.

The same may be said for contemporary scientists taking a stand in the defense of science in an on-going ideological war. Until 17 years ago the standard bearer for science in this conflict was Carl Sagan. Following his death in 1996 a void appeared that was filled from time to time by available spokesmen for science, but generally not on the regular basis Sagan had devoted. In the past few years resonant voices have emerged, and their rise is a gladdening welcome.

I noticed recently the appearance of Neil DeGrasse Tyson as a high-profile spokesman for science. He appears regularly on science documentaries in various outlets, including A&E and PBS Nova.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, from Wikipedia

Another welcome voice is Bill Nye, “The Science Guy.”

William Sanford “Bill” Nye (born November 27, 1955), popularly known as Bill Nye the Science Guy, is an American science educator, comedian, television host, actor, writer, and scientist who began his career as a mechanical engineer at Boeing. He is best known as the host of the Disney/PBS children’s science show Bill Nye the Science Guy (1993–98) and for his many subsequent appearances in popular media as a science educator.

Bill Nye, from Wikipedia

More recently, Bill Nye has gone the extra mile to confront creationism in its form most crude—the creationism ministry of Ken Ham.

Bill Nye on creationism: Show me one piece of evidence and I would change my mind immediately
Wednesday, Feb 5, 2014 10:10 AM -0600

It’s the 21st century, but the debate over evolution is alive and well. In a live showdown that pitted Darwin against the word of God, 90′s icon Bill Nye took on Australian young-Earth creationist Ken Ham on Ham’s turf, the Creation Museum in Kentucky.

As with most debates, it was obvious before it began that neither was going to convince the other to change his fundamental world view. There were plenty of questions that Nye, leaning on science, couldn’t provide an answer for, but he treated those moments not as defeats but as reasons to be excited about the possibilities of scientific inquiry. Ham, meanwhile, took comfort in what Nye referred to as his “literal interpretation of most parts of the Bible,” reconciling anything he couldn’t answer with the response that God’s word is “the only thing that makes logical sense.”

That all was further confirmed when a member of the audience asked what turned out to be the crux of the debate: what, if anything, would convince the men to change their minds? Ham’s answer: “I’m a Christian.” (In other words, nothing.) Nye, on the other hand, was happy to concede that just one piece of evidence to support a Biblical interpretation of Earth’s formation — that the universe is not expanding, or that rock layers can somehow form in just 4,000 years — would cause him to change his mind “immediately.”

And that does seem to be the crux of the difference between science and religion. The irony is exemplified in a cartoon strip of many years ago. The late cartoonist Johnny Hart was a favorite of mine. He passed away in 2007, but his creations, B.C. and The Wizard of Id, live on in the history of cartoon humor. An issue with Hart was his overt religiosity. Typically his cartoons were quite humorous, but when he decided to present a message for his faith the message was less like the tickle of a feather and more like a blow from a hammer. For example, this from Google images:

I don’t have an the image for this one, but the text follows this line:

B.C. character 1: “What’s the Big Bang?”

Character 2: “The sound of a mind slamming shut.”

The irony of it all is creationists, such as Hart, talk of closed-minded scientists, yet they rule their lives by a doctrine that excludes all contrary argument and evidence.

Regarding the aforementioned debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, we have the following. I’m not going to summarize. I am going to just repost it in it’s entirety:

22 Responses To Buzzfeed’s 22 Messages From Creationists On Evolution And The Origin Of Life
By Roxanne Palmer
on February 05 2014 4:17 PM

Amid the hoopla over the Bill Nye-Ken Ham “debate” at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, Buzzfeed recently posted 22 messages from self-identified creationists. Here are responses to each of them.

1. “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”

Many kids that watched Bill Nye developed a passion for knowledge that fueled their desire to become scientists (or science writers). There are many positive lessons you can learn from the Science Guy – curiosity, creativity and thoughtfulness, to name but a few.

2. “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”

Are you scared of a universe that does not center on mankind (and, by extension, yourself)?

3. “Is it completely illogical that the earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings… Adam created as an adult…”

Yes it is. The Big Bang was an extraordinary event, but there are lines of objective evidence that point towards its existence. There’s no physical evidence to prove that a tree or a man can pop into being fully formed.

You could maybe argue that God shaped the universe 4,000 years ago but carefully formed it to just look like it’s billions of years old — planting bones in the Earth and putting rings in trees and encoding our DNA to make us seem close to chimpanzees — but that seems like a twisted vision of a Creator. Wouldn’t a deity have something better to do than to pull a massive, universe-wide scam?

4. “Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove Evolution?”

This is a common trope in creationism, but it’s based on a flawed understanding of thermodynamics. The second law says that the entropy – which, in the interests of simplification, we can think of as “disorder” – in a closed system will increase with time. So if it’s a natural law things get more disordered, then evolution must be impossible because it has created more and more complex (or “ordered”) forms over time!

But the key to the second law is that “in a closed system” part. Just as no man is an island, he is not a closed system – and neither is an ape, or a single-celled amoeba. The universal trend might be increasing disorder, but there’s a lot of small scale increases in order everywhere, both through natural and manmade processes. These are accompanied by increases in disorder elsewhere in the universe – the system balances itself.

So how does this specifically relate to evolution? Organisms are not closed systems because they interact with the environment; on a macro scale this turns into the process of natural selection. Random genetic mutations might be “disorderly,” but because life exists in an environment, some mutations are beneficial and are more likely to be passed on, while mutations that confer disadvantages are less likely to propagate through the gene pool. So, through evolution, some order emerges out of disorder (but keep in mind it’s still a messy, wild process).

You can see examples of “ordering” happening all the time in the natural world.

“Consider what happens when the weather changes and it gets colder outside,” Cornell astronomer Dave Rothstein explains. “Cold air has less entropy than warm air – basically, it is more ‘ordered’ because the molecules aren’t moving around as much and have fewer places they can be. So the entropy in your local part of the universe has decreased, but as long as that is accompanied by an increase in entropy somewhere else.”

5. “How do you explain a sunset if their [sic] is no God?”

The Earth rotates on its axis, making it so the sun appears to move through the sky. Once every 24 hours, the center of the solar disc will appear to move below the western horizon. That is a sunset.

To go a little further: the various fiery colors in the sky at sunset are caused by light scattering. At sunset, the angle of Earth and Sun is such that the light has to travel through more of our atmosphere to reach your eyes. Shorter wavelengths of light are more likely bounce off of molecules in the atmosphere, so when sunlight has to travel through a longer stretch of air, the bluer end of the spectrum bounces out while other colors continue on. Red has the longest wavelength of visible light, so that’s why the sun usually looks red when it’s right on the horizon – it’s the only color that can make it through all the haze of Earth’s atmosphere at that extreme angle.

6. “If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?”

Basically the same answer as #4, with a slight twist. At the start, the universe in its compressed form would seem to be at near-maximum entropy — a dense, homogenous gas. But the “organization” of the universe into its current form also generates disorder:

“The solution here is that because the universe is expanding it keeps getting shifted out of equilibrium.” Case Western Reserve University physicist Mano Singham writes, “In the drive to reach a new equilibrium state, you can get pockets of order occurring without violating the second law, because the maximum allowable entropy also keeps increasing.”

Singham also has a good piece on why the Big Bang also doesn’t violate the first law of thermodynamics (energy in a closed system cannot be created or destroyed), because it did not require an input of energy — the negative gravitational potential energy exactly cancels out the positive energy represented by matter.

“It is not the case that something came out of nothing,” Singham writes. “It is that we have always had zero energy.”

7. “What about Noetics?”

What about it? “Noetics” is a philosophical school concerned with consciousness and spirituality, often with Christian overtones. The concept is most widely known from a mention in Dan Brown’s novel “The Lost Symbol.” It’s not evidence against evolution.

Many branches of science are interested in the question of consciousness, sentience, and how these qualities might evolve. There is actually an interesting, if a bit wild, proposition in theoretical physics that consciousness might be another state of matter.

8. “Where do you derive objective meaning in life?”

From many of the same places that you probably do. But this is irrelevant to the question of whether evolution is true or not. Should we try and shape facts to fit a certain philosophy, or figure out the facts and consider how this affects our worldview?

9. “If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?”

Yes, sort of. But keep in mind that evolution isn’t like the roll of a single die that is Life or No Life. It’s more like trillions upon trillions of dice being rolled for billions of years. The conditions of early Earth happened to weight some of those dice in such a way that Life came up.

And scientists don’t think that a single-celled organism just suddenly popped into being. Simple molecules can arise spontaneously in the right conditions – experiments show that it’s possible to whip up a big batch of amino acid soup from the conditions existing on early Earth, perhaps sparked by lightning storms or through undersea chemical reactions near hydrothermal vents. Over time, aggregates of these molecules formed and developed protective coatings, and began finding new ways to replicate themselves.

10. “I believe in the Big Bang Theory… God said it and BANG it happened!”

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

11. “Why do evolutionists / secularists /huminists [sic] / non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a Creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?”

They don’t. Perhaps you’ve confused the movie “Prometheus” with a nature documentary?

There is a theory called panspermia that posits life on Earth might have been first seeded by organisms or material that flew in on the backs of asteroids, comets, and meteorites, but this is not “intelligent design” or a theory that aliens created life. It’s just a hypothetical process, akin to when animals or plants wash up on remote islands and proceed to populate them.

12. “There is no in between [fossil?]… the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an ‘official proof’.”

Simply false. There are thousands of hominid fossils that have been discovered – not all direct ancestors of Homo sapiens, but cousins of a sort. (“Lucy,” the nickname for a 3.2 million year old Austrolopithecus afarensis specimen discovered in 1974, is still a pretty impressive find. Paleontologists managed to find about 40 percent of her skeleton; usually they can only find bits and fragments of individuals.)

Also, keep in mind that not every living thing becomes a fossil – they’re actually quite rare. You need very specific conditions for fossilization to occur. The Earth is also very big, and paleontologists have only dug up an incredibly small fraction of it.

13. “Does metamorphosis help support evolution?”

Metamorphosis is not micro-evolution; it’s a series of developmental stages in a single organism. Here is a good article on the evolution of metamorphosis in insects.

14. “If Evolution is a Theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as fact.”

The idea that diseases are caused by germs is a theory too, yet most medical schools tend to spend much more time on antibiotics and hygiene than on faith healing. Most science classes don’t teach evolution “as fact”; it is taught as a scientific theory. And in this case, “theory” doesn’t mean “a bunch of wild ideas that Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye cooked up after a late night at the pub”; it means an explanation supported by massive amounts of physical evidence and logic, tested and weighed and re-tested and scrutinized by scientists across the world.

Creationism is not a scientific theory. A scientific theory can be altered or disposed of if new, convincing evidence arises; creationism ignores or selectively misinterprets existing scientific evidence in favor of preserving the assumption of a divine creator.

15. “Because science by definition is a ‘theory’ – not testable, observable, nor repeatable [–] why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?”

That definition of theory is wrong (see Answer 14). Observation and testing is actually pretty much the entire thing that science is about.

16. “What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?”

I don’t quite understand this one, but here’s a shot: mutations arise in the normal course of DNA replication and other genetic processes; natural selection weeds out most of the bad ones and keeps out most of the good ones. (Also, see Answer 4.)

17. “What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in Salvation?”

Like questions 2 & 8, this question is irrelevant to the larger question of whether evolution is true or not.

But this is also a false dichotomy; there are plenty of scientists that identify as religious and don’t see a conflict between evolution and their beliefs. Does the concept of Salvation really hinge on whether or not humans evolved over time?

18. “Why have we found only 1 ‘Lucy’ when we have found more than 1 of everything else?”

Scientists have actually found at least nine specimens of Austrolopithecus afarensis (the species “Lucy” belongs to) in Eastern Africa. Also see Answer 12.

19. “Can you believe in ‘the big bang’ without ‘faith’?”

Yes, because there are multiple lines of evidence supporting the theory.

Astronomical observations show that galaxies are moving away from each other, and if we trace their paths backward, it looks as though the Universe was condensed into a single, very hot point billions of years ago. The ratios of hydrogen, helium and other elements throughout the Universe appear to match what we might expect if the Universe was once compressed into a tiny, very hot, very dense point. We haven’t found any stars that appear to be older than 13.8 billion years old. The cosmic background radiation permeating throughout the universe is at the temperature that one would expect from an expanding, cooling universe.

20. “How can you look at the world and not believe someone created / thought of it? It’s Amazing!!!”

Most scientists find evolution pretty amazing and beautiful! It’s exciting to think about how life in all its vast, varied beauty and terror, has changed over billions of years – and how it might change in future eons.

21. “Relating to the big bang theory… where did the exploding star come from?”

Barring the fact that the Big Bang isn’t quite the same thing as an exploding star—it’s massively hotter, for one thing, and stars explode in space, while the Big Bang created space itself and stretched it — a lot of scientists would like to know this too!

One theory, for example, is that the Big Bang was actually the interaction between two vast objects outside of our universe called “branes.” It’s an important question, and a difficult one to explore – but one of the great things about science is that you can always say “I don’t know”; another is to follow that up with “but I’ll try and find out.”

22. “If we come from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

Humans are not direct descendants of modern monkeys or apes; we both evolved from a common ancestor. Evolution isn’t a straight line from one organism to the next; it’s more like a great branching tree. This infographic, created by a Reddit user named SlipperyFish, has a good rundown:

I know that I have not already thanked you enough, but here is some more. Thank you Bill and Neil and all you serious scientist who waste the remaining days of your lives attempting to explain reality to creationists. But especially thank you for continuing to explain science to the rest of us who appreciate it.

Bye bye, Bachmann

It’s the nightmare of all editorial cartoonists.

Readers, I wish I could report that this is just a bad joke. In truth, it is not. Michele Bachmann will not run for re-election this year. The world weeps.

But wait. There’s still joy in Mudville. And there’s still Wolfe Blitzer. On Monday I had the joy of watching Blitzer interview Bachmann and Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders (I-VT). I could just reprint the transcript, but you can read that for yourself. Here’s the link.

Call me a left-wing radical liberal if you want, but I am the first to declare that during the interview Congresswoman Bachmann did make a number of statements reflecting a modicum of sanity. The fun is in the remainder. Here are some of the choice quotes that gave me such pleasure:

Well, we need to grow the middle class and what the middle class needs are jobs. That’s really the problem that the president has to explain. It’s tough to blame President Bush for the current economic woes. We have five years of Obama policies and what do we have? We have people who are really suffering because people made more money. If you look at the median income level, people actually made more money seven years ago than they’re making now.

I’m going to blow right past the part about “We have people who are really suffering because people made more money.” If any of my readers can make sense of that, will they please let me know.

Here’s the interesting part:  “If you look at the median income level, people actually made more money seven years ago than they’re making now.” Without running the numbers I’m going to spot Bachmann this one. Assume it’s true. Seven years ago was before the fall of the economy that started during the previous administration. The fall continued into President Obama’s administration, but has since been recovering. Median income is likely not up to what it was seven years ago, but Bachmann gives no inkling as to how this links to “Obama policies.” If Bachmann wanted to make sense she would note that the median income of this country’s automobile workers is much better than it would otherwise be because the current administration continued the government bailouts started during the Bush administration. But, if Bachmann made sense all the time there would be no fun watching her.

Well, let’s talk a little bit about tax rates. I’m a former federal litigation tax attorney. If there’s anything that’s been proven over time, Wolf, it’s this. When you lower the tax burden, that’s a cost of doing business, you create more jobs. That’s exactly what the piece that preceded our segment said. This woman, Ann, wants a job. And so, we have people all across United States who have an ability to start companies.

Again, Bachman makes an bald statement, like many she has made before, with no substantiation. Please allow me to quote myself:

Michele Bachmann spiked on the national scene back in 2010. On 3 November she told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper:

“The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day,” Bachmann said. “He’s taking 2,000 people with him.

He will be renting out over 870 rooms in India. And these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending. It’s a very small example, Anderson.

“And I think this is an example of the massive overspending that we have seen, not only just in the last two years, really in the last four. That’s what we saw at the ballot box last evening.”

As I noted then, these “facts,” pulled apparently from thin air, are typical Bachmann.

This was obviously an outlandish assertion, and it was outrageously false. It was not an original thought by Bachmann, but she picked it up, and in true presidential form she threw it out for public consumption without first verifying its reliability. This incident set the pattern for Bachman as she drifted toward and into a presidential candidacy last year.

The interview continued:

BACHMANN: No. Let me say something. It’s not only that. It’s also the fact that government is spending too much. The share that government has been spending — the question is, will people like Ann have money in her pocket to spend or will it be government’s big pocket that will be gulping our money? That’s a big problem.

SANDERS: The fact of the matter is that those countries around the world, which have virtually eliminated childhood poverty are those countries that have invested heavily in education.

BACHMANN: Now, where is that?

SANDERS: Excuse me.

BACHMANN: Which country has eliminated childhood poverty?

SANDERS: — Denmark virtually eliminated. We are at 22 percent. They are less than five percent. Those countries guarantee health care to all people as a right — and you know what, let me finish, please. And you know what, they spend about 50 percent per capita on health care than what we do. So, those countries that have strong — that’s not socialism.

(CROSSTALK)

BACHMANN: — like Norway, let me add. The reason why Norway has so much wealth is because they tap into the natural resource called energy. We could be energy independent in this country. Create millions of high-paying jobs if we only open up and legalize American energy production.

(CROSSTALK) BACHMANN: It totally matters. We’ve got huge natural resources. In fact, we’re the number one country in the world in energy resources and we say no to it.

SANDERS: Yes. But the fact of the matter is —

(CROSSTALK)

BACHMANN: People like Ann could have good, high paying jobs.

This is what I cherish about Bachmann. She has this uncanny ability to set her mouth in motion without engaging her brain. Note this:

Bachmann says we have poverty because the government is “gulping our money.” Sanders cites a counter example—Denmark, with five percent poverty while the U.S. is at 22 percent. The Denmark government spends 50 percent more to ensure health care than the United States does. Rather than address whether Sanders’ statement is factual, Bachmann switches the topic to Norway. Norway may or may not have a lower poverty rate, and it may or may not spend more on government funded health care, but Norway has oil. Suddenly the talk is not about poverty, it’s about exploiting America’s oil resources.

Viewers will also note Bachmann’s insatiable love for her own voice, as she continually interrupts Senator Sanders. I have pasted on a portion of the interview. You are invited to watch the video, which is here. If this ever disappears from the Internet, then you can get it from me. I made a disk.

As you can see, the world will be a dimmer and more silent place after Bachmann leaves office in about a year. We have to look forward to eleven more months of merriment, and then the light will go out forever. Could somebody, would something possibly persuade Bachmann to relent and run for office again this year? If not, then there is scant hope. Except that she might consider signing on as a commentator on CNN. Or even Fox News.

There still is a small problem with the continuing congressional investigation into Bachmann’s use of her campaign funds from the 2012 election.

In the complaint, Waldron alleges that the Bachmann campaign funneled money to C&M Strategies, a firm owned by Bachmann’s longtime direct-mail consultant, Guy Short, to pay Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson an illicit six-figure salary. According to the complaint, “The apparent reasons for the sleight of hand payments were possibly to avoid a violation of IA Senate Rule 6 that prohibits State Senators from working for Presidential Campaigns in Iowa and/or to avoid creditors, [including] the IRS, owed money by Senator Sorenson.” Waldron also accuses Short, who held the title of national political director in the Bachmann campaign, of violating Federal Election Commission rules by receiving money from the Minnesota congresswoman’s political action committee while serving as full-time staff on her campaign.

These are obviously outrageous and unfounded charges cooked up by left-leaning bureaucrats, and it is my fondest hope that Congresswoman Bachmann will be spared from the slammer and will continue to regale us with her imaginary facts and delightful fairy tales for years to come.

Skeptical Cartoon

Prasad Golla and I have done a number of skeptical cartoons. Some of them are funny. This one explores the matter of so-called miraculous visions. I wondered why visions of a face in a piece of toast or in a slice of tomato always turned out to be some famous, historical figure, even if that historical figure was fictional. This originally appeared in The North Texas Skeptic:

Quick History Lesson

Facebook again. Somebody posted this on their Facebook feed. It’s supposed to be a history lesson. In fact, it’s title is “Quick History Lesson.” It is quick. Here’s what it says:

13 th Amendment: Abolished Slavery
100% Republican Support
23% Democrat Support
14th Amendment:
Gave Citizenship to Freed Slaves
94% Republican Support
0% Democrat Support
15th Amendment: Right to Vote for All
100% Republican Support
0% Democrat Support
OBAMACARE:
0% Republican Support
86% Democrat Support

The name of this blog is Skeptical Analysis, so let’s do some analysis.

1. The statements regarding the 13th Amendment are correct.

On January 31, 1865, the House called another vote on the amendment, with neither side being certain of the outcome. Every Republican supported the measure, as well as 16 Democrats, almost all of them lame ducks. The amendment finally passed by a vote of 119 to 56, narrowly reaching the required two-thirds majority.

2. The statements regarding the 14th Amendment are essentially correct.

Over 70 proposals for an amendment were drafted. In late 1865, the Joint Committee on Reconstruction proposed an amendment stating that any citizens barred from voting on the basis of race by a state would not be counted for purposes of representation of that state. This amendment passed the House, but was blocked in the Senate by a coalition of Radical Republicans led by Charles Sumner, who believed the proposal a “compromise with wrong”, and Democrats opposed to black rights. Consideration then turned to a proposed amendment by Representative John A. Bingham of Ohio, which would enable Congress to safeguard “equal protection of life, liberty, and property” of all citizens; this proposal failed to pass the House. In April 1866, the Joint Committee forwarded a third proposal to Congress, a carefully negotiated compromise that combined elements of the first and second proposals as well as addressing the issues of Confederate debt and voting by ex-Confederates. The wording was further modified by several close votes in the House and Senate. This compromise version passed both houses in a largely party-line vote, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposed.

3. The statements regarding the 15th Amendment are essentially correct.

The vote in the House was 144 to 44, with 35 not voting. The House vote was almost entirely along party lines, with no Democrats supporting the bill and only 3 Republicans voting against it. The final vote in the Senate was 39 to 13, with 14 not voting. Some Radicals, such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, abstained from voting because the amendment did not prohibit literacy tests and poll taxes.

4. The statements regarding Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) are essentially correct. No references will be cited.

What the posted meme wants to say is that in the cases of the three constitutional amendments granting freedom to slaves plus other protections for civil liberties, the Republican Party supported these laudable measures and the Democratic Party opposed them. In the case of the ACC, a law enacted to assure affordable health insurance to all legal residents of the United States, the Republican Party unanimously opposed the measure, while the Democratic Party largely supported it. That’s what it says.

There’s something else said here that was supposed to remain hidden. A bit of analysis reveals the trick is in the language. In the instance of the three constitutional amendments, the language uses party names, but does not identify the people involved. I will make a slight change in language without changing any of the facts:

  1. Liberals supported abolition of slavery. Conservatives opposed abolition of slavery.
  2. Liberals supported giving citizenship to freed slaves. Conservatives opposed giving citizenship to freed slaves.
  3. Liberals supported the right to vote for all. Conservatives opposed the right to vote for all.
  4. Liberals supported making affordable health insurance available to all. Conservatives opposed making affordable health insurance available to all.

What has largely changed since the passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the constitution is the character of the political parties. When those amendments were passed the Republican Party, whose first president was Abraham Lincoln, was a progressive movement, while the Democratic party represented the entrenched, conservative, element of our society. Since the time of President Franklin D. Roosevelt the Democratic Party has come to represent the progressive and liberal segment, and conservatives, many of them former members of the Democratic Party, have fled to the Republican Party. The roles in the past 150 years have reversed.

As mentioned, I obtained the “Quick History Lesson” meme from a Facebook posting. What makes this all so ironic is that it was posted by a person espousing conservative (Republican) ideals. I have no idea what thinking went into the Facebook posting. Was the poster not fully aware of the actual history and its implications? Did the person deliberately set out to deceive? What audience would gladly accept the message that was supposed to be conveyed and not appreciate the underlying facts? We may never know.

A few days back I posted on another meme with a similar thought.

This was originally posted by the same person who posted the first one, and my response was much the same:

The story line is accurate as far as it goes. Historically in the 1850s the major political party in the United States was the Democratic Party, founded just a few years previous by Andrew Jackson, no friend of racial equality, but he got his picture on the $20 bill. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 by people seeking to abolish slavery. The Democratic Party at the time and for the next 100 years opposed the abolition of slavery in the beginning and equal rights for former slaves and descendants of slaves following that. The Democratic Party’s base during the first half of the 20th century was the American Deep South—the region of the former Confederacy.

That was a “Short History Lesson.” Here is a not-so-short history lesson:

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. It would appear this measure had considerable liberal support and not much in the way of conservative support:

The Nineteenth Amendment’s text was drafted by Susan B. Anthony with the assistance of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The proposed amendment was first introduced in the Senate, colloquially as the “Anthony Amendment”, by Republican Senator Aaron A. Sargent of California. Sargent, who had met and befriended Anthony on a train ride in 1872, was a dedicated women’s suffrage advocate. He had frequently attempted to insert women’s suffrage provisions into unrelated bills, but did not formally introduce a constitutional amendment until January 1878. Stanton and other women testified before the Senate in support of the amendment. The proposal sat in a committee until it was considered by the full Senate and rejected in a 16 to 34 vote in 1887.

A three-decade period known as “the doldrums” followed, during which the amendment was not considered by Congress and the women’s suffrage movement achieved few victories. During this period, the suffragists pressed for the right to vote in the laws of individual states and territories while retaining the goal of federal recognition. A flurry of activity began in 1910 and 1911 with surprise successes in Washington and California. Over the next few years, most western states passed legislation or voter referenda enacting full or partial suffrage for women. These successes were linked to the 1912 election, which saw the rise of the Progressive and Socialist parties, as well as the election of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. Not until 1914 was the constitutional amendment again considered by the Senate, where it was again rejected.

On January 12, 1915, a proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for women’s suffrage was brought before the House of Representatives, but was defeated by a vote of 204 to 174. Another proposal was brought before the House on January 10, 1918. During the previous evening, President Wilson made a strong and widely published appeal to the House to pass the amendment. It was passed by the required two-thirds of the House, with only one vote to spare. The vote was then carried into the Senate. Wilson again made an appeal, but on September 30, 1918, the proposal fell two votes short of passage. On February 10, 1919, it was again voted upon and failed by only one vote.

Not mentioned in the foregoing is the support for women’s suffrage by William Jennings Bryan, three-time Democratic Party candidate for president. Wilson and Bryan were noted “progressives,” and their support for liberal causes represented a break from the traditional conservative Democratic Party base at the time.

Also, it would appear the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had considerable liberal support and not much conservative support.

On April 22, the full Senate started debating the bill. [Senator Everett] Dirksen [of Illinois] spoke first on behalf of the bill, concluding by saying that “legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the 15th Amendment … is to be enforced and made effective, and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly meaningful.” Senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC) retorted that the bill would lead to “tyranny and despotism”, while Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) argued that the bill was unconstitutional because it deprived states of their right under Article 1, Section III of the Constitution to establish voting qualifications, and because the bill targeted only jurisdictions that used literacy tests. On May 6, Ervin offered an amendment to abolish the coverage formula’s automatic trigger and instead allow federal judges to appoint examiners. This amendment overwhelmingly failed, with 45 Democrats and 22 Republicans voting against it. After lengthy debate, Ted Kennedy’s amendment to prohibit poll taxes also failed 49-45. However, Dirksen and Mansfield agreed to include a provision authorizing the Attorney General to bring lawsuits against any jurisdiction, covered or non-covered, to enjoin the enforcement of poll taxes that imposed “unreasonable financial hardship” or had “the purpose or effect of denying the right to vote on account of race or color.” and a separate provision declaring that the poll taxes was being used in some jurisdictions to unconstitutionally discriminate. An amendment offered by Senator Robert Kennedy (D-NY) to grant the right to vote illiterate citizens who had achieved at least an 8th grade education in a non-English-speaking school also passed by 48-19. Southern legislators then offered a series of amendments to weaken the bill, all of which failed.

Some elaboration will be helpful:

Strom Thurmond is one of those Democrats who deserted the Party when it started becoming too liberal in 1964.

James Strom Thurmond (December 5, 1902 – June 26, 2003) was an American politician who served for 48 years as a United States Senator. He ran for president in 1948 as the States Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat) candidate, receiving 2.4% of the popular vote and 39 electoral votes. Thurmond represented South Carolina in the United States Senate from 1954 until 2003, at first as a Democrat and, after 1964, as a Republican. He switched because of his opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, disaffection with the liberalism of the national party, and his support for the conservatism and opposition to the Civil Rights bill of the Republican presidential candidate Senator Barry Goldwater. He left office as the only senator to reach the age of 100 while still in office and as the oldest-serving and longest-serving senator in U.S. history (although he was later surpassed in length of service by Robert Byrd and Daniel Inouye). Thurmond holds the record at 14 years as the longest-serving Dean of the United States Senate in U.S. history.

A Democratic (not all that liberal) president ended racial discrimination in the United States Military services. More recently, liberals, principally of the Democratic Party, have championed laws forbidding hiring discrimination against homosexuals. A liberal Democratic president has ordered a halt to anti-homosexual bias in the military services. These have been liberal initiatives with little or no support from the conservative faction.

I state without further elaboration that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and similar civil rights legislation would not exist today if the conservatives presently representing the Tea Party coalition had their way.

Please view again the “Charlie Brown” cartoon posted above. Before being posted by my conservative Facebook friend it appeared on the Comical Conservative Facebook Facebook feed. My Facebook friend merely copied the cartoon from there and re-posted it on Facebook. It’s supposed to show that the Republican Party is being unfairly called racist by one of the cartoon characters. The other, the Charlie Brown character, refutes this by citing the Republican Party’s past support for civil rights and the Democratic Party’s support for Jim Crow laws and the KKK and its opposition to civil rights. Aside from the lack of relevance (which I have addressed), there is something else notable:

It is not a white kid standing there calling the Republican Party racist. It’s a black kid. Why did the cartoonist see fit to draw a black kid calling the Republican’s racist? The choice was not an accident. It represents a lingering mindset of America’s conservative cellar.

Not Far From The Tree

Everybody knows I’m a great fan of Texas senator Ted Cruz. It’s not that I agree with his politics or his thinking, it’s just that he makes really great copy and keeps me in material for this blog when the well runs a little dry. Such as today.

This meme was not created by some Facebook wonk, but is the work of cartoonist Clay Bennett of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. It invokes the theme of the Gadsden Flag from the Revolutionary War. The original showed a coiled rattlesnake, as does this cartoon, only the caption on the original flag was “Don’t Tread On Me.” In modern times we might say instead, “Don’t mess with me, Bro.”

The Tea Party movement also invokes a theme from the time of the Revolutionary War, the Boston Tea Party incident, and the name is meant to call up a supposed lost sense of patriotism and thirst for liberty. The cartoon speaks to how the modern Tea Party movement has blighted this once-proud symbol. In the past few weeks the Tea Party has acquired the ridicule not only of its principle opposition, the Democratic Party and America’s liberal faction, but also of its own foster parent, the Republican Party. And the principal author of this ridicule has been none other than our own Senator Ted Cruz from Texas.

However, this post is not about Senator Cruz. The topic today is Rafael Cruz, the father of the Texas senator.

Cruz senior is not a public figure in that he does not hold public office. He is however, the pastor of a Dallas-area church, and he has often spoken in behalf of the Senator in matters political. The Dallas Morning News reports on a story from Mother Jones.

Rafael Cruz, senator’s dad: send Obama “back to Kenya”

By Todd J. Gillman 10:06 am on October 31, 2013

WASHINGTON — Rafael Cruz, a Dallas-area pastor whose son was born in Canada and may run for president, apparently is a birther when it comes to President Barack Obama.

In September 2012, stumping for Ted Cruz’s Senate campaign, the elder Cruz spoke of sending Obama “back to Kenya.” That’s the land of birth for Obama’s father, though by every authoritative account, the 44th president was born in Hawaii, making him American two ways — by birth on American soil, and because his mother was a natural-born American from Kansas.

Ted Cruz’s own claim to eligibility is slightly more complicated.

Like Obama, he had one American citizen parent at the time of his birth (dad was still a Cuban citizen at the time) but unlike Obama, it’s unquestioned that he was actually born outside the United States.

That makes Rafael Cruz’s comments somewhat cheeky.

It’s also an indication of where Senator Cruz gets a lot of his crazy ideas—apparently not far from the tree.

What Really Sucks

Slow day today. Here is some comment.

So, Barbara Jean and I were driving up to Pflugerville for movie night on Friday, and the traffic on Loop 1604 was bogged down for miles while a crew made some adjustments to a guardrail. Then we got to the I-35 junction, and the exit north was blocked because the Highway Department is in the process of reworking the intersection with new ramps and overpasses. Barbara was fed up with it all and commented, “This just sucks.”

I thought about this for about a second and decided maybe not quite. I responded, “No, this is not what sucks. What sucks is a mushroom cloud on the horizon and people running out on fire. That’s what sucks.”

And I though of one of my favorite Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson. What he shows here is that what sucks is really a matter of personal perspective.

Copyright Universal Press Syndicate

I left my heart in San Francisco

So I was on this flight to San Francisco, and there was this guy on the flight. I had seen him before back at the departure lounge, but I never gave him any notice. Until he started raising a ruckus.

“I don’t want to go to San Francisco!” he was shouting.

So, the captain came back to talk to this guy. “This flight is going to San Francisco. You need to take your seat. We’ll settle your problem after we get to San Francisco,” he told the jerk.

The jerk would not be consoled. “I don’t want to go to San Francisco. If you persist on flying this plane to San Francisco, I’m going to put it on the ground.”

Of course, this really alarmed the crew. A couple of stewardesses got into the act. “Sir, where is it you want to go if you don’t want to go to San Francisco?” one of the stewardesses asked.

“I want to go to Des Moines,” he told her.

“Sir,” replied the stewardess, “If you wanted to go to Des Moines, why didn’t you buy a ticket to Des Moines?”

“Because there were no flights to Des Moines. I had to buy a ticket to San Francisco.”

“Well, it looks like you’re going to San Francisco whether you like it or not,” the stewardess told the jerk.

“No way,” the man persisted. “I will put this plane on the ground is you persist on flying it to San Francisco.”

It was an awful nightmare. In fact, just then I woke up. I was glad it was only a bad dream. I had gone to sleep on the couch watching the news, which was still on. The Republicans in Congress were insisting on de-funding the Affordable Care Act or else they were going to shut down the government.

Cartoon previously posted on Facebook

Area 51, where you?

The lyrics are showing some years.

There’s somethin’ happenin’ here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Tellin’ me, I got to beware

We even did a cartoon a few years back.

Galactic Destinations

Woe be unto us, but it turns out that Area 51 is not a myth.

Area 51 officially acknowledged, mapped in newly released documents

(CNN) — Area 51 has long been a topic of fascination for conspiracy theorists and paranormal enthusiasts, but newly released CIA documents officially acknowledge the site and suggest that the area served a far less remarkable purpose than many had supposed.

According to these reports, which include a map of the base’s location in Nevada, Area 51 was merely a testing site for the government’s U-2 and OXCART aerial surveillance programs. The U-2 program conducted surveillance around the world, including over the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Area 51, about 125 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is synonymous in popular culture with government secrecy, and many have theorized that it holds the answer to one of the greatest questions plaguing mankind: Are we really alone in the universe?

Call me a skeptic if you want, but when the CIA tells me something, then I will believe it. It’s even been located on the map.

Found you, Area 51

Well shuck my corn and call me witless. Next they’re going to be telling me that Bigfoot is alive and well and running for president in 2016.