The Comics Code: Tyranny Based on Lies?

New findings shows the research that lauched the War on Comics and the Comics Code was based on omissions, fabrications, and outright lies. That’s right, Dr. Fredric Wertham was the comics equivalent of Mike Bellesiles. We like to think of scientists and academics as impartial experts, who are only concerned with knowledge. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s more on the faulty foundations for the Comics Code by Dusty Rhodes at the University of Illinois:

Behavioral problems among teenagers and preteens can be blamed on the violence, sex and gore portrayed in the media marketed to them – that was the topic of televised public hearings held by the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954 to address the scourge of comic books. The hearings, which resulted in the decimation of what was an enormous comic book industry, had been inspired in large part by the book “Seduction of the Innocent,” by psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, based on his own case studies.

Wertham’s personal archives, however, show that the doctor revised children’s ages, distorted their quotes, omitted other causal factors and in general “played fast and loose with the data he gathered on comics,” according to an article by Carol Tilley, published in a recent issue of Information and Culture: A Journal of History.

“Lots of people have suspected for years that Wertham fudged his so-called clinical evidence in arguing against comics, but there’s been no proof,” Tilley said. “My research is the first definitive indication that he misrepresented and altered children’s own words about comics.”

(See the rest at the University of Illinois)

What did Nathan Hale Really Say?

Nathan Hale, the famous American spy from the Revolutionary War, is famous for saying, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” There’s just one problem. He never said it. So, what did he really say? The answer is below, courtesy of an interview with Becky Akers conducted by American Revolution and Founding Era:

“What lessons can Americans today take from someone like Nathan Hale?”

That liberty is among God’s greatest gifts to us, more precious even than life.

Many folks mistake Nathan’s sacrifice for nationalism – the “my-country,-right-or-wrong” mentality. And while that’s tragic, it’s understandable, given the warped version of his speech on the gallows bequeathed to us. That famous line – “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country” – actually originated with Capt. (later Gen.) William Hull, one of Nathan’s buddies from college. He heard an account of the execution from an eyewitness, which he included in his memoirs as an old man. And then he paraphrased – inaccurately – the quote from a report on Nathan’s death the Boston Chronicle published just six years after the hanging: “I am so satisfied with the cause in which I have engaged, that my only regret is that I have not more lives than one to offer in its service.” Obviously, Hull’s condensation packs a greater punch, but it also changes “cause [of liberty]” to “country” – an unfortunate and nationalistic rewrite.

(See the rest at American Revolution and Founding Era)

Protolanguages: Decoding Words from the Past?

Protolanguages are hypothetical ancestors of modern languages. For example, modern Maya, as well as other ancient Mesoamerican scripts (Olmec, Zapotec, Classic Maya to name a few) are believed to have descended from an original language called Proto-Mayan (see chart). Needless to say, decoding protolanguages is a massive undertaking. Here’s more on a new computer system which appears to do the job quickly and with decent accuracy from the University of British Columbia:

University of British Columbia and Berkeley researchers have used a sophisticated new computer system to quickly reconstruct protolanguages – the rudimentary ancient tongues from which modern languages evolved.

The results, which are 85 per cent accurate when compared to the painstaking manual reconstructions performed by linguists, will be published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We’re hopeful our tool will revolutionize historical linguistics much the same way that statistical analysis and computer power revolutionized the study of evolutionary biology,” says UBC Assistant Prof. of Statistics Alexandre Bouchard-Côté, lead author of the study…

(See the rest at University of British Columbia)

The Drones are Coming

The drones are coming and not just by air either. In the next few years, an explosion of drones is expected to invade the U.S. by air, by water, and even underground. Here’s more from Robert Beckhusen at Wired.com:

It’s been 10 years since the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started up operations. During that decade, DHS has moved to the forefront of funding and deploying the robots and drones that could be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

DHS funds research and development for surveillance robots. It provides grant money by the hundreds of thousands to police agencies to buy their own. And sometimes it’s bought and deployed robots — for their skies, the ground and the waters — of its own, usually concentrated along the border. It’s not clear how many of those robots police operate, and law enforcement isn’t by any means the only domestic market for the ‘bots. But the trend lines point toward more robotic spy tools for law enforcement in more places — with more DHS cash.

But it’s not going to be simple. The Federal Aviation Administration is cautious about opening the skies to unmanned vehicles — so much so that Congress and the Obama administration ordered it to ease up on restrictions by 2015. But not all spy robots fly. DHS is also developing robots that resemble fish, and deploys tunnel-bots deep into drug-smuggling tunnels along the border…

(See the rest at Wired.com)

Does America need the Constitution?

No, according to Louis Michael Seidman. He wants to keep the government but toss the Constitution, arguing that it was written by a very specific set of people from a very different time period. So, rather than debate the merits of an issue, we debate what people who died a long time ago would’ve thought about it. He also makes the very good point that we shouldn’t depend on the Constitution to secure our natural rights like freedom of speech.

The issue with the U.S. Constitution (and really any written document) is that it can be tortured to mean just about anything. And since government has a natural tendency to grab power, politicians can easily interpret the Constitution in order to do so (case examples: the Commerce and the Necessary and Proper Clauses).

As a restraint on government, the Constitution has proven remarkably ineffective. Then again, it’s not clear to me that a U.S. government without the Constitution would be much better. Here’s more from an interview with Seidman, conducted by Amy Crawford at Smithsonian Magazine:

What would we gain by giving up constitutional obligations?

It would improve deliberation and rhetoric about issues that divide us—gun control, for example. Now, to the horror of most of my friends, I am actually quite skeptical about gun control. But that’s a subject on which reasonable people can disagree. But what happens when you start thinking about constitutional obligations? All of the sudden the argument is not, “How are you going to enforce this? Would it actually prevent violence? Would it cause more violence?” The argument is about, “What exactly did the word ‘militia’ mean 200 years ago? What is the relationship between the ‘bear arms’ clause in the English Bill of Rights and the American Bill of Rights?”

Those are questions that historians ought to have some interest in, but they’re completely irrelevant to the issue of gun control in 21st century America. Without enlightening us, arguments of constitutionalism unnecessarily divide us. Now, all of the sudden, instead of talking about a policy decision that reasonable people could disagree about, we’re talking about whether one’s opponent is really an American, whether they are violating the document that defines us and creates us as a nation.

(See the rest at Smithsonian Magazine:

Calvin Coolidge: Did he save the U.S. Economy?

Amity Shlaes is out with her latest book, Coolidge, a new take on the controversial presidency of Calvin Coolidge. Conservatives love Silent Cal, giving him full credit for the Roaring Twenties. Liberals hate him, believing his free market policies caused the Great Depression. Shlaes falls firmly in the former camp. Personally, I think he’s partly responsible for both. That’s because the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression were caused by the same thing…rapid expansion of the money supply.

From mid-1921 to mid-1929, the money supply grew 61.8%, with much of that coming during Coolidge’s terms in office. All that money fueled a boom as businesses raced to invest it (aka the Roaring 20s). Eventually, too much money chased too few worthy investments. Poor businesses failed. The economy crashed and the money supply contracted. The Federal Reserve, just like today, mistakenly tried to reinflate the bubble in 1932 only to find itself unable to do so.

Still, Coolidge wasn’t a bad president. He cut the national debt and reduced tax rates. He avoided wars in Latin America. For more on Calvin Coolidge, see this interview with Amity Shlaes conducted by Ed Driscoll at PJ Media:

MR. DRISCOLL:  The Forgotten Man helped to place FDR into context by focusing on many personal histories of the 1930s, beyond the palace intrigue of Capitol Hill. These days, whatever collective history we have of the 1920s seems to come from The Great Gatsby, The Untouchables,and TV shows like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  How badly do people today misremember the decade of the 1920s ?

MS. SHLAES:  We really misremember it and then you want to ask why.  So Forgotten Man was about the misremembering of the 1930s.  Coolidge is about the misremembering of the 1920s.

So the cliches you describe, and they’re fun and amusing, are that it was all a lie or about guns and alcohol, something illegal and contraband, corruption resulting from prohibition.  Or it was all a lie; Gatsby wasn’t real wealth.  He was an illusion.  He was a shimmer in a champagne glass.  Right?

So when you go back and look at the ’20s — this is the era of Coolidge, you see a lot of real growth.  Things we would envy, we wish we could have, such as employment was often below five percent.  When you wanted a job you got one.  Wages rose in real terms.  Not a lot but consistently.  You can go back and look at that, even for unskilled workers.  Well, what else — interest rates were pretty low.  The budget was in surplus.  We didn’t have a deficit.  The federal debt was huge from World War I.  We were bringing it down reliably…

(See the rest at PJ Media)

Unschooling: The Truth about College?

Confession: In my youth, I considered school a massive waste of time. As an adult, I feel exactly the same way. School didn’t prepare me for the real world. If anything, it dulled my creativity, tempered my love for learning, and caused me to hide the most interesting parts of myself in order to avoid being an outcast. Hence, I find the idea of unschooling, or encouraging kids to learn through natural interaction with the world, quite interesting.

Americans love their schools however. Out of 56 million kids, just 1.5 million are educated outside of a traditional school. And the vast majority of those kids are homeschooled using the same curriculum and textbooks. It’s believed just 100,000 kids are unschooled.

It’s good to see people starting to challenge the education system, even if it’s just at the college level. For many people (perhaps all people), college is an enormous waste of time and money. Now, we just need a little more attention paid to unschooling. Here’s more from John Tamny at Forbes:

Whether the ambition is to become an investment banker or a Starbucks barista, the dirty little secret is that nothing learned during the four (or five) fun-filled years on idyllic campuses has anything to do with either form of employment. That four years of English Lit or finance courses wouldn’t be required to work behind the counter at Grumpy’s is obvious, but it’s also the case that what’s learned in those finance classes is not necessary if your desire is to thrive at Goldman Sachs either.

To believe otherwise is to believe that someone (the college professor) who for the most part lacks any background in the real-world application of finance could transfer skills to those who desire that real-world knowledge. Lots of luck there. If Wall Street is your goal, major in whatever interests you. Ultimately the top financial firms are looking for “good athletes”; as in people who are smart and who work hard. Anything you need to know you’ll learn on the job.

(See the rest at Forbes)

Police State: Why are Feds Stockpiling Ammo?

While the U.S. government works to disarm its citizens, bureaucrats are stockpiling ammo. Lots and lots of ammo. But no worries. You can trust the police state. Here’s more from Andrew Malcolm at Investors.com:

In a puzzling, unexplained development, the Obama administration has been buying and storing vast amounts of ammunition in recent months, with the Department of Homeland Security just placing another order for an additional 21.6 million rounds…

…DHS has been silent about its need for numerous orders of bullets in the multiple millions. Indeed, Examiner writer Ryan Keller points out Janet Napolitano’s agency illegally redacted information from some ammunition solicitation forms following media inquiries.

According to one estimate, just since last spring DHS has stockpiled more than 1.6 billion bullets, mainly .40 caliber and 9mm. That’s sufficient firepower to shoot every American about five times. Including illegal immigrants. To provide some perspective, experts estimate that at the peak of the Iraq war American troops were firing around 5.5 million rounds per month. At that rate, DHS is armed now for a 24-year Iraq war.

(See the rest at Investors.com)

The Comics Code & the War on Comics?

In the early 1950s, a wave of hysteria raced through America. Comic books, according to the psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, were turning kids into monsters. The media, as reactionary then as it is today, demanded a Congressional investigation to (what else?) protect the children. Faced with government regulation, the comics industry created the Comics Code, which essentially ended horror comics and led to hundreds of people losing their jobs.

Today the War on Comics seems ridiculous. I wonder what future generations will think about the modern wars on obesity, drugs, etc.  Here’s more on the Comics Code and the War on Comics from The Christian Science Monitor:

In his 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451,” named after the temperature at which paper catches on fire, Ray Bradbury painted a picture of a society beset by book-burning. In his vision, the censors didn’t bother to throw comic books on the pyre because they just weren’t worth worrying about.

Not so in mid-century America. For more than a decade, countless parents and teenagers made bonfires of comic books, reducing everyone from Captain Marvel to Archie to ashes.

It wasn’t so much Superman & Co. that drove the book-burnings, although even the Man of Steel had his critics. Instead, psychiatrists, politicians, and editorial writers feared the most extreme comic books – filled with crooks, monsters, and voluptuous women – would drive innocent children into the clutches of juvenile delinquency.

(See the rest at The Christian Science Monitor)

Nine Men’s Morris – A Game for the Blizzard?

The snow is falling fast in New England and could reach two feet in depth by tomorrow. Power outages are a near certainty. For those of you looking for a way to pass the time, why not try your hand at an old board game, namely Nine Men’s Morris? Nine Men’s Morris is a strategy game that dates back to the Roman Empire. It became popular in England and eventually made its way over to the New World. It remained popular in America through the Civil War.

The Rules for Nine Men’s Morris

You need pencil and paper to draw the board (see image). For playing pieces, use checkers (9 for each side). The goal of Nine Men’s Morris is to leave your opponent with just two pieces or block him from being able to make a legal move. The game has three phases: 1) Place checkers in open positions; 2) Move checkers to adjacent positions; and 3) Move checkers to any vacant position (this is only done when a player is down to just three pieces). Here are some more specific rules from Wikipedia:

Phase one: placing pieces

The game begins with an empty board. The players determine who plays first, then take turns placing their men one per play on empty points. If a player is able to place three of his pieces in a straight line, vertically or horizontally, he has formed a mill and may remove one of his opponent’s pieces from the board and the game. Any piece can be chosen for the removal, but a piece not in an opponent’s mill must be selected, if possible. Once all pieces have been placed, phase two begins.

Phase two: moving pieces

Players continue to alternate moves, this time moving a man to an adjacent point. A piece may not “jump” another piece. Players continue to try and form mills, and remove their opponent’s pieces in the same manner as in phase one. A player may “break” a mill by moving one of his pieces out of an existing mill, then moving the piece back to form the same mill a second time, or any number of times; and each time removing one of his opponent’s men. The act of removing an opponent’s man is sometimes called “pounding” the opponent. When one player has been reduced to three men, phase three begins.

Phase three: “flying”

When a player is reduced to three pieces, there is no longer a limitation of moving to only adjacent points: The player’s men may “fly”, “hop”, or “jump” from any point to any vacant point…

For more on Nine Men’s Morris, check out Wikipedia. Good luck to everyone in the path of the storm!