Sunday, April 30, 2006

Happy Fuehrertodestag*
Sixty one years ago today, at about three-thirty in the afternoon of Monday, April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler and his wife of less than two days, Eva Braun, committed suicide in Hitler's private suite in the Fuehrerbunker. A half hour later the other inhabitants of the bunker entered the suite to check if Hitler was really dead. While his doctor checked the two bodies, Hitler's valet tidied up a spill made when Eva knocked over a vase full of cut flowers in her death throes.

The group wrapped the two bodies in wool blankets and carried them up to the Chancellery courtyard for disposal. On the way out, the group was met by Hitler's chauffeur, Erich Kempka, who was returning from a scavenging expedition to find enough gas to cremate the bodies. He had been able to find something less than 200 liters, which was more than enough for the task. The group placed the bodies in a ditch, drenched them in gas, and, after a few false starts, set them on fire.

This private cremation was in accordance with Hitler's last wishes. He had left explicit instructions that his body be completely destroyed and that the only witnesses be his innermost, trusted circle of associates. They failed him on both accounts. The private ceremony, conducted under artillery fire from the Russian army only a few blocks away, was witnessed by at least two German soldiers on patrol in the Chancellery buildings that surrounded the courtyard. Although the fire burned for nearly eight hours, with no one to tend it, it failed to completely destroy the bodies. It's very difficult to rapidly destroy a body.

We can only speculate about Hitler's motives in ordering his body to be disposed of in such a manner. While he may have been concerned about denying his enemies--especially Stalin--a ghoulish trophy, his main objective was probably pure mischief. He wanted to leave his enemies in confusion, fearing his return, each suspecting the other of knowing more than they were telling. In this, he was a tremendous success.

Hitler had already been close to invisible for nine months when the siege of Berlin began. He had ceased to make public appearances or announce his movements after the July 1944 assassination attempt. Western newspapers had speculated all winter whether or not he was still alive. As the siege of Berlin began, Goebbels had announced that the Fuehrer was still in the city leading the defense against the advancing Bolshevik hordes. Although this was true, the Western press had good reason to distrust anything that came from Goebbels. Although his announcement was printed in Western newspapers, so were rumors of assassinations, insanity, and terminal disease for the Fuehrer.

Five days before his suicide, Pravda began suggesting that Hitler was not in the city, but had escaped to Bavaria to make a last stand in the mountains and may have left a double to die in his place.** This was an act of insurance on the part of the Soviets. If Hitler had never been in the city, they were in the clear for not capturing him and it was the fault of the western Allies for not catching him since they told us where to find him. If he escaped, it was our responsibility to close the gap as they chased him toward us. The announcement may also have reflected an element of jealousy on the part of Stalin who did not want his generals to appear too heroic and challenging to his own popularity.

As it was, Hitler was still in the city and alive until afternoon of April 30. His political will divided his powers between three of his associates. Admiral Karl Doenitz was appointed President of the Reich and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Joseph Goebbels became Chancellor, and Martin Bormann became the head of the Nazi Party. According to the German constitution, the President should have been elected and he should have named the Chancellor. The lack of better known names like Goering and Himmler, is explained by some last minute back-stabbing by Bormann, who used his presense at the bunker to eliminate rivals for influence. Goebbels was also at the bunker and managed to protect his own position. After setting fire to the bodies the Hitlers, Goebbels telegraphed Admiral Doenitz to inform him of his new position.

Around midnight, as the cremation fires were dying, General Hans Krebs left the bunker and began crawling through the rubble of the city toward the Russian army headquarters. The trip of a few blocks took hours and it was almost sunrise when he arrived and escorted into the presence of General Vasily Chuikov. Krebs described the events of the previous day and said he was authorized by Chancellor Goebbels to negotiate a cease-fire. Chuikov had an aide get on the phone with the head of the Soviet army, Marshall Grigory Zhukov, and Zhukov had an aide get on the phone with Stalin. This means Stalin definitely had news of Hitler's death on the morning of May 1.

The Russians refused Krebs' cease-fire offer and escorted him back to the bunker around noon. After reporting, Krebs and two other army officers proceeded to get roaring drunk, sing American sea shanties, and kill themselves. After dinner, Magda Goebbels, the wife of the new Chancellor, poisoned six of her children. Then she and her husband dressed as if stepping out for the evening, climbed up to the courtyard, and killed themselves.

At 9:40 that evening, Admiral Doenitz--now President Doenitz--addressed the German people from a Hamburg radio station. In introducing the new president, the announcer said, "It is reported from the Fuehrer's headquarters that our Fuehrer, Adolph Hitler, fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism, fell for Germany this afternoon in his operational command post at the Reich Chancellery." There are at least three lies in that sentence. Hitler died he day before, not that afternoon. Hitler did not die in battle. There was no fighting at the Chancellery that day because the main thrust of the Soviet forces that day was the Reichstag complex a few blocks north (a battle that climaxed with a flag-raising image that is the Soviet's equivalent to our Iwo Jima photograph).

The remaining inhabitants of the bunker, including Martin Bormann, divided into two groups and made a break for freedom at around midnight. Most were killed or captured by the Russians in the attempt.

The last person in the bunker was Johannes Hentschel, a lowly mechanic who had dutifully kept the ventilation, electricity, and water running during the previous dramatic days. At one point, he had climbed up to the Chancellery greenhouse and gathered up enough garden hoses to run a water line from the bunker's private well to an army field hospital that had been set up in offices on the far side of the Chancellery building. By keeping the water running he may have saved the lives of over three hundred wounded soldiers. Now, he stayed on to watch his machinery. Towards dawn, he returned to the ruins of the greenhouse and cut several bouquets of tulips and lilacs, which he placed around the bunker to freshen the stale air. He fixed a large breakfast and did the dishes. With his duties complete, he waited for the Russians to arrive.

Mechanic Hentschel didn't have long to wait. While making his rounds at a few minutes after nine on the morning of May 2, he heard foreign voices in the upper bunker and prepared to surrender. The first Russians into the bunker were a group of women medical officers on a looting expedition. They had no interest in prisoners and left Hentschel in the hallway while they went into the inner bunker to dig through Eva Braun's closets. A few minutes later, two commissars with drawn pistols arrived. Hentschel prepared to surrender again, and could easily have been shot on the spot, except for the fact that the doctors chose that moment to rush up the stairs, giggling and waving Eva's frilly underwear over their heads. The commissars listened to Hentschel's story of the Fuehrer's end. Another, larger, group of officers had arrived by now and had discovered the liquor supply. They handed Hentschel a mug of champagne and toasted the end of the war. Other arriving groups insisted on Hentschel repeating his story and giving tours of the bunker, but they let him take a short nap before sending him off as a POW.

Hentschel was already gone when the first team arrived in the afternoon to hunt for Hitler's body. This team recovered the Goebbels' bodies and left. A second team found a bloated body in a water tank that had correct moustache and immediately declared it to be Hitler. The next day, a private found the charred bodies of a man, woman and two dogs hastily buried in a shell crater in the garden. This fact was duly noted by the inspectors, but it was two more days before they combined that fact with the stories of Hentschel and Krebs and thought to examine them. The following week, the Soviet inspectors located a dental assistant who had worked on Hitler's teeth the previous winter. Showing her a cigar box full of jaw fragments, she correctly identified both Hitler and Braun.

By mid-May the Soviets had eyewitness accounts of Hitler's death, the physical remains of his body, and a positive identification of those remains. They should have been able to make a positive announcement that the monster was dead, thanks to the work of the Soviet army who backed him into a corner from which he could not escape. They didn't do that. The Soviet news agencies were would remain contactory and unhelpful for weeks after the fall of Berlin. Because they controlled the actual site and had captured most of the surviving witnesses, the Western news media were in no better shape after Hitler's death than before. They had only rumor and speculation to give their readers. The Atlanta Constitution demostrated the dilemma of the Western press by reporting Doenitz's announcement of Hitler's death under the headline "If Hitler is Dead, Good Riddance." When honest facts emerged, there was no way to tell them apart from fantasy and they vanished into the white noise.

On May 2, even as the first investigators were searching through the Chancellery grounds, Tass declared the announcement from Doenitz to be a trick. That same day, Eisenhower told reporters that Himmler, while attempting to negotiate a truce through Swedish intermediaries a week earlier had claimed Hitler was terminally ill. The next day, the official Soviet announcement of the surrender of the last German troops in Berlin mentioned witnesses talking about his suicide. At the same time, German radio in the enclave under Doenitz's control continued to claim Hitler had died a hero's death in battle. In the space of a week, alert news watchers were offered three different causes of death and two dates of death, as well as well-grounded speculation that Hitler might have escaped.

The Soviets continued to be difficult. They refused to allow Westerners into Berlin even after the surrender of Doenitz's government and the last armies in the field on May 7-9. On May 10, they announced the existence of the burned bodies in the Chancellory courtyard, but only allowed that one might be Hitler. The same report went on to say that his body might never be found. On June 6, a spokesman for the Soviet army in Berlin announced unequivocally that Hitler had committed suicide and that his body had been identified. Three days later, Marshall Zhukov, the head of the Soviet army gave a press conference with Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Vishinski looking over his shoulder. "We did not identify the body of Hitler," he said. "I can say nothing definite about his fate. He could have flown away from Berlin at the very last moment."

Stalin, by now, had discovered that a live Hitler might be useful to him. The possibility of a return of Hitler justified a harsh occupation and division of Germany. The same possibility required keeping tight control on Eastern Europe; only the Soviet big brother could protect them from a resurgent Germany should Hitler return. The possibility that Hitler might be hiding in Spain was an excuse to demand the Western Allies treat the Franco regime roughly. At one point, he even insisted that Britain and the US invade Spain just to make sure Hitler wasn't there. The suggestion that the Soviet army had allowed Hitler to escape, allowed Stalin to treat the generals with contempt and hide them from the public eye.

This doesn't mean that the confusion was a carefully coordinated plot on the part of the Soviet government. Although they were in possession of all of the relevant facts about Hitler's death, there is no evidence that the people at the top put two and two together, or believed it when they did. Although they were perfectly capable of an evil conspiracy, the Soviet leadership assumed others were equally as deceptive and expected to find lies when they looked for facts. In addition, the Soviet government was one of the world's biggest bureaucracies. The poiltburo did not always know what the army was saying and the army did not always know what the propaganda branch was up to. Although all were trying to please Stalin, the boss did not always make his wishes clearly known. Chaos and uncertainty are the normal condition in a totalitarian state.

Secrecy breeds suspicion and, where there is a lack of information, the vacuum will be filled with rumor, speculation, and conspiracy theories. Hitler did all he could to encourage this in his last days. As he died, the victors in the war did a superb job of taking over the burden of creating confusion, whether they intended to or not.

Once the conspiracy theory genie has been let out of the bottle, it is almost impossible to return it. By June, the veil of secrecy that the Soviets had kept on Berlin had created a darkness too complete to be pierced by facts. They had given permission for the wildest imaginations to run free. Every story about Hitler's doubles and every sighting of the Fuehrer, no matter how remote, was given straight-faced coverage by supposedly serious news outlets. The possibility that the Fuehrer had escaped led numerous die-hard Nazis to brag about their part in helping him escape. Lieut. Arthur Mackensen told how he had flown Hitler from the Tiergarten park on May 5 to Denmark, where the local Nazis held a mass rally to say farewell before the Fuehrer had departed for parts unknown. Others flew him to Spain or Japan or saw him board a U-boat for South America.

The last suggestion generated a flurry of excitement as the last U-boats at sea began surrendering during the summer. When the submarine U-530 surrendered to the Argentine authorities in early July, a Buenos Aries paper reported that the captain had delivered Hitler and Braun to a secret base in Antarctica before returning to South America to surrender. The same story was reported and embellished by the Chicago Times the following day.

With Hitler's delivery to Antarctica, the escape stories moved from the realm of the probable into the realm of the fantastic and spawned a whole sub-genre of conspiracy literature. When I wrote about Adm. Richard Byrd's secret 1947 flight into the hollow earth and his spying woolly mammoths there, I mentioned a number of interesting side stories about Nazis in Antarctica and promised to tell them later. All of these stories depend in some part on the Hitler escape myth. I've kept the gang over at Farm Runoff hanging in suspense for too long. This is the background to all those stories. I'll start telling them next week.

Most of the research for this post comes from the books, The Bunker by James P. O'Donnell and Hitler: The Survival Myth by Donald M. McKale assisted by the studies for my otherwise pointless Masters in history. Using books for research instead of the internet, what a concept.

Orac has an excellent post taking a more serious look at the meaning Hitler's death.

* Literally "dead leader day." Although the name might give a thrill to your inner anarchist, the name specifically refers to the death of der Fuehrer, so it more idiomatically translates as "Hitler's death day." Happy dead Hitler!

** The Allies were obsessed with the idea of a Hitler double. As a student I wrote a short paper on how the news of the July 1944 assassination attempt made its way to the West. Within hours, the idea that the plot had failed because the conspirators had tried to kill the wrong Hitler was being reported throughout the world. I traced the first mention of the idea to a newspaper in Zurich. It appears that the writer jumped to that conclusion by looking at a list of the casualties of the bomb and identifying one unknown name. All of the others were military figures known to the writer; but who was "Dr. Berger" and why was he meeting with these important men? He must have been a Hitler double. In fact, he was a stenographer. The eagerness to find Hitler doubles is a recurring theme among conspiracy writers. In this case they came by their ideas by following the lead of "serious" journalists.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Skeptics meet again
The 33rd Meeting of the Skeptics' Circle may or may not have been posted at Science and Politics. Coturnix might have been kind enough to provide us with an abstract that reads something like this:
Complaints like "hurts my brain" and "blows my mind" as a result of exposure to incredible stories have recently been definitively tied to the neuronal cell death (apoptosis). Furthermore, the notion of the usefullness of the Baloney Detection Kit (BDK) in protection of brain cells against the negative effects of incredulity has recently garnered significant support. In this review, the authors gather the most notable examples in recent scientific and medical literature on the subject, evaluate the currently available data on the effectivness of BDK and propose new avenues for further research.

You can only be sure if its there by checking for yourself.
More sex scandal details
Random details as they emerge:

It appears that we will have to resign ourselves to this scandal being called something like “Hookergate.” The mechanics of the hookers-for-votes arrangement was that the corrupt lobbyist, Mitchell Wade of MZM, Inc., would send a limousine out to pick up the congressman and a hooker and bring them back to a suite that Wade maintained at--you guessed it--the Watergate Hotel.

TPM Muckraker speculates that this business might have been going on for as long as fifteen years.

Ken Silverstein of Harpers is reporting that one of the unnamed half-dozen congressmen who accepted the hooker-bribes fits the description, at least superficially, of new CIA chief Porter Goss.

This is starting to look like the plot of a bad thriller novel.
Everyone loves a good sex scandal. It's easy to understand, it sells newspapers, it provides late-night comedians with material, and it really gets people riled up. Yet there is something embarrassing about the fact that our leaders can commit crimes that genuinely hurt the country--gut the Bill of Rights, waste tens of billions of dollars, send thousands of young people of to be killed or maimed for no good reason--and people will yawn, but have sex with the wrong partner and suddenly we're up in arms. It's embarrassing, but if that's what it takes to throw the scoundrels out, I'll accept a sex scandal.

In case you missed it:
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI is “investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall ‘Duke’ Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites.” The Journal also said the investigators are exploring “whether any other members of Congress” are involved.

Last night on MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, Dean Calbreath of the San Diego Union Tribune – which recently won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Cunningham case – said that “as many as a half a dozen” members of Congress could ultimately be implicated in the prostitution scandal.

As sex scandals go, this has the potential to be one of the better ones. Cunningham and the as yet unnamed other congressmen (and we can be confident that they all will be men) are not merely being accused of marital infidelity; they are being accused of accepting hookers as bribe payments for votes on defense contracts. Hookers for votes. It has a nice headline ring to it, doesn't it? This is just what we need to warm up the election and really start throwing some Republican incumbents out.

The shameless partisan voice in me says, "Wait a minute, John. What if some of those half-dozen are Democrats?" To that I say, "Shut up voice! If they're crooks, I don't want them in my party." Corruption should not be a partisan issue. If they are corrupt, we need to throw the bums out. Naturally, I'm cackling with glee over the thought that most, if not all, will be Republicans. I hope we can effectively use this as another data point to portray the Republicans as the party of corruption.* If one or two of them are Democrats, we can't rally around them and protect them because they are "our" crooks. We need to make a very public display of cleaning our own house.

This scandal has another aspect that should appeal to the public. Bribe taking is a form of corruption that is easy to understand. Throw the bums out and put them in jail. But accepting hookers as payment, is much worse. Because sex scandals so enrage and mobilize the public, they are far more professionally dangerous than mere financial scandals. The hookers themselves are extra unnecessary witnesses to the corruption. Finally, sex scandals represent a personal scandal as well as a professional scandal. All these extra layers of risk amount to the bribe-taker voluntarily placing himself in a eminently blackmailable position. If for no other reason, these people should be thrown out for being too stupid to sit in Congress.

* Clever Wife points out that pushing too hard on a negative story line, like corruption, can leave a bad taste in the public's mouth and turn them against both parties. This is a very valid criticism. Polling over the last year has not shown Republican woes turning into a strong Democratic advantage. Most people are in a pox-on-both-of-their-houses mood. It might be that the Democratic Party is not the best venue to deliver this narrative. It might be that yellow-press bloggers are the best venue.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Good medicine
Darrin Bell of the Candorville comic strip shows a deep and compassionate understanding of the liberal blogging dilemma.

Just for the record, wooly mammoths have never authorized illegal wiretapping of the American people.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Must be a big change for him
It looks like FoxNews anchor Tony Snow is the probable successor to Scottie McClellan as White House press secretary.
Sources close to the White House said Monday that Fox anchor Tony Snow is likely to accept the job as White House press secretary, succeeding Scott McClellan.

The sources said they expect him to announce his decision within the next few days.

I wonder if a FoxNews anchor is up to the task of reading GOP talking points, demonstrating contempt for real journalists calling anyone who doubts the administration a traitor, and lying on a daily basis to make George Bush look good. Okay, I don't really wonder that.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Unintentional irony and lost opportunities
The big blogs who get advertising through Blogads have a new ad up today. The ad copy reads:
World oil production is about to peak, so prices are headed even higher... On April 27-29 join over 50 experts in NYC to explore how to break America's oil addiction. Local Solutions to the Energy Dilemma.

Allow me to rewrite their copy.
World oil production is about to peak, changing every aspect of our lifestyle... On April 27-29 hop in your car or get on a plane and come halfway across the country to join over 50 experts in NYC talking about how to use less oil.

Don't get me wrong, this might be a very interesting and productive conference. However, mightn't this have have been a great opportunity to experiment with some alternate form of confrencing. It doen't have to be the dreaded audio and video confrencing that telecommunication and software companies keep trying to sell businesses. They might organize individual panels as mini-confrences around the country allowing people to attend the closest one. They could link the parts into a whole through innovative use of streaming video and blogging. It would be easy enough to set up some temporary, pay-per-view websites to allow some people to attend and participate from home or school. Keeping with their title of local solutions, the mini-confrences could break away to hold sessions on genuinely local concerns.

Peak oil doesn't mean civilization is doomed. What it does mean, is that we need to change our habits and use a little imagination. As during any change, certain businesses will decline, but others will find new opportunities and flourish. Even the collapse ofthe Roman Empire created employment for body guards and mercenaries. I spent all of five minutes thinking about this. I'm sure that, if someone actually spent some time on it, they could improve the idea greatly.* There's probably a business opportunity for someone to facilitate this kind of thing, so conferences don't have to reinvent the system every time. They could provide some tools and software, maybe the temporary websites and transaction processing, to make it pay. Someone might already be doing it.

Before we can get anywhere on a problem like peak oil, the people who are setting themselves up as our leaders on the issue need to--oh, I don't know--lead.

* And, if you make a million dollars on it, I get half.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Science blogging
Coturnix has a nice link-rich discussion of science blogging and science blogs. If you've been wanting to read a little more science, this is a good guide to what's out there. If you've been thinking about writing a little on science, Coturnix identifies some areas that he thinks are insufficiently covered. Coturnix was kind enough to include archy in his discussion. I'm flattered to be included in such company and probably don't deserve it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I blame the cat
This weekend, Clever Wife and I went out and adopted a small boy-cat. That's my excuse for not writing a long interesting post about mammoths, Nazi flying saucers, and minor creationists. It may not be much of an excuse, but it's all I've got.

We named the cat Marlow. We were looking for a theme. Our remaining older cat is a small black girl-cat named Mehitabel. We thought about Archy's friends--ruled out Warty Bliggins--and, after mentioning that Bill Shakespeare was a drinking buddy of Archy's in a previous life, decided that Chris Marlow must have been one too, since the poets and playwrights all hung out together in the same pubs. It's also a considerable improvement over his previous name: Grape Nuts (for a former boy, if you get my drift, anything with the word "nuts" in it is just cruel).

Actually, as a nom-de-animal-shelter, Grape Nuts isn't bad. The woman who provided the foster home and training for the group's kittens said she named them all after cereals. The group she brought in to show included Cap'n Crunch and Chex. I suppose, if you just need a temporary reference, grabbing a name out of the kitchen pantry makes as much sense as anything. Before we named Mehitabel, we spent a week going through German, Serbian, Latin, Gaelic, and Swahili dictionaries without any luck. It would have been so much easier if we had just opened a cabinet and named her Adams' No-Stir Crunchy Style or Lemon Fresh.

The kitty foster mother was a nice woman who said she started taking care of cats to provide her with company after her husband started to develop Alzheimer's. We thought that sounded very sweet, but on the way home we began to wonder if Mr. foster was still at home. Imagine what it must be like to have a failing memory and live with a constantly changing cast of small cats. "Honey, I though our cat was Siamese." "Where did this black cat come from? I thought our cat was yellow." "Someone must have left a door open; I just found two strange white cats on the couch." They say cats are good for most of the illnesses of age, but I imagine there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Even with cats.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Religious opression in Kansas
This one comes via Pharyngula.

We all know what a story about religious opression in the United States means today. It's a sad tale of those icky secularists and liberals crushing the spirit of good Christians by forcing them to share their continent with some people that they might disapprove of and by denigrating their most sacred festivals by calling them "holidays." This isn't a story about that.
State Board of Education member Connie Morris took exception Wednesday to a picture of a made-up creature that satirizes the state's new science standards hanging on a Stucky Middle School teacher's door.

Fellow board member Sue Gamble told The Eagle that Morris asked for the picture to be removed.

The creature, called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the creation of Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Ore. It looks like a clump of spaghetti with two eyes sticking out of the top and two meatballs flanking the eyes.

Henderson created the entity and an accompanying mythology on the origin of mankind to make fun of Kansas' recent debate over the teaching of criticisms of evolution, including intelligent design.

Doesn't true religious and intellectual freedom demand that students be exposed to all sides of the controversy? How dare they censor the Pastafarian point of view!

I'm feeling oppressed by this blatant bigotry. It's time we Pastafarians stood up and were counted. And what better way to be counted than through a class-action law suit?
Welcome -- um, uh...
Here's the problem: it's traditional for those of us with humble-sized blogs to issue a hearty welcome to visitors from our better-trafficed brethren whenever we luck into a good link. Unfortunately, the usual form of the welcome is to use a clever nickname for the visitors based on the name of the aformentioned link issuer (e.g. "welcome Escatonians, "welcome Kossaks," "welcome Pharanguloids"), as if your entire identity was based on some blog you occasionally look at. So, what am supposed to call a bunch of visitors from Pooflingers Anonymous? Poopyheads? Flung poo? Copraphiliacs? I might have to get back to you on this.

Anyway, Pooflingers Anonymous is the gracious host of the 32nd Skeptics' Circle. I submitted my report on Wozney the dinosaur denier to that carnival and am pleased to see that a few people are enjoying it. Matt, the flinger of poo, has embedded his carnival in a dark tale, warning of the things to come. If you haven't been there yet, go, read, and be enlightened. The rest of you, take a look around and let me know if you see anything you like.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thought for the day
Every time the Bush administration decides that they have the right to mistreat foreigners in certain ways, they eventually get around to claiming the right to treat American citizens that way. Declare them "enemy combatants" and hold them without charge, access to a lawyer, or notifying their family? Check? Tap their phones, read their e-mail, and rifle through their unmentionables drawer without a warrant? Check? Assassination? Check. Which "right" to use against US citizens are they going to claim next: torture or pre-emptive nuclear strikes?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Not just wagging the dog
By now, everyone should have at least heard of Seymour Hersh's scary article in the New Yorker. If you've only read summaries or excerpts from it, you really should go read the whole thing. It's not that long. If you haven't read or heard of it, Hersh says that the Bush administration is planning for war with Iran, not merely planning for contingencies, which every administration should do, but actually planning for a bombing campaign in the near future to destroy their nuclear capabilities and bring about regime change. They are seriously considering using tactical thermonuclear weapons to get at some of Iran's underground research facilities. The most frightening thing about the article is that Seymour Hersh has a record of being right about these things.

Some bloggers on the left are looking at this a wagging the dog stunt aimed at next fall's election. While I think that Bush is also wagging the dog, I think that we make a mistake of underestimating just how insane Bush is if we look at this as only wagging the dog. Keep in mind that while Bush used the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in a wagging the dog manner during the 2002 mid-term election, the election wasn't his primary reason for the war, or even in his top three reasons (the top three were: he wanted to be the guy who got rid of Saddam, some neo-con nonsense about making the Middle-east a happy land of flowers and ponies, and he really, really wanted to be the guy who got rid of Saddam). Bush was planning that war long before he was appointed president. The 2002 election and 9/11 merely provided the convenient time and excuse to have it.

Wagging the dog used to be called social imperialism. The idea was that a leader would engage in foreign adventures in order to distract the public from domestic problems. That is, it was imperialism for purely social reasons, as opposed to economic or strategic reasons. Of course, in classical social imperialism the foreign adventure is supposed to be successful. The leader's successes abroad were supposed to eclipse his failures at home.

Bush has managed to turn that formula on its head. If Iraq is social imperialism, it works by being a failure so large that it makes his failures at home look insignificant in comparison. My Dad had a theory that the best treatment for a headache was a swift kick in the knee. Your knee would hurt so bad that you would forget about your headache. We always went to Mom when we had a headache.

Iran is even less likely to work as social imperialism than Iraq did. Are we supposed to forget about his last failed foreign adventure by going on an even bigger foreign adventure that is even less likely to succeed?

Bush became president with a very short and unimaginative agenda. After using his position to reward and enrich his cronies and supporters, he only had two items on which to base his historic legacy: he wanted to cut taxes and get rid of Saddam. Neither of those has worked out very well for him.

This is where I go all psychological on you. Many writers have commented on Bush's messianic streak. The shock of 9/11 was something a transforming moment for Bush. He seems to truly believe that he is on a mission from God to rid the world of evil-doers and heal the Middle-east. This alone makes him a frighteningly dangerous man. However, Bush is also an incompletely reformed alcoholic. While he may be dry, he has never dealt with the cause of his addiction. Such addictive people often turn to another destructive addiction.

Bush is behaving like a problem gambler. One type of problem gambler doesn't just play games of chance or continue long after they should stop; these problem gamblers escalate their bets beyond all reason. Their response to losing a bet isn't to stop or play more cautiously; it's just the opposite. They make their bets larger in hopes of scoring one big win that will wipe out all of their past losses and propel them to the top. Look at Bush's Iran strategy through that lens.

According to Hersh, the Bush team is planning to go to war with a much larger power than Iraq using our now run-down army. Where Iraq was a country deeply divided by religion, language, and culture, Iran has a large majority united by one of the oldest and proudest nationalisms on the planet and a comparatively small (though not insignificant) minority problem. Invading Iran could have disastrous results in the Muslim world leading the radicalization of millions of new terrorists and causing the fall of the few moderate or friendly governments in the region. Rather than helping Israel, it could encourage Arabs to attack Israel in retaliation. War in the Persian Gulf would inevitably cause oil prices to spike. Using nuclear weapons in a first strike would alienate our last allies in the west and certainly end any kind of arms talks anywhere else in the world. Along with oil prices spiking, there is a very real possibility that the rest of the world would respond with economic boycotts.

But a gambler doesn't look at the downside. A gambler only looks at the possible winnings. War might be a Gordian knot* cutting blow that forces the Middle-east to change its ways. A humiliating blow against the Iranian government might cause the Iranian people to overthrow the government and install a nice pluralistic democracy. A big macho display of American power might convince others of the inadvisability of fighting and lead them to find peaceful solutions to their problems. It might turn out that the Mullahs were the real source all the world's terrorism and getting rid of them will simply turn off the spigot of bad guys. With the terror ended and everyone in the Middle-east making nice, prosperity will come to the region, oil prices will go down for consumers, and business opportunities will open up Bush's friends. Everyone will finally realize that George Bush was the only one with the strength and foresight to do what needed to be done. Then won't all those liberal peaceniks be sorry they were mean to him? And, oh yeah, the Republicans will win in November and rule forever and ever, amen.

In his own mind, Bush has plenty of reasons for betting the farm on another, bigger war. He would want this war even if the Republicans were in great shape for the election. Wagging the dog is the least of our worries.

* Ironically, Gordia is the ancient name for Kurdistan.
Same tune, different lyrics
This morning I made a side trip on my way to work to pick up some coffee. Like all good liberals, my car radio is tuned to an NPR station for drive-time news. As I turned onto the main drag through our neighborhood, Renee Montagne introduced a new story: "Hate Crimes Threaten Multi-Ethnic Russia" by Gregory Feifer.

The story was interesting and disturbing in its own right, but I was laughing by the time I reached the coffee stand. It was as if they had taken everything David Neiwert has written over the last three years, distilled it down to a five minute story, and changed all of the names from American to Russian. Hate crimes against brown-skinned foreigners are on the rise. The authorities are reluctant to call them hate-crimes. Foreign university students no longer feel welcome in the country. The national leader pays lip service to tolerance, but profits from the hate-mongering. Politicians are using minorities as scapegoats for their own failures of economic policy. Slogans and rhetoric that just a few years ago were considered unacceptably extremist are now working their way into mainstream political discourse.

The part that made me laugh was Feifer describing a list of the 100 enemies of the Russian people being circulated by Zhirnovski's Liberal Democratic party as one of the more alarming signs of dangerous extremism. From his description, the list is still anonymous and being passed hand to hand in informal copies, more like an old samizdat manuscript or an e-mail rant. The top name on the list is a woman human rights advocate who embarrasses the government by shining the light of truth on their failures.

If that is a sign of hatred threatening the very fabric of their multi-ethnic society, what does it mean that in the United States a list of the 100 enemies of the American people gets a contract from one of our most prestigious publishing houses complete with hardback, paperback, and audiobook editions, publicity and a multi-city author's tour? Over here the top name on the list is an overweight documentarian who emabarasses the government by shining the light of humor on their failures.

Maybe Regnery Press should open up a Russian language branch.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A night on the town
Markos Moulitsas (Kos) and Jerome Armstrong (MyDD) will be in Seattle tonight signing their book Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics. I plan on attending and, if a group wants to head out for refreshments afterward, I'll join them. I should be easy enough to recognize; I'll be the blogger trying to become Markos and Jerome's new best friend. Either that or I'll be the middle-aged guy off to one side loudly complaining about being up so late.
Friday, April 7th, 7:00 PM
Seattle Labor Temple (Hall 1)
2800 1st Ave

This is Belltown on a Friday night, which is far more activity and hipness than I've associated myself with in years. Still, the Clever Wife and my Mom keep telling me to get out of the house and make friends. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to leave my secret hermitage for one night.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Do we need another carnival?
I decided to send my piece on Wozney the dinosaur denier to the next Skeptic's Circle and was muttering to myself that I hope the Circle never gets tired of running Creationism bashing pieces when I started thinking about just how many Creationism bashing pieces they do run. In almost every meeting of the Circle, they need to have a special section just for the Creationism skeptics. It's the same at the Tangled Bank. There are several other biology and science carnivals that I don't read as regularly, but I bet most of them run their share of Creationism debunkings.

Since this is such an enduringly popular topic, I wonder why no one has started a carnival of creationism deniers as a spin off from the Circle and the Bank. I'm not volunteering to manage one--I think I've demostrated that management is not my strong suit--but I'd gladly host it now and again, and I'd be a regular contrubutor. If anyone out there is pondering starting a carnival, but lacks a good topic, I offer you this idea free of charge. That is, I'd demand thirty percent of the glory, but I offer it free of monetary charge.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just wondering
Last week Dana Rohrabacher, the immigrant-bashing Republican congressman from Huntington Beach, California, suggested we don't need cheap migrant labor to keep our economy running.
We do not need more people from foreign countries coming in taking the jobs of Americans and bidding down our wages. We can do those jobs, even in the fields. The millions of young men who are prisoners around our country can pick the fruits and vegetables. I say let the prisoners pick the fruits.

When Rohrabacher said this, was specifically thinking of Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay and his staff, and all the other Republicans who will soon be joining them singing the blues on the chain gang?
Suspicion Breeds Confidence
One of my favorite movies is Terry Gilliam's Brazil. On of the things that I love about the movie is the depth of detail in the sets, especially the Ministry of Information posters that appear in the background. In tthe movie the MoI wages an endless war against undefined terrorists who, the Minister informs us, in perfect Bushian logic, are motivated by bad sportsmanship. Throughout the movie, the posters warn the characters to "Be Safe: Be Suspicious," "Suspicion Breeds Confidence," "Trust in haste, Regret at leisure," and "Don't suspect a friend, report him." While most critical pundits find Orwellian tones in our own war on terror, I think Gilliam is the better model. Here's the latest:
British anti-terrorism detectives escorted a man from a plane after a taxi driver had earlier become suspicious when he started singing along to a track by punk band The Clash, police said Wednesday.

Detectives halted the London-bound flight at Durham Tees Valley Airport in northern England and Harraj Mann, 24, was taken off.

The taxi driver had become worried on the way to the airport because Mann had been singing along to The Clash's 1979 anthem "London Calling," which features the lyrics "Now war is declared -- and battle come down" while other lines warn of a "meltdown expected."

Mann told British newspapers the taxi had been fitted with a music system which allowed him to plug in his MP3 player and he had been playing The Clash, Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles to the driver.

"He didn't like Led Zeppelin or The Clash but I don't think there was any need to tell the police," Mann told the Daily Mirror.

Insert your own pop-music equals terrorism joke here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Why aren't you dead yet
This is disgusting.
When M. Smith learned she had AIDS in the early 1990's, she figured it was a death sentence....

She was 35, healthy, and never suspected that an ex-boyfriend, who died years earlier of AIDS related complications, had infected her.

Smith, who also had cancer at the time, says her prognosis gave her less than two years to live. So, she started to get her affairs in order.

One day, flipping through a magazine for HIV positive people, Smith, who asked we shield her identity, saw an ad offering to buy her $150,000 life insurance policy. Smith had no children and no husband.

According to the contract she signed, the company, Life Partners, would pay her $90,000 up front, and cover her combined life and health insurance premiums if she lived longer than two years. When she died, the company would collect the full value of the policy, potentially a windfall profit of more than 60 percent, depending on when Smith died.

Back when all the magazines said AIDS was 100% fatal, this must have sounded like a great business plan to some Wall Street genius. They could realize huge profits and even manage the appearance of compassionately caring for the terminally ill. Of course, it was only the appearance that they cared about. If the terminally ill didn't hurry up and die while they were still profitable, the investors would quickly lose their comapassion.
That was 12 years ago. Smith is still alive, and the company has paid out $100,000 in premiums, according to Smith's attorneys. But Smith and her lawyers also claim that over the years, Life Partners has been trying to get out of its contract, claiming Smith should pay her own health premiums and at one point sending a letter saying, "The investors ... are no longer willing to support the cost of your health insurance."

In a letter to Smith this past August, the day her premium was due, Life Partners demanded she pay the money herself. Because Smith just turned 50, her health premiums jumped to $29,000 a year, money the self-employed woman does not have. Without that insurance, she says she will not be able to afford the pricey AIDS medicines keeping her alive.

Heartless opportunism is the core of corporate capitalism.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Congratulate the winners
The 2005 Koufax Winners are up at Wampum. Though all of the winners deserve congratulations, I am particularly happy that my Liberal Coalition collegue Echidne of the Snakes won Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. Of course, that means next year is archy's turn.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The conspiracy to create dinosaurs
Last December, when I began my mammoth series, I considered doing a sort of field guide to creationists. It's a good thing I didn't attempt it; that same month Darksyde, a science blogger, was promoted to the front page of The Daily Kos and soon began that exact series. It's a good thing that he beat me to the draw, because he is far more prolific than I and has produced eleven parts to his series "Know Your Creationists" in the same time that I have managed to produced two (Dr. Cuozzo and the battle between mammoths and dinosaurs and Porcher Taylor and the satellite evidence of Noah's ark).

And yet, I don't think I'm entirely out of the competition. I have my own special group of creationists. While Darksyde has been working his way down from the top, I have been working my way up from--where, not the bottom, because who knows where that is, but from the visible middle. Cuozzo's Neanderthal dentistry has worked it's way into the popular young-earth creationist world view and Taylor is just the latest in an unending series of ark-eologists.

In that spirit, I'd like to introduce you to David P. Wozney. Mr. Wozney feels that there is good reason to doubt that dinosaurs ever existed.

It appears that Mr. Wozney is a Canadian and a member of some sort of some sort of fundamentalist and socially conservative Christian church. I say "appears" because Wozney tells us very little about himself, and rather than clearly stating his beliefs and opinions, he approaches things tentatively, merely stating that something is "possible" or that certain selected evidence "suggests" this or that conclusion. In addition, he is very quick to argue semantic points with anyone who dares to interpret his words. I'll say more about this style later.

I have deduced Wozney's religious beliefs from the fact that one of the pages of his website is dedicated to preparing for the rapture and that he occasionally appears as a commenter at various blogs to suggest that the legalization of same sex marriage in Canada should not be possible.

Following the election in 2004, a map showing a mock re-organization of North America circulated on the internet. It showed the blue states of the northeast and coasts annexed to Canada with the remainder of the US renamed "Jesusland." Mr. Wozney pasted the same identical comment into the comment threads of about 50 blogs.
Is the "Jesus" of this so-called "Jesusland" the Jesus of the Jefferson Bible (also called "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels")?

He never explains what the question means and doesn't participate any further in any of the discussions. In most cases he arrived toward the end of the discussions and was often the last post, which in itself is curious; what point is he trying to make that is so important that he went from blog to blog leaving his question long after everyone had gone home? We might never know.

Semantic quibbles are not usually the most convincing form of arguments, but at least Wozney does not argue using dictionary definitions. Still, he seems to feel that words have singular and unchanging meanings that are obvious to all. This faith in words is common out on the fringe. It's also the main underpinning of literalist fundamentalism, which he supports.

Wozney also has some problems with modern science. He has dedicated over half of the pages of his website to casting doubt on the Apollo moon landings. His website's other main sections deal with preparing for the Rapture and casting doubt on the very existance of dinosaurs. The latter is a longish essay called "Dinosaurs: Science or Science Fiction" originally posted to his site in 1997.

This is where I come in. My name is John. I carry a mammoth. <Cue Dragnet theme music...>

Wozney states his thesis at the beginning of his piece:
When children go to a dinosaur museum, are the displays they see displays of science or displays of art and science fiction? Are we being deceived and brainwashed at an early age into believing a dinosaur myth? Deep probing questions need to be asked of the entire "dinosaur industry".

This article will discuss the possibility that there may have been an ongoing effort since the earliest dinosaur "discoveries" to plant, mix and match bones of various animals, such as crocodiles, alligators, iguanas, giraffes, elephants, cattle, kangaroos, ostriches, emus, dolphins, whales, rhinoceroses, etc. to construct and create a new man-made concept prehistoric animal called "dinosaurs".

Where bones from existing animals are not satisfactory for deception purposes, plaster substitutes may be manufactured and used. Some material similar or superior to plasticine clay or plaster of Paris would be suitable. Molds may also be employed.

Note the tentative tone. At the end of his piece, he is more emphatic in claiming fraud:
The dinosaur industry needs to be investigated and questions need to be asked. I personally do not have any reasons to believe dinosaurs ever existed and I believe they may be a fabrication of nineteenth and twentieth century people...

The rest of that sentence deals with motive. It might be prejudicial to reveal his speculation on that topic before looking at his evidence, so I'll review that first. Fortunately for me, he gives us a numbered summary at the end of his piece, so I don't have to speculate about what he thinks his killing points of argument are. I'll give you his summary list and backtrack on each one for what he believes is supporting evidence.
1. Nature of dinosaur discoveries - only within the last 150 years and in huge unusual concentrated quantities going against the laws of nature and probability.

I'm interrupting here in order to keep the layered block quotes from making my head explode. The point above is from Wozney's summary, below is from his previous evidence. Unfortunately, he also uses big block quotes to present his evidence. I'm warning you that the layered indents will take some attention to keep straight. What more can I do?
"The class Dinosauria was originally defined by Sir Richard Owen in 1842, in a two hour speech that reportedly held the audience captivated....

"It is generally accepted that the first discovery of dinosaur remains in North America was made in 1854 by Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden during his exploration of the upper Missouri River."


So, dinosaurs were described in 1842 before the discoveries in 1854 which were required to give a clear picture of what dinosaurs looked like! Were discoveries made or constructed to fit the descriptions?

Wozney is suggesting that Hayden falsified his discoveries in order to support Owen's thesis. However, Owen's thesis was not lacking in evidence. Owen's description of the class Dinosauria was based on fossils found in the British Isles. The first dinosaur remains found in North America were made twelve years later, but they were not he first dinosaur remains to be described in scientific literature.

More significantly, Wozney implies that no dinosaur fossils had ever been found prior to the 1840's (his date of "only within the last 150 years"). He goes on at great length on this point:
Why were there no discoveries by native Americans in all the years previous when they roamed the North American continent? There is no belief of dinosaurs in the native American religion or tradition.

For that matter, why were there no discoveries prior to the nineteenth century in any part of the world? According to the World Book Encyclopedia, "before the 1800's, no one ever knew that dinosaurs ever existed..".


Why has man suddenly made all these discoveries? Belgium, Mongolia, Tanzania, West Germany (and North America as well) were inhabited and very well explored for thousands of years and there were no discoveries until the nineteenth century. Why?

Wozney is simply wrong here. People have excavated fossils (both dinosaur and non-dinosaur) since the beginning of recorded history. They have collected them and displayed them in temples and private gardens and used them for medicine. Before the 1800's, no one knew that dinosaurs existed because the word "dinosaur" hadn't been coined yet.

Adrienne Mayor has written two books on this subject, one dealing with classical Greece and Rome and the other dealing with the Native American cultures that Wozney says never noticed fossils. The Greeks described fossil fields on the island of Samos. Large fossil bones have been discovered at the school where Hippocrates taught. Other bones were discovered in Egyptian temples in the 1920s.

Our ancestors interpreted large fossil bones according to their local world views. Uncovered bones were evidence of giants in the past, of monsters defeated by legendary heroes, of dragons, or of the wars among titans that accompanied the creation of the present world. The first paleontologists in China found fossils by earning the trust of local apothecaries and exploring the sources of their "dragon bones." Greek paleontologists have had the same success by exploring locations mentioned in the travels of Hercules and the wars among their ancestors' gods.

His second point embedded in this number is that concentrations of fossils are too unlikely to be believed. He is very specific on this point.
Finds of huge quantities of fossils in one area, or by one or few people, goes against the laws of natural probability and suggests a possible concentrated planting effort.

I'm not sure what kind of distribution he thinks the laws of probability would predict. Fossils form under only very special circumstances. Most dead things decompose and are recycled in a vast number of organic processes. Floods carry mixed bones to lakes, deltas, and river bends were they pile up, are buried, and fossilize. Volcanic eruptions hermetically save entire herds where they huddle for shelter. Landslides shove every living thing into a valley and cover them in an unsorted mass. If Wozney expects an even distribution of fossils across the face of the Earth, he doesn't understand the processes involved. He's arguing from ignorance.
2. Nature of dinosaur discoverers and excavators - not by (initially) disinterested parties. When discovered by parties without a vested interest, they need to be told by dinosaur experts that they are dinosaur bones.

Wozney finds the following episode very suspicious.
"Dinosaur skeletons were found for the first time in abundance in the Garden Park area of Colorado and at Como Bluff, Wyoming, in the late 1870s. These specimens initiated the First Great Dinosaur Rush in North America, driven largely by the efforts of a Philadelphia paleontologist, Edward Drinker Cope, and Othniel Marsh, a paleontologist from Yale University.

"These two men started as friends but became bitter rivals in a feud of legendary proportions. The stories surrounding these two include tales of armed field parties, spies, and intercepting shipments of fossils intended for the other."[Wozney's emphasis.]

Why were fossils being shipped to the discoverers and from whom?

On more than one level, this question betrays Wozney's gross ignorance of the history he is criticizing. Gentlemen professionals in the nineteenth did not usually dirty their hands with manual labor; they hired workers. Even when scientists in the field did violate the expected behavior of their class, men involved in a race to be the first to discover, would not have done all of the exploring by themselves. Cope and Marsh did not explore the entirety of western North America alone; they hired agents to find the best sites for them.

Wozney continues to flog this point:
Discoveries and excavations seem not to be made by disinterested people, such as farmers, ranchers, hikers, outdoor recreationists, but rather by people with vested interests, such as paleontologists, scientists, university professors, museum organization personnel, who were intentionally looking for dinosaur bones or who have studied dinosaurs previously. The finds are often made during special dinosaur-bone hunting trips and expeditions by these people to far-away regions already inhabited and explored.

This seems highly implausible.

People who are looking for fossils and know how to recognize them are more likely to find fossils than are people who are not. Wow. Mind you, this immediately follows Wozney finding it suspicious that the professionals might have bones shipped to them by non-professionals. Again, just because he finds it unlikely or implausible doesn't mean anyone else should. He's arguing from ignorance and that's his problem, not ours.

He is also completely wrong in saying non-professionals never find fossils. Every paleontological museum has experience with the constant stream of farmers, ranchers, hikers, and outdoor recreationists who show up every summer with bones in their hands hoping that they have made a major discovery. And, while the majority of these bones are nothing more than old cow bones, a significant enough percentage turn out to be meaningful finds that it is well worth their time for those museums to respectfully consider every amateur find.

In a 1998 exchange of e-mail with Nathan Shumate of Cold Fusion Video Reviews, Wozney backs off a bit from his claim that non-professionals never find fossils, but instead takes refuge in the possibility that those amateur discoveries are all the victims of a larger conspiracy.
How do we know the bones were not planted? How do we know the discoverers are honest and "on-the-level", so to speak? Again, we are taking other peoples' word that these are authentic finds.


It would take only a small number of people (less than ten, for example) to plant fake dinosaur bones on a worldwide scale. However, it is quite possible that much more than this number of people are involved.

If it's not one conspiracy, it's another.
3. Nature of public display preparation - integrity and source of fossils - possible tampering and bone substitution and possible fraudulent activities on a massive scale.

This is Wozney's key point of argument--because it is possible to make simulations of fossils, all fossils are suspect. He accepts no eyewitness testimony (the witnesses might be part of the con) and no expert tests (the experts might be part of the con. No chain of custody or of evidence is good enough for him to accept it as proof.

This idea of falsified evidence appears right at the beginning of his article. After his introductory paragraphs, Wozney shows the cover of a children’s' science project book called Make Your Own Dinosaur Out of Chicken Bones.

Wozney quotes an article that describes how large fossils are often covered in a cast of burlap and plaster for transportation to a museum for cleaning and study in a controlled environment. This causes him to raise a skeptical eyebrow, "So preparers and transporters work with plaster all the time! Plaster lying around therefore does not draw questions or suspicion." Oh my God. They have access to plaster. The bastards!!!

Every step along the way and every term of description appears suspicious to him.
"Eight years after this reference book was published the first comprehensive skeletal form of a real dinosaur--Hadrosaurus foulkii --was unearthed in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Taller than a house, it had the pelvic structure of a bird, the tail of a lizard and, incredibly, it walked upright on two legs, foraging with arm-like forelimbs." [Wozney's emphasis.]

Were the bones of a bird and lizard and other animals used in the discovery?

I suppose fraud was possible here, but only if the discoverers used the bones from a bird and lizard that were each taller than a house.
"Even fossils that are difficult, nigh near impossible to collect in the field, are harder still to prepare in the lab. Specimens that take from a day to a week to remove from their beds of stone can require months or even years to clean, consolidate, repair and reconstruct for study or display.... "

What exactly is taking months or years? Is the public being given altered versions of bones? What exactly is going on? Is this science or art and science fiction? Is the public being deceived?

Getting it right. Not intentionally. Science. Still science. No.
At The Changing Shape of Hadrosaurus foulkii we learn of an iguana skull being substituted for the skull of a dinosaur on display. Was the public told at the time? What are we not being told today?
"The original reconstruction of Hadrosaurus foulkii featured a creature in a kangaroo stance--an animal that used its tail as a third leg. At the same time, while the excavated fossil was nearly complete, it lacked a skull. Because parts of its skeleton resembled those of an iguana, the skull of a modern iguana was used as a model for the skull created for the original display in 1868. That sculpted skull is currently on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia as a historical curiosity."

I like this quote, because Wozney cites it of evidence of deception even though it shows just the opposite. First of all, the Academy of Natural Sciences didn't use an actual iguana skull on their "taller than a house" dinosaur. That would have looked stupid. They thought that certain parts of the Hadrosaurus resembled an iguana, so they used an iguana skull as a model to fashion a probable temporary stand-in. When they had a real Hadrosaurus skull to work with, they removed their guess-work skull and put it on display. Wozney knows about the fake skull because it's on public display with a sign that says "Fake Skull" and because scientists and historians have written about it. That is one incompetent act of deception.

In his exchange with Nathan Shumate, Wozney cites an article on the fundamentalist evangelical website Endtime Prophecy Org:
"To add to this comedy of errors, today in our museums and hallowed halls of science, we have hundreds of dinosaur skeletons constructed, not of REAL bones, but of 'MOLDED COPIES.' If you don't believe this, just ask your friendly museum curator exactly where that 'whole' brontosaurus skeleton, or that 'whole' Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton was discovered. Watch him start to cough and sputter as he tries to come up with a half-believable way to explain to you that they were really 'pieced' together based on a few discovered bones, or that most of the skeleton is based on some 'original' discovered somewhere which he himself has never seen! Or maybe he will be honest and tell you that what you are looking at is not even real bones."

If molded copies are being passed off as real bones, is this not deception and fraud? Would you trust an organization that is known to engage in deception and fraud?

Shumate tries to make some sense out of this, but it's hopeless. I've reformatted as a diolog the relevant parts of a very long e-mail thread with lots of other issues mixed in. Read the full debate here, but it will make your teeth hurt.
SHUMATE: Every museum curator I know is quite forthright with the fact that most museums have replicas, and that perfectly complete skeletons are as rare as hen's teeth; in fact, perfectly complete skeletons would be less plausible than fragmentary ones. In fact, skeletons at the museum near my house are labelled as replicas up front. While other museums may not advertise the fact, how does this equate to "depiction and fraud"?

WOZNEY: What percentage of people are aware that molded bones are being used? Please indicate your source for such information. When you see a dinosaur skeleton on display, how do you know which bones, if any, are authentic? Are they all marked or labelled?

SHUMATE: As I said, this is no secret. Fiberglass models are much lighter than fossilized stone bones, and thus are easier to hang. Also, there are often not enough specimens of popular species for each museum to have one (there have only been six T-rex skulls found, for example).

WOZNEY: How many museum curators do you know? Please provide names, addresses, and/or fax numbers, and the dates you had conversations discussing these replicas.

Also please indicate which museums clearly label bones as "molded" or "authentic." Also indicate what percentage of museums worldwide this represents.

SHUMATE: Since your quoted source gave no such percentages, addresses, etc., I see no reason that I should do so.

WOZNEY: Most people do not have the benefit of having museums near their houses.

SHUMATE: How does this relate to our discussion?

WOZNEY: Personally, I do not believe museums should be using replicas, as they tend to mislead people. How many images are there and how much video footage is there of these replicas that do not have an explanatory note that "the bones have been manufactured"? Does your museum state where the original bones are located?

SHUMATE: More appropriately, most are labelled with the location at which the original bones are found. They are willing to tell me where the originals are located; I visited my local museum over the weekend, and the staff was quite friendly and forthcoming. No sputtering to be heard.

WOZNEY: If people are believing that molded bones are authentic dinosaur bones, then they are being deceived. If molded or manufactured bones are being passed off as authentic dinosaur bones, then this is fraud.

SHUMATE: No. If they believe that, they're wrong. If someone is intentionally deceiving, then they are deceived. You have yet to prove intent.

It goes on and on and on in this vein. when the Endtime Prophecy quote is no longer useful to him, Wozney drops the whole matter with a simple : "I never stated that I believe his statement, nor that I disbelieve it. I simply presented it to make you aware that such a statement exists."

That kind of retreat would get most kids tossed off the debate team.
4. Existing artistic drawings and public exhibits showing off-balance and awkward postures that basic physics would rule out as being possible.

This seems more like a matter of art criticism than any sort of valid scientific critique. Since he doesn't name the specific drawings that have so offended him, I can't defend the artists' work. In any case, bad art doesn't prove anything about the probability of dinosaurs having existed.
5. Very low odds of all these dinosaur bones being fossilized but not the bones of other animals.

This is another place where Wozney is just plain wrong. The vast majority of fossils--by several orders of magnitude--are not dinosaurs, not mammoths, not primates or any other land animal. The vast majority of fossils are seashells. Many of them are similar enough to modern seashells as to be indistinguishable to the non-expert eye, but many are the strange and wonderful remains of extinct sea dwellers. Even if no dinosaur remains had ever been found, it would be possible to create the theory of evolution based entirely on shells.

Actually it's a little odd that Wozney includes this point in his conclusions because it's not a significant part of his prior arguments. Instead, at this point in the body of his essay, he has a grab bag of familiar young-earth creationist criticisms of evolution: some outdated critiques of radiometric dating, the claim that dinosaurs were too big to have been possible, the claim that coal and petroleum are not biological in origin, he even casts doubt on the entire idea of fossils being possible. He also takes issue with those who think the mention of Behemoth and Leviathan in Job are descriptions of dinosaurs. He's probably right on the last one, but the rest of the group are tired old arguments that have long since been discredited.
7. A lack of organizations and people questioning or being skeptical of each and every discovery and public display. Dinosaurs are popular.

Like bad art, the lack of organized skepticism doesn't prove anything one way or the other about the existence of dinosaurs. Of course, through the institution of peer review, the scientific community does provide skeptical questioning of each discovery, but that's not the kind of skepticism he wants. Like most creationists, Wozney makes sure to point out every famous accusation of scientific fraud in the history of paleontology. What he fails to note is that it is only because of the diligence of the scientific community that these frauds were exposed and publicised. Creationists didn't disprove the Piltown Man, evolution believing scientists did.

Underlying all of Wozney's points is a massively conspiratorial worldview. The nature of this worldview is clear when we return to his thesis statement and attach the part that I originally left off.
The dinosaur industry needs to be investigated and questions need to be asked. I personally do not have any reasons to believe dinosaurs ever existed and I believe they may be a fabrication of nineteenth and twentieth century people possibly under Satanic control pursuing an evolutionary and anti-Bible and anti-Christian agenda.

In case we missed it, he repeats that point several more times.
What would be the motivation for such a deceptive endeavor? Obvious motivations include trying to prove evolution, trying to disprove or cast doubt on the Christian Bible and the existence of the Christian God, trying to disprove the young-earth theory, and trying to disprove creationism. Yes, there are major political and religious ramifications.

The dinosaur concept implies that if God exists, He tinkered with His idea of dinosaurs for awhile, then probably discarded or became tired of this creation and then went on to create man. The presented dinosaur historical timeline suggests an imperfect God who came up with the idea of man as an afterthought, thus demoting the biblical idea that God created man in His own image.


The impression that I receive is that people were possibly being deceived and that the discoveries were possibly "being made" as a reaction and rebellion against God and the Bible.


As mentioned earlier, motivations for the possible invention of the dinosaur include trying to prove evolution, trying to disprove or cast doubt on the Bible and the existence of God, trying to disprove the young-earth theory, and trying to disprove creationism. Of course, the devil's ultimate goal is to cast doubt on the deity of Jesus Christ and prevent people's eternal salvation.

The name of Devils Canyon Science and Learning Center may possibly provide good insight to the real source of the dinosaur concept.

Point six, which I left out of his conclusions, also deals explicitly with this conclusion.
6. Implications of dinosaur discoveries to the theory of evolution and the belief that man was created in God's image, suggesting possible hidden and subtle political or religious agendas served on a naive and unsuspecting public.

This is a very revealing statement of a worldview that is quite common among creationists. Wozney is worried about the implication of dinosaurs and the theory of evolution and its effect on people's faith. Wozney goes on to say that this effect is so bad that he is led to suspect that the whole evolutionary idea must be a plot aimed at Christianity.

This is a classic argument in creation/evolution debates and it is impossible for the science side to refute because it has nothing to do with science. The most famous variation is attributed to the wife of the Bishop of Worcester upon hearing of Darwin’s theory of evolution : “Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that is not true, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known.” This argument from effects implies that the very idea of evolution is so dangerous that we should suppress it, regardless of whether it is true or not.

Now days, the common form of this argument is to say that my making man a no better than a beast, we justify people acting like beasts. Then they mention Hitler, abortion, and tasteless television shows. In his exchanges with Shumate, Wozney mentions that Hitler believed in evolution and dinosaurs. The only reason for bringing that up, is to suggest a cause and effect relationship: the belief in evolution made Hitler into the monster that he was. I suppose the people who make this argument would be amazed to discover that people behaved badly before Darwin. It's an argument that betrays a very low opinion of nature and of human nature.

William A. Dembski, one of the leading spokesmen for the Intelligent Design movement, made a revealing statement along those lines in a 2004 appearance at a church in Waco:
I think at a fundamental level, in terms of what drives me in this is that I think God's glory is being robbed by these naturalistic approaches to biological evolution, creation, the origin of the world, the origin of biological complexity and diversity. When you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms, God's glory is getting robbed...

Wozney's conspiratorial worldview carries the argument one step further. Not only does the belief in evolution lead to bad things, but bad people are encouraging the belief in evolution with the express purpose of making us bad. This can only be an act of Satan and a rebellion against God.

At the end of his article, Wozney provides "Various Related Links." First is a link to Genesis 1, the creation story. Next is link to Luke 3, the genealogy of Christ. This is followed a couple links to young-earth creationist sites that doubt dinosaurs or radiometric dating. One of these articles, by "Larry's Sister Anna," states that anyone who believes in dinosaurs needs a good beating. He finishes with four sites reporting on fossil finds that were later exposed as fakes. None of his recommendations for further reading present the opinions of professional paleontology; he only has time for its critics. This one sided presentation is probably the most honest part of his entire article.

Update: Several readers pointed out that I reversed a pair of name tags in the Wozney/Shumate dialogue. Thanks. It has been fixed.