Friday, February 27, 2015

Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act of 1924 has impact today

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Lewis Reynolds didn't understand what had been done to him when he was 13.
Years later, after getting married, the Lynchburg man discovered he couldn't father children. The reason: He had been sterilized by the state.
Reynolds was among more than 7,000 Virginians involuntarily sterilized between 1924 and 1979 under the Virginia Eugenical Sterilization Act.
Advocates for the surviving victims won a three-year fight Thursday when the Virginia General Assembly budgeted $400,000 to compensate them at the rate of $25,000 each.
Lewis Reynolds, 85, was involuntarily sterilized at age 13 under a state law intended to prevent "defective" people from reproducing. He went on to serve 30 years in the Marine Corps. Reynolds didn't know what had been done to him until years later. After getting married, the Lynchburg man found he couldn't father children. The reason: He had been sterilized at age 13 under a Virginia law with the stated purpose of preventing "defective persons" from becoming "by the propagation of their kind a menace to society." (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Bill Sizemore)
It's welcome news, Reynolds said.
"I think they done me wrong," he said. "I couldn't have a family like everybody else does. They took my rights away."
Eugenics is the now-discredited movement that sought to improve the genetic composition of humankind by preventing those considered "defective" from reproducing. Virginia's Sterilization Act became a model for similar legislation passed around the country and the world, including Nazi Germany. Nationwide, 65,000 Americans were sterilized in 33 states, including more than 20,000 in California alone, said Mark Bold, executive director of the Christian Law Institute, which has been advocating the cause of the Virginia victims since 2013.
Virginia is the second state to approve compensation for victims of the eugenics program. North Carolina approved payments of $50,000 for each victim in 2013.

But the money from the state comes too late for most of those who were sterilized in Virginia, Bold said. There are only 11 known surviving victims, he said. Two have died in the past year, he said. Those who are left greeted the news with tears and hugs, Bold said.
The Virginia sterilizations were performed at six state institutions, including what is now known as Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg. When Reynolds was sterilized there, it was called the Virginia Colony for the Epileptic and Feeble Minded.

Reynolds was presumed to have epilepsy. As it turned out, he was exhibiting temporary symptoms from having been hit in the head with a rock.
Reynolds' first wife left him after the couple learned they couldn't have children. He married again, and this time the union lasted. His second wife, Delores, died seven years ago after 47 years of marriage.
There were times, he has said, when he and Delores would cry about their inability to have a family.
Nevertheless, he made the best of the life he had been handed.
He joined the Marine Corps and served in two wars. He was a military policeman and a firearms instructor, at one time teaching FBI agents how to shoot. He manned a 50-caliber machine gun in Korea. He retired from the corps after 30 years and found work as an electrician. At 87, he still takes occasional jobs wiring houses.

The Virginia eugenics law was upheld in the 1927 Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., writing for the majority, famously declared: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

Revulsion over the state's actions brought together lawmakers from across the political spectrum, united in the belief that it was time to write the final page in a shameful chapter of the state's history.
The compensation measure was sponsored by Del. Ben Cline, a conservative Republican from Rockbridge County, and Del. Patrick Hope, a liberal Democrat from Arlington County.
"There was a growing consensus that we needed to act while we still had the opportunity to look these people in the eye and acknowledge the wrong that was committed against them so many years ago," Cline said.

The original legislation called for payments of $50,000 each. Even that amount was inadequate to address the wrong that was done, in Bold's view.
"But it's symbolic," he said. "Now the healing and forgiveness can begin."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NY Times says In-ves-ti-gate Bush, Cheney, Rove for War Crimes

The Opinion Pages | Editorial

Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses

Since the day President Obama took office, he has failed to bring to justice anyone responsible for the torture of terrorism suspects — an official government program conceived and carried out in the years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
He did allow his Justice Department to investigate the C.I.A.'s destruction of videotapes of torture sessions and those who may have gone beyond the torture techniques authorized by President George W. Bush. But the investigation did not lead to any charges being filed, or even any accounting of why they were not filed.

Mr. Obama has said multiple times that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” as though the two were incompatible. They are not. The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down.

Americans have known about many of these acts for years, but the 524-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report erases any lingering doubt about their depravity and illegality: In addition to new revelations of sadistic tactics like “rectal feeding,” scores of detainees were waterboarded, hung by their wrists, confined in coffins, sleep-deprived, threatened with death or brutally beaten. In November 2002, one detainee who was chained to a concrete floor died of “suspected hypothermia.”

These are, simply, crimes. They are prohibited by federal law, which defines torture as the intentional infliction of “severe physical or mental pain or suffering.” They are also banned by the Convention Against Torture, the international treaty that the United States ratified in 1994 and that requires prosecution of any acts of torture.

So it is no wonder that today’s blinkered apologists are desperate to call these acts anything but torture, which they clearly were. As the report reveals, these claims fail for a simple reason: C.I.A. officials admitted at the time that what they intended to do was illegal.

In July 2002, C.I.A. lawyers told the Justice Department that the agency needed to use “more aggressive methods” of interrogation that would “otherwise be prohibited by the torture statute.” They asked the department to promise not to prosecute those who used these methods. When the department refused, they shopped around for the answer they wanted. They got it from the ideologically driven lawyers in the Office of Legal Counsel, who wrote memos fabricating a legal foundation for the methods. Government officials now rely on the memos as proof that they sought and received legal clearance for their actions. But the report changes the game: We now know that this reliance was not made in good faith.

No amount of legal pretzel logic can justify the behavior detailed in the report. Indeed, it is impossible to read it and conclude that no one can be held accountable. At the very least, Mr. Obama needs to authorize a full and independent criminal investigation.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch are to give Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. a letter Monday calling for appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate what appears increasingly to be “a vast criminal conspiracy, under color of law, to commit torture and other serious crimes.” 

The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.

But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.
One would expect Republicans who have gone hoarse braying about Mr. Obama’s executive overreach to be the first to demand accountability, but with one notable exception, Senator John McCain, they have either fallen silent or actively defended the indefensible. They cannot even point to any results: Contrary to repeated claims by the C.I.A., the report concluded that “at no time” did any of these techniques yield intelligence that averted a terror attack. And at least 26 detainees were later determined to have been “wrongfully held.”

Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback; it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments. Because of the Senate’s report, we now know the distance officials in the executive branch went to rationalize, and conceal, the crimes they wanted to commit. The question is whether the nation will stand by and allow the perpetrators of torture to have perpetual immunity for their actions.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Charlie (Baker) and the MBTA

Baker’s role in Big Dig financing process was anything but ‘small’

Records undercut his campaign claim

By Michael Rezendes and Noah Bierman Globe Staff / June 13, 2010

When he launched his candidacy last summer, Baker said he played a “small role in the Big Dig.’’ Days later, his campaign said that, as the state’s budget chief under governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, he had a “limited role in the financing process.’’
And in March, Baker told a Globe columnist that when it came to figuring out how to pay for the massive project at one critical juncture in the 1990s, he was only “one of about 50 people’’ involved.
But those statements are sharply at odds with a picture of Baker’s financial leadership of the project that emerges from hundreds of pages of memorandums, letters, and other documents culled from his four-year tenure as secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, from 1994 to 1998. The documents show that Baker was the chief architect of a financing plan to sustain the project during its peak construction years, just as federal support was diminishing substantially.
The $3 billion plan depended almost exclusively on heavy borrowing and modest toll increases, deferring the toughest decisions on tolling and taxes to future leaders. It wasn’t designed to deal with the massive cost overruns that would eventually plague the project, despite multiple warnings at the time that the price tag would likely grow.
Baker, in a recent interview, acknowledged that he played a major role in assembling the financing plan, but said many others participated in the effort. He also said the plan was responsible, effective, and based on good-faith assurances by other government officials that the Big Dig would be built on time and on budget.
“There were a lot of other people involved in it, all the way through,’’ he said. “And I was looking to build consensus with all those other people who ultimately had to sign off on whatever we were doing, including the Legislature and the governor and the Turnpike Authority and Massport and all these other folks.’’
A valued officer
By the time Weld named Baker as the state’s top fiscal officer in November 1994, Baker had already served as his secretary of health and human services and was considered a rising star. So valued was Baker’s counsel that Weld referred to him as “the man behind the curtain’’ and “the soul’’ of his administration.
By 1997, when the state was enjoying huge budget surpluses, the Big Dig, then expected to cost $10.8 billion, was the most daunting fiscal challenge on Baker’s desk.
At the time, the federal government was preparing to cut funding for the project by about $300 million per year. Project managers were desperate to find billions of dollars to fund the most expensive years, when contractors would be tunneling through downtown Boston.
While former state transportation secretary James J. Kerasiotes was the public face of the project, supervising the depression of the elevated Central Artery and construction of a new cross-harbor tunnel to Logan Airport, Baker was working out of the limelight, to find a way to pay for it, records show.
Among the Big Dig records reviewed by the Globe — obtained under a public records request — that bear Baker’s name are official agreements among the state agencies involved in financing the project; letters to key legislators; a $600 million securities prospectus for potential lenders; and dozens of internal memorandums, including several between Baker and his staff outlining the borrowing plans.
As he struggled to find a way to overcome the drop in federal dollars, Baker, in crafting a financing plan, also had to contend with politics. His Republican bosses, Weld and Cellucci, were dead-set against new taxes and fees.
In 1996, Weld knocked down three turnpike tollbooths during his unsuccessful Senate campaign against John F. Kerry, eliminating a potential source of Big Dig revenue. Weld also oversaw the elimination of some motor vehicle registration fees, another potential source of direct funding.
At the time, Baker could have relied on the money overflowing from state coffers. In June of 1998, Baker was presiding over a $1 billion budget surplus, with state income tax collections rising.
But with acting governor Paul Cellucci campaigning on a pledge to cut more than $1 billion from the state’s revenue stream by slashing the state income tax rate, there was little enthusiasm in the administration for diverting surplus funds to the Big Dig.
“People, generally speaking, thought that the tax policy that was being pursued by state government at that point in time was a positive development with respect to the economic growth of the state,’’ Baker said.
Baker’s borrowing plan
With federal dollars dwindling and little political appetite for raising tolls or taxes, Baker engineered a two-track financing plan.
The first part relied on selling short-term bonds to investors that would be repaid by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the Massachusetts Port Authority. The Turnpike Authority would kick in $1 billion, while Massport would contribute $300 million.
That money, under agreements Baker signed in 1997 and 1998, would be provided in large part through tolls collected on the Mass. Pike and the Tobin Bridge.
As a result, in 1997, tolls in the tunnels were raised from $1 to $2, and on the Tobin from $.50 to $1, inciting the ire of commuters and concern among elected officials about the political consequences. But it could have been steeper: Further increases, including higher tolls at turnpike booths in Greater Boston, were put off until 2002, after Baker and his bosses were gone. From there, turnpike and tunnel tolls in Greater Boston were scheduled to go up every six years.
The second part of Baker’s borrowing plan was more complex and, at the time, more innovative. It called for selling up to $1.5 billion in Grant Anticipation Notes, known as GANs, which allowed the government to borrow money and pay back the principal using future federal highway grants to the state. The interest — an estimated $550 million over 18 years, which has since ballooned to an estimated $840 million — would be picked up by taxpayers.
Although the sale of GANs is common today, they had been used only occasionally at the time, and never on the scale that Baker proposed, according to state and federal records. The GANs eventually raised $1.5 billion, and will not be paid off until 2015, a decade after the project was virtually finished.
Kerasiotes, recalling the funding crisis confronting Big Dig officials, praised Baker’s work.
“We were caught in a confluence of events,’’ Kerasiotes said. “Charlie had a job to do, and he did his job and he did it well.’’
State legislators, eager to find a way to keep the Big Dig going while avoiding unpopular toll increases, largely embraced the overall plan.
Joseph Sullivan, the House transportation committee chairman at the time, said there was general cooperation among political leaders, as well as state and federal transportation officials, on the need to find a new source of funding for the project. Sullivan said Baker was a key player, especially in bringing all the parties together.
“When you are the secretary of administration and finance, your voice matters,’’ Sullivan said.
Underfunded needs
While the Legislature approved the plan with little objection, others raised red flags. That was because borrowing against future federal transportation aid was nearly certain to delay other highway and bridge projects.
Baker maintained that using the money for the Big Dig would not compromise road and bridge work elsewhere in the state, arguing that at least $400 million would be available every year for other projects.
“I don’t see how anybody could argue that the artery will be pulling money away from non-artery projects,’’ he said during a 1998 legislative hearing.
But others disagreed. “The administration kept denying the obvious,’’ Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a business-backed watchdog group, said in a recent interview. “If you keep spending more on the Central Artery, you’re going to have less to spend on state highways. I learned that in second grade. If you’ve got a dollar, you can only spend it once.’’
In the interview, Baker said overall spending on other state road and bridge projects actually grew — with the help of additional state funds — after the financing plan was approved.
Nevertheless, the need for road and bridge repairs has long exceeded the state’s ability to pay for the work, and Baker’s financing plan for the Big Dig exacerbated the problem, by committing federal aid to the project until 2015. A blue-ribbon panel in 2007 concluded that the state was underfunding its transportation needs by nearly $1 billion a year.
Moreover, in a 1999 report, the Taxpayers Foundation pointed out that issuing the GANs would require taxpayers to pay substantial interest on the loans, “adding to the mounting spending pressures on the budget.’’
Today, Baker stands by his plan, insisting it was the right tool for the right job at the right time.
“I think the GANs worked,’’ he said. “They served their purpose as intended. They made it possible to finish the project on an uninterrupted basis. They dealt with the cash flow problem that we would have otherwise faced.’’
Governor Deval Patrick, faced with limited revenue to rebuild deteriorating roads and bridges, has used a similar approach in borrowing $1.1 billion against future federal highways grants. Like Baker’s plan, this has drawn criticism from Widmer, who says it “puts a burden on future taxpayers because of a refusal to pay for our obligations now.’’
The decision, during Baker’s tenure, to delay major toll increases also had ripple effects. As the Big Dig’s needs grew, successive governors, transportation officials, and state lawmakers also balked at raising tolls and entered into ever-more complex financing schemes, leaving the Turnpike Authority at the brink of insolvency before the Legislature and Patrick agreed to dissolve it last year. Patrick and state lawmakers also increased the state sales tax rate in 2009, in part to pump $100 million a year into turnpike debt and avoid a politically unpopular toll increase.
Warnings on cost overruns
The financing plan structured by Baker left no cushion for future cost overruns in the project, even though, at the time, fiscal watchdogs said overruns were probable.
In 1994, a project manager with Bechtel Parsons/Brinckerhoff, the private engineering consortium overseeing the project, told Weld and other administration officials that costs were likely to rise dramatically, but the administration kept the information private.
The Taxpayers Foundation in 1997 said publicly that it would take a “Herculean’’ effort to avoid cost overruns. The federal Government Accounting Office warned in 1997 and again in 1998 that Baker’s borrowing plan could fall hundreds of millions of dollars short because it failed to account for $450 million in cost increases announced in March 1997, and as much as $500 million more in potential construction overruns.
“If current trends continue, further cost increases of some magnitude seem likely,’’ the 1997 audit cautioned, advising the state to update its cost estimate.
In his interview, Baker said that he believed his plan was flexible, and that he was more concerned at the time with the ups and downs of federal funding than changes in the official price tag.
“I know there was a lot of other chatter going on at the time,’’ he said. “But the people who were closest to it, who had direct oversight of it, were basically saying that that was a reasonable estimate at that point in time and all the way through.’’
Baker said he was not at the 1994 meeting where the Bechtel official briefed Weld on cost overruns, and does not recall being informed about it.
By 2005, seven years after Baker left the State House, and five years after Big Dig managers conceded that the project would cost more than $1 billion more than the public had been told, the final bill came to nearly $15 billion, with taxpayers facing another $7 billion in interest that will not be paid off until 2038.
Today, as Baker runs for governor, one of the central tenets of his campaign is that state government should live within its means.
“In my administration,’’ he pledged, as he was accepting the Republican convention endorsement in April, “we’re going to stop spending money we don’t have, starting on day one.’’
In his interview with the Globe, Baker said he has no regrets about the course he pursued. But he did take away a larger lesson.
“The biggest issue on all of this stuff,’’ Baker said, “is we should be very careful about entering into these things going forward unless we really know what they’re going to cost.’’
Noah Bierman can be reached at, Michael Rezendes can be reached at

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Aganstata Oconastota Moytoy: Warrior of Chota

Oconostota, the Warrior of ChotaCunne Shote, also known as

NATIVE NAME: Aganstata


ALTERNATE NAMES: Oconostota, Oconastota Moytoy, Cunne Shote, Warrior of Chota, Stalking Turkey (a name which causes confusion with his uncle Kanagatucko, who was known as "Standing Turkey"), Groundhog Sausage, Beloved Warrior, First Warrior, Great Warrior, Skiagunsta Chote

ALTERNATE SPELLINGS: Oconastota, Oconostata, Oganatoga, Shote is a variant of Chote or Choat or Choate, Cumnacatogue

  • Aganstata was translated as Groundhog Sausage, from "agana" = groundhog, and "tsistau" = "I am pounding it" as in pounding meat in a mortar.
  • Cunne Shote may be the English mispronunciation of the Cherokee words for Stalking Turkey.
painted by Francis Parsons in 1762.
this may be his uncle, Chief Standing Turkey
BIRTHPLACE / DATE: Oconostota was born in the Overhill towns of the Cherokee in the Little Tennessee Valley. His exact birth date is unknown, but usually given as 1710. Some sources say he was born around 1704 - 1706, and he may have been born as early as 1680.

DEATH DATE / LOCATION: Oconostota is believed to have died in either 1782 or 1783 at Chota.

BURIAL PLACE: Oconostota's remains were uncovered during the archaeological digs around the site of Chota for the Tellico Reservoir impoundment. His burial site was at the front door of the Chota Council House. This was a high honor that indicated he was regarded as being above the stature of most Cherokee leaders. The members of the Council would have to walk over his grave to enter the structure and remember his contributions to the Chota village.

Oconostota was identified by a pair of reading glasses that he owned which were buried with him. He had been buried in his canoe. Oconostota was re-interred at Chota in the portion raised by TVA (which includes the site of the council house) and has a gravestone marking the site. His name is given as Oconastota (with two a's) on his grave marker near the original site of Chota in Monroe County, Tennessee.

The columns of the Chota Council House and his grave were placed back in their original positions, then concrete was poured over them to prevent looting of the site. It is now under the dominion of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian and overseen by the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore.

The site is still used in ceremonies by the Cherokee and regarded as the most sacred site of the Cherokee Nation. It is located south of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum and Fort Loudoun State Park on the same stretch of road.

MOTHER: Aganunitsi, was one of the daughters of Chief Amatoya Moytoy (b. about 1640) and Quatsy of Tellico.She was an elder sister of Chief Old Hop.

FATHER: Moytoy Pigeon of Tellico (Moytoy II), also known as Smallpox Conjuror of Settico

SIBLINGS: One of eleven children.
  • Kittagusta aka Prince Skalilosken (who went to London with Attakullakulla). Also spelled Kitegiska.
  • Chief Outacite aka Skiagusta
  • Savanukah, the Raven of Chote, son of a Shawnee brave.
OTHER RELATIVES: Oconostota was a cousin of Attacullaculla through his aunt, Nancy Moytoy.

1st WIFE: Creek Woman, also known as Aniwaya Woman of the Paint Clan. She was 1/2 Shawnee, born about 1704. They married about 1720.
  • Nionne Ollie, of the Paint Clan. Born about 1720.
    • Ollie married Attakullakulla and they were the parents of Dutsi Tarchee aka Dutch born about 1740. Dutch was the father of Major Ridge and Oowatie. Oowatie, born about 1773, married Susanna Reese.
  • Wollenawoa
  • Daughter (name unknown) born about 1730, married THE BARK, born about 1750
  • The TERRAPIN, born about 1736, died sometime after 1796.
2nd WIFE: Quatsis, Shawnee. They married about 1736.
  • Adopted father of Daughter of Quatsis (name unknown), 1/2 Shawnee-Cherokee
3rd WIFE: Lucy Ward, a former lady-in-waiting to the Queen of England whom he had met in 1730. They married about 1737. She was adopted by the Cherokee. She died in 1758, shortly after childbirth.
  • Lucy Ward II
  • Ollie
  • Jennie
4th WIFE: Ooloosta I
  • Ooloosta II
  • Chief Tekahmih
Oconostota was only married to one wife at a time. After each wife died, he married another. BAND / CLAN AFFILIATIONS: Moytoy II band. Clan unknown, probably Wolf.

SIGNIFICANT POSITIONS: War Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1775 to 1780.


Oconostota was 1/2 Shawnee, but was raised and lived in his mother's Cherokee culture.

Oconostota is believed to be the Native American on the central emblem of the flag of Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1730, Oconostota was one of six Cherokee delegates who visited England. It was there that he first met one of his future wives, Lucy Ward, who was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. He made a return trip with two other Cherokee in 1762 to meet King George III. The painting pictured above was of him in his court attire on that visit, which did not go well. Although he had been schooled in the proper protocols when meeting British royalty, he greeted the King with the customary Cherokee hug, which shocked the court, and he was shunned by British society.

Oconostota became the Principal Chief of the Cherokee following the death of his cousin Attacullaculla, sometime around 1775-1777. He was suceeded by Rayetayah (Hanging Maw), who married a granddaughter of Moytoy I (and sister of Attacullculla).

By the time of the American Revolution, Oconostota was a great chief in his tribe, who had great influence with other allied tribes, as well. Hollywood and other fictitious portrayals of Native American leadership have always illustrated chiefs as being hereditary "kings" of their tribes. This, especially among the Cherokee, is a myth that has been perpetuated throughout the years.

A Native American’s abilities in war, trade, and diplomacy brought them influence and the right to serve as a consultant to the tribal council. The power of these political structures was found in an individual’s ability to influence others. Once such a position was attained, it had to be held and proven over and over.

Oconostota in any European context would be likened to a famous general. His ability to respond quickly to threats and his fearless courage in battle made him a natural leader among the Cherokee and other southeastern tribes. There were many contemporary descriptions of him in British and French writings of the day and even President George Washington wrote of him and the problems he could pose to American security.

As the Anglo-American crisis escalated, Oconostota struggled to avoid open warfare with the Americans. Younger chiefs of the Cherokee tribe, however, angered at continued pressure on their lands, urged warfare, and the American Revolution gave them an opportunity.

While Oconostota continually applied to Virginia and Continental officials to negotiate, his people, led by the younger chiefs, were defeated again and again.

Oconostota sided with the English in the war with France, but afterward, exasperated by an attack on a party of his men by settlers, who accused them of horse-stealing, he gathered an alliance of 10,000 Creeks and Cherokees. They massacred the commander of Fort Prince George, and soon reduced Fort Loudon to the alternative of surrender or starvation.

Being allowed to retain their arms and promised safe conduct to Virginia, the garrison of two hundred surrendered, but was treacherously attacked at the close of the first day's march, and all but Captain John Stuart, Isaac Thomas, a scout, and a soldier named Jack, were killed.

Oconostota told Stuart to work the captured guns, with which he proposed to reduce Fort Prince George, and, on his refusal, threatened to burn him at the stake. Attakullakulla intervened and escorted him to Virginia. The English then destroyed the Cherokee towns, and reduced the nation to the last extremities. Peace was finally granted them only on the intercession of Attakullakulla.

Oconostota had learned how to efficiently use a rifle early in life and was regarded as an exceptional marksmen among his people. In addition, he was a clever tactician and strategist and knew what it took to win on the battlefield. Whether it was fighting other tribes or European traders, he understood their weaknesses and strengths and knew how to stage a battle to win. His quick mind and wise decisions soon earned him recognition in the tribe as one of its greatest warriors.

While he did not have the diplomatic and oratory skills of his colleague Attakullakulla, Oconostota did have the natural skills of battlefield leadership and that was the catalyst that caused him to rise to prominence in the Cherokee Nation.

In 1770 a handful of pioneers, under James Robertson, crossed the Alleghanies and settled upon the Cherokee territory at Watauga. Oconostota granted them an eight year lease, but in March, 1775, they demanded an absolute cession of the territory.

At the treaty council, Oconostota opposed this in an eloquent speech in which he predicted the fate of his nation. His speech was so impassioned that the other indian leaders got up and left the negotiations. However, then the negotiators prepared a great feast and invited the Indians, getting them drunk on rum in the process.

Eventually the council reconvened and Oconostota was overruled by the other leaders. The cession of the Watauga lands was made, and also of the Cherokee claim to all of Kentucky.

When Oconostota had signed the treaties he turned to Daniel Boone, who had been active in the negotiations, and said to him: "Young man, we have sold you a fine territory, but I fear you will have some blood spilled getting it settled."

In a little more than a month the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought. John Stuart, who had been appointed British superintendent of the southern Indians, at once conceived a gigantic scheme for crushing the southern colonies by a combined front and rear attack. A British land and naval force was to descend upon the seaboard, while Oconostota, at the head of 20,000 combined Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Cherokees, should attack the back settlements.

A year of time and millions of dollars were expended in the preparation, and in July, 1776, the execution of the plan was attempted. Sir Peter Parker descended upon Charleston, but was beaten off, and a like fate befell the scattered rear attacks, Oconostota himself being driven back by John Sevier with only forty men.

A five years' struggle followed, during which Sevier, with at first only 200 men and with never more than 1,000, inflicted defeat after defeat upon the old king and his 10,000 warriors. At last the nation dethroned Oconostota and elected in his place the peace-loving Rayetayah.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Prophet and Loss: Brooksley Born falls on Deaf Ears

Prophet and Loss

Brooksley Born warned that unchecked trading in the credit market could lead to disaster, but power brokers in Washington ignored her. Now we're all paying the price.

By Rick Schmitt
Photography by Erika Larsen

Shortly after she was named to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in 1996, Brooksley E. Born was invited to lunch by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.
The influential Greenspan was an ardent proponent of unfettered markets. Born was a powerful Washington lawyer with a track record for activist causes. Over lunch, in his private dining room at the stately headquarters of the Fed in Washington, Greenspan probed their differences.
“Well, Brooksley, I guess you and I will never agree about fraud,” Born, in a recent interview, remembers Greenspan saying.
“What is there not to agree on?” Born says she replied.
“Well, you probably will always believe there should be laws against fraud, and I don’t think there is any need for a law against fraud,” she recalls. Greenspan, Born says, believed the market would take care of itself.
For the incoming regulator, the meeting was a wake-up call. “That underscored to me how absolutist Alan was in his opposition to any regulation,” she said in the interview.
Over the next three years, Born, ’61, JD ’64, would learn first-hand the potency of those absolutist views, confronting Greenspan and other powerful figures in the capital over how to regulate Wall Street.
More recently, as analysts sort out the origins of what has become the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Born has emerged as a sort of modern-day Cassandra. Some people believe the debacle could have been averted or muted had Greenspan and others followed her advice.
As chairperson of the CFTC, Born advocated reining in the huge and growing market for financial derivatives. Derivatives get their name because the value is derived from fluctuations in, for example, interest rates or foreign exchange. They started out as ways for big corporations and banks to manage their risk across a range of investments. One type of derivative—known as a credit-default swap—has been a key contributor to the economy’s recent unraveling.
The swaps were sold as a kind of insurance—the insured paid a “premium” as protection in case the creditor defaulted on the loan, and the insurer agreed to cover the losses in exchange for that premium. The credit-default swap market—estimated at more than $45 trillion—helped fuel the mortgage boom, allowing lenders to spread their risk further and further, thus generating more and more loans. But because the swaps are not regulated, no one ensured that the parties were able to pay what they promised. When housing prices crashed, the loans also went south, and the massive debt obligations in the derivatives contracts wiped out banks unable to cover them.
Back in the 1990s, however, Born’s proposal stirred an almost visceral response from other regulators in the Clinton administration, as well as members of Congress and lobbyists. The economy was sailing along, and the growth of derivatives was considered a sign of American innovation and a symbol of the virtues of deregulation. The instruments were also a growing cash cow for the Wall Street firms that peddled them to eager takers.
Ultimately, Greenspan and the other regulators foiled Born’s efforts, and Congress took the extraordinary step of enacting legislation that prohibited her agency from taking any action. Born left government and returned to her private law practice in Washington.
“History already has shown that Greenspan was wrong about virtually everything, and Brooksley was right,” says Frank Partnoy, a former Wall Street investment banker who is now a professor at the University of San Diego law school. “I think she has been entirely vindicated. . . . If there is one person we should have listened to, it was Brooksley.”
Speaking out for the first time, Born says she takes no pleasure from the turn of events. She says she was just doing her job based on the evidence in front of her. Looking back, she laments what she says was the outsized influence of Wall Street lobbyists on the process, and the refusal of her fellow regulators, especially Greenspan, to discuss even modest reforms. “Recognizing the dangers . . . was not rocket science, but it was contrary to the conventional wisdom and certainly contrary to the economic interests of Wall Street at the moment,” she says.
“I certainly am not pleased with the results,” she adds. “I think the market grew so enormously, with so little oversight and regulation, that it made the financial crisis much deeper and more pervasive than it otherwise would have been.”
Greenspan, who retired from the Fed in 2006, acknowledged in congressional testimony last October that the financial crisis, which he described as a “once in-a-century credit tsunami,” had exposed a “flaw” in his market-based ideology.
He says Born’s characterization of the lunch conversation she recounted does not accurately describe his position on addressing fraud. “This alleged conversation is wholly at variance with my decades-long held view,” he said in an e-mail, citing an excerpt from his 2007 book The Age of Turbulence, in which he wrote that more government involvement was needed to root out fraud. Born stands by her story.
Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary when Born headed the CFTC, has said that he supported closer scrutiny of financial derivatives but did not believe it politically feasible at the time.
A third regulator opposing Born, Arthur Levitt, who was chairman of the Securities Exchange Commission, says he also now wishes more had been done. “I think it is fair to say that regulators should have considered the implications . . . of the exploding derivatives market,” Levitt told STANFORD.
In a way, the battle had the look and feel of a classic Washington turf war.
The CFTC was created in the ’70s to regulate agricultural commodities markets. By the ’90s, its main business had become overseeing financial products such as stock index futures and currency options, but some in Washington thought it should stick to pork bellies and soybeans. Born’s push for regulation posed a threat to the authority of more established cops on the beat.
“She certainly was not in their league in terms of prominence and stature,” says a lawyer who has known Born for years and requested anonymity to avoid appearing critical of her. “They probably thought, ‘Here is a little person from one of these agencies trying to assertively expand her jurisdiction.’”
Some of the other regulators have said they had problems with Born’s personal style and found her hard to work with. “I thought it was counterproductive. If you want to move forward . . . you engage with parties in a constructive way,” Rubin told the Washington Post. “My recollection was . . . this was done in a more strident way.” Levitt says Born was “characterized as being abrasive.”
Her supporters, while acknowledging that Born can be uncompromising when she believes she is right, say those are excuses of people who simply did not want to hear what she had to say.
“She was serious, professional, and she held her ground against those who were not sympathetic to her position,” says Michael Greenberger, a Washington lawyer who was a top aide to Born at the CFTC. “I don’t think that the failure to be ‘charming’ should be translated into a depiction of stridency.”
Others find a whiff of sexism in the pushback. “The messenger wore a skirt,” says Marna Tucker, a Washington lawyer and a longtime friend of Born. “Could Alan Greenspan take that?”
Greenspan dismisses the notion that he had problems with Born because she is a woman. He points out that when he took a leave from his consulting firm in the 1970s to accept a job in the Ford administration, he placed an all-female executive team in charge.
It was not the first time that Born, 68, had pushed back against convention.
Her doggedness over a career spanning more than 40 years propelled her into the halls of power in Washington. She was a top commercial lawyer at a major firm, as well as a towering figure in the area of women’s rights, and a role model for women lawyers. She was on Bill Clinton’s short list for attorney general.
One of seven women in the Class of 1964 at Stanford Law School, she graduated at the top of her class, and was elected president of the law review, the first woman to hold either distinction. She is credited with being the first woman to edit a major American law review.
In the early 1970s, at a time when women had few role models at major law firms, she became a partner at the Washington, D.C., firm of Arnold & Porter, despite working part time while raising her children.
She helped establish some of the first public-interest firms in the country focused on issues of gender discrimination. She helped rewrite American Bar Association rules that made it possible for more women and minorities to sit on the federal bench, and she prodded the group into taking stands against private clubs that discriminated against women or blacks.
She was used to people trying to push her around, or being perceived as a potential troublemaker. She remembers being shouted down during an ABA meeting in the 1970s when she proposed that the organization take a position supporting equal rights for gay and lesbian workers. A former ABA president stood up and said, “that the subject was so unsavory that it should not be discussed . . . and was not germane to the purposes of the ABA,” she recalls. She lost that fight, although the group reversed its stand years later.
“She looks at things not just from a technical perspective or the perspective of an insider. She looks at the perspective of outsiders and how people without power are going to be affected,” says Esther Lardent, a Washington lawyer who worked with Born on various ABA matters. “That is a theme constantly running through her life and career.”
“She is a very polite and low-key person but she is never somebody who steps back from a disagreement or a fight if it is a matter of importance to her,” Lardent adds. “Did that make people uncomfortable? Did that make the men who dominated the leadership fail to take her seriously enough? I am sure that was the case.”
She was born in San Francisco. Her mother, an English teacher, and her father, the head of the city’s public welfare department, were both Stanford graduates.
An early mentor was her mother’s best friend from Stanford, Miriam E. Wolff, JD ’40, who became a deputy state attorney general and judge and the first woman to ever head a major port.
Born entered Stanford with the thought of being a doctor, but switched majors after a career counselor interpreted her answers on a series of vocational tests. In those days, women were assessed for their interest in nursing or teaching, men for the professional jobs, including law and medicine. The tests were even color coded—pink for women, blue for men.
Born says she insisted on taking both. Her mother, who had a master’s degree in psychology, felt that was the only way her daughter’s professional interests could be evaluated properly.
She scored high on being a doctor—and low on being a nurse. But rather than suggest she pursue a career as a physician, the counselor said the test proved that her interest in medicine was not genuine and that she was really only interested in making a lot of money. Born quit premed and majored in English.
“It was a turning point. What can I say? I was 18 years old. I didn’t know any better,” Born says. “Unfortunately, I was, you know, a member of the society as it was then. I was hurt by the advice, and kind of believed in it. I don’t believe in it now. It is ridiculous in retrospect.”
A decade later, one of the public-interest firms she founded challenged the tests as discriminatory.
Law school was welcoming and intellectually stimulating, even if some people were still getting used to the idea of having women around. Male law students got their own dormitory; women were left to make their own housing arrangements in off-campus boarding houses or apartments. “I also had . . . one student in my class tell me I was taking the place of a man who had to go to Vietnam and was risking his life because of me, which was sobering to say the least,” she recalls.
Making a mark in the classroom could also be a challenge. Some professors refused to call on women, thinking it rude or unbecoming. She remembers an episode in her first year when her professor appeared to have the class stumped after quizzing several men about a problem. “The little girl has it!” she recalls the professor declaring, after she blurted out the right answer.
“I was very worried that I would not do well and that I would disgrace myself, and women,” Born says. “I worked very hard during my first year because I was afraid I would flunk out.” In those Darwinian times in law schools, that was not an idle concern: professors tried to weed out all but the most qualified students, and about a third were dismissed from school after the first year. That would not be her fate.
“She was off the charts,” says Pamela Ann Rymer, JD ’64, a judge on the federal appeals court in Pasadena. “Brooksley never wore it on her sleeve. She is not quiet, but she is a very unpretentious kind of person, just plainly and obviously with a brilliant mind.”
Despite her grades, Born was passed over for a clerkship on the U.S. Supreme Court, the most coveted opportunity for a young lawyer. Stanford’s top students were good candidates for the clerkships, but a faculty committee decided to recommend two men for the positions even though Born had a superior academic record. It was a bitter introduction to a gender-biased legal culture. “They were sure I would understand that it would be unseemly for women to be clerks on the Supreme Court,” she says of the committee members. “I felt very disappointed and angry.”
Undaunted, she headed to Washington, and arranged an interview on her own with Arthur Goldberg, then one of the most liberal members of the high court. Goldberg would not hire her either but recommended her to a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington. Henry Edgerton, who wrote an opinion that became a basis for the landmark Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation case, gave her a clerkship. (Law school professor emerita Barbara Babcock also clerked for Edgerton.)
A year later, taken with the Washington scene and its place on the front lines of the civil rights movement, Born scrapped plans to return to San Francisco. “I wanted in,” she says. Arnold & Porter, a firm with a liberal tradition of public service, offered her a job, and she started work the same day that a former name partner of the firm, Abe Fortas, was sworn in as a justice of the Supreme Court.
The firm was one of a few that were beginning to hire women and treat them on par with men. But there were challenges, especially for those interested in a career and a family. Many firms up to that point refused to hire women who were married or who were interested in children.
The lone woman partner at Arnold & Porter at the time was married to Fortas and was renowned for her “misanthropic toughness,” including a preference for “thick cigars,” according to Charles Halpern, an associate with Born at the firm in the 1960s. “Our swimming pool has two deep ends,” Halpern recalls her once saying, “so that people aren’t tempted to drop by with their small children for a swim on a hot summer day.”
Born soon faced a difficult choice. She took a one-year leave when her then-husband got a Nieman fellowship at Harvard, where her first child was born. Returning to Washington, she tried to juggle full-time work and child rearing but it quickly became apparent that the arrangement didn’t work.
“I went to the partner I was working with the most and said I just didn’t think I could do this,” she says. “I thought I had to resign.” To her surprise, the partner suggested she work three days a week with the understanding she would not be considered for partner until she returned full time.
In 1974, when she had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, she was still working part time. The firm promoted her anyway. The family-friendly development was a stunning breakthrough at a time when law firms were focused on billable hours and the bottom line, and little else. It further raised her profile.
“When I met her I was in awe of her because the idea that she could be a partner in that firm was just unbelievable,” says Tucker, her longtime friend. The women bonded after being asked to teach a course on women and the law at two Washington-area law schools, and being horrified at what they found during their research. “We were surprised to find the degree to which discrimination was embodied in the law,” Born says. “It was a real consciousness-raising experience.”
Lawyer Marcia Greenberger sought out Born in the 1970s when she was named to start a new women’s rights project in Washington. Born agreed to chair an advisory board for the project, and became a guiding force, mentor and opener of doors, leveraging her contacts and credibility, Greenberger says. One of the first broad-based challenges to how universities were implementing Title IX—the 1972 law requiring equal programs and activities for women and men—was brought after Born passed along the name of a colleague who was incensed at the poor athletic facilities his daughter was forced to use at her school. Born also helped win Ford Foundation grants that enabled the project to hire its second lawyer. What is now called the National Women’s Law Center today has a staff approaching 60 and a budget of almost $10 million. Born remains chair of its board of directors.
Clinton named her to head the CFTC in 1996. She was not without experience: at Arnold & Porter she had represented the London Futures Exchange in rule making and other matters before the commodities agency.
She also knew how markets could be manipulated, having represented a major Swiss bank in litigation stemming from an attempt by the Hunt family of Dallas to corner the silver market in the 1980s.
“Brooksley had the advantage of knowing the law and understanding the fragility of the system if it weren’t regulated,” says Michael Greenberger, her former adviser at the CFTC. “She could see that the data points, by lack of regulation, were heading the country into a serious set of calamities, each calamity worse than the one before.”
Under a Republican predecessor, the CFTC had in 1993 largely exempted from regulation more exotic derivatives that involved just two parties. The thinking was that sophisticated entities negotiating individually tailored derivatives could look out for themselves. More generic derivatives still had to be traded on exchanges, which were subject to regulation.
By 1997, the over-the-counter derivatives market had more than doubled in size, by one measure, reaching an estimated $28 trillion, based on the value of the instruments underlying the contracts. (It has now reached an estimated $600 trillion.)
And some cracks were already surfacing in the landscape. Several customers of Bankers Trust, including Procter & Gamble, sued for fraud and racketeering in connection with several OTC derivative deals. Orange County, Calif., had gone bankrupt in part because of an OTC derivative-trading scheme gone awry.
What is more, all the growth had taken place at a time of economic prosperity. Some people were beginning to ask what would happen if the market suffered a major reversal.
“The exposures were very, very big and if it was your job to worry about things that could go wrong, and I think it was, this is one of the things you couldn’t help but notice,” says Daniel Waldman, a Washington lawyer who was the CFTC general counsel under Born. “It was only your blind faith in the participants that could give you much comfort because you really did not know much about the real risks.”
‘There was no transparency of these markets at all. No market oversight. No regulator knew what was happening,” Born says. “There was no reporting to anybody.’
She chose what she thought was a middle ground, circulating a draft “concept release,” to regulators and trade associations, which was intended to gather information about how the markets operated. She and her staff suspected the industry was trying to exploit the earlier regulatory exemption.
But even the modest proposal got a vituperative response. The dozen or so large banks that wrote most of the OTC derivative contracts saw the move as a threat to a major profit center. Greenspan and his deregulation-minded brain trust saw no need to upset the status quo. The sheer act of contemplating regulation, they maintained, would cause widespread chaos in markets around the world.
“We would go to conferences and it would be viciously attacked,” Waldman says. “They would just be stomping their feet and pounding the tables.” With Born unlikely to change her mind, the industry focused on working through the other regulators.
Born recalls taking a phone call from Lawrence Summers, then Rubin’s top deputy at the Treasury Department, complaining about the proposal, and mentioning that he was taking heat from industry lobbyists. She was not dissuaded. “Of course, we were an independent regulatory agency,” she says.
The debate came to a head April 21, 1998. In a Treasury Department meeting of a presidential working group that included Born and the other top regulators, Greenspan and Rubin took turns attempting to change her mind. Rubin took the lead, she recalls.
“I was told by the secretary of the treasury that the CFTC had no jurisdiction, and for that reason and that reason alone, we should not go forward,” Born says. “I told him . . . that I had never heard anyone assert that we didn’t have statutory jurisdiction . . . and I would be happy to see the legal analysis he was basing his position on.”
She says she was never supplied one. “They didn’t have one because it was not a legitimate legal position,” she says.
Greenspan followed. “He maintained that merely inquiring about the field would drive important and expanding and creative financial business offshore,” she says. CFTC economists later checked for any signs of that, and came up with no evidence, Born says.
“It seemed totally inexplicable to me,” Born says of the seeming disinterest her counterparts showed in how the markets were operating. “It was as though the other financial regulators were saying, ‘We don’t want to know.’”
She formally launched the proposal on May 7, and within hours, Greenspan, Rubin and Levitt issued a joint statement condemning Born and the CFTC, expressing “grave concern about this action and its possible consequences.” They announced a plan to ask for legislation to stop the CFTC in its tracks.
At congressional hearings that summer, Greenspan and others warned of dire consequences; Born and the CFTC were cast as a loose cannon.
Reverting to a theme Born claims he raised at their earlier lunch, Greenspan testified there was no need for government oversight, because the derivatives market involved Wall Street “professionals” who could patrol themselves.
Summers, Rubin’s deputy (and now director of the National Economic Council), said the memo had “cast the shadow of regulatory uncertainty over an otherwise thriving market, raising risks for the stability and competitiveness of American derivative trading.”
Born assailed the legislation, calling it an unprecedented move to undermine the independence of a federal agency. In eerily prescient testimony, she warned of potentially disastrous and widespread consequences for the public. “Losses resulting from misuse of OTC derivatives instruments or from sales practice abuses in the OTC derivatives market can affect many Americans,” she testified that July. “Many of us have interests in the corporations, mutual funds, pension funds, insurance companies, municipalities and other entities trading in these instruments.”
That September, seemingly bolstering her case, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was forced to organize a rescue of a large private investment firm, Long Term Capital Management, which was a big player in the OTC derivatives market. Fed officials said they acted to avoid a meltdown that could have impacted the wider economy.
But the tide of opinion that had risen up against Born was irreversible. Language was slipped into an agriculture appropriations bill barring the CFTC from taking action in the six months left in her term.
“I felt as though that, at least, relieved me and the commission of any public responsibility for what was happening,” she says. Clinton aides sounded her out about a second term, but she said she wasn’t interested and left the agency in June 1999.
A year later, Congress enacted the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which effectively gutted the ability of the CFTC to regulate OTC derivatives. With no other agency picking up the slack, the market grew, unchecked.
Some observers say now the episode and infighting showed how even a decade ago a patchwork system of regulating Wall Street was badly in need of reform.
“The fact that the . . . issue created such a threat to the marketplace to me confirmed the fact that something was not right,” says Richard Miller, a lawyer and editor of a widely read newsletter on derivatives. “How could we have a system that hangs together by such a narrow thread?” Miller testified at the time that the idea Born proffered should at least have been considered.
The Obama administration has pledged an overhaul of the financial system, including the way derivatives are regulated. Worrisome to some observers is the fact that his economic team includes some former Treasury officials who were lined up in opposition to Born a decade ago.
Born, who retired from her law firm in 2003, is not playing a formal role in the process. An outdoor enthusiast, she was planning a trip to Antarctica this winter, as the Obama team was settling in. “The important thing,” she advises, “is that the new administration should not be listening to just one point of view.”

RICK SCHMITT, a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal, is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 1: How Dogma Trumped Science

Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 1: How Dogma Trumped Science

The discovery and examination of the ancient Mexican skeleton, Naia, has led scientists to once again rethink the origins of American Indians. While there has been a rancorous debate over some details regarding who the first peoples of the Americas might have been, the broader context is usually the Bering Strait Theory, the idea that Paleoindians walked from Asia over an ancient land bridge approximately 15,000 years ago. Among scientists, this theory appears unshakable, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support it. Indeed, a host of scientific evidence, from linguistics to genetics, does not support the theory.
RELATED: New Discovery Confirms Native American Views on Their Ancestry
RELATED: How Linguists Are Pulling Apart the Bering Strait Theory
As recent scientific discoveries have undercut the Bering Strait Theory, a new hypothesis has emerged, the “Beringian Standstill Theory.” The Standstill hypothesis, which proposes that Paleoindians lived isolated in the land bridge area for almost 20,000 years before migrating to the Americas, is also a controversial conjecture that has questionable scientific merit.
The reason for the insistence by scientists in the primacy of the Bering Strait Theory is not because of science, but because of dogma. This is well known among the scientists, many of whom have chafed under its strictures. So in 1998, Dennis Stanford, director of the Paleoindian program at the Smithsonian Institution, coined the term “Clovis Police” to refer to those “die-hard archaeologists who insist upon Clovis as representing the earliest culture in the New World.” James Adovasio, known for his excavations of the Meadowcroft Rockshelter in Pennsylvania, devoted an entire chapter of his 2002 book, The First Americans: In Pursuit of Archaeology’s Greatest Mystery, to the “Paleo-police” who have frustrated his attempts to gain recognition for the antiquity of the site.
When genetic studies that proposed an ancient contact between Polynesians and American Indians – not in conformity with the Bering Strait Theory – were published by University of Hawaii geneticist Rebecca Cann, they were met with a swift and fierce rebuttal. Cann is a pioneer among geneticists, her research having developed the concept of the “Mitochondrial Eve” and the currently accepted “Out of Africa” theory of modern human origins. She was not someone to be trifled with, and she shot back in a letter in the American Journal of Human Genetics, dismissing much of her critics’ data, interpretations, and point of view; “Rather than make dogmatic statements, we feel that it is better to encourage the open exploration of this debate, with more genetic markers and the use of data already in the literature.”
But open exploration of the debate is not going to happen, because the debate itself is moderated by ideologues, who determine the evidence that may be used, and ignore the evidence that does not fit the theory. In order to understand why this is, one must look at the history of the Bering Strait Theory, which will only shed a little light on the development of science, but offers important lessons on how and why a dogma is created.
The Birth of a Theory
When Columbus stumbled upon the Americas in 1492, he set off an endless round of speculation in Europe regarding the lands and its people. By 1797, Benjamin Smith Barton could write in his book New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America that the “opinions of writers concerning the origin, or parental countries, of the Americans are as numerous as the tribes and nations who inhabit this vast portion of the earth.
In those days, the study of science was still a subset of theology so virtually all of the early theories of Indian origins were based on the Bible. Typical of these early scientists was the keen-eyed Jesuit observer Friar Joseph de Acosta, whose book The Natural and Moral History of the Indies (as America was then known), published in 1590, is among the first in the nascent field of anthropology. For Acosta, the evidence was clear.
The reason why we are forced to admit that the men of the Indies came from Europe or Asia is so as not to contradict the sacred Scriptures, which clearly teaches that all men descend from Adam; and thus we cannot assign any other origin for the men of the Indies.
Similarly, the colonization was believed to have taken place only in the past few thousand years. The scientific consensus at that time, held by the foremost chronologists of the Bible, such as Jesuit philosopher Benedict Pereira, Irish archbishop James Ussher, the astronomer Johannes Kepler and the physicist Isaac Newton, was that humans were created around 4,000 BC and the Flood unleashed around 2,400 BC.
Although it would be another 138 years before European explorers would find the Bering Strait, Acosta and many other 16th-century scientists had already assumed that Asia and the Americas were connected. They reasoned that since all of the animals in the world were descended from those saved by Noah from the Flood, the animals that were in the New World had to have walked over by some as yet undiscovered passageway. Acosta argued similarly “that the race of men arrived by traveling little by little until they reached the New World, and the continuity or nearness of the lands helped in this.”
Not everyone agreed with Acosta. The 16th-century Swiss scientist and father of chemistry, Paracelsus, believed the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas were a separate creation of God and not descended from Adam and Eve. His theory, however, met with little support, as there was no evidence of a separate creation in the Bible.
In 1681, Diego Andrés Rocha proposed in his book, A Unique and Singular Treatise on the Origins of the Indians of Peru, Mexico, Santa Fe, and Chile that Indians were the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth and had come to the Americas by way of Atlantis. Since Rocha believed the Spanish were also descended from Japheth, and thus related to Indians, the colonization of the Americas by Spain was to him a fulfillment of divine providence.
Not to be outdone, British writers such as Richard Hakluyt and George Bruder argued that ancient Indians were Welsh and thus justified the British explorations of North America. The Dutch legal philosopher, Hugo Grotius, believed they were northern Europeans who had sailed across the Atlantic, since had they come from Asia they would have surely brought their horses. Many believed Indians were descended from Canaan, the grandson of Noah who was cursed by God, or Ophir, a descendant of Noah’s son Shem who settled in a land rich with gold.
The most enduring origin theory based on the Bible was that Indians were the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, a belief still held today by devout Mormons. It was proposed in 1567 by both French Benedictine scholar Gilbert Genebrard in Chronicle in Two Volumes and Dutch priest Joannes Fredericus Lumnius in his book De Extremo dei Judicio et Indorum Vocatione. As evidence they produced the apocryphal Second Book of Esdras, which tells the story of how the Lost Tribes escaped their Assyrian captors and fled “to a far away country where mankind had never lived,” a region called Arsareth, or in their view, America.
Irish anthropologist James Adair popularized this notion in his book published in 1775, The History of the American Indians, bringing a wealth of (what at that time was considered to be) scientific evidence to back up the Lost Tribes theory. Adair also argued that the early migrants had crossed the Bering Strait.
The Russians, after several dangerous attempts, have clearly convinced the world that [Asia and America] are now divided and have close communication by a narrow strait, in which several islands are situated, through which there is an easy passage from the north-east of Asia to the north-west of America. … By this passage, supposing the main continents were separated, it was very practical for the inhabitants to go to this extensive new world, and afterwards have proceeded in quest of suitable climes.
Although Adair’s ideas about the Lost Tribes would largely fall out of favor, his theory about the Bering Strait would not.
Science Takes Over
On September 6, 1856, a small article appeared in the local newspaper in Elberfeld, Germany.
In the neighboring Neander Valley … a surprising discovery was made in recent days. During the breaking away of limestone cliffs … a cave was uncovered, which over the course of centuries had been filled with clay sediment. Upon digging out this clay, a human rib was found …
The news caught the attention of the distinguished naturalist and professor of anatomy at the University of Bonn, Hermann Schaaffhausen, who at first speculated that the ancient skeleton uncovered was nothing less than an ancestor of American Indians. Upon actual examination of the fossil, what he reported sent shock waves through the Western world.
Neanderthal Man, as he was dubbed, was human, but an entirely different species of human. The concept was not easy to grasp at that time. The idea that there might have existed other forms of humans had rarely been contemplated, much less fit into any existing theory of human origins. Schaaffhausen’s conclusions met with a swift rejection from most other German scientists, who argued that despite the extreme mineralization, the unusual skeleton was not old, he was either a ”poor wretch” who had been deformed by disease, or a Russian Cossack.
But others were ready to accept the possibility that ancient humans existed even if there was no mention of them in the Bible. Geologists, beginning with James Hutton in the 18th-century, had already begun to challenge the notion that the Flood had deposited the many differing layers of soils, rock, and sediments, and argued convincingly that the earth was much, much older than previously thought. In 1837 the Swiss botanist and geologist Louis Agassiz proposed his then extremely controversial theory that the earth had been subject in the ancient past to an ice age.
William Pengelly’s systematic excavations at Brixham Cave in England in 1858, where he found stone tools located alongside extinct ice age animals, was therefore seen as convincing proof of the antiquity of humans. The next year the excavations in the Somme Valley by French archaeologist Jacques Boucher de Crèvecœur de Perthes, who as early as 1847 proposed that men had lived during the ice age, were examined and confirmed, and the findings presented before a stellar assemblage of scientists at London’s prestigious Royal Society, where they were accepted.
With the discoveries of Neanderthal Man, Brixham Cave, and the Somme, antiquarians (as those who studied the human past were then called) were forced to make a choice, and out of that choice a new science, paleoanthropology, was born. The same year that the antiquity of man was confirmed and accepted by the scientists of the Royal Society, Charles Darwin published his famous work, On the Origin of Species, leading to a lasting break with long-held Biblical theories of the natural world.
Paleoanthropology, the study of ancient humans, began as (and still is) a mixture of many sciences and its founding members were composed of academics from practically every discipline: geology, anthropology, biology, archeology, anatomy, and chemistry, to name a few. They were joined by a host of amateurs: businessmen, doctors, bankers, and schoolteachers, who would search for fossils in their spare time.
In Europe dramatic discoveries rapidly followed one after another, and in America the new science was also taking off dramatically–but unfortunately, dramatically on the wrong foot.
RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 2: Racism, Eugenics and When Natives Came to America
RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 3: The Theory Becomes a Religious Crusade
RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 4: The Indisputable Facts in the Artifacts
RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 5: The Theory Comes Crashing Down
RELATED: Bering Strait Theory, Pt. 6: DNA, Blood Types and Stereotypes
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