The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

From Little Acorns ...

Patterico's nasty letter to the LA Times is remarkable and useful. Patterico complains about the Times' bias in allowing a former ACORN consultant to make inaccurate statements excusing that group, and while doing so composes the best summary of the ACORN scandal I have yet seen: Five ACORN offices were visited by undercover reporters, a man and a woman who claimed to be pimping 13-15 year old Salvadoran girls, and the workers in that office were happy to help them camouflage their gains -- and in some cases, even assist with the importation of the prostitutes! Patterico links to transcipts and video -- I'm not kidding about the ACORN worker who was willing to help bring the teenage hookers into the US:

Juan Carlos [ACORN adviser]: It's better in Tijuana
James ["pimp"]: Tijuana? Why?
Juan Carlos: Because I have a lot of contact in Tijuana
James: Okay. And, they might be able to ah assist in crossing the border.
Juan Carlos: Yeah.

I browsed the Wikipedia article on ACORN and was surprised to find that while the ACORN article was reasonably fair, the article on plain old acorns veered into unsourced earth-worshipping drivel:

Native North Americans took an active and sophisticated role in management of acorn resources through the use of fire, which increased the production of acorns and made them easier to collect. The deliberate setting of light ground fires killed the larvae of acorn moths and acorn weevils that have the potential to infest and consume more than 95% of an oak's acorns, by burning them during their dormancy period in the soil. Fires released the nutrients bound in dead leaves and other plant debris into the soil, thus fertilizing oak trees while clearing the ground to make acorn collection faster and easier. Most North American oaks tolerate light fires, especially when consistent burning has eliminated woody fuel accumulation around their trunks. Consistent burning encouraged oak growth at the expense of other trees that are less tolerant of fire, thus keeping landscapes in a state in which oaks dominated. Since oaks produce more acorns when they are not in close competition with other oaks for sunlight, water and soil nutrients, eliminating young oaks more vulnerable to fire than old oaks created open oak savannahs with trees ideally spaced to maximize acorn production. Finally, frequent fires prevented accumulation of flammable debris, which reduced the risk of destructive canopy fires that destroyed oak trees. After a century during which North American landscapes have not been managed by indigenous peoples, disastrous fires have ravaged crowded, fuel-laden forests. Land managers have realized that they can learn much from indigenous resource management techniques, such as controlled burning, widely practiced by Native Americans to enhance such resources as acorns.
Yes, we can be confident in the accuracy of statistics for destructive fires in pre-colonization America, given that there were no written records.



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