National Review’s John Derbyshire hammers intelligent design advocates

December 31, 2006

National Review kept me alert to developments in the world of conservatives with brains in the latter part of my high school life and through college. I must confess, though, that I have not been a regular reader for nearly two decades. A lot of the intellectual air seemed to leak out after William F. Buckley left.

NR still offers a window into conservatism in America, though. John Derbyshire in his wrap-up of 2006 offers a review of intelligent design advocates that they would do well to pay attention to. Derbyshire keeps alive the flames of thought at NR.

Welcome, readers clicking over from Pharyngula.  More posts on intelligent design issues can be found here, at the index of ID posts on this blog.

For the record: Pearceys’ slam at Judge Jones unwarranted

December 30, 2006

Rick and Nancy Pearcey — she the author of Christian best-seller Total Truth — have a blog called Pro-Existence. A few days ago I stumbled across the blog because they quoted me :

Praise:University of Chicago geophysicist Raymond Pierrehumbert called Jones’ ruling a ‘masterpiece of wit, scholarship and clear thinking’ while lawyer Ed Darrell said the judge ‘wrote a masterful decision, a model for law students on how to decide a case based on the evidence presented.’ Time magazine said the ruling made Jones one of ‘the world’s most influential people’ in the category of ‘scientists and thinkers.'”

Well, they didn’t quote me directly: They borrowed the quote from a Discovery Institute paper. That’s only significant because such copying is, by their definition, the academic sin of “plagiarizing,” judging from the way they attempt to accuse a federal judge of not doing his duty. (And, if I had to guess, I’d guess they didn’t read the report, but instead copied their stuff from a report in WorldNet Daily — plagiarism of a copy! At least they linked, even if they didn’t attribute, to that publication.)

They borrowed the DI’s criticism of Judge John E. Johns, of the Federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in his decision against a school board’s requiring intelligent design be inserted to the curriculum of the local schools. DI clumsily, and erroneously, labeled the decision a piece of plagiarism.

I wrote a response. The Pearceys have not seen fit to publish it (it’s a closely moderated blog, and apparently anything that they don’t like, or that calls them to Christian task for their errors, doesn’t make it). I post my response to the Pearcey’s below the fold. If they respond here, I won’t censor them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Flags at half-staff to honor President Ford

December 29, 2006

Just a reminder that we are to fly our flags at half-mast in honor of President Gerald Ford. Bush’s order calls for 30 days of this honor from the day of Ford’s death (December 26 through the evening of January 25).


Further reminder: The flag should be hoisted quickly (as always), to the peak of the pole, and then be lowered solemnly to half-mast. When the flag is retired at the end of the day, it should be raised again to the peak, quickly, and then lowered solemnly.

  • Photo of U.S. flag at half-staff over the White House, on the event of Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004. Photo by Mike Lynaugh.

See also:

Update, January 25, 2007:  Sundown January 25 marks the end of the 30-day period of mourning for President Ford; flags should fly at full staff tomorrow, or 24-hour displays should be hoisted to the peak of the staff at sundown Thursday, January 25.

Olla podrida

December 29, 2006

Olla podrida is a local, Spanish term for a Mulligan stew, for olio, etc.

Founding fathers and illegal immigrants — A new blog on the migration debate, cleverly titled Migration Debate, highlights a New York Times opposite-editorial page piece that details how many of our “founding fathers” took advantage of illegal immigration, or immigrated illegally themselves.  William Hogeland wrote the piece, whom some of you will recognize as the author of The Whiskey Rebellion:  George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Frontier Rebels who challenged America’s newfound sovereignty. (Scribner, 2006)

Google’s amazing powers:   Bad time to be speechless:  Over at 31fps, magical powers are explained:  The author finds a store on Google maps, clicks a button, and Google first calls his phone, and then calls the store — go Google, and leave the dialing to Google.  Star Trek wasn’t this good.  Just be sure you’re over being speechless when the party at the other end answers.

Amazing cosmos:  Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy lists his top 10 images from outer space for 2006.  #1 is a doozy, but be sure you read the explanation Phil offers.

Fashionable extinction:  Microecos explains how fashion wiped out a beautiful, unique bird, the huia, in New Zealand, a century ago.   It’s a reminder of how stupid humans can be — a good exercise is in there somewhere for geography classes, or a general lecture on the effects of colonization.

Dobzhansky on evolution theory

December 29, 2006

“Let me try to make crystal clear what is established beyond reasonable doubt, and what needs further study, about evolution. Evolution as a process that has always gone on in the history of the earth can be doubted only by those who are ignorant of the evidence or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotional blocks or to plain bigotry. By contrast, the mechanisms that bring evolution about certainly need study and clarification. There are no alternatives to evolution as history that can withstand critical examination. Yet we are constantly learning new and important facts about evolutionary mechanisms.”

Theodosius Dobzhansky, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” American Biology Teacher vol. 35 (March 1973); reprinted in Evolution versus Creationism, J. Peter Zetterberg, ed., ORYX Press, Phoenix, Arizona, 1983

Dobzhansky in California, c. 1966

Dobzhansky in California, c. 1966. American Philosophical Society photo

Video on evolution as the “breakthrough of the year” in 2005, for Science magazine, is here:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Talk.Origins and Laurence Moran.

NCLB renewal faces tough sledding

December 28, 2006

The No Child Left Behind Act is scheduled for renewal by 2008, but observers are saying it will not come so soon because of the national elections. The Act will face significant phalanx of people and organizations demanding changes, too.

Media General’s Gil Klein produced a general piece of reporting on the politics and issues for NCLB renewal, which started appearing in U.S. newspapers on December 22.

It has shaken every teacher in every classroom, and when the No Child Left Behind law comes up for renewal next year, it faces a political battle that could last until after the 2008 election.

“We did a survey of Washington insiders and it is almost unanimous that it won’t happen until 2009, regardless of what all the politicians are saying,” said Michael Petrilli, an education analyst with the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, who worked in the Education Department when the law passed.

[There is a lot of good reporting out of Washington by regional news agencies and smaller services, like Media General, Knight-Ridder (used to be a bigger player than today), and other groups. Bloggers would do well to bring some of these reports to the attention of the world, instead of relying on the New YorkTimes, Washington Post, and major broadcast outlets. This is a case of a smaller agency simply providing a solid story ahead of the curve.] Read the rest of this entry »

Cartooning on Gerald Ford’s head

December 28, 2006

Pat Oliphant, one of my favorite cartoonists since his days at the Denver Post, has a wonderful, funny tribute to Gerald Ford — go see, here.

Seymour Papert: Hope – eyes open

December 28, 2006

Brief note from MIT’s Media Lab:

Wednesday, December 27

While still in Intensive Care, Seymour is making progress every day. He has opened his eyes and sees the people around him, but has not yet spoken. He is also able to move his arms, legs, and head. His doctors hope that he will be able to be moved out of Intensive Care soon, but for now, is still not receiving visitors.

Earlier coverage, noting his December 7 collision with a motorbike in Hanoi, here.

One may still leave an electronic flower for a get-well bouquet to be delivered to Papert.

Seymour Papert, MIT photo

After the end, Hoover showed the way for Bush

December 28, 2006

Herbert Hoover, White House Portrait

Herbert Hoover, White House Portrait

Herbert Hoover is one of the great foils for U.S. history courses. The Great Depression is on national standards and state standards. Images from the dramatic poverty that resulted win the rapt attention of even the most calloused, talkative high school juniors. Most video treatments leave students wondering why President Hoover wasn’t tried for crimes against humanity instead of just turned out of office.

In most courses, Hoover is left there, and the study of Franklin Roosevelt‘s event-filled twelve years in office (with four elected terms) takes over the classroom. If Hoover is mentioned again at all in the course, it would likely be for his leading humanitarian work after World War II.

But there is, hiding out in California, the Hoover Institution. Hoover’s impact today? Well, consider some recent fellows of the Hoover Institution: Condaleeza Rice, Milton Friedman, George Shultz, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Gary Becker, Diane Ravitch, Chester Finn. The Hoover Institution, “at Stanford University,” is the conservatives’ anchor in the intellectual and academic world.

Hoover’s legacy is being remade, constantly, through his post-Presidential establishment of an institution to promote principles of conservatism (and liberalism in its old, almost archaic education sense). The Hoover Institution has carried Hoover’s ideas and principles back into power.

Dallas has been wracked recently with the shenanigans and maneuvers around the work of Southern Methodist University to be named as the host for the George W. Bush Presidential Library. In a humorous headline last week the Dallas Morning News (DMN) said such a library could lead Dallas’s intellectual life in the future (the headline is different in the on-line version — whew!).

Humor aside, there is grist for good thought there. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerald Ford: Too nice a guy

December 27, 2006

CBS Nightly News tonight featured a short snippet from a series of interviews reporter Phil Jones conducted with Gerald Ford in 1984 — interviews granted on the condition they not be shown until after Ford’s death. They talked about Ford’s first speech as president, in which he declared, “Our long, national nightmare is over.”

Ford hadn’t wanted to use that line. His speechwriter, Bob Hartman, insisted on it. It’s the line that is quoted most — but at the time it set the tone that Ford was a straight talker.

Hartman himself is 89 now. CBS tracked him down, too. His memory of Ford’s not wanting to use the phrase correlated exactly. Hartman said that Ford did not want to say anything that reflected badly on anyone, not only then, but any time. Referring to the Watergate scandals and crises as “a nightmare” could be interpreted negatively on President Nixon or any number of other people. Ultimately, Hartman’s judgment of what needed to be said prevailed.

Hartman had something else to say about Ford, which is also quotable:

Gerald Ford had only one fault.

He was too nice a guy.

Mark that one down; it should be in the next Bartlett’s, or the next Yale collection. Should be.

  • Post script: It was nice to see our old friend Phil Jones again. He was the Capitol Hill correspondent for CBS for much of my time on the Hill, a man of great patience, great insight, and solid reporting.
  • More CBS coverage: Here.

Gerald Ford, nice guy

December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford died today. He was 93, the longest-surviving ex-president.

President Gerald R. Ford and Mrs. Betty Ford walk with their daughter, Susan, and family dog, Liberty, at Camp David Aug. 7, 1976.
President Gerald R. Ford and Mrs. Betty Ford walk with their daughter, Susan, and family dog, Liberty, at Camp David Aug. 7, 1976. Photo probably by David Hume Kennerly.

When a president dies, newspapers and news magazines pull out the stops to make their coverage of the person’s life exhaustive. You’ll see a lot about Gerald Ford in the next few days.

Gerald Ford, White House portrait, by Everett Raymond Kinstler
Official White House portrait of President Gerald R. Ford, by Everett Raymond Kinstler, painted 1977.

My college internship* with the U.S. Senate took me to Washington in 1974, just after Ford had assumed the Vice Presidency under the new rules of the 25th Amendment. Ford was selected as Vice President after Spiro T. Agnew had resigned in lieu of being prosecuted for taking kickbacks from his days as governor of Maryland. Within a few months he was elevated to the presidency when Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974.

But for a few months he was President of the Senate. Starting with Spiro Agnew, vice presidents no longer spend a lot of time on Capitol Hill fulfilling their Constitutional duties as Senate leader. Hubert Humphrey had been quite active as vice president, carrying key messages from the White House to the Congress, and from Congress to the President, and pushing legislation with Lyndon Johnson, in what was surely one of the most effective legislative teams in the history of the world.

And when he was acting as President of the Senate, I first ran into Gerald Ford — literally.

I interned with the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, in the office of the late Secretary of the Senate Frank Valeo. Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-Mont.) signed my credentials (we didn’t have photo I.D.s in those days), and since Mansfield had so few interns, or staffers, we, and I had the run of the Capitol (and Washington, too — with Mansfield’s signature I could get into the White House press room, which was a great place to hang out then. I also had Senate floor privileges, the value of which became clear to me only years later when I staffed for another senator. As an intern I could walk on the floor at any time, and sometimes did to watch debates. Staffers generally cannot do that at will.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Seymour Papert update

December 26, 2006

MIT’s Media Laboratory says they will post updates as they get them.  As of today, Dr. Papert is resting in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU), taking no visitors, and still in a coma.

Meanwhile, there is also an electronic get-well card you may sign.

‘First, Roy Moore came for Keith Ellison . . .’

December 26, 2006

While denying that they have any racist or other xenophobic intent, critics of Minnesota’s U.S. Representative-elect Keith Ellison, like the abominable Dennis Prager, continue to try to gin up reasons why he cannot carry his own scriptures to Congress, why he cannot have the rights that every school child in America has, because the scriptures Ellison carries are Islamic.

Except for Roy Moore, the Xian Nationalist, unreconstructed Christian Reconstructionist, and Christian Dominionist who probably got the memorandum about how they aren’t supposed to talk about it in public, but who lets it fly anyway.

Representing the Great Booboisie, Roy Moore says Ellison should not be seated in Congress at all.

Alabama’s voters were wise to reject Roy Moore as governor, after Moore burned the people so badly when they trusted him to be chief justice of the state’s supreme court, and he instead turned the court into a circus of religious pomposity and disregard for the laws of religious freedom. Another History Blog Fisks the manifold, manifest errors Moore makes.

I cannot escape the feeling that Moore is speaking for most Reconstructionists and Dominionists, Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Carnival #18

December 26, 2006

Your students and their parents will tell you, “education” is not the same thing as “teaching.”

Nor is this an exercise in instruction for how to properly bark a carnival, or run the roller coaster or Ferris wheel — but go check it out anyway.  More good stuff, more good blogs, more good links:  Teaching Carnival #18 at xoom.

(And until a few minutes ago, I didn’t know there were separate carnivals, either.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Another History Blog

Accidental humor — Fillmore and Bush

December 26, 2006 features biographical and other information on every president. As a baseline source of data, it works very well.

So, preparing for the anniversary of Millard Fillmore’s birth (January 7, 1800), I was checking details at the site, and I noted that it carried a “related links” box.

Millard Fillmore coloring book, done by a kid, from White House

Millard Fillmore is widely considered to be one of the worst, or most inactive, presidents in U.S. history. He was an accidental president, taking office on the death of Zachary Taylor. Trying to avoid controversy and confrontation he let fester many of the problems that would lead to the Civil War. He was a one-term president — his own party refused to nominate him for election on his own, in 1852. After the Whig Party crashed and burned, Fillmore accepted the nomination of the American Party, more commonly known as the Know-Nothing Party, in 1856. “Millard Fillmore” is shorthand for “failed presidency” in most lexicons.

So, what should we make of the box on the page, “Related Links,” which points to President George W. Bush? Read the rest of this entry »

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