Squashed squawking heads

February 29, 2008

Getting snowed out of Springfield, Illinois last week gave me an extra 8 or 10 hours to sit around airports and find things to gripe about.

Is anyone else bothered by the tendency to use high-definition television monitors with a regular TV signal, and then spread the picture out to cover the screen, which makes the victims on the television look as if they’d been modified for a guest appearance on South Park?

Lou Dobbs on CNN, squashed
Has Lou Dobbs really gained that much weight?
(This image is for illustration of the phenomenon only.)

Am I the only person who prefers that people look like people, even if there is a blank area on the television screen? In the past year I’ve been in a couple dozen classrooms where the projectors were set to distort every image transmitted. For a presentation on, say, Emmitt Till, or the death of Rosa Parks, I thought the settings disrespectful at best.

How can they call it “high definition” if it distorts everyones’ faces?

I was relieved late Sunday to get back home to our old, analog televisions and normal human proportions on the screen.

Creationists make stealth bid to takeover Texas education board

February 28, 2008

Sane members of the Texas State Board of Education hold a slim majority over scripture-at-any-cost-in-science-books creationists.

Creationists are hammering away to defeat at least two incumbent board members to tip the balance, in classic stealth campaigns where they hide their intentions and spend oodles of money hoping to do evil by catching most voters asleep.  The creationists are campaigning to beat conservative, religious Baptists, because the Baptists are “too liberal” on evolution. 

Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow presents the facts in the State Education District 11 race, where a secretive urologist who patterns his campaign tactics after Kim Jong Il is outspending the sane incumbent at least $12 to $1.  The entire column is below the fold.

District 11 includes most of Tarrant County (Fort Worth), and Parker, Ellis and Johnson counties.

Social studies is also at risk here:  The stealth candidate, Barney Maddox, is making false claims against Texas social studies teachers and Texas social studies books, especially history books.  The guy looks like an ill-informed nutcase, and he has a good chance of winning.

For example, the campaign flier says: “Barney Maddox believes social studies textbooks should devote more space to American presidents than Marilyn Monroe and that the vicious attack of 9-11 should be portrayed as an aggressive act by terrorists, not an American conspiracy.”

Marilyn Monroe makes no appearance in some books; presidents get 100 times more space in any book you choose.  No book portrays 9-11 as an American conspiracy.  The man campaigns like your standard, wild-eyed nutcase.

Call, write and e-mail everyone you know in Texas to warn them to vote against Barney Maddox, and for Pat Hardy, in the District 11 State School Board race.  Your friends may not live in that district, but they should know.  There are other racess with similar problems.  

Early voting in this primary ends tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m.  Tuesday, March 4,  is election day.

Blow’s column, below the fold.

While you’re working at making the world safe for science, wander over to the Texas Freedom Network’s site, and sign the petition saying you’ll stand up for science.  Tell ’em Ed sent you.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dallas could use California’s Willie Brown

February 28, 2008

Legendary California Assemblyman, and former Mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown is in Dallas tonight, speaking at the Dallas Public Library in promotion of his new book, Basic Brown: My Life and Times.

Willie Brown, photo by thomashawk, flickr

Update: Alas, the great photo of Willie Brown from thomashawk has been taken down since the original posting date; this one will have to do, from dogeatdogma


Orrin Hatch had some tussle with the Utah NAACP in the mid-1980s. By way of apology, he volunteered to go speak to one of their meetings on a topic of their choice.

Never say there is no humor in politics. The NAACP called to clear time on Hatch’s calendar, and once they got that secured, announced they wanted him to introduce Willie Brown.

At the time Brown was quite controversial, seen as a very partisan Democrat, and the opposite of the sort of guy a rising conservative like Orrin Hatch should ever introduce. Hatch saw disaster. I drew the assignment to draft an introduction and figure some way for Hatch to bow out.

Let me put in plugs for Terri Smith and Jeanne Lopatto here. Terri was secretary for the press office I ran at the Senate Labor Committee, Jeanne was press assistant. They made up a formidable political advance and research team that I would not hesitate to take on the campaign trail today, more than two decades later.

Smith and Lopatto put together the life history and legislative accomplishments of Brown, and when we looked at it, we thought Hatch had a great opportunity. Brown rose up from poverty, much as Hatch had. And while he was known as a partisan Democrat outside of California, he won election as Speaker of the California House by brilliant assembly of a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, beating out the favored candidates of both parties. He made legislative history when he kept that coalition alive to move legislation good for California.

Our press office was quite unpopular when we recommended a full-court press on getting reporters out to cover the affair. When Hatch read the introduction and understood Brown’s life, he told us he thought it was a big gamble, but he’d do it.

Hatch and Brown had a lot in common. Hatch came back from the dinner smiling, and extolling the virtues of Brown and bipartisan work.

That part of the genius of Willie Brown you don’t often hear: He’s a very likable guy, and he will work with people of all factions to get good laws. It’s also a side of Orrin Hatch you don’t often see: He’ll work happily with other factions, when he has the facts of the matters.

Terri Smith’s book is here. Jeanne Lopatto, late of the Department of Energy, toils away in Washington still. [Obama? Clinton? McCain? Bid for the team — it’s a sure bet you don’t want us working for your opposition . . .]

And Willie Brown’s promoting his biography in Dallas tonight. Details below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Missed Obama

February 27, 2008

Barack Obama came to Duncanville today. Bill Clinton was two miles away, at Mountain View Community College, yesterday. Texas hasn’t seen this level of attention from presidential candidates since we’ve been in the state (since 1987).

I had tickets to see Obama, but we had a called faculty meeting that ran long; they gave away my seat!

We’ll have to await reports from younger son James, who will be voting for his first time in the primary.

Older son Kenny, and Kathryn, caught Obama downtown, last week.

I think I’m the only one in the family who hasn’t committed to Obama. It’s a phenomenal campaign. More observations later tonight, I hope — off to symphony rehearsal.

DDT and health effects on children

February 25, 2008

Current issue of On Earth (Winter 2008), an article by Kim Larsen about fighting malaria in Africa, “Bad Blood”:

DDT can interfere with the feedback loop in the pituitary gland, which releases the milk-producing hormone prolactin. Studies show that exposure to DDT at critical points in pregnancy or just after childbirth can reduce the output of breast milk, or even dry it up. In such instances the mother will turn to formula, which is expensive. And in Africa formula feeding often leads to another death sentence for babies: diarrhea (infants have no immunity to the microbes that abound in contaminated drinking water throughout much of the continent). Here, then, exposure to DDT may cause as swift and bleak an outcome as exposure to a mosquito.

On Earth is a publication of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Quote of the moment: Abraham Lincoln: A war that’s gone on too long

February 24, 2008

Siege of Vera Cruz, U.S. Mexican War

Image: Battle of Vera Cruz, artist unknown by me.

U.S. Rep. Abraham Lincoln, Whig-Ill., speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, January 12, 1848:

If the prossecution of the war has, in expenses, already equalled the better half of the country, how long it’s future prosecution, will be in equalling, the less valuable half, is not a speculative, but a practical question, pressing closely upon us. And yet it is a question which the President seems to never have thought of. As to the mode of terminating the war, and securing peace, the President is equally wandering and indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more vigorous prossecution of the war in the vital parts of the enemies country; and, after apparently, talking himself tired, on this point, the President drops down into a half despairing tone, and tells us that “with a people distracted and divided by contending factions, and a government subject to constant changes, by successive revolutions, the continued success of our arms may fail to secure a satisfactory peace[.]” Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert the counsels of their own leaders, and trusting in our protection, to set up a government from which we can secure a satisfactory peace; telling us, that “this may become the only mode of obtaining such a peace.” But soon he falls into doubt of this too; and then drops back on to the already half abandoned ground of “more vigorous prossecution.[“] All this shows that the President is, in no wise, satisfied with his own positions. First he takes up one, and in attempting to argue us into it, he argues himself out of it; then seizes another, and goes through the same process; and then, confused at being able to think of nothing new, he snatches up the old one again, which he has some time before cast off. His mind, tasked beyond it’s power, is running hither and thither, like some tortured creature, on a burning surface, finding no position, on which it can settle down, and be at ease.

Again, it is a singular omission in this message, that it, no where intimates when the President expects the war to terminate. At it’s beginning, Genl. Scott was, by this same President, driven into disfavor, if not disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than three or four months. But now, at the end of about twenty months, during which time our arms have given us the most splendid successes–every department, and every part, land and water, officers and privates, regulars and volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of things which it had ever before been thought men could not do,–after all this, this same President gives us a long message, without showing us, that, as to the end, he himself, has, even an imaginary conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be able to show, there is not something about his conscious, more painful than all his mental perplexity!

Bae Gardner, 1926-2008

February 23, 2008

I was one of Bae’s kids, too.


Sad note from the Hinckley Institute of Politics (note the funeral is today, for those in Salt Lake City):

The former, present, and future interns, staff, faculty, and family of the Hinckley Institute of Politics mourn the passing of former Hinckley Institute Assistant Director, Bae B. Gardner. I first walked in the door of the Hinckley Institute in the fall of 1988. It immediately felt like a second home and the main reason was Bae. I am proudly one of “Bae’s kids.” Unless you share that distinction, it is impossible to fully convey the loss we feel today with Bae’s passing. Bae was not just an administrator to her “kids.” She was a mother, friend, cheerleader, mentor, and confidant. Indeed, she supported and sustained me from that first day as an inquiring student through the present as the Hinckley Institute’s director. Bae had the unique talent of making students feel that they had unlimited potential and the tireless ability to provide them with life-changing opportunities. The Hinckley Institute and I will forever be grateful for the legacy she established and the love she exhibited during her incredible years of service at the Hinckley Institute.

Kirk L. Jowers
Director, Hinckley Institute of Politics

Viewing and Funeral Service
Saturday, February 23rd
Viewing: 11:00 am. Service: 1:00 pm.

Foothill LDS 7th Ward Chapel
2215 E. Roosevelt Avenue
Salt Lake City
, Utah 84108

In lieu of flowers, the Gardner family has suggested that donations may be made to the Bae B. Gardner Internship in Public Policy scholarship fund administered by the Hinckley Institute of Politics. Donations can be made online or by calling the University of Utah Development Office at 801.581.6825. Donations can also be mailed to the Hinckley Institute at 260 S. Central Campus Dr. Rm. 253. Salt Lake City, UT 84112. For more information call the Hinckley Institute of Politics at 801.581.8501.

I had applied for an internship with the National Wildlife Federation. Bae thought I had a chance at a different internship, so she copied the form and sent it to the Secretary of the Senate. I lost the NWF internship on a .01 gradepoint difference. I got the internship at the Senate, and it changed my life.

Of course, I was on the road debating when the word came through that they wanted me in Washington. Bae called me late at night at home, minutes before my acceptance would have been overdue. Four days later I was working in the Capitol.  Whenever I meet with other Hinckley Interns, I learn she did more for everyone else.

My first real office was a few feet from the Senate Chamber, with a view down the mall to the Washington Monument, and a chandalier 8 feet across. I got floor privileges to the Senate, and with Mike Mansfield’s name on my ID card, I had access to the White House and almost any other government building in town.

That sort of education is priceless. Thanks to Bae Gardner.

Bae should be remembered as a hero for education, a champion for college kids, and one who played a role in more good public policy decisions than few others in history, by promoting good kids to good experience that they applied later in public service.

I wish the service were streamed on the web somewhere. I’ll bet it’ll be something to see and hear.

Economics in motion pictures: Essay deadline March 7

February 21, 2008

E-mail from the Dallas Fed:

The deadline for entries for this year’s Essay Contest, “Economics in Motion Pictures,” is almost here. To ensure that your students’ entries arrive in time to be eligible for the contest, the essays must be postmarked by March 7.

Please remind students to review the rules of entry carefully. For details, visit http://dallasfed.org/educate/essay/index.html

If you have any questions, please contact Heather McDonald at heather.mcdonald@dal.frb.orgblockquote>

Barbara Jordan’s birthday, February 21

February 21, 2008

Barbara Jordan would have been 72 today.

Barbara Jordan statue, Austin Chronicle hoto

Thanks to Pam for alerting me to the anniversary.

In her stirring keynote address at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, held in New York City in Madison Square Garden, Jordan said:

A government is invigorated when each of us is willing to participate in shaping the future of this nation.

In this election year we must define the common good and begin again to shape a common good and begin again to shape a common future. Let each person do his or her part. If one citizen is unwilling to participate, all of us are going to suffer. For the American idea, though it is shared by all of us, is realized in each one of us.

I covered that convention as a stringer for a western television station. I recall the spirit in the hall when Jordan spoke, and the great spirit that enveloped the entire convention and the City of New York. After the convention every night the cops would stop taxis so delegates could ride. I remember watching two cops help a woman out of a wheel chair and into a cab, and the cabbie saying that the cops had never done that before — and he liked it. Jimmy Carter came out of that convention, and won the election, defeating Gerald Ford.

32 years ago. Barbara Jordan didn’t live to see her party come up with a woman and an African American man as the top two candidates for the nomination. That’s too bad. She could have given a great, appropriate speech. Maybe the Dems oughtta just run a film of Jordan from 1976.


On the road again

February 21, 2008

Time flies, people sometimes don’t.  I’m in O’Hare, now with a few hours to spend because, for the third time today, fifth flight, a flight I was booked on was canceled due to weather.

O'Hare, American's Concourse H-K

Above, the neck of American Airlines’ Concourse H and K, in Terminal 3; picture is many months old, but I like it because it contains many hours of my sweat in hammering out the lease agreements.  The photo is from a Chicago limousine service.

The trip to DFW Airport that I used to make a couple of times a week minimum in about 25 minutes took nearly an hour today — the roads are wider, but the traffic is much heavier.  The trip from the curb to the gate that I used to sprint now takes 40 minutes, and I have to get undressed.

And then the flight to St. Louis was cancelled.  And then the flight from St. Louis to Bart Simpson’s Springfield was cancelled . . . I tried a back door, to Chicago and then on United back to Springfield (Illinois — isn’t every Springfield Bart’s hometown?).  The hop from O’Hare was cancelled.  I’ll miss the 3:00 p.m. seminar start.

It’s been more than 15 years since I actually got stuck on a weather delay.  Airlines fly very well, most of the time.  I also fly about 99.7% less than I used to fly.

It’s a lot of trouble.  It’s a good cause.  The Bill of Rights Institute and the Liberty Fund teamed up for a seminar on presidents and the Constitution, focusing on Lincoln, in Springfield.  I always get material that sparks classroom discussion and great learning experiences for students.

Our department chair told me that our district won’t consider this as part of my required in-service training, however.  Go figure.  I can sit through hours of people who don’t know Excel as well as I do and be counted as learning; but when I get great sessions with hard reading requirements and outstanding discussion with great experts, zip.  Quality in education?  What?

Blogging light the next couple of days.

Science advising and the founders: John Quincy Adams

February 21, 2008

Phot of ex-president John Quincy Adams

Photograph of ex-President John Quincy Adams; found at LawBuzz

Have you signed up to support Science Debate 2008?

Science policy has been critical to our nation’s defense and economic health and development from the founding. Historian Hunter Dupree presented 90 minutes of discussion on John Quincy Adams’ role as advisor in science to the founders, in 1989.

You can listen to the entire remarkable story at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs website, or download it for your iPod/MP3 player.


Science Debate 2008 logo

February 21, John Quincy Adams, Malcolm X

February 21, 2008

Any connections?  Any correlations?

On February 21, 1848, Rep. John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.  He died on February 23.  Adams is the only ex-president to have returned to elective office after his presidency.

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at a rally in New York City.

“Reserved to Fight” closer to PBS broadcast

February 20, 2008

Last year I stumbled onto information about a film on the readjustment problems of Army Reservists after their return from service in Iraq and Afganistan — well, Iraq is the focus of the film.

Update from Mr. Christensen:

A couple of weeks ago I attended the screening for the documentary. Just a refresher – it follows four vets from Iraq & their difficulties in readjusting to society. I think it will be a real eye opener for civilians. It will be aired on PBS this fall. Hop over to my blog – http://jbchristensen.wordpress.com for my post regarding the screening.

Goodbye, Gus Arriola

February 20, 2008

I missed the news: Gus Arriola died on February 4, in Carmel, California. He was 90.

Heck, I’ve missed his strip, Gordo, for years. One of a kind — Arriola’s work alone was worth the price of any newspaper that carried it.

Gordo, a Sunday strip

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized the strip was a real ground breaker, a vanguard of Mexican-Americans in daily newspapers.

Really good strips are just really good strips.

So long, Gus.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Baldo’s Tia Carmen, for the news.

Tia Carmen of Baldo says good bye to Gus and Gordo, 2-20-1008

Copyright © 2008 Universal Press Syndicate

Stimulate the economy? Fast Draw, video from CBS

February 19, 2008

Here’s a video from the guys at Fast Draw, about economic stimulation, offered first on CBS Sunday Morning on February 17. Great stuff for a high school economics course.

Will CBS make this available for teachers?

There is a commercial you gotta view for 15 seconds prior to the video — my apologies.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.cbsnews.com posted with vodpod


Write or call CBS Sunday Morning to plead for released copies:
CBS News Sunday Morning
Box O (for Osgood)
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019

E-MAIL: sundays@cbsnews.com

TAPES: Log on to the CBS Store or call 1-800-542-5621.


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