Scouts, Scouters: No campaigning in uniform!

August 31, 2008

Scouts and Scouters know the rules:  No political campaigning in uniform.  It’s such a hard-and-fast rule that even Boy Scouts helping with voter registration or simultaneous food drives sometimes get calls from the local Council to be sure there is no partisan political campaigning going on.

Scouts may be asked to present the colors, the flags of the U.S. and the state, and to lead a political convention in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Diligent Scouters, or Scouts, involved in such ceremonies, will retire to remove their uniforms before continuing to participate in the political part of the activities.

Photos of Scouts used by presidential campaigns is among those things prohibited.

So this photo is disturbing.  You can see two people in Scout uniforms — one obviously an adult — at a political rally where their placement suggests the campaign officials tried to get them into news and publicity photos.  Oddly for real Scouters, there are few insignia of any kind on the uniforms — on the sleeves or pockets — other than what comes with the shirt right out of the box (World Scouting emblem perhaps excepted) — though you can see the edge of an adult leader’s patch on the adult’s left arm.  Were these real Scouters flouting the rules, or faux Scouters, actors hired by the campaign to flaunt the uniform, contrary to the rules?

The Scouts in the background -- are they complying with Scout policies that require no politicking in Scout uniform?  (photo from Andrew Sullivans blog)

The Scouts in the background -- are they complying with Scout policies that require no politicking in Scout uniform? (photo from Andrew Sullivan's blog)

Below the fold:  The rule, as listed on Grand Teton Council’s website.

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Obama hoaxers crawl out of the woodwork, onto the internet

August 31, 2008


Dennis at Thinking in a Marrow Bone — not an Obama supporter, mind you — posted a conversation he had with a guy who posted a hoaxed photo of Barack Obama, purporting to show him holding a landline telephone upside down.

This is the hoax photo

Dennis called him on the hoax.  After a few rounds of weak defense, and then moral waffling of significant proportion, the hoaxer deleted the comments from his blog.  Dennis preserved the conversation at TMB.

Moral of the story:  Don’t believe much of what you hear or see, without corroboration.  If a claim casts aspersions on someone, and comes on the internet, check it out before granting credence. Thanks to Dennis, an honest guy, for exposing the hoax and preserving the record of it.

Hoaxers are malicious and will do almost anything to damage Obama, even if it requires bringing down the U.S. and burning the flag.  No wonder George Washington wanted out of this sort of politics.

Question:  What’s the deal with the clock in the doctored photo?  [Oh – it says “3:00 o’clock”]

Honor roll:  Bloggers and others who exposed the hoax:

Dishonor roll, the Little List, bloggers who tried to perpetrate and perpetuate the hoax, or who got suckered themselves:

Special Consideration:


Trivia and waste of bandwidth – until it saves your kid’s life

August 31, 2008

Trivial information and internet communication make for bandwidth-wasting and brain-numbing exchanges — friendly, maybe, but your spouse will consider filing papers.

Until it saves your kid’s life with a dramatic diagnosis of a deadly disease across an ocean.

Look at the BBC report on the toddler in Florida whose life was saved by a transatlantic, e-mail suggested diagnosis.  Print story from BBC, here.

A toddler in Florida has been diagnosed with cancer after a Manchester woman saw early warning signs in a picture.

Madeleine Robb, from Stretford, who has never met her pen pal, spotted a shadow behind one of Rowan Santos’s eyes on pictures from her first birthday.

She then e-mailed her mother Megan advising her to get medical help.

The toddler was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer – Retinoblastoma – and underwent an operation and is having chemotherapy.

The two mothers became friends on an internet messageboard after their children were born on the same day.

But when Mrs Robb saw the pictures she said she knew something was not right.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Moments in Time.

[FireFox 3 doesn’t support the old video capture of VodPod; my apologies for sending you to the video, though sending someone to a BBC site is probably a great act of education.]

What’s the difference between a burro and a burrow?

August 30, 2008





Rabbit burrow, Nature photos CZ

If you can click to this site, you should know the difference.  Do you?

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Top 10 reasons McCain chose Sarah Palin as a running-mate

August 30, 2008

We old-line campaigners and politicos watched with great interest the news of Sen. John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his vice president ticket-mate.  McCain’s choice offers glimpses of what is going on inside McCain’s campaign, and McCain’s head.

Pythons Michael Palin and friend

Python's Michael Palin and friend

Here are the top 10 reasons McCain chose Sarah Palin, in count-down order:

10.  Michael Palin is not a U.S. citizen, it turns out.

9.   Those pesky science fans will shut up and stop clamoring for a science debate, just to avoid hearing one more fool claim that intelligent design deserves time in classes.

8.   Thought she was Nana Mouskouri.

Nana Mouskouri

Nana Mouskouri

7.   Hillary already pledged to support Obama.

Buy your mukluks at

Buy your mukluks at

6.   Two words:  Mukluk.

5.   Didn’t want to risk getting a religious nut, so Mitt Romney was out.

4.   Harriett Myers was unavailable.

3.   Impressed by the education plank in her campaign for mayor of Wassila, Alaska.

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition - Michael Palin models the robe Sarah Palin will be asked to wear, with Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland and Terry Gilliam - Monty Python publicity image

"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition" - Michael Palin models the robe Sarah Palin will be asked to wear, with Terry Jones, Carol Cleveland and Terry Gilliam - Monty Python publicity image

2.   She didn’t object to wearing Michael Palin’s gown during government investigations of non-fundamentalist Christians.

. . . and the number one reason . . .

1.  Britney Spears turned him down.

Britney Spears in 2003.  U.S. Navy photo (no kidding)

Britney Spears in 2003. U.S. Navy photo (no kidding)

Your turn:  Surely there are other, better reasons.  Tell us what they are in comments.


Update:  Serious commentary on Gov. Palin’s qualifications, here.

Ready for Banned Books Week?

August 30, 2008

We celebrate Banned Books Week September 27 through October 4 this year. Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say we celebrate the books that get banned, and the idea that freedom and liberty require that we not ban books.

Banned Books Week image from Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver

Banned Books Week image from Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver

Banned Books Week has been noted every year since 1982 in a long-running campaign from the American Library Association. Why?

Because ideas matter.  The right to express ideas, and the right to be able to read ideas, are at the foundation of our liberties.

Again in 2007, books most frequently targeted for banning include And Tango Makes Three, a delightful children’s story about two penguins taking care of an orphaned egg (too much like homosexuality), and Mark Twain’s powerful, essentially-American novel that makes the case against racism, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (ironically, because complainants claim to find the book racist).

People who ask that these books be pulled from the shelves often fail to recognize the irony — why should we ban a book about caring for orphans, or the book that makes the case against racism?

The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver sponsors an annual Banned Books Week essay contest for Colorado teens, in conjunction with the Colorado Freedom of Expression Foundation.

How will your school and local public library commemorate Banned Books Week?  Which banned books will you read, and urge others to read?

Which banned books are on your reading lists for classroom use? Does that strike a little too close to home?  Then you need to get informed, and get active.

Jesus and the lamp unto my porch

August 29, 2008

Bug Girl has the story — and go see it at her site, and look at the photograph.

Friend, do you see Jesus? (I didn’t.)

Oh, sure.   It’s from Texas.  Maybe a trailer park.

On the plus side, there’s a poll you can crash: Do you see Jesus, someone else, or nothing at all?  (“Moth” is not one of the choices.)  The poll is by KLTV Channel 7 out in the Longview-Tyler area.

“I immediately thought it looked like Jesus and that was what was so cool cause you’ve seen His face in grilled cheese sandwiches and windows and things but on a moth’s back…we thought that was pretty neat.”

As if the moth weren’t cool enough.  Feynman was right:  The scientist appreciates this stuff better.

McCain sticks it to the PUMAs

August 29, 2008

Ya gotta feel for the die-hard PUMAs, the people who were so much for Hillary Clinton that they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Obama, so they defected to George Bush’s party and hope to sign on with John McCain. (PUMA is an acronym:  “Party Unity My [mild profanity dealing with gluteal muscles]”)

“That will show Obama he can’t trample a good woman in an election race,” they were muttering until about 11:00 a.m. Central Time today.

Then, John McCain picked one of those classic Republican women office holders, one who is female in gender only, who looks at the good politics and wisdom of genuine feminism and instead does her best to act like Attila the Hun with a streak of intolerance, though occasionally acting rational enough to hold on to the few rational conservatives who vote.  John McCain is so certain of their support that he can spit on their issues and kick dust in their faces. Or worse.

McCains boys and former supporter of Hillary Clinton?

McCain's boys and former supporter of Hillary Clinton?

McCain must figure the PUMAs will only love him more for it.

Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska.  That’s about as far from Hillary Clinton as Vladimir Putin is from Harry Truman.

What will the PUMAs do? Maybe they should follow Hillary’s example, and endorse Obama.

What do you think?

Texas AG rules: Bible classes not required

August 29, 2008

Texas school districts are not compelled to offer classes studying the Bible under a new law, according to a ruling from the Texas State Attorney General, Greg Abbott.

State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, proposed a bill to require the classes, in the 2007 legislative session.  Though the bill passed, it was amended several times and in the final form the language was ambiguous as to whether districts would be required to offer the class.

Earlier this year the State Board of Education refused to issue standards for a Bible class, and so the AG’s ruling took on additional urgency:  School districts are left to their own devices on creating a Bible class that would pass scrutiny under the 1st Amendment.  Several districts in Texas have offered such classes, but when challenged on constitutional grounds, the classes have been modified to avoid advocacy of religion.  Most of Texas’s more than 200 school districts are anxious to avoid going to court over courses that they are required to offer.

Now we know the Bible classes are not required.

But if a district does offer the classes, neither the SBOE nor the Attorney General has provided guidance to school districts on how to keep the classes legal.  In the absence of clear guidance, individual districts offer Bible classes at their own peril.  The districts would bear all litigation costs.

“Local school boards can now breathe a sigh of relief,” Miller said. “The State Board of Education threw them under the bus last month by refusing to adopt the clear, specific standards schools need to give the Bible the respect it deserves and help them stay out of court. Now, schools won’t be required to maneuver through a legal minefield without a map.”

After reading Abbott’s opinion, however, Jonathan Saenz of the Free Market Foundation said it was clear “Texas schools are required to have some type of instruction in the Bible, which is the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament.”

“Schools are not required to offer a particular type of course in order to meet the requirement of having some type of instruction in the Bible, but they have to offer something,” Saenz said.

The Free Market Foundation promotes families, churches and freedom.

Abbott’s office referred inquires to the last sentence in the opinion summary:

“If a school district or charter school chooses to offer a course authorized by section 28.011 and fewer than fifteen students at a campus register to enroll in the course, the district or charter school is not required to provide the course at that campus for that semester, but that does not mean that the school is not required to comply with the curriculum requirements in subsection 28.002 (a)(2).”

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bible classes are not popular among Texas teenagers anyway.  Maybe the students have more common sense and a greater drive to achieve in education than do the state legislators.

Most Texas high schools offer studies on parts of the Bible, in either in Advanced Placement literature and history courses, or in regular academic English courses.  Rep. Warren Chisum and the state legislature appear to have ignored this offering.

Controversy is expected to continue.


Lost expedition? Where’s the photos of the “new” Peruvian waterfall?

August 28, 2008

You’d think someone like National Geographic Society would hustle down there to find it.

Whatever happened to the expedition that took off on the trek to photograph what was rumored to be a world-class waterfall newly discovered in Peru?  The cataract was rumored to be among the world’s tallest.

Perhaps a reader who reads Spanish might find some news in the South American newspapers.  Has anyone seen any news?

“Do you believe in me?” 5th grader Dalton Sherman inspires Dallas teachers

August 26, 2008

Update, September 19, 2008: Dalton was scheduled to appear on Ellen Degeneres’s program on Thursday, September 18; did you see it? What do you think?

Taylor Mali is one of my usual suspects for inspiring teachers. He does a great job, with just a tinge of profanity (appropriately placed, many teachers argue – if they ask for it, you have to give it to them).

This year’s inspiration for Dallas teachers comes from Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. Here’s a YouTube video of the presentation about 20,000 of us watched last Wednesday, a small point that redeemed the annual “convocation” exercise, for 2008:

Sherman’s presentation rescued what had been shaping up as another day of rah-rah imprecations to teachers who badly wanted, and in my case needed, to be spending time putting classrooms together.

(By the way, at the start of his presentation, you can see several people leap to their feet in the first row — Mom, Dad, and older brother. Nice built-in cheering section.)

Staff at DISD headquarters put the speech together for Dalton to memorize, and he worked over the summer to get it down. This background is wonderfully encouraging.

First, it makes a statement that DISD officials learn from mistakes. Last year the keynote was given by a speaker out of central casting’s “classic motivational speaker” reserves. As one teacher described it to me before the fete last Wednesday, “It was a real beating.”

Second, DISD’s planning ahead to pull this off suggests someone is looking a little bit down the road. This was a four or five month exercise for a less-than-10 minute presentation. It’s nice to know someone’s looking ahead at all.

Third, the cynical teachers gave Dalton Sherman a warm standing ovation. That it was delivered by a 10-year-old kids from DISD made a strong symbol. But the content was what hooked the teachers. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa provided a death-by-PowerPoint presentation leading up to the speech, one that was probably not designed solely as contrasting lead in. In other words, Dalton Sherman’s speech demonstrated as nothing else the district has done lately that someone downtown understands that the teachers count, the foot soldiers in our war on ignorance and jihad for progress.

The kids came back Monday, bless ’em. School’s in session, to anyone paying attention.


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China-Olympics-sized stakes in science education

August 25, 2008

Frank Rich, in Sunday’s New York Times:

We don’t have the time or resources to go off on more quixotic military missions or to indulge in culture wars. (In China, they’re too busy exploiting scientific advances for competitive advantage to reopen settled debates about Darwin.) Americans must band together for change before the new century leaves us completely behind.

It’s an aside in a longer piece of advice to Obama on issues for the rest of the campaign.  It’s a Sputnik statement for this century, for anyone with the brains to pay attention.

Typewriter of the moment: Will Rogers

August 25, 2008

Will Rogers and his typewriter,

Will Rogers and his Remington typewriter, Will Rogers Memorial Museums, Claremore-Oolagah, Oklahoma

Caption from the Will Rogers Museums:

Daily writing
It didn’t matter where Will Rogers was when it was time to type his daily telegram. He just pulled out his trusty typewriter — in the car, on the movie set or in his home office overlooking the mountains of his Santa Monica ranch.

Rogers’ newspaper columns were carried by newspapers across America — 500 of them. His influence as an observer of the American condition was wide and deep.

See also this previous post about Will Rogers, for more resources.

Dangers of failing to teach evolution, part I

August 24, 2008

From comments at the website of the New York Times today, on the story, “A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash”:

I teach biology and I would like to add a story in encouragement to other biology teachers. About 15 years ago I was teaching a botany course to college sophomores and started discussing the evolution of land plants. Expressions began to harden. Students stopped taking notes. So I stopped and asked if my discussion of evolution was bothering them. Many nodded and one said, “Why do teachers act like evolution is a fact?” At the time I had little experience and had assumed they had a working knowledge of evolution from previous classes at college as well as from high school biology. They did not. I didn’t have much time left that day, but I did explain some of the lines of evidence that support evolution.

The next day, one of my students came in and slammed a stack of books onto her table. She said, “I am so mad! I am so angry!” She looked near tears. She said, “My parents never let me even hear the word, evolution! They said it was all lies! I went to the library last night and got out books about it!” (and here she held up Origin of Species) Then she said, “It makes so much SENSE! I am so angry I never got to learn about it before!”
Now I teach a class entirely about evolution and I think of her often. She still gives me inspiration to keep on trying to open up minds.

— Bio prof, Ohio

Related resources:

Read this: Teaching science is hard, made harder by religious claptrap

August 24, 2008

Page A1 of the New York Times on Sunday, August 24, 2008: “A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash.

Read it, and consider these questions:

  1. Would your local paper have the guts to report on this issue, for your local schools? (The Times went to Florida; heaven knows few Florida papers could cover the issue in Florida so well.)
  2. What is your local school board doing to support science education, especially for evolution, in your town? Or is your local school board making it harder for teachers to do their jobs?
  3. What is your state education authority doing to support science education, especially in evolution, in your state? Or is your state school board working to make it harder for teachers to do their jobs, and working to dumb down America’s kids?
  4. Do your school authorities know that they bet against your students when they short evolution, because knowledge about evolution is required for 25% of the AP biology test, and is useful for boosting scores on the SAT and ACT?
  5. Does your state science test test evolution?
  6. Do your school authorities understand they are throwing away taxpayer dollars when they encourage the teaching of voodoo science, like intelligent design?

It takes a good paper like the Times to lay it on the line:

The Dover decision in December of that year [2005] dealt a blow to “intelligent design,” which posits that life is too complex to be explained by evolution alone, and has been widely promoted by religious advocates since the Supreme Court’s 1987 ban on creationism in public schools. The federal judge in the case called the doctrine “creationism re-labeled,” and found the Dover school board had violated the constitutional separation of church and state by requiring teachers to mention it. The school district paid $1 million in legal costs.

That hasn’t slowed the Texas State Board of Education’s rush to get the state entangled in litigation over putting religious dogma in place of science. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is already embroiled in one suit, brought by the science-promoting science curriculum expert they fired for noting in an e-mail that science historian Barbara Forrest was speaking in a public event in Austin. TEA may well lose this case, and their side is not helped when State Board Chairman Don McLeroy cavorts with creationists in a session teaching illegal classroom tactics to teachers. Clearly Texas education officials are not reading the newspapers, the court decisions, or the science books.

Here’s one of the charts accompanied the article. While you read it, consider these items: The top 10% of science students in China outnumber all the science students in the U.S.; the U.S. last year graduated more engineers from foreign countries than from the U.S.; the largest portion were from China. China graduated several times the number of engineers the U.S. did, and almost all of them were from China.

Copyright 2008 by the New York Times

Copyright 2008 by the New York Times

Can we afford to dumb down any part of our science curriculum, for any reason? Is it unfair to consider creationism advocates, including intelligent design advocates, as “surrender monkeys in the trade and education wars with China?”

Update: 10:00 p.m. Central, this story is the most e-mailed from the New York Times site today; list below the fold.

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