A Texas riddle indeed: Why is McLeroy hanging with creationists?

August 21, 2008

Here’s the post from über creationist Ken Ham’s site, in its entirety:

A Texas Riddle

Last week, AiG speaker Mike Riddle did a series of talks in Brenham, Texas. On the first day, Mike did four different sessions for 1st–6th graders. He usually speaks to young people on topics like “The Riddle of the Dinosaurs,” AiG’s well-known “7C’s of History,” and fossils.


On the next day, Mike did four special sessions for teachers. Each presentation was geared to help instructors be better prepared to teach origins in the public schools. In addition to speaking on what creationists believe, he spoke on understanding presuppositions and assumptions in the origins debate–and using critical thinking skills. Mike also had the opportunity to meet with the Chairman of the Texas State School Board, Don McLeroy (a biblical creationist), and gave presentations to an open audience at the Brenham High School auditorium.


Mike and Don McLeroy (Chairman, Texas State School Board)

“Special sessions for teachers?” Oy vey.

1. I’ll wager, if those were real, public school teachers, they were given continuing education credits for attending. That would be illegal, especially if Riddle did not preface his presentations with a legal disclaimer that what he urges is contrary to Texas science standards and contrary to the Constitution. Want to wager whether he did?

2. What’s McLeroy doing there? Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to maintain antiseptic separation from such controversial stuff? They fire people from the TEA for attending sessions that are legal and support the Texas standards. What sort of Quisling action is this on McLeroy’s part?

3. Is Rick Perry watching? The state’s legal fees will rise dramatically as a result of this kind of bad judgment at the SBOE. Can Texas taxpayers afford this?

4. Why does Don McLeroy hate Texas’s smarter, college-bound children so?

It takes a particular form of chutzpah to stand idly by while qualified science teachers are fired from the state’s education agency for promoting science, and then go cavort with creationists. It may not be cowardice exactly, but courage is its antonym.

Climate change skeptics, your Freudian slip is showing

August 21, 2008

Is the climate change debate about science, or politics?

Anthony Watts’s blog settled the question yesterday. Watts has been conducting surveys of U.S. weather reporting stations in a months-long campaign to make a case that data have been skewed by inappropriate sitings of the measuring equipment. Other posts on the blog celebrate every release of information that might be construed as contrary to warming or contrary to human effects on climate, or denigrating any release that supports a claim of change or that human activities cause the change.

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program released a draft report for public comment several weeks ago. Watts criticized the report for a tone he interpreted as advocacy instead of science. Since comments on the report are wide open, as required under the Administrative Procedures Act, comments like Watts’ can be submitted to the agency, and they must be answered. Watts’ invitation to people who disagree with any part of the report is a good encouragement for people to take a part in this important debate about public policy.

But then, yesterday, Watts posted the smoking gun showing political pushing of the science from the White House, unintentionally, I’m sure. In fact, Watts hailed the thing, with a headline claiming that the report was being “pulled.”

Reading through Watts’s post it is difficult to figure out what happened that prompted the headline — it’s hidden away in his quote of the attack-dog propaganda site at National Review On-line, Watts said:

Chris Horner writes on NRO Planet Gore:

…the U.S. Chamber pointed out that a preponderance of the 21 reports that had purportedly been “synthesized” had not actually been produced yet. Sure, that sequence sounds odd in the real world, but is reminiscent of the IPCC, to which the USP appealed as the authority for certain otherwise unsupported claims (though the IPCC openly admits that it, too, performs no scientific research). This is a point we also made in our comments. I’m informed that NOAA has now agreed to publish the underlying documents first and then put out their desired USP. The Chamber should have a release out soon.

Did you catch that? It’s in the line, “NOAA has now agreed.” So what is the document at NOAA referred to?

Oh, it’s not a document from NOAA. It is a memorandum from the anti-climate change science group set up by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from William Kovacs, an employee of the U.S. Chamber.

A few days ago I received a call from the administration informing me that, while they will not withdraw the notice for comments, it will in the next several weeks file another Federal Register notice providing for comment when all of the synthesis reports are public.

It seems to me that the APA rules and procedures are quite clear. Comments must be accepted, and generally they must be commented upon. Comments to the effect that not all the material backing the report was available are fair game, must be answered by the agency, and if true, might make a case for more careful scrutiny of any regulation coming from the report.

What did NOAA do? Nothing that we can see. Instead, what’s got Watts happy is a note from a hardball political group that they’ve heard from the White House, suggesting there will be political philandering with the science report.

Good scientists have significant science findings that would mitigate or contradict findings expressed in the draft report. Pointing those studies out to NOAA and the Climate Change Science Program would be the way to make a solid case.

The skeptics’ asking the White House to politically kill the report, and then celebrating a missive from a lobbying group that claims the report has been killed contrary to the law under the Administrative Procedures Act, doesn’t suggest that science is the concern of the skeptics — at least, that’s not the message I get.

In the wake of the news of one probably illegally suppressed report, it’s probably not wise to celebrate the suppression of another, legal or not.


Update: As of Thursday afternoon (August 21), Watt’s Up With That? has changed the headline from “pulled” to “hold.”

The same criticisms apply from above, still.

Teddy Roosevelt at the Minnesota State Fair

August 21, 2008

It’s state fair time!

Which state fair has the most fried foods? Which state fair has the oddest fried foods? You can make nominations in comments.

State fairs drive local economies, sometimes, and occasionally a bit of history gets made there. Certainly they are places where culture and history are on display.

Minnesota’s State Fair is so good even Teddy Roosevelt visited — it’s been an almost annual event since 1859. I’ll bet Roosevelt had a good time, though I wonder if the Fair served him a bag of their famous mini-donuts — 388,000 bags of donuts served last year (do they rival corny dogs?).

Then Vice President Theodore Roosevelt tell Americans our foreign policy should be to

Then Vice President Theodore Roosevelt tell Americans our foreign policy should be to “speak softly, and carry a big stick!” September 3, 1901. President William McKinley was shot on September 6, and died just over a week later; Roosevelt was sworn in as president on September 14.

Check out Minnesota’s State Fair with this 21-question interactive quiz by Dave Braunger at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune — see how well you know or can guess Minnesota history, and compare it to your own state fair if you’re not in Minnesota.

Corny dog, called a Pronto Pup, at the Minnesota State Fair. Pronto Pups are wan copies of Fletcher's Corny Dogs, from the Texas State Fair. Image from Travel.Garden.Eat

Corny dog, called a Pronto Pup, at the Minnesota State Fair. Pronto Pups are wan copies of Fletcher’s Corny Dogs, from the Texas State Fair. Image from Travel.Garden.Eat

World Mosquito Day

August 21, 2008

Oops! Missed this one.

Anopheles gambiae mosquito biting.  A. gambiae is one of the several species of mosquito that is a vector for malaria.  EPA/Stephen Morrison photo

Anopheles gambiae mosquito biting. A. gambiae is one of the several species of mosquito that is a vector for malaria. EPA/Stephen Morrison photo

August 20 is World Mosquito Day:

Pause for a moment on World Mosquito Day to reflect on the little bloodsucker that probably causes more human suffering than any other organism. Observed annually today, August 20, World Mosquito Day originated in 1897 by Dr. Ronald Ross of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, according to the American Mosquito Control Association, a nonprofit based in New Jersey.

Ross is credited with the discovery of the transmission of malaria by the mosquito, and was honored with a Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902.

Each year 350-500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, and over one million people die, most of them young children in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But malaria is not the only disease spread by mosquitoes. There’s also West Nile virus, various strains of encephalitis, Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever, Yellow Fever.


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