FDR takes over

March 31, 2009

Leisure Guy, in his leisure no doubt, has some time to look seriously at political criticism and its accuracy.  For example, recently he wondered about the claim that FDR didn’t do anything to help the U.S. out of the depression, and perhaps helped prolong it.  [I have corrected a minor error; he had FDR being inaugurated in January of 1933.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last president to be inaugurated in March; the term was changed to start in January during his presidency.]

This graph is from an interesting post by Paul Krugman, but I was fascinated to see that you can tell when FDR took office. He was elected, as you know, at the end of 1932, and he took office in late January [March] of 1933. Can you find that spot on the graph?


But of course, Right Wingers will tell you that FDR made the Depression worse. Some will even say that FDR started the Great Depression.

Leisure Guy didn’t include a link to Krugman’s post, drat it.  It doesn’t appear to be this one, though it covers some of the same territory.  Update: Oh, here it is:  “Partying like it’s 1931.”

Well, Texas! How do you like your culture war!

March 30, 2009

Historical Item:  William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper in New York favored war with Spain in 1898 — the Spanish-American War.  When the war got underway, on the top of the newspaper’s first page, in the corners (the “ears”), Hearst printed, “America!  How do you like your war!”

Creationism lost on the votes that had been planned for weeks, on issues members of the State Board of Education were informed about.  But creationists on the board proposed a series of amendments to several different curricula, and some really bad science was written in to standards for Texas school kids to learn.  Climate change got an official “tsk-tsk, ain’t happenin'” from SBOE.  And while Wilson and Penzias won a Nobel Prize for stumbling on the evidence that confirmed it, Big Bang is now theory non grata in Texas science books.   Using Board Member Barbara Cargill’s claims, Texas teachers now should teach kids that the universe is a big thing who tells big lies about her age.

Phil Plait wrote at Bad Astronomy:  “Texas:  Yup.  Doomed.”

A surefire way to tell that the changes were bad:  The Discovery Institute’s lead chickens  crow victory over secularism, science and “smart people.”  Well, no, they aren’t quite that bold.   See here, here, here and hereDisco Tute even slammed the so-conservative-Ronald-Reagan-found-it-dull Dallas Morning News for covering the news nearly accurately.  Even more snark here. Discovery Institute’s multi-million-dollar budget to buy good public relations for anti-science appears to have dropped a bundle in Austin; while it might appear that DI had more people in Austin than there are members of the Texas SBOE . . . no, wait, maybe they did.

SBOE rejected the advice of America’s best and greatest scientists.  If it was good science backed by good scientists and urged by the nation’s best educators, SBOE rejected it.  If it was a crank science idea designed to frustrate teaching science, it passed.  As the Texas Freedom Network so aptly put it, while SBOE closed the door on “strengths and weaknesses” language that favors creationism, they then opened every window in the house.

Read ’em, and tell us in comments if you find any reason for hope, or any reason the state legislature shouldn’t abolish this board altogether.  (What others should we add to the list?)

New prize plaque for the Bathtub, a sunny day on the slopes

March 29, 2009

Café Philos awarded a Sun Mountain Award to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

We’re flattered, thankful, and shy on words.   It’s nice that someone is reading.  It’s nice that readers of Café Philos may sneak over here for a look, and join in some of the conversations (as a few already have).

Sun Mountain Award

Sun Mountain Award

Café Philos is the blog that posted the best summary of the John Freshwater affair in Wisconsin that exists on the internet, and probably in daily media, too.  Paul Sunstone writes good stuff, and has a good following of thoughtful commenters and readers.

Plus, I love the early morning sun on that mountain, that can only be part of the Rockies, where I grew up.

Welcome to the Bathtub, you readers of Café Philos.  And, thanks for thinking of us, Paul.  Now we have to write as if it really matters, as if people are really reading.  You spur people to higher standards with these positive strokes.

It always matters, of course.

Big Yellow Taxi covers, from A to Z

March 28, 2009

Cover from the single release of "Big Yellow Taxi," from the Joni Mitchell album, "Ladies of the Canyon." Wikipedia image.

Cover from the single release of “Big Yellow Taxi,” from the Joni Mitchell album, “Ladies of the Canyon.” Wikipedia image.

I was looking for lyrics to a Joni Mitchell tune.  I discovered she has a very good website.

She lists bands and performances that covered “Big Yellow Taxi.” Silly thing to notice, but it’s a long list.  A veerrrrrrrry long list.  It looks like she’s been covered on that one song by bands with names starting with every letter in the alphabet.

Well, once I noticed that, I had to check.  No band with a name starting with O, Q, or X has covered the song.  The other 23 letters are all represented.  Oh, but she lists bands whose names start with “the,” and there is a band named “The Quality Kids.”  Does that count as Q?  Nearly 230 different covers of the song all together.

Does that count as success?

Here’s Joni singing “Big Yellow Taxi” herself, in 1970 (39 years ago!  as long ago as Jack Benny is old), at a festival at the Isle of Wight.

[Isle of Wight Festival video not available in U.S. at the moment; BBC tape substituted, below, March 2016]

P.S. — Mitchell also has a page that counts the covers.  “Big Yellow Taxi” is #2 in most recorded, at 228 covers.  #1 is “Both Sides Now,” with 615 covers.



Poll: Almost 90% say Texas should teach “evolution only”

March 28, 2009

A television station in College Station-Bryan, Texas, KBTX (Channel 3, a CBS affiliate) ran a poll on what Texas schools should be doing about evolution in biology classes.  After hearing for days from the creationists on the State Board of Education that most people think creationism should be taught, the results are a little astounding:

Results: How do you think science should be taught in Texas schools?

Evolution only – 89.62%
Creationism only – 2.96%
Combination of both – 7.42%
Total Responses – 9126

It just goes to show what happens when people speak up, no?

What’s the difference between creationism and cold fusion?

March 27, 2009

Science — cold fusion has it, and creationism doesn’t.

One of my favorite comebacks to creationism advocates is pointing out that creationism is biology what cold fusion is to physics, except for the deep experimental results supporting cold fusion.  It usually makes creationists bluster, because they hate to be compared to something they think is pseudo-science.

To be sure, cold fusion’s corpse remain’s pretty cold.  It’s not a science that will soon spring to life to deliver safe, cheap energy to your refrigerator.

But it’s still alive, and research is still being done on cold fusion — in stark contrast to creationism/intelligent design, which remains colder than cold fusion.  Bob Park reminded us of another missed anniversary that passed last Monday:

Monday was the 20th anniversary of the infamous press conference called by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City to announce the discovery of Cold Fusion.  The sun warmed the Earth that day as it had for 5 billion years, by the high temperature fusion of hydrogen nuclei. Incredibly, the American chemical Society was meeting in Salt Lake City this week and there were many papers on cold fusion, or as their authors prefer LENR (low-energy nuclear reactions). These people, at least some of them, look in ever greater detail where others have not bothered to look. They say they find great mysteries, and perhaps they do. Is it important?  I doubt it.  But I think it’s science.

The Texas State Board of Education failed to require that Texas kids learn about cold fusion in their high school science classes.  But had they done so, they’d have been on better, more truthful, more accurate and better researched ground than their rants against Big Bang, DNA and common descent.

Quote of the moment: Einstein, on nature

March 27, 2009

Cartoon of Einstein and FDR, making fun of FDRs alphabet soup - Basil OConner collection, Texas Parks and Wildlife

Cartoon of Einstein and FDR, making fun of FDR's "alphabet soup" - Basil O'Conner collection, Texas Parks and Wildlife

Look deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

Texas science under siege: Help if you can

March 27, 2009

More bad news than good news from the Texas State School Board:  Yes, the board failed to reintroduce the creationist sponsored “strengths and weaknesses” language in high school science standards; but under the misleadership of Board Chair Don McLeroy, there is yet <i>another</i> series of amendments intended to mock science, including one challenging Big Bang, one challenging natural selection as a known mechanism of evolution, and, incredibly, one challenging the even the idea of common descent.  It’s a kick in the teeth to Texas teachers and scientists who wrote the standards the creationists don’t like.

Texas Freedom Network’s blog headline tells the story:  “Science Under Siege in Texas.”

Do you live in Texas?  Do you teach, or are you involved in the sciences in Texas?  Then please send an e-mail to the State Board of Education this morning, urging them to stick to the science standards their education and science experts recommended.  Most of the recent amendments aim to kill the standards the scientists and educators wrote.

TFN tells how to write:

You can still weigh in by sending e-mails to board members at sboeteks@tea.state.tx.us. Texas Education Agency staff will distribute e-mails to board members.

You don’t think it’s serious?  Here’s Don McLeroy explaining the purpose of one of his amendments:

Live blogging of SBOE activities today by Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science, here, and by the Texas Freedom Network, here.

Listen in: Texas board considers science standards, and evolution

March 26, 2009

Texas Freedom Network is live-blogging the hearings  and proceedings from  Austin, again today, before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE). [I’ve changed the link to go to the TFN blog — that will take you to the latest post with latest news.]    Testimony yesterday showed the coarse nature of the way SBOE treats science and scientists, and offered a lot of “balancing” testimony against evolution from people who appeared not to have ever read much science at all.  The issue remains whether to force Texas kids to study false claims of scientific error about evolution.

As yesterday, Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is live-blogging, too, here at EvoSphere.

Schafersman’s list of  several ways you can keep up with the hearings still applies:

I will be live blogging the Texas State Board of Education meeting of 2009 March 25-27 in this column. This includes the hearing devoted to public testimony beginning at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 25. I will stay through the final vote on Friday, March 27.

Go to the following webpages for further information:

State Board of Education

March 25-26 SBOE Meeting Agenda

March 25 Public Hearing with Testimony, 12:00 noon

State Board rules for Public Testimony

Current Science TEKS as revised in 2009 January

For the live audio feed, go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/ for the link.

God save us from preachers fouling the waters of science

March 25, 2009

Waylon and Willie might have done a great service for the world had they sung, instead, “Mamas, don’t let your children grow up to be preachers./ . . . make ’em be biologists and teachers and such.”

I’m moving my response to a poster, lowerleavell, up from the depths of the thread on this old post, “Why intelligent design shouldn’t bully Texas high school kids.”

Among other things creationists do which I find destructive, they tell people stories about what evolution theory “says,” or what happens in nature, that simply are not true.  Very simply, creationists, especially preachers, paint such a vivid but false view of human nature “according to science,” that a lot of misbehavior can be blamed on the preachers’ convincing people, especially children, that they are supposed to misbehave.

I’ll just let the post speak for itself; Joe’s words are blockquoted, my response set without indentation:

Joe said:

Every presented “truth” has ramifications. If you tell people long enough and dogmatically enough that they are the result of some massive cosmic accident (Dawkins viewpoint) then eventually they’re going to start getting the picture.

We can hope. As Dawkins notes, the picture they should get is that we need to be human to one another, to treat each other well, to defend human rights, to cherish life while we live it. So far, I don’t see a lot of that happening, at least, not enough — and, as I’ve noted earlier, I think it’s because religion gets in the way.

You tell people that humans are simply evolved animals and are surprised when they act accordingly.

Actually, that’s what preachers say — you won’t find a scientist putting it that crudely, or that inaccurately.

We tell people that humans are evolved animals — a true statement, as any physician can tell you — and we tell them that we expect them to act as animals do. You seem to think that would be bad. But anyone who studies animal behavior will tell you that the bravery and altruism of the tiny sparrow defending her nest against marauding crows matches the bravery of any human, anywhere, any time. You seem to think that animals have no sense of morality, but that’s not what we see in nature. You seem to think that humans’ animal morality is bad, but as Darwin noted (in chapter 5 of Descent of Man), the foundation of our evolved morality is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s the principal that allowed us to survive as a species, and to thrive. Darwin even went so far as to lay out a scenario for how genes that produced the behaviors could be selected for in natural selection.

Make no mistake: “Animal behavior” is not immoral behavior. We didn’t thrive as a species by stabbing our friends in the back, at least, not until the invention of religion (the story of Cain and Able is a Bible story, remember — you don’t find siblings going after each other to the point of murder much in nature).

Joe, you’re preaching against the Golden Rule. Leave it to a creationist who claims not to be advocating creationism to preach against Christian morality and claim it’s evolution’s fault.

One of my concerns is that creationists — especially people who claim to have a ministry — get this animal morality thing exactly wrong. It only strengthens my feeling that we need to keep such people from innocent children.

It’s preachers who tell children that they’re animals, and that they can act evilly, Joe, not science. Preachers probably don’t even intend to do that, but they get the science dead wrong, they tell the kids that’s what science says . . . what’s a kid to think? Would a preacher lie to them?

I agree we shouldn’t teach immorality to children. Joe, will you join me in keeping Baptist ministers from doing that? You guys should stop telling children that evolution is untrue, that animals are immoral, and that our baser, animal instincts trend toward sin.

Incidentally, that’s not what the Bible says, either. It was Man who sinned, not animals. In your zeal to get evolution, you’ve departed a long ways from what the scriptures say. I’d say it’s time to rethink what you’re doing.

You tell people that they are the evolution of nature and are surprised when they act according to their natural impulses and emotions.

I wish they’d do it more often, rather than substituting the morality of organized religion.

Geese mate for life and look out for each other. Bonobos keep peace with an almost literal “make love, not war” ethic — it protects the children very well. Prairie dogs look out for one another, posting guards to keep everybody safe — they double the guards when their children are out foraging, to double the protection. Musk oxen, tiny things, really, defend their young with the entire herd, sacrificing an adult if necessary to protect the offspring. Gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, elephants, lions, whales and others protect and venerate their aged, the sages who can guide the herd/troupe/pride/pod/clan through difficult times. Throughout the animal kingdom, we find animals as exemplars of behavior, mostly.  Murder is extremely rare in most species.  War is even more rare.

What in the devil is wrong with that morality? Why wouldn’t we want our children to “act as animals?”

You know, if one studies the history of evolution in science, one is struck by the remarkable sterling character of most of the scientists involved. With very few exceptions — Haeckel’s dishonesty and rampant nationalism, Watson’s general unpleasantness — these scientists are paragons of moral behavior. Darwin was a giant of morality, an outstanding, faithful and loving husband, a caring and doting father. Wallace was a pillar, too — except for his dabblings in seances later, a function of his Christian beliefs. Dobzhansky, Wilson, the Grants, Simpson, Gould, Eldredge, Coyne, Myers, Majerus, Kettlewell, Mayr — these are people you would be happy to know, whose morality is generally beyond reproach.

Contrast that with the greats of religion — Calvin burned his friend Servetus at the stake. Luther was a rabid anti-semite. Various popes robbed, murdered and fornicated. Rasputin led the Russian court to debauchery and villiany. The occasional Billy Graham is an exception among preachers, it too often appears. We lost count of the famous preachers who were caught with their pants down and their hands on the wallets of their friends.

If evolution produced evil, wouldn’t we see that in its greatest exponents? Instead, we see the opposite — evolutionists living lives of saints, churchmen living lives of evil.

There’s a parable about the fruit of a poisoned tree. Do you know it?

You say that evolution is not immoral and in and of itself it may not be – but what is presented to people can contribute to dramatic ramifications, which is what I’m saying.

Evolution is immoral only when presented, inaccurately and basely, by preachers.

It’s not science, it’s not the study of evolution, and it’s not studying science in school that is the problem here.

You’re making a great case for licensing preachers, insisting on standards, and checking their work. I think I can see where the problem is, from your presentation.

How would you propose to fix it, without taking the pro-ignorance route?

Up-to-the-minute reports from the science ramparts — today’s evolution hearings

March 25, 2009

If you’re not thinking of Edward R. Murrow’s reports from the roof of the building in London as the bombs fell, you’re not aware of how grave things are in Texas.

The Texas Freedom Network is live-blogging the hearings in Austin, before the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).  Testimony of a sort is being offered on whether to force Texas kids to study false claims of scientific error about evolution.

Steve Schafersman of Texas Citizens for Science is live-blogging, too, here at EvoSphere.

Schafersman listed several ways you can keep up with the hearings:

I will be live blogging the Texas State Board of Education meeting of 2009 March 25-27 in this column. This includes the hearing devoted to public testimony beginning at 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 25. I will stay through the final vote on Friday, March 27.

Go to the following webpages for further information:

State Board of Education

March 25-26 SBOE Meeting Agenda

March 25 Public Hearing with Testimony, 12:00 noon

State Board rules for Public Testimony

Current Science TEKS as revised in 2009 January

For the live audio feed, go to http://www.tea.state.tx.us/ for the link.

Four Stone Hearth #63: Bathing in the warm waters of ancient knowledge

March 25, 2009

Welcome to the 63rd edition of Four Stone Hearth (4SH), the only blog carnival on the planet dedicated entirely to the four stone foundations of modern anthropology. We’re happy to invite readers in for a soak at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

It’s spring, and in spring a young anthropologist’s fancy turns to thoughts of . . . grading papers, maybe love, getting ready to dig over the summer, finishing up the term, love, getting the snow tires off the car, the Texas State Board of Education, if not love then maybe a good dinner companion, finishing the paper up for publication (where?), how to finance next semester, how to stretch the grant, love in the future, where to get the next grant . . . almost everything but submitting entries to that history and social studies guy at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.

Need some cowboy coffee?

Need some cowboy coffee?

Interesting entries this edition, but in onesies and twosies, not by dozens.  Trusting that the enterprise is blessed by the patron saints (St. Damasus I, or St. Helen, for archaeologists; is there a patron saint for anthropology or linguistics? In a pinch we can just invoke St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and authors), we push on.

The Four Stone Hearth name pays homage to four areas of anthro:  Archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, bio-physical anthropology and linguistic anthropology.  Shorter form: What humans did, and a bit of what we do.

So, grab a cup of cowboy coffee (the favorite of diggers and backpackers, and sheep herders).  In no particular order, and in no particular theme, here’s what caught our fancies over the past couple of weeks:

Globalization — love it or hate it — how does it really affect us? The Spitoon comments on newly-published research that reveals people are choosing mates from farther abroad than before. At least, that’s what our genes show.  People don’t marry people from their own village so much.  Unanswered:  How does this affect human evolution?

Digital Archaeology: Colleen Morgan at Middle Savagery, demonstrates the clash between the earthen and the electronic — she spoke on a panel at SXSW (“South By Southwest”), the massive, hip music conference and riot in Austin, Texas.  Topic:  The Real Technology of Indiana Jones.  It starts out with a promising description:  “Archaeologists no longer rely on whips and fedoras . . .”  The panel also featured Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia, and Adam Rabinowitz, University of Texas at Austin.  “Notes and tweets” from the panel.

Cover to Goldschmidts book, The Bridge to Humanity, Oxford Press

Cover to Goldschmidt's book, The Bridge to Humanity, Oxford Press

Does morality have any connection to evolution — Appropriate for the opening day of hearings and voting on Texas public school science standards, Greg Downey at Neuroanthropology looks at the evolution of altruism, with a review and commentary on Walter Goldschmidt’s book, The Bridge to Humanity. Goldschmidt notes that selfish genes don’t explain everything, and that there’s probably a good function to a baby’s being very cute.  (Goldschmidt must hang out at our PTA meetings:  “It’s a good thing the kid’s so cute, or he’d have been dead long ago.”)  “Affect hunger” is not a common phrase in daily conversations, and it deserves a solid explanation.  Altruism cannot form naturally, many education officials in Texas believe, and so they oppose teaching evolution in public schools.  They’ll be too busy to read this article before they vote on Friday — but they should read it, and maybe the book, too.

Martin Rundkvist at Aardvarchaeology offers a lighter but critical note, on putting ice cream sticks in museums. Archaeological museum weirdness.  What should a museum be?  In the past 14 months I’ve had the pleasure of spending time (on someone else’s dime!) at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, and at the greatly expanded museum and visitor center at Mount Vernon, Virginia, George Washington’s estate.  In these places there is a concerted effort to make museums more informative, more inviting, and more focused on education missions.  Both museums feature multimedia presentations designed to kick off anyone’s visit with a punch, holographic images in Springfield, and theater seats that kick and get snowed on at Mount Vernon.

Tuamatuan Conception of the Cosmos, by Paiore. Inspiration for Margaret Meads fieldwork in American Samoa.  Running After Antelope

Tuamatuan Conception of the Cosmos, by Paiore. Inspiration for Margaret Mead's fieldwork in American Samoa. Running After Antelope

RafRaf Girls notes that someone is collecting images used to illustrate anthropology, linguistics and social theory.  It’s a form of on-line museum, and Martin’s concerns are well directed:  How much of this stuff should be preserved, especially if the preservation perpetuates odd ideas or misinformation?  Browse the images, see for yourself.  Nice to know it’s there, if you need it.   (Is all this stuff from Running After Antelope?)

Again at Neuroanthropology, Daniel Lende offers what a reader in comments calls “the best damn article on alcoholism” in “The Insidious, Elusive Becoming:  Addiction in Four Steps.” I thought it ironic that the post is illustrated with a diagram showing how to tie the famous knot, the bowline, in four steps.  Every Girl Scout and Boy Scout knows the bowline is the “lifesaving knot,” a knot that is used to tie loops used to hoist people from danger.  The bowline will not slip, and so will not suffocate the victim upon lifting.  Addiction is no bowline.  Falling into addiction involves four steps Lende outlines, basing the title on a line from Caroline Knapp’s Drinking:  A Love Story.

But we do know much more about the process of becoming than we used to. Here I will outline four important factors that shape the terrible becoming – vulnerability, training, intention, and meaning. My focus will be on understanding the subjective transformations, and I will use Knapp’s own words and experiences to help us grasp how this happens. In a forthcoming post, I will address a core biological process—competitive plasticity—that acts as the complement to this description, a process that has also helped me see the interactions in new light.

A Primate of Modern Aspect (formerly Zinjanthropus?) offers what I thought to be a fascinating story about studying the inner ears of fossilized primates, “Navigating the Bony Labyrinth.” It’s a continued exercise in pulling paleontology out of the usually-imagined realm of dusty reconstructions in badly-lighted corners of musty museums.

Fossil primates can pose some especially interesting questions to a paleoprimatologist.  Because they live in trees, many different kinds of locomotion are possible.  We can look at limb proportions to see if the little guys were clinging to vertical supports and then leaping from them, or perhaps walking on top of thick, horizontal branches, or maybe even swinging below these brances.   We can look at the shape of the scapula to see whether the animal kept its arms underneath itself or used them to reach out to the side or above itself.  We can look at the fingers to see if they were grasping branches or balancing above them.  In species known only from cranial bones, we can also look at the ear bones to see how these guys positioned themselves while in the trees.

It’s spring, I know, and we are hopeful.  Politics and war push on, however, and they push into the fields of science we love. Some things we would like to confine to dusty corners of musty museums, like war.

Afarensis notes that the coup d’etat in Madagascar threatens lemurs in the forests of the island.

It’s on the fringes of blogging, but well worth knowing about:  San Diego City Beat tells a story of guerrilla archaeology, beating the construction of the border fence between the U.S. and Mexico to get a dig done, “Hush hush archaeology.”

It’s spring, and students in American schools look forward (ha!) to the standardized tests they must take under the New Regime.  I was interested to see Kris Hirst has started a weekly quiz, this week about bog bodies — just the sort of stuff I need for my classroom to take out the tension and get kids to think.  Now, if only it were on PowerPoint, or in a form I could just print off to open a class . . .

Wish us luck here in Texas this week.  Science standards, especially evolution studies, are on the grill before the State Board of Education, where creationists hold sway. If  you know someone in Texas, you may want to persuade them to call their representative on the state board.  No scientist is an island, as John Donne would have said had he thought a bit longer about it.  How Texas goes will affect us all.

Four Stone Hearth #64 returns to the hands of people who know a bit about the topic, at Quiche Moraine.

Thanks for reading.  Remember to send your nominations for the next edition to Quiche Moraine, or to Martin.

Friends of Four Stone Hearth, sites that link to this edition (if you’ve linked and I missed it, please note it in the comments):

Alaska volcano blows smoke on Bobby Jindal

March 24, 2009

Joni Mitchell sang it, she’d seen “some hot, hot blazes come down to smoke and ash.”  Certainly Bobby Jindal’s criticism of President Barack Obama’s budget message to Congress was no love affair, but as the Toronto, Canada Globe and Mail noted, the eruption of Redoubt Volcano in Alaska made Bobby Jindal’s objection to volcano monitoring look particularly reckless.  Redoubt sent smoke and ash all over Jindal’s complaint.

This is the Globe and Mail story, really:

Alaska volcano blows smoke on Bobby Jindal

The eruption of Mount Redoubt deflates the Republican Party’s rising star

Globe and Mail Update

A month after Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal chided the Democrats for funding “something called volcano monitoring,” the eruption of a volcano in Alaska is spewing ash 15 kilometres into the air.

Alaska’s Mount Redoubt, which has erupted five times since Sunday, is likely among the sites to benefit from the U.S. stimulus package, with the money going toward monitoring volcanoes, repairing facilities and mapping.

In his official Republican response to President Barack Obama’s speech to the nation last month, Mr. Jindal called volcano monitoring an unnecessary frill in the government’s stimulus package.

“While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending and includes $300-million to buy new cars for the government, $8-billion for high speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140-million for something called volcano monitoring,” Governor Jindal said. “Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”

But judging by the events of the past couple of days, perhaps it’s prudent for the government to spend money monitoring volcanoes.

Mount Redoubt’s first eruption occurred at 10:38 p.m. Sunday and the fifth ended at 5 a.m. yesterday, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The volcano, roughly 160 kilometres southwest of Anchorage, sent an ash plume more than 15 kilometres into the air as it erupted for the first time in nearly 20 years. Residents of Anchorage were spared from falling ash, but fine grey dust was falling yesterday morning on small communities north of the city.

The observatory was warned in late January that an eruption could occur. Increased activity prompted scientists to raise the alert level on Sunday. Flights in the vicinity of the volcano were cancelled because of the ash.

Asked in a conference call yesterday whether stimulus money is necessary for volcano monitoring, John Power, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, declined comment.

Governor Jindal’s office did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

The issue could prove a wedge in two years, when Republicans are deciding on their nominee. Governor Jindal has been tabbed by some as a young academic from a diverse background who could be the party’s answer to Mr. Obama, while Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who failed in a vice-presidential bid last year, has refused to rule out a shot at the top of the 2012 ticket.

Governor Jindal’s attack on volcano monitoring was met with criticism from politicians, bloggers and some scientists. Democratic Senator Mark Begich of Alaska wrote in an open letter: “Volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in Alaska. The science of volcano monitoring and the money needed to fund it is incredibly important in our state.”

The senator’s spokeswoman, Julie Hasquet, said Monday that the eruption of Mount Redoubt over the past few days and its potential to cause damage in the state illustrate that this is “very serious for Alaskans, and we don’t appreciate it when folks use it as a laugh line or a sound bite.”

With a report from Associated Press

Alaskas Redoubt  Volcano erupted in 1990 - National Geographic photo

Alaska's Redoubt Volcano erupted in 1990 - National Geographic photo

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sara Ann.

Olla podrida, end of spring break 2009

March 23, 2009

A lot of stuff to catch up on, and no time to do it.

π day forever

March 23, 2009

π day comes around every year on March 14, right?  3.14.

With all the other commemorative resolutions that zip through Congress, how could anyone vote against an official, federal designation of π day?

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz voted against the resolution.  Does he have a point?  He’s either a fool or a genius, Burr and Canham report in the Salt Lake Tribune:

Quote of the Week

“How can you vote in favor of Pi Day, if it’s just one day. Pi Day should be forever,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

Chaffetz was one of just 10 members of Congress to oppose designating March 14th as Pi Day, meant to encourage math education. It honors the famous number pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter), which starts as 3.14 and goes on forever.

When asked if this is really why he voted against the resolution, Chaffetz said, “Absolutely.”

391 other members voted for the resolution.  H. Res 224, Supporting the designation of Pi Day and for other purposes, sponsored by Rep. Gordon Bart of Tennessee and 15 cosponsors, passed.  Full text below the fold, from the Library of Congress tracking application, Thomas.

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