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.

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