Cold fusion at 20: Healthier than intelligent design, featured on 60 Minutes

April 18, 2009

Once in a while I get a physicist who argues biologists ought to teach intelligent design and “let the kids decide.”  I always ask whether they teach cold fusion “and let the kids decide,” and they always say there isn’t time to teach unproven science, or crank science.  I then point out to them that cold fusion’s advantage over intelligent design is that there are more than 100 times the scientific papers supporting or explaining cold fusion that there are for intelligent design.

So, with that perspective, maybe you’ll find as much humor in Bob Park’s Friday missive as I did:

The faithful, who regard themselves as martyrs, have endured the scorn of skeptics for 20 years.  An appearance on an evening entertainment program won’t make it science, and it’s unlikely to change the minds of many scientists, but it’s the most they’ve had to cheer about.  At least three well-known scientists who were interviewed by CBS will not appear on the show. I don’t know who will.

ID advocates would kill for such time on 60 Minutes.

To get on 60 Minutes, all ID advocates need to do is back their claims with research, like the the advocates of cold fusion have done . . .

Paul Revere’s ride, and the shot ‘heard ’round the world’

April 18, 2009

This is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride, which means tomorrow is the anniversary of the battles at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, that signaled the beginning of real hostilities of the American Revolution.

Details on the poems here and here — go get them and read them to your children.

The National Guard traces its beginnings to these events (see a description here — scroll down to April 18).

Shot heard round the world - Dominick D'Andrea, National Guard Heritage Gallery

Dominick D'Andrea painting from the National Guard Heritage Series. National Guard caption: At dawn on April 19, 1775, as 700 elite British soldiers marched toward Concord, they fought a brief skirmish with militiamen on Lexington Green, leaving eight colonists dead and nine wounded. The King’s troops marched on, arriving at Concord two hours later. While some troops searched the town for stores of gunpowder and arms, three companies guarded the “North Bridge.” As the British were marching toward Concord, word spread of the fight at Lexington. Alarm bells rang calling out the militia and Minute Men across Middlesex County. Among the units to muster was Colonel James Barrett’s Middlesex County Regiment of Minute Men. Once in formation the regiment moved onto a hill within 500 yards of where the British stood watch at North Bridge. Colonel Barrett, needing to organize additional militia companies, left his command to Major John Buttrick. When smoke appeared in the sky above Concord the Americans wrongly believed the British were burning the town. In response Buttrick decided to move his men toward the town. As the Americans advanced the British pickets fell back across the bridge. The last British unit to cross, the Light Company of the 4th (King’s Own) Foot, stopped to tear up some of the planks to delay the militia advance. Leading the American column was Captain Isaac Davis’s Company of Minute Men from Acton. As they got within 50 yards of the bridge Buttrick shouted at the British to stop tearing up the planks. Suddenly three British shots were fired, killing Davis and another man instantly and wounding a third. Buttrick shouted “Fire! For God’s sake Fire!” and the Minute Men unloosed a ragged but heavy volley. Four out of eight British officers were hit along with seven enlisted men, two of whom died. The British immediately fell back toward the town where they linked up with other Royal troops. Buttrick moved his men across the bridge as the British column began marching back down the road toward Boston. Militiamen gathered along their path and soon began firing from behind trees and stone walls, inflicting an ever-increasing number of casualties. When the exhausted British troops reached Lexington, scene of the fight earlier that morning, they were met by a relief force sent to accompany them back to Boston. However, the Americans did not stop their attacks, inflicting additional losses on the British column before it reached Boston. In total the British suffered almost 300 dead, wounded or missing. Within days an army of nearly 20,000 militiamen from all over New England surrounded the city, effectively putting it under siege. In 1875, on the 100th anniversary of the action at Concord, Daniel Chester French’s Minuteman statue, the symbol of today’s National Guard, was dedicated. As part of the ceremony, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem The Concord Hymn was read honoring the men who “fired the shot heard round the world” which began the Revolutionary War. Today’s National Guard is the direct descendent of those militia and Minute Men who stood their ground to protect their homes and freedoms.

National Guardsmen from the U.S. stand under arms around the world today, defending freedom and America’s towns, cities, farms, orchards, forests and wilderness.   Find a Guardsman today (including women), and thank them for their service.

Rachel Carson’s critics: No shame, no morals, no brains

April 18, 2009

So, Friday night in Seattle (April 22) the anti-science, anti-environmental wackos will premiere a film.  Among other things, the film claims Rachel Carson was wrong about DDT, but her Svengali-fu was so great that she persuaded John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Idi Amin, the National Academy of Sciences and a host of others to ban DDT needlessly, and that millions of people died from diseases the DDT could prevent at low cost and no harm.

The film premieres at an elementary school:  Rachel Carson Elementary.

Get it?  See the joke?

These wackos, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, have no shame about mocking the kids in second and third grade at that school who rightly look on Carson as a heroine and great human.  Is it possible to be more cynical than that?  Would it be possible for them to be bigger jerks about it?

The screening is sponsored by the right wing, and now clearly anti-science, Washington Policy Center.

McAleer and McElhinney are poster children for the decline of morality in America.  They have no shame about bullying elementary school kids in their efforts to sully the good reputation of a great scientist and writer.   Judging by their unfair and inaccurate screed against Carson and Al Gore, it appears they lack the moral sense to feel the shame.   I can see their next film project now:  They’ll do an exposé of how the brutal bank examiners forced bankers to live on only their salaries, foregoing the multi-million-dollar bonuses they deserved — and noting that malaria in Uganda now is worse because U.S. bankers are not compensated highly enough.

John Fund’s blog at the Wall Street Journal site has details.

Irish documentary filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney have stirred up trouble before by debunking smug liberal hypocrisy. Their latest film, “Not Evil, Just Wrong” takes on the hysteria over global warming and warns that rushing to judgment in combating climate change would threaten the world’s poor.

[Al Gore]

The film reminds us that environmentalists have been wrong in the past, as when they convinced the world to ban the pesticide DDT, costing the lives of countless malaria victims. The ban was finally reversed by the World Health Organization only after decades of debate. The two Irish filmmakers argue that if Al Gore’s advice to radically reduce carbon emissions is followed, it would condemn to poverty two billion people in the world who have yet to turn on their first light switch.

*    *    *    *    *    *

The two filmmakers are skilled at using provocative publicity tactics. On April 22, they will hold a public showing of their film at the Rachel Carson Elementary School in the suburbs of Seattle. “Since it was Rachel Carson who touched off the campaign to ban DDT, we thought showing ‘Not Evil, Just Wrong’ there would be appropriate,” says Mr. McAleer.

Local environmentalists will probably not appreciate the gesture and will be appalled that the school agreed to rent out its auditorium to the renegade skeptics. But somebody might point out that it’s not evil, just appropriate, to hold a debate about the real-world consequences of acting on global warming fears.

The little Seattle Weekly has the good sense to call it for what it is.

As you may already know, April 22 is Earth Day. At noon, inside City Hall, the Seattle City Council will be showing a movie about Rachel Carson, the biologist whose book, Silent Spring, is frequently credited with spurring the modern environmental movement.

Meanwhile that same evening, at Rachel Carson Elementary School in Sammamish, conservative think tank the Washington Policy Center will be showing Not Evil Just Wrong: The True Cost of Global Warming Hysteria. (Tagline: “This is the film Al Gore and Hollywood don’t want you to see.”) It’s by the same folks who brought you that mining industry–funded classic, Mine Your Own Business. We know you’re in your grave. But you can roll over now, Ms. Carson.

That’s good news:  The film showing at the Seattle City Council chamber is “A Sense of Wonder,” which will get more viewers in Seattle than the other film will get nationwide. (Presented by the Seattle City Council; 600 Fourth Street, Seattle; contact Phyllis Shulman, 206-684-8816; or see the council’s website; film shows at noon to 1:00 p.m., free admission.)

Of course, there is a little joke on these evil film makers McAleer and McIlhenny:  The school isn’t just named after Rachel Carson, by popular vote of the children, it’s also green.

A total of 75 names were submitted by students. Nominees had to meet the district’s requirement of “deceased persons famous for their work in science, the humanities, letters, or education.” This list was narrowed to those that had more than one nomination, which left eight finalists. Those eight finalists were put on a ballot with a description of each nominee. Ballots were mailed to the families of children who will attend the new school next year.

A total of 320 students voted. The top three choices were Carson, Clara Barton and Amelia Earhart. The Lake Washington School District Board of Directors approved the use of any of those top three choices at its May 5 meeting. Shortly thereafter, Principal Mary Cronin received word that permission was granted to use the name of Rachel Carson. Frances Collin, literary agent for her estate, wrote that she believed Miss Carson would have been pleased.

In her writings, Carson encouraged people to discover and help children discover the wonder of the natural world. After earning a master’s degree in zoology, Carson spent 15 years working for the U.S. Government as a scientist and editor. She rose to Editor in Chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her writing in her free time included many essays on the ocean. These essays led to three books about the ocean and a career as a science writer who shared her knowledge as well as her love of nature. One of those books, The Sea Around Us, won the National Book Award.

Carson’s concerns about the misuse of synthetic pesticides led to her book, Silent Spring, which sounded the alarm about the environmental impact of indiscriminate use of such powerful chemicals on nature. First serialized in the New Yorker magazine, it became a runaway best seller. Testifying before Congress in 1963, Carson asked for policies that that would protect against irreversible damage to humans and nature alike, urging study and consideration of safer alternatives.

Carson’s work led to the ban on most uses of DDT in the U.S. and a subsequent worldwide ban on DDT for agricultural use. The DDT ban has been cited as a major factor in the comeback of the bald eagle in the U.S. In 1980, Carson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The new Rachel Carson Elementary will feature such environmentally friendly features as a green roof, extensive use of daylight and a geothermal heat pump. It is located at 1035 244th Ave. NE in Sammamish.

The school’s good practices contradict the preachings of the film makers.  The elementary school kids have more sense than the climate change deniers and DDT-poisoned anti-environmentalists.

Oh.  The anti-environmental film is named “Not Evil, Just Wrong.”  When the film is done on its producers, it will carry an even shorter title:  “Evil and Wrong.”

What would the film makers do if a bunch of 3rd graders from the school showed up at the screening, and in the Q&A after, asked, “Why are you telling such lies about Rachel Carson and Vice President Gore?”

No, Texas cannot secede; no, Texas can’t split itself

April 18, 2009

Rick Perry put his foot into something during one of the Astro-turf “tea parties” on April 15.  Someone asked him about whether Texas should secede from the United States, as a protest against high taxes, or something.

The answer to the question is “No, secession is not legal.  Did you sleep through all of your U.S. history courses?  Remember the Civil War?”

Alas, Perry didn’t say that.

Instead, Perry said it’s not in the offing this week, but ‘Washington had better watch out.’

He qualified his statement by saying the U.S. is a “great union,” but he said Texans are thinking about seceding, and he trotted out a hoary old Texas tale that Texas had reserved that right in the treaty that ceded Texas lands to the U.S. in the switch from being an independent republic after winning independence from Mexico, to statehood in the U.S.

So, rational people want to know:  Does Perry know what he’s talking about?

No, he doesn’t.  Bud Kennedy, columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (still one of America’s great newspapers despite the efforts of its corporate owners to whittle it down), noted the error and checked with Gov. Perry’s history instructors at Texas A&M and his old high school, both of which said that Perry didn’t get the tale from them.  (Score one for Texas history teachers; rethink the idea about letting people run for state office without having to pass the high school exit history exam.)

A&M professor Walter L. Buenger is a fifth-generation Texan and author of a textbook on Texas’ last secession attempt. (The federal occupation lasted eight years after the Civil War.)

“It was a mistake then, and it’s an even bigger mistake now,” Buenger said by phone from College Station, where he has taught almost since Perry was an Aggie yell leader.

“And you can put this in the paper: To even bring it up shows a profound lack of patriotism,” Buenger said.

The 1845 joint merger agreement with Congress didn’t give Texas an option clause. The idea of leaving “was settled long ago,” he said.

“This is simple rabble-rousing and political posturing,” he said. “That’s all it is.  . . .  Our governor is now identifying himself with the far-right lunatic fringe.”

Three false beliefs about Texas history keep bubbling up, and need to be debunked every time.  The first is that Texas had a right to secede; the second is that Texas can divide itself into five states; and the third is that the Texas flag gets special rights over all other state flags in the nation.

Under Abraham Lincoln’s view the Union is almost sacred, and once a state joins it, the union expands to welcome that state, but never can the state get out.  Lincoln’s view prevailed in the Civil War, and in re-admittance of the 11 Confederate states after the war.

The second idea also died with Texas’s readmission.  The original enabling act (not treaty) said Texas could be divided, but under the Constitution’s powers delegated to Congress on statehood, the admission of Texas probably vitiated that clause.  In any case, the readmission legislation left it out.  Texas will remain the Lone Star State, and not become a Five Star Federation. (We dealt with this issue in an earlier post you probably should click over to see.)

Texas’s flag also gets no special treatment.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard Texans explain to Boy Scouts that the Texas flag — and only the Texas flag — may fly at the same level as the U.S. flag on adjacent flag poles.  Under the flag code, any flag may fly at the same level; the requirement is that the U.S. flag be on its own right.

Gov. Perry is behind Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in polling of a head-to-head contest between the two to see who will be the Republican nominee for governor in 2010 — Hutchison is gunning to unseat Perry.  He was trying to throw some red meat to far-right conservative partisans who, he hopes, will stick by him in that primary election.

Alas, he came off throwing out half-baked ideas instead.  It’s going to be a long, nasty election campaign.


Update: A commenter named Bill Brock (the Bill Brock?) found the New York Times article from 1921 detailing John Nance Garner’s proposal to split Texas into five.  Nice find!

Another update: How much fuss should be made over the occasional wild hare move for some state to secede?  Probably not much.  A few years ago Alaska actually got a referendum on the ballot to study secession.  The drive to secede got nowhere, of course.  I was tracking it at the time to see whether anyone cared.  To the best of my knowledge, the New York Times never mentioned the controversy in Alaska, and the Washington Post gave it barely three paragraphs at the bottom of an inside page.

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