Whom the Gods Destroy They First Make Mad Dept.

May 31, 2009

More silly, stupid or dishonest bovine excrement from the Christian right, History Revisionism Division:

In cosmology, we had to wait decades for the theism-friendly big bang theory to beat out atheism-friendly theories like the eternal universe model, the steady-state model, the oscillating model, etc. Piles of taxpayer money wasted trying to prove atheistic flights of fancy. But in the end, the evidence for the big bang was too much for the atheistic theories, and we beat them out.

I hadn’t realized Christians championed Big Bang against atheists.  Wait until the creationists learn about this.

Comments change: Newest first

May 31, 2009

Dear Readers, I’ve changed the way comments are displayed.  Newest comments will show up first, going to older comments as you scroll down.

If you have serious complaints, let me know — in commments.

Should the best high school students read Rachel Carson?

May 31, 2009

On the AP World History list-serv, a discussion on good books for a canon on 20th century stuff turned into a discussion on Rachel Carson, DDT and malaria.  That’s not the purpose of the list.

So, I offer this thread as a forum for that discussion, hoping some of the AP history teachers might participate.

Welcome, teachers!  Comments are open.

Domestic terrorists kill again, in Kansas

May 31, 2009

Bulletin from NPR:  A physician in Kansas who provided abortion services was murdered at his church today.

George Tiller was gunned down at Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita.

This sort of terrorism has been wonderfully absent from American of late.

Update:  Suspect captured.  News conference at 4:00 p.m. Central.

Obama fans, Democrats: Political stuff clearance sale!

May 31, 2009

Great idea.  Really.  There’s a lot of campaign stuff left over.  Rather than dump it, they’re selling it cheap.

Image from the Obama campaign site, June 2009

Image from the Obama campaign site, June 2009

Government and politics teachers can stock up on the stuff to decorate the room.  AP Government teacher Mrs. Richie, at Duncanville High School had a collection of bumperstickers that went back 30 years before she retired (where did that collection go?)

Or, maybe you just need tote bags to replace the plastic and paper choices the grocery store gives you.  Green up, cheap, at the Obama site!

Over at Republican National Headquarters, they’re having a sale on politicians, I hear. Entire Congressional committee minorities, cheap.  Izzat so?  Not really.  Really?

What’s a henway? Practical testing

May 31, 2009

Evan at Two Dishes but to One Table provides some salient commentary on the New York Regents test and practical math skills, with a little bit of Henny Youngman thrown in.  Though, I must admit my physics chops are rusty:  How many newtons to a chicken egg?  I’m almost clueless.

Warning to dilettentes:  Link to actual released Regents test included.

Quote of the moment: Mr. Mike’s everlasting humility

May 30, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, oil on canvas painting by Aaron Shikler, 1978 - Wikimedia image

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, oil on canvas painting by Aaron Shikler, 1978 - Wikimedia image

Beginning in March 1974 I had the great pleasure and high honor of interning with the Secretary of the Senate, Francis R. Valeo.  Valeo served because of his close relationship with the Majority Leader, Mike Mansfield, and working in Valeo’s office put one on the Mansfield team.  In an era before serious security with magnetometers in Washington’s public buildings — we didn’t even have photo identification cards then — Mike Mansfield’s signature on my staff card got me anywhere I wanted to go in Washington, including the White House.

People who knew Mansfield held him in very high regard.  I often tell people he was the best politician to work for, but in reality, he’s probably the best leader I ever worked with in any enterprise.  He respected every senator as a representative of the people of one of the 50 states, and that respect was returned.

In his office one afternoon he met with the a couple of members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the big bigwigs from the Pentagon.  Mansfield was a former sailor, marine and soldier — he had served in the Navy, Army and Marines.   He lied about his age the first time.  He had served in China and the Philippines, producing a life-long interest and deep expertise in U.S. affairs in the Pacific and Far East.

But this was 1974.  Mansfield had turned against supporting corrupt Vietnamese politicians early in the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.  Originally a supporter of Nixon’s policies, by 1974 his opposition to the war was the chief part of their relationship.  Still the military guys loved him.  An Army Colonel accompanying the group was anxious to explain to the young intern part of the mystique.

“You should see Mansfield in the formal meetings.  Everybody is always introduced, and their full rank is laid on the table.  ‘General Muckamuck.  West Point ’33, Columbia Law.  Admiral Bigship.  General Soandso, who recently got his third star.'”

“And then they get to Mansfield.  He’s the Senate Majority Leader.  And he introduces himself as ‘Mike Mansfield, Private First Class.'”

I asked Mansfield about it later.  He smiled, and said he might have done that a time or two.  He said that the big brass in the military need to remember as every senator does that they work for the American people.  Rank doesn’t make you right, he said.

Looking up a minor fact on Mansfield this morning I ran into this statement, which I’d never heard [quoting now from Wikipedia]:

This gentleman went from snuffy to national and international prominence. And when he died in 2001, he was rightly buried in Arlington. If you want to visit his grave, don’t look for him near the “Kennedy Eternal Flame”, where so many politicians are laid to rest. Look for a small, common marker shared by the majority of our heroes. Look for the marker that says “Michael J. Mansfield, Pfc. U.S. Marine Corps.”

Remarks by Col. James Michael Lowe, USMC, October 20, 2004.

The burial plot of Senator and Mrs. Mansfield can be found in section 2, marker 49-69F of Arlington National Cemetery.

For the sake of accuracy, I would like to know the occasion of Col. Lowe’s remarks, and who Col. Lowe is.  The link at Wikipedia is dead.  Does anyone know?


Know a marine?  Honor a Marine hero and share this story:

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The Great Wall of Texas

May 30, 2009

Poe’s Law?  You decide:

Texas Constructs U.S. Border Wall To Keep Out Unwanted Americans

Texas Senate rejects creationist’s nomination

May 28, 2009

A victory in a war that should not be.

Texas Freedom Network carries the news (4:43 p.m. Central) that the Texas State Senate voted 19-11 in favor of Gov. Rick Perry’s nominee to head the State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, a wedge politician who represents the Beaumont area on the board of 15 commissioners.  Fortunately for Texas, the nomination needed 20 votes for approval.

Difficulty arises because there is not a candidate on the horizon from among the board’s members who probably has Perry’s favor and who is not a creationist, wedge politician.  Technically, Perry could reappoint McLeroy, some observers think, and he could occupy the seat until the next regular session of the Senate in two years.

It’s a story about a road that goes on forever and the bad politics never end.

Press release from TFN below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

HippoCampus: Technology’s promise shows

May 28, 2009

Teachers, are you using HippoCampus?  (Tell us about it in comments if you are.)

Topics with lesson plans and great support material:

Algebra (Spanish)
American Government
Calculus (Spanish)
Environmental Science

HippoCampus is a product of the Monterey Institute, a part of the University of California system.

When earmarks were good Congressional policy

May 28, 2009

Once  upon a time earmarks on legislation promoted the best inventions, and consequently, the economic success of the United States.  Below is the image of a vote count made by Samuel F. B. Morse on the bill to provide money to develop the telegraph.  Image and the text of explanation both come from the Morse Collection at the  American Memory Project at the Library of Congress.

Member list of the U.S. House of Representatives, with notations by Samuel Morse on vote of February 23, 1843

Member list of the U.S. House of Representatives, with notations by Samuel Morse on vote of February 23, 1843

By 1842, funding from the U.S. Congress was essential if the now-impoverished Morse was to be able to build and prove his telegraph system. On February 23, 1843, his bill for appropriated funding passed in the House of Representatives by a slim majority of 89 to 83 (with 70 not voting), but obviously every vote was crucial. This annotated member list of the twenty-six states may have been used by Morse before, during, or after the vote. The symbol “O” is thought to indicate an assenting vote, “-” a dissenting vote, and “>” no vote.

10 things about Judge Sonia Sotomayor

May 27, 2009

Those people over at MoveOn.org move quickly:

Ten Things To Know About Judge Sonia Sotomayor

  1. Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the bench than any Supreme Court justice in 100 years. Over her three-decade career, she has served in a wide variety of legal roles, including as a prosecutor, litigator, and judge.
  2. Judge Sotomayor is a trailblazer. She was the first Latina to serve on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and was the youngest member of the court when appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of New York. If confirmed, she will be the first Hispanic to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court.
  3. While on the bench, Judge Sotomayor has consistently protected the rights of working Americans, ruling in favor of health benefits and fair wages for workers in several cases.
  4. Judge Sotomayor has shown strong support for First Amendment rights, including in cases of religious expression and the rights to assembly and free speech.
  5. Judge Sotomayor has a strong record on civil rights cases, ruling for plaintiffs who had been discriminated against based on disability, sex and race.
  6. Judge Sotomayor embodies the American dream. Born to Puerto Rican parents, she grew up in a South Bronx housing project and was raised from age nine by a single mother, excelling in school and working her way to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University and to become an editor of the Law Journal at Yale Law School.
  7. In 1995, Judge Sotomayor “saved baseball” when she stopped the owners from illegally changing their bargaining agreement with the players, thereby ending the longest professional sports walk-out in history.
  8. Judge Sotomayor ruled in favor of the environment in a case of protecting aquatic life in the vicinity of power plants in 2007, a decision that was overturned by the Roberts Supreme Court.
  9. In 1992, Judge Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate without opposition after being appointed to the bench by George H.W. Bush.
  10. Judge Sotomayor is a widely respected legal figure, having been described as “…an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind,” “highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets,” and “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity.”

Sources for each of the 10 things:

1. White House Statement, May 26, 2009.

2. White House Statement, May 26, 2009.

3. Cases: Archie v. Grand Cent. Partnership, 997 F. Supp. 504 (S.D.N.Y. 1998) and Marcella v. Capital Dist. Physicians’ Health Plan, Inc., 293 F.3d 42 (2d Cir. 2002).

4. Cases: Flamer v. White Plains, 841 F. Supp. 1365 (S.D.N.Y. 1993), Ford v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 382 (2d Cir. 2003), and Campos v. Coughlin, 854 F. Supp. 194 (S.D.N.Y. 1994).

5a. “Sotomayor’s Notable Court Opinions and Articles,” The New York Times, May 26, 2009.

5b. Cases: Bartlett v. N.Y. State Board, 970 F. Supp. 1094 (S.D.N.Y. 1997), Greenbaum v. Svenska Hendelsbanken, 67 F.Supp.2d 228 (S.D.N.Y. 1999), Raniola v. Bratton, 243 F.3d 610 (2d Cir. 2001), and Gant v. Wallingford Board of Education, 195 F.3d 134 (2d Cir. 1999).

6. “Sonia Sotomayor: 10 Things You Should Know,” The Huffington Post, May 26, 2009.

7. “How Sotomayor ‘Saved’ Baseball,” Time, May 26, 2009.

8. “Sotomayor’s resume, record on notable cases,” CNN, May 26, 2009.

9. “Sotomayor’s resume, record on notable cases,” CNN, May 26, 2009.

10a. Judge Richard C. Wesley, a George W. Bush appointee to the Second Circuit.

10b. “Sotomayor is Highly Qualified,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2009.

10c. Honorary Degree Citation, Pace University School of Law, 2003 Commencement.

  • Judge Sotomayor is a widely respected legal figure, having been described as “…an outstanding colleague with a keen legal mind,” “highly qualified for any position in which wisdom, intelligence, collegiality and good character would be assets,” and “a role model of aspiration, discipline, commitment, intellectual prowess and integrity.”ere are the sources for the ten statements:

  • Insanity at Texas state school board – economics, geography and history

    May 27, 2009

    Tim Ritz cartoon, for Americans United

    Tim Ritz cartoon, for Americans United

    Texas Freedom Network’s Insider blog reports that embattled chairman Don McLeroy is working to create a panel of experts to review studies curricula.  The experts he has proposed so far are all well-known cranks in academia, people who bring their axes to grind on the minds of innocent children.

    This panel is a bold insult to Texas’s community of economists, historians, and other practitioners of fields of social studies, not to mention educators.  A more qualified panel of experts could be assembled in the coffee break rooms of the history departments at most of Texas’s lesser known state colleges and universities.

    Why does Don McLeroy hate Texas so?

    I’ve been buried in teaching, grading, planning and the other affairs of the life of a teacher, and had not paid much attention to the movement on this issue (“movement” because I cannot call it “progress”).  My students passed the state tests by comfortable margins, more than 90% of them; this news from SBOE makes me despair even  in the face of the news that our achievements are substantial in all categories.

    The panel lacks knowledge and experience in economics, geography and history.  The panel is grotesquely unbalanced — at least two of the panel members remind me of Ezra Taft Benson, who was Secretary of Agriculture for Dwight Eisenhower.  When he resigned from that post, he complained that Eisenhower was too cozy with communism.  Barton and Quist lean well to the right  of Ezra Taft Benson.  Quist has complained of socialist and Marxist leanings of Reagan administration education policy and policy makers.

    Samuel Morse sent the first telegraphic message on May 24, 1844:  “What hath God wrought?”

    Sitting here on the morning of May 27, 2009, I wonder what rot hath Don.

    McLeroy nomination – still dead?

    May 26, 2009

    Molly Ivins’ untimely passing becomes acutely painful when the Texas Lege comes down to the last days of a session.  Who can make sense of it without Molly?

    We thought a couple weeks ago that Gov. Rick Perry’s nomination of creationist wedge politician Don McLeroy was dead, when the Senate Nominations Committee took testimony and failed to report the nomination, to chair the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE).

    Then last week, in one of those surprise moves that even the Texas legislators responsible often cannot explain, the nomination rose from the dead and stumbled, zombie-like, to the Senate floor for a vote this week — maybe as soon as today, Tuesday, May 26.

    The Houston Chronicle reports that all 12 Senate Democrats will vote against the nomination, dooming it (according to The Lonesome Mongoose, via Pharyngula).

    The Bryan dentist has presided over a contentious 15-member State Board of Education that fought over curriculum standards for science earlier this year and English language arts and reading last year. Critics faulted McLeroy for applying his strong religious beliefs in shaping new science standards. McLeroy believes in creationism and that the Earth is about 6,000 years old.

    “This particular State Board of Education under the leadership of Dr. McLeroy has been divisive. It’s been dysfunctional, and it has been embarrassing to the point of having commentary on this in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal,” said Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

    McLeroy’s leadership, she said, had made Texas “the laughing stock of the nation.”

    It takes 11 votes to block a gubernatorial nomination. Van de Putte said all 12 Senate Democrats plan to vote against McLeroy

    Don’t count your dead nominations before the silver stakes are driven.  Stay tuned.  Maybe you should call your Texas senator again on Tuesday. Pray, cross your fingers, hope, and pass the ammunition.

    If the nomination fails, it is still foggy as Donora, Pennsylvania on its worst days as to who will head the group.  The chairman must come from one of the 15 elected members.  Most people who might win Rick Perry’s selection are creationists.  If Perry is wise, he’ll try to choose someone who is a capable administrator, wise chairman of hearings, and who lacks the desire to annoy key players in education, like administrators, teachers, parents, Texas college presidents and professors, and state legislators.  Alas for Texas, Winston Churchill is not a member of the SBOE, nor is Mitt Romney.

    The Senate rarely blocks a governor’s appointment.

    There is speculation in the Capitol and within the Texas Education Agency that Gov. Rick Perry might elevate Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, to lead the board. Like McLeroy, Dunbar also holds strong Christian beliefs and recently authored a book that advocates more religion in the public square.

    “We believe that Texans deserve better than divisive, destructive, extreme leadership,” Shapleigh said. “If the governor chooses to appoint someone more extreme and more divisive, we’ll have to deal with that at the appropriate time.”

    McLeroy’s tenure as chairman of SBOE is one of those waves we were warned about in 1983 lin the Excellence in Education Report, which warned of a “rising tide of mediocrity.”  The divisions and crude politics, heavy-handed destruction of statutory and regulatory procedures, at best distracts from the drive for better education, but more often leans toward the worst, sabatoging the work of students, teachers, parents, administrators and legislatures.

    Do you pray?  Pray that Texas education be delivered safely and intact from this time of trial.  Whether you pray or not, call your Texas legislator and tell her or him to straighten out the SBOE.


    Do climate change deniers wear sunscreen?

    May 25, 2009

    How to weigh evidence of climate change, or not.

    Dr. Ben McNeil calls out Australian climate change deniers. Are their bodies red?

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