I get e-mail from climate denialists

June 30, 2009

I took issue with JCScuba’s characterizing water conservation as “Nazi.”  First he purged my posts, and then I started getting e-mails.

The last one — at least I hope it’s the last one from this guy — sic:

Obama is a nazi in the making, don’t tell me what I can write on my blog, you polliticially correct asshole, I think you are doing a great deal of projection as you try to psychoalalyze me. I wouldn’t bother to give you the press, and I doubt if I’ve been on your blog just answere one of your inane remarks. So crawl back under your bed with your blanket and suck you thumb, don’t worry about you bed being wet all Lib’s are bed weters.

He’s forgotten he posted here earlier today, and he thinks Obama, on the way  to being a socialist, is also becoming a “nazi.”

Forgive me, but I think he needs to conserve on the stuff he’s mixing with his water.  It’s the high cost of denying green.  Is this just a manifestation of Denialism Disease?  What do you think?

A rainbow fell on Brooklyn

June 30, 2009

Stars on Alabama, a rainbow fell on Brooklyn — somebody ought to write a song about it.

Rainbow over Brooklyn, June 29, 2009 - photo by JOKelly

Rainbow over Brooklyn, June 29, 2009 - photo by JOKelly

Photo by JimmyOKelly.  Go see the stuff Kelly has posted at FLICKR, before he gets famous.  Poetry in photography.  Nice collection of others’ shots, too.

Godwin’s Law overload: Warming denialist calls water conservation “Nazi”

June 30, 2009

You couldn’t sell a fictional story where people are this nutty.

Go see. The abominable Steve Milloy — a guy so wacky he cannot be parodied (take that, Poe!) — calls water conservation “Nazi.” He complains about a provision in the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Act that encourages innovation in water conservation devices.

Milloy flouts Godwin’s Law right off the bat.  You can’t make this stuff up.

And — may God save us from these people — Milloy has followers.  Check out the graphic here, with Obama portrayed as a marching Brownshirt.  It’s almost too stupid to be racist, but it’s certainly incendiary.  He even admits he thinks saving water is a good idea, and he’d like to have one of the devices complained about. (This guy knows he’s in error — he censors posts that question any part of his rant.) See the ugly meme expand, here.

Girl Scout/EPA water conservation badge -EPA image

Girl Scout/EPA water conservation badge -EPA image

Water conservation equals flag-waving in America, and has done so for a at least a hundred years. Those of us who grew up in the Intermountain West may be a little more attuned to the drive — Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Flaming Gorge Dam, the Central Arizona Project, the Central Utah Project, the Colorado River aqueduct that carries water to Los Angeles, it’s impossible to live in the West and not be conscious of water’s value, its precious qualities.

Today, the many benefits of controlling water in this way are evident in the extensive development that has taken place throughout the West over the past 100 years.  Huge cities have been created and millions of people live, work, and recreate in this desert region.  But, as the West continues to grow, we must face the problem of continually increasing demands on a finite supply of water.  This includes human population needs and the needs of the environment.

But one doesn’t need to be from the cold northern desert of southern Idaho to figure out that saving water is a good idea.

Most homeowners would like to save money.  Americans spend between $600 and $1600 for washing machines that cut water usage by up to 75% (we just replaced our two-decades-old Maytag with a water conserving front-loader).  Go to the appliance stores and listen to the conversations.  People who could better afford the $200 models discuss how they will cut costs elsewhere to get the water saving versions — because their water bills are so high.

Much of of the rest of America works to conserve water out of necessity. Texas cities have mandatory water conservation laws, like Temple, Richwood, Austin and Dallas.  Texas rural areas fight to save water, too.  California cities demonstrate that water conservation works, saving investments in ever-grander and more environmentally-damaging water importation schemes, and allowing for population growth where water shortages would otherwise prohibit new homes.  Water conservation is a big deal across the nation:  In Raleigh, North Carolina; in Seminole County, Florida;  in Nebraska; in the State of Maryland.  An April drive across Wisconsin a few years ago convinced me it is the most waterlogged state in the nation, Louisiana notwithstanding — but even in Wisconsin, wise people work to conserve water for agriculture, one of the state’s leading industries and employers.

What’s the next step up from Godwin’s Law?  These guys like Milloy and his camp followers can only get crazier, benignly, if they head to the meadow and graze with the cattle.  Crazier non-benignly?  Let’s not go there.

But let us address the odious comparison to Nazis directly.  In World War II, when freedom was on the line, there was a drive to conserve resources in America.  Americans grew their own vegetables in Victory Gardens.

Poster encouraging patriotic conservation, for the war effort in World War II

Poster encouraging patriotic conservation, for the war effort in World War II

Americans collected scrap metal, iron, copper and aluminum, to be made into war machines to save the world.  Americans conserved rubber and gasoline by restricting automobile use.  There was the famous poster, “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler.”  Conservation was understood to be a patriotic response to the challenges the nation faced.

Bill Maher updated the poster with his 2005 book, When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden. Maher urged civic actions like those that helped the U.S. during World War II, including conservation of gasoline and other resources.   Maher understands that wise use of resources is something a people should strive for, especially when in competition with other nations, either in a hot war or in trade or influence.  Conservation remains a patriotic behavior, and opposing conservation remains a call to support the enemies of America, in war, in trade, in policies.

Update of the World War II poster, for our times.  Image from Barnes and Noble

Update of the World War II poster, for our times. Image from Barnes and Noble

It’s not just a coincidence that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (in conjunction with the U.S. EPA for the past several years) learn water conservation as integral parts of their programs, chartered by Congress, to promote civic leadership in America’s youth.  Those groups charged with teaching actual patriotism understand conservation to be a high duty, a high calling, something that all patriots do.

So, let’s face it.  If you crap on a 6-gallon flushing toilet, you crap with Bin Laden.  When you shower with a non-flow restricting shower head, you shower with Bin Laden.

Yes, it sounds creepy.  It is.

You hope Milloy and the other Neobrownshirts* have parents or other family to pull them back from the brink, but then you see Congress.

Yeah, the Nazis were the Brownshirts, in Germany.  In Italy the fascists wore black shirts.  Brown is generally the opposite of green, in political and business parlance — for example, development of a previously undeveloped piece of property is “greenfield development,” while redevelopment of a previously-developed parcel is “brownfield development.”  Since Milloy is opposed to anything “green,” I think it only fair that his shirt color match his politics.  It’s his choice, after all.

Well, what about you, Climate Change Skeptics?

"Well, what about you, Climate Change 'Skeptics?'"

Congratulations, Sen. Al Franken

June 30, 2009

Justices of the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today that Al Franken won the election for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Norm Coleman.

Senator-elect Al Franken and his wife, Franni, after the Minnesota Canvassing Board certified him the winner of the states November 2008 senatorial election, June 29, 2008 - Minneapolis Star-Tribune photo

Senator-elect Al Franken and his wife, Franni, after the Minnesota Canvassing Board certified him the winner of the state's November 2008 senatorial election, June 29, 2008 - Minneapolis Star-Tribune photo

Pat Doyle wrote for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today that Democrat Al Franken won the U.S. Senate election and said he was entitled to an election certificate that would lead to him being seated in the Senate.

“Affirmed,” wrote the Supreme Court, unanimously rejecting Republican Norm Coleman’s claims that inconsistent practices by local elections officials and wrong decisions by a lower court had denied him victory.

“Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled [under Minnesota law] to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota,” the court wrote.

In upholding a lower court ruling in April, the justices said Coleman had “not shown that the trial court’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous or that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion.”

The justices also said that neither the trial court nor local elections officials violated constitutional rights to equal protection, a cornerstone of Coleman’s case and any possible federal appeal.

The ruling was a unanimous, 5-0 decision.

Congratulations, U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Update: Coleman conceded; NPR report hereNPR political blog here. Coleman was surprisingly gracious, considering he fought so hard for 238 days after the election.

Grand Canyon airplane disaster, June 30, 1956

June 30, 2009

This is completely an encore post from a year ago today; still thinking about those airplanes and the Grand Canyon.

[2008] Today’s the 52nd [53rd] anniversary of a horrendous accident in the air over the Grand Canyon. Two airliners collided, and 128 people died.

In 1956 there was no national radar system. When commercial flights left airports, often the only contact they had with any form of air traffic control was when the pilots radioed in for weather information, or for landing instructions. Especially there was no system to avoid collisions. As this 2006 story in the Deseret News (Salt Lake City) relates, the modern air traffic control system was spurred mightily by this tragedy.

About 9 a.m. Saturday, June 30, [1956], the TWA flight bound for Kansas City, Mo., and the United flight bound for Chicago left Los Angeles International Airport within three minutes of each other. The TWA flight, carrying 70 people, filed a flight plan to cruise at 19,000 feet. The United flight, with 58 people on board, planned to cruise at 21,000 feet.

About 20 minutes into the flight, TWA pilot Capt. Jack Gandy requested permission to climb to 21,000 feet. An air traffic controller in Salt Lake City turned down Gandy’s request. Then Gandy asked to fly “1,000 on top,” meaning at least a thousand feet above the clouds, which that morning were billowing as high as 30,000 feet. That request was granted.

By the time both planes were over the Grand Canyon, the pilots were flying in and out of the clouds, on visual flight rules and off their prescribed flight plans, apparently typical in those days as pilots veered off course to play tour guide.

No one knows exactly what happened.

It was the last big accident before instigation of the “black box,” so investigators had to piece together details from debris on the ground.

They decided that the left wing and propeller of the United plane hit the center fin of the TWA’s tail and cut through the fuselage, sending Flight 2 nose-first into the canyon, two miles south of the juncture of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. The United DC- 7, which had lost most of its left wing, began spiraling down. Capt. Robert Shirley radioed Salt Lake City a garbled message that controllers understood only after they slowed down the recording: “Salt Lake, ah, 718 . . . we are going in.” Flight 718 smashed into a cliff on Chuar Butte.

The accident plays a key role in a Tony Hillerman mystery, Skeleton Man — Hillerman writes about two Navajo Nation policemen.

I’m thinking of the crash today for two reasons. I’m off for a tour of canyons, including both rims of the Grand Canyon, in the next two weeks. The last time I was there was 1986, with the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. We flew in on a Twin Otter, coming up from Phoenix, over the Roosevelt Dam, up over the Mogollon Rim, over the Glen Canyon Recreation area and stopping it Page. From Page to Grand Canyon, we took full advantage of the huge windows in the Otter — seeing first hand the sights that the controversial tourist flights were designed to reveal. Safety was a key concern, and we talked about it constantly with the pilots.

A few weeks later, on June 18, 1986, that DeHavilland Twin Otter collided with a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter over the Canyon. 25 people died in that crash.

I have flown over the Canyon a dozen times since then — no longer will airliners dip down to give passengers a better view, not least because airliners cruise tens of thousands of feet higher now than they did then. I think of those airplane accidents every time I see the Canyon.

We’re driving in. We’ll spend a day and a half on the South Rim, and another couple of nights on the North Rim. We’re taking our time on the ground. But if we had time, and we could afford it, I’d love to get up in an airplane or helicopter to see the Canyon from the air again.

Updates, 2009:

Jesus would have wept, but He was dehydrated from the heat

June 30, 2009

This rather captures it well, don’t you think?

But if you watched the debate [on climate change fighting legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives] on Friday, you didn’t see people who’ve thought hard about a crucial issue, and are trying to do the right thing. What you saw, instead, were people who show no sign of being interested in the truth. They don’t like the political and policy implications of climate change, so they’ve decided not to believe in it — and they’ll grab any argument, no matter how disreputable, that feeds their denial.

Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.

Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.

Those are the words of Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.  If Krugman gets a second Nobel for following the IPCC’s Nobel-winning advocacy, Rep. Broun will cite that as evidence of conspiracy, probably claim it as a conspiracy of “smart, intelligent people.”

See all of Krugman’s column in the New York Times.

True romance

June 27, 2009

It’s much better than using a Jumbotron.

Go here to Tangled Up In Blue Guy.  Click on “I am happy for you.”

Watt’s Up censors dissents on claims of climate report censorship

June 27, 2009

Want to wager whether this post will ever escape the censors at Watt’s Up?

Anthony Watts is trying to make hay out of the two EPA guys who disagree with EPA’s position on global warming.  In contrast to the Bush administration, EPA is not suppressing agency scientists who argue EPA and the nation need to act on climate change, and Watts and his coterie of followers now claim that clinging to the majority view is “suppression” of the corporate, pro-pollution folks.

Is there suppression?  As I understand it, no one at EPA has been told to shut up.  The White House no longer dictates report conclusions contrary to the scientists at EPA.  In this case, it’s a couple of economists who argue with the science conclusions, so it’s difficult to argue that there is suppression of science.  Their complaint is that their views did not prevail at EPA.

But just to put icing on the issue, the dissenting report of well over 100 pages was published sub-rosa by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the crank science, radical, private-enterprise-is-right-facts-be-damned group that is wrong on every other science issue they touch (DDT, for starters).

Early on I wrote to Watts that I am disappointed he’s fallen in with the former (current?) tobacco lobbyists at CEI.  In a second post, I pointed out that CEI is not a science-interested group, as evidenced by their parody of an Apple ad, zinging Al Gore, mainly.  That’s not science work, but pure propaganda (and false to boot).  That got a couple of responses, and this morning I offered the post below.  I think they’ve round-canned my comment.  Dissent is something they regard as sacred only when it suits them.

But tell me, am I wrong?  Is CEI well within bounds to argue that the Clean Energy Act will make the U.S. a totalitarian state?

And, has CEI ever been right about an issue?  Anybody got such evidence?

The post, sent just after 10:00 a.m. CDT:

David Hagan, interesting survey — of course, it covered the Bush administration and the efforts you now support to suppress evidence of global warming and the human contributions to it.  So, now that EPA is going the other way, are you urging a return to suppression of scientists?

Sam [Kazman, CEI]:

But do you really think that Al Gore’s serving on Apple’s board “speaks to his technical acumen”? Could it possibly speak, instead, to his political clout?

In my work with Gore, I’ve noticed that he’s way ahead of almost all other politicians in science.  He was right on air pollution in the ’70s, right on water pollution, right on DDT, right on orphan drugs, right on organ transplantation, and right on saving AARPANET, which is now the internet.  Yes, he’s there because of his technical acumen.  No one at CEI has the science chops of Al Gore — which is a sad testament to both the political acumen and the poor science content at CEI more than anything else, but still a fact.

The point of our video is that political attempts to restrict CO2 emissions may well produce a “1984”-style society. The war on carbon footprints will become very similar to the never-ending war portrayed in Orwell’s novel, with constantly shifting battlefronts and alliances, all resulting in increasing regulation of our lives.

Watts hates it when I call such statements bovine excrement, so let me just say that that statement alone contributes more methane to global warming than a herd of dairy cows.

It’s silly, and in this case insulting to everyone, to pretend these sorts of things are really in the offing.  CEI didn’t exist then, but this is the same sort of unfounded fear mongering we heard when the Clean Air Act was passed.  Perhaps not surprisingly, we’ve discovered that the companies that worked hardest to comply with the provisions of the act also are the more successful, 40 years later, with the possible exceptions of Exxon-Mobil and Chevron.

When we read “1984,” it’s good to recall that among the chief warnings of the book is the call to stick to the facts, to avoid false propaganda, and to beware large corporate interests who tell us they are taking our money for our own benefit.

The Clean Air Act did not result in militant totalitarianism, nor will controls on carbon emissions.

Ironically, there’s a good case to be made that the control on particulate emissions achieved by the Clean Air Act now contributes to global warming, because the particulates no longer offset the greenhouse gases.  No serious person would conclude that the answer is to increase particulate pollution.

Nor would a serious person, looking at the regulatory effects of the Clean Air Act, make such a radical claim as you make here.  Such overblown rhetoric is a danger to serious discussion — note how it’s raised my ire — and a clear indication that CEI is not about science in any shape or form.  Your statement is irresponsible in the highest degree, unsupported by history and current legislation.  Shame on CEI.

Godwin’s law seems entirely inadequate here.  CEI claims the Clean Energy Act — which has yet to pass the Senate, so we don’t really know what it will look like if it gets close to becoming law — will make the U.S. a totalitarian state.  These claims are reckless, irresponsibly alarmist at best.

Why won’t the climate change denialists like Anthony Watts allow discussion about the more radical, more reckless claims?

Using Twitter in the classroom, for coursework

June 27, 2009

Older son Kenny nears graduation there, but we still get the newsletters to parents bragging on the school, and there is much to brag about.  The Good Folks at the University of Texas at Dallas asked us to share this story.  It’s right up the alley of a blog that worries about education, so share it I will.

After all, when was the last time you heard a teacher raving about students using their cell phones and Twitter during class? (Yes, I’m about three weeks behind the curve on this.)

Here’s the story from the press office at UTD:

ATEC Student’s Twitter Video Makes Waves

Project Documents History Prof’s Use of Popular Service as a Teaching Tool

June 11, 2009

An Arts and Technology student’s video account of a professor’s classroom experiment with Twitter is making waves on the World Wide Web, capturing thousands of viewers on YouTube and prompting an article in U.S. News & World Report.

UT Dallas graduate student Kim Smith’s video, “The Twitter Experiment,” shows how Dr. Monica Rankin, assistant professor of history in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses Twitter to engage her 90-student history class in discussion.  The communication application helps overcome the logistical issues involved in having scores of students interact in a short time span and encourages shy students to participate in the course.

“The video is a living example of what my Content Creation and Collaboration course with Dan Langendorf was all about: using emerging media technologies as a tool for education, collaboration with other fields, and documenting the experience for everyone to have access to,” said Smith.

Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that lets users send and read each others’ updates, known as tweets, in short posts of 140 characters or less.   The Twitter video was a course project for Smith’s digital video class.

The video, which took roughly 20 hours to record and edit, was shot during two class periods, one at the beginning of the semester and one at the end. Classmate Joe Chuang helped with the video and editing.

The collaboration of Smith and Rankin began when Smith documented a class trip to Guanajuato, Mexico, in 2008. They kept in touch via Facebook, and developed the idea of using Twitter in the classroom at the beginning of the Spring 2009 semester.

Smith worked out details on Twitter with Emerging Media and Communication (EMAC) faculty members Dr. Dave Parry and Dean Terry, who referred her to individuals who had done similar experiments.  To get students comfortable with using Twitter in a classroom setting, Smith created a simple how-to video and attended class to help Rankin introduce the idea to her students.

The video was first released on Facebook; Terry and Parry both tweeted about it on Twitter and it went global within 48 hours.  New-media icon Howard Rheingold tweeted about it, which helped it further circulate in the “Twitterverse.”

“I have gotten several direct messages from people saying that they were more ‘traditional’ and would not have considered using the social networking and micro-blogging tools in this way, but opened their minds after seeing the video,” said Smith.

A few weeks later Smith posted the video on YouTube, and an entirely different wave of viewers picked up on it.  On Monday, June 1, “The Twitter Experiment” registered 500 views in a few hours. Read Write Web and other popular blogs had picked up the video, causing views to skyrocket.

“I love my classes and experience at UT Dallas and want to master how to use what I learn in EMAC to help professors like Dr. Rankin, who are willing to consider new technologies intelligently and experiment with what they offer,” said Smith.

Media Contact: Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, 972-883-4329, karah.hosek@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, 972-883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

UTD, where the football team is still undefeated.  Seriously, have you thought about using twitter in class, for coursework?  Please tell us the story in comments.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering just how I could make this work, in a district where cell phone use by students is against the rules (ha!), and where students are discouraged from using laptops in class.  In Irving ISD, where every high school kid gets a laptop, this could offer some great possibilities (anybody from Irving reading this; anybody try it yet?).  I’ll have to check to see if our network can handle such traffic, and I’ll have to get an account on Twitter; we have 87 minute class blocks, and smaller classes, but it’s tougher to get kids to discuss in high school.

With the layoffs in Dallas ISD, support for new technology tricks in classrooms is essentially non-existent.  Can I do this as a guerrilla teaching project and make it work before I get caught?

I may have to get some of these people at UTD on the phone.  If you’ve already overcome these problems, put that in comments, too, please.

Republican strategy on health care exposed

June 26, 2009

Found the explanation at Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot – Over (also at Talking Points Memo):

Portrait of a cartoonist at work, and the rest of the story

June 26, 2009

First, go here, and look at this painting by Cindy Procious.  Never heard of her?  She has some nice work, though, don’t you think?

Now, go here, and look at the cartoons, and here.  (Recognize the guy?)

You now have most of the whole, artistically wonderful story.

Missouri Rep. Cynthia Davis: Poverty? Show me!

June 25, 2009

The story writes its own ending.  As I watched the story of Missouri State Rep. Cynthia Davis, I kept hearing the Muppet version of Scrooge, who, confronted by a plea for charity for orphans said:  “What?  Are there no prisons?  Are there no workhouses?”

When I staffed the Senate, we prided ourselves on having people who knew a lot more than any reporter in town or any news organization with all its resources.  When I staffed the Utah legislature, the members made sure they knew their stuff before they called for change, generally.  Olberman, Stewart and Colbert sometimes appear to have corraled all the smart people outside of the White House.  But what in the hell is Davis’s excuse?

Update:  Welcome, visitors of July 2.  Obviously, you’re linking from somewhere else — but my systems have not picked it up.  Where are you coming from?  Somebody tell, in comments, please.

Clean energy bill needs your help

June 25, 2009

Call your Congressman, the person who represents you in the U.S. House of Representatives, and urge a “yea” vote on the comprehensive clean energy bill.

You can check your representative at several places, or follow the instructions through RePower America, listed below the video from our old friend Al Gore.

Repower America said in an e-mail:

Clean energy bill needs our support

Any moment now, the House will be voting on the boldest attempt to rethink how we produce and use energy in this country. The bill’s passage is not assured. Call your Representative today.

  • Call 877-9-REPOWER (877-9-737-6937) and we’ll connect you to your Representative right after providing you with talking points. (We’re expecting high call volume, and if you are unable to be connected please use our secondary line, 866-590-0971.)
  • When connected to your Representative’s office, just remember to tell them your name, that you’re a voter, and that you live in their district. Then ask them to “vote ‘yes’ on comprehensive clean energy legislation.”

They’d like you to report your contact, here.

What?  You haven’t been following the debate?  Here’s what the pro-pollution, give-all-your-money-to-Canada, Hugo Chavez, and the Saudis group hopesHere’s where the anti-pollution, pro-frog and clean environment people say the proposed act is way too weak as it stands.  Here’s the House Energy and Commerce Committee drafts and discussion of the billConsumer Reports analyzed the bill here (and said it can’t be passed into law fast enough despite its flaws).

Call now.  Pass the word to your friends.  Tell your children to call — their kids deserve better than the path we’re on now.

More information and discussion:

Michael Shermer’s baloney detection kit

June 25, 2009

Hmmmm.  May have to use this to start out the history classes next year, on the topic of “How do we know what we know?”

Michael Shermer explains the tools we use to detect baloney.  Shermer is the editor of Skeptic magazine; here he speaks in a video produced by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, via Boing! Boing!:

Rick Perry’s education dilemma

June 25, 2009

Betsy Oney teaches in Arlington, Texas.  She’s a frontline soldier in the fight to educate our kids.

She also reads the newspapers and pays attention to what is going on at the highest levels in Texas government.  From her view, she describes better than anyone else I’ve seen, the problem facing Texas Gov. Rick Perry right now, after the Texas State Senate rejected Perry’s nominee to head the State Board of Education, Don McLeroy.

Betsy’s views appeared as an opposite-editorial piece in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on June 7, 2009:

Texas governor in a dilemma over education board pick

Special to the Star-Telegram

Gov. Rick Perry is in something of a Catch-22.

It started two years ago when he appointed dentist Don McLeroy to chair the State Board of Education. McLeroy is described by his many supporters as a “good and decent man,” and of that we can be sure.

McLeroy’s appointment came after the 80th Legislature adjourned, so he had to be confirmed during this year’s session. The confirmation failed in the Senate.

McLeroy’s supporters blame that on the fact that he’s a Christian. Records show that this Senate, and the House Public Education Committee in a July 16 hearing, were concerned not that he’s Christian but that McLeroy politicized Texas children’s education and led the board and the Texas education system into the spotlight. And what Texans and Americans saw in that light was a fairly grotesque parade of a few people — a majority faction of the board led by McLeroy — who listened to ideology instead of experts and were intent on imposing an antiquated education system on Texas children.

From that same elected board, Perry now must decide on a new chairman who, like McLeroy, will serve without scrutiny until the next legislative session, in 2011.

Perry’s decision is his Catch-22.

He probably won’t consider a Democrat. That leaves nine Republican possibilities. Seven are the radical members responsible for politicizing children’s education. They voted in lock step on a range of issues that individually and collectively have been widely seen by educators and lawyers as anything from illegal to unconstitutional to damaging children. Nominating from that pool might yield a different management style than McLeroy offered, but the ideology, intent and backward direction would remain the same.

The two remaining Republicans are conservative, but not extremists. Both District 11’s Pat Hardy of Fort Worth and District 15’s Bob Craig of Lubbock are well-qualified and would lead Texas public education in the right direction. In contrast to the radical members, they would be responsive to the changing educational needs that the future demands as well as to the rich diversity of children in our population.

Although Hardy has been mentioned as a nominee by senators, she’s recommending Craig.

Craig, an attorney, is a logical choice. He’s served on the board since 2002 and before that served on the Lubbock school board for 14 years. Craig is a “good and decent man,” but in contrast to McLeroy, his voting record and conciliatory demeanor show him to be a rational, uniting public education supporter. He listens to educators and experts. He respects the opinions of others. He votes in the interest of all children.

It’s clear that Perry could not make a better choice than Bob Craig. The Catch-22 is that by appointing a nonextremist, Perry risks losing support from his biggest donors, the religious right.

These donors see benefit in turning public education into religious education at taxpayer expense. They see benefit in keeping critical thinking out of the classroom. Their money is essential in his campaign against Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison in the next gubernatorial primary election.

If Perry appoints from the pool of radical rights, the voting public will be alerted that he’s sacrificing our children’s education and Texas’ future for his own political interests. So he’ll lose votes.

Money and ideology vs. public’s interest and, ultimately, its confidence. What a dilemma! Stay tuned.

Betsy Oney of Fort Worth holds a master of education degree and is a master reading teacher (and English-as-a-second-language teacher) in the Arlington school district.
Can you tell Ms. Oney is literate?  She tosses out “Catch-22” expecting us to know that that means!  She has high expectations for her audience.
Oney’s discipline in Texas schools is one of those insulted by new standards brought down from some mountain by the Texas SBOE in the past year, ignoring the work of Ms. Oney’s colleagues and professionals in her field.
Tip of the old scrub brush to Robert Luhn via Glenn Branch.

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