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,
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, 972-883-2155,

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.

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