Ugly when they pretend to care

December 28, 2009

Kids dressing up as adults are cute.

Adults dressing up as things they are not can be entertaining at a masquerade.  It’s generally pretty ugly when they dress up as things they are not, for purposes of deception.

Joe Carter, the superstar blogger of evangelical Christians, posted at First Things, pretending to be upset that Democrats and others who work to control and ameliorate global warming, are missing the boat (so to speak) by not complaining about air pollution from ships, especially super-sized cargo ships.

(Even the title of the thing is offensive, either in or out of context:  “Sink a ship, save a planet.”  Ah, the humor of the conservative, reality- and humor-challenged.  I’m sure al Quaeda would be happy to oblige Carter and the headline writers.)

Carter thinks he’s caught environmentalists in some sort of hypocritical stance, worrying about global warming and urging clean air everywhere but from the ships that bring us oil:  ‘If you’re so gosh-darn concerned about global warming, why not worry about the pollution from ships, smarty-pants?’ Joe laments.

You’d think he’d have bothered to Google the issue first, before pretending he’s the only one who noticed.

Joe wrote:

Changing the emissions regulations on the shipping industry seems like a modest, commonsense step toward reducing air pollution. So why doesn’t it get more political attention? Why do hypothetical concerns about potential catastrophic problems always trump those that are causing massive deaths right now?

With all the focus on man-made global warming, its easy to overlook the fact that man-made pollution is already killing millions of people every year.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Imagine the effect we could have on pollution if we spent as much time, energy, and money on solutions that make a difference for other people’s lives rather than those that merely make us feel good about ourselves.

Imagine, indeed.  The gall of those environmentalists, warning about global warming but letting their friends in the shipping business get off scot-free, no?

Reality is that the liberal environmentalists and federal regulators were on the issue earlier, sponsoring legislation to deal with the issue — and President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency got an agreement earlier this year to go at least part-way to resolving the problems.  EPA monitored air pollution from ships from long ago — at this 2001 EPA meeting in San Francisco, Fischbeck offered a .pdf PowerPoint summary of EPA’s work, the problems of air pollution from ships, the strategies to control the pollution and the benefits of such control.

Several Members of Congress introduced legislation to fix marine air pollution in the last Congress, and hearings were held on bills that didn’t quite make it into law.  These efforts were follow-on to an international treaty to control marine air pollution; according to the Congressional Research Service’s explanation of the bills and the issue:

In 1997, the United States and most countries signed an international agreement known as MARPOL Annex VI, setting extremely modest controls on air pollution from ships. The agreement did not enter into force until 2005, and the United States took until July 21, 2008, to enact legislation to implement it (P.L. 110-280). Negotiations to strengthen Annex VI accelerated in 2008, however, and discussions regarding GHG emissions have also begun. While awaiting congressional action and international agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), port cities, and states have begun to act on their own. In the 110th Congress, legislation was introduced (S. 1499 / H.R. 2548) to require EPA to dramatically strengthen ship emission standards under the Clean Air Act. S. 1499 was reported, but no further action was taken.

I suppose it’s too much to expect hard-core rightists to pay attention to international news, but marine air pollution is a topic of international concern, obviously indicated by the MARPOL treaty, but with a lot of other indicators for anyone who chooses to look and study the issue.

Ships pour out great quantities of pollutants into the air in the form of sulphur and nitrogen oxides.

The emissions from ships engaged in international trade in the seas surrounding Europe – the Baltic, the North Sea, the north-eastern part of the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea – were estimated to have been 2.3 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide and 3.3 million tonnes of nitrogen oxides a year in 2000.

In contrast to the progress in reducing emissions from land-based sources, shipping emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides are expected to continue increasing by 40-50 per cent up to 2020. In both cases, by 2020 the emissions from international shipping around Europe will have surpassed the total from all land-based sources in the 27 EU member states combined.

Joe Carter is right that air pollution from ships should be of great concern.  He would be wise to listen to those like former U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, who sponsored a bill in the 110th Congress to fight marine air pollution.

And, now that we’ve established that cleaning up marine air pollution is a good idea, and the liberals and environmentalists and Obama administration are already on the job, wouldn’t it also be great if the conservatives who  look at these issues, too, listen to these same people when they warn about the dangers of global warming, and of the dangers of failing to act soon to stop it?

Joe Carter identified a problem, and he’s discovered that the environmentalists and Democrats he wished to ding for not paying enough attention instead were there before him, and resolved much of the difficulty.

Anyone want to bet whether Carter will give credit to Obama, EPA and the Democrats in Congress for solving the problems?

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Anthony Watts: ‘Don’t bother me with the sarcastic facts’

December 27, 2009

Somebody needs to come up with new corollaries of Poe’s Law to cover climate skeptics.

Anthony Watts posts a series on polar bears, with Grandpa Bear kvetching about what his grandson is learning in public polar bear school about climate change.

I commented, posting a link to the press release of the Polar Bear Study Group, the world’s longest-established and most-respected organization on polar bear populations and population health.  It’s a rather dull press release, really, on the last meeting of the group last summer:

The PBSG renewed the conclusion from previous meetings that the greatest challenge to conservation of polar bears is ecological change in the Arctic resulting from climatic warming.  Declines in the extent of the sea ice have accelerated since the last meeting of the group in 2005, with unprecedented sea ice retreats in 2007 and 2008. The PBSG confirmed its earlier conclusion that unabated global warming will ultimately threaten polar bears everywhere.

The PBSG also recognized that threats to polar bears will occur at different rates and times across their range although warming induced habitat degradation and loss are already negatively affecting polar bears in some parts of their range. Subpopulations of polar bears face different combinations of human threats.  The PBSG recommends that jurisdictions take into account the variation in threats facing polar bears.

The PBSG noted polar bears suffer health effects from persistent pollutants.  At the same time, climate change appears to be altering the pathways by which such pollutants enter ecosystems. The PBSG encourages international efforts to evaluate interactions between climate change and pollutants.

The PBSG endorses efforts to develop non-invasive means of population assessment, and continues to encourage jurisdictions to incorporate capture and radio tracking programs into their national monitoring efforts. The members also recognized that aboriginal people are both uniquely positioned to observe wildlife and changes in the environment, and their knowledge is essential for effective management.

All I posted was the link.

The response at Watts’ What’s Up With That?


Ed Darrell (20:50:48) :

[snip – pointless sarcasm]

Is that emblematic of the state climate “skeptics” are in these days, that a dull recitation of the facts is “sarcasm?” “Don’t confuse us with the facts,” they seem to be saying.  And, if they really think they’re making headway with stolen e-mails, why are they so crabby?

More politics than science, more bluster than discussion.

This cartoon scares them, too.  Maybe they know something’s up:

Chris Riddell cartoon, December 20, 2009, The Observer

Chris Riddell cartoon, December 20, 2009, The Observer

Follow up: Gail Zawacki at Wit’s End neatly captures the tell-tale signs of denialism at workCarol Kane had a great line in Annie Hall: “I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.”  Denialists everywhere appear to share that emotion.

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Typewriter of the moment: Santa Claus, Indiana’s Post Office

December 27, 2009

maybe a little late for Christmas:  Here’s the typewriter used to answer letters to Santa Claus, at the U.S. Post Office of Santa Claus, Indiana:

Typewriter used to answer letters to Santa Claus, from the U.S. Post Office in Santa Claus, Indiana - Roadside America photo

Typewriter used to answer letters to Santa Claus, from the U.S. Post Office in Santa Claus, Indiana - Roadside America photo

For 30 years, kids letters to Santa Claus were answered, with the responses typed on this Corona at the Post Office.  The machine rests on display at the Santa Claus Museum in Kris Kringle Plaza in Santa Claus, Indiana, about 40 miles east northeast from Evansville (south of Interstate 64).

Answers to letters to Santa Claus are answered from the museum today.

You can see the typewriter; Roadside America’s website says the museum is open 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily — but you may want to call ahead to confirm:

Santa Claus Museum

41 N. Kringle Place, Santa Claus, IN
On the north side of Hwy 162/Christmas Blvd just west of Holiday World. In Kringle Plaza. Look for the Holiday Foods and the Post Office.
9 am-5 pm daily. (Call to verify)

Spread Santa’s cheer!

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Chet Raymo on devils and angels of our own creation

December 26, 2009

Chet Raymo continues to read Linda Lear’s biography of Rachel Carson, and ponders:

Did Rachel Carson save songbirds (and humans) in Massachusetts and put babies at risk in Mozambique? Albert Schweitzer once said: “Man can hardly even recognize the devils of his own creation.” We are not that good at recognizing the angels, either. Let’s hope the current generation of young people has more success balancing the perils and blessings of technology than did those of us who lived through the dueling certainties of DDT and Silent Spring.

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Merry Christmas, to the “right” people (not you, Mr. President)

December 25, 2009

You can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s a generally mean-spirited post trying to make hay from the general disinformation about about Obama’s faith and otherwise trying to stir hatred.  (Here’s more of the flap on the ornaments on the White House’s Blue Room tree, and I’ve got a response in comments at this post.)

Followed by this “glowing” cross.

Merry Christmas.  “We dare you,” the Right Perspective says.

Make the right wing extremely angry today:  Have a good and merry Christmas.  Be tolerant.  Think.  Smile.  Act kindly.  It’ll make ’em crazy.


While I was wrapping: Christmas science

December 25, 2009

Ohh, here’s fun:  Photographing fractals using Christmas ornaments, at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories:

Fractals photographed in three Christmas tree ornaments, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

"Construct complex fractals out of light using a few shiny Christmas tree ornaments. Who says the holidays aren't exciting?"

All you need is a camera and some imagination — oh, and some Christmas ornaments. In this case, four silver ornaments ($5 at Target, the guy says), a piece of Scotch tape, and the colored lights.  The photo above comes from four ornaments, stacked.  Go see how he does it (lots of photos), and check out his Flickr stream.

While your kids ponder the pretty lights and stars on the Christmas tree, why not add a little science in?  According to Carlos Hotta, at  Brazillion Thoughts, “The Universe in a Christmas Tree”:

How about looking at the Christmas tree through the light of this knowledge? Here is some food for thought:

  • We know more planets beyond the solar system than there are Christmas balls on your tree. The current count is at 358 exoplanets, and growing;
  • If the planet was [shrunk] to the size of a Christmas ball, it would be the smoothest ball of the tree. The Mount Everest (8 km) or the Marianas Trenchr (11km) are small imperfections relative to the planet’s 12,000 km diameter. It’s an imperfection of less than 0,01%;
  • “Earth is not spherical, it’s an oblate spheroid”, some Grinch may say. Indeed, our planet wider in the equator, but even this deviation from a perfect sphere is of less than 0,04%;
  • If an 8 centimeters Christmas ball represented Earth and the nearest ball represented the nearest known exoplanet – Epsilon Eridani b, 10.5 light-years away – then the distance between them should be around 630,000 km. Almost twice the actual distance from Earth to the Moon. Epsilon Eridani b is quite far from here
  • Now, if the star at the top of the tree represented our Sun, 1,392,000 km in diameter, and the star at the top of your neighbor’s tree – say, 50 meters away – represented the nerest star system, Alpha Centauri at 4 light-years of distance; then the size of our Sun-star to be on the same scale it would have to be 0,74 micrometers large. From 1,4 million kilometers to more than 100 times smaller than the width of a hair, that’s how small the star should be for it to be in the same scale as the distance between it and the neighbor’s Christmas star.

There’s more — plus the original at 100 Nexos (in Portuguese).

Great news for biology teachers: Neil Shubin released illustrations from Inner Fish for your classroom use

December 25, 2009

Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish reads well, and it reveals evolution as easy to understand from a morphological view of life as revealed by fossils and modern animals.

Cover of Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin

Shubin released the illustrations from the book for teachers to use — a rather rare and great contribution to evolution.

Here’s where you can download the slides, at the Tiktaalik roseae website: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body – Teaching Tools.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, “Teaching Your Inner Fish.

Santa’s ride updated – GE’s high-tech sleigh

December 24, 2009

GE labs suggest some improvements to the Santa Claus Sleigh.  A good way to introduce research, I think.

GE's improvements to Santa's Sleight, 2009

Click here for GE's interactive feature

Among improvements:

Companies hitching a star to Santa’s sleigh is nothing new.  It may be difficult to separate out the Coca-Cola from the Santa myth at this late date, and who remembers that “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” originally came from a project for departed department store Montgomery Ward.  GE at least shows good humor.

Here at Bathtub Manor we switched to LEDs on the Christmas tree this year.  The blue lights are a bit intense (more yellow and red in the mix, please, string assemblers).  Travel home, shopping, recipe-finding, and most other parts of our family’s Christmas preparations are laced with cell phones, computers, internet and digital photography, and microprocessors performing music — not to mention the yearly infusions of new technology under the tree.

We live in fascinating times.

Check out the update of Santa’s headgear, too.

Santa's old sleigh, as last configured -

Bye-bye tradition? Santa's old sleigh, as last configured -

Tell your friends about Santa’s high-tech ride:

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New UT-Dallas grad: Congratulations, Kenny!

December 22, 2009

Cue the show tune, “Sunrise, Sunset.”  Quickly go the years indeed.

For the second time in our lives, elder son Kenny and I experienced a university graduation ceremony together.  This time he wore the gown, and I was the one who didn’t cry and disturb the audience.

Kenny got his diploma in neuroscience from the University of Texas at Dallas Saturday.

Here’s an almost-decent photo I got as he flew across the stage:

Kenny Darrell, Graduation at UT-Dallas 12-19-2009

Kenny Darrell speeds to get his diploma, UT-Dallas, December 19, 2009; photo copyright Ed Darrell

At the bottom of the photo you can see a fellow in a UT-D green t-shirt — the official photographer of the day.  Kenny’s elation showed so well, the photo that guy got turned up on UT-D’s website (photo #11 in the series).

[Update] Here’s the “official” photo of Kenny with UT-D’s President David Daniel.

UT-Dallas photo of 12-2009 graduation - Kenny Darrell pictured

UT-D President David Daniel shakes the hand of 2009 graduate Kenny Darrell

Some time in his high school days Kenny got the idea that he’s responsible for his own education.  At UT-D he took control of his time and learning.  His graduation is his own doing.

Congratulations, Kenny.  I have it on good authority your parents are beaming.

Nice cap to the year.

Kenny Darrell at graduation from UT-D, 12-19-2009

Kenny Darrell, graduate from UT-Dallas, December 19, 2009

Christian pastor “wants his country back”

December 21, 2009

I get e-mail — sometimes because I belong to a list-serv.  Some of those provoke thought.

Bill Longman sent some thoughts from Jan Linn, a Disciples of Christ pastor and author of The Jesus Connection and What’s Wrong With the Christian Right.

Bill wrote, “I’m going to foward this seasonal meditation from pastor Jan Linn reflecting thoughts about our lack of concern for the common good as seen in the battle for health care legislation.”

A Christmas Wish

By Jan Linn

This past summer I heard a woman attending a town hall meeting tearfully say, “I want my country back.” So do I. That is my Christmas wish this year. I want my country back.

I want to experience the pride I used to feel at the sight of the American flag being raised as a sign of victory as a proud American athlete stood tall on the center platform at the Olympics.

I want to feel that catch in my throat I used to feel when the star spangled banner was played just before the start of a football game.

I want to experience again the excitement I felt when our college team had the chance to meet the governor of our state before the season started and to hear him speak about his pride in the kind of university we were representing.

I want to see the workers of our nation valued as they once were for all they do to make their companies a success.

I want to take my grandson fishing so he can enjoy the excitement and fun of  telling everyone about the fish he caught that gets bigger every time he tells it.

I want to go to church on Christmas Eve and give thanks to God for all people who come to the Communion Table, regardless of creed, nationality, or sexual orientation.

I want to be able to tell children of all different races, religion, sizes and shapes, that all of them have an equal chance to do whatever they can with the abilities they have

I want the rest of the world to know that we appreciate who they are just as we want them to appreciate who we are.

Yes, my Christmas wish this year is to have my country back, too, only I know based on what this woman said before she said she wanted her country back that her reasons and mine are very different.

You see, I want my country back so our nation’s top athletes will once again want to compete fairly and live up to the responsibilities of being the role models they are to our youth.

I want my country back so that the loyal opposition will once again be part of how we understand the meaning of patriotism.

This Christmas my wish is to have my country back so that politicians from opposing parties and ideologies will stop demonizing one another and respectfully disagree about what is best for our country.

I want my country back so that honest work is rewarded rather than exploited by those for whom enough is never enough.

I want my country back so the water I take my grandson to fish in will not be contaminated by toxic runoff, and that companies with chemical and nuclear waste will know they will be shown no mercy if they do not ensure it is stored safely.

I want my country back so all Christians can know that our faith has a place among the religions of the world without having to prove they are wrong and we are right.

I want my country back so every child in this nation will know he or she is loved and valued, secure and protected as every child should be.

My Christmas wish is to have my country back so that America can once again be a beacon of hope and light to other nations, not because we think we are better than they are, but because we understand the responsibilities that go with being the heirs of those who have sacrificed so much to give us the land we now have.

I want my country back so I can help make room for everyone who agrees with me and everyone who does not, knowing that it is only when we keep our differences from becoming divisions that we can be a strong and enduring democracy.

Most of all, my Christmas wish is to have my country back so we can be a people who don’t just talk about justice and peace, but work for both, and to do everything we can to preserve our nation, make it better, and pass on its enduring values to the next generation.

So, yes, my wish this Christmas is to have my country back, because for me what that means to me goes to the heart of how I understand what celebrating the birth of Jesus is truly means.


Chet Raymo on Rachel Carson

December 20, 2009

Sad fact:  More people read and believe as a matter of faith the sour, misanthropic and pro-obfuscation sites about Rachel Carson than read either Silent Spring or Linda Lear’s excellent biography of the woman.

Chet Raymo is reading Lear’s book, and has comments.  Fans of science writing will recognize Raymo’s name.


Newspaper history: “Yes, Virginia,” the most popular editorial ever vouches for Santa Claus

December 20, 2009

“Papa says, ‘If you see it in the Sun, it’s so.'”

Do we stand as witnesses to the end of newspapers in America?

It’s been a grand history.  Newspapering gave us great leaders like Benjamin Franklin.  Newspapering gave us wars, like the Spanish-American War.  Newspapering gave us Charlie Brown, Ann Landers, the Yellow Kid, Jim Murray, Red Smith, Thomas Nast (and Santa Claus), the Federalist Papers, and coupons to save money on laundry soap.

It’s been a curious history, too.  An 1897 editorial vouching for Santa Claus rates as the most popular editorial of all time, according to the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Francis Pharcellus Church, New York Sun writer who wrote "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" - Newseum

The man who saved Christmas, at least for Virginia O'Hanlon: Francis Pharcellus Church - Newseum image

In autumn, 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon of 115 West 59th Street in New York, wrote to the New York Sun with this simple question:

“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”

In the age of Yellow Journalism, the fiercely competitive Sun‘s editors turned the letter to Francis Pharcellus.  He responded to little Virginia on September 21, 1897:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Church’s brother, William Conant Church, owned and published the newspaper.  Both had followed their father into the news business.  They co-founded The Army-Navy Journal in 1863, and went on to a series of journalistic collaborations.  Francis was 58 years old when he answered Virginia’s letter. (He died at age 67, in 1906.)

The New York Sun held down the conservative corner in New York journalism at the time, versus the New York Times and the New York Herald-Tribune.  But it also had an interesting history, to a blogger intrigued by hoaxes.  In 1835 the paper published a series of six newspaper stories falsely attributed to Sir John Herschel, a well-known astronomer, claiming to describe a civilization on the Moon — the Great Moon Hoax.  The discovery was credited to a new, very powerful telescope.

In 1844 the paper published a hoax written by Edgar Allen Poe, the Balloon Hoax.  Under a pseudonym, Poe wrote that a gas balloon had crossed the Atlantic in three days.

The Sun also featured outstanding reporting.  A 1947 and 1948  series about crime on the docks of New York City won a Pulitzer Prize for writer Malcolm Johnson.  That series inspired Elia Kazan’s 1954 movie On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden and Lee J. Cobb.

The New York Sun ceased publication in 1950.

For all of its history, the Sun and the Churches are most remembered for that defense of belief in Santa Claus.
Virginia O’Hanlon grew up, graduated from Hunter College, got a masters at Columbia, and earned a Ph.D. from Fordham.  She taught in the New York City Public School system, from which she retired in 1959.  She died in 1971.

Birth of tradition

Columbia University was Church’s alma mater, as well as O’Hanlon’s.  Her letter and his response get a reading each year at the Yule Log Ceremony at Columbia College, along with the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”  Animated, live-acting, and other television productions have been mounted in 1974, 1991, and 2009.

Is there a Santa Claus?  Did Church write a credible defense? The text of the letter and answer, below the fold.

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Stand up for good history in Texas

December 17, 2009

Here’s an education and Texas issue I’ve not done justice to:  The Texas State Board of Education is working to gut social studies curricula in Texas, with a special vent on history, which they appear to think is not fundamentalist Christian enough, and economics, where they think “capitalism” is, somehow, a dirty word.

Do I exaggerate?   Very little, if at all.  Really.

There’s a lot to say.  I may have another post on it this week.  In the meantime, the indefatigable Texas Freedom Network works to organize for the hearing on the issue in January.  SBOE hopes it will be a quiet, non-confrontational meeting, and they will do whatever they can to prevent Texans from telling them to have good history standards that make great students.  So it’s important that you speak up — especially if you’re a Texan.  Here’s what TFN said in an e-mail alert:

Make Your Voice Heard at January Public Hearing

The process of revising social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools is moving into a critical stage. And a public hearing the board has scheduled for January may be the only opportunity for you to speak out against the far right’s efforts to corrupt standards for history, government and other social studies classes.

The final drafts of the proposed standards prepared by writing teams made up of teachers, academics and other community members are reflective of mainstream academic scholarship in the various subject areas. It is clear that members of these writing teams largely resisted intense political pressure from far right, rejecting attempts to remove key civil rights figures and make other politically motivated revisions. (See the Background section at the bottom of this e-mail for a more detailed account of the politicization of this curriculum process.)

But as with science and language arts, far-right SBOE members are already plotting to undo the work of the writing teams of social studies.

Take Action

The State Board of Education so far has scheduled only one public hearing on the proposed standards. That hearing is likely to occur either on January 13 or January 14 in Austin.

If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please click here. TFN will help you register to speak before the board and be an effective voice against efforts to politicize our children’s classrooms.

This may be the only opportunity the board provides for Texans to speak out on the proposed standards. If we are to prevent far-right SBOE members from turning social studies classrooms into tools for promoting political agendas, then it’s critical that the board hears from people like you! Click here to sign up for more information on how to testify in January.


Background on Social Studies Review Process to Date

Earlier this year, TFN exposed and derailed several attempts by the far right to hijack the social studies curriculum revision process. Members of the state board – or their appointees to review panels and writing teams – tried at various times to:

  • Remove civil rights champions like César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall from the standards, calling them poor examples of citizenship
  • Turn Joseph McCarthy – who discredited himself and dishonored Congress with his infamous Red-baiting smear campaign in the 1950s – into an American hero
  • Rewrite history and portray America’s Founders as intending to establish a Christian nation with laws based on a fundamentalist reading of the Bible

Members of the writing teams largely rejected these fringe ideas in the final drafts of the standards they submitted to the board. Chávez and Marshall remain in the curriculum. The American history standards do not whitewash the damaging history of McCarthyism. And under the proposed standards students would still learn that the Founders created a nation in which all people are free to worship – or not – as they choose without coercion or interference by government.

We must ensure that the board adopts curriculum standards that reflect mainstream academic scholarship in social studies. This is vitally important because the results of this decision will be reflected in the next generation of social studies textbooks around the country.

Click here to let TFN know you are willing to testify at the state board.

Spread the word even farther — help save history, in Texas:

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Jesus knocks on Dobson’s door: No room at the Dobson Inn

December 15, 2009

Dr. James Dobson profits from his image as a great Christian leader.  His campus of enterprises in Colorado Springs is one of the largest businesses in the city.

But this does not compute:  Colorado Springs has several hundred people homeless in the city, with no place to sleep but public parks and other public places.  There are more homeless than there are facilities to help them.

Colorado Springs officials consider a law to make it illegal to “camp” in a public place inside the city.  One person died from the cold recently.  Whole families are camping in some places.  [Good news before I hit the “send” button:  Colorado Springs decided to shelve action on the ordinance now, and work to find solutions instead, until February.]

Colorado Springs Salvation Army officials have a shelter,  but it can’t handle the homeless population.

Robert Moran, an advocate for the homeless, said the city this year has been doing a “great job” showing compassion toward homeless people. Among the examples is the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team, he said. But the proposed no-camping law would take those efforts in a “completely opposite” direction, Moran said.

“It would be criminalizing homelessness,” he said. “People have the right to survive, and people that are homeless are part of our community as much as anybody else.”

The Salvation Army’s shelter only has 220 beds, he said.

“We have more people than that living in tents in the Springs,” he said.

James Dobson, you with that big campus of buildings:  What do you think Jesus would do in this situation?

Focus on the Family's visitor center in Colorado Springs - photo by David Shankbone - Wikimedia image

Focus on the Family's visitor center in Colorado Springs - photo by David Shankbone - Wikimedia image

Why are there hungry and homeless families freezing to death in the city where James Dobson has lots of space?  What about the other national religious organizations?

Other information:

Help in Colorado Springs

Other news

Somebody’s knockin’; let ’em in:

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Investigative report: Climate science e-mails ugly, science is correct; “skeptics'” response even uglier

December 14, 2009

Associate Press put a team of five reporters on the e-mails purloined from the Hadley climate science group in England.  AP sought advice on interpreting the messages from other scientists involved in ethical science issues.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only group that has gone through the entire mass to see what is really shown — more than a million words, the AP story estimated.

Veteran climate issue reporter Seth Borenstein wrote up the story:  Scientists in the heat of research and interpretation, on deadline with government policy makers, often attacked unfairly — one received death threats for his work on climate change.  Under those conditions, one might understand that the scientists were defensive and rude, in private, about their critics.  One of the critics harassed scientists with repeated FOI requests, then didn’t use the data.  In one case, a critic published a paper based on bad data — what the critics accused the scientists of doing.

But in the end, there was no pattern of data fixing.   Independent reviews today confirm that independently-generated studies confirm the warming the scientists wrote about.

Of course, that doesn’t stop the hecklers of the scientists from complaining, either about the science or the way it’s reported.  Rather than deal with the material AP reported, for example, warming blogger Anthony Watts attacked the reporter who wrote the story, complaining that he is “too close” to the story, since he seems to have been covering the story long enough that his e-mail appears in the purloined e-mails.

‘You can’t report the news because you know too much,’ is Watts’s complaint.

In the e-mail cited, Seth Borenstein wrote to some of the world’s best scientists in the field and asked their opinions about a paper making some contrary claims.

To Watts, seeking information from the experts is beyond the pale.  He calls it an ethical infraction.

Watts is unbound by such ethical rules, however, and so can make up stuff like this with abandon.  Watts’ charge is hooey, foul play, and stupid.  In the headline to his post, Watts wrote, “AP’s Seth Borenstein is just too damn cozy with the people he covers – time for AP to do something about it.”

That’s right, AP — it’s time Borenstein got a promotion for doing the legwork, honestly, that critics of the science have refused to do.  Borenstein’s reporting is important.  The story goes beyond mere repeating of press releases, beyond the mere “he-said/he-said” norm.  Borenstein, in unemotional, clear and cool terms, indicted the critics of warming, by factually reporting the events.  Give that man and his team a Pulitzer Prize.

Why shouldn’t reporters go to the experts?  Why shouldn’t they ask the opinions of all sides in a science debate?

Think about it for a moment:  Watts’s complaint is that Borenstein sought fairness in reporting on Watts’s side’s claim.  Because Borenstein refused to show the bias Watts wants, Watts went after Borenstein.

Could there be a more clear and dramatic illustration of why the scientists’ ire is raised by such silly criticism?

Watts quotes at length from the Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles, slyly implying by doing so that Borenstein violated the rules somewhere.  Not so.

Watts worries about “getting too cozy with sources.”  Read his blog.  Watts prefers to be the source — but he also reports on the debate.

Watts would do well to read that AP ethical statement again, and take it to heart.

His charges are groundless, scurrilous in the light of the AP team’s going to great lengths to be fair to all sides.  Watts and other critics bank on people being shocked that scientists get angry.   Watts and his colleagues have campaigned across the web, on television and in print, to have these scientists tarred and feathered, and their science dismissed — though there is not handful of feathers to weigh against the mountains of evidence the scientists accumulated and published over the past 50 years.

Do not take my word for it.  Read the AP storyRead Watts’s rant.  Read the e-mails, if you wish (you can find them from my opinionated take on the flap).  Check with the scientists you know and trust on their views of the science done and reported.

I won a couple of minor investigative journalism awards in college.  I have been a member of the Society of Professional Journalists off and on since 1974 (not much since I quit doing that stuff full time).  I have worked with some of the best investigative journalists and Congressional investigators in my duties with the Senate.  I’ve been a member of the FOIA committees in Utah and Maryland.  I’ve lobbied in three states for freedom of information.  I know a little bit about investigative reporting and fairness.  And yes, IAAL.

Borenstein’s piece is solid and good.  In light of the firestorm Watts hopes to bring down on it, Borenstein’s article is a shining example of high ethics in journalism.  It deserves your reading.

If the critics had data denying warming, or denying human causation of warming, why are they hiding it so well?  If they have the data to prove the scientists are in error, why not publish it, instead of sniping at a wire service reporter who merely tells the story?

Critics don’t have the data to contest the hard work of the scientists.  They don’t have the data to make a case against either warming or human causation.  And now we all know.

Post Script:  Um, and , you know, it’s not like Borenstein hasn’t done some stuff over the years to make it look like he’s been on Watts’s side:  Stoat, Mooney’s Intersection, Island of Doubt.  Watts’ fit may put a gloss on Borenstein’s work that wasn’t there to begin with.

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