Obama’s eligibility: California court tossed the challenge out

October 30, 2009

On the one hand it’s nice to see cool heads and wisdom prevail.

On the other hand, the Orly Taitz, Stumbling and Bumbling Bros., Barnyard Bailout Circus provided belly laughs for everyone who watched it.  How can such outstanding legal pratfall comedy possibly be replaced?  “Boston Legal” can’t hold a candle to Orly Taitz.

CNN and other sources report that Judge Carter booted the suit late Thursday, noting that the question is one for Congress, and Congress’s earlier decision sticks.

The lawsuit represented the claim by the so-called “birthers” movement that Obama was not born in Hawaii – despite a birth certificate to the contrary – or that if he was, his citizenship was invalidated by living overseas as a child.

In a 30-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter of California said his court lacked the jurisdiction to rule on a case intended to unseat a sitting president.

Carter’s ruling said the plaintiffs were trying to persuade him to “disregard the constitutional procedures in place for the removal of a sitting president.”

“The process for removal of a sitting president – removal for any reason – is within the province of Congress, not the courts,” the ruling said.

Carter’s ruling also noted that the plaintiffs “have attacked the judiciary, including every prior court that has dismissed their claim, as unpatriotic and even treasonous for refusing to grant their requests and for adhering to the terms of the Constitution.”

“Respecting the constitutional role and jurisdiction of this court is not unpatriotic,” the ruling said. “Quite the contrary, this court considers commitment to that constitutional role to be the ultimate reflection of patriotism.”

Will Orly Taitz go quietly?  How can she replace the daily adrenaline rush of knowing she’s earned the official ire of judges from Chesapeake Bay to Long Beach Harbor?

It may be unrelated, but sketchy early reports say Orly Taitz has climbed aboard a mylar balloon shaped like a flying saucer . . .

More information:


2009 winners of the Rachel Carson “Sense of Wonder” arts contest

October 30, 2009

You can view, and read, the winners of the 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest at the website of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Bee on a flower - EPA Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder 2nd place winner 2009

2nd place photo, Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder contest, 2009 - by Patricia, age 70, Peggy, age 47, Maggi, age 16

Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder 2009 contest winners

The Sense of Wonder. Image logo.

EPA’s Aging Initiative, Generations United, the Rachel Carson Council, Inc. and the Dance Exchange, Inc. are pleased to present the winners for the third annual intergenerational photo, dance, essay and poetry Sense of Wonder contest. All entries were created by an intergenerational team.

The categories are Photography, Essay, Poetry, Mixed (Photo, Essay and Poetry) and Dance.

Drop over to EPA’s site and look, and read.

2010 contest rules are already up.  You can get the entry form there, too.  Links to the 2008 and 2007 winners and finalists also reside there.

This photo caught me a bit off guard, bringing back wonderful memories.

Gina, age 36, Bill, age 64, Christian, age 1 - 3rd place photo, 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder art contest - EPA

Bill and Christian explore outdoors, photographed by Gina - Gina, age 36, Bill, age 64, Christian, age 1 - 3rd place photo, 2009 Rachel Carson Sense of Wonder art contest - EPA

Gina, the photographer, described the photo:

My father has been a good role model to me as I grew up with plenty of time outdoors. The red plaid shirt became a sort of symbol, and it was an honor to get a matching shirt myself when I was in college. Now, at just one year old, my son is continuing the tradition of wearing the red and black shirt outdoors. It was fun to photograph the two together in our rural wooded backyard, and helped illustrate that my father can continue to pass along his sense of wonder and love of the outdoors to my son, his first grandchild.

My father, Paul Darrell, wore an old jacket for my entire life — a once-fuzzy buffalo plaid red-and-black woolen jacket.  No one in the family can remember a time he didn’t have it.  The jacket was probably at least 30 years old when I was born.  He wore it when it was bitter cold — one story was that when it was well below zero one wintry morning in Burley, Idaho, it was the only coat he wore to walk to his furniture and appliance store to make sure the pipes hadn’t frozen, a walk of about a mile each way.  It was too cold to start the car.

After he moved to Utah it was his usual gardening and yard-work coat on cold mornings.  I know he took it on a few campouts with my Scout troop, and I’ll wager it went along on camping trips with my older brothers and sister 20 years before that.  I remember my father sitting warm in that jacket on cold mornings around the campfire.

We had a peach tree in the back yard in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  Frosts would come on those mountain slopes when the peaches were just ripened.  I have memories of my father picking peaches in the jacket.  He’d slice the peaches for our breakfast.  No peach has ever been sweeter or more flavorful (but I keep searching).  I remember my father in his buffalo plaid jacket, his arms full of ripe, cold peaches, coming through the kitchen door, and the smile on his face.

The red buffalo plaid coat was so much a symbol of my father that, at his death in 1988, it was one of those objects we nearly fought over.  My niece Tamara ended up with it.

I have one, now.  It’s a good L. L. Bean version, with the wool much thicker than my father’s well-worn version.  After 20 years it still looks new, compared to his.  I suspect it always will.  It could never be warmer than his.

Special tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Pamela Bumsted.


Gilded Age project

October 27, 2009

I really like this project, and I wish I’d come across it about a month ago:

The Gilded Age Class Documentary Project

The Gilded Age – Class Documentary Project

Instructors:  Rachel Duffy, Marc Ducharme

May, 2005

Adapted from:  The Gilded Age WebQuest – Documenting Industrialization in America

By: Thomas Caswell and Joshua DeLorenzo

What do you think?


Does Michelle Obama have the largest staff of any First Lady? No . . .

October 27, 2009

You probably have gotten the e-mail that claims Michelle Obama has the largest staff of any First Lady.  Either you dismissed it as great sour grapes, or you may have given it a moment’s consideration before hitting delete.

Did you wonder whether the charge is true?  Mudflats, the great blog from Alaska, tracked down the sources.  Mudflats’ discoveries are well worth the read.  You may want to bookmark that site for the next time you get the e-mail.  You know there will be a next time.

Wall of shame:  Sites that pass on the gossip as fact

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dr. Bumsted.


Democrats take solid South

October 25, 2009

Bob Moser says they can.  He’s talking about how to do it at SMU this week.

Can’t make it?  Buy the book.

The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
and the
Geurin-Pettus Program in the Department of Political Science
at Southern Methodist University
invite you to



Bob Moser, editor of the Texas Observer and an award-winning political reporter for The Nation, has chronicled Southern politics for nearly two decades.

In Blue Dixie he argues that the Democratic Party needs to jettison outmoded prejudices about the South if it wants to build a lasting national majority.  With evangelical churches preaching  a more expansive social gospel and a massive left-leaning demographic shift to African Americans, Latinos, and the young, the South is poised for a Democratic revival. Moser shows how a volatile mix of unprecedented economic prosperity and abject poverty are reshaping the Southern vote. By returning to a bold, unflinching message of economic fairness, the Democrats can in in the nation’s largest, most diverse region and redeem themselves as a true party of the people.

Books will be available for purchase.

THURSDAY, October 29, 2009

Noon to 1 pm
Texana Room, DeGolyer Library
6404 Hilltop Ln. & McFarlin Blvd
Bring your own brown bag lunch!

Better, make it to the lecture, buy the book, listen to Moser and let him autograph it for you.

For more information, please call 214-768-2526 or email carberry AT smu DOT edu

Invite a friend to a brown-bag lunch:

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Quote of the moment: Eric Blair (George Orwell) on lies becoming history

October 25, 2009

George Orwell (Eric Blair) on cover of Time Magazine, Novmber 28, 1983

George Orwell (Eric Blair) on cover of Time Magazine, Novmber 28, 1983

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’

— George Orwell, 1984

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kate at The Urban Primate

If Big Brother is watching, why not let him watch all of us? Spread the word:

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What’s a journalist’s duty? Limbaugh ignores warning signs, punks himself

October 25, 2009

Millard Fillmore’s bathtub came out of a hoax story written in 1917 by one of America’s greatest cynics and writers, H. L. Mencken. Mencken lived to regret that he ever wrote the piece, after it was cited as fact by encyclopedias and critics of Fillmore’s presidency.

Mencken’s story holds a moral, a lesson for all critics of the American scene, and especially anyone who comments on political figures:  Verify everything.

Ernest Hemingway put it best, if crudely:   “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”*

If a writer or reporter doesn’t have one of those devices built-in, he is likely to find himself up to his chin in it after having failed to detect it in time to avoid the plunge.

Rush Limbaugh is in it up to his chin right now, after following Michael Ledeen off the dock.

Faithful readers here — all dozen of ‘em — may remember last January when we spotlighted a hoax at a blog called Jumping in Pools; the author claimed President Obama had ordered members our armed forces to take an oath of allegiance to Obama in place of their regular oath to the nation.

Orson Welles was on to something with his “War of the Worlds” broadcast.  In fact, after that first night of panic, the same script was used on other occasions, and people still got suckered in.  (Listen to the RadioLab feature on this phenomenon — it’s wonderful.)

It’s almost as if people were going around with signs on their backs that say “Lie to me, baby!”  Only, the people put the signs on their shirts and blouses themselves.

For whatever ill-thought, malicious reason, somebody invented an absolutely unbelievable hoax that President Obama asked the Pentagon to have military people swear allegiance to him, instead of the nation. Jumping in Pools posted it.

Jumping in Pools also listed it as satire, in tags.

But the hoax sucked in the gullible all over the web.

Limbaugh?  Ledeen?  Y’all would do well to read this blog, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub.  You might have recognized the name of the blog, Jumping in Pools, that carried that phantasmagorical story about Barack Obama’s student essay, finally being released in part to Time Magazine’s Joe Klein.

Yahoo!’s Buzz Up explained the story, with links you ought to check out:

It must have seemed so perfect. An obscure blogger unearths some pages of President Obama’s college thesis. The report supposedly comes from big-time journalist Joe Klein of Time magazine. And the thesis has some real gems: like Obama’s disdain for the Constitution.

The whole thing was nothing more than a satirical post on a humor blog. But Rush Limbaugh, who quoted from the supposed thesis on his radio show, sure wasn’t laughing. Here’s how it went down.

An unknown blogger picked up on a made-up post meant as a joke, which claimed that Joe Klein had gotten his hands on 10 pages of student Obama’s college thesis. Rush Limbaugh jumped on it, which immediately sparked Web searches on “obama thesis.”

Supposedly titled “Aristocracy Revisited,” the excerpt revealed the president had “doubts” about the “so-called founders.” Juicy. Except not true. Limbaugh discovered halfway through his show that he’d been had, but defended himself by saying basically the thesis felt true. Listen in to Rush’s mea sorta culpa.

Joe Klein finally jumped in, and called the report “nonsense” on his Swampland blog, and the blogger who thought the hoax was real also apologized.

Michael Ledeen writing at Pajamas Media was that “blogger who thought the hoax was real.”

Ledeen had the good grace to apologize (and in doing so reveal that he really should have been much more en garde):

The hoax/satire was written in August, so it’s not connected to any current event.  I cam across it on Twitter, read the blog, found it interesting, and posted on it.  I failed to notice that one of the tags was “satire.”

So he got me, and lots of others. It worked because it’s plausible.  I’ve done satirical pieces myself, and I know how they can take off.  I once wrote one that said that Bill Casey did not die, and was hiding in a bunker under the St Andrews golf course from which he was running Mikhail Gorbachev.  I thought it was obviously satirical, but it went like wildfire all over the world.  And that was in the days before the Internet.

So I should have picked up some hint, but I didn’t.  Shame on me.

But Limbaugh?  He railed on for more than half an hour on the evils of Obama revealed in the completely fictional essay; and then when he was alerted to the fact that it was a hoax, he didn’t apologize.  He said he was suckered in because the hoax was plausible, and Obama might have done such a thing.

“I know Obama thinks it,” Limbaugh said, purporting to channel the guy he despises only too openly.

I’m trying to suppress it, but Limbaugh’s actions remind me mightily of an old Cheech and Chong routine.  One wonders what Obama’s more rabid critics would not grant credence to.

Wall of Shame

What would Hemingway have reported?

Other thoughts:

  • Jonathan Last’s article for the Templeton Foundation’s In Character Journal wonders about how we choose what to believe, and whom.  The Dallas Morning News carried the article in the “Points” section this morning, but it’s not up on their website; look at the article at the Templeton Foundation site.

________
* I’m convinced he said it. I’m relying here on Elizabeth Dewberry’s contribution to The Cambridge Companion to Ernest Hemingway, “Hemingway’s Journalism and the Realist Dilemma,” on page 25.  She cites to an interview, but I’ve misplaced the rest of that note for the moment, and for some odd reason the page with the citation isn’t included on Google Books (the pain of internet research, to get to the information you need out of the haystack, and find that particular needle has been intentionally removed).  Read Dewberry, though, for a much longer and informative discussion about hoaxes and fakery in journalism, which is the problem discussed in this post.

Don’t let your friends be bamboozled, pass the word:


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So, did you hear the one about burning Bibles on Halloween?

October 24, 2009

No kidding.  Some group in North Carolina plans to burn Bibles on Halloween.

Funny part, or ironic part:  It’s a church doing the burning.

And in case you’re hungry, “We will be serving Bar-b-Que chicken, fried chicken, and all the sides.”

Tip of the old scrub brush to Dispatches from the Culture Wars — great comments there, including this one, a favorite of mine:  “I’m going to have to address the menu, however: Chicken is not even mentioned in Leviticus.

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What is a kilosteve? Buy the t-shirt, find out

October 24, 2009

You can get your kilosteve t-shirt here.

Why would you want one?

Every scientist named Steve should have one -- and so should you!

Every scientist named Steve should have one -- and so should you! (Front)

Because it puts you in the company of distinguished scientists who stoutly defend the teaching of good science to children, so they can go on to become great scientists themselves.

Plus, it’s a poke in the eye to the Texas State Board of Education, none of whom are named Steve, and few of whom would be invited to sign on if they were.

Here’s the back of the shirt:

KiloSteve t-shirt, back side.  1,099 total Steves. (Back)

KiloSteve t-shirt, back side. 1,099 total Steves. (Back)

A kilosteve is a thousand Steves.

Creationists fondly distributed a list of scientists who, they claimed, question whether the theory of evolution is accurate.  The anti-science Discovery Institute in Seattle distributed the list starting in about 2001, with a few hundred names.

To claims that many scientists opposed teaching evolution, NCSE created a list of scientists who support teaching evolution theory — but limiting that list to scientists with the first name “Steve,” or a derivative of Steve.  About 1% of people in the English-speaking world have such a name — so the fact that more scientists named Steve sign the list supporting evolution, than those of all names who sign the list denying it, means that the Discovery Institute list represents less than 1% of all scientists.

A comparison of the lists is always instructive.  In 2003 I started phoning people listed on the Discovery Institute list; of the first 20 I called, ten denied having signed any petition against evolution.  One demanded his name be removed.  Five made a modest defense of being skeptical of evolution, but none of them were biologists, and none had any publications which questioned any part of evolution in any way.

NCSE started the project in 2003, not long after the death of Stephen Jay Gould, the staunch defender of science and evolution who was the main witness in the first creationism trial, in Arkansas in 1981.  It’s a fitting memorial to a fine teacher.

Eugenie Scott heads up NCSE.  In an e-mail this week to members of Texas Citizens for Science, who were discussing the kilosteve shirt, she noted it has already spread overseas.

Just wanted you to know that when I gave my talk at Cambridge University Tuesday, Steve #800 walked into the lecture room wearing his kilosteve shirt.

A proud moment!

(Of course I threw open my arms and said in a cheery voice, “STEVE!!!”)

It almost makes one wish one’s name were Steve.  (One also may wonder, who is Steve #800?) The shirt’s a great buy, especially considering that for the price of a kilosteve, one actually gets 1.099 kilosteves.  (As of today, there are 1,118 Steves who have signed the list.)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, which noted the achievement of the kilosteve when it actually happened, and to Texas Citizens for Science, just for the heck of it..

You came to this blog, and all you got was a plug for a lousy t-shirt; share your displeasure:

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Quote of the moment: DDT causing bed bug problems, Malcolm Gladwell

October 24, 2009

m

English: ID#: 11739 Description: This digitall...

This digitally-colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed on the ventral surface of a bedbug, Cimex lectularius. From this view you can see the insect’s skin piercing mouthparts it uses to obtain its blood meal, as well as a number of its six jointed legs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then the Malaysians started to complain about bedbugs, and it turns out what normally happens is that ants like to eat bedbug larvae,” McWilson Warren said. “But the ants were being killed by the DDT and the bedbugs weren’t–they were pretty resistant to it. So now you had a bedbug problem.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, “The Mosquito Killer, New Yorker Magazine, July 2, 2001; Annals of Public Health


“Not Evil, Just Wrong” opens to thunderous silence

October 24, 2009

It’s the air conditioning one hears, not applause.

Did your local newspaper review the movie?  Odds are the movie didn’t play in your town (did it play anywhere other than local Republican clubs?).

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” promoters and producers appear to have abandoned hopes for a wide-scale debut of their film on October 18, instead choosing direct-to-DVD release in order to salvage something from the effort.

Well, they can take solace in the fact that the John Birch Society, itself trying to rise from the dead, liked the film according to the comments in The New American.  But even the Birch Society reviewer watched it on DVD, not on a big screen.

At the Birch Society site I responded, and will be astounded to see if it stays (in three parts).  The review started out noting that if one asks a friend to explain the cap-and-trade system of controlling carbon air emissions, one is not likely to find that one’s friend fully understands the ins and outs of government regulation of air pollution, commodities markets, and deep economics (why should they?).

Ask a friend or associate, “Can you explain ‘cap and trade?’” More than likely you will be astounded at what a poor grasp (if any) he or she has of the subject, even though the future of our economy and even our country hinges to a large extent on whether or not cap-and-trade legislation passes or not.

I said:

Ask a friend to explain the right to bear arms, and you’re likely to get a bad explanation, too.

Does that mean the Second Amendment is evil?  I don’t think so.

This movie ["Not Evil, Just Wrong"] is greatly riddled with errors, and it presents a false portrait of science, history, and government.

For example:

In one scene that made one want to throw bottles at the TV set, a well-to-do environmentalist showed no concern to a Ugandan mother, Fiona Kobusingye-Boynes, over the loss of her child to malaria, a disease that was almost eliminated by the use of DDT, but then resurged when the EPA banned DDT’s exportation and insisted other countries adopt the same policy.

When DDT was heavily used in Africa, about two million people a year died from the disease.  Today?  About one million die.  The rates aren’t low enough, but does the movie need to lie about history to make a point?  Why?

Malaria was never close to being eliminated with DDT.  Most of the nations that got rid of malaria did it with the combination of better housing (with screens), better health care, and concentrated programs to attack mosquitoes to hold populations down long enough that the pool of malaria in humans could be wiped out.  Mosquitoes get malaria from humans — if there is no malaria in humans, mosquito bites are benign.

DDT was never used in an eradication effort in most nations of Africa, because the governments were unable to get a campaign to fight the disease on all fronts as necessary.  Do we know whether DDT was used in Uganda prior to 1967?

And if it was, are we really supposed to believe that Idi Amin refused to use DDT out of respect for little birdies and fishies, while killing and [it is often said] personally eating his countrymen?

I don’t think that environmentalists are the root of the problem in today’s malaria rates in Uganda, and any perusal of history suggests a dozen other culprits who could not be considered lesser threats by any stretch.

Now the death toll of malaria victims worldwide, but mainly in Third World countries, mostly young children, is estimated by the World Health Organization to be one million per year.

Near the lowest in 200 years.

Recently the World Health Organization, under strong pressure from human rights organizations, particularly in Africa and Asia, rescinded its ban on the pesticide that has been shown in test after test to be harmless to humans and animals, including birds.

WHO never had a ban on the use of DDT.  DDT didn’t work well.  It’s foolish to require malaria fighting agencies to use tools that don’t work.  [Ooooh.  I forgot to note the junk science claim that DDT is harmless to humans and animals -- were it harmless, why should we use it?  It's odd to see the John Birch Society organ campaigning so actively to kill America's symbol, the bald eagle.  Are they really that evil, or just that poorly informed?]

The environmentalists continue to push to overturn this ruling, regardless of its toll in human misery and death.

[Gee. I should have responded, "The environmentalists continue to push this goal even as malaria deaths and infections drop -- regardless the improvement in human health and reduction of misery and death."]

Environmentalists have been lobbying since 1998 to allow DDT use in extremely limited circumstances, with controls to protect human health (the National Academy of Sciences notes that DDT, though among the most useful substances ever created, is more dangerous than helpful, and must be eliminated). [I should have noted here, "Opposition came from the George W. Bush administration."]  In the past three years opposition to DDT use in Uganda has come from large agricultural companies, tobacco growers and unnamed groups of “businessmen” who sued to stop DDT use.

Africans have been free to use DDT since the substance’s discovery, and some nations used it extensively throughout the period since 1946.  Interestingly, they also experienced a resurgence of malaria anyway. If Africans want to use DDT, let them use it.

In the interim, tests across Africa demonstrate that bed nets are more effective than DDT, and cheaper.  DDT alone cannot help Africa much; bed nets alone help a lot.  But eradicating malaria will require great improvements in the delivery of health care to quickly and properly diagnose malaria, and provide complete treatments of the disease in humans to wipe out the pool of disease from which the little bloodsuckers get it in the first place.

This film is not interested in helping Africans, however.  The film’s producers are interested in trying to make hay besmirching the reputations of people who campaign for a clean environment.

How long is this film?  90 minutes, IMDB saysUNICEF notes that a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.  So while you watch this film, 180 children will die from malaria, and you will have done absolutely nothing to stop the next one from dying.

Send $10 to Nothing But Nets instead.

Look at it this way:  Every sale of the DVD of “Not Evil, Just Wrong,” deprives Nothing But Nets of a donation of two more life-saving bed nets.  So every sale of this DVD more than doubles the chances that another kid in Africa will die from malaria.

Help ban ignorance about world affairs:

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Neil Shubin describes your “inner fish” – the evolutionary journey of the human body

October 23, 2009

More resources:


News flash: Dallas 5th graders not ready for college? How about middle school?

October 23, 2009

It’s not so much of a “Duh!” moment as you might think.

Studies by the Dallas Independent School District indicate that about half of all Dallas fifth grades students are not on the development arc they need to be on to be ready for college upon graduation seven years later.  Half of fifth graders are not even ready for middle school.

As Dallas schools focus on getting all students ready for college, they face a daunting challenge uncovered by a new district tracking system: Almost half of fifth-graders are not even ready for middle school.

Roughly 52 percent of the fifth-graders were considered “on track for middle school” at the end of their elementary years in 2008-09, according to a Dallas Morning News analysis of data recently released by the school district.

That seriously impinges on my ability to teach them what they need to know when I get them.

Here’s the newspaper article from the Dallas Morning News.  Here’s school-by-school data.

I predict DISD will take hits for “failing” instead of getting plaudits for finding a root source of a much bigger problem that manifests later.  Stay tuned.

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Naomi Oreskes: The lecture Lord Monckton slept through, which he hopes you will not see

October 23, 2009

Here’s another example of where historians show their value in science debates.

Naomi Oreskes delivered this lecture a few years ago on denialism in climate science.  Among other targets of her criticism-by-history is my old friend Robert Jastrow.  I think her history is correct, and her views on the Marshall Institute and denial of climate change informative in the minimum, and correct on the judgment of the facts.

You’ll recognize some of the names:  Jastrow, Frederick Seitz, S. Fred Singer, and William Nierenberg.

Oreskes details the intentional political skewing of science by critics of the serious study of climate warming.  It’s just under an hour long, but well worth watching.  Dr. Oreskes is Professor of History in the Science Studies Program at the University of California at San Diego.  The speech is titled “The American Denial of Global Warming.”

If Oreskes is right — and I invite you to check her references thoroughly, to discover for yourself that her history and science are both solid — Lord Monckton is a hoaxster.  Notice especially the references after the 54 minute mark to the tactic of claiming that scientists are trying to get Americans to give up our sovereignty.

Nothing new under the sun.

“Global warming is here,  and there are almost no communists left,” Oreskes said.

Nudge your neighbor:

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Texas State Dinosaur an affront to creationists

October 22, 2009

Texas has a new State Dinosaur.

Scientists are working to make a good model of the beast for the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, as reported in the October 6 Fort Worth Star-Telegram (often referred to locally as the “Startle-gram,” but still one of America’s good-to-great newspapers).  David Casstevens reported:

The official state dinosaur would look big even inside Cowboys Stadium.

The creature stood 15 feet tall at the shoulders.

Sixty feet long, head to tail, it weighed 20 tons or more.

Sadly, despite being native to Texas, the species lived and died without ever tasting brisket.

“It was a herbivore,” paleontologist Dale Winkler said.

The quadrupedal sauropod — sort of a giant prehistoric giraffe — was the state’s first vegetarian.

Winkler, an SMU professor, stood with several other men around a workbench inside a building west of Azle, arms folded, their eyes studiously fixed on a rare and wondrous object, the skull that once contained the very small brain of Paluxysaurus jonesi.

They are members of a team that is meticulously reconstructing the dinosaur’s framework.

An articulated skeleton of the beast, which roamed this part of the country more than 100 million years ago, will become the centerpiece of DinoLabs, a dinosaur exhibit at the new $80 million Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, which opens Nov. 20.

Texas is the ample belly of the nation’s Bible Belt, don’t you know.  Creationists could not let such science endeavors proceed without their version of a blessing, provided in this case by a letter to the editor by a local guy named Richard Hollerman:

Unwarranted assumptions

David Casstevens’ Oct. 6 story tells of work to restore a dinosaur, Paluxysaurus jonesi, that will soon have its place in the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. (See: “Dinosaur skeleton to lead exhibit”)

Thousands of professing Christians, including scientists with advanced degrees, deny basic elements of his account and views held by unbelieving paleontologists. (1) Consistent Christians believe God created dinosaurs relatively recently — about 6,000 years ago — whereas skeptical scientists assert they lived 100 million years ago. (2) Christians contend that dinosaurs were created as dinosaurs instead of evolving from prehistoric life that spontaneously sprang from nonlife 3 billion years ago. (3) Consistent Christians believe that dinosaurs became extinct after the worldwide Noaic flood 4,500 years ago.

We totally reject the unfounded assertion that this dinosaur “roamed this part of the country more than 100 million years ago” — as the reporter asserts. The discerning reader can verify this by consulting the Institute for Creation Research ( www.icr.org), Answers in Genesis ( www.answersingenesis.org), Apologetics Press ( www.apologeticspress.org) and others showing the fallacy of the evolution model and reasonableness of recent creation, along with the creation and extinction of dinosaurs.

I encourage the Star-Telegram to report these findings in a way that harmonizes with established facts instead of blindly accepting unfounded assertions by unbelieving paleontologists.

— Richard Hollerman, Richland Hills

You should be impressed that so many other local residents have differing views.  The newspaper published several letters in response to Hollerman, on October 17:

Good science vs. non-science

After reading Richard Hollerman’s Oct. 14 letter, “Unwarranted assumptions,” I gather that he believes that only atheist scientists think that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old.

That is incorrect. The vast majority of scientists, regardless of religious beliefs, think that the evidence is overwhelming that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old. If he needs some examples of scientists who are Christian, specifically evangelical Christians, I would point out Mary Schweitzer, Keith Miller, Francis Collins, Richard G. Colling and Stephen J. Godfrey, who are biologists and paleontologists and are also evangelical Christians. Were it not for space limitations I could list thousands more.

This is not about belief vs. disbelief. It is about good science vs. non-science.

— Bill Robinson, Arlington

Hollerman and “thousands of professing Christians” have declared that their religious beliefs trump science, and they have a constitutional right to their notions. On top of that, they also have their churches, family units, private schools, home schooling, colleges that teach pseudo-science and the amazing Creation Museums in which Noah built a third tier on the “ark” to keep dinosaurs at a respectful distance. Fine.

Those of us who do not share the beliefs of “thousands” ask only that you use the aforementioned resources to educate your young, accustom yourselves to the thought of life in a Third World country and leave the rest of us alone!

— Jackie Bell, River Oaks

According to creationists, science is correct about the following:

Chemistry, computer science, mathematics, engineering, sociology, systems science, psychology, medicine, nuclear science, agronomy, astronomy, nanotechnology, acoustics, biophysics, condensed matter physics, electronics, fluid dynamics, geophysics, plasma physics, vehicle dynamics, solar astronomy, meteorology, limnology, soil science, toxicology, marine biology, parasitology, anatomy, biochemistry, structural biology, entomology, cetology, phylogeny, algebra, calculus, cartography, geopolitics, criminology, agriculture, language engineering, pathology, pediatrics, nutrition, physical therapy and dermatology.

But for some reason, according to creationists, science is wrong about evolution. How is that even possible?

— Mark Stevens, Fort Worth

Millions of professing Christians, including intelligent people from all religions and all walks of life, view the basic elements of paleontology as reasonable and logical. (1) Bones found in the different layers of soil show a chronological time line extending much further than 6,000 years ago. (2) Evolution is an observable, rational concept that is ongoing even in today’s “educated” world. (3) Claims that dinosaurs became extinct in a worldwide flood 4,500 years ago are laughable.

Uneducated Christians contend that dinosaurs became extinct in the Noaic flood, yet if you read the Bible it says Noah took two of every animal into the ark to preserve the different species. Did he overlook dinosaurs? Were they deemed unfit to survive by God?

Being raised as a Southern Baptist, I was taught that God guided evolution to fit His plan. Even the most devout Christians in my church had enough intelligence to see the facts that were right before their eyes. I encourage Star-Telegram readers to open their minds and their eyes to prevent the corruption of future generations and find a way to harmonize their beliefs with established facts instead of blindly accepting unfounded fantasies from uneducated Christians.

— Terry Brennan, Haltom City

I sat in total amazement after reading Hollerman’s letter disagreeing with the history of the Paluxysaurusjonesi. To cite Genesis as a historical reference is almost laughable, except for the fact that there are people who honestly believe the Adam and Eve story of creation. To believe that humans lived in this form, only with less clothing, millions of years ago is incredulous to say the least.

I give thanks that there is a science that disproves these myths. Why can’t these folks see the divine spirit in the creation and evolution of life forms on our planet, rather than actually believing what is in the Bible literally? I find it exciting that there are higher forms of being, and that new knowledge is being revealed every moment of every day.

— Betsy Stell, Arlington

I don’t know whom Hollerman was referring to in his letter when he wrote about “Consistent Christians.” I guess he means “fundamentalists” since they’re the only ones who believe in Bronze Age myths rather than modern science. Or perhaps he means people who believe the pseudo-science in the silly, anti-evolution Christian fundamentalist Web sites he cited.

The truth, of course, is that every scientific discipline from archeology to zoology contributes to the vast body of knowledge and huge amount of evidence supporting evolution. Thanks, Star-Telegram, for publishing facts and not allegorical stories written by Middle Eastern tribesmen thousands of years ago.

— Terry McDonald, Grapevine

I was impressed by the Star-Telegram’s reporting on the restoration of the fossil Paluxysaurus jonesi by the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. The article gave the facts and some feel-good information about the people involved in the reconstruction of the dino fossil.

However, Hollerman’s letter would be a joke if it weren’t for the fact that so many people really do think that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and will deny the fact that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. It has been proven by scientific method.

Creationists have a distorted view because the one book that they use (written 2,000 years ago by primitives) disagrees with the science that proves the existence of natural history. The age of this fossil is not unfounded but rests on the work of many thousands of scientists over a couple of hundred years in scores of different scientific disciples. The scientific method that is used to vet new and existing research is a crucible that is used to sort facts from fallacy and has been used to debunk fake, false and misleading science for a couple of hundred years.

We would still be living in caves without the scientific and technological advances that we enjoy today. I applaud the Star-Telegram for its fair and unbiased science reporting. Keep it up.

— Charlie Rodriguez, Arlington

Meanwhile, e-mails between members of Texas Citizens for Science chase another interesting facet:  Where in Texas is there enough Jurassic rock to support such a find?

Oh, those scientists!

More information:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Annette Carlisle, a member of Texas Citizens for Science.

Cast away a note in a bottle, in the Paluxy River:


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