School issued computers as spy devices

February 20, 2010

Anyone with a school-issued computer ought to check it over, now.  And maybe put a towel over the thing.  Unplug it, and take the battery out.

And, oh, do I wish I had an AP Government class to discuss this with!

Did you hear the one about Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, school officials spying on students’ bedrooms?

Good discussion at the Volokh Conspiracy:  “Big Teacher Is Watching You?

According to the Complaint in Robbins v. Lower Merion School District (filed a week ago),

2. Unbeknownst to [high school students and their parents], and without their authorization, [high school officials] have been spying on the activities of [the students] by Defendants’ indiscrimina[te] use of and ability to remotely activate the webcams incorporated into each laptop issued to students by the School District….23…. Plaintiffs were for the first time informed of [this] capability and practice by the School District when … an Assistant Principal at Harriton High School[] informed minor Plaintiff that the School District was of the belief that minor Plaintiff was engaged in improper behavior in his home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in minor Plaintiff’s personal laptop issued by the School District….

24. [The minor Plaintiff’s father] thereafter verified, through [the Assistant Principal], that the School District in fact has the ability to remotely activate the webcam contained in a students’ personal laptop computer issued by the School District at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.

If this was indeed done, and if it was done without adequately notifying the students and their parents, this was clearly tortious, likely a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and possibly a statutory violation as well (though I haven’t looked closely at the statutory details). It is also appalling — school officials spying on children in their parents’ homes without the children’s and parents’ permission. Who thinks up such things?

Who thinks them up, and can we get them to wear a badge so we know they’re not in our school?

Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culture Wars already is on the story — a few good comments there.

A statement from the Lower Merion School District generally ignores the specifics of the allegations in the case, and claims that the monitoring of the self-contained web-cams was done only when a computer was reported stolen.  In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that a student was reprimanded for behaviors caught on the camera, while the student was at home.  The statement is very much what we would expect from a rich district caught doing something wrong after getting better advice from their attorneys than they thought they needed before they did the wrong thing.

An Associated Press story (here in the Washington Post) said the FBI has opened an investigation into whether school officials violated anti-wiretapping laws.

The suit filed is a civil suit.  Assuming its allegations to be correct, I think the plaintiffs may want to add RICO sections to the complaint.  Under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act a pattern of practices like illegal use of the webcams could easily be evidence to trigger RICO  penalties, which included treble damages.  Such a charge would also scare the textbooks out of school officials thinking they might want to do this in the future.

Comments at the Volokh Conspiracy, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, and in the AP story in the WaPo all raised the spectre of child pornography.  If the computers caught images of children in their bedrooms, it might automatically qualify as child porn — and this would greatly complicate the case, and ramp up the noise surrounding it.

School districts who issue laptops to students, or teachers, should review the story and their own procedures and regulations.


Reaction to the Millard Fillmore dollar

February 20, 2010

Millard Fillmore’s dollar got a bit of coverage — well, more than the dollar for Zachary Taylor, so far as I can tell.  It was not a big story.

The Wall Street Journal carried a page 1 feature. Some of the most fun coverage came out of local newspapers in Buffalo and Moravia, New York.

From the Berkshire-Hathaway-owned Buffalo News:

MORAVIA — When the U.S. Mint wanted to unveil a new $1 Millard Fillmore coin, it went to the 13th president’s birthplace to do the honors.

That’s this town of 4,000 in the Finger Lakes, where about a quarter of the population turned out Thursday to pay tribute to their favorite son.

But what about Buffalo, where he served as the University of Buffalo’s first chancellor and helped found a historical society and a hospital?

No problem. The same U.S. Mint official came to Buffalo to hold a second unveiling in Fillmore’s adopted hometown, where about three dozen people showed up at City Hall.

And in the Auburn, New York, Citizen, a story of a crowd much larger than anticipated:

MORAVIA – With close to 1,000 witnesses watching, a young Millard Fillmore impersonator and his equally sprite make-believe wife Abigail poured from a wooden bucket a stream of coins bearing the face of the 13th president and Moravia native.

The United States Mint Thursday released its 13th presidential dollar coin, honoring Millard Fillmore, at a ceremony in the Moravia Junior Senior School cafeteria, which was not large enough to accommodate the crowd of community members who had come to celebrate a president whose national legacy is not legendary, but whose roots are their roots.

“This is a grand, grand event,” Moravia Mayor Gary Mulvaney said, as he waited in a line that started at the cafeteria doors and wound through the school.

James P. McCoy’s photos of the unveiling and the large mockup of the dollar itself are good (you could steal them for a PowerPoint in your classroom), but I especially enjoyed the pictures in the Auburn paper, by Sam Tenney.  Two middle school students played Abigail and Millard Fillmore at the ceremony in Moravia.

Eleanor Younger, 10, and Colton Langtry, 12, portraying Abigail Powers Fillmore and Millard Fillmore, help Andy Brunhart, deputy director of the United States Mint, pour a bucket of $1 coins - Sam Tenney photo, Auburn, NY Citizen

Caption from the Auburn, New York, Citizen: "Eleanor Younger, 10, and Colton Langtry, 12, portraying Abigail Powers Fillmore and Millard Fillmore, help Andy Brunhart, deputy director of the United States Mint, pour a bucket of $1 coins bearing Fillmore's likeness during a ceremony celebrating the release of the coin Thursday morning at Moravia High School. The Fillmore coin is the 13th in a series honoring past presidents." Photo by Sam Tenney, Auburn, NY, Citizen

Uncharacteristically, the U.S. Mint offered some of the $1.00 coins to students for free — perhaps the only recorded time that the Mint has handed out money for free.

Looks like they had a good time.

Joanne Nova can’t stand the heat

February 19, 2010

Oh, it’s a piffle in the grand scheme of things.  But it’s indicative of the inherent, apparently congenital dishonesty in warming contrarians and denialists.

At Joanne Nova’s site, I’ve dropped quite a few information bombs, in comments.  Well, they treat information as if it would kill them, and I have hopes it might at least leak through into their minds, so I continued for a couple of days.

But it’s like “teaching the old pig to sing” joke.  The punchline says that it’s a waste of time because the pig will never sing well, you can really knock yourself out trying, and it annoys the pig.

I got a ping on a follow-up message.  Some guy commented that he couldn’t figure the site out, because after I post something with solid scientific information, they dismiss it, ignore it, and generally pick themselves up after running into the facts, and run the other way as if nothing had happened.


<!––>February 18th, 2010 at 10:04 pm<!––>

I just read through a large part of this turgid “debate”.

It’s astounding stuff.

Ed Darell provides case after case after case of detailed references from the scientific and legal debates and the rest of you run around squawking “show us the evidence” over and over again as if you don’t understand that what he is writing IS providing the evidence.

Do none of you actually speak english? Can’t you read? Do you not understand the concept of providing evidence, or are you not bothering to comprehend, just shouting him down? That’s about the only conclusion I can draw.

And then the person who runs this blog leaps in and bans people for refusing to agree with her… Well, I suppose it’s her blog and her ball and if you don’t play by her rules, you can just go home…
Unbelievable, really.

I should have known a kommitted kommissar like Nova couldn’t let my earlier post go without twisting it.  She responded:

Joanne Nova said:

Joanne Nova
–>February 19th, 2010 at 2:54 am<!––>

I see you’re faking it right from the start. If you’d read the whole “debate” you’d know that Ed has been pinged for many things, including relying on the PSBG, and even had to apologize for baseless insults.


““OK, I recognize that any cause of warming would melt glaciers, change weather patterns, and shift crops etc etc. None of these things is evidence that carbon is the cause of that warming. I was mixing up cause and effect. Point taken. Sorry for calling you drunk or dense or suggesting you have a mental disease.”

Time to let the pig go back to its mud, eh?  That wasn’t my intent.  I copied her words, but noted where I disagreed (you can read it here, perhaps, if she lets it stand.)

So I responded:

Ed Darrell

<!—->: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
<!––>February 19th, 2010 at 6:02 am<!––>

I clearly should have been more clear.

I didn’t mean to imply mental disease where it doesn’t exist. However, denialism may well be a symptom of disease. Warming denialism is like all tinfoil hattery, not so much a political stand as a symptom of something underlying. Mental disease? Perhaps.

Yes, any cause of global warming would melt glaciers, change weather patterns, and shift crops. None of this is, alone, evidence that carbon causes the warming. However, there is no more likely culprit than the set of greenhouse gases that cause such global warming. Cause and effect are not necessarily the same thing — the scientific evidence points to the increase in human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases as creating the mess we’re heading into.

Sorry for calling you drunk if you’re not. Sorry for implying you have disease if you don’t. That leaves only genuine skepticism, not politically motivated, or stupidity, or evil intent. Drunk or dense might be the better and more polite excuse, but Nova doesn’t believe it.

I got here on a link showing the astounding lies of Christopher Monckton about Rachel Carson, Jackie Kennedy and DDT. Since I can’t say Monckton was drunk or diseased, and since he lacks the science or history chops to be an informed skeptic, we must assume him to be evil. Why Nova promotes his statements escapes me.

I apologized for baseless insults, but cannot apologize for those with firm foundation.

As you can see from the note on moderation, they  pounced on my remarks and closed them off from view.

YODA – Moderator

<!––>February 19th, 2010 at 6:37 am<!––>

Ed Darrell,

Your latest comment has been put into moderation. Jo will review it and make a decision accordingly

YODA – Moderator

If only it were Yoda instead of someone short, with a desire to be magical, but no light sabre or serious Jedi training.

They can’t defend Monckton’s insults of America and Jackie Kennedy, nor his ignorant insults of Rachel Carson.  They know that.  Censorship is the only way out for them.

Is that also true for warming?  Nova doesn’t encourage discussion in any fashion.  (It is rather sobering to see so many willing to give up their fleeces and follow along, though, isn’t it?)

My sole defender said:

<!––>February 19th, 2010 at 9:08 am<!––>

A couple of responses – although I have no intention of engaging in this discussion on a sustained basis. Life is too short. I don’t have the patience – unlike Ed Darrell, who seems to have limitless reserves of patience and politeness in dealing with the frequently abusive and nonsensical responses to his calm, respectful, logical, and evidence-based comments.

Farmer Dave says that I “seem a little upset” – an interesting rhetorical trope – place yourself in a superior, condescending position and devalue your opponent’s words by implying that they are the result of excessive emotion rather than rationality – it’s a flavour of ad hominem technique, I suppose. That trope certainly seems to get a substantial use in this arena – maybe it’s in someone’s “Big book of hints on how to derail discussion when you have no actual arguments” – like the one that goes “ignore any evidence that anyone provides and just keep chanting ’show us the evidence’”.

You (jonova)say that

Ed has been pinged for many things, including relying on the PSBG, and even had to apologize for baseless insults.

(I presume you mean the PBSG) – I guess if relying on the statements of actual scientific bodies is a justification for blocking someone, i shouldn’t be expecting rationality… I haven’t read all of the discussion – but I see no evidence of you blocking anyone other than people who disagree with you, no matter how abusive and irrelevant your supporters get. When discussion gets mildly robust, it always leaves scope to fabricate those sort of charges against those who disagree with you, while ignoring the sins of your own supporters. I guess it’s easy to get away with that kind of patent intellectual dishonesty when you’re only singing to the choir.

Roy Hogue, one of the main sty denizens there, claimed that nameless and faceless European bureaucrats were threatening his freedom.  I asked him how, and here’s his latest tally of his loss of freedom, showing up just after my latest banning:

It’s now quite illegal to sell or install CFCs in the United States. It’s a federal crime with penalties attached.

So there you have it, folks.  If you allow the warming warnings to take effect and let us try to make cleaner air to save our planet, you’ll have to pay the incredibly stiff penalty of . . . changing your refrigerant.

That’s a penalty any of us should be happy to pay.  That these guys see that as a serious infringement of their freedom only demonstrates how blinded they are, perhaps by the slipping tinfoil hats.

Are we burning that bridge?  With a bit of sadness, perhaps.  They may need that bridge to save their tails someday.

It’s unlikely they’d know it, though.

My comment is still in “moderation.”  When telling the truth needs to be “moderated,” the problem isn’t with the facts of the matter.

If they can’t stand the heat, maybe they should let the policy makers do something about the warming, eh?

Update: I’m up early, gotta do some hard thinking about Woodrow Wilson for a seminar today, and I find this posted over at Nova’s site:

Joanne Nova

<!––>February 20th, 2010 at 3:57 pm<!––>

Ed Darrell, I’m getting help to manage the hundreds of comments coming in. We’re still working out a system, so your comment has been released from moderation.

You however still appear irrational.

I think I have to agree with Alexander Pope on that issue:

All seems infected that the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.

Nova again:

You make assumptions we have asked you back up:
“the scientific evidence points to the increase in human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases as creating the mess we’re heading into.

You cannot provide any other evidence other than climate simulations, and I have already explained why these are inadequate. We need empirical evidence.

I make assumptions?  I make assumptions?

I don’t assume, as your prophet Monckton claims, that Jack Kennedy came back from the dead to appoint his “good friend,” William Ruckelshaus, to head the EPA, an agency created seven years after Kennedy’s death, as Nova apparently does (Nova hasn’t defended any of the DDT insanity from Monckton — she can’t, of course, so she’s trying to deflect).  I don’t assume anything, except some degree of intelligence and civility in most people — an assumption Nova is doing her best to batter.

Nova dismisses out of hand the papers by Australian scientists showing how and why Australia’s wildfires are results of greenhouse-gas-caused climate change.  If all the evidence is ruled out of bounds, then she’s right.

Try to post a serious argument there.

Remember, my sole point was that Monckton can’t be trusted, a claim I make based on his astounding and continuing falsehoods about DDT, malaria and the environmental movement.  Nova contests none of that, but accuses me of not providing evidence to other points.

Were I to be so cruel as Monckton, I’d ask whether she had to chew through the leather restraints to post that.  But I won’t.

Before you can post again, please explain:
1. Are you still calling us “deniers”

She’s defending a guy who regularly calls scientists, Nobel winners, and anyone who questions anything he does “bed wetters” and is proud of it.

Am I pointing out you deny the evidence, Nova?  Damn straight.

Does that make you a “denier?”  I think it’s indicative of a syndrome.  Over here in the U.S., when public figures get caught like that, they often head off to an alcohol abuse treatment program.  Among the first steps of abuse correction is confession.

If I call you a “denier,” where does that description go awry, Ms. Nova?  You won’t accept the science I post, and now you won’t let me post unless I swear fealty to your odd brand of nonsensescience.

Why should anyone regard you as a major denier, lost in depths of denialism?   Where is there any indication that you accept any part of science?

If “yes” then you may not post again since this is delusional as you cannot provide any evidence we deny and have not acknowledged that your past effort to provide evidence was woefully inadequate.

I was unaware pigs wanted to sing.  I still see no evidence of it.  It’s that denialism thing, I think.  A pig denying it is Sus domesticus might be deluded into thinking it should be able to sing.

Nova’s explanation for why the Australian scientists were wrong about wildfires in Australia was an answer along the lines of “everyone knows” Australian fires are caused by Smokey the Bear’s overmanagement of wildlands.  No citation to anything at all, not even a newspaper article.

And she accuses me of providing no evidence.

Jack Rhodes explained the difficulties of coaching champion debate teams.  First a team has to learn to beat the average teams.  Then they must learn to beat the really good teams.  Finally, and most difficult, they must learn to defeat the really bad teams.  In the logical and evidence-laden world of intercollegiate debate at the time, a really bad team’s disorganized thoughts and fumbling arguments could draw good debaters off the track.

Nova’s tried to draw me off the track there.  She’s demonstrating a moral failure in her support of the serial and continuing falsehoods of Christopher Monckton.  Wholly apart from whether I could offer evidence of global warming to pass Nova’s jaundiced eye, it is a moral failure of Nova to support the falsehoods of the man, promote them as truths, and then engage in attacks on those who point out the errors.

It’s not an evidence failure we see at Nova’s blog so much as a failure of backbone, a moral failure to distinguish the dross that can mislead the masses from the gold that we need for policy.

I’m assuming Nova’s bright enough to make that distinction, of course.  She could shuffle off to an evidence abuse program and claim bright light addiction or somesuch.  But if we assume she’s not crazy or stupid, then her failing here is purely moral.  She refuses to entertain the idea that she might be wrong in any sense, crazy, stupid, or just not yet sufficiently evidenced.  If we believe her that far, moral failing is the only alternative.

If Nova wants to be seen as a serious non-denialist, she ought to act that way.

If “not” then talk of deniers applies to some other group, it’s not appropriate here. Go talk there.
2. You may apologise for wasting my time, and posting comments of sub-par logic along with baseless insults.

I regret your moderation is unfair, your characterizations of me inaccurate, and your science so poor as to be practically non-existent.  Should I be sorry for that?  Okay, I’m sorry your moderation is unfair, your characterizations wrong, and your beliefs unfounded.

I don’t think I should be apologizing for you, Joanne.  You have to do that yourself.

You may not post again until we resolve this. Unfortunately I have to discriminate against the mentally deficient who throw insults. There is only one of me, I’m trying to lift standards on logic and reason and cannot offer free therapy for those who are simply, possibly due to no fault of their own, unable to reason.

I can and will post freely wherever reasonable discussion is obtainable, Joanne.  I regret that is not your site.  Alas, again, I cannot do your apologies for you.

Dear Readers, you may head over to Nova’s site and try to educate the hard-headed Aussies and others there.  Don’t set your sites on long life on those boards.  I gather most of the rational Aussies avoid the place.  I wonder where sensible Aussies hang out?  [Roy Hogue?  Are you a troll or do you have serious questions?  If the latter, post the questions here.  I'll work to answer them.]

Joanne Nova may wish to decorate Millard Fillmore for his contributions to sanitary science in the White House, especially his personal plumbing of the first bathtub there.  It’s her right.  It’s not history, it’s not science, it’s not accurate, it’s not appropriate.  But it’s her right.

Utah legislator proposes insult to Martin Luther King, Jr.: Share the holiday with gun inventor and manufacturer

February 18, 2010

First:  No, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was not assassinated with a shot from a Browning rifle.  The gun alleged to have been used by the man convicted of the shooting, James Earl Ray, was a Remington Gamemaster 760.

It was found in a Browning box, however.

One of my Utah sources alerted me to this story, and I’ll let the conservative Deseret News give the facts:

Utah Legislature: Utah to get gun holiday on MLK day?

Holding both holidays on the same day was proposed as a money-saving measure, Niederhauser said. Madsen was not immediately available for comment.

By Lisa Riley Roche

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 8:46 p.m. MST
SALT LAKE CITY — The birthday of famed Ogden gunmaker John Browning would be celebrated as a state holiday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day under a new bill.

SB247, sponsored by Sen. Mark Madsen, R-Eagle Mountain, has yet to be drafted but is titled “John M. Browning State Holiday.”

According to Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, the holiday would be observed on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the third Monday of every January.

King was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and assassinated in 1968. Browning’s birthday is believed to be around Jan. 21, and he died at age 71 in 1926. Jenkins acknowledged there is concern about celebrating both men on the same day.

Utah lawmakers had been criticized for beginning their annual legislative session on the same day as the King holiday until the state constitution was changed in 2008 to move the start date to the fourth Monday in January.

Then there is the question of whether a man who held 128 gun patents should share a holiday with a reverend who, before he was shot and killed, used non-violence to promote civil rights.

But Jenkins said, “Guns keep peace.”

Jeanetta Williams, president of the NAACP’s Salt Lake branch, said she was “furious” about the possibility.

“It is not acceptable for the name John M. Browning to jointly share the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday,” she said. “Dr. King was assassinated by a man using a gun. John M. Browning was a gun manufacturer. … To me, it’s a very mean-spirited act. I’m not sure what is behind doing all of this.”

The NAACP has been involved with a number of legislative battles, particularly over the holiday’s name and a recent fight to have the Legislature delay its start so as not to overlap with the holiday.

“I am extremely adamant about not making any changes to this holiday,” Williams said. “We have fought too hard for this.”

Senate Minority Leader Pat Jones, D-Holladay, also questioned the idea.

“There’s probably many famous Utahns who might deserve their own day,” she said. “Let’s keep the day for someone who spent his life working in a peaceful manner for the goodwill of all Americans and not dilute the memory of his efforts.”

Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser said Madsen is open to moving the Browning holiday to a different day. “His main purpose is to honor John Browning,” Niederhauser said. “He’s a pioneer here in Utah.”  (Contributing: Aaron Falk)

Utah’s legislature can be pretty insulting in its intended actions.  I interned there in two different sessions.  Many of us recall that this legislature once proposed to rename the College of Southern Utah to avoid confusion about its acronym with a couple of other schools (Colorado State and Colorado Southern, among others).  The original bill would have renamed it “Southern Utah College.”

Alert interns picked up on the acronym problem right away, and the school was instead renamed Southern Utah State College (then University, now Southern Utah University).

Maybe we can find those interns, and alert the current legislature that they should not even consider this patently, blatantly offensive idea.


Millard Fillmore’s dollar picks up steam?

February 18, 2010

Buffalo Rising comments on the local events in Buffalo, New York, around the release of the Millard Fillmore dollar.

Oh, yeah, I forgot:  The U.S. Mint is giving away dollars to kids.  Free money.

Look at all the grousing about it in comments at Buffalo Rising.  Some people are never happy.  Not even with free money for the kids.

February 18: Millard Fillmore U.S. Dollar Day!

February 18, 2010

At a ceremony in Moravia, New York, today, the U.S. Mint will officially unveil and release the Millard Fillmore one-dollar coin.  Moravia is Fillmore’s birthplace.

Anna Prior’s story in the Wall Street Journal notes the contest between Moravia and nearby Buffalo for the heritage of Fillmore.  (Fillmore spent most of his life in Buffalo.)  All told and totalled, there may be more information out on Millard Fillmore in the newspapers today than you can find in most U.S. history texts.

Prior wrote:

Members of Moravia’s historical society say there’s more than enough Millard Fillmore to go around. Buffalo can claim Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president, who began his career there. “As a small town, we just have a few moments of history that are ours—and Fillmore is one of them,” says Roger Phillips, president of the Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society

Joyce Hackett Smith, former president of the historical society and a distant cousin of Fillmore’s, notes that the 13th president is more apt to be overlooked in a big city like Buffalo, which has a population of about 272,600, while every child at Millard Fillmore Elementary School in Moravia learns a lot about Fillmore.

“You ask a kid in Moravia, what was the first thing that Fillmore bought with the money he saved from working when he was young? They’ll tell you—a dictionary!” she says.

“We spent quite a lot of time in history class going over the things that Fillmore did,” says 57-year-old Lee Conklin, a lifelong Moravian and owner of an auto-parts store there. The late Robert Scarry, a Moravia history teacher, wrote a book detailing the president’s life.

Buy a newspaper today; buy a Wall Street Journal.  See if you get a Millard Fillmore dollar in change.


Becalmed in the Dallas Doldrums of the internet

February 16, 2010

Sorry about that.

Near the end of storm recovery in Dallas, on Sunday, our power went out.  Still out.

Well, at least partially.  I’ll leave it to the electricians, but we’ve lost all big power, 220-volts, to major appliances including the furnace and water heater, and half of our other house circuits, including the one that runs the DSL modem.

Posting will be slight while I shiver and curse and harangue Oncor Energy.

Fly your flag today: Presidents Day 2010

February 15, 2010

Fly your flag today.

White House at night

White House with U.S. flag at night; photo by Keith Stanley,

Residents of the United States celebrate Presidents Day today, a holiday that grew out of celebrations of the birthdays of both George Washington (February 22, 1732) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809), both of whom were born in February (under the “new” Gregorian calendar).

President’s Day is one of a score of dates Congress recognized in the Flag Code as appropriate for patriotic display of the U.S. flag.

Note:  Keith Stanley sells his photos, including this one of the White House at night.  You can view this one, and many more, and purchase copies, at Mr. Stanley’s website.

Fillmore dollar: Restoring Millard’s place in history?

February 15, 2010

Millard Fillmore dollar, released February 18, 2010 - image from

Millard Fillmore dollar, scheduled to be released to the public on February 18, 2010, at Fillmore's birthplace, Moravia, New York

A golden-hued dollar coin honoring our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, will be released to the public by the U.S. Mint this week.  A ceremony at Moravia Central School officially released the coin, in Moravia, New York, Fillmore’s birthplace.

The dollar makes no mention of H. L. Mencken nor Mencken’s hoax that has eclipsed Fillmore’s reputation for 93 years.  Can the dollar’s own shine do anything to improve the lustre of Fillmore’s reputation?

History teacher MCs ceremony reports that a local teacher of history will help with the unveiling in Moravia:

Fillmore was born only five miles east of Moravia. He served as the 13th President of the United States from 1850-1853 after assuming the office when President Zachary Taylor passed away. These were tremulous times for the country which was already on the verge of a civil war, postponed by the Compromise of 1850. Fillmore is credited with the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa effectively ending the isolationism of Japan.

US Mint Deputy Director Andrew Brunhart will present the new dollar at the ceremony. Master of Ceremonies will be local history teacher John Haight. Sheila Tucker, Cayuga County historian, is scheduled to speak.

Children 18 and under will receive a free Fillmore dollar while others may exchange dollar bills for the new coins. The Mint will also offer 25-coin rolls for $35.95 from either Philadelphia or Denver that may be ordered directly from its Web site (

Don Everhart designed the portrait of Millard Fillmore that is featured on the obverse or heads side. It also includes the inscriptions “MILLARD FILLMORE,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” “13TH PRESIDENT” and “1850-1853.”

Much of the ceremony is fitting.  Fillmore himself helped organize local historical societies and promote education — he was the first president of the Erie County Historical Association, and he is celebrated as the founder of the University of Buffalo.

Reverse view of the 2010 Millard Fillmore U.S. dollar

Reverse view of the 2010 Millard Fillmore U.S. dollar. Don Everhart designed both sides of the coin.

Coin information

Golden coloring of the coin comes from the alloyed metals that comprise the coin.  It is 77% copper, 12% zinc, 7% manganese, and 4% nickel.  Coins will be struck at all three coin minting plants, in Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco.

Coins can be ordered from the U.S. Mint.


Annals of global warming: Talking reason; how does the Colorado flow?

February 14, 2010

From the introduction to Colorado River Basin Water Management: Evaluating and Adjusting to Hydroclimatic Variability, Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB), National Academies Press (2007):

The 20th century saw a trend of increasing mean temperatures across the Colorado River basin that has continued into the early 21st century. There is no evidence that this warming trend will dissipate in the coming decades; many different climate model projections point to a warmer future for the Colorado River region.

Modeling results show less consensus regarding future trends in precipitation. Several hydroclimatic studies project that significant decreases in runoff and streamflow will accompany increasing temperatures. Other studies, however, suggest increasing future flows, highlighting the uncertainty attached to future runoff and streamflow projections. Based on analysis of many recent climate model simulations, the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests that warmer future temperatures will reduce future Colorado River streamflow and water supplies. Reduced streamflow would also contribute to increasing severity, frequency, and duration of future droughts.

Another warming contrarian who can’t/won’t shoot straight

February 12, 2010

Joanne Nova is, I gather, a former television personality in Australia now blogging away against science and the study of climate change at JoNova.  Here’s how far off the track she is:  She’s been sucked in by Monckton,  as some great scientist and hero — he whose biggest achievements are to call scientists “bedwetters” and attack the reputations of famous dead women (what is it about Monckton and dead women?).

Her latest post is a hoot. She’s claiming that the case for global warming is coming apart.  She illustrates it with this PhotoShop™ masterpiece (note the “JoNova” in the lower lefthand corner, and note it well):

JoNova's PhotoShop of Glen Canyon Dam for an article on wildly inaccurate claims about climate change; original photo copyright by Wild Nature Images.

JoNova defaces photo of Glen Canyon Dam. Original photo copyright by Wild Nature Images.

Glen Canyon Dam poses problems for serious advocates of environnmental protection for many reasons, not the least being the death of Glen Canyon.  This dam represents one of the greatest losses of the environmental movement.  That’s not why Nova chose the photos, I’m sure — I’d be surprised if she could find Glen Canyon on a map, and I’m all but certain she’s clueless about the controversy about the dam (don’t even wonder whether she’s ever read Ed Abbey).

Regardless where one stands on the issues around Glen Canyon Dam, one cannot look at this photo without seeing the white stripe from the water behind the dam, running about 50 feet up the canyon walls.

Check out the original, copyrighted photo here, at (and maybe buy a copy — it’s a great photo of the dam, Lake Powell and the area; no bluer sky anywhere).  I presume that, even with the huge “JoNova” on it, Nova will allow free duplication of her original work; but why didn’t she credit the guy who took the photo (Ron Niebrugge) and the people who put it on the internet for her (  Update:  Nova is giving credit, now.

The original, without comment, is at once more beautiful, more awe-striking, and more accurate a portrayal of the effects of climate than Nova’s doctored version:

Glen Canyon Dam - photo by Ron Niebrugge, at

Glen Canyon Dam, photo by Ron Niebrugge, at Displayed here with express written permission.

See, climate change is thought to be one of the culprits for that white line. Glen Canyon Dam is in straits right now, as is the Colorado River Compact that created the legal justification for constructing the dam, because precipitation in the mountains where the Colorado River is born has fallen dramatically in the past couple of decades — and Lake Powell has shrunk to a vestige of its former self, of its planned extent, of the extent hoped for in cooler times.

Lake Powell's drop, circa 2008, photo by Marco Ammannati via National Parks Traveler

Lake Powell's drop, circa 2008, photo by Marco Ammannati via National Parks Traveler. Caption from National Parks Traveler: "At Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, years of drought, possibly an indicator of climate change, have revealed Lake Powell's bathtub walls. Spring runoff, however, could soon make those bathtub walls vanish."

JoNova uses a photograph showing the harms of climate change, to claim that climate change does not occur.

Is this the stupidest anti-climate change statement ever made?

Offer your candidates for dumber or stupider claims below.  It’s time we started counting and cataloging.


What if we actually encouraged students to use technology?

February 12, 2010

This is the headline that roped me in, at The New York Times: “Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus into Rolling Study Hall.”

And a short excerpt:

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

What would your bus drivers say?

(File under “If you teach them, they will learn — and behavior problems will fade away.”)

Don’t miss the end of the article:

A ride through mountains on a drizzly afternoon can be unpredictable, even on the Internet Bus. Through the windows on the left, inky clouds suddenly parted above a ridge, revealing an arc of incandescent color.

“Dude, there’s a rainbow!” shouted Morghan Sonderer, a ninth grader.

A dozen students looked up from their laptops and cellphones, abandoning technology to stare in wonder at the eastern sky.

“It’s following us!” Morghan exclaimed.

“We’re being stalked by a rainbow!” Jerod said.


Buddy Guy’s Legends will move: Will Mount Bluesmore move, too?

February 11, 2010

Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy is moving his club, Buddy Guy’s Legends.  Guy’s club announced the move last September.

Buddy Guy's Legends, Today's Chicago Blues image

Buddy Guy's Legends, image from Today's Chicago Blues

We visited the club four years ago during the giant Midwest Clinic, where Duncanville’s Wind Ensemble debuted a tribute to Rosa Parks just a few days after her death (Samuel R. Hazo’s “Today Is the Gift”) and *spent a memorable evening going slightly deaf to the Kinsey Report.

Following federal law on how blues club should be, the walls tell stories of blues past, blues well-remembered, good blues players who visited, and stories of blues in general.  A neophyte can get a good education just looking at the walls in a good club.  One wall wore a painting of what could have been Mount Rushmore, which piqued my history radar — but in place of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, it had Chicago blues legends:  Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin’ Wolf.

Who knows the history of the image?  Did Buddy Guy hire it done?  Did someone do it as a serious tribute?  Was it an image done for a show in the distant past, just pasted onto the wall?

When I heard the club was moving, I feared for the thing, especially since I was not digital at the time and didn’t get a photo of it.  To my shock, I couldn’t find any images on the internet.

Then a couple of days ago I ran across a version of the the image, at Today’s Chicago Blues.  It’s appropriately called “Mount Bluesmore.”

But the same question remains:  Will it be saved with the new venue?

Mount Bluesmore, at Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago - image from Today's Chicago Blues

Mount Bluesmore, at Buddy Guy's Legends, Chicago - image from Today's Chicago Blues

Tip of the old scrub brush to Today’s Chicago Blues — go buy the book.

The Kinsey Report:

*  This isn’t blues, below, but it’s worth a listen; I believe it may even be Duncanville’s premiere of Hazo’s tribute to Rosa Parks — alas, without video of the band, and lacking a little on the bass end but otherwise showing off the Wind Ensemble’s performance flair:

Stained glass Scouting: Grand Canyon Council offices, Phoenix

February 11, 2010

Did I remember to tell you Scouting celebrates 100 years in the U.S. this year?

Stained glass Scout fleur de lis, Grand Canyon Council, B.S.A., offices, Phoenix (Decor to Adore photo)

Stained glass Scout fleur de lis, Grand Canyon Council, B.S.A., offices, Phoenix (Decor to Adore photo)

More photos of Grand Canyon Council, B.S.A., offices, at Decor to Adore.

Crib notes

February 10, 2010

Frank Cornish has some thoughts about the issue:

Sarah Palin's notes at the Tea Party convention

Photo from The Guardian

If she [Sarah Palin] wants to be president, fine, it’s a Republic not a monarchy and anyone who wants to throw his or her hat in the ring is welcome to do so.  They just need to raise money, get the supporters, convince the base of her party that if they nominate her then she will be able to push Obama out of the White House on a wave of popular support.  But then, once she is in office she will actually need to do something constructive for the country.  She will need to negotiate, and she will need to know what she is doing and what she is saying and she won’t be able to prepare for the negotiation session by putting a few phrases on her palm to remember  that “Cutting taxes good.”

The President will not be able to sit at a table in Geneva, or a summit in Rejkjavik with the leader of a Muslim nation with crib notes that say “Islam is Terrorism.”  The President will  not be able to sit with the Secretary of Education and say “We need to teach more Bible in Science Class because” (reading palm) “Genesis is the literal word of God.”

Santayana’s Ghost shifts uneasily.


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