Teachers, look! Cheaper, fun way to get giant whiteboards

June 30, 2011

It’s a great idea, but I didn’t even dare think it possible

We’ve had blackboard paint for at least a century.  Teachers at our school sometimes paint their closet doors, or part of a wall, to use as a chalkboard.

I prefer whiteboards, though.

Watching Neil deGrasse Tyson on Nova:  Science Now, I caught a reference to a researcher whose lab walls are all painted with “dry-erase” paint.  (The NOVA piece is the episode on how the brain works; this segment deals with researcher David Eagleman.)

Is that even possible?

Quick answer: Yes!

Check out applications ideas at IdeaPaint’s blog.

Lowe’s carries IdeaPaint, the stuff displayed in the graphic above.  It isn’t as cheap as other paint, but compared to the cost of a whiteboard, it’s pretty good.  RustOleum manufactures a version available at Home Depot and other outlets.  It’s advertised as cheap as $20 per kit online, but runs as high as $40.  One kit covers about 49 square feet (7 feet by 7 feet).  I’ve found at least five different manufacturers of the stuff, with different features.

I haven’t calculated prices (at about $3.25/square foot), but there are also dry-erase skins which can be applied to any wall — with the added advantage that the product claims to be erasable for virtually any marker, including Sharpies® and other permanent markers.   One manufacturer offers skins in clear, to allow underlying paint colors to show through, and white, and says it will match colors on a whole-roll basis (pricey, I’ll wager).

Uses for math and writing should be obvious — think about those mural-sized wall maps in a geography or history class, covered with clear, dry-erase paint . . .

Wouldn’t it be great if school districts had architects, or instruction coaches, who knew about this stuff and could help us keep up in the technology and tool wars/sweepstakes?

More, resources:  

  • Dry-erase painting at Charlestown (state? Massachusetts?) schools:
  • Case study from Milford High, Milford, Massachusetts
  • Case study, Dever-McCormack School, Boston school district
  • Evernote software teams with IdeaPaint . . . look at the video

Why is the Texas Chainsaw Massacre so popular?

June 29, 2011

And, why do people so very, very much, want that story to be true and not fictional?

Here’s the list of stories from this blog that were most popular over the past seven days; the top two stories hold about those ranks week in and week out:

Top Posts (the past week)

Based on a true story — except, not Texas. Not a chainsaw. Not a massacre. 530 views

28 poems on living life to the fullest, today 425 views

True story: Yellow Rose of Texas, and the Battle of San Jacinto 167 views

News flash: Texas has a second natural lake! 136 views

Nuclear power plant incident in Nebraska?

“When we’re telling whoppers about Obama and government, please don’t pester us with the facts” Department

Hoaxed Nebraska nuclear plant crisis update

Quote of the moment: John F. Kennedy, “We choose to go to the Moon”

Someone somewhere is discussing whether the story behind the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies is real or fictional.  I can’t find that discussion, alas.

Either that, or we have a lot of prurient interests out there.

Interesting mix of story viewings, otherwise.


PestAway: Exterminator deals with DDT, honestly

June 29, 2011

Here’s a cool breeze:  Pest Away Exterminators in New York explains, patiently, that DDT no longer works against bedbugs, and is otherwise ill-advised in most applications.

Try to find an error in this short post:

DDT

The truth about DDT…

  • It was highly effective when it was first introduced.
  • It nearly wiped out bed bugs in America.
  • It is NO LONGER effective in treating bed bugs.
  • It is more dangerous than people realized.

In 1939, DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) was introduced as the “miracle pesticide.” It was effectively used in military and civilian arenas to control lice, malaria, mosquitoes and bed bugs. It nearly wiped out all bed bugs in an allegedly “safe” method, but by the 1960’s, bed bugs had built up a resistance and potential immunity to DDT.

In 1962, Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, which essentially demonized DDT and helped launch the environmental movement. By 1972, DDT was banned in the USA, but DDT is still used very effectively in other countries to control Malaria. Although there is a public outcry to bring DDT back, it’s very unlikely that it would have any meaningful effect on controlling bed bugs.

Jeff Eisenberg founded the company in 1991, after a career with a large accounting firm.  It appears his training on the importance of accuracy in numbers, and honesty in facing tough situations, carried over to his new business.  Good on him.


Meanwhile, in the evolution debates, where we find the Mother of All Denialism . . .

June 29, 2011

Other fronts in the War on Education may have earned more attention here in the Bathtub, lately — and in state legislatures.  Threats from the dilution and elimination of good, hard science courses continue to pose problems, especially from creationists and their shyer, camouflage troops from the Chapel of Intelligent Design.

We need to stay aware of the creationist/creationism threat.  At its heart, creationism requires adherents to reject the facts of science, to reject the workings of science, and to reject the functions of debate about what is real, and what is not.  It is to me a rather simple discussion of the quality of evidence.

Eugenie Scott and her colleagues from the National Center for Science Education provide a great update in what is going on, with a great video, and an informative and troubling explanation of the links between creationism and the “unbelievers” in climate change.

Be sure to watch the first ten minutes, to see the video update on the fight to keep good science education in schools, especially the teaching of evolution.


Memphis Public Library assembling history of 2011 floods

June 28, 2011

Here’s a good idea:  The Memphis Public Library is putting together an archive on the 2011 floods in the area, we learn from the Memphis Daily News:

St. Mary’s Senior Helps Library Build Flood Archive

St. Mary’s Episcopal School student Ellery Ammons is devoting her summer break to helping the Memphis Public Library & Information Center build an archive documenting the Mid-South floods of 2011.

Ammons, an employee of the Shelby Forest General Store owned by her parents, is also a Girl Scout, working toward her Gold Award.

Recognizing the need to document this year’s historic deluge, the high school senior decided to take on the tasks of soliciting, cataloging and archiving community photos to create the 2011 Flood Collection.

She plans to create a digital archive of flood photographs to provide future generations with an accurate record of the floods that ensued when the Mississippi and its tributaries overflowed in Memphis and the surrounding areas this past spring.

Library digital projects manager Sarah Frierson said she’s delighted to have the extra hands in the history department, saying the collection “will be a wonderful complement to the library’s existing Mid-South Flood Collection, which documents the floods of 1927 and 1937.”

The Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Ave., is seeking photo donations to add to the 2011 Flood Collection. Donations, which will become part of the library’s permanent collection, can be brought to the history department on the main library’s fourth floor or e-mailed to Flood2011.Photography@gmail.com.

– Aisling Maki


UFOs? Obama-ordered news blackouts? No: Brain failures

June 28, 2011

Come on, you can figure out how this applies to those stories about Obama’s secret orders — or more accurately, the lack of those orders.  From Neil deGrasse Tyson and the argument from ignorance, presented at St. Petersburg College, Florida, 2007:

Tip of the old scrub brush to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and his Tweet.


Dragon fly on a Saturday walk in the park

June 28, 2011

Lions Park in Duncanville, Texas, to be more precise.  The dragon fly appears to me to be Neurothemis tullia, a Pied Paddy Skimmer, though I believe that is considered an Asian species.  [But see note at the end of the post.]

Closely related?   An exotic introduced to Texas?  Here we had cotton fields, not rice paddies.  The wings look like those of a Pied Paddy Skimmer, but most of the photos I’ve found show a black body, and this one is definitely gray.  Hmmmm.

Dragon fly, Pied Paddy Skimmer, Neurothemis tullia - photo by Ed Darrell copyright 2011, use permitted with attribution

Dragon fly, Pied Paddy Skimmer, Neurothemis tullia - photo by Ed Darrell; copyright 2011, use permitted with attribution

Dragon flies look mean.  As a very young child I was terrified of them, growing up on the banks of the Snake River in Idaho.  My mother, a farm-raised girl, took me out for a walk among the diving, softly-humming aerobats, and explained they had no stingers, they ate other insects, and they seemed to like humans, if we’d watch them.  As we watched, she held out her hand and a dragon fly landed, as if to say, “Hello!  Listen to your mother.  She knows us.”

Dragon fly in Duncanville Lions Park, photo by Ed Darrell - use permitted with attribution

Dragon fly takes a higher vantage point. Is this species exotic in Texas?

Up Payson Canyon, in Utah, at Scout Lake I passed many early morning hours, and many noon siestas, in the reeds watching the dragon flies.  When we were in our canoes or rowboats they’d fly at us like rockets, appearing to think they were torpedo planes, then fly up, or right or left, at the last possible second, to avoid colliding with our craft.  Through July they’d fly tandem, mating.  This intrigued Scouts, and delighted them beyond measure when the nature merit badge counselor explained they were having sex.  Red ones, blue ones, yellow, brown and black ones.  Big ones, little ones.

Shortly after we moved to Texas, we discovered that a swarm of dragon flies probably meant a local colony of fire ants was casting off females, to mate and start a new mound of exotic, stinging terror.  The dragon flies would catch and eat the queens-to-be.  I had to use a broom to shoo off a neighbor with a can of insecticide, trying to kill the dragon flies in their work to keep us safe and happy.  “But they look so mean,” she explained.

Judge no book by its cover (except Jaws); judge no insect by its eye apparel, or human eye appeal.

Dragon fly, Neurothemis Tullia (perhaps), Duncanville Lions Park, 6-25-2011 - Photo by Ed Darrell, use permitted with attribution

Pied Paddy Skimmer rests from hunting

_____________

Update:  In comments below, Roused Bear wonders if this isn’t the Widow Skimmer, which is native to Texas.  That would make a lot more sense, wouldn’t it?  What do you think, Dear Reader:  Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa?


Solar power at your house? “How to do it” graphic

June 28, 2011

While a few (crabs?) argue that solar power will never make a significant contribution to our daily energy budgets in the U.S., others quietly slip the bonds of the grid and go solar.  If solar works, it will work one house at a time.

If you wish to go solar, where do you start?  The Orange County (California) Register provided a great graphic to illustrate some of the considerations a homeowner needs to make, and how much it might cost.

OC Register graphic, how to do solar panels

From the Orange County Register, accessed June 2011 - click for larger image

Orange County, California, is the hotbed of conservative politics, and warming denialism such as it exists in California.  In Orange County, solar power is a question of practicality, and one’s desire to save money on electricity.  It’s in the Home and Garden section of the newspaper, not politics, not business.

Another gift from mainstream media that bloggers don’t equal, yet.

Is a Smart-Meter required for solar, today?


Whenever she opens her mouth

June 27, 2011

After the Republican presidential candidates’ debate, observers of the pageant opined that Michelle Bachmann had little command of history (as usual, in her case), but a great command of turning phrases that telegraph to particular interest groups that she is one of them.  For example, somewhere in the debate Bachmann sneaked in a claim that “we are the head and not the tail.”  This was said to be a cryptic shout out to fundamentalist Christians, a reference to Deuteronomy 28.13.

So, if Bachmann is so thoughtful, so careful to send coded messages to her supporters, one may wonder:  What group is she giving a shout out to, here, in her appearance in Waterloo, Iowa:

Nominally, one might think she’s sending a note to all of us in the John Wayne fan club.  But some of us in the fan club remember that Marion Mitchell Morrison  (John Wayne’s non-screen name) was born — in Iowa, true — but in Winterset, in the southern part of the state.

Waterloo was the home of another man who was born with the name “John Wayne.”  But that was John Wayne Gacy, the serial murderer who moved to Waterloo, Iowa in the middle 1960s.

Oy.  Wrong John Wayne to affiliate with Waterloo, or even to remind Waterloo residents about.  History that is, regretfully, bogus.  Or voodoo history, depending on whether one thinks Bachmann is conscious, not on drugs, and meant what she said.

Bachmann told CBS News that she’s running because “People are tired of being told things that aren’t so.”  Practice what you preach, Ms. Bachmann?

Sunday I watched Bachmann vs. CBS’s veteran report Bob Schieffer.  Schieffer asked her about her tendency to tell extremely tall tales — like her claim that the Obama administration had failed to approve any oil leases, when the total approved at that point was 270 leases.  Bachmann went off on a tangent.  Schieffer asked the question a second time.  She went on another tangent.  Schieffer asked a third time, a third tangent.

History challenged, veracity challenged: Every time Michelle Bachmann opens her mouth, it’s an adventure.


Blame global warming for wild weather? NASA says, “Blame La Nada”

June 27, 2011

Here’s what NASA said:

What’s to Blame for Wild Weather? “La Nada”

Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder,
Such groans of roaring wind and rain, I never
Remember to have heard; man’s nature cannot carry
The affliction nor the fear
… from Shakespeare’s Tragedy of King Lear

June 21, 2011: Record snowfall, killer tornadoes, devastating floods: There’s no doubt about it. Since Dec. 2010, the weather in the USA has been positively wild. But why?

Some recent news reports have attributed the phenomenon to an extreme “La Niña,” a band of cold water stretching across the Pacific Ocean with global repercussions for climate and weather. But NASA climatologist Bill Patzert names a different suspect: “La Nada.”

“La Niña was strong in December,” he says. “But back in January it pulled a disappearing act and left us with nothing – La Nada – to constrain the jet stream. Like an unruly teenager, the jet stream took advantage of the newfound freedom–and the results were disastrous.”

Wild Weather (La Nina, 558px)

The blue and purple band in this satellite image of the Pacific Ocean traces the cool waters of the La Niña phenomenon in December 2010. (from Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite, Credit: NASA JPL)

La Niña and El Niño are opposite extremes of a great Pacific oscillation. Every 2 to 7 years, surface waters across the equatorial Pacific warm up (El Niño) and then they cool down again (La Niña). Each condition has its own distinct effects on weather.

The winter of 2010 began with La Niña conditions taking hold. A “normal” La Niña would have pushed the jet stream northward, pushing cold arctic air (one of the ingredients of severe weather) away from the lower US. But this La Niña petered out quickly, and no El Niño rose up to replace it. The jet stream was free to misbehave.

“By mid-January 2011, La Niña weakened rapidly and by mid-February it was ‘adios La Niña,’ allowing the jet stream to meander wildly around the US. Consequently the weather pattern became dominated by strong outbreaks of frigid polar air, producing blizzards across the West, Upper Midwest, and northeast US.”1

The situation lingered into spring — and things got ugly. Russell Schneider, Director of the NOAA-NWS Storm Prediction Center, explains:

“First, very strong winds out of the south carrying warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico met cold jet stream winds racing in from the west. Stacking these two air masses on top of each other created the degree of instability that fuels intense thunderstorms.”

Extreme contrasts in wind speeds and directions of the upper and lower atmosphere transformed ordinary thunderstorms into long-lived rotating supercells capable of producing violent tornadoes.2

Wild Weather (La Nada, 558px)

This satellite image, taken in April 2011, reveals La Niña's rapid exit from the equator near the US coast. The cool (false-color blue) water was gone by early spring. (from Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite, Credit: NASA JPL)

In Patzert’s words, “The jet stream — on steroids — acted as an atmospheric mix master, causing tornadoes to explode across Dixie and Tornado Alleys, and even into Massachusetts.”

All this because of a flaky La Niña?

“La Niña and El Niño affect the atmosphere’s energy balance because they determine the location of warm water in the Pacific, and that in turn determines where huge clusters of tropical thunderstorms form,” explains Schneider. “These storms are the main energy source from the tropics influencing the large scale pattern of the jet stream that flows through the US.”

In agreement with Patzert, he notes that the very strong and active jet stream across the lower US in April “may have been related to the weakening La Niña conditions observed over the tropical Pacific.”

And of course there’s this million dollar question: “Does any research point to climate change as a cause of this wild weather?”

“Global warming is certainly happening,” asserts Patzert, “but we can’t discount global warming or blame it for the 2011 tornado season. We just don’t know … Yet.”3

What will happen next? And please don’t say, “La Nada.”

Author: Dauna Coulter | Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

End Notes

(1) Other atmospheric factors also contributed to the inflow of frigid polar air, says Patzert. One of the most significant was a weakening in the whirlpool motion of the air around the North Pole. As a result of this weakening, more cold air flowed away from the pole and down toward the states. Climatologists call this an “arctic oscillation.”

(2) Imagine a paddle wheel oriented like a Ferris wheel and placed in winds that that are much stronger at the top than at the bottom. The wheel will spin in the direction of the strong winds above. This spring, these strong, turning winds led to ongoing rotation of the supercells themselves. So we ended up with intense rotation and updraft close to Earth’s surface — conditions ripe for strong tornadoes.

(3) On May 26, 2011, Patzert posted a comment about this topic on Andrew Revkin’s The New York Times’ DOT EARTH Blog, “Demography, Design, Atom Bombs and Tornado Deaths.” See comment 6 at this URL.

Looks to me as if the people at NASA are saying we should go slow, and not rush to blame our weather woes on climate change. Climate change “skeptics” should be so skeptical.


“When we’re telling whoppers about Obama and government, please don’t pester us with the facts” Department

June 27, 2011

First:  American Elephant, a blog that insults pachyderms with its mendacious ways, stretches for ways to complain about President Obama.  In a recent post, the author tried to poke ill-humored fun at Obama and companies he’s visited over the past couple of years.  It’s the headline that caught my attention:

“President Obama has never held a private job, but picks the winners and losers for the economy”

The premise is false, of course — it’s based on that Republican smear meme that Obama and his cabinet lack experience in the private sector, a smear that breaks down quickly if anyone looks at the biographies of the cabinet.  Obama also comes from the private sector, though when confronted with the facts the meme spreaders tend to make rash and foolish claims like “the Catholic church is public sector” and “lawyers all work for the government.”

Conspiracy theory cartoon by Chris Madden

Cartoon by Chris Madden, via TV Tropes

I left a response there, but don’t expect the blog owner to show the decency of allowing it through moderation:

President Obama worked for a private group providing services to people below the poverty line, and then he worked for a very large private law firm, while teaching at the privately-run University of Chicago.  He had never worked for government until his election to the Illinois State Senate (is that salaried?).

You should probably correct the headline.

As if.  Not only is the headline wrong, but the evidence doesn’t support the second premise, and there are other serious problems with the claims and arguments advanced there.  True American elephants probably take to drink to try to forget what’s being done under their name.

Second, and probably third:  There is the minor kerfuffle of the hoax report out of Pakistan that nuclear power plants in Nebraska are either near meltdown, or already melted down, and you don’t know about it because President Obama ordered a news blackout to avoid panic but at the same time condemning hundreds of thousands of Midwesterners to radiation poisoning deaths.  It’s an absurd story on several fronts and several levels — news of the flood plight of the power plants has been reported around the world, for example — but those bent on being suckered by every conspiracy claim to come down the pike, or bent on criticizing President Obama no matter how much they must twist the fact to do it, cannot be dissuaded.

Take for example this odd blog:  A discussion of the imagined meltdown quickly disintegrates into defense of holding on to birther views despite Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (no good information goes un-urinated upon).  Then discussion veers off into all sorts of paranoia — UN “control” of U.S. lands, occupation of several states by rogue Transportation Security Agents (you didn’t hear about it due to the news blackout, most likely), Obama’s being controlled by or controlling GE (‘didn’t GE have something to do with the design of those nuclear reactors?’), Army Corps of Engineers plots to flood the Midwest (????), Obama’s overturning the Constitution through the use of executive orders (which no one there can find at the moment, but they’re sure they exist, somewhere . . .  gee, did we misplace it?) including a wholly imaginary order to take over all rural lands in the U.S. (why?), and complaints that the U.S. is not deporting U.S. soldiers or their families quickly enough.

Such a ball of delusional paranoia and errors of history, law, and other facts!  One might imagine these people so involved in tracking down misinformation and distorting real information that they forget to kick their dogs.  (Seriously, I’d tend to think these people could be helped by having a dog or a cat, except for the very real fear I have they’d forget to feed the creatures; like a drowning person, fighting all efforts to save them.)

Our nation has a collective inability to deal with the facts of too many situations, because too many people simply deny the facts in front of our collective national faceJonathan Kay’s recent book, Among the Truthers, gets at the problem — you can imagine how strongly any of these bloggers and commenters would resist even reading Kay’s book.  It’s not that they seek information to make good decisions on policy, but that they seek the misinformation to justify their paranoid claims that “we are all really, really screwed!

As with the blogs noted above, we witness the birth of voodoo history, bogus history, and intentional ignorance.

There is a great danger from these cesspools of willful ignorance.  As more people refuse to grant credence to facts, to reality, it becomes more difficult to muster a consensus on what to do about any particular problem.  Wildfires and drought in Texas this year already wiped out more than three-fifths of the state’s wheat harvest; floods in the upper Midwest will surely do serious damage to wheat crops there.  We face a shortage of the surpluses of wheat the nation has used to bring peace and vanquish hunger around the world for the past 60 years — think of our “sale” of wheat to the old Soviet Union, stopping the starvation death toll under 10 million and indebting the USSR to the U.S. and the non-communist West — a debt the USSR never could pay off, and a debt which was the hammer to start the crumbling of the foundations of Soviet Communism.  In short, we have a wheat supply problem, caused in no small part by weather extremes that are, mostly likely, aggravated by global warming.

Can we agree to take action?  Probably not, not so long as so many people deny that warming is happening and throw every roadblock in the path of action, in the name of “preventing government takeover.”

As a nation, we have problems with flood control, and emergency preparedness, and the management of undeveloped lands and farm lands — not to mention the many urban problems we face.  What are the odds we can get a consensus on any of those problems, at least enough of a consensus to take constructive action?

For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost, begins the old saw.  We can’t even get agreement that horseshoes should be nailed to a horse’s hoof — how can we get the consensus to make sure there are enough nails to do the job?


Kennedy said, in the struggle for freedom, we are all citizens of Berlin (Quote of the moment)

June 26, 2011

49 years ago, on June 26, 1962, in Berlin:

President Kennedy addresses Berlin citizens, 6-26-1962 (photographer unidentified)

President John F. Kennedy addressing a crowd in Berlin, Germany, June 26, 1962 - image from NARA and/or Kennedy Library

From the Smithsonian Magazine site:

June 26, 1963: “Ich bin ein Berliner”

In West Berlin, President John F. Kennedy delivers the famous speech in which he declares, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Meaning literally “I am a citizen of Berlin,” the statement shows U.S. solidarity with democratic West Berlin, surrounded by communist territory.

View a video of President Kennedy’s speech at American Rhetoric, Top 100 Speeches.

Audio of the famous line, from the National Archives:

Photos and complete audio, at The Sounds of History.com:

Text and transcript, and other materials, from the Kennedy Library and Museum:

Kennedy’s entire speech was good. It was well drafted and well delivered, taking advantage of the dramatic setting and the dramatic moment. John Kennedy well understood how to give a speech, too.

Below is most of the speech, nearly five minutes’ worth, from a YouTube file — another indication that schools need to open up their filters to allow at least some of the best YouTube material through:

Transcript, from the JFK Library:

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum.” Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany–real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

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Quote of the moment: John Kennedy, “What do our opponents mean . . . ‘Liberal?’”

June 24, 2011

From the website of PBS’s American Experience:

Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party Nomination

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
September 14, 1960

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word “Liberal” to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a “Liberal,” and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

John F. Kennedy during the 1960 campaign

John F. Kennedy during the 1960 campaign - Kennedy accepted the nomination of the New York Liberal Party on September 14, 1960; this photo may be from that event

In short, having set forth my view — I hope for all time — two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world’s history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

Tonight we salute Governor and Senator Herbert Lehman as a symbol of that spirit, and as a reminder that the fight for full constitutional rights for all Americans is a fight that must be carried on in 1961.

Many of these same immigrant families produced the pioneers and builders of the American labor movement. They are the men who sweated in our shops, who struggled to create a union, and who were driven by longing for education for their children and for the children’s development. They went to night schools; they built their own future, their union’s future, and their country’s future, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and now in their children’s time, suburb by suburb.

Tonight we salute George Meany as a symbol of that struggle and as a reminder that the fight to eliminate poverty and human exploitation is a fight that goes on in our day. But in 1960 the cause of liberalism cannot content itself with carrying on the fight for human justice and economic liberalism here at home. For here and around the world the fear of war hangs over us every morning and every night. It lies, expressed or silent, in the minds of every American. We cannot banish it by repeating that we are economically first or that we are militarily first, for saying so doesn’t make it so. More will be needed than goodwill missions or talking back to Soviet politicians or increasing the tempo of the arms race. More will be needed than good intentions, for we know where that paving leads.

In Winston Churchill’s words, “We cannot escape our dangers by recoiling from them. We dare not pretend such dangers do not exist.”

And tonight we salute Adlai Stevenson as an eloquent spokesman for the effort to achieve an intelligent foreign policy. Our opponents would like the people to believe that in a time of danger it would be hazardous to change the administration that has brought us to this time of danger. I think it would be hazardous not to change. I think it would be hazardous to continue four more years of stagnation and indifference here at home and abroad, of starving the underpinnings of our national power, including not only our defense but our image abroad as a friend.

This is an important election — in many ways as important as any this century — and I think that the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party here in New York, and those who believe in progress all over the United States, should be associated with us in this great effort. The reason that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson had influence abroad, and the United States in their time had it, was because they moved this country here at home, because they stood for something here in the United States, for expanding the benefits of our society to our own people, and the people around the world looked to us as a symbol of hope.

I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time. Our national elections have often proved to be the turning point in the course of our country. I am proposing that 1960 be another turning point in the history of the great Republic.

Some pundits are saying it’s 1928 all over again. I say it’s 1932 all over again. I say this is the great opportunity that we will have in our time to move our people and this country and the people of the free world beyond the new frontiers of the 1960s.


Good news? One denialist non-think-tank shuttered

June 24, 2011

Britain’s Independent reported on June 21 that the London version of the International Policy Network closed its doors.  The group was known for its anti-environmental protection, anti-science, pro-rapacious development stands.

Alas, the U.S. version clings on.

The International Policy Network, once the most persuasive and active think tanks campaigning against climate change science, has disbanded in the UK after what appears to be a spilt between its leading members.

A document released following a Freedom of Information request shows that the charity’ s chairwoman Linda Whetstone and her brother Michael Fisher held a private meeting in which they agreed to abandon the name of IPN UK after more than a decade. The meeting, held by telephone in November 2010, was perfectly within the charity’s rules.

The minutes of the meeting, which cover a single side of an A4 sheet of paper, were obtained by The Independent this week and reveal that Whetstone also resigned from the board of the International Policy Network in the United States, despite being a leading member of the organisation.

This newspaper has also confirmed that Professor Julian Morris, the founding director of the IPN in the UK and then president, is no longer working for the sister organisation in the US where he was earning $137,000. He is now vice president for research at a rival think tank, the Reason Foundation.

Professor Morris, after speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, June 15 being held by a new think tank called the Legatum Institute, said: “The IPN is scaling down. There were two organisations, the IPN US Inc and IPN UK and now the two organisations are pursuing independent paths.”

Asked whether the IPN had split over climate change, he added: “It is a long and complex story. It is what it is. I can see where you’re going with this.”

I wish I were so omniscient.  I wonder where Morris thought that line of questioning was going?

The Independent  summarized some of the less savory parts of the funding issues for the organization (John Mashey surely knows all this):

The closure of the free market IPN follows years of controversy about Exxon funding, alleged links to the tobacco industry and contested claims about AIDs and the pesticide DDT.

It is possible, however, that the closure may be linked to family connections involving David Cameron that meant IPN could no longer exist as a major force of climate denial.

Whetstone is the mother-in-law of Steve Hilton, who is the director of strategy for the prime minister and was godfather to his son Ivan. Hilton is the man who persuaded the Conservative leader to adopt a robust stance on climate change and hug Huskies on the Norwegian glacier to illustrate his commitment.

Hilton’s wife, Rachel Whetstone, is a vice president at Google for communications, which has donated millions to climate change causes, including creating 21 Google Science Communication Fellows.

Linda Whetstone and her brother Michael, the trustees present at the private meeting, are the children of Sir Anthony Fisher who was an ideological disciple and former student of the father of neoliberalism, Friedrich Hayek. Fisher senior masterminded the global network of neoliberal think tanks, including setting up more than 150 organisations himself.

IPN was home to unlikely and highly-questionable science claims, and a refuge for cranks like Roger Bate, whom readers of this blog will recognize from the DDT and Rachel Carson hoax propaganda.

The launch of the International Policy Network’s first publication Adapt or Die was reported in November 2004. The charity claimed climate change was a myth, that sea levels were not rising and that global warming would benefit humans by increasing fish stocks.

At that time Dr Roger Bate was also a director of the IPN. Morris and Bate were both named in a letter asking the tobacco company RJ Reynolds for £50,000 in funding for a book about the “myth of scientific risk assessment” which would deny the effects of passive smoking.

Morris denied involvement, but a book titled What Risk? edited by Bate was later produced in which Bate acknowledged Morris for his support.

The IPN name soon became associated with ExxonMobil after the American oil giant revealed in its own publications that it granted almost £250,000 ($400,000) to the IPN in the US between 2003 and 2006. An examination of IPN UK accounts registered at Companies House revealed that from 2003 to 2005 the US think tank in turn granted £204,379 to the IPN in London.

Exxon stopped funding the IPN following a letter in 2006 from Bob Ward who was then at the Royal Society calling on the world’ s largest seller of fossil fuel to stop funding organisations that were actively spreading misinformation about the science of human forced climate change. Ward is now at the Grantham Institute at the LSE in London.

An IPN statement at the time said: “The implication that IPN is somehow being funded by Exxon to promote ‘climate change denial’ (per the Guardian’s salacious headline) is preposterous nonsense. IPN’s founder and executive director, Julian Morris, has personally been involved in the climate change debate since writing his undergraduate thesis on the subject in 1992 and neither his views nor those of IPN have ever been influenced by any financial contributor.”

It is nothing but good news when such a cloud over the bright sunshine of good science, good information, and good policy, goes out of business.  One may wish there were more good news in store, or that more of the denialist groups would follow the example.

The good a non-profit may do oft dies with its disincorporation papers and is buried in some musty, dusty archive.  The evil such groups do lives on long after — sometimes propogated, zombie-like, in other organizations.

Until its dissolution the IPN has been central to the climate change denial machine. While receiving funding from Exxon, the organisation launched Adapt or Die in Washington in 2004 and published two further climate change books in time for the COP-10 meeting held that year in Argentina.

The IPN also attended the inquiry into the economics of climate change held by the House of Lords economic affairs committee, which was attended by Lord Lawson. Lawson claims in his book, Memoirs of a Tory Radical, that he began to question the science of climate change during the hearings. He would then go on to form the sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The think tank also established and launched the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change which, it claims, included 40 other organisations around the world. The IPN then “ coordinated participation of CSCCC members” at the UN climate meeting in Bali in 2008, distributing hundreds of copies of its report to delegates, participants and journalists for free.

The IPN was launched when the UK charity Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which was founded in July 1971, became part of the international network. During its existence the London office of the think tank raised more than £2.5million from donors. The organisation will continue in some form under the name Network for a Free Society.

Despite repeated attempts to contact her Linda Whetstone was unavailable for comment.

Against damaging climate change, we needed to start major pollution clean-up efforts two or three years ago.  IPN’s legacy may yet lie in the destruction yet to be done to to the human race by the harmful effects of uncontrolled, and perhaps, now uncontrollable climate change.  IPN shares some of the blame for the lack of anti-pollution action at the Copenhagen conference at the end of 2009, and for the lack of other coordinated international work to control pollution since then.


Bill Adkins: Art education boosts achievement, but needs administrator support to work

June 24, 2011

One of our very good art teachers at Moises Molina High School, William Adkins,  works with a group called Big  Thoughts.  Big Thoughts interviews teachers who work with the program about how arts education boosts student achievement in core areas, and how to leverage arts to improve the boost.  Adkins had some thoughts about how art really is a core part of education , and on the role of administrators in helping teachers:

You can view 74 videos from about 30 different people on the Big Thoughts menu at Vimeo.

Adkins’ students regularly win awards, often outperforming the many more students at our district’s arts magnets.  One of his students, Moses Ochieng, too the top prize at the state art meet this year for a brilliant sculpture he did.  Moses was my student in U.S. history, too — a great adventure, since he emigrated from Kenya just a few years ago, and he lacks the familiarity with so many American things that we, and the textbooks, and the state tests, take for granted that students know.  Ochieng’s art helped focus him on history.  It supplemented his studies so that he picked up two years of history work in just one year.

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