Lame Duck

From Google Images

From Google Images (with apologies to Energizer Holdings, Inc.)

Talk about the Energizer Bunny, this family has staying power. A few weeks ago (seems like months) I caught onto the story of the Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame:

Yes, one of the tenants of Christian fundamentalism is condemnation of homosexuality, and Robertson’s recapitulation of the scripture on this did not sit well with the LBGT community. Nor with the show’s producers. A&E dropped Robertson from the show, likely forever.

Not to worry. The LGBT community aside, Robertson has many defenders, even among those who never watch the show.

So I’m finally getting down to the essence of this post. Robertson is receiving daily support from religious and political interests, and in this process we on the outside are gaining additional insight into this remarkable man and his philosophies. Now comes a revelation that is so startling that it’s bound to dominate the headlines for weeks to come. One Ian Bayne, preparing to run for the Illinois 11th Congressional District next year, has disclosed information not previously available to me or others. Besides being a protector of the Christian faith Robertson is also a civil rights defender of stellar proportions. He’s not just a summertime soldier when it comes to civil rights. He’s up there with the big time. Did I mention Martin Luther King? Maybe not. Did I mention Rosa Parks?

Of course that was good news. Queer-baiting Phil Robertson turning out to be a civil rights icon, standing shoulder to shoulder with Rosa Parks and others in the movement. But at the price of public scorn.

Not quite.

The good news, of course, is that A&E has re-instated the show Duck Dynasty to its rightful place, with father Phil still at the head of the clan. Ratings for the show are in the dumps right now, likely not so much due to Robertson’s anti-gay tirades, but more likely to viewer fatigue. Reality shows are great entertainment, but viewers’ appetite for coarse-talking backwoods men sporting Taliban beards has limits.

All this redemption has emboldened father Phil to re-paste his stance on homosexuals and the homosexual lifestyle:

Speaking at the Rock the South festival in Cullman, Alabama, over the weekend, Robertson defended his controversial comments made in a GQ profile last year when he said that being gay was a sin and compared homosexuality to bestiality.

In this latest tirade Robertson claims that he was really just “trying to help those poor souls and turn them to Jesus.”

Turn them to Jesus? What an idea. The reason queers are gay is because they have turned away from Jesus. Who would have thought? Of course, this ignores the millions of homosexuals who are devout Christians:

People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today.

What’s surprising is the “best-selling author” who has made this startling statement is none other than George Barna – who is a conservative author and pollster. His latest poll is a spiritual profile of “homosexual adults” and the “surprising insights” are that gays and lesbians are just as apt to believe in God and be Christians as any other human being, despite their sexual orientation.

As a Christian who happens to be a lesbian, the findings, for me, are a big, “Well, duh.” But, it’s heartening to see Barna doing such a survey and then making a very big and important statement that gays and lesbians are not the “godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers” that the media and right wing Christian organizations portray us as. The best thing about Barna’s latest research is that, finally, a respected conservative voice has given credibility to the idea that one can be both gay and Christian.

These people do not need to be “turned to Jesus.” What does Phil Robertson propose these people should do?

It is quite possible that when Robertson made these ill-conceived remarks he did not know about the millions of homosexual Christians. This is not surprising, since he turned out to be unaware of a number of other well-known facts:

Phil may have missed out on a lot that was going on in his neck of the woods 50 to 60 years ago. He may not have noticed that black people were prevented from voting. He might not have noticed that an uppity black teenager could be murdered for insulting a white woman, and the jury would give the murderers a walk. He might not even have noticed that black people had to sit in the back of the bus. It’s easy to miss out on a lot of stuff when you’re growing up in the Louisiana backwoods. However I’m thinking it would have been hard to miss the conversation at the dinner table, and it would have been hard to miss the sermons delivered from the pulpit assuring the congregation that subservience by black people was ordained by God.

Personally, I cannot begrudge Robertson his intellectual shortcomings. Here is a person who has parlayed a family business into a multi-million-dollar industry. That kind of success speaks to a pragmatic approach and a capable head. Of a certain leaning.

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Fronting The Brand

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I’m recycling a title here. I started the theme a few weeks ago in response to the stance taken by some American business enterprises:

Chick-fil-A was the featured enterprise then. Now it’s Hobby Lobby. Full disclosure: The person who runs things in this house is sometimes a customer of Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby, Inc. was founded by David Green in 1972. The current president is Steve Green, an evangelical Christian. Green’s other activities include promoting Bible study courses for public schools.

What is at stake here follows from two clauses in the First Amendment of the Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …

The first clause keeps the government from establishing a religion or giving support to a religion. The second clause prevents the government from interfering in the practice of religion. To a point.

I call the second clause the “Right to Act Foolishly in Public Clause.” Clearly, if a sect’s religious practices involve human sacrifice, the law is going to step in. Courts have gone further in allowing legal intrusions. Parents who, for religious reasons, deny medical care to minor children can be and have been prosecuted for felony crimes.

There can be more benign cases. A church that rings its bells too loudly on Sunday morning might be forced to tone it down. A mosque that broadcasts calls to evening prayer too loudly might also find itself in violation of local noise ordnances.

The issue in the Hobby Lobby case is that the Affordable Care Act requires concerns employing 50 or more people to sponsor a health insurance plan. Stop just a moment. I have worked at a number of companies that provided health insurance plans, and in no case was the company required to pay any or all the premiums. Some companies I worked for provided the plans, but I was required to pay the premiums. Nobody has said that employers, and particularly Hobby Lobby, would be required to pay the premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

The deal, then, with Hobby Lobby is the owners of the company, the Green family, do not even want to touch anything smelling of abortion. Contraception is no worry for the Greens. CNN this morning reported that the company has no problem with their insurance plans covering 20 different methods of contraception. The remaining four, the owners have decided, provide the opportunity to induce abortions and thus terminate life. To this they object.

A minor problem is the scientific consensus holds that these four, including the so-called morning after pill, do not have the capability to induce abortion. The owners apparently have their own view of science, which view they obtained from sources unknown. If the Greens reached that view through religious inspiration, then this is yet another case of religion trumping science. Which explains the cover image for this post.

The Public Accommodations Act (Civil Rights Act of 1964) requires public business to serve the public without bias. This was instituted in response to businesses at the time that refused service to certain races and ethnic groups. Courts have more recently extended this protection to people of diverse sexual orientation.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from a studio that refused to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony, letting stand a New Mexico high court ruling that helped spur a national debate over gay rights and religious freedom.

However, the Hobby Lobby case does not involve customers, only employees.

As I write this the Supreme Court is preparing to announce its decision in the Hobby Lobby case. I will continue in a few minutes when the decision is announced.

The Court has just handed down the decision in the Hobby Lobby case. CNN reports that legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is reading the decision and will announce the results shortly.

And it’s 5-4, with Justice Samuel Alito writing the opinion. The opinion of the Court is that Hobby Lobby is a “closely-held” concern and, as such, can express its religious preferences contrary to national law.

What’s the impact?

Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan will not be required to cover the objected pharmaceuticals. No big deal. This stuff is cheap. Women do not need insurance to pay for a “morning-after” pill. But wait.

If a doctor’s prescription is required, will there be a stipulation in the insurance plan that no physician will be allowed to prescribe the medication? Some additional digging is required, and I will take that on later.

In the mean time this decision appears to be heavily political. All five justices concurring with the decision were appointed by Republican presidents. All four justices dissenting were appointed by Democratic presidents. All three women in the Court voted against this decision. Surprise, surprise!

No man is going to have his insurance coverage affected by this decision. Again we have decisions affecting only women decided only by men. Folks, that’s the way it is in the Bible. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it’s going to be.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Manchurian Candidate

From ABC 22, Dayton, Ohio

From ABC 22, Dayton, Ohio

I try not to make this stuff up. Usually I don’t have to. For example:

The loser in a recent Republican primary is claiming that his opponent, Oklahoma Representative Frank Lucas, is unqualified for office because he has been replaced by a robot.

Timothy Ray Murray posted a press release — addressed to “News Person” — in which he demanded the Oklahoma Board of Elections shift votes from Rep. Lucas to him on account of the fact that “it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed [sic] by a look alike.”

Mr. Murray posted the following on the Tim Murray for Congress for Oklahoma’s 3rd District site:

The election for U.S. House for Oklahoma’s 3rd District will be contested by the Candidate, Timothy Ray Murray. I will be stating that his votes are switched with Rep. Lucas votes, because it is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011.

This is a situation similar to the Senators’ from Kentucky situation in the 2012 election. I am contesting that this matter has happen since his election was blocked, because of the U.S. Defense Department’s use of Mr. Murray’s DNA. To my knowledge, the U.S. Defense Department has not released to the public that information, as it is their confidential information about many people. Congress is likely wanting me to state that all my DNA used will not result in benefits to people I have never had relations with of a family nature. I have been bound to protect that information unless it causes harm to The People.

The contest of election and or petition will be correctly filed with county election boards and with federal offices. I, Hon. Mr. Timothy Ray Murray, fully meet all Constitutional, Federal and Oklahoma requirements for election and for holding Office if the voters’ results show that is the case.

This is fascinating at so many levels. Let’s start with “Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011.”

People, I can’t even figure out what is meant by “sentenced on a white stage.” Can somebody clue me in? I had to resort to the Internet to search for similar uses, and none of my sources provided the slightest clue.

The Washington Post also clicked on The Manchurian Candidate connection. Only, they were a lot quicker than I was:

The Manchurian candidate….of Oklahoma?

That was the headline. The article added:

“A lot of stupid things happen in Oklahoma politics,” says Keith Gaddie at the University of Oklahoma, “but this may be the stupidest I’ve ever heard. Welcome to Oklahoma.” (At the end of our phone call, Gaddie asked that I make sure the word “stupid” appeared in his quote.)

The movie is based on on a novel by Richard Condon. I previously reflected on the The Manchurian Candidate in a post about modern day politician Allen West. But that was so two years ago. This is fresh stuff.

If you think Oklahoma voters were stunned, consider the plight of Congressman Lucas:

“Many things have been said about me, said to me during course of my campaigns. This is the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a body double or a robot,” said Rep. Lucas.

The congressman was holding back in that statement. Inside he must have been jumping with joy. “Look at the loonies I have to campaign against.” Those are my words, but I further observe: If there be loonies, then make the most of them. As it is the congressman has some issues of his own:

It has been almost two years since the horrific Benghazi terrorist attack occurred, taking the lives of four innocent, brave Americans; however we continue to seek answers from the Administration on what took place that day.

Since 2012, House committees have worked tirelessly to investigate the tragic attack, and they have uncovered many facts. Unfortunately, while House Republicans continue working to seek justice, the Obama Administration continues stonewalling. To make matters worse, it was recently revealed that the White House withheld information regarding Benghazi from Congressional investigators. It causes me grave concern to know the White House refuses to assist and provide pertinent information regarding an attack that killed four of our fellow citizens.

There be loonies, and then there be loonies. It’s a matter of degree, a matter for which the American public can be thankful.

Take a deep breath, readers. Now let it out. We have dodged one of the bullets headed our way. Frank Lucas trounced Tim Murray 82.8% to Murray’s 5.2%. Will this sanity never end?

Newt of Death

Rough-skinned newt (from Wikipedia)

Rough-skinned newt (from Wikipedia)

This story was posted to Facebook, and some of the comments were interesting. Here is one:

I can’t help but wonder about the mechanism by which a attribute like this might develop. The garter snakes could not have developed an immunity since they would be killed. That prevents them from learning to avoid the newts as well. And to think that the mutation spontaneously happened for this specific thing at random does not really make sense either. If that were happening, you would see lots of other non-viable mutations before this one was selected.

I used to think that it was possible that, for example, if one’s parents spent a lot of time in the sun and became really tanned and that went on for several generations, that the children would develop the propensity to tan easily. That makes sense in light of recent discoveries regarding the epigenome of organisms. However, it does not really explain this situation where a non-immune snake would die if it ate a poisonous newt.

Here’s the story:

The scientific tale of the rough-skinned newt begins five decades ago, with a story about three dead hunters in Oregon. Reportedly, the bodies of the hunters were discovered around a camp fire. They showed no signs of injury, and nothing had been stolen. The only strange thing about the scene was the coffee pot. Curled up inside was a newt.

In the 1960s, a biologist named Butch Brodie got curious about the story. The newt in the coffee pot–known as the rough-skinned newt–has a dull brown back, but when it is disturbed, it bends its head backward like a contortionist to reveal an orange belly as bright as candy corn. Bright colors are common among poisonous animals. It’s a signal that says, in effect, “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll leave me alone.” Brodie wondered if the newts were toxic, too.

Toxic, it turns out, doesn’t do the newts justice. They are little death machines. The newts produce a chemical in their skin called tetrodotoxin, or TTX for short, that’s made by other poisonous animals like pufferfish. Locking onto sodium channels on the surface of neurons, TTX blocks signals in the nervous system, leading to a quick death. In fact, TTX is 10,000 times deadlier than cyanide. While we may never know for sure what killed those three Oregon hunters, we do know that a single rough-skinned newt could have easily produced enough TTX to kill them, and have plenty of poison left over to kill dozens more.

Now, if the whole idea of evolution makes you uneasy, you might react by saying, “That couldn’t possibly have evolved.” Experience has shown that this is not a wise thing to say. Brodie said something different: the most plausible explanation for a ridiculously poisonous animal is that it is locked in a coevolutionary arms race with a ridiculously well-defended predator. Another biologist mentioned to him that he’d seen garter snakes dining on rough-skinned newts, and so Brodie investigated. He discovered that garter snakes in rough-skinned newt territory have evolved peculiar shape to the receptors on their neurons that TTX would normally grab.

So here’s the deal. The newt is exceedingly toxic. Garter snakes living in the same territory (not garter snakes elsewhere) can safely eat the newts. These garter snakes have calcium receptors configured differently from their kin in other regions, and the newt’s toxin does not bind well with them.

The Facebook comment rightly questions how this could come to be. The operative statement is:

The garter snakes could not have developed an immunity since they would be killed. That prevents them from learning to avoid the newts as well. And to think that the mutation spontaneously happened for this specific thing at random does not really make sense either. If that were happening, you would see lots of other non-viable mutations before this one was selected.

The comment questions that a “mutation spontaneously happened for this specific thing.”

But that is exactly what happened. And it happened this way:

  • The newt developed a slight toxicity. Garter snakes that ate it did not fare so well.
  • Some snakes already had slightly modified calcium receptors. They fared better. They dined on newts, and their genotype began to dominate the garter snake population in this region.
  • Some newts developed more (or better) toxin. The garter snakes that ate them did not fare so well.
  • Some snakes already had slightly modified calcium receptors. They fared better. They dined on newts, and their genotype began to dominate the garter snake population in this region.
  • Some newts developed more (or better) toxin. The garter snakes that ate them did not fare so well.
  • Some snakes already had slightly modified calcium receptors. They fared better. They dined on newts, and their genotype began to dominate the garter snake population in this region.

And so on and on. It’s the classical evolutionary arms race. Two species advance arm in arm, so to speak, in these peculiar features.

Significantly, the development of the toxin and the modified calcium receptors were not driven by anything. Each change was the result of random mutation.

In the past I was debating a creationist on-line, and he brought up the vast improbability of the development of highly specified features. He questioned how a life form could find just the right mutation.

My response was that biological forms end up trying everything. But not quite. I told him it was up to him to elaborate on the “not quite.” He couldn’t figure it out, and I never told him. The answer is there are some evolutionary developments a specific life form cannot develop. There are future evolutionary evolutionary paths that are forever blocked for a specific species. In spite of this, the remaining, available paths of development give ample opportunity for the existence of the many and varied life forms that exist today.

Creationist object to this line of thought. The convoluted paths of development supposedly followed to obtain existing life forms are too improbable to have involved chance and especially only natural causes. There must have been a guiding hand.

The counter argument to this is a fable that I tell.

A wealthy man has been found shot to death inside a locked room. No weapon is found, but an autopsy has determined death was caused by a .40 caliber bullet wound to the man’s head.

The police decide the man was murdered. Suicide has been ruled out.

Others argue that is impossible. The room was completely secure. No windows, solid walls, stout door locked from the inside. The only key to the door is discovered in the victim’s pocket. The key is required to lock and to unlock the door.

Should the police explore the possibility that space aliens slipped through the solid walls without leaving a mark, murdered the man, then slipped back through the walls, taking the gun with them.

No.

The police will rightly pursue a number of other possibilities, including that there is another key, which is much more likely than the existence of murderous space aliens, said aliens never before having been observed in all history.

In all of this I have not discussed why some animals avoid eating the newts. How do you learn not to eat the newts without winning the Darwin award.

You do not learn. You are born with the predisposition to avoid the newt.

The newt flashes its bright orange underside. Way back some ancestors of existing species had an aversion to orange. They did not eat the newts. Their descendants came to predominate in the gene pool. The orange and the aversion to orange likely developed in parallel in the same way the toxin and the calcium receptors developed in parallel.

I have not overlooked the possibility that the orange underside and the toxicity are associated, but I have not explored this. Such an association would have greatly facilitated the development of the toxin as a survival tool of the newt.

Flash Point

The critical point in the downfall of 19th century Europe came on this day, 28 June 1914. A small group of disaffected reactionaries set out to kill Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary. They only barely succeeded and, doing so, brought mighty empires crashing down.

Princip was a Bosnian national, but Serbia was his inspiration for action.

In 1912, many Serbs were being mobilized for the First Balkan War. Princip planned to join the komite, an irregular Serbian guerrilla forces committee of the secret society Unification or Death (Ujedinjenje ili Smrt), also known as Black Hand. Princip, however, was rejected by the komite in Belgrade because of his small physical stature. He then went to Prokuplje in Southern Serbia where he sought a personal interview with Serbian major Vojislav Tankosić. Tankosić, however, rejected Princip as being “too small and too weak”. Vladimir Dedijer argued that this rejection was “one of the primary personal motives which pushed him to do something exceptionally brave in order to prove to others that he was their equal”.

After Tankosić’s rejection, Princip returned to Belgrade where he met Živojin Rafajlović. Rafajlović, who was one of the founders of the Četnik movement, sent him (alongside 15 other Young Bosnia members) to a so-called Center for četnik training in Vranje. There they met with school manager Mihajlo Stevanović-Cupara. He lived in Cupara’s house which is today located in Gavrilo Princip street in Vranje. Princip practiced pistol, bomb and knife management and after he completed training he returned to Belgrade.

[Some links removed]

Learning that Archduke Ferdinand would be coming to Sarajevo in Bosnia to inspect military maneuvers, Princip and five other conspirators crossed into Bosnia and set out to ambush and kill him. The archduke arrived in Sarajevo by train with his wife, Sofie, and the would-be killers lined his expected route. Their plan was for each to launch an attack as the motorcade passed his position. They had firearms and grenades. And they had cyanide capsules. They did not expect to survive the day.

None of the initial attacks were successful. The grenades they had were unlike the modern concept of the weapon. There was no pin to pull and no spoon to release to initiate the fuse. To get the fuse going you had to strike the initiator against a hard surface. Then there was a delay of about 10 seconds before the explosive detonated. When the procession passed him about 10:15 in the morning  Nedeljko Čabrinović initiated his grenade by striking it against a post. This alerted the archduke’s driver, who saw the grenade coming at the car and accelerated out of danger. The grenade exploded beneath a following car in the procession, injuring two occupants plus some bystanders.

This spoiled the efforts of the remaining conspirators, as the crowds and the increased speed of the vehicles disrupted their attack plans. Čabrinović’s suicide attempt failed when his cyanide pill proved worthless. He jumped into the River Miljacka, but it was only a few inches deep. Police arrested him.

From Wikipedia: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofie in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Within minutes both would be dead.

From Wikipedia: Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofie in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Within minutes both would be dead.

Thus alerted, the Archduke’s party changed plans. They went to the hospital to see about the injured dignitaries. On the way to the hospital the Archduke’s driver took a wrong turn and drove right past Gavrilo Princip, armed with a pistol. I am reading Hew Strachan’s book The First World War Kindle edition. Strachan describes the critical moment:

One of the putative assassins, a nineteen-year-old consumptive, Gavrilo Princip, was loitering on the corner, having concluded that he and his colleagues had failed. He was therefore amazed to see the archduke’s car in front of him and braking. He stepped forward and shot both the archduke and his wife at point-blank range. They died within minutes.

Strachan, Hew (2005-04-05). The First World War (Kindle Locations 249-252). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Princip’s poison was also ineffective, and he was overwhelmed and arrested before he could use his pistol to kill himself. He was a few days short of the age for the death sentence, but he stood trial and was convicted. He died in April 1918, a few months before the end of the horror he had initiated.

Just Like Old Times

For longer than I care to reveal (OK, over 50 years) I have been distressed by the actions of the creationists. Until about 1989 I just let the matter slide. Starting that year I began to take action. I started reading their books and attending their meetings and their lectures. Through it all ran a common theme: Creationists wanted “creation science” taught in the public schools. Else they wanted Darwinian evolution not to be taught. Else they wanted a disclaimer attached that modern biological science is “just a theory” and that students should doubt it. Else they wanted schools to “teach the controversy.” They wanted pupils to know that the biological evolution is a controversial topic. And it is. The creationists have made it so by raising counter (and false) arguments.

To the creationists various fields of science are controversial. Nuclear physics is controversial. This science provides evidence that contradicts the Bible on the age of the Earth. Modern cosmology is controversial. Modern cosmology provides natural explanations that contradict the Bible, and cosmology got a rough ride in the Kansas public school system several years ago:

This standards document was before the State Board of Education for three months awaiting approval.  However, one state board member put forward an alternative proposal that had completely bypassed any process of review or public comment.  It was largely ghost-written by members of a local creation science organization. This document eliminated any mention of evolution and also removed reference to any unifying scientific theories.  It rather put the focus on “technological science,” and dismissed “theoretical science” as unproven speculation with little practical application.  Fully half the members of the State Board of Education (an elected body under no other political, educational, or legislative body) favored this proposal over the document developed by the education committee, resulting in an immediate deadlock.

In the last turn of events, 3 members of the Board rewrote the standards to produce a “compromise” document.  While not including the more objectionable parts of the alternate proposal, it still eliminated the theory of evolution as a model for understanding the history and diversity of life.  Furthermore it does not mention cosmology (Big Bang) or the Age of the Earth. It also includes errors of fact and misrepresentations of scientific methodology and content.  This version passed the Board on August 12th by a 6 to 4 vote.  The original standards document written and unanimously endorsed by the appointed committee was not even brought to a vote.  This decision was made in opposition to the recommendations of virtually every scientific and educational body in the state.  The Governor of Kansas and all of the presidents of the regents institutions (state universities) appealed to the Board to reject the alternate document.   The academic and educational communities are very irritated by the current situation.

By now you’re getting the idea. When science contradicts personal belief, science is going to have to give a little.

A school director in Pennsylvania is demanding that an environmental science textbook used in high schools be supplemented with a pamphlet about the “true science” of global warming.

Saucon Valley School Director and Tea Party Republican Bryan Eichfeld claimed “there’s a lot of clear propaganda…based on bad science” in the chapter, the point of which “is to teach our students to fear the future and to hate our modern industrial economy.”

He urged his fellow school directors to reject the textbook.

Or maybe a lot.

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has long been an advocate for teaching evolution in public schools and conversely for keeping ideologically-driven matter out. Starting a few years ago they realized that the science behind global warming is going to require similar attention:

In recent years, most state-level legislative attacks on evolution have taken the form of “academic freedom” bills, which permit — but do not require — teachers and students to introduce creationist material into science classes. Because these bills are permissive rather than prescriptive, they may have a better chance of surviving judicial scrutiny than has past anti evolution legislation.

There are two main strains of “academic freedom” bills. The first mandates that teachers be able to discuss “the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution,” and offers students “protection for subscribing to a particular position on views regarding biological or chemical evolution.” Bills of this strain typically also include unsubstantiated claims of widespread persecution of teachers and students who criticize evolution. The Discovery Institute’s “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution” is of this form.

The second strain does not purport to be concerned with student rights, and cites the need to help students develop “critical thinking skills” on “controversial issues.” To this end, it permits teachers to discuss “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” The listed “theories” often cover several topics of concern to the religious right: primarily evolution and abiogenesis, but also global warming, human cloning and stem cell research. One example of this strain is 2008’s Louisiana Science Education Act.

Eichfeld stated his case and his demands in a letter, which says in part:

Paul Saunders, a local expert on the deceptions of global warming alarmists, has prepared a 10+ page analysis of the most egregious portions of the book. A quick example of the deceptiveness of the text, from page 344 – “some of the findings of the IPCC state that since the third report in 2001, the average global surface temperature increased by 0.75° C”. What is not stated is they picked 2001 because it was a particularly cold year of surface temperatures compared to 1998 and 2002. If they used the trend of global temperatures from 1998 to 2013, then the temperature increase would be trivial and far below the temperature increase predictions of the 1988 computer climate models that were used to scare the Congress and the public. This type of statistical deception is scientifically dishonest, Eichfield believes, that the only reason that such deceptive techniques are used, is to scare our students to fear the future and to hate our modern industrial economy.

Eichfeld believes that it is the school board’s obligation to provide our students with a balanced point of view. Science is not the study of a consensus of thought, it is the study of the actual data and the application of the scientific method. There is credible, rational scientific evidence challenging the man-made global warming alarmist claims and our students should be exposed to it.

The text in question is Environmental Science by Michael R. Heithaus, Karen Arms and Holt McDougal (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2013). I do not have a copy of this book, so I cannot confirm what Eichfeld says about page 344. That given, an examination of history from meteorological stations and the Land-Ocean Temperature Index does not quite quite confirm Eichfeld’s assertion (“they picked 2001 because it was a particularly cold year”). If the authors had wanted to pick a particularly cold year they could have better gone to 2000, which seems to have been colder, or at least just as cold. What they would not do is use 1998, because, as the plot shows, 1998 exhibited a temperature spike. See the following:

From Google

From Google

What matters more and is easier to interpret are the averages, shown in the following:

From Google

From Google

This does not go all the way to 2013, when the book was published, but it does show the five-year average, and that is particularly telling. The 1998 peak is smoothed out, and the red line (five-year average) shows a monotonic increase following a dip about 1994. The black horizontal bar shows the period when the Pinatubo eruption cooled the atmosphere.

I have attempted to identify the “Paul Saunders” in question. The Lehigh Valley News elaborated on Saunders’ testimony:

Paul Saunders, a self-proclaimed “local expert of the deceptions of climate change alarmist,” was invited by Eichfeld to speak on the matter at Tuesday’s board meeting.
In a presentation of his 11-page report on the topic, Saunders said that the textbook’s assertion that carbon-dioxide emissions have driven global climate change over the centuries is mistaken.
He said the book confounds group consensus with scientific fact.
“The temperature is driving [carbon dioxide] emissions, not the other way around,” he said. “The Environmental Science textbook does not adhere to the scientific method. It delivers one-sided advocacy.”
The Bethlehem resident was allowed to present his findings in spite of not being a member of the school district, to the chagrin of some officials and local residents.

I did find this Paul J. Saunders, who posted the following in 2007:

 As the worlds leaders gather in New York this week to discuss climate change, youre going to hear a lot of well-intentioned talk about how to stop global warming. From the United Nations, Bill Clinton, and even the Bush administration, you’ll hear about how certain mechanisms cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions, carbon taxes, and research and development plans for new energy technologies can fit into some sort of global emissions reduction agreement to stop climate change. Many of these ideas will be innovative and necessary; some of them will be poorly thought out. But one thing binds them together: They all come much too late.

For understandable reasons, environmental advocates don’t like to concede this point. Eager to force deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, many of them hype the consequences of climate change in some cases, well beyond what is supported by the factsto build political support. Their expensive policy preferences are attractive if they are able to convince voters that if they make economic sacrifices for the environment, they have a reasonable chance of halting, or at least considerably slowing, climate change. But this case is becoming harder, if not impossible, to make.

The Center For The National Interest provides the following profile of Paul J. Saunders:

PaulJSaundersCFTNI

Paul J. Saunders is Executive Director of the Center for the National Interest and a member of the Center’s Board of Directors.  He is the Center’s Chief Operating Officer and directs its U.S.-Russian Relations Program in addition to leading projects on other issues, including energy and climate change and U.S.- Japan relations.  He is also Associate Publisher of the foreign policy magazine The National Interest, published bi-monthly by the Center for the National Interest.

Mr. Saunders served in the Bush Administration from 2003 to 2005 as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs. In that capacity, he worked on a broad range of transnational issues, in particular with respect to Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union, as well as Iraq, China and India.

Paul Saunders on Facebook is this Paul Saunders, who appears to live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania:

From Paul Saunders' Facebook profile

From Paul Saunders’ Facebook profile

This is an excellent article debunking the claim that most scientists agree that global warming is a crisis. P.S. Dr. Roy Spencer is an award-winning former NASA scientist who with Dr. John Christy is the co-Father of global satellite temperature measurement. It is shameful that any organization uses the utterly corrupt surface temperature data anymore. Only global satellite data is meaningful and even it has problems.
The “link” in question is to this:

Opinion

The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’

What is the origin of the false belief—constantly repeated—that almost all scientists agree about global warming?

May 26, 2014 7:13 p.m. ET

Last week Secretary of State John Kerry warned graduating students at Boston College of the “crippling consequences” of climate change. “Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists,” he added, “tell us this is urgent.”

Where did Mr. Kerry get the 97% figure? Perhaps from his boss, President Obama, who tweeted on May 16 that “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Or maybe from NASA, which posted (in more measured language) on its website, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.”

Yet the assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is a man-made, urgent problem is a fiction. The so-called consensus comes from a handful of surveys and abstract-counting exercises that have been contradicted by more reliable research.

This Paul Saunders, that Paul Saunders, it’s apparent neither one is a scientist.

The temperature is driving [carbon dioxide] emissions, not the other way around.

That’s a curious statement. Having studied the sciences of chemistry and physics for over 50 years I am at a loss to come up with any known science that supports that claim.

He said the book confounds group consensus with scientific fact.

Mr. Saunders, consensus is a basis of science. What is accepted in science is what is the consensus of scientists working in the field of study. The scientific consensus has been known in the past to be wrong, but it is still science.

The Environmental Science textbook does not adhere to the scientific method. It delivers one-sided advocacy.

The President of the United States summed up this point. When the issue has been examined from all sides there often comes a point when further argument is just silly:

In a speech at Georgetown University in Washington DC, Mr Obama said there were multiple solutions to the “very hard problem” of climate change but said he would not waste time debating those who denied it was happening at all.

“We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” he said. “Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm.”

I just now sent off a note to Bryan Eichfeld asking for additional information about the text book passage he mentioned. If I get a response I will provide an update.

UPDATE

Bryan responded quickly to my request for additional information. Here is a copy of the e-mail exchange:

Bryan Eichfeld
Today at 7:22 AM

To
John Blanton
Thank you for your interest, but due to copyright laws I would not be able to send this to you.

On Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 1:51 AM, John Blanton <jf_blanton@yahoo.com> wrote:

Mr. Eichfeld,
I am attempting to follow up on the referenced text book review. In your discussion you mentioned the authors’ assertions on page 344. I do not have a copy of that book, but I am interested in the full presentation by the authors. I will be most grateful if you can send me an image of the page and any relevant material.
Best regards,
John Blanton
San Antonio, Texas
I have asked for Bryan Eichfeld’s additional comments, and I will post an update if he has anything further to tell. In the mean time I will try to get the context from page 344 of Experimental Science.

Kiss Me, Deadly

Image from Politicususa

Image from Politicususa

It’s the title of a novel by Mickie Spillane and also for a movie based on the book’s plot, but with a slightly altered title. When the publisher printed up the first 50,000 copies they left out the comma, and Spillane forced them to pulp the entire batch and reprint.

That said, here is The Rest of the Story:

Tuesday night Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) easily defeated former Oklahoma House Speaker TW Shannon in Oklahoma’s US Senate Republican primary. Lankford will move on to the general election this November and likely fill the seat which is being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Despite Shannon, the first African American speaker of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, receiving endorsements from big names within the Tea Party leading up to the primary, Lankford cruised to victory, 57% to 34%.

Who exactly were these heavy hitters that campaigned for Shannon? Well, one kingmaker that came out for Shannon was none other than 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee and half-term Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. The former mayor of Wasilla jumped on board the Shannon express in March. Back then, when she gave her endorsement, she wrote the normal Palin word salad about self-reliance, entrepreneurship and fighting government waste. She lauded Shannon’s conservative credentials and claimed that Lankford had the backing of “Beltway insiders.”

I have previously posted on The Kiss of Death:

It was summer of 2008, and I swear I was minding my own business. The news item on my computer screen said that John McCain had just picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. That’s the instant I knew.

It was game over. The next president of the United States was going to be Barack Obama. Thank you, Sarah.

I have mentioned before that Sarah Palin recently considered running for the presidential nomination and quickly sank out of sight, ignored roundly by Republicans who need to live in the real world. …

Some of you will say to me that Shannon was due to go down in flames anyhow and that Palin and Cruz just showed up to roast marshmallows in the fire. I say that where there’s fire there’s likely to be smoke. Not that it would ever happen, but on my death bed one thing I would dread to see would be a get well card from the former governor of Alaska.

What me worry?

godbible

As if Republicans did not already have enough problems:

  • Gun advocates acting crazy
  • Religious nut cases acting… like they always do
  • People signing up for insurance under the ACA
  • Yearly increasing evidence for anthropogenic global warming
  • Absolutely no evidence for Intelligent Design

Can’t get much worse than that. Right?

Sorry:

A big deal has been made about the Republican Party’s so-called Hispanic problem during recent U.S. election cycles. But there’s another group — largely white and male — that has also struggled to increase the number of Latinos in its ranks: America’s religiously unaffiliated. Until recently, that is.

The number of Hispanic American “nones” — those who say they have no particular religion or are atheist or agnostic — is growing at a clip that would make GOP operatives green with envy. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2013 National Survey of Latinos and Religion, 18 percent of Hispanics are not affiliated with any religion.

The Republican Party has for some time had a problem with “Latinos.” Latinos I define as people whose native language is not English but is Spanish or Portuguese. Also that would include people with Spanish (Portuguese) family names and just plain people from Central and South America. There are a few reasons:

  • Anti immigration policies
  • English-only advocacy
  • General xenophobia

One thing Republicans have going for them with Latinos is religion. Latinos (stereotype alert!) tend to be Catholic. The southern continents were first colonized by Spain, and if there is one thing the Spanish did was to proselytize with prejudice. By that I mean the Catholic friars gave their unwilling subjects two options, convert or die. Many did both. The result is a heavily Catholic society extending from the southern United States border to Terra del Fuego.

Uh, this is a Party that 54 years ago strongly objected to electing a Catholic president. But times have changed. Since the Republican Party became the Party of God about 30 years ago they have found the need to be more accommodating of religious denominations—so long as it is the religion of Jesus, God of Abraham at the very least. Welcome, welcome, Latinos, to the modern Republican Party.

Fade to black.

As more Latinos exempt themselves from religious influence they begin to look more like liberals—Democrats. What to do?

There’s not much Republicans can do. They are basically hosed if enough Latinos lose their religious foundation. The Party is not going to be able to attract Latinos by stumping to post the Ten Commandments in class rooms, requiring schools to “teach the controversy” (relating to biological evolution) and advocating government sponsored prayer.

Republicans can take some consolation. Absence of religion characterizes only one in five Hispanics now. That still gives the Party a shot at one more presidential election. After that Republicans may have to put English-only back in the closet for a few decades.

And may Jesus have mercy on their souls.

Wacko comes to Washington

From The Daily Beast

From The Daily Beast

Actually, it never left. Here’s the latest:

Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and a lady who said she sees angels swooping down into the Supreme Court joined the pro-tradition throngs at the annual March for Marriage.

Steps from our nation’s Capitol, I was approached by Morton, a youthful-looking 68-year-old Virginia native with artificially blond hair and a fistful of fliers that read, “Gay Greed” and “Gay Sex Leads to Adult Diapers.”

“They’re not born with it, you know,” Morton offered, unprompted. “If anybody opens the back door unnaturally from outside, you end up having open-door syndrome. You can’t close the door. Anal sex harms [gays]. It reduces their life by, on average, 25 years—anal or oral sex.” Asked if such sex could harm women the same way it harms gay men, Morton thought for a moment. “Uh, it also has an impact—a strong impact. I’m not certain the exact statistics there.”

“Adult Diapers?” Didn’t I just cover that? Or something like it.

One thing you can say about Washington, here the truth is a sometime thing. And sometimes not even then. The Daily Beast story is intriguing. Let me analyze a few passages:

In between speakers, some attendees walked around wielding signs and some prayed—with their arms stretched toward the sky. Others clutched rosary beads. Actual priests (and a few rabbis) circled, holding religious texts and offering wisdom to passersby.

Priests and rabbis offering wisdom? Hopefully these are not among the some with arms stretched toward the sky. “Wisdom” does not belong in this paragraph.

Among those present was Jim Griffin, wearing a Captain America suit and proclaiming himself “The True Captain America.”

He was at the march, he said, because “the family’s fallen apart… Foreign governments are laughing and we’re on the precipice of something very, very, very bad.” Griffin advised people “study history. Just find out the facts, find out the truth,” to prepare for that very, very, very bad something that is coming soon. Griffin said the March for Marriage was about telling the Supreme Court, “We want to take our country back to founding principles.”

Something very, very very bad is coming soon? It already has.