Daily Archives: January 16, 2012

Scott Walker Recall Petition is Full

720,000 signatures have been collected to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Only 540,000 signatures were needed. The rest is, I suppose, a tip. Raw Story reports:

With Tuesday’s deadline fast approaching, The New York Times reports that Wisconsin’s activists are prepared to submit about 720,000 petition signatures, far surpassing the 540,000 needed to trigger a recall election later this year.

Before the election can proceed, the state’s election board will have to build a $100,000 database of registered voters and check each petition signature against the list. Assuming that more than 540,000 entries are valid, Walker will face the possibility of being only the third governor in U.S. history to be removed by recall election.

It will be interesting to see, if possible, how many petitions were faked. Remember a while back the Tea Party promised to do that? And if they did, it will be interesting to see if charges are filed.

Women in Elevators and Black Guys Sneaking Up Behind You

As you may know, I wrote a post, Women in Elevators: A Man To Man Talk For The Menz, in which I wrote:

I am not afraid of dogs, and most women are probably not “afraid of men.”

Except I’m actually afraid of dogs and most women are justifiably afraid of men. If you get what I’m saying so far, go away and do something useful because this post is not written for you. If you are puzzled, especially about the idea of women being afraid of men at all, then sit down, shut up, and allow me to slap you across the chops a couple of times with a little reality because that is what you need. Assuming you are a sentient adult and still have no clue.

Several people got really really mad at me because of that post … I literally lost a few friends … and they got even madder when I pointed out that getting mad at me for that post increased in my mind the chance that you are likely to be abusive to women. Holy crap. Anyway, it all relates to the whole Schrödinger’s Rapist thing. (See this recent post at Camels with Hammers for more on that)

Anyway, one of the responses to that post (and other conversations going on at the time) was to point out that a man saying that he recognized that women could be justifiably nervous about running across an unknown male on a lonely street at night was equivalent to saying that all black people are criminals. Or something like that.

Well, my bloggy friend Ian Cromwell who it turns out is a big scary black guy has addressed that issue, skillfully and engagingly, in a post called “Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist.” Go have a look.

National Center for Science Education Announces Climate Change Initiative!!!!

Here is a press release that will be distributed shortly:


A new initiative in the struggle for quality science education

OAKLAND, CA January 16, 2012

Science education is under attack–again.

This time it’s under attack by climate change deniers, who ignore a mountain of evidence gathered over the last fifty years that the planet is warming and that humans are largely responsible. These deniers attempt to sabotage science education with fringe ideas, pseudoscience, and outright lies.

But the National Center for Science Education won’t let ’em get away with it.

“We consider climate change a critical issue in our own mission to protect the integrity of science education,” says Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE’s executive director. Long a leader in the fight to defend the teaching of evolution in public schools, NCSE now sees creationist-like tactics being used in the attack on climate education.

“Climate affects everyone, and the decisions we make today will affect generations to come,” says Scott. “We need to teach kids now about the realities of global warming and climate change, so that they’re prepared to make informed, intelligent decisions in the future.”

In this expansion of its core mission, NCSE will help parents, teachers, policymakers, the media, and others to distinguish the real science from the junk science that deniers are trying to push into the science classroom.

“Polls show that Americans’ understanding of climate change is very shallow. One study found that only 54% of teens realize that global warming is happening,” says Mark McCaffrey, a climate and environmental education expert who has joined the NCSE as its new climate change programs and policy director. “Why? Because of a barrage of misinformation on climate change, coupled with a lack of accurate climate education. I’m excited to be part of NCSE’s efforts to help to reverse these disturbing trends.”

The scientific community is applauding NCSE’s new initiative. Said Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

“AAAS has long admired the NCSE’s efforts to protect the integrity of science. We are delighted to see the Center expand its activities to ensure that climate science is appropriately taught in our nation’s schools.”

“We applaud the NCSE for its efforts to promote the teaching of climate change in our nation’s classrooms,” said Dr. Francis Eberle, executive director of the
National Science Teachers Association. “Teachers should not be subjected to ideological opposition to the teaching of climate change from parents, administrators, or members of the community.”

Added Scott Mandia, the meteorologist who cofounded the Climate Science Rapid Response Team:

“The cavalry has arrived. NCSE, with its passion and experience defending science in our schools, will ensure that teachers can educate students about climate change without fear of reprisal.”

Tackling climate change denial head on

In its initiative to defend climate change education, NCSE will:

* Help parents, teachers, and others fight the introduction of climate change/global warming denial and pseudoscience in the classroom.

* Act as a resource center to connect teachers, scientists, and policymakers with the best information available.

* Provide tools and support to ensure that climate change is properly and effectively taught in public schools.

* Aid those testifying before local and state boards of education, and before local, state, and federal legislative committees.

* Connect local activists with one another, and with scientists and other relevant experts.

New program, new faces

As part of this new initiative, the NCSE has added two key members to its team:

* Dr. Peter Gleick, president and co-founder of The Pacific Institute, joins NCSE’s board of directors. Gleick is a noted hydroclimatologist, an internationally recognized water expert, and a MacArthur Fellow. Gleick’s research and writing address the critical connections between water and human health, the hydrologic impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and international conflicts over water resources.

* Mark McCaffrey, a long-time climate literacy expert, joins NCSE as climate change programs and policy director. Previously at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), McCaffrey helped spearhead a number of climate and energy literacy programs, and the creation of the Climate Literacy & Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN), and testified before Congress about climate and environmental education.

Climate Change Denialism Spreading in US Public Education Related Proposals

It is no longer the case that science teachers and concerned parents only need to worry about creationists invading US classrooms, via personal intrusion (by parents, students, or creationist teachers) or by legislation or regulation. Increasingly climate change denialism is being shoved into science classes by the usual nefarious forces.

This is not really new. “Academic Freedom” bills in many states over the last decade or so were introduced to try to force college professors to shut up about climate change. In the college setting, I’ve had about the same level of resistance to global warming as to evolution, if not more. But as Neela Banerjee points out, we may be nearing a flash point in American science education:

Continue reading Climate Change Denialism Spreading in US Public Education Related Proposals

Happy Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King day. To celebrated it FTB.com style, I’ll give you the quote Melody Hensley just posted as her facebook status, Dr. King’s comments regarding a Supreme Court decision to ban school prayer:

I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.

SOPA Dead (for now) But PIPA is Not

According to the examiner:

In a surprise move today, Representative Eric Cantor(R-VA) announced that he will stop all action on SOPA, effectively killing the bill. This move was most likely due to several things. One of those things is that SOPA and PIPA met huge online protest against the bills. Another reason would be that the White House threatened to veto the bill if it had passed. .

PIPA, the Senate Version is still in play, however.

New Lab Rodent Recommendations Rile Researchers

Research using lab rats or mice funded by the NIH is regulated by a set of guidelines that have very recently been upgraded. Mother rats and mice with litters are now recommended to have more room than current guidelines require. The new guidelines are not hard and fast rules, but researchers are concerned that not following these guidelines would jeopardize funding, and it appears from my reading of them that the new cage size guidelines are minimum requirements that must be met.

The main difference that is causing some discussion about the new guidelines is that cages that hold females with litters would be larger, and thus potentially different from the other cages as well. In many labs, current rat cages that are all 140 square inches at the base would have to be replaced with larger cages that are 210 square inches at the base. This is not a huge difference in size, but since a large number of cages would no longer fit in whatever shelving or rackspace is set up, there would have to be a lot of changes. Also, researchers appear to be annoyed that while currently all the cages in a given facility may be the same size with variable number of rats or mice in them, the new standards would require either a lot of extra space for all cages or different size cages, which would be more difficult to manage.

NPR, reporting this story, gives Johns Hopkins as an example. They have a rat and mouse facility about one football field in size, with about 40,000 shoe box size cages that fit in special racks and that integrate with a ventilation and water supply system. The facility is paid for with an internal rent of 62.5 cents per cage per day. It would cost about $300,000 to buy new cages, and more space would have to be found.

The implementation of the regulations is somewhat negotiable, which is probably not a good thing for the researchers. It might be much better to have a required change implemented over a small number of years, and to have costs covered by future NIH funding, than to be uncertain as to whether or not one must change to retain funding, vs. this new rule simply going away. Also, in the long run, this is not as expensive as it sounds. Johns Hopkins received almost 700 million dollars in NIH research funding in 2010. Throwing a million bucks into the overall research budget one time and a few hundred thousand increase which will be covered by grants over the long term is not insignificant, but it is certainly doable.

Some “animal rights” groups want the rodents to have even more room. Some scientists have pointed out that there is no evidence that increasing room changes anything for the rodents, which is probably not a helpful thing to say at this point in time because if it it seems to imply that there has been no research into enclose size requirements for rodents. The new guidelines explicitly state that “Space recommendations were nominally expanded based on … professional and expert opinion and on current housing methods,” and “substantial guidance” is provided in the document to achieve the objectives of the new goal. Also, the guide attempts to distinguish between things that researchers must, vs. should, vs may do. I would assume that “shoulds” and “mays” are guidelines that under some conditions could be seen as potential future “musts.” If I was in charge of an animal research facility, I’d be meeting with member of the NIH committee now and then to assess their future directions along these lines, so that the next time I speced out rat cages, I’d consider the “should” requirements if there was an expectation that “should” would someday become “must.” The cage size increases appear to be in the “must” category but with exceptions. It is actually rather complicated, which is why the people who run these facilities are experts!

Here’s a copy of the guidelines.

Ricky Gervais, After Ruffling Feathers, Invited Back Anyway, Ruins Hollywood

It is almost as though people in Hollywood care more about the size of the audience than the loudness of the whining!

I only watched part of the Gold Globes awards. I had not seen any of the movies or TV shows mentioned. Or, for that matter, heard about them. The funniest thing Gervais said was probably the very long bit that was totally blanked out.

I totally missed this bit but some reporter saw it:

Gervais joked that the Globes “are just like the Oscars, but without all that esteem. The Globes are to the Oscars what Kim Kardashian is to Kate Middleton. A bit louder, a bit trashier, a bit drunker and more easily bought. Allegedly. Nothing’s been proved.”

He also needled early winners, saying the show was running long and stars needed to keep their speeches short.

“You don’t need to thank everyone you’ve ever met or members of your family, who have done nothing,” Gervais said. “Just the main two. Your agent and God.”

That was funny.

In case you missed it (I sure did) here’s the opening monologue: Continue reading Ricky Gervais, After Ruffling Feathers, Invited Back Anyway, Ruins Hollywood

Huntsman Will Quit Race For Presidential Nomination Shortly

After spending the entire day yesterday (almost) engaged in the conversation about the dismal state of science in the arena of public policy, I got word late last night that the only Republican in the race for the presidential nomination who does not openly and gleefully disdain science will be dropping out today. So, all those bad things I said yesterday about Republicans? It’s worse than that!