Monthly Archives: March 2012

Predator and Prey Podcast Produced

On Skeptically Speaking:

This week, we’re looking into the many strategies that animals employ in the struggle to eat other animals. We’re joined by freelance science writer Matt Soniak, to discuss the often complex relationship between hunter and hunted. And on the podcast, biological anthropologist Greg Laden returns to tell us about humanity’s history as hunters, and how it may – or may not – affect our behavior today.

It is here.

On one hand, Paul Douglas. On the other, Heartland

I have two only vaguely related items for you, and the first is really two items.

Paul Douglas has written a piece on climate change that you should read. Douglas is the famous Twin Cities meteorologist who worked for several years at our own WCCO. He was a regional celebrity, much loved by all, and a lot of people stopped watching television when he left that station a couple of years back. The blog post is: A Message From A Republican Meteorologist On Climate Change.

Given how sensible and smart he is, one would have never thought Paul was a … oh never mind, that, there is a second thing you should know: Paul Douglas will be one of our guests at two Climate Change panels we are doing this July at CONvergence, as part of the organized science and skepticism track. You’ll be hearing a lot more about that later. Maggie Koerth-Baker, whom I shall be interviewing on the radio Sunday AM, will also be on one or both of those panels.

The other item that just came across my desk: General Motors Stops Funding The Heartland Institute. Why? The short answer is that the truth about the nature of the Heartland Institute was exposed by scientist Peter Gleick, and General Motors decided to do the right thing.

Thank you very much, that is all.

Do Neonicotinoid Pesticides Contributed to the Complex Thing We Call Bee Colony Collapse?

ResearchBlogging.orgA commonly used insecticide, and possibly an increasingly widely used form of that pesticide, could be a causal factor in bee colony collapse. It is not 100% certain that this pesticide’s effects can be counted as one of the causes this problem, but there is a very good chance that neonicotinoids can cause a drop in hive population, and thus, should be examined to see if there is a relationship in some cases. From the paper’s abstract:

Nonlethal exposure of honey bees to thiamethoxam (neonicotinoid systemic pesticide) causes high mortality due to homing failure at levels that could put a colony at risk of collapse. Simulated exposure events on free-ranging foragers labeled with an RFID tag suggest that homing is impaired by thiamethoxam intoxication. These experiments offer new insights into the consequences of common neonicotinoid pesticides used worldwide.

Continue reading Do Neonicotinoid Pesticides Contributed to the Complex Thing We Call Bee Colony Collapse?

Scott Walker RECALLED after weakening Unions, cutting their pay, and threatening them with military action

The Government Accountability Board in Wisconsin voted unanimously to recall Governor Scott Walker following the submission of a petition with 900,000 signatures. (Only 540,208 signatures were required.)

Walker was targeted for recall after he pushed through a law last year that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for most state workers. It also forced the workers to contribute more to their pension and health care costs, which amounted to a cut in pay.

Walker told reporters he would be willing to mobilize the National Guard in order to address potential repercussions from unions.


Rick Santorum on Creationism Laws

This just in:

Baton Rouge, LA — (March 27, 2012) — At Senator Santorum’s March 23rd rally in Pineville Louisiana, student activist, Zack Kopplin, had the chance to question the Senator about creationism laws. Kopplin, who has led the effort to repeal Louisiana’s creationism law, the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act, asked Santorum about the Louisiana Science Education Act and Santorum’s proposed amendment to the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, which served as a model for Louisiana’s law.

Kopplin asked, “In Louisiana we have a creationism law that’s based off a 2002 creationism amendment you proposed to the No Child Left Behind Act… Can you spend about two seconds explaining why you think this is a good idea?”

Stantorum responded, “states have a right to do what they want with education curriculum.”

First, Santorum didn’t take issue with the nature of Louisiana’s law or his amendment as being “creationist” laws.

Second, Santorum’s attempt to justify teaching creationism as a state’s right is wrong. There is no justification for teaching unconstitutional non-science in public school science classes. Students will not get the education they need to succeed and get the science and technology jobs of the 21st century. Ironically, Santorum’s own legislation would have been a federal mandate. So while it’s clearly convenient for him to cite state’s rights in favor of Louisiana’s creationism law, the fact that his own amendment would have been a federal mandate undercuts that argument and shows his real priority is the teaching of creationism.

When interviewed about the rally, Kopplin said,

“This defense of teaching creationism seems to be the Republican base’s party line. When Michele Bachmann was asked about the Louisiana Science Education Act last spring, and her own 2006 effort to pass a creationism law in Minnesota, she gave an equally ill-informed answer about state’s rights. Governor Perry, last fall, said that creationism was taught in Texas schools.

Governor Romney appears likely to win the Republican Primary and it is important to know what his views on creationism are. Will he stick to what he said in 2008 and defend the teaching of evolution, or will he shake up the etch-a-sketch and toe the line to the Republican base?”

To contact Zack Kopplin, email

Thank you to Jason Berry and NOSHA for their help making this video possible.

More here at Repeal Creaionism Dot Com.

How to learn language

How to learn language

Me: “Huxley, this is your milk. I’m going to drink it myself!”

Huxley: “I’m going to drink it ME-self!”

Me: “What?”

Huxley: “I’m going to drink it I-self!”

Me: “Huh?”

Huxley: “I’m going to drink it Huxley-self!”

Me: “Oh, OK, here’s your milk!”

You need to give Sharon some money, right now

As many of you know, because you’ve not seen me around as much as usual, I’ve been devoting a considerable amount of my time to volunteering for a political campaign in my district. I’m trying to help Sharon Sund replace Erik Paulsen in the Third Congressional District of Minnesota. Erik is the Republican who took over the seat held by Jim Ramstad, who was a moderate Republican.

I wrote a blog post during the last congressional race addressing the question: Who is Erik Paulsen, anyway? Go read it if you have a chance, but I can summarize it for you: Have you seen the old Mission Impossible TV show, where the guy reaches down to his neck and pulls off a mask and it’s somebody else? If Erik Paulsen did that, he’d look like this when the mask came off:


Scary, huh?

There are three reasons that I’m supporting Sharon, and this has evolved over time so pay attention:

1) She is an Unabashed Liberal Progressive. I feel that we need more people like her in Congress, and I feel that running a “moderate” against a “Bachmann Clone” is a doomed strategy.

2) Although I tend to agree with Sharon on issues across the board, I’m particularly interested in her work in Health Care (that thing we used to have until the SCOTUS gutted it, I kid nervously?) and Green Energy and the related Green Economy. She was trained as a scientist and worked in Green Energy, as well as information technology and has experience in the medical device industry.

3) I’ve been watching her, as well as other candidates for various positions in various settings (the latter, over many years) speaking to audiences and small groups, and there is something Sharon does not ever do: She does not adjust her story on the issues depending on whom she is speaking with. She won’t tell environmentalists that she’s for saving the forests, spotted owl collectors that she’s against saving the forests, and Union representatives that she wants to turn the forests into jobs at any cost. (She is generally pro environment and pro jobs, I quickly add. Not sure how she stands on the Spotted Owl specifically, but I’m not worried.)

4) Some issues are hard, difficult, tricky, and approaches to them have to be nuanced and correspondingly complex. Sharon is reluctant to simplify her position on these issues into a sound bite, and prefers to discuss the complexities and hear what people have to say about them. (See the part above about having a background in science.)

5) After watching her campaign for a while, I’ve realized that Sharon has the campaign organization in place to win in November. She is running for the nomination against another DFLer, Brian Barnes (Brian is a really nice guy and is good on the issues too) so there is a campaign going on now for us to observe how she does. And, Sharon Sund is ahead in delegates (we are almost done with the nomination campaign … the last “convention” is Saturday) and had a great showing last Saturday when nine conventions happened on the same day, even winning in her worthy opponent’s home district.

Here is the list of people I’ve had the pleasure to meet working as a volunteer on this campaign; note that the campaign staff has grown as Sharon’s campaign gains momentum, and various experts have flocked to join. Here is the growing list of endorsements Sharon has received. This is a long list considering that endorsements don’t really start happening until after the nomination, or even the primaries, in Minnesota (we have a complicated system).

And now, the moment you have been waiting for. Here is the web page you can go to in order to donate to Sharon’s campaign.

When Sharon or any other person running for office asks for money, they have to be all nice and stuff. I don’t. IF YOU DON’T GIVE SHARON MONEY I WILL BE REALLY MAD AT YOU. I will, of course, be relying on the honor system to see if you’ve donated or not. But I know when you are telling me the truth and when you are not, so don’t even bother resisting. Just click there now and send Sharon 10 bucks. Or 25, if you can.

ORDER BY MIDNIGHT! … It turns out that if you give some money to Sharon’s campaign right now, by the end of the day Friday, there is a person who will match your donation.

That is all, thank you very much.