Daily Archives: March 20, 2012

The real impact of gun laws, and what that means

A few years ago, Minnesota passed a concealed carry law that was strongly supported by the pro-gun lobby and strongly opposed by the anti-gun lobby. As an aside, I’ll note that this was a stupid law, as in, a law engineered stupidly by people who did not know what they were doing, and here I refer to a newly elected crop of right wing legislators who did not know how to be legislators. The original bill was added to some other bill that needed to be passed, as a “rider.” I’m sure you know what a “rider” is but you may not know unless you are from the Northstar State that we can’t have riders here. They are illegal. A bill must not establish statute related to more than one thing in the State of Minnesota. So, a provision that says “it is illegal to crush baby kittens” and a provision that says “you can carry a concealed weapon if you fill out a certain form” can not be part of the same bill. Since the concealed carry bill was a rider, it was tossed out a few weeks after it passed as a matter of routine by the state courts.

That is a bit of a digression and a bit of a distraction, but it is fun to point out because it links ignorance and failure to think things through with the pro-gun lobby and a pro-gun bill. Shortly after the ill fated and illegal bill was chucked by the court system, the legislature consulted the rule books and re-passed the bill. Thereafter we’ve had a concealed carry law. Continue reading The real impact of gun laws, and what that means

The Personal Benefits of Doing Archaeology: Subversive subsurfaces.

In discussing the relevance of archeology to anything, there is an easy answer provided by my friend Peter Wells, a specialist in Culture Contact and the Central European Iron Age. Peter tells his students on the first day of class that “Archaeology is the study of everything that happened anywhere, any time, with any human beings that ever existed or exist now.” And if you think that he is exaggerating, you don’t know much about Archaeology.

Recently, my friend Elizabeth Reetz has asked a more narrowly defined question: “What are the benefits of environmental education through archaeology?” Elizabeth goes on to ask of her archaeological colleagues their “… thoughts on doing archaeology and how it has provided a greater connection to the outdoors, the environment, natural spaces, and special places … how has it increased your knowledge about a place, its ecology/environment, academics in general, or how has it increased your knowledge about yourself or your cultural history.”

And my response was something like “well, Duh” so she was like “Well, OK then…” and now I seem to be committed to writing a few blog posts on this…

Continue reading The Personal Benefits of Doing Archaeology: Subversive subsurfaces.

Don Shelby Shifts his Base

The Walter Cronkite of the Twin Cities, Emmy Award Winning news anchor Don Shelby, retired a couple of years ago and started writing for the excellent local news blog MinnPost. Shelby’s articles were always excellent and on point, and he often wrote about climate change related issues that I know are important to people who read this blog. He has also supported the cause of science in public policy in other ways.

Here are three examples of my earlier posts pertaining to Don: Minnesota AGW Denialist Jungbauer Disembowled by Respected News Anchor Don Shelby; Shawn Otto’s Book Launch Talk (with Don Shelby); and I am the Angry Left. But if I was in Congress I’d still be polite..

Well, Don has made a stunning career move, announced earlier this afternoon. He will be moving from MinnPost to BringMeTheNews, which is an entirely different kind of thing.
Continue reading Don Shelby Shifts his Base

Is Rick Santorum the “Come From Behind Kid”?

A large number of traffic accidents are being reported from eastern states as numerious NPR stations reported during the East Coast rush hour, that Santorum “hoped for a come from behind victory tonight!” Spit removal crews have been mobilized. It is quite a mess.

But alas, the climax of this particular primary battle will be delayed because there are widespread balloting problems in Illinois, where an important primary is being put to bed as we speak. According to the Washington Post, “About a quarter of the state’s counties were experiencing problems with their printed ballots, a Board of Elections official said, explaining they were too wide to fit…” Continue reading Is Rick Santorum the “Come From Behind Kid”?

"Monkey bill" passes Tennessee Senate

It’s the Scopes Trial all over again!

“The Senate approved a bill Monday evening that deals with teaching of evolution and other scientific theories,” the Knoxville News-Sentinel (March 19, 2012) reported, adding, “Critics call it a ‘monkey bill’ that promotes creationism in classrooms.” The bill in question is Senate Bill 893, which, if enacted, would encourage teachers to present the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of “controversial” topics such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”

Among those expressing opposition to the bill are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, and the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, whose president Becky Ashe described (PDF) the legislation as “unnecessary, anti-scientific, and very likely unconstitutional.”

The Senate vote was 24-8. According to the Tennesseean (March 20, 2012), Andy Berke (D-District 10) “noted the state’s history as a battleground over evolution — the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925 drew national attention and inspired the Oscar-winning film Inherit the Wind — and said the measure would cast Tennessee in a bad light.” Berke also objected that the bill would encourage inappropriate discussions of religious matters, saying, “If my children ask, ‘How does that mesh with my faith?’ I don’t want their teacher answering that question.”

The bill now proceeds to the House of Representatives, which passed the counterpart House Bill 368 on April 7, 2011. SB 893 was amended in committee before it passed the Senate, however, so the two houses of the legislature will have to resolve the discrepancies between the bills. Tennessee’s governor Bill Haslam previously indicated that he would discuss the bill with the state board of education, telling the Tennesseean (March 19, 2012), “It is a fair question what the General Assembly’s role is … That’s why we have a state board of education.”

Follow the story here at the NCSE.

Do you seek information on Earth and Climate Change?

There’s an app for that!

A free, new iPhone app from NASA literally puts the whole world in the palm of your hands. “Earth Now” immerses cyber explorers in dazzling visualizations of near-real-time global climate data from NASA’s fleet of Earth science satellites.

Available at the iTunes Store or by visiting http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/apps , Earth Now displays data on many of the key vital signs of our planet that NASA satellites track. Whether your interest is current surface air temperatures over Australia, carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide levels over Canada, ozone over Oman, water vapor over Wales, gravity anomalies in Greenland or sea level height anomalies at St. Petersburg, Earth Now brings a world of ever-changing climate data to your fingertips.

The regularly updated data are displayed as color maps projected over a 3D Earth model that can be rotated by a single finger stroke, or zoomed in and out by the pinch or spread of two fingers. Color-coded legends indicate the relative strength or weakness of environmental conditions. Helpful descriptions provide background information on each data set.

“Earth Now is a great resource for students, teachers and anyone interested in Earth’s changing climate,” said Michael Greene, manager for public engagement formulation and strategic alliances at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Since its debut last month, it’s already been downloaded nearly 170,000 times. Plans are in place for development of an Android version and for the addition of new NASA Earth science data sets over time.”

US Justice Department Will Investigate Murder of Trayvon Martin

I’m sure you’ve heard by now, but the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have opened an official investigation into the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by a vigilante “Neighborhood Watch” member George Zimmerman. Zimmerman pursued, confronted, then shot to death Trayvon Martin who was on his way home from the convenience store having picked up a bag of Skittles. Local police, apparently caught like deer in the headlights of an idiotic recently enacted Florida Law stating, according to some, that you can kill anyone you want as long as you can later say that they made you feel icky, have refuses to even bring Zimmerman in for questioning.

There have been protests, a lot of noise from the Liberal Blogosphere, and even a write in campaign using the Sanford Police’s own web site (click here to get in on that!), and limited criticism from the press.

(The 911 calls related to this case are very damning of Zimmerman, and you can listen to them here.)