A plea worth repeating

This letter appeared in today’s Kennebec Journal.

Research in cancer has come a long way but still has a long way to go. There was an article out that there may be a vaccine for breast cancer in as little as a year. Hopefully that is true. But more needs to happen. Just recently lost a wonderful co-worker to cancer. Another is going through breast cancer. She had both her breasts removed and will soon be going through chemo and radiation. We need to do something.

There has been enough suffering. I will be working on a Total Cancer Awareness Dinner. I will also be having my head shaved and donate my hair for wigs for those who have lost their hair.

It will be for everyone who has passed on, those who currently suffer from cancer and any future cancer patients. This terrible affliction needs to stop.

It is possible to beat this. Imagine a life without cancer!

Jesse Burgess

South Gardiner

I haven’t heard anything of a vaccine that soon, but one researcher who is struggling for funding has had success in preventing the disease in mice.

Barbara Forrest exposes lying creationist

I’ve said it before: public figure creationists are liars. They don’t care about being honest or straight-forward. That’s what the whole intelligent design bullshit is about: call God a “designer”, deny that’s exactly what they’re doing, and cry academic oppression all over the place (despite almost never being associated with anything remotely close to the academic world). They lie, lie, lie.

One of the results of all this lying has been that awful bill, the Louisiana Science Education Act, signed by creationist governor Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. Now a school board is considering utilizing it.

[Jan] Benton said that under provisions of the Science Education Act enacted last year by the Louisiana Legislature, schools can present what she termed “critical thinking and creationism” in science classes.

Board Member David Tate quickly responded: “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us sitting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

Students will be taught nonsense if these board members have their way. They should all be kicked out and forced to take a college level biology course.

But that’s the thing. Most if not all of these people are ignorant: ignorant of science first and foremost, but also ignorant of just how much creationists lie. Fortunately, National Center for Science Education board of directors member Professor Barbara Forrest has some revealing information.

In his June 26 response to Charles Kincade, the Rev. Gene Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), portrayed the 2008 Louisiana Science Education Act (LSEA) as “landmark” legislation — a “bold step” to “promote critical thinking skills” in public school science classes.

But legislation that is about real science education need not include religion disclaimers. Disclaimers are typically included in creationist laws, which are precisely about promoting religion. Moreover, only creationists complain, as Mills did, about “Darwinian dogma in our schools.”

Finally, Mills’ referring to public schools as “our schools” is sheer hypocrisy. Mills considers himself qualified to manipulate the education of other people’s children in public schools to which he doesn’t send his own. In his 2008 Christmas newsletter, updating readers on his children’s activities, he revealed that they don’t attend public schools. They are home-schooled and attend a private Christian school. Yet this man is dictating educational policy.

People like Gene Mills love to lie. They love to make up this false reality to trick everyone. They’re well aware of the American penchant for terms like “freedom”, rah! rah! rah!, so they usurp this politically charged language and appeal to the simplest of American libertarianism, fooling everyone into believing they just want to be fair in how they indoctrinate educate children.

But will Barbara Forrest’s thrust for honesty make much of a difference? I have to doubt it. Her case is exceedingly convincing, what with all those pesky facts, but most Americans aren’t looking for that. Instead they want emotional appeals; they want to be given an opportunity to feel as though they’re acting in the promotion of their rah! rah! rah! principles.

Above that, though, people want to see religious vindication and that’s the biggest problem of all. American ideals are fleeting; the country may well not exist 300 years from now. But religious ideology digs itself into the mind like a tick in a dog’s skin. Except unlike lyme disease, religion is a virus – a virus which is all too often inherited. That’s what motivates these people to want to teach creationism. Their public figure leaders will appeal to vague American principles in a faux attempt at a secular argument, but it’s the undercurrent of religion that fundamentally moves this wave of educational destruction.

New bloggers

I will be away from a computer for most of August and some of September, instead opting to be near the national parks of Utah and then the biggest mountain in Africa. This means posts will be less frequent. I’m going to schedule a few posts here and there, but it’s unlikely I’ll have enough to fill 25 days worth of absence. (I will be back for a few days between trips.)

What all this means is that I’ve taken steps to add bloggers. I trust they will all have interesting content to add, but I can’t predict how frequently they’ll be adding posts. In an effort to get their feet wet well before I leave, I’ve encouraged them to start making posts as soon as they can. Don’t be surprised when someone who isn’t me starts making posts. I haven’t been hacked.

I’m not sure what names they will all be using, so that will be a surprise. Keep an eye out.

Thought of the day

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is an excellent read. Or rather, listen. I have the audio version and I love it. I must be around the 8th or so time listening to it over the years and I’m nowhere near bored of it. Buy it. Listen to it. Love it.

(Skip the first minute or so to get to Bryson’s soothing voice.)

LePage questions health of Mitchell

In a recent campaign event, creationist Paul LePage took a jab at the well-being and vitality of Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell. (That link may or may not be broken at any given time. Try here.)

And though LePage said in an interview on the train that he wants his campaign to stick just to the issues, he wasn’t shy about throwing the crowd a little red meat during the stop in Bath.

“Libby (Mitchell) had her 70th birthday a few weeks ago and I’m concerned about her,” the 61-year-old said with a chuckle. “We should send her home.”

Really? Really?

Here is a picture of Paul LePage.

This guy wants to take jabs at the health of others? He’s got to be kidding.

One of the few things I liked about Dubya was the fact that he was a workout fiend. When his doctors told him he should cut back on his runs because of his knees, he took up biking instead. I had a high respect for Bush’s concern for his personal health.

But LePage clearly does not have that concern. At 61 he ought to be doing everything he can to make the final leg of his life as happy and productive as he can. It’s people with attitude’s like his that make the American health care system one of the most inefficient in the world.

Compare, for a moment, Paul LePage to both Michelle Obama and Mike Huckabee. The former is making significant efforts to reduce childhood obesity by promoting better eating and more exercise. The effectiveness of her message is helped quite a bit by the fact that she is in great shape. Who thinks a fat Michelle Obama could get her message across? It would be like Laura Bush trying to get kids to read more while being illiterate (and subsequently unconcerned). Then there’s Mike Huckabee. When he took office, he was obese. Once his doctors told him he would be dying shortly if he didn’t act right away, he shed over 100lbs pretty quickly. It surely wasn’t easy, but his life mattered more to him than his taste buds. Now he has written a book, participates in marathons, and frequently discusses health issues. He’s a better person for what he did for himself (and his family), and his message is effective because he made an honest effort that yielded honest results.

Next time Paul LePage wants to bad mouth the vitality of someone else, he ought to take a look in the mirror.

Reader responds to letter

A Kennebec Journal reader has responded to my heavily edited letter to the editor. Unfortunately, the paper has not uploaded the response online, so I do not currently have access to it. However, I do want to respond to it briefly. (I will type up a copy when I get my hands on a hard copy of the paper.)

In my letter I pointed out that creationist Paul LePage will do harm to science by discouraging the critical thinking required in science. He will encourage students to accept that creationism is intellectually viable, and that is inherently anti-science. A reader responded that Paul LePage’s daughter, Lauren LePage, will be graduating shortly with biology and chemistry degrees. The reader then said Lauren had been supported greatly by her father in her scientific endeavors.

It’s just too bad for the reader and the LePage’s that there’s more to the story.

Awhile back I documented some of the ongoing dishonesty of the LePage campaign. In that post, I referenced a question posed on the LePage Facebook page which asked why LePage supports teaching creationism in schools. Lauren LePage offered this answer:

He just thinks knowledge is a good thing, the more knowledge you have, the better off you are. And he has alread said that school curriculum should be decided on the local level, local school boards should be deciding what they want taught in their schools.

Lauren LePage is describing her father’s irresponsible thoughts on education (‘Teach kids whatever you like so long as you’re micromanaging!’). It isn’t a stretch to believe she also thinks “knowledge is a good thing”. But this isn’t knowledge in the traditional sense of the word. This is knowledge as virally delivered by religious indoctrination. And that isn’t really knowledge at all. It’s belief, faith, fairy tales. It isn’t a view discovered based upon any verifiable facts; it is a view which contradicts verified facts.

So when that reader says Lauren LePage is a good example of how Paul LePage isn’t going to taint the education system, he’s wrong. The belief that it is okay to tell students that creationism has any validity whatsoever is an active danger to science and science education – no matter what degrees one obtains.

Idiot cop gets no jail time for assault

Patrick Pogan did this to Christopher Long in 2008.

It’s hard to see how this isn’t a clear case of assault. This rookie schlub (it was his 11th day on the job) went out of his way to elbow a random cyclist to the ground. But that didn’t matter to the jury.

A former New York City police officer convicted of lying about a confrontation with a bicyclist in Times Square was given a conditional discharge on Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The former officer, Patrick Pogan, had faced up to four years in prison, but will avoid any time behind bars. He also will not be placed on probation.

This is one reason it is never a good idea to talk to the cops: juries will favor the police over random citizens almost every time. Pogan is obviously guilty of assault and deserves time in jail, but that barely matters since he once wore a police uniform. The only bright side is that he no longer can suit up.

Mr. Pogan, who was on the job for less than two weeks when the collision occurred, resigned from the police force. Because he was convicted of a felony, he would not be allowed to attempt to rejoin the Police Department.

This punk should have been convicted of assault and sent to jail. This slap on his wrist will not correct his sort of behavior in his future endeavors.