No, that’s a bad Oklahoma! Bad Oklahoma!

Looks like there’s another creationist bill in another red state:

Oklahoma’s most recent creationism measure has made it over its latest hurdle.

The Oklahoma Common Education committee passed the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act Tuesday in a close 9-8 vote, Mother Jones reports.

Introduced by Republican state Rep. Gus Blackwell, the legislation would “permit teachers, schools, and students to explore alternative theories without repercussions,” the Week columnist Dana Liebelson writes.

“Without repercussions”? Come, come now. This bill is about science denialism across the board, including of global warming, cloning, and especially evolution. A person cannot grow up in the 21st century and expect to be proficient in an ever more complex world when our schools are forcing scientific illiteracy on them. Just look at what one of the sponsors of the bill said:

While creationism bills have often been linked to religion, Blackwell insists that the legislation’s focus is scientific exploration.

“I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” Blackwell explained to Mother Jones. “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”

Highly complex life – indeed, all of life – is explained not merely by chance, nor merely mutations. There are a whole host of mechanisms which contribute to life’s erratic march, such as genetic drift and, of course, natural selection. (I say “erratic march” because, as Stephen Jay Gould noted, life does not evolve towards complexity, but rather diversity.) We cannot expect students to write coherent papers on this matter when there are people in charge like Blackwell who have obviously never even considered biology at this level.

Hopefully this bill will die just like a similar one did last year, but who knows. The power of the stupid-lobby remains as strong as ever.

Student embarrasses school, school stomps feet

I’ve written in the past about how I know I’ve beaten people rhetorically. When someone starts using my exact rhetoric right back to me in a way that isn’t meant merely to mock or quote, I know I’ve gotten to that person. Something I said got to them and they want to force that same feeling onto me. The only problem is that they’ve gone about it in an obvious way that is more immature than anything. It’s like when a little kid gets embarrassed in front of his friends by, say, tripping and falling. The kid who laughs at him the most may get pushed for no reason other than to make the first kid feel better.

So that brings me to Mustang Mid-High School in Mustang, Oklahoma. A 9th grade student caught a teacher sleeping on the job and snapped a picture with his cell phone. The first reaction of any adult would be to reprimand the teacher. It may be a slap on the wrist, it might be an official write-up, or it might be outright termination. It depends on the exact context as well as the teacher’s history, but I don’t think any mature person doubts some sort of punishment is in line. Unfortunately, the people running Mustang aren’t that cognitively developed:

A ninth grader who snapped a picture of a snoozing substitute teacher with his cell phone camera and posted it on a social network is in hot water with his school district.

The unnamed student, who attends Mustang Mid-High School in Mustang, Okla., was suspended, according to ABC affiliate KOCO.

This is a tad ridiculous. Sure, the student was breaking the rules by having his cell phone on during school hours. I don’t think there’s enough evidence (unless the student said otherwise to administrators) that he had his phone on for anything more than to take the picture, but if they want to follow the letter of the law, this isn’t the worst case of people doing that. Except they aren’t following their rules for the sake of being consistent. If they were, they would have only given the student a detention or some other reprimand which, according to various reports, appears to be the usual course of action. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on here: the unnamed student embarrassed the school and they wanted to get back at him. I would say the school didn’t merely rhetorically lose on this one. Now they look completely stupid.

To be fair, the school is claiming they are taking action against the teacher. They aren’t saying what it is their specific course of action will be, but I have to wonder what Oklahoma’s freedom of information act looks like. In Maine and other states, as I found out when I embarrassed the Augusta Police Department, most personnel information is privileged, but that is not the case for disciplinary records for public employees. It may be possible for local media outlets to find out the specifics of the reprimand. (In fact, I will be emailing them to encourage they do so.)

The cost of tough-on-crime horseshit

It’s steep.

When Harry Coates campaigned for the Oklahoma state Senate in 2002, he had one approach to crime: “Lock ’em up and throw away the key.”

Now, Coates is looking for that key. He and other tough-on-crime lawmakers across the country, faced with steep budget shortfalls, are searching anxiously for ways to let inmates out of prison faster and keep more offenders on the street.

Oklahoma’s preferred answer for crime has collided head-on with a budget deficit estimated at $600 million, and prison costs that have increased more than 30 percent in the last decade.

And this is common all across the country. As a result, prisoners are being released early, others are only being put on probation, and still others are receiving treatment for drug addiction. This is helping the problem somewhat. No, no. Not the money. I mean, yes, that is being helped, but the real problem – the one where non-violent offenders go to prison to lose years of their lives, where they lose any real chance at becoming better, where they go to learn how to be better criminals – that is being helped.

It’s just for all the wrong reasons.

Vermont rated healthiest state; Maine 9th

Vermont tops states in health, Louisiana ranks last.

It was the second straight year that Vermont topped the rankings. It was followed by Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Idaho and Maine.

Louisiana fell from 49th to 50th, replacing Mississippi. Rounding out the bottom 10 were South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada and Georgia.

California, the most populous state, ranked 24th and New York 25th.

Vermont, with the second smallest population of any state, had the third-highest public health spending and an obesity rate of 22 percent, four points below the national average.

It also had low child poverty and violent crime, a large number of doctors per capita and good high school graduation rates.

Hawaii had similarly low obesity, the highest public health spending, little air pollution, low rates of uninsured people, a low rate of preventable hospitalizations and low rates of death from cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Mississippi led the nation in obesity at 33 percent of the population, while Colorado was lowest at 19 percent.

22% is the obesity rate in the healthiest state. That’s absolutely absurd. But let’s keep outspending every nation combined on our military. Health certainly isn’t relevant or important to life.

By the way, is it any surprise the South makes up the whole of the bottom 10?