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Archive for May, 2007

Seed Newsvine

Alleged conflict of interest charges now swarm around the DoED’s sponsorship and use of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS serves as the flagship assessment instrument for the billion dollar a year Reading First program administered by the DoED.In addition to significant charges of not properly screening consultants, many of whom had financial ties to DIBLES, the DoED appears to have promoted the use of DIBELS over any other early literacy indicator.

Furthermore, DIBELS does not appear to be a good indicator of whether or not children understand what they read. DIBELS also tends to be biased in favor of children that come from literacy-rich environments according to Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erickson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development.

One study found:

That DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency scores did predict performance on the TerraNova, a standardized achievement test, although students’ performance on DIBELS accounted for less than 20 percent of the variability in those scores. The study also found that students scored poorly on their ability to retell stories they had read, suggesting the tests may be sending a message that reading rapidly is more important than reading for comprehension.

So it seems than not only is there a significant scandal brewing surrounding the use and implementation of the DIBELS instrument, it also seems that the administration that insists on research based teaching and learning eschews research when it comes to promoting their pals and their profits. The emperor has no clothes.

clipped from www.edweek.org
Although teachers in the Moriarty, N.M., public schools report positive experiences with the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, the assessments have generated a lot of controversy nationally.
The assessment tool, developed by researchers at the University of Oregon, is now approved for use under the federal Reading First program in 45 states to monitor student progress on reading fluency and other measures.
But a contentious hearing before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee probed allegations that the widespread use of DIBELS may stem, in part, from inappropriate promotion of the tests by federal officials as part of the rollout of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program.
A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, released in March, suggested that a federal contractor did not appropriately screen consultants, some of whom had financial ties to DIBELS, for conflicts of interest.

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Clipped from YouTube, this video is a powerful reminder that asking the skeptical questions is the first and only requirement of being human. Without skeptical inquiry we would still be napping flint weapons, living in caves, and wandering about the plains in search of food. Asking skeptical questions, however, is not a remedy for ambition, hubris, or evil. It is not a remedy for those who believe without evidence. It is not a remedy for stupidity. Skepticism is, however, the springboard to human progress and greatness.

clipped from www.youtube.com

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And this is a powerful response to Pale Blue Dot.

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Seed Newsvine

Wolfowitz “did not accept the bank’s policy on conflict of interest and tried to bypass rules that he believed did not apply to him.”

Paul Wolfowitz engaged in nepotism when he assured that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza was promoted and saw to it that she received a hefty pay increase, one far exceeding the standards set by the World Bank. And what does Wolfowitz (with the aid and comfort of George W. Bush) do? He thumbs his nose at the World Bank.

Wolfowitz called the findings “unbalanced and flawed” and argued that the panel had omitted statements and documents that support his position.

The fact that the United States official position is to continue to offer Wolfowitz continuing support is another sign that the Bush White House is simply out of touch with the realities of the US position vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Bush and Wolfowitz seem to believe that they can play at being the playground bully doing whatever they please.

37 country directors on the front line of the bank’s operations said in a letter to the board and to Wolfowitz that the leadership crisis had damaged the bank’s reputation and effectiveness in fighting poverty.

In refusing to accept responsibility, Wolfowitz displays a profound lack of ethical character. This denial is the height of arrogance in the face of resounding criticism of Wolfowitz’s actions.

The Committee said:The Group finds the submission notable for absence of any acceptance by Mr. Wolfowitz himself of responsibility or blame for the events that transpired.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A World Bank committee found bank President Paul Wolfowitz violated ethics rules in his handling of a promotion and generous pay rise for his companion and his involvement represented a conflict of interest.
Wolfowitz rejected the critical report on Monday and the United States showed no sign of yielding in its steadfast support for the former U.S. deputy defense secretary, saying the findings were no grounds to dismiss him.
“Mr. Wolfowitz’s contract requiring that he adhere to the Code of Conduct for board officials and that he avoid any conflict of interest, real or apparent, were violated,” the panel said of Wolfowitz’s handling of a pay and promotion deal for World Bank Middle East expert Shaha Riza in 2005.
The panel said Wolfowitz believes the blame lies with others and not with him.
It said he did not accept the bank’s policy on conflict of interest and tried to bypass rules that he believed did not apply to him.

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I believe because I want to believe! To hell with the evidence to the contrary, the bible says it is true.

It is absolutely amazing to me how otherwise intelligent people can be so duped by belief that they cannot or will not examine the rigorous body of scientific evidence that exists regarding the geological and biological history of the earth we live on and, in its place, accept the particular mythology, the creation mythology, of a band of desert Hebrews written down some 3000 years ago. Why accept that particular myth and not others. What about the myths of creation that emanate from China, India, or from Native American cultures? Are their gods any less than the god of the Hebrews? Do their gods have answers that are any less appealing (however false) than those of the god of the Hebrews? And what about all of the contradictions in the creation myths of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2? The order of creation is different in each chapter, for example. And then, gosh, if Adam and Eve were the very first human beings and they had only 2 sons, Cain and Able and Cain slew Able and what thereupon banished to the land of Nod where there he knew his wife, WHERE THE HECK DID SHE COME FROM?

And dinosaurs lived on the earth along side man,,,Oh please. If your sources are no better than the bible then all you have is a belief that cannot be supported by the facts. That is known as an egocentric belief, a belief that cannot stand the pressure of reason. Oh, I forget, you don’t really care about reason because your mind is already made up regardless of what facts might be presented.

clipped from www.atheists.org
AMERICAN ATHEISTS today announced its full support for the “Rally for
Reason” protest slated for Monday, May 28, 2007 (Memorial Day) at the
grand opening of a creationist “museum” operated by an evangelical
religious group in Boone County, KY.
The $27 million facility is a project of the Answers in Genesis group
which promotes a literal, biblical view of how life and universe
ostensibly began, and challenges mainstream scientific findings about
evolution. The museum will reportedly include exhibits reflecting the
inaccurate claim that dinosaurs and human beings co-existed in a “Garden
of Eden” style Earth, and that our planet was fashioned by the
Judeo-Christian deity approximately 6,000 years ago.
The “Rally for Reason” is calling on all groups – including Atheists,
Freethinkers, Humanists and other non-believers – as well as religious,
civic and educational organizations that support good science to join in
the peaceful protest outside the gates of the “Answers in Genesis.”

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I decided to mess around with making a video for my students as I begin to teach research methods to graduate students. In this course I push ideas such as clarity of thinking, accuracy in both thinking and in how one relies on source material, precision in thought processes, relevance of information to one’s argument, the depth and breadth of one’s investigation of both the relevant literature and the methodological approach one takes as a researcher, the logical development of the argument, the significance of the argument and, finally, whether or not one has been fair to all sides of a given position–this last point is not to argue that one cannot take a stand, rather that one must at the very least acknowledge alternative stances and, if one wishes, pick them apart.

This YouTube video will serve as an introduction to the class in which we discuss issues related to the difference between belief and rigorous research. I sort of like what I made here. I think it serves as a good introduction to the topic, but, then, I am the creator and am a bit biased.

My university is insisting that we all teach using technology to a greater extent in order to look good for an accreditation review upcoming in 2010. So there you have it.

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Seed Newsvine

I find it disgraceful that 3 of 10 Republican presidential hopefuls quickly raise their hands to proclaim their disbelief in evolution. I am equally amazed at how long it took John McCain to respond to this question. I can only hope the American people are not so stupid as to accept this form of blatant anti-intellectualism as qualifying for the leadership of the free world. I don’t have high hopes as I remember that this same American electorate split down the middle on the qualifications of George W, Bush and look where that got us.

Here is another YouTube clip that speaks to the dangers of this orchestrated anti-intellectualism.

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Seed Newsvine

Another example of misusing data to fit a theist view of the world. By rejecting scientific evidence and more, Michael Behe is able to convince only the uninitiated, the believer. He is not able to make inroads on well trained biologists or other scientists. The lesson is, it seems to me, is that before one accepts anything at face value one has the obligation to address the appropriate available evidence and then asks the skeptical questions that make that evidence stand up to those questions. It is not good enough to believe in something because you believe in something. That tautology will only run you around in circles causing only severe dizziness.

clipped from www.youtube.com

Michael Behe is one of the most well known ID proponents. However, his arguments must be seen in light of his character and his agenda. This video deals with several problems with Behe’s position:
1. Behe ignores and rejects empirical evidence
2. No major scientific organization, including Behe’s own colleagues, endorse ID
3. In 20 years (some would say a couple of hundred years), ID has failed to make its case to the scientific community
4. Behe rejects the scientific method, and wants to replace it with his own5. Behe’s version of “peer review” is simply dishonest and misleading

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Seed Newsvine

Who would have thought that a cup of coffee could be so offensive. When the following appeared on a Starbucks’ cup I laughed a bit and moved on with my life:

You are not an accident. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did. He wanted you alive and created you for a purpose. Focusing on yourself will never reveal your purpose. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense. Only in God do we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny. — Dr. Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

I don’t believe in a creator god, a sky fairy, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. I find people that do to be mostly uninformed, not because they are stupid but because they simply haven’t examined the evidence. But I am not offended by those who do unless they use that belief to justify blowing themselves up or telling me what to believe,

Because Ken Peck is offended by what he considers to be an anti-Christian blurb on the back of a coffee cup, I have to think that Mr. Peck is so unsure of his belief system that he must find some way to censor the remarks. In the Middle Ages monks burned books they considered heretical. Would Mr. Peck suggest that we return to those days. Sounds like it. Does Mr. Peck consider that Starbucks includes blatantly religious blurbs on the back of their cups as well? Does Mr. Peck even consider that balance is the most effective cure for hate?

clipped from wnd.com
Coffeehouse giant Starbucks is standing by its campaign to put thought-provoking messages on its coffee cups despite a national uproar and threat of boycott over a message some felt was “anti-God.”
Controversy erupted this week after a customer became steamed reading a quote that stated:
“Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.”
The quote was written by Bill Schell, a Starbucks customer from London, Ontario, Canada, and was included as part of Starbucks’ “The Way I See It” campaign to collect different viewpoints and spur discussion.
One reader, Ken Peck of Lakeland, Fla., has since purchased a coffee with another message he felt was a slam against his Christian faith, and snapped a photograph of it.

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If one wants to understand just how the modern corporation exploits its workers just watch this clip from YouTube. A 17 year executive from Wal-Mart confesses his complicity in the Wal-Mart policy to exploit their workforce by some pretty underhanded policies and actions. I am going to let the video speak for itself.

clipped from www.youtube.com

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Seed Newsvine

So I guess the ALDHS would classify Thomas Jefferson as a terrorist! Such rhetoric must stem from the complete lack of understanding of limited constitutional government. In any case, such labeling and name calling has no place in the American democracy.

The article went on to say:

If I’m not mistaken, the idea that government, if not kept in check, will become corrupt and abusive was first made popular in this country by our founding fathers, not a bunch of terrorist anarchist groups. This was the very reason for the implementation of the United States Constitution! In fact even Section 35 of the Alabama Constitution warns of this danger is it declares, “the sole object and only legitimate end of government is to protect the citizen in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, and when the government assumes other functions it is usurpation and oppression.”

The Alabama.gov site continues, “Most of these groups operate around larger urban areas and colleges/universities… Some are focused on issues such as World Trade, International Debt, and military involvement in foreign cultures… The theme is always the same. Big [government] is bad. Rich are using the poor to stay rich. Our government in particular is using its power immorally.”

In short, if you oppose gun control, taxes, military intervention, most of our national debt being held by foreign nations, or just a large federal government, you might be a terrorist!

The very idea that those who value their personal rights and liberties are being labeled terrorists by the State of Alabama is not only absurd and egregiously offensive, it completely contradicts the ideals our federal and state governments were founded on! The people of Alabama should be outraged!

These Alabama.gov pages can be reached by visiting the Alabama Homeland Security TAP Course, clicking on “Domestic Terrorists”, and then on “Anti-Government Groups”.

clipped from www.chrisbrunner.com
The Alabama Department of Homeland Security (ALDHS), established in June of 2003, has recently constructed a website that defines Domestic Terrorists as those who oppose gun control and a strong federal government.
Under the heading “Anti-Government Groups”, the site displays a flag that is widely considered one of the first symbols of American patriotism and reads, “In general, these terrorists claim that the U.S. government is infringing on their individual rights, and/or that the government’s policies are criminal and immoral. Such groups may hold that the current government is violating the basic principles laid out by the U.S. Constitution…”
While Anarchism is defined by a lack state control and Communism is a maximization state control, two polar opposite concepts, the page that follows reads, “Anarchists groups are the 21st Century’s version of left wing or communist groups of the last. Anarchists believe that any government or organization that has power over others

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Should anyone be surprised that Jeb Bush, the President’s brother and the former President’s son (oh gosh, I should leave him out of this mix) decided to go to work for a firm that is deeply involved in ethics abuse? Frankly, but quite unfortunately, I am not. While it must be difficult to turn away $37,000 per day as a salary, one must wonder what Jeb Bush must do to earn that kind of money. I hope it is to clean up the company Tenet Healthcare but somehow I doubt it.

I am constantly reminded by the antics of the Bush family that one should never tie one’s shoes in a watermelon patch. It gives the impression that one is about to steal watermelons, even if the intent is to simply tie one’s shoes. Appearances is everything in this world. We live and die by appearances. So Jeb, stop bending over to tie your shoes–You are in the middle of the watermelon patch.

clipped from www.thestreet.com
A senior member of the Bush dynasty is about to get a large sum of money from a company with a history of ethical violations.
Jeb Bush, the president’s brother and former governor of Florida, is up for election Thursday as a director of troubled hospital chain Tenet Healthcare (THCCramer’s TakeStockpickrRating). Assuming he’s waved through, his pay in his first year would come to nearly $37,000 a day.
This is the same Tenet that had to pay $900 million to Uncle Sam last summer to settle charges that it had overbilled Medicare and Medicaid over many years.
Nine hundred million dollars.
The U.S. attorneys announcing the settlement accused the company of “fraud” and trying to “manipulate and cheat the system.”
Mike Leavitt, the Health and Human Services Secretary appointed by Jeb’s brother George, said the company had “fraudulently abused the Medicare program.”
It’s also the same Tenet that just paid $80 million to the IRS after an audit found it owed back taxes

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More trouble for the Bush White House it seems. Apparently there is no absence of arrogance at the White House, lessons learned from the Nixon White House no doubt. As the scandals grow around this administration, Bush grows more determined to wallow in the disaster of Iraq, support his buddies Gonzales and Wolfowitz as they fall down the slippery slope, and even threatens to veto the hate crime bill that will soon come his way. How ironic. Bush’s actions are the actions of a president in deep trouble willing to risk the welfare of the nation to shore up his position.

I just returned from a brief visit to Canada. Just reading the newspapers in Montreal was enlightening. There is no pro-American, patriotic spin placed on the news outside the United States. Because of my distinct middlewestern accent I was easily recognized as being from the States. There was no holding back. I was expected to defend Bush–something I would not do. My refusal brought sighs of relief–not all Americans are that bad after all was the message sent and received. I had the same sense in Italy a year and a half ago and in Australia nearly three years ago. It is difficult to travel the world when the world thinks so little of you. I am hopeful, however, that this will change after the next election.

clipped from www.commondreams.org
The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a prot�g� of Rove’s, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.0510 08 1The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin’s appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove’s role in supporting Griffin.
In one of the letters that Sampson drafted, dated February 23, 2007, the Justice Department told four Senate Democrats it was not aware of any role played by senior White House adviser Rove in attempting to name Griffin to the U.S. attorney post.
The withheld e-mails show that Sampson’s draft was forwarded for review to Chris Oprison, an associate White House counsel,

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The two clips from YouTube reflect on the truthfulness of James Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family, as he behaves as the simulacrum of a scholar by citing research, but in truth he is cherry-picking statements and ideas out of context and distorting the research for his own purposes. In order to get away with such a practice he relies on the fact that his audience is not critical enough to catch him in his immoral practice. Isn’t it ironic that this fine Christian who wages a battle against immoral behavior will drop his own moral compass in order to make his point. Dobson is identified as one of the American Taliban.

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After nearly 6-1/2 years of the Bush Theocracy, an absolutism born of the desire to control the private thoughts of citizens of the United States, to insure that the absurdest, religious based notion of intelligent design be taught in public schools, wars waged on abortion, homosexuality, and other moral campaigns, the stacking of the Supreme Court of the United States with right wing zealots, battles waged in support of the Ten Commandments –oh how the list goes on and on–the nation is indeed at risk of falling into the same sewer as the Taliban dominated Afghanistan. I fear for the deist wisdom of the Founding Fathers of this nation, a nation born of religious intolerance, as we fall into the devil’s own trap of becoming intolerant ourselves. How ironic! How the pendulum swings!

American Taliban

Updated January 25, 2007 and April 19, 2005 (originally published November 24, 2004)

The “War on Terror” has provided Americans with a helpful

introduction to theocracy. The fight against Al Qaeda, the war on

the Taliban, and the growing tensions with the regime in Iran has

offered a quick primer on the hallmarks of the religious state.

First is the rule of religious authorities, whether it be Bin

Laden’s new Caliphate, Mullah Omar’s Taliban regime, or the mullahs

in Tehran. Second is the imposition of the faith’s sacred texts as

law, in these cases, some variant of sharia law of the Koran. And

last is the direct involvement of the state in the most minute and

deeply personal aspects of individual lives, enforced by religious

police, informed by spies, and punished severely (and often

publicly).

Now thanks to the Bush administration, a Republican Congress and

the conservative ascendancy, Americans need not travel to Kandahar

to learn about the perils of theocratic rule. Right here in the

United States, a network of politicians, religious leaders,

“faith-based” organizations and (literally) their amen corner are

working overtime to make a particularly onerous concept of

Christianity the de facto law of the land. Armed with the Bible in

one hand and the Patriot Act in the other, George W. Bush and his

GOP jihadists threaten to fundamentally change the role of

government in monitoring Americans’ lives, liberties and

even bodies.

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Seed Newsvine

Watch this one and wonder if the ethics of our soldiers match the ethics of the administration that sent them into battle?This MSNBC report is extremely disturbing.

clipped from www.youtube.com

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George W. Bush wants to hold every school child in the United States accountable for learning and every teacher in the public sector accountable for teaching what must be taught. Yet in his own behavior as President, accountability seems not to be an issue.After vetoing the Democratic Iraq war funding bill, the Democrats in the House of Representatives are working on a new bill that would fund the war effort fully through July. At that time the Bush administration must account to the people’s representatives and demonstrate real progress or changed strategy that will lead to real progress in Iraq or face the reality of not having any more money to fund this disastrous war. The administration’s response is to insist that Bush will veto this bill as well.

Let’s hold little children to the fire by making them accountable to some misguided set of standards, but when it comes to the lives of American soldiers fighting on a battlefield created by the policies of this administration the White House wants no part of being accountable to the American people. This attitude is an egregious breach of the use of power and must not be tolerated by the American people.

Mr. Bush must step up and accept responsibility for his failed policy. He must step up and be held accountable for his policies, decisions and actions. It seems he is unwilling to do so.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday said they would press ahead with a new Iraq funding bill, despite a White House veto threat and a cold Senate reaction to a bill that would dole out combat funds in pieces and force a July vote on withdrawing troops.
“The House bill is going to change,” promised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters President George W. Bush would veto the House bill if it reached his desk.
Under the bill, which is not expected to become law, Bush would get a $42.8 billion down payment. Then, after getting White House war progress reports in July, Congress would cast votes late that month on whether to release an additional $52.8 billion to continue fighting in Iraq through September, or whether to use the money to withdraw most of the troops by the end of this year.

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Ray Lesniak, a New Jersey democrat and former supporter of the death penalty said:he changed his mind largely because of the risk of executing an innocent person.

The important point in considering the abolition of capital punishment is just this–to insure not putting an innocent person to death.

There are, of course, other reasons to not put a convicted felon to death that include issues of ethics and humanity, but I will leave those aside for the purposes of this post. Here, what is most important is that innocent people are sent to death row and are put to death by the state and that is simply unacceptable. The standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is, in the case of capital crime, flawed. Replacing that standard with “beyond ANY doubt” might address the issue to a greater extent, but when a verdict depends on the presentation of a zealous prosecutor it is subject to being flawed.

Hooray for the courage of the New Jersey legislature. I can only hope that the Illinois General Assembly will follow suit.

clipped from www.reuters.com
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – New Jersey lawmakers will consider abolishing the death penalty this week, starting a process that could see the liberal state become the first to scrap capital punishment since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.
On Thursday, the judiciary committee of the state Senate will consider two bills calling for New Jersey to replace execution with life imprisonment without parole. Capital punishment in the state is already suspended under a moratorium passed by legislators in late 2005.
Sen. Ray Lesniak, a Democrat and sponsor of one of the bills, said he was confident that a combined bill would be passed by the panel and, while its fate in the full Senate was less certain, it was likely that the legislation would become law some time this summer.
Lesniak, a former supporter of the death penalty, said he had changed his mind largely because of the risk of executing an innocent person.

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This clip presents a view from the Human Rights Campaign with which I agree. I am sharing this with you because it is time for rational Americans to stand up against the hateful rhetoric that comes from the religious right in this nation. What are they afraid of?

clipped from www.youtube.com

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