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Teaching Evolution In Kentucky …And Other Ways To Court The Christian Right

July 25, 2016
Gillicus Inside Xiphactinus. Sometime around 70 million years ago

Gillicus Inside Xiphactinus. Sometime around 70 million years ago. Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Hays Kansas

Reports: Newsletter of the National Center For Science Education

My copy of “Reports” – the quarterly newsletter of the National Center For Science Education (NCSE) came in the mail today. This is the Summer 2016, Volume 36, No. 3. I read it cover-to-cover. Always. It also is available at the Center’s website. In the past I have written about NCSE here on my blog, hoping to familiarize a few more people with its content – its commitment to the idea that American students should learn Darwin’s theory of natural selection (Evolution) and climate change. It has, in a determined yet controlled manner countered all the (mostly) Christian fundamentalist drivel, garbage that argues against both scientifically valid ideas. Furthermore it has been both a watchdog and activist in trying to preserve the quality of scientific education (ie – evolution and climate change) in the school systems nationwide

Not to learn, be familiar with Darwin’s theory of Evolution through natural selection is to be scientifically illiterate. It is nothing short of the basis for all modern biology. Likewise, to deny the reality of climate change and the threat it represents to life on earth, is nothing short of denying future generations the possibility of a future. Science has – through long and complex observations and shared insights – concluded the reality of both. Through courses in Physical Anthropology, I taught human evolution over the course of thirty years. By the time I stopped teaching it (as I had moved on to the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies) some of the main themes of Climate Change (and global warming) had already entered into my lectures – specifically the period of mass extinctions which was already underway. Read more…

Turkey Distancing Itself From The U.S., NATO – Question Is: How Far?

July 19, 2016
Turkey - Starred Area is Incilek Military Base, long a major US strategic asset in Turkey whose presence has been called into question by the current events.

Turkey – Starred Area is Incirlek Military Base, long a major US strategic asset in Turkey whose presence has been called into question by the current events.

  1. Some Background

The aftershocks of the failed military coup in Turkey are resonating. Nearly 2500 upper level military personnel, including more than 100 generals sacked, many arrested. 6000 members of the judiciary, who sometimes challenged Tayyip Erdogan’s policies, fired along with 8000 Turkish policemen. Several hundred people were killed, thousands wounded. Two days later, more than 1,500 university deans have also been ordered to resign and the licences of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions revoked. In the end any and all opposition, the Gulen followers and pretty much anyone else that opposes Erdogan will be politically eliminated and Erdogan will rule supreme with no opposition. And it’s only just begun. More than likely, Washington will accept the changes, and Erdogan’s slap in the face (accusing the C.I.A of orchestrating the coup.)

While considerable confusion remains concerning the origins of the recent Turkish coup attempt, the geo-political outlines of where “post coup” Turkey is headed are coming into focus. A little background on the flurry of Turkey’s diplomatic initiatives that preceded the recent “coup attempt” are in order. As they were intense suggesting that a shift in Turkey’s political posture was in order. Besides initiating an extensive purge of the Turkish military and judiciary, Turkish President Erdogan appears to be setting Turkish regional political posture on a new direction. Read more…

Denver Cuts Out Its Free Seed Program

July 16, 2016
Growhaus - Denver Urban Garden in Swansea neighborhood of Denver.

Growhaus – Denver Urban Garden in Swansea neighborhood of Denver.

In line with Denver’s addiction to privatizing as much public property as possible, of gentrifying the place, the city is cutting its annual program to give free seeds for vegetable gardens. It is only a measly $40,000 of a $1.8 billion budget for this year. The program has been administered since 1997 through Denver Urban Gardens.

But then privatization and unrestrained housing development, far more than urban gardening – has been the special contribution of our last two mayors – Hickenlooper and Hancock along with its (until recently) brain-dead city council.

Not only is the free seed program being cut, but each year the space available for urban gardeners is decreasing as land is being gobbled up by local and national developers – those piranhas of urban America. Housing prices and rentals are going through the roof, displacing all but the most prosperous, pushing poor, working class, middle class people east to Aurora, north to Thorton, or more and more out-of-state. Denver’s recent history was recently featured in an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian. The headline reads “White Privilege and Gentrification in America’s ‘Favorite City’ showing the city in a far less favorable light than its tourism bureau would like.

With this in mind Marie Edgar and I have written the following letter to the editor sent to two local media outlets, which we’ll also submit to our councilman Raphael Espinoza . If you want to add your name to this (for Denver residents only unfortunately) contact one of us; we’ll add your name to the letter below… Or write your own and if you do (would appreciate getting a copy):

July 16, 2016

Rafael Espinoza, Denver City Council, District One

Dear Rafael,

We are dismayed to learn that the City of Denver is no longer funding Denver Urban Garden’s Free Seeds and Seedlings program. Gardening is a healthy and productive interest in many neighborhoods of Northwest Denver.

Community Gardening is a way to build relationships that carry over into positive actions on behalf of all, across diverse populations. Denver has a long tradition in this respect including our Northside (now referred to as Highlands).

A community garden pioneer of the Free Seeds and Seedling Program, Jim Fowler – the original owner of what is today called The Lumber Baron on 37th and Alcott – was among those who spearheaded the free seed program.

We expect that eliminating the $40,000 that supported DUG’s program
will discourage our lower-income neighbors from planting in 2017 and will offer less
support to groups who choose to garden together.

How can we help the City to do an about-face, and increase the funding instead, in order to strengthen the fabrics of Denver’s neighborhoods?


Marie Edgar

Rob Prince

Requiem – Jan Garton and Cheyenne Bottoms

July 12, 2016
Convention of Storks, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, June 8, 2016

Convention of Storks…with two mallards, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, June 8, 2016

“What counts are the countless small deeds of unknown people who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history” Howard Zinn


And then there are those “unknown people” whose deeds can hardly be considered “small.” Jan Garton who, died at age 59 in 2009, is among them. Although hardly known outside of Kansas environmental circles, she is something of a legend within the state, the Joan of Arc of the Kansas environmental movement, and for good reason. Her ashes lie scattered about in a small private cemetery in the central Kansas Flint Hills among the graves of a few people who died more than a century ago. It is a quiet place with cattle grazing off in the distance, and from the high grounds where it sits, a fine view of the surrounding hills. When I last visited in mid-June late spring was bursting forth with its prairie grasses, wild flowers.

Never met her, only vaguely remember hearing of the extraordinary work she did to save Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, but now seven years after she ended her life, I’m drawn to her, and “people like her.” By “people like her” I mean those unsung, or poorly sung, “organizers of the common good,” – people who in one way or another – for peace, the environment, labor rights, human dignity – have dedicated their lives to something themselves – to others, “credit,” “fame” being the last thing on their mind. She was the opposite of a “careerist”. It wasn’t a part of her nature to sacrifice human relationships to further her career…how un-American! Read more…

Stettin Station by David Downing – A “Sort of Review”

June 28, 2016
Tank Trap - anti-tank barrier used extensively by the Soviet during the Battle of Moscow - October 2, 1941 - January 7, 1942

Tank Trap – anti-tank barrier used extensively by the Soviet during the Battle of Moscow – October 2, 1941 – January 7, 1942. This is at the site of the memorial to that battle just outside of the city.


Anyone traveling from Moscow’s main Sheremetyevo Airport the approximate twenty miles to Red Square  couldn’t miss it, “it” being the anti-tank barrier sculpture marking the memorial to what is referred to as “the Battle of Moscow.” Despite the Cold War rhetoric of the times (late 1980s) downplaying the Soviet role in defeating the Nazis, every time I sped by the memorial in those years, it gave me chills. Still does more than twenty-five years since my last visit to what now is simply named Russia.

The memorial marked the precise place little more than ten miles from the center, a vivid reminder of  just how close the Nazis had come to storming the Soviet capitol in those cold and unpredictable days between October 2, 1941 and January 7, 1942, with the fate of Moscow, and perhaps, the world hung in the balance. But the Nazi army was over-extended and increasingly poorly supplied, denied winter clothing and equipment. Hitler had not just underestimated the weather, but  Soviet military strength.  Nazi overconfidence that the USSR would collapse like a house of cards in the face of the Nazi blitzkrieg led the German war machine into a “quagmire.” Hitler’s armies were unable to make the final thrust. By January 7, they were pushed back in some places more than 100 kilometers from the capitol. Read more…

Libya: Downward Spiral

June 25, 2016
Tripoli prior to the invasion

Tripoli prior to the invasion

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s me
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.

What has happened in Libya since 2011 is heartbreaking. Its denials aside, the Obama Administration bears the lion’s share of the responsibility. Worse, nobody  cares – or hardly anyone – here in the United States. As far as the current American political discussion goes, the Libyan crisis is on the back burner. For the political class, the media, the ethical dimension of destroying a nation with the goal of getting cheaper and more plentiful oil is nonexistent. An example of how far off the deep end the country’s leaders could go in defending the indefensible, the Libyan invasion, Democratic Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton referred to it as “smart power at its best.” “Smart power at its best” or imperial power at its most arrogant?

In the case of Libya…”Humpty Dumpty” didn’t “fall” – but was pushed by NATO, an organization which gives the United States the veil of plausible denial for arranging what is nothing less than the wholesale destruction of a country. Perhaps “obliteration” would be a better word. NATO has not been able to put Libya back together again. Nor is it certain that NATO  intends to, at least not in the form it previously took: a centralized (if authoritarian state) which had the ability to negotiate hard with foreign energy companies and the governments that serve them. Read more…

Mr Hornaday’s War: How A Peculiar Victorian Zookeeper Waged A Lonely Crusade For Wildlife that Changed The World by Stefan Bechtel. Beacon Press, Boston: 2012. Part One

June 21, 2016
2016 - 06 - 08 - Cheyenne Bottoms - 2a

Great Egrets (also known as American Egrets) at Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, Kansas. June 8,2016

Molly and I went for a walk early Sunday (June 19, 2016)  morning at Denver’s Washington Park. In an effort to beat a forecast of temperatures reaching close to 100 degrees we started at 7:30. By the time we finished the 2 1/2 mile loop, the temperatures had spiked into the mid-to-high 80s. I could feel the sweat beads starting to form on my back. There was a good deal of active bird life along the way. A group of three pelicans who were diving for fish in unison (that was cool), Canadian geese and gaggle of goslings, ducks and ducklings (adorable little living things) and across the water we could see some egrets. One was a great white, the other I wasn’t sure of. Was it a cattle egret? but probably not as it had a black, not yellow beak.

On returning home, I turned to my spiritual guide in such matters, Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds of North America(2000 edition). It was given to Nancy as a gift from our lifelong friend, Jo Ellen Patton, herself an experienced and knowledgeable bird watcher, now of Flagstaff, Arizona. While we have several other good birding guides (Peterson’s, National Geographic) we find ourselves relying on Kaufman’s more regularly than the others. Kaufman didn’t fail us. Closely related to a European cousin, known in French as an aigrette (little heron), the black-billed egret, easily identified, was a snowy egret, more common in east Texas and Louisiana, but whose  range includes the mountains and front range regions of Colorado, Utah and Nevada. Read more…


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