Talk about last minute…

…But the Texas Freedom Network has sent the information for registering to speak at the next Texas SBOE hearings on social studies curriculum standards. So if you are in Austin and wish to speak — and the fundies who simply love the new “it’s all about white Christians!” standards will almost certainly be trying to fill the rolls — you gotta get up pretty early in the morning.

1. You have to register to testify with the Texas Education Agency. TEA will accept registration on Friday, May 14, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it is beneficial to register as early as possible on Friday. You can either register by phone by calling 512-463-9007, download a form by clicking here and fax it to 512-936-4319 or hand deliver the form to the William B. Travis State Office Building. The building address is 1701 N. Congress Ave. Austin, TX. (Click here for a google map).

2. Click here to download the form you will need to register with the TEA. Here is some information to help you fill out your form. The hearing date is May 19. Item to be addressed is Social Studies TEKS, and the grade level you will be testifying about: elementary, middle school, or high school. You will need to bring 35 hard copies of your testimony with you to give to the board members. If you represent an organization or business, please indicate that in the section marked “affiliation”; otherwise indicate “parent” or “self”. Do not mark your affiliation as TFN. TFN will have only one official spokesperson that day.

3. The hearing will take place at the William B. Travis State Office Building, 1701 N. Congress Ave., Austin. The hearing will be on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 9:00 a.m. (Click here for a google map). The hearing room is 1-104.

4. Parking is limited. There is street parking around the William B. Travis State Office Building that is metered, and we recommend parking at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum garage. (Click here for information on the parking garage).

5. We suggest you also look over the general rules for public testimony and the registration process created by the Texas Education Agency by clicking here.

6. You only have 3 minutes to give your testimony, so it is important to state your main points clearly and quickly.

7. Please click here to read the proposed social studies standards.

The narrow window is to keep the rolls thin so everyone won’t be there till one in the morning, and I’m sure the McLeroy/Leo bloc hopes they can pack it with the church crowd. If you wish to speak, well, I hope this post gets to you in time.

Propagandists to the Rescue!

The Texas State Board of Education has been a constant source of annoyance and frustration for people like me, who value church-state separation. The current board is packed with creationists and religious ideologues who have lost touch with reality, not to mention their mission as educators. Here’s a sampling: Board member Cynthia Dunbar has called public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion” and unconstitutional. Not surprisingly, she’s a graduate of Pat Robertson’s would-be law school. Another board member, Don McLeroy, has consistently promoted Christianity in his previous role as chair of the board. He is quite convinced his training as a dentist makes him better suited to judge scientific material than the true experts whom he holds in contempt. He has called evolution “hooey” (as it conflicts with his Christian belief). Board member Terri Leo has argued for all language in textbooks to refer to opposite-sex couples exclusively (with no neutral language) when referring to marriage. She advocated that middle school textbooks emphasize that gay teens commit suicides at a higher rate. (It couldn’t have anything to do with Christian persecution, propaganda, and suggestion, could it, Terri?) If this is our best and brightest on the SBOE, Texas is pretty screwed up on the education front. Unfortunately, Texas’ textbook decision impact broad swaths of the United States. Many states simply buy the textbooks that have gone through the Texas review process.

The latest episode in this freak show is the current review of the history textbooks. Various dubiously qualified “experts” have been brought in to spin the textbooks with ideological agendas. Of particular interest is pseudo-historian David Barton and minister Peter Marshall who were both called by board members to lend a hand in reviewing history textbooks. Neither have credentials to be called experts. Barton is a well-known propagandist. He makes his living promoting a pro-Christian version of American history with lies and half-truths. Not surprisingly, he’s up to his usual tricks. The minister’s agenda is far more obvious. The only bright light in this whole sordid mess is the fact that Texas Freedom Network is doing a great job of covering the mess and helping to keep us informed. With luck, we can get more sane people on the board in the upcoming election. For now, we can really only watch the train wreck and hope for the best. (Yes, there’s a public hearing this week, but I don’t think it will have an impact.)

While I have certainly felt a lot of frustration and anger at the Texas SBOE over the years, today I’m feeling kind of sorry for Christianity. I feel pity. If the facts about Christianity were actually taught in schools… the Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, systematic persecution of Jews, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, the Spanish Inquisition, the corruption of the Popes, the sabotage of medical advances, the marketing of rapture snuff porn, and the link between belief and so many social ills… if all of the facts were taught in schools, in an unbiased way, it would inoculate kids in the US against the disease of Christianity. That’s what they’ve done it in Europe and the level of belief has plummeted.

Christian leaders here know of this danger, so they’ve packed the board with ideologues and sent in their crack team of propagandists to make Texas children’s minds safe for a false religion. They know they have to lie to the children because the truth is not on their side. It’s a pitiful attempt to save the falsehoods they hold so dear. Even in its sickly state, however, Christianity is still doing great harm.

This just in: Dunbar not running for another SBOE term

From a TFN email I just got:

We wanted TFN members and supporters to be among the first to learn about developing news at the State Board of Education. News reports today revealed that Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, has decided not to run for re-election to her seat on the Texas State Board of Education. As TFN members know full well, Dunbar has been an outspoken leader of the far-right faction on the board, repeatedly using the state’s public school classrooms to wage her own personal culture war.

While Dunbar has not yet revealed the reason for her decision, her extremist track record has clearly made her a damaged brand in next year’s election — and TFN has been the leader in exposing that record.

  • TFN introduced the world to Dunbar’s 2008 book, One Nation Under God, in which she called public education a “tool of perversion,” “tyrannical” and unconstitutional.
  • TFN broke the story about Dunbar’s attacks against then-candidate Barack Obama, authoring an opinion column that labeled him a terrorist sympathizer who wanted another attack on America so that he could declare martial law and throw out the Constitution.
  • TFN exposed her efforts to politicize our children’s social studies classrooms and to promote creationist arguments against evolution in science classrooms.

Unfortunately, the candidate Dunbar has handpicked to be her successor shares many of her anti-science and extremist views. A blog post today at TFN Insider reveals some troubling information about Brian Russell, whom Dunbar has apparently recruited to fill her shoes on the board. So our work is not done.

Dealing with right-wing creationist d-bags is like playing Whack-A-Mole. But you gotta keep whacking.

TFN beginning SBOE candidate training

I’m not exactly sure what such training entails, but anything that helps worthy candidates — as opposed to fanatical religious right ideologues — get elected to the Texas State Board of Education is all right by me. The “militant Darwinists,” to borrow Terri Leo’s immortal phrase, running the Texas Freedom Network will be doing said training at St. Edwards University here in Austin on July 22. Interested parties can go here for registration information, as well as here to remind yourselves that, just because Don “Stand Up to the Experts and Fail!” McLeroy is no longer SBOE chair, it doesn’t mean the work of those who support quality education free from extremist lunacy is done.

Christian Right defecating selves over McLeroy rejection

And as always, whenever someone of that ilk (I love words like “ilk” — they sound so yuckily apropos in instances like these) opens his yap, lies flow like especially pungent and curdled vomit. Remember, creationists can’t not lie. Here are some quotes from a fundagelical email making the rounds, playing the usual Christian “persecution” card. Crazy Hint #1: strategic use of ALL CAPS.

…The highly partisan Sen. Kirk Watson and Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and the highly partisan TEXAS FREEDOM NETWORK, have successfully brought the Satanic art of “BORKING” to Texas … ; they recently managed to smear Dr. Don McLeroy, a good and decent man, with sickening LIES. This tag-team of DEMONS claimed that Dr. McLeroy tried to force CREATIONISM into the Science Classroom, and they told this brazen LIE over and over again.

Yes, let’s all ignore the fact that members of the creationist special interest group known fondly to us all as The Discovery Institute were appointed by the SBOE under McLeroy to review science education and TEKS test standards. Let’s ignore the fact that that bimbo Terri Leo let her creationist freak-flag fly proudly by publicly spouting such creotard phraseology as “militant Darwinists” in front of SRO public meetings. Let’s ignore the fact that Ken Mercer repeatedly makes an ass of himself by publicly spewing criticisms of nonexistent “weaknesses” of evolution that come straight from creationist literature (there’s evidence for “microevolution” and none for “macroevolution,” and similar bullshit). Let’s ignore that fact that Mac has just plain come right out and stated he believes the Earth is 6000 years old, a belief as moronically contrafactual as saying Los Angeles is a hundred yards from New York City, and that a person that frakkin’ stupid has no business determining the educations of millions of schoolchildren. Nope, no creationism on this board, nosiree.

I have to disagree with one piece of equivocation TFN insists on making (perhaps in an effort not to alienate more liberal and pro-science minded theists), that Mac’s religious beliefs were not the reason he was so vehemently opposed, his incompetence and ideology were.

Mac’s religious beliefs indeed would not have been an issue…until he made them the issue by trying to inject them into curricula.

Mac’s desperate defenders try to peddle the absurd spin that Mac simply wanted students to have the “academic freedom” to examine the evidence, pro and con. You know, the not-so-crafty lie that the creationists have constructed so as to make them seem like they’re the scientifically-minded and intellectually “honest” ones. But the transparency of that spin is readily apparent to anyone who has followed the recent history of American creationism and seen precisely how the movement has evolved to take advantage of political realities.

The “teach the controversy” and “academic freedom” rhetoric they advance now is specifically designed to sow basic doubts in students’ minds about the validity of and support for evolutionary science. Overtly teaching creationism is something they know they can’t do, but they’ve discovered something even more weaselly effective: simply plant the nugget of doubt that evolution is well-supported by evidence, and then everything the student encounters in his extracurricular life — validation from equally ignorant and ill-educated church members; crazy conspiracy theories from Ben Stein; “reasonable” sounding design arguments like irreducible complexity — will do the rest.

They don’t really care about knowledge or the scientific method. The only agenda of the believer is to protect the belief. Even if that requires posing as an “open-minded” science supporter when you actually seek to completely gut science and everything it teaches us about reality.

So, yes, I will come right out and say that Mac’s religious beliefs were at the root of why he was rejected from a position he was totally unqualified to hold. And it’s because he chose to inject those beliefs inappropriately into his work, disguising them (poorly) in the rhetoric of the increasingly politically savvy anti-evolution movement.

Our idiot blithers:

The TRUTH is that Dr. McLeroy and the SBOE have simply asked that the SCIENTIFIC METHOD be applied fairly and universally in the Science Classroom; in particular, they have ask that the SCIENTIFIC METHOD even be applied to two SACRED-COWS/RELIGIONS of the Liberal Democrats, namely, (1) Darwinian Evolution and (2) Global Warming.

Newsflash, butt-biscuit-for-brains. The scientific method has been applied to those concepts (we leave sacred cows and religions to fools like you). Guess what? They passed. You failed. Run along now. Play with your blocks. But be careful. They might be too educational.

Toodles, Mac!

From a TFN email alert:

Senate Sends Message to State Board of Education: No More Culture Wars

Moments ago, the Texas Senate voted to reject Don McLeroy as chairman of the State Board of Education. The 19-11 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for confirmation. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is releasing the following statement:

“Watching the state board the last two years has been like watching one train wreck after another. We had hoped that the Legislature would take more action to put this train back on the tracks, but clearly new leadership on the board was a needed first step. The governor should know that parents will be watching closely to see whether he chooses a new chairman who puts the education of their children ahead of personal and political agendas.”

Thanks to all of you who made calls and wrote letters about this important nomination. The Senate clearly heard your demands for responsible, common-sense leadership on the state board.

Regardless of the governor’s selection for the next chair of the board, our work is not done. With your support, TFN will continue leading the charge for sound education standards, ideology-free textbooks and the best interests of Texas school children.

Whew.

Now watch. Perry will get his revenge and appoint Cynthia Dunbar now.

Could Thursday be D-Day for McLeroy?

Texas’ official State Embarrassment Don McLeroy will find out tomorrow, hints the TFN, whether or not his appointment as chair of the universally derided State Board of Education will stand or fall. The Democrats claim to have all the votes they need to block his approval, but one should never underestimate the underhanded dealings and shenanigans of far-right Christian ideologues in Texas.

McLeroy has to go. This should be a no-brainer. But there are plenty of people in this state with no brains actively bucking for him. Why, apart from the fact he’s subjected the state to nationwide ridicule and overtly based his policymaking on his far-right religious ideals, has he been such a disaster heading up the SBOE? Well, you see, chairing the SBOE isn’t exactly the kind of place where one expects showboating political ideologues to make waves. It ought to be a non-partisan, administrative position focused on doing whatever it takes to improve the quality of education for the state’s schoolchildren, full stop, whatever this or that lobbying group with an agenda demands. Those inclined to defend Mac by saying “The Texas Freedom Network is a lobbying group too!” should extricate their craniums from their rectums long enough to note that had right-wing Christians on the SBOE not actively engaged such groups as the Discovery Institute in formulating state science education policies, the TFN could well have stayed home.

Apart from the coordinated gang-rape of science education that Mac has led at the Board, he has…

  • …also injected extremist right-wing ideology into social studies curricula, by appointing outright cranks to review panels to judge social studies standards. Among these are Christian Reconstructionist quote fabricator David Barton of Wallbuilders, whose agenda is promoting the theocratic “Christian Nation” myth; Bill Ames, a “textbook reviewer” for ultra-right harpy Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum; Peter Marshall, a four-alarm wackaloon of the Fred Phelps school, who has described Hurricane Katrina as God’s punishment for teh gayz, and demanding Christian parents pull their kids out of public school; and sexist creationist clod Allen Quist. Yeah, that’s the kind of review panel Texas education needs: a bunch of lying education haters.
  • …summarily rejected a set of recommendations, put together by experts and educators over a three-year period, for English and language arts standards, in favor of an 11th-hour quickie set of standards drafted in one night by Mac’s fellow ideologues, and rushed into a vote without adequate time for review.

Hopefully, our senators will do the right thing and, in one very small way (after all, Mac won’t be removed from the SBOE if his chairmanship is not approved, he just won’t be chair), we will begin to turn the tide and push back against the despicable, mortifying, and contemptible ignorance and arrogance that has poisoned not only education in Texas, but the reputation of the state as a whole.

Not even pretending anymore

As most of you probably are aware, the confirmation (or not) of Don McLeroy as chair of the Texas SBOE is pending. The SBOE is now officially a nationwide laughingstock, first with Conan O’Brien and then Bill Maher finding plenty of fodder for humor in the board’s idiocy ever since it’s been a country club for fundagelical numbskulls who believe the Earth was created more recently than dogs were domesticated.

Once the comedy gets all the way around to the likes of Dane Cook, you’ll know Texas’ reputation has bottomed out.

The Texas Freedom Network is urging every Texas resident to contact their state senators to urge them to vote against McLeroy’s confirmation. I’m nervous about this, particularly as my state senator here in Austin is loyal Republican Jeff Wentworth. But I plan to contact him anyway. You should do the same if you’re a rational Texan. Find out who represents you here.

In the meantime, fellow SBOE member Ken Mercer — the guy who keeps bringing up things like Piltdown Man — has rallied to his buddy’s defense. And sure enough, he’s playing the good old Christian Persecution Card. I mean, what else would Mercer be doing when his column has such a whiny title as “Christians Need Not Apply.” Seriously, that little card is starting to look more than a little worn and dog-eared, isn’t it?

By now, reading the angsty rants of fundamentalists scorned is a thoroughly tiresome exercise, inspiring little more than a bemused shaking of the head. But it’s worth noting that guys like Mercer are no longer even pretending not to be hypocrites any more. As the TFN blog points out, they want it both ways. They repeatedly claim (blatantly lying, of course) that their positions as board members are not in any way motivated by their religious beliefs, or the desire to pander to voters that share them. But in the same breath, if their policies and activities as board members are criticized at all, then it’s back to the old “Oh noes I is pursekuted becos I haz the Krischianity!!!!1!one!” So suddenly, the reason to support and defend McLeroy has everything to do with this…

“I wanted to write to you [McLeroy] and express my sincerest appreciation to you for having the courage to stand by your convictions during your recent hearing. It is unfortunately rare, today, to see anyone willing to clearly and calmly state and stand by their Christian beliefs, particularly in the face of abuse such as what you took.”

…even though we’re expected to go on believing that those Christian beliefs Mac boldly stands by do not in any way influence his work as chairman of the SBOE. As cons go, that ain’t very smooth, fundies.

The voting on this issue will be extremely partisan, people. Today the House voted down HB 710, which would have subjected the SBOE to periodic review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. All but one Republican voted against this common-sense bill, which would not have stripped any authority from the SBOE at all. Even simple oversight strikes fear into the hearts of the Republicans and their Christian Right masters, it would seem.

Finally, I love this little quip from the TFN blog, in response to Mercer’s comparing McLeroy’s “persecution” to that we’re supposed to think is being suffered by homophobic pageant queen Carrie Prejean.

…Mercer deserves credit for coming up with the most apt comparison to date for the level of intellectual debate at the Texas SBOE — a beauty pageant. The uninformed, vapid discourse at the board resembles nothing so much as a room full of beauty pageant contestants confidently asserting opinions on politics or world affairs. And both ellicit similar snickers and groans from the audience.

Ouch! Come on, no need to harsh on the pageant girls! They’re a MENSA gathering compared to the SBOE. And cuter too!

No, we haven’t all died

I know, a week and a half without a new post is a long time for any blog to go, especially one with a pretty strong readership we’d like to keep. (Hugs!) It’s just one of those times when real life intrudes, I suppose, and none of us has found the time to work blogging into our schedules. I’ll do my best to improve that situation for my own part. Everyone else, well, they post rarely enough as it is, so they’ll drop by when they see fit, I’m sure. (Condescending snicker.)

I must say, it has been kind of nice to take a breather, away from the daily cataloguing of the absurdities of the righteous. Still, there are some things going on, and so it’s a good time to haul my fat ass back up into the saddle and get this old nag back on the road again.

The biggest news down Austin way has been the confirmation hearings for that assrocket Dan “Stand Up To The Experts” McLeroy. Our bold and equally rebellion-minded governer Rick “Secede!” Perry reappointed McLeroy to chair the Texas State Board of Education in 2007, but his reappointment requires the Senate Nomination Committee’s approval, apparently, and today, his confirmation hearing was held. The Texas Freedom Network liveblogged it, and they have a high old time unpacking all of Mac’s prevarications as he was up at the mic defending himself and the SBOE. It sounds as if McLeroy did an absolutely awesome job of digging his own grave today. I hope the Committee realizes that statements like this…

5:37 -McLeroy says almost everyone in his church rejects evolution and supports creationism. He describes himself as a young Earth creationist. He says he tells reporters that he wants to be up front and honest about his beliefs. “I think it’s a pretty rational view.”

…are tantamount to the man just standing up and shouting “Disqualify me!” I mean, cripes, this is like asking General Motors shareholders and board of directors to appoint as CEO of the company a man who says, “Well, I’m pretty sure that cars are powered by a combination of giant wound-up rubber bands and a couple dozen hamsters on treadmills concealed within the engine block. I think that’s a pretty rational view.”

I mean, here’s a man boasting of how totally uneducated he is, and he’s expecting Senate confirmation?

McLeroy really does appear to have been grilled. At least one senator has stated his intention to oppose Mac’s confirmation, and other senators on the committee don’t sound terribly sympathetic to him. Let us hope that the vote goes the right way, and Texas will finally start back on the proper path in how it educates its students, without extremist religious ideology and the personal beliefs of SBOE members constantly setting up roadblocks that unnecessarily impede the whole process, solely for the gratification of the egos of McLeroy and his idiot YEC posse.

Don McLeroy’s idea of a real science book

The intrepid crew at the Texas Freedom Network inform us that the reliably moronic Don McLeroy, the creationist dentist who’s devoting his career to painting a bullseye on the educations of millions of Texas students, has found a worthy book on the subject of evolution. What might it be, you ask? The Ancestor’s Tale? Why Evolution Is True? Or Ken Miller’s perennially assigned Biology textbook?

Uh…no. How about: a book-length histrionic rant self-published by a frothing anti-evolution crank named Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr.

Johnson is a wackaloon’s wackaloon, a West Point graduate whose pet projects have included tortured reinterpretations of Greek mythology in an effort to show they’re simply variants of the Adam & Eve story. Yes, it’s bizarre to try to prove your myths have some veracity by referencing other myths; seriously, the guy’s position is that Athena is really Eve, therefore, the Bible is true! But that’s how nutcases like Johnson think. And nutcases like Johnson think the same way monkeys drive trucks.

Johnson’s “thinking” on evolution, which impressed that cretin McLeroy enough for him to refer to the book as “unique,” “insightful” and “important,” includes such gems as the following.

Creationists do not want to bring religion into the classroom… Creationists simply want the God hypothesis brought back into the science classroom, and recognized for what it is—a scientifically valid hypothesis.

What are they doing coming into all of our elementary schools, all of our junior highs, and all of our high schools with a disguised demand that our children embrace their evoatheism? What are they doing teaching our children that they are descended from worms and reptiles? What are they doing imposing their atheistic religious faith on our children when we’re not around? What are they doing sowing atheism in our schools?

The obvious problem here is that it is simply not possible to be a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word, and at the same time, embrace the tenets of atheistic evolution.

What kind of monster parents teach their children that they’re descended from rodents and reptiles?

Come on in, everybody, especially you kids, and join the great evolutionary festivities! Learning about your descent by chance from worms and reptiles will strengthen your faith in “a creator,” with a small “c,” whoever he is.

So you see the kind of “science” textbook McLeroy thinks “deserves a hearing”: a bombastic, hysterical, spittle-flecked tirade by a throughly scientifically illiterate moron, who, like Ben Stein, bases his whole overwrought screed on selling the idea of “Big Science” as some monolithic entity with stormtrooper-like enforcers (the first chapter literally opens with an absurd men-in-black scenario) out to quash dissent.

The egregiousness of all this cannot be condemned forcefully enough, and I encourage everyone far and wide to shine as much light on McLeroy and his pet cockroach Johnson as possible. Bring the absurdity and emotionalism of the creationist anti-science crowd right out into the open, and correct their angry lies with calm, sober scientific facts (which, contrary to Johnson’s ravings, do exist to support evolutionary biology in its totality). Let ridicule and derision drive them back into the obscure darkness of their own superstitious fears, where they belong.