By now, the profound idiocy of the White House Military Office's decision to stage a terrifying photo op for an Air Force One jet over New York City on Monday has been widely, and rightly, condemned. However, I haven't heard anyone offer any proactive, money-saving solutions... until now! Esteemed employees of our federal government, please allow me, your comically named Mother Jones contributor, to acquaint you with a magical, spell-casting piece of computer wizardry called Photoshop. With Photoshop, anything can be anywhere, at any time! Skeptical? Well, just take a look at some examples after the jump!

Creation Museum Science Fair 2010

Let there be a science fair!

Next February, Cincinnati's Creation Museum will hold a science fair for budding creationists. All students in grades 7-12 are encouraged to apply, provided they agree with Answers in Genesis' Statement of Faith, which includes the following items:

2. The account of origins presented in Genesis is a simple but factual presentation of actual events and therefore provides a reliable framework for scientific research into the question of the origin and history of life, mankind, the Earth and the universe.

3. The various original life-forms (kinds), including mankind, were made by direct creative acts of God. The living descendants of any of the original kinds (apart from man) may represent more than one species today, reflecting the genetic potential within the original kind. Only limited biological changes (including mutational deterioration) have occurred naturally within each kind since Creation.

4. The great Flood of Genesis was an actual historic event, worldwide (global) in its extent and effect.

Thanks J-Walk Blog. After the jump: a sampling of other upcoming events at the Creation Museum, including a screening of a DVD about "the rampant misinformation propagated by ecological alarmists" and a lecture called, intriguingly, "God Didn't Make Any Apemen:"

Wind Power Gets Stimulus Windfall

The Department of Energy will devote $93 million of stimulus money to wind power technology. Not terribly surprising, considering that wind is all the rage at the moment. To wit: The wind industry now employs more people than the coal industry.

Most of the money will be spent on turbine-related projects (allocation breakdown after the jump). But Cleantech Blog points out that the biggest obstacle facing wind power is actually pipeline problems:

Look at the study “20% Wind Energy by 2030” released in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Energy to envision the implications of supplying 20% of the nation’s electricity needs by 2030 from wind. Oh, there’s plenty of wind to actually supply the electricity, no problem. It’s just that tons of new transmission capacity would be needed.


And there’s the rub. It’s only marginally easier to site and build a new transmission line than a new nuclear powerplant. Transmission lines take many years and sometimes even decades to get done, due to a variety of NIMBY forces and overlapping regulatory regimes at the local, state and federal levels. And, they cost a fortune, easily a million dollars a mile, often considerably more.

So, that “pipeline” from Dakota to Chicago is on the order of a billion dollars of merely enabling infrastructure – and since there are many pinchpoints in the national power grid, that wind power probably couldn’t go much further than the terminating point anyway.

And that NIMBY thing? Still a problem—and one that stimulus money probably won't solve.

According to the DOE, here's where the money will go:

Hundred Days Summary

According to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller — who's apparently an obsessive record keeper — in his first hundred days Barack Obama has held 16 news conferences, given 115 speeches, held one cabinet meeting, signed 12 bills, visited the capitol 8 times, gone on 3 overseas trips, visited Camp David 4 times, flown on Air Force One 34 times, issued 17 proclamations, gone on one golf outing, and attended at least 10 sporting events.  More here.

Tray-Free Campus Dining Halls?

Bad news for those dudes you remember from your college dining hall who drank eight glasses of milk with every meal: Some college cafeterias are getting rid of trays.

Why abandon this collegiate tradition? According to the NY Times, reasons to hate on trays abound: Washing them requires a lot of water (Williams college has saved 14,000 gallons of water ever year since they shelved trays); they encourage food waste (Rochester Institute of Technology spent 10 percent less on food without trays); and they're ugly.

Some have also speculated that sans trays, students might be too lazy to make multiple trips to the pasta bar (Penne Station, anyone?). But that's really giving college kids the short shrift:

“I like not having to carry a tray around,” said Peter McInerney, a freshman here at Skidmore College, as he grabbed a midafternoon snack of an egg sandwich, pancakes and apple juice.

Glad to see the freshman fifteen thriving in these trayless times.

Swine Flu

Ezra Klein passes along the news that Israel's ultra-orthodox deputy health minister has some taxonomic concerns about our flu epidemic:

Yakov Litzman said the reference to pigs is offensive to both religions and "we should call this Mexican flu and not swine flu," he told a news conference at a hospital in central Israel.

Both Judaism and Islam consider pigs unclean and forbid the eating of pork products.

I don't get it.  Even taking this craziness on its own terms, what's the problem?  Pigs are unclean, flu is unclean, it makes perfect sense that a bad thing like a flu pandemic would come from a bad thing like herds of swine.  What's the deal here?

UPDATE: There's also this from Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota's health commissioner: “We’re trying to get away from the term ‘swine flu,’” Magnan said at a press conference today....A possible reason for the name change: The “swine flu” label has the nation’s pork industry squealing, as hog prices plummet in apparent worry over public misperceptions that pork is unsafe to eat.

Yeesh.  But at least the motivation is pretty obvious here.

Carrie Prejean Makes 'No Offense' Ad for NOM

So far this week, I've been trying to ignore all the Miss California, Perez Hilton hoo-ha. But now there's news that Miss California Carrie Prejean, of "opposite marriage" fame, is going to star in a new ad by the National Organization for Marriage. The ad will be titled "No Offense." Which is ironic, really, because almost anytime someone prefaces a statement with "I'm not a racist, but..." or "No offense to anyone out there, but..." you can be sure they're about to say something racist or offensive.

Thus far, Prejean has depicted herself as a victim; a brave, strong, surgically enhanced victim persecuted for her religious views. NOM's breathy press release says that despite Prejean being "attacked viciously," the Miss USA contestant has "inspired a whole nation" by having the "courage" to speak up about her conservative Christian values. This victim stance is perfectly consistent with NOM's previous ad, "A Gathering Storm," in which Christians are threatened by cloudy gay skies and flashes of gay marriage lightening. I can't wait for the parodies of "No Offense." Giant Gay-Repellent Umbrella, anyone?

CNN and Jim DeMint

This is annoying.  Here is CNN's Political Ticker today describing an interview with South Carolina senator Jim DeMint:

DeMint says he isn't worried. He denied that the GOP has become a southern party, attributing Republican losses in the northeast to some northern voters who have left the region and moved south hoping to avoid labor unions and "forced unionization."

I was all ready to bring the snark to the idea that people were moving south to avoid being press ganged into unions, but first I wanted to look up the actual transcript.  Here it is:

SANCHEZ: Why does it seem like the Republican Party is only going to the South, the Southern states, and the Democratic Party is starting to stay in the Northeast and then maybe branching out into some of the other areas, like Pennsylvania, where Arlen Specter is leaving?  I mean, does that worry?

DEMINT: Well, it's not just politically. People are moving from the northeast and from the northern part of the country to the south for a lot of reasons. And I think you see heavy unionization and forced unionization in Pennsylvania and Michigan, these other states. And obviously they're very much for the Democrat big-government approach. But we see that falling apart with American auto companies. We see it falling apart all across the country.

Come on.  DeMint may not be doing himself any favors with this kind of head-in-the-sand stuff, and in any case it's not really true that there's any serious regional migration between north and south.  Still, he didn't say people were moving south because of unionization.  He said people were doing it "for a lot of reasons" and then, responding to Sanchez's question about why Dems were branching out into Pennsylvania, suggested that places like Pennsylvania and Michigan are friendly to the "Democrat big-government approach" because of their high unionization.  And he believes in his heart of hearts that this is falling apart and conservatism will prevail.  This is probably wrong too, but it's not nearly as risible as the notion that factory workers are fleeing south to avoid closed shops.  CNN's own summary got it wrong.  DeMint is a troglodyte, but this is fairly ordinary political blather, not the high-octane idiocy they made it out to be.

Last summer, economist James K. Galbraith predicted in Mother Jones that the Bush administration would increase government spending in 2008 in order to postpone the worst effects of the recession until after the next President took office:

The [$600 stimulus check most taxpayers received last year] isn't the only little Dutch boy thrown headlong at the dike this election year. Government spending, especially for defense, will be up: Military spending as a share of [gross domestic product] is expected to grow by $75 billion in fiscal 2008, enough to neutralize a 0.3 percent decline in GDP. Dick Cheney was secretary of defense for Bush 41; just before the 1992 election he engineered a big run-up in outlays, as the military restocked following the first Gulf War. (It was exposed in the first Clinton "Economic Report.") Is the Pentagon up to that trick again? I'd be astonished if it were not.

Now it seems Galbraith's prediction has proven true. GDP numbers for the first quarter of 2009 are out, and they don't look pretty. Galbraith writes in an email:

Federal Government spending was up 7.0 percent in the fourth quarter but DOWN 4 percent in the first. Looks to me, off-hand, like the old election-year trick, which I naturally predicted (in MJ) early last year. Octokyphosis, as Ed Tufte called it many years ago: humping in October.   Maybe a bit delayed, and too late to help John McCain.

A look at the actual numbers on government spending seem to confirm Galbraith's suspicions: there are big drops in defense consumption and gross investment between the Bush adminstration's last quarter and the Obama administration's first one. Don't believe it? Read Galbraith's original story and decide for yourself.

So Much For NCLB: Racial Achievement Gap Wide as Ever

Oh dear. Here's the bad news on minority educational achievement:

Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W. Bush's frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.
Although Black and Hispanic elementary, middle and high school students all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s. That was well before the 2001 passage of the No Child law, the official description of which is "An Act to Close the Achievement Gap."...
The 2008 score gap between black and white 17-year-olds, 29 points in reading and 26 points in math, could be envisioned as the rough equivalent of between two and three school years' worth of learning, said Peggy Carr, an associate commissioner for assessment at the Department of Education.

When the Obama administration brings the bill up for reauthorization this year, I'm hoping to see the hard-headed, 'it takes a village' kind of thinking that can provide quality education for all our children. It takes after school programs, Saturday schools, and reform of the kinds of dysfunctional educational bureaucracies that stifle innovation and drive out the best teachers. It also takes communities doing their parts; overseeing homework, unplugging the TV, staying in close contact with the kids' teachers, policing their neighborhoods so kids can study in peace. Otherwise, the long term crisis of inner city education will continue in a world which becomes more highly technological and labor-unfriendly everyday.