That Puppy Episode

Twenty years ago a young comedian made an announcement on her slumping TV show. She received death threats, lost her job and fell into depression. For three years she couldn’t get any work. She revealed something of herself that nobody at the time would dare make public and it killer her career, her health and her wellbeing.

But while that announcement initially cost her personally, it saved the lives of thousands of people. Because of her, thousands of people found the courage to reveal who they were to the world. The strength to be themselves. The will to keep on living.

Thank you, Ellen. You deserve all the toaster ovens you could ever need.*

Ellen Degeneres quote

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* And your career picked up enough that you can now afford them, so yay you!

The US Government poses the greatest threat to US trade, all for the illusion of increased security

Lucas nails it on the head. This is why the US – a fantastic, wonderful country – is now on my No Go list for at least four more years.

codenix | blog

The United States Government has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons with its ramped up forced data exposure policies affecting travellers to their country.There are reportsthat increasing numbers of travellers are being forced to unlock and hand over their electronic devices to Border Control agents, who may then download an unencrypted clone of your device’s stored data to store and interrogate at will, potentially forever.

This practice is akin to forcing you to hand over all your email history, all your passwords to your cloud storage and social media accounts, all your phone’s stored location tracking data and call history, all your photos, your complete contact list (which can be used to build a profile of all your associations), and of course access to your finances if you have banking apps installed.

Now many of these things are available ​to law enforcement in the US anyway, but in…

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So, It’s Trump.

There’s no way to sugar-coat this.
Ignorance, fear, racism and misinformation have put a tiny-fingered, misogynist, bigoted, fact-fearing child in the White House. And next to him an evil, homophobic, evangelical climate-change denier as his Vice President. In the prophetic words of River Tam, things are going to get much, much worse.

river-tam-things-much-worse

I was going to write about how this happened. I was going to look at who’s to blame – was it the media? Was it the DNC or even Hillary herself? Was it all FBI Director James Comey’s fault?
But that’s not my place yet. More knowledgeable and experienced people will be writing about that. There will be weeks and weeks of analysis. There will be op-eds and infographics and charts and finger-pointing.
But what we need right now, I think, is some perspective.
Before we had Obama, we had Dubya. Before we had Justin Trudeau, we had Stephen Harper. Before we had the most productive Australian Prime Minister, we had eleven years of John Howard. Sometimes to take two steps forward you have to take a step back.
Social change is slow. If you try and rush it you get push back, because it’s largely generational. For hundreds of years, each generation has been more progressive than the one before it. 150 years ago, women couldn’t vote. 60 years ago, American schools were segregated. 20 years ago, same-sex couples couldn’t get married.
Older white people voted for Trump. Older white people voted for Brexit.
Two weeks before the election, SurveyMonkey published this map of the electoral college if only millennials voted:

millenial-electoral-college
Source: SurveyMonkey

So the upcoming generation has progressive ideals. Unfortunately, fewer millennials voted this election. So maybe we need to reach out to the kids better. Maybe we need to inspire them more, like Obama did in 2008 and 2012. I don’t know.
But I do know that giving up won’t help. I do know that we can’t just accept the world the way it is. Women weren’t given the right to vote, people stood up and called for it. Desegregation didn’t just happen, civil rights campaigners stood up and demanded it. Marriage equality is happening around the world because people are fighting for it.
So we can’t just give up. We need to take action. We need to see Trump’s election as a wake-up call. A call to action.
So take action. Engage with people who think climate change is a hoax. Campaign to your elected officials for humane treatment of refugees. Speak up when you witness or experience sexism, racism, bigotry. And support the victims of sexism, racism and bigotry.

And above all, be the change you want to see in the world. Nate Silver on the FiveThirtyEight Election podcast talks about the ‘smugness’ shown by many of the commentariat – especially on the left and in parts of the media. That doesn’t help. Be better than that. If you can comport yourself with all the restraint, patience, dignity and wisdom that Barack and Michelle Obama have demonstrated – time and time again – you’ll be helping to make the world better.

There is hope. Change will happen. It won’t happen fast enough, and many people will be hurt in the process. But if we keep the pressure on, we will get there.

Fired up?

Ready to go?

McConnelling

Oh gods I found this funny.

I was watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart this morning, which started off with a depressing look at Fox News’ vilification of poor people. Then, after the ad break, came this little gem about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In case you’re not aware, McConnell is the quintessential Old White Republican Arsehole. He’s repeatedly tried to get the Affordable Healthcare Act repealed, he’s opposed every gun control attempt, and described shutting down Guantanamo Bay as releasing ‘murderers’ into the US.
And he’s the 10th wealthiest senator, with a personal fortune of over US$9 million.

So making fun of him is extremely entertaining.

Here’s the clip from the Daily Show today. It’s brilliant. 😀

And possibly my favourite #McConnelling so far is this one:

The Future of Skepticism: More. Positive. Stuff.

Over the weekend I had the joy of attending the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Canberra. Let me just say this: it was FANTASTIC. Skeptic conventions, Skepticamps and other such events are always terrific fun to attend because it’s always great to be with friends and like-minded people. But when a convention is as well put together as this one was – around a common theme, with a diverse range of engaging speakers, in an environment of spirited collegiality – it really does motivate and inspire.

Image
Dr. Paul Willis talking at the Australian Skeptics National Convention 2013.
Image: Ruth Ellison

The last speaker on the program was the inimitable Dr. Paul Willis. Former host of ABC’s splendid Catalyst program and now director at RIAus, Paul is a charming, genial man with a razer-sharp intellect and a love of puns. And his thoughts on where skepticism is going, which he shared in his talk, are spot on with what I’ve been thinking recently. He boiled it down to three key points:

  • More. We need to be doing more. There’s an entire internet out there waiting for us to get out there and fill it with good information. And if we don’t, the quacks and the woo-pedlars will.
  • Positive. We need to show that we’re not a bunch of nay-saying curmudgeons. Let’s give positive feedback to the people and organisations that are doing fantastic stuff. When Catalyst does a terrific show like the Chiropractic episode, we need to be congratulating them and thanking them. Get our voices heard and we’ll see more of the good stuff.
  • Stuff. We need to expand the range of what we do. If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you’re not on social media, get involved. If you don’t do a podcast, or a vodcast, why not think about it. Comment on blog posts. Comment on Old Media sites like newspapers and TV shows. Submit complaints to the TGA on dodgy websites. Join the Guerilla Skepticism team and write some Wikipedia articles. And take advantage of some of the tools being developed like rbutr, Web of Trust and Fishbarrel.

Have a listen to Paul’s talk here:

Steltzner vs Fox: Curiosity Comes Cheap

Today I stumbled across this cute little meme:

Shepard Smith vs Adam Steltzner

So I shared it, and before long was asked: did this actually happen?

I didn’t know, so I looked around. As best as I can tell, no it didn’t happen exactly like that. It wasn’t quite the ‘gotcha’ moment. But the interviewer did definitely have a “dude, why bother?” attitude. Rather than send you off to give Murdoch some money, I’ve uploaded the clip here:

So while it’s not exactly true, I think the meme does make a good point. As I’ve said before, space exploration and astronomy is far cheaper than people realise. Yes, Curiosity cost $2.5 billion, but that was spread over eight years. A few months before Curiosity landed, London hosted the Olympic games at a cost of US$14.46 billion. And as I’ve shown before, the US military is planning on spending $US1.1 trillion dollars over the next 5 years on 2,443 F-35 warplanes to finally defeat the Soviet threat. [Correction: As artio pointed out in the comments, that should read “US1.1 trillion over the next 50 years”. Woops.]

Don’t get me wrong – I think asking about the money involved in science is a valid question and one that definitely needs to be asked. But such funding needs to be held in context. Casey Dreier over at The Planetary Society spells it out far better than I could. Essentially, the question is not “why are we spending so much money on space exploration?” but instead “why are we spending so little?”