Congratulations on health care reform!

It’s obviously the talk of the world, so I might as well weigh in. Congratulations on passing a modicum of health care reform and taking care of about half of your uninsured! It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and one of the first I’ve seen your nation make pretty well since I’ve become politically aware.

Sure, 15 million people are still without any form of health insurance and will still go bankrupt should something unforeseen happen to them or their loved ones. Sure, you’re now mandated to buy health insurance from one of those vulture companies that stand between you and your doctor presently or face stiff fines. And sure, there’s no guarantee that in the four years grace time where the health insurance companies are still allowed to deny your claims due to pre-existing conditions that your idiot compatriots might vote someone into office that will push to repeal every scrap of forward movement you’ve made. But you’ve made a single tiny insignificant step forward! And that’s something to celebrate. To celebrate, and to rest on your laurels.

Or not. Because every shred of progress you’ve made is in danger of being wiped out before they even become active. Most provisions in the bill passed last night won’t take effect until at least 2014. All you have to do is elect a Republican to office in 2012 and the vast majority of your progress will be lost, because this bill, though it contains lots of bones thrown to the health insurance industry (like their ability to cap expenditures per capita, or the fact that if they break the law they’re fined a mere $100 a day!), does cut into their profits. And though the GOP has watered down the bill as much as they could (some describe it as akin to Romneycare now — after some 200 amendments proffered by Republicans and still not a single Republican voting yea on it), they’re hurting from this, what David Frum calls their Waterloo. And they’ll be out for blood.

They already are, in the Tea Party movement as fomented by luminaries like Glenn Beck. And at this point, they are the staunchest Republicans. All you have to do to backslide is elect a few of them. Just a few. The House vote was 217-210 — it passed by seven votes, with not a single Republican voting for it. Just let a few of your House Democrats get defeated by anyone with an ideology like Bart Stupak at the absolute furthest right, and you’re done. No shining gold medal of single-payer like the one Canada’s had since 1962 on the horizon. And you have to admit, on reading about Canada’s system, that for all its flaws, at least we didn’t leave another 15 million people behind just to appease our corporate paymasters. What’s an oddity up here is endemic still down there, and will be for quite some time until you hammer out the problems as quickly as possible and buttress them against the corporate-funded attacks that are coming.

Please don’t backslide, folks. Don’t rest on your laurels. I hate to be the rabble-rouser on the outside, but I can’t stand to watch your less fortunate — the people you welcomed into the country that fall into the category of “huddled masses” — keep dying needlessly.

Viacom uploaded clips to Youtube then sued Youtube for hosting them!

Seriously, it’s like tonight’s internet surfing session is somehow intentionally trying to make my blood boil. You know that whole Viacom vs Youtube debacle, where Viacom’s been suing Youtube repeatedly for posters violating their copyrights? Well, it turns out that the whole while, employees within Viacom have been posting videos themselves in order to benefit from the free publicity that Youtube’s use represents. And nobody knows exactly how many of the clips in question in this court case were uploaded by Viacom themselves — not even their employees.

Viacom’s efforts to disguise its promotional use of YouTube worked so well that even its own employees could not keep track of everything it was posting or leaving up on the site. As a result, on countless occasions Viacom demanded the removal of clips that it had uploaded to YouTube, only to return later to sheepishly ask for their reinstatement. In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.

Given Viacom’s own actions, there is no way YouTube could ever have known which Viacom content was and was not authorized to be on the site. But Viacom thinks YouTube should somehow have figured it out. The legal rule that Viacom seeks would require YouTube — and every Web platform — to investigate and police all content users upload, and would subject those web sites to crushing liability if they get it wrong.

This is how you completely lose the sympathy of everyone on the internet. You abuse the copyright system in such a gross manner and expect to still reap the dividends of your activities, all while making a tidy side-profit from suing the very service you’re using, for failing to somehow magically know that the clips you’re uploading are copyright to Viacom. As far as I’m concerned, for doing this, Viacom not only knowingly forfeited their rights to any clip they’ve uploaded, they’ve forfeited any benefit of the doubt in future copyright claims. I honestly hope this shifts the burden of copyright protection back onto the companies whose copyrights they feel are in need of protecting, rather than on the free services that individual users might happen to abuse. Especially when “abuse” actually serves to help promote the very content that they’re seeking to protect.

Welcome to the new digital age, Viacom. The existence of the Internet is not a dangerous thing to your copyrights — if anything, having a clip by Stewart or Colbert “go viral” is only going to drive more viewers to your shows. Wise up and learn how to make a profit from this new age. Evolve, as they say, or die.

Canadian climate scientists “being muzzled”

Oh for fuck’s sake, I’ve had just about enough of Little Bush in office in Canada. The news apparently broke a few days ago that Canadian climate scientists are being silenced by the government.

A dramatic reduction in Canadian media coverage of climate change science issues is the result of the Harper government introducing new rules in 2007 to control interviews by Environment Canada scientists with journalists, says a newly released federal document.

“Scientists have noticed a major reduction in the number of requests, particularly from high profile media, who often have same-day deadlines,” said the Environment Canada document.

“Media coverage of climate change science, our most high-profile issue, has been reduced by over 80 per cent.”

The Environment Canada analysis noted that four prominent scientists, who regularly spoke for the government on climate change science issues, appeared in only 12 newspaper clippings in the first nine months of 2008, compared with 99 clippings over the same period in 2007.

“There is a widespread perception among Canadian media that our scientists have been ‘muzzled’ by the media relations policy,” said the Environment Canada document. “Media coverage of this perception, which originated with a Canwest story in February 2008, is continuing, with at least 47 articles in Canadian newspapers to date.”

Climate Progress draws the same parallel that immediately struck me: this is almost identical to the Bush administration’s anti-science tactics.

Don’t like reality? Make it a political issue!

A touching tribute

Mike Haubrich’s father died recently, after a long struggle at the end. He chose to go with dignity. Mike has written a post at Quiche Moraine in his memory. I hope when my time comes, someone eulogizes me as beautifully.

We, all of us, are materially connected to the planet on which we live. We eat, drink, breathe and metabolize the substances that make us and turn them into the proteins that build our cells and organs, but we are still mostly carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen even now and long after we have died those elements will continue. Dad died and made a little room for another person to eat, drink, breathe and metabolize and in a few years I will die and do the same thing. My ashes will be scooped into an urn and placed in a mausoleum for a few years and eventually will all return to the earth. We never go away, even long after death. The C, H, N and O2 that make us are remnant elements of a supernova that burst some 7 billion years ago because we are “starstuff.” He is still here, and always will be.

It’s rather amusing when religious folks suggest that you have to believe there’s “something more” than this life, that you’re “part of some grander design”, when the reality is, we already are part of something bigger than ourselves. Every carbon atom on this planet was built in a distant star that has since died and exploded, seeding the galaxy around it. Without that cosmic sacrifice, we wouldn’t be here. This is a much more sweeping and grand reality than any small and scope-limited religion humankind has ever come up with.

And it really does touch my heart and inspire me to do good things in my limited time on this planet.

AronRa on Atheist Experience: Conflict between Science and Religion?

AronRa and Matt Dillahunty play exceptionally well off one another, especially where both are extraordinarily well-spoken about their beliefs. This is a brilliant clip.

I can’t say I 100% agree that there is “not necessarily” conflict between science and religion, for the simple reason that this very conflict amounts to a game of chicken, and the theists are incapable of blinking so long as their faith in their texts tells them they’re right. While the science-boosters are correct in saying “oh, science isn’t setting out to disprove your beliefs, they can coexist, you can believe whatever you want”, there’s that unspoken clause that says “as long as the evidence doesn’t contradict it”. And it does, all too often.

The mere fact that science is the study of evidence, and theism is the wholehearted belief in some very old postulates with no evidence supporting it outside the texts themselves, will lead to conflict. Since the faiths that intentionally set out to conflict with science do not merely postulate a deity outside the scope of human experience, but also postulate a lot of back story and allegory that, if taken literally, cannot possibly be true, those faiths are going to conflict with science, which as I’ve said before is the objective study of reality. And it’s the theist’s side’s fault that they conflict. Why should science back down to the challenge when the evidence is on our side?

Reality is what it is, folks. No matter how badly you want reality to be something else, reality doesn’t give a shit. It will go on being what it is. If that means there’s a deity outside the scope of the universe that set things in motion, sure, fine. But don’t tell me that this deity is Yahweh, because it can’t be, because Yahweh can’t be. Nor Thor, nor Zeus, nor Mithras, nor any other deity that has any human-based mythology. Period. End of line. And besides, until any actual evidence for such a creature surfaces — you know, outside of there being a lot of misguided human beings believing in such a creature — I’m happy to go on living my life without any sort of god.

Turnabout is fair play

Bill Nye (yes, The Science Guy!) was on Rachel Maddow last month to rebut the anti-AGW right-wing propagandists, and he does something otherwise unfathomable — he turns a popular tactic of these same right-wing AGW deniers against them, and calls their anti-science, anti-reality denialism “unpatriotic”.

Yes, this is hyperbole. Hyperbole on the same scale of those that use the term when people dislike what the facts about reality happen to be. But it stands to reason that jingoists are arguably much less patriotic than people who would fight to defend the human species against its own missteps.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Wish I’d seen this when it was fresh. Oh well, it’s still awesome now. Bill Nye kicks eleven flavors of ass.

Gwibber Ascendant

I love Twitter entirely too much. You get tiny snippets of insight into other people’s minds. You get a great big meme factory where new hashtags are born and die every minute. And you get instant or delayed communication with anyone else on the service, depending on your intent — sometimes you can talk to no-one in particular, and someone will probably answer regardless. I honestly had no idea how enthralled I would have become with what I thought was a trite and passing fad, where I can usually find some nugget of wisdom or bright shiny smile to turn a day 180 when it’s going otherwise horribly.

And since I’m a Linux guy, I’ve been naturally drawn to the Linux-based Twitter clients… repeatedly, as it turns out, because I’ve been burned by them before. But the beautiful thing about open-source software is that it’s always improving incrementally. Sometimes the increments are pretty damned huge, at that. As with Gwibber’s latest incarnation, packaged with the Ubuntu Lucid Lynx beta that I installed on my work laptop a few days ago and integrated into the indicator applet, huge doesn’t begin to describe it.

Finally I have a Linux-based Twitter client that is attractive, functional, notifies me on @-replies and DMs, and can connect to Facebook and (when at work and Facebook is inaccessible) fail on it gracefully without forcing me to remove the connection from my accounts list. I no longer have to rely on Adobe AIR and TweetDeck (the memory hog), or Twhirl (which is sorely lacking in functions). Since it’s programmed in Python, and the source is readily available, I could tweak it to my liking if I so choose, without even recompiling it. It’s not a memory hog, it supports multiple columns like TweetDeck (a feature I JUST discovered!), and it’s not eating up all my processor cycles or API calls doing, for what I use Twitter for, approximately nothing. And did I mention it’s attractive as hell with the default Human theme?

Not that Twitter’s the most productive use of my time, certainly. I mean, if you look in the screenshot, everyone’s favorite mechanical reptile is live-tweeting shaving his head. And it’s like a giant link aggregator where everyone gets to submit links to everyone else’s feeds. And you should know, you probably clicked a link in my Twitter timeline to get here. Roughly 70% of my traffic comes from it.

What a strange service Twitter is, when you think about it — blogging in 140 chars or less. But doesn’t it put a smile on your face now and again?

You can probably check the newest Gwibber out prior to the Lucid launch if you’re feeling daring, or try out one of their older versions from your distro’s repositories. Their PPA is right here. Not sure what you’ll have to do to get it working on other distros, as I honestly haven’t played with anything but Ubuntu in over two years, but I’m sure it’s possible.

Paying For Free

Ever notice that dissent on blogs often takes on a certain character that’s well outside the scope of civil discussion? Stephanie Zvan did, and she does what she does best — asks you pointed questions about it until you “get it”.

How other bloggers cope sometimes is beyond me, though. The onslaught of commenters telling people what they should be writing about, how they should write it, what they can and cannot say about it, how what they left out is far more important…well, you get the idea. And the people saying, “Thank you, I enjoyed reading that,” or, “I’m so glad you brought that to my attention,” are rare indeed. All the more precious for that, but rare.

Read more over at Quiche Moraine.

I was surprised at how much of myself I saw reflected in her main critique, that the only cover charge expected of a blog reader is that they actually read the article in question before freaking out over some slight. I don’t think I got to see the particular piece of drama that brought on this post, but I’ve seen enough examples of exactly the kind of dysfunctional discourse to which she’s referring, to “get it” myself.