Australia has anti-science nuts, too

We Americans like to think we’ve got the greatest everything, including the greatest science denialists. Who can forget Sarah Palin’s rage against mere fruit fly research? And now we’ve got Donald Trump, irate about his hair spray.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen Donald Trump lower, again and again, the bar for political discourse. All the while, though, he’s been lowering the scientific bar, too. In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside. No wonder Hillary Clinton felt the need to include, in her nomination speech, the phrase “I believe in science.”

And it’s not just hairspray: there is a legion of scientific issues on which Trump is ignorant and wrong.

Just to be fair, though, I’ll remind everyone that Democrats have sometimes gone down this road: I remember Proxmire and his Golden Fleece award, in which he railed against science he didn’t understand, and then there’s Tom Harkin, throwing away money on quackery.

But now Australia is getting in on the game, in a very Proxmirish move.

absurdresearch

Oh, yeah, how dare they study philosophy, history, psychology, or sociology. We must ridicule what we don’t understand.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph is suffering one of their frequent relapses into frothy-mouthed panic about government wastage on research grants. Poking at layabout academics for ‘wasting’ tax dollars on seemingly frivolous projects reminds me of nothing more than the schoolyard bully who secretly knows he peaked in year 9. Today, the Tele flattered me by holding up one of my own projects for ridicule, ironically illustrating their point that rusted-on ideology, and patronage provide the most direct route possible to mediocrity.

Don’t academics understand that the only thing we’re supposed to do is cure cancer? It’s a zero-sum game, and every study of medieval history or Renaissance art or the psychology of gender or goddamn fruit flies means another metastasizing tumor and horrible slow death.

So the solution is to demand that the Australian Research Council present grant proposals for review to the beery patrons of local pubs. Yeah, that’ll steer research funds appropriately.

Ray Hadley picked up the Telegraph’s baton in an interview with the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, demanding that the ARC justify its funding decision in the front bar of a Western Sydney or North Brisbane pub.

Yes, after the forlorn cries for better funding of research rang through Science Week last week, and as the ARC sits in Canberra to decide the outcomes of this year’s biggest schemes, the pro-ignorance side of the culture wars has decided to play their favourite game. Their attempts to paint researchers as out-of-touch layabouts draining the public purse are, if you read the comments on Blair’s blog, playing well with the patrons of those very pubs.

Uh-oh. Nobody tell Trump about this idea to put bars in charge of NIH/NSF/NASA. He’d probably think it was a terrific plan. So would his fanatical followers.

Good news, my fellow aristocrats of the Higher Education Cartel!

If you’re like me, you’re neck-deep in preparation for the new academic year right now. I’m meeting with advisees this morning, and have lab stuff to order and more tweaking of my syllabus to do.

Relax! Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has an answer for us all. Pop a VHS cassette into the tape player and let that do the teaching for you!

We’ve got the internet — you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying different lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn’t play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need destructive technology for our higher education system, he said.
Johnson added, One of the examples I always used — if you want to teach the Civil War across the country, are you better off having, I don’t know, tens of thousands of history teachers that kind of know the subject, or would you be better off popping in 14 hours of Ken Burns’s Civil War tape and then have those teachers proctor based on that excellent video production already done? You keep duplicating that over all these different subject areas.

Ooooh, I’m in a higher education cartel? I had no idea. I thought it was more of a syndicate, or mob, or gang. It does not surprise me, though, that a Republican wants to destroy our mafia.

His idea of just acting as a proctor for a series of videos intrigues me, though — it sure would be a lot less work than reading all those papers and textbooks, distilling them down into presentations, and trying to draw out students into interacting with you and the material. I use short video segments to illustrate concepts already — but nowadays we go to online digital sources rather than these mysterious “tapes” — but hey, if I could just show videos for the class hour for a couple of weeks, that would definitely take a load off my back.

Although…I did once have a class that was taught that way, back in junior high school. It was our health course, “taught” by the PE coach, who basically knew nothing about the subject, but could run a film strip or an 8mm projector (Mr Johnson is truly with it — he could have recommended even older technologies) just fine. The thing is, it was a terrible, crappy course, and I learned nothing, other than that the instructor was an ignorant dumbass.

But maybe the technology is greatly improved. Burns’ series is well done, and students would learn some things from it.

Is there also a video series that teaches how to compare and assess multiple sources? I wouldn’t want students to think there is only one true story about the Civil War.

Is there a video for every possible question my students might ask? You never know what might pop into their heads, and the instructor has to be prepared to answer…or at least, explain how to find the answer.

When a student shows up at my office with a question about some complicated figure in a paper, is there a tape I can show them? I hate just sitting there, looking blank, and being able to shuffle through a gigantic stack of tapes at least gives me something useful to do.

I mentioned I’m have an advising meeting soon. Is there tape for that?

Currently, Ron Johnson is stuck in a difficult re-election campaign. Does he have a tape that explains how to win? Maybe he should sit down and watch it a couple of times.

While he’s doing that, every citizen in his electorate who knows anything about teaching — which definitely does not include Ron Johnson — will be voting for Russ Feingold, so at least he’s made that decision even easier.

I want to see a documentary about the Middle Ages in which all the recreators are swans now

Indignant conservatives who insist on “accuracy” in television shows make me laugh. Apparently, the BBC has some show about Margaret of Anjou in which the title character is played by Sophie Okonedo, who is of Nigerian ancestry. Some people can’t get past the skin color to see the role the actor is playing.

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You know, the BBC doesn’t have a time machine in order to pull in the original Margaret of Anjou to play the role, so anyone they can bring in is going to look different than the real person. If they had a white person playing her, would they pick over the shape of her nose, if it wasn’t identical? Nigel Farage is white, would he have been a better choice as an actor?

But here’s something even funnier: a medieval historian who wrote a thesis on the manuscript Mr Wood cited as the authority on how Margaret ought to look weighed in.


Hi @CllrChrisWood that’s a lovely medieval image you have there. It’s from a manuscript that claims M of Anjou was descended from a swan

I must insist on true historical accuracy in all future documentaries, and apparently a significant fraction of British royalty must be portrayed as part bird.

Also as part French. Margaret of Anjou was born in France (well, Lorraine), and was of the French house of Anjou-Valois. A UKIPper defending the accuracy of a television show is going to have to insist on hiring French actors, I guess.

The biggest crime in America: unregulated capitalism

Our priorities are all screwed up. The wrong people are in jail.

In dollar terms, what group of Americans steals the most from their fellow citizens each year?

The answer might surprise you: It’s employers, many of whom are committing what’s known as wage theft. It’s not just about underpaying workers. They’re not paying workers what they’re legally owed for the labor they put in.

It takes different forms: not paying workers the federal, state, or local minimum wage; not paying them overtime; or just monkeying around with job titles to avoid regulations.

No one knows exactly how big a problem wage theft is, but in 2012 federal and state agencies recovered $933 million for victims of wage theft. By comparison, all the property taken in all the robberies of all types in 2012, solved or unsolved, amounted to a little under $341 million.

One of the nice things about stealing that much money is that you can buy off people to cover your criminality. Also, we have these ideological fanatics — Libertarians and Republicans and Conservatives — who will leap to the defense of the Invisible Hand’s right to pick pockets.

Wonderful news about our criminal justice system

NO MORE PRIVATE PRISONS.

The Department of Justice will stop contracting with private prisons, the department announced Thursday morning. The decision comes a week after the DOJ inspector general released a damning report on the safety, security, and oversight of private prisons, which incarcerate 12 percent of federal inmates.

Now if we could just end the drug “war” and demilitarize the police…

The lying must be contagious

batboy

You’d think Rudy Giuliani would have 9/11/2001 seared into his brain, since he shrieks about it so much. But here’s Giuliani, stumping for Trump:

Under those eight years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States. They all started when Clinton and Obama got into office.

He must also trust that the Trump fans are friggin’ idiots, too.

You don’t believe Giuliani could possibly have said that? Here it is, at 57 seconds into this clip. Most remarkably, before he made that claim, he listed specific attacks by radical islamic terrorists, in 2001 and 1993.

Maybe he thinks Obama has been in office for 23 years?

Important questions, I hope someone tries to answer them

Every four years, Shawn Otto and his ScienceDebate organization politely suggest that science, engineering, tech, health, and environmental issues deserve a presidential debate, and every four years they’re ignored — largely because our presidential candidates are never really competent to discuss science in any detail at all (can you imagine Trump trying to bluster his way through a discussion of science and education policy?). But one thing that does get a regular response is the list of 20 science policy questions. Now there are a lot of questions I’d like to see both campaigns address.

It’s a rather quixotic effort, but it’s important to keep the pressure on. Go sign the petition at Sciencedebate.org.

What are the assnuggets up to now?

invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-1978-donald-sutherland

There are horrible, awful, no-good people everywhere who are doing wretched things and making the world a worse place. Let’s catch up with a few of them.

  • James O’Keefe, still lying for a living. The fraud was caught trying to make another video in which he pretends he’s someone he is not, in this case, he tried to commit election fraud to ‘prove’ it is a serious problem. It isn’t. Unsurprisingly, he was immediately caught trying to fake his identity in Michigan. This is a succinct summary of O’Keefe’s entire career.

    “James O’Keefe is a professional liar,” Dickerson said. “He just isn’t very good at it.”

  • Do you know of the all-time horrible person, Mike Cernovich? He’s an MRA and general Twitter troll, a conspiracy theorist and racist, and an advocate for rape. Not a nice guy at all. But he got invited to appear on a Fox News show called Red Eye, which prompted howls of outrage, not from lefty liberals, but from far right wingnuts who have their own reputation for looniness.

    “You’ve got to be kidding me. He’s a nutcase,” said right-wing author and radio host Ben Shapiro. “Granting any legitimacy to a fringe kook like Mike Cernovich, and all of the attendant nastiness and problems, is close to insane by any cable network.”

    “Are you serious?” asked Ben Howe, a writer and editor of the conservative blog RedState, when informed of Cernovich’s Fox News appearance. “He was a guest on fucking Red Eye? They’re giving this motherfucker legitimacy? Oh my god!”

    Shapiro is a former editor at Breitbart, and fan of the Tea Party. When you’re so extreme that you’re getting repudiated by the likes of Shapiro and Howe, just say goodbye.

  • And finally, of course, Donald Trump. Digby writes about the time he pointed his finger at a woman reporter, opened his mouth, and screamed…I mean, told a crowd of fans that she was a liar, and the Secret Service had to act to protect her from the mob.

    He knows very well what he’s doing. He’s intimidating people, especially women, into going easy on him by threatening to sic his violent cretins on them. There was no other reason to publicly name her.

    Pure, vicious demagoguery. Now he’s also primed his thugs in Pennsylvania by declaring that the only way he can lose that state is if there is cheating. This is unadulterated bullshit, of course; he’s currently substantially behind Clinton in the Pennsylvania polls. But you all know what fun we’re going to have the day after the election when Trump makes excuses for his defeat by telling his lackeys to riot.

    Also, why is CNN calling Trump’s lie a “bombshell”? It’s not. It is just an open fabrication.