Canadian census outrage
It has come to my attention that the latest faux-outrage to make the Canadian news is the decision by the Conservative Party to make the Canadian census long form voluntary. That such an item would be the source of so much media attention and that people actually want to be subjected to instrusive government questioning indicates some severe psychopathology. Rather than rejoicing that a tiny bit of statist idiocy has been consigned to the dustbin of history, there are people who are outraged that someone would dare do this. I, for one, think that being forced to fill out a very intrusive form with failure to complete said idiotic form being punishable by jail time is the type of behavior one expects from a totalitarian state. The people who are most outraged about the junking of this form are probably also upset when they don't have a roughly executed body cavity search during the security theater that one is forced to endure before boarding an aircraft.
Now I watch no TV news whatever, (and recently stopped watching broadcast TV completely), haven't read newspapers for the last decade (aside from the National Post which I rarely skim in the doctors lounge) and rely on a few select blogs to filter out all of the crap and present news of interest. My primary source of climate news is Watts up with that (WUWT), Small Dead Animals (SDA) for political news and Lubos Motl's blog for physics news. It was on SDA that I first read of the outrage by the self-styled Canadian ruling class (inconveniently not in power) to that dastardly deed that Stephen Harper had inflicted on the helpless populace of this country.
The primary reason that I completely cut myself off from all conventional news sources (the mainstream media (MSM)) was that exposure to this crap resulted in a perpetual state of outrage. I never did shoot my TV but came close and I figured that it wasn't healthy to be subjected to this externally mediated excess sympathetic stimulation all of the time. If I want to know something about a topic, I go to the internet and usually there are some bloggers who have exhaustively researched a particular topic and have posted their findings along with extensive links to their sources. This is far more usefull than the vacuous emotionalism that passes for news in the MSM.
In his book "Fooled By Randomness", Nassim Taleb refers to daily news as "noise". A steady daily diet contemporary news results in either extreme anger at the idiocy of journalists and politicians, or the inducement of multiple fears in people who can't see through the BS that constitutes the news. Taleb notes:
"the description coming from journalism is not just an unrealistic representation of the world but rather the one that can fool you the most by grabbing your attention via your emotional apparatus - the cheapest to deliver sensation" and
"This is one of the many reasons why journalism may be the greatest plague we face today -- as the world becomes more and more complicated our minds are trained for more and more simplification."
One fundamental need of people is to know what is going on around them. I get a far more balanced idea of what is happening locally in non-medical conversations with my patients and I go out more now that I no longer waste time on information sources that are severe distortions of reality. In talking to people I find that few have gone as far as I have and I often hear them parroting the latest sensationalist crap which, in the case of supposed anthropogenic global warming (AGW), has increasingly less and less connection with reality. The AGW religion would quickly die if a majority of people switched off their TV's and quit reading newspapers. (John Prine was way ahead of his time in Spanish Pipedream which contains the prophetic lines; "blow up your tv/throw away your paper/move to the country/build you a home/...") Fortunately more and more people are turning off TV news as the disconect between their percieved reality and the sensationalist statist crap that passes for North American news becomes ever greater.
A particularly annoying intrusion into my reality is the TV in my clinic waiting room which often is stuck on some MSM Canadian news channel where I'm temporarily exposed to unwanted noise; I see this as an incentive to write up my clinical notes on the patient I just saw as concisely and quickly as possible and go into the next exam room to see the next patient where I can't hear the noise. Some stuff gets through my wetware filters and I heard more of the faux outrage about the Canadian census this week.
Now there's a lot of important stuff happening in the world now; there was a large coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun on 1/8/2010. The sun is the quietest it's ever been since the Dalton minimum which was associated with the little ice age. The Carrington event of 1/9/1859 was a massive CME aimed directly at the earth. A repeat of the Carrington event would potentially destroy every network connected electronic device in the world -- surely newsworthy IMHO. Then there's 2003 UV11, an ~600 meter diameter asteroid scheduled to pass within 5 lunar distances of earth on 30/10/2010. Considering that it's travelling at 25 km/sec with respect to earth; lets just say that intersection of its orbit with the earth is not something that a lot of people are going to remember the next day. Calculation of the kinetic energy of 2003 UV11 is left as an exercise for the reader. It's really reassuring to find out that 2003 UV11 belongs to the group of asteroids with "not enough time coverage, sparse data". Hey, what's more important in Canadian news; a potential dinosaur-killer asteroid in the near future or the tragedy that would result from making the census long form voluntary.