SciFi Weekend: Scheduling for Doctor Who and Spin Off Shows

Last week’s news that Doctor Who had been renewed for fourteen episodes in 2012 turned out to be far less straight forward than initially believed. Word came from the BBC that many of the episodes will be held back until 2013, sparking a lot of rumors and speculation with no definite answer.

The current season will conclude in the fall of 2011, but it is not clear what will happen after that. Initially there was speculation that episodes would be held back in order to have around twenty episodes in 2013 for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.

My suspicion is that this move might be to shift the entire series back for future seasons, beginning in the fall as opposed to the spring. They might stick to the same pattern with two half seasons along with a Christmas episode, except we would have to go longer without episodes in the spring of 2012. In that case there would be fewer episodes airing in 2012 while returning to the usual number in 2013.

Yet another possibility is that the regular season might be an episode or two shorter in order to have specials before the fall of 2012 to break up the hiatus.

Steven Moffat has denied initial claims from the BBC that the schedule for Sherlock has anything to do with delaying Doctor Who. Beyond this, he has been vague regarding future plans, recently tweeting: “Dr Who: misquotes and misunderstandings. But I’m not being bounced into announcing the cool stuff before we’re ready. Hush, and patience.”

Meanwhile, Torchwood: Miracle Day begins in the United States on July 8 and in Canada on July 9. After years of being behind the U.K. on several shows, reportedly Torchwood will be aired on the BBC after the United States. The exact date has not yet been announced.

The final three episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures filmed before the death of Elisabeth Sladen will air this fall on CBBC. There are no plans, despite some rumors, to continue the show with a different star.

Quote of the Day

“A Tea Party group has a summer camp for kids, the only one where they sit around the campfire and tell scary stories about taxing the top 2%.” –Conan O’Brien

Two More Examples That Michele Bachmann Is Bat-Shit Crazy

Michele Bachmann came out of the recent debate in New Hampshire with favorable publicity. While one debate hardly determines the shape of a primary race, she placed herself in a good position to possibly become the major anti-Romney candidate. Whether she has a shot at winning the nomination may depend upon whether the primaries are dominated by far right-wing Republicans or whether more independents vote in the GOP primaries in the absence of a competitive Democratic race.

Bachmann has provided more examples this week as to why she should not be considered a viable presidential candidate–not that this will have an bearing on Republicans. First, as CNN reports, she has demonstrated her ignorance of science by calling for the teaching of intelligent design:

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann explained her skepticism of evolution on Friday and said students should be taught the theory of intelligent design.

Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, also proposed a major overhaul of the nation’s education system and said state administrators should be able to decide how they spend money allocated to them by the federal government.

“I support intelligent design,” Bachmann told reporters in New Orleans following her speech to the Republican Leadership Conference. “What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.”

Bachmann also showed her ignorance about of health care policy in promoting this bizarre conspiracy theory about Barack Obama and Medicare:

Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the latest candidate to join the Republican presidential campaign, suggested Friday that President Obama secretly wanted Medicare to go bankrupt so retirees would be forced to enroll in the new national health care law.

“This hasn’t been talked about very much – the president’s plan for senior citizens is Obamacare,” Ms. Bachmann told party activists here. She added, “I think very likely what the president intends is that Medicare will go broke and ultimately that answer will be Obamacare for senior citizens.”

Even looking at this from the perspective of opposing government programs, this one just makes no sense. Medicare is a single-payer system where (with some exceptions) the government essentially acts as the only insurance company. Obama’s health care plan would have people covered by multiple competing private insurance plans, with increased regulation of the insurance industry to attempt to eliminate the abuses currently present. If Obama is a big-government Democrat, or perhaps a socialist as many right-wingers claim, he would prefer a government program such as Medicare as opposed to “Obamacare.”

It makes no sense that Obama would want to move Medicare beneficiaries into the types of private plans which would dominate his health care plan. However, there is one group which does support this idea–the Republican Party. This is essentially what Paul Ryan’s plan would do with Medicare.

Did Michele Bachmann really intend to say that Barack Obama supports the Ryan plan, or is she just confused about  all these government policies? As with her Tea Party supporters, I’ll go with confusion and ignorance on their part.

Quote of the Day

“Donald Trump is 65 today. Had a big party. He likes to play Pin Everything on Obama.” –David Letterman

Jimmy Carter Advises Calling Off The Global Drug War

Jimmy Carter suggested calling off the global drug war in an op-ed in The New York Times. He began with noting recommendations from the Global Commission on Drug Policy and summarizing the history of the war on drugs:

IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

These recommendations are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”

These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.

This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.

The commission’s facts and arguments are persuasive. It recommends that governments be encouraged to experiment “with models of legal regulation of drugs … that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.” For effective examples, they can look to policies that have shown promising results in Europe, Australia and other places.

If the facts that the war is not working and is harming many people are not reason enough to call off the war, Carter also suggests that “the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America’s drug policies.” That might be the best argument to get Republicans to go along.

Quote of the Day

“I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed.”--Mitt Romney to a group of unemployed Floridians

The Quote of the Day most often comes from the late night comedians. Today’s Bonus Quote is one which will make them all very sad:

“I am announcing my resignation from Congress, so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative and most important so that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused.” –-Anthony Weiner


A Free Market In Conservative Endorsements

Conservative talk show hosts claim support for the free market. Ignoring for a moment the degree to which the right wing actually undermines our market system while promoting plutocracy, there is one market they are strongly in favor of–a free market in selling endorsements. Politico reports:

If you’re a regular listener of Glenn Beck’s radio show and you wanted to contribute to a political group that would advance the populist conservative ideals he touts on his show, you’d have plenty of reason to think that FreedomWorks was your best investment.

But if you’re a fan of Mark Levin’s radio show, you’d have just as much cause to believe that Americans for Prosperity, a FreedomWorks rival, was the most effective conservative advocacy group. And, if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity are who you listen to, you’d be hearing a steady stream of entreaties to support the important work of the Heritage Foundation.

That’s not coincidence. In search of donations and influence, the three prominent conservative groups are paying hefty sponsorship fees to the popular talk show hosts. Those fees buy them a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs – praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate – often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising.

“The point that people don’t realize,” said Michael Harrison, founder and publisher of the talk media trade publication TALKERS Magazine, “is that (big time political talk show hosts) are radio personalities – they are in the same business that people like Casey Kasem are in – and what they do is no different than people who broadcast from used car lots or restaurants or who endorse the local roofer or gardener.”

This returns the the question I’ve often wondered about the right wing talk show hosts–do they believe any of the nonsense they say or are they just saying what makes them the most money?  Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have provided reasons to question whether they believe what they say on air.

Quote of the Day

“There a giant fire burning in Arizona, the biggest fire ever in the history of the state … I’m not saying these two things are connected, but a few weeks ago Sarah Palin moved to Arizona, and then the state burst into flames…

“I feel bad for Sarah. She heard all the alarms and sirens and she figured the British were coming.” –Bill Maher

Premature Predictions Of A New Ice Age

Those on the anti-science right have been jumping on junk-science news reports of a new ice age. Typically they get excited by any news report, regardless of how weak the evidence, which could be used to deny climate change, while ignoring all the scientific evidence which contradicts their opinions. Today’s excitement is over reports that the earth may be entering a new ice age.

The story, like many stories distorted by the right wing, does have a grain of truth to it. The sun appears to be going into a cycle  with decreased solar activity, possibly an absence of sun spots, and possibly even some cooling. The major changes are expected to involve changes in the sun’s magnetic field and ionizing gas, not in heat. Sci-Tech Today includes this report on the impact on climate change:

Skeptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists. The Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria, said there could be small temperature effects, but they are far weaker than the strength of man-made global warming from carbon dioxide and methane. He noted that in 2010, when solar activity was mostly absent, Earth tied for its hottest year in more than a century of record-keeping.

Hill and colleagues wouldn’t discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.

“If our predictions are true, we’ll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,” Hill said.

This will be an interesting experiment which might lead to some changes in predictions, but is not likely to change the major problems related to climate change. Recent models of reduced solar activity predict that the effect will be to lower temperatures by 0.3 degrees C at most. In other words, the benefits are likely to be a less severe heat wave at best, not a new ice age.

When combining the effects of  natural phenomenon, including this change in solar activity, with man-made effects, it would not be surprising if there will be minor adjustments in current models as new evidence is available. That is how science works–not by jumping on whichever newspaper stories provide the prediction you want. Even if this should result in a greater reduction in global warming than expected, the prudent course remains to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and achieve greater energy independence.

The anti-science right, always alarmists over plans to reduce our use of fossil fuels while ignoring the evidence for the necessity, have an advantage in the debate. Not caring about the facts, right wing media can make noise about a new ice age coming, while scientists would prefer to take more time to study the data before making predictions. Understanding this problem, some climate scientists have released arguments as to why the predictions of a new ice age are unlikely.

Porky Pig Reads Pledge of Allegiance Before “Under God” Added

“Under god” was not added to the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 when Republicans of that era, like those of today, combined religion with patriotism. Here is Porky Pig, reading the Pledge as it existed back in 1939. (Hat tip to Secular Left)