Friday, November 15, 2019

Political Realism and Honesty

The above $13 aspirin is from my latest adventure at the local hospital.

The obvious reaction is that our medical system is messed up. And that is honestly true. But honesty does not drive policy. We live in a gerrymandered world where the government of the United States is subject to the Electoral College, an overweighting of empty white states, and the influence of big money.

Our medical system has literally saved my life several times. But on one of those occasions, I would have died if not for Obamacare.

Obama was a political realist. Instead of insisting on the best option, he pushed through the absolute best he could get -- down to the very last vote. (Yes, Joe Lieberman is effing evil.)

Is this sad? Do I wish it was otherwise? Of course. But this is the world we live in. It is a world with real consequences for real people.

I have heard "we have to smash the system" literally for decades. Uncounted individuals have suffered and died because people voted third party instead of for Al Gore and Hillary Clinton. Hundreds of thousands of people are dead and in the ground today because of this "my way or the highway" attitude. The Supreme Court is lost for a generation, as is much of the federal judiciary, and people will suffer and die because of this. Carbon emissions are getting worse, not better, and global hunger is actually going up after decades of progress. And any concept of caring beyond our tribe is circle is further away.

All this and much more because enough well-off white Americans decided they needed to "send a message" by voting for Nader and Stein.

All that matters now is defeating Trump and the Republicans. I honestly don't care what your positions are. If there is a 0.01% greater chance that candidate A will win compared to a vegan atheist scientist who shares all my positions and promises to end all my health problems, I will support candidate A. Because I am not the center of the universe.

If you want to say anything matters beyond winning Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona -- well, I just don't want to hear it. I have heard more than enough of destructive self-centered blather from well-off white folks in my life.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

"Elect Democrats"

There are some decent thoughts here (and a few stinkers), but by far the best answer to "How should billionaires spend their money to fight climate change?" is to elect Democrats. The rest is really just diddling around the edges at best.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Nine Evidence-Based Guidelines For A ‘Good Life’

Via Anne, this is a really good article (even if the preamble is very long). Key point from the introduction:

"Mostly these lists have been simply made up based on the preoccupations, political positions, or even financial interests of the lists’ authors."

The author reviews randomized control trials to come up with their list. To give you a taste:

1. Exercise your body and your brain every day.
2. Count your blessings. [Maybe the best advice on the list.]
3. Try to see others’ points of view. [A challenge!]
4. People, not things, make you happy. [And sunshine, speaking for myself  :-]
5. Work to earn, to live. Don’t live for your work.    🤯
6. Keep reminding yourself: It’s not all about me. [This is actually easier the older I get.]
7. Just teach your kids how to cope. [I am definitely overly protective by nature.]
8. Use your conscious reasoning to slowly make the changes you want. [Another challenge!]
9. When stressed, process your worries consciously. [Related: Ask yourself: "What is the alternative?"]

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Eating Bivalves

A friend of mine wrote this about eating bivalves a number of years ago. I never liked any seafood ever, so I have no urge to eat bivalves, but I find the argument as laid out there compelling. This reaction is very informative:
May 2016: I have now been banned from every local vegan group because of this article. I have received messages of abuse and insults and some vegans have spread ridiculous rumours about me. Charming! I find this kind of behaviour damaging to animal advocacy. It is exclusive, dogmatic and close-minded when in fact an inclusive, pragmatic and friendly approach should be employed.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

One of the greatest scams ever perpetuated

The idea that if we worship and give the rich tax cuts....

"I'm Part of the 0.1 Percent and I Want a Wealth Tax," by Meghan Bell in The Walrus: "[T]he rich do not care about you (some might even hate you), and any rich person claiming otherwise is conning you. Call their bluff. The rich will not help you, will not save you through 'job creation' or anything else. Corporate-tax cuts are associated with greater inequality, not more job opportunities. The average rich person is looking out only for himself." The Walrus

Joe's Influence

A friend of mine sent us this note:

I met someone at the Good Food Conference who said he got a leaflet from someone at the University of Illinois like years ago and went vegan from it. Now he’s a player in the private equity world and wants to get involved in the plant-based/cultivated meat world. 

Given that Joe Espinosa, the most prolific leafleter in history, is the person who leaflets the University of Illinois (our mutual alma mater), this is yet another example of Joe's influence. Congrats, Joe!

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

To repeat myself

Based on what I've heard, Sam Harris is still ranting about "identity politics" at every opportunity. What is his big example, the one I've heard him bring up over and over (again last week)? That people were mean on Twitter to multimillionaire Matt Damon.

What a privileged, sheltered life Harris lives.

So I would like to bring up, again, this post. It just boggles the mind that Harris wants his daughters to grow up in a world run by James Damore and his sexist ilk.

Monday, October 21, 2019

At least some of them know

The British grocery chain Tesco created this ad for their plant-based sausages. The National Farmers Union President Minette Batters says the ad “demonizes” meat.

In the ad, the little girl notes that meat is animals, which is, of course, entirely true. The father says “I bloomin' love my meat.” There is nothing in the ad about how animals live or die, or about the environmental and public health impacts of animal ag. So clearly, pointing out that meat is animals is “demonizing” meat.

I guess that at some level, the National Farmers Union knows they are demons for what they do to animals.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Are organics healthier?

A few weeks ago, New Scientist published a bad letter to the editor regarding the healthiness of organics. In the latest issue, they published this nice counter (this is not to argue one side or the other, just to point out that you can cherry-pick small studies to support your preferred choice, but the science is rarely as clear as we would like):

Ann Wills mentions a study that compared consumption of organic food with cancer rates in a sample of nearly 70,000 people (Letters, 14 September). She doesn’t mention a much larger UK study of 625,000 women (British Journal of This compared those who only ever ate organic food with those who never did and reported on the incidence of 16 different cancers over a nine-year period.
In that time, 50,000 women developed cancer, but there was no statistically significant difference between the groups, except for small increases in breast cancer. There was a lower rate of lymphoma in the organic eaters, although the number of lymphomas was too small to judge statistical significance. As with the breast cancer, this may be due to chance variations. Organic associations promote the idea that their food is healthier, which isn’t scientifically sustainable. Trying to get people to eat their five-a-day by recommending more expensive organic produce is inevitably counterproductive.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Do you eat? Then you are eating GMOs.

Sweet potatoes, tea, bananas, peanuts, yams, cranberries, cherries, and ... beer -- all are transgenic plants. That is, they have genes from other species -- indeed, from an entirely different kingdom of life! (Article in New Scientist)

Oh no! GMO!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Republicans Cheat, part 2,983

From the 538 newsletter:

Nearly 1 in 5 names

Ohio had planned to purge 235,000 voters from its rolls last month. Only problem: almost 20 percent of them weren’t supposed to be on the list. Jen Miller, the director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, discovered her own name was erroneously on the spreadsheet as “inactive” despite voting three times last year. Advocacy groups discovered around about 40,000 other names should not have been on the list through crowd-sourced efforts. [New York Times]

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Most Important Issue Ever

Climate Change
LGBTQ Rights
Reproductive Rights
Gun Control
Health Care
Cruelty to Animals
Income Inequality
Military Spending

All these issues and more are at stake in our elections. And yet so many white men just totally freak out when a student at an elite school somewhere does something they don't like and make it out to be the only issue in the world.

A social media friend of mine shared my recent blog about Sam Harris' obsession with "identity politics" and sneering dismissal of anyone "woke." A quick skim of the post shows comments as if they are fighting off alien hordes trying to destroy all of humanity. 

As Ezra Klein says, all politics is identity politics - it cannot be otherwise. "Political correctness" is generally just a request for basic respect and politeness. More importantly, there are many, many more pressing issues out there. It again makes me sad to see people with such a weird combination of arrogance, self-centeredness, and insecurity that they are OCD over "identity politics." Harping on this just plays into the right-wing's talking points

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Hysteria is not constructive

Earlier, I found that David Wallace-Wells book The Uninhabitable Earth was off the rails by page 8. But I wanted to see if he redeems himself in the rest of the book.

Not so much.

On pp 198-199, he says that agriculture and civilization were a mistake. He basically doesn't want us to deal with climate change, he wants humanity to be a handful of hunter-gatherers.

To lead his penultimate chapter (p. 204-205), he features what appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic who, years ago, predicted that humanity will be extinct within ten years. (And he also claims he's been surveilled by the "Deep State" since 1996.)

Then, on p. 221, he goes on to claim that not only is climate change going to kill us all on Earth, but it is why there is no intelligent life in the universe.

That is a simply amazing level of hyperbole and arrogance. Breathtaking.

In case anyone reading this is looking for some actual sane and real-world writing on the topic, check out Project Drawdown. But if your first, second, and third priorities aren't winning elections, then you are just wasting your time with disaster porn.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

"Regenerative" ag is a joke

The fantasies that some fancy form of animal ag can "save the world" is such crap. Peel away all the atmospherics, this article shows that even in the best-case scenario, "regenerative ag" a money pit, produces super expensive products that basically no one will buy, and still can't turn a profit. Oh, and the soil doesn't even store more carbon, let alone be a net carbon sink once you factor in the ranch's animals and operations.

The media's obsession with the dreams of the 1% really doesn't matter in the big picture - basically everyone just buys factory-farmed meat, regardless of what they say. But I think it is important to realize that even with all the money in the world, animal ag is still a net harm.

This is what they want you to think. 

Monday, October 14, 2019


Reading my social media feed, I'm left with two impressions:

1. Veganism is taking over the world.
2. We're all about to die on a burned-up planet.

Of course, neither is true. Per-capita consumption of animals has never been higher. And despite everything that has happened in billions of years, life has never been wiped out on Earth.

I understand how attractive it is to believe a simple narrative. But simple narratives almost never lead to real-world progress.