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

Whiplash

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.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sadness

There are some people, like Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro, who I think very actively cause more suffering in the world (and, sadly, are enabled by lots of "reasonable" people who care more about congeniality than consequences).


However, Sam Harris just makes me sad. I still start many of his podcasts because he has interesting people (for example Andrew McAfee). But I was dismayed to hear that not only does he do a preface to podcasts, Harris has now added a postscript to give more of his general thoughts -- and to attack his guests when they aren't able to reply. This continues to undermine his contention that "conversation" [sic] is the most important tool we have (a belief I don't share).

What is much worse, however, is Harris' incredible close-mindedness. He is utterly convinced he has all truth. He contends that any other perspective isn't just wrong but also the root of everything bad (i.e., Hillary lost by refusing to condemn Islam as Sam does). His sneering and thoughtless denigrations of "The Left," "identity politics," and anyone who is "woke" is so childish that I am continually amazed that no one Sam respects will point that out to him. But it seems as though there are fewer and fewer people he respects. Anyone who has a minority point of view is quickly dismissed out of hand. If you don't have Sam's well-off straight white male perspective, you need to "get over it."

Similarly, on the latest Real Time, Sam's pal and fellow egomaniac Bill Maher said that Bill and Howard Stern are the only two honest men in America. The arrogance of that statement is simply breathtaking.

I believe that Sam is right about free will -- that is, that everything that goes on is just, at its core, physics (chemistry, biology). I understand that he can't do any differently. Worshipful echo chambers are powerful influencers. So I really should just "get over it" and not let it bother me. But at least as of today, it still does.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

In your face!

Facebook says I have nearly 2,000 "friends."

Whuhhh???

But seriously, on a separate topic, this month is our 27th anniversary.


In your face, Tiffin Calvert Catholic High School (where I couldn't get a date and basically had no friends)!

😜

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Some notes on global warming and progress

As always, click for larger.
I heard David Wallace-Wells on Ezra Klein's podcast talking about his book, The Uninhabitable Earth. I am not a fan of disaster porn, but I got it from the library and wanted to give it a chance.

That isn't easy, because to start with, the title is a lie. He admits this on p. 6, saying "According to some estimates" (cherry-picking to start), some regions of the world would be uninhabitable by 2100 ... or maybe not uninhabitable: "Certainly it would make them inhospitable."

Iceland is pretty darn inhospitable much of the year. Heck, 115 degrees here in Tucson is quite uncomfortable (although not as bad as Pittsburgh from November through March). But people live everywhere. Lots and lots of people. But "The Somewhat More Inhospitable Earth" probably didn't test as well as a book title.

It doesn't help that he gets basic, easily-Googleable facts wrong. For example, he says (on p. 8) that 15% of all humans are alive now. That is twice the real number.

What makes it worse is that he goes out of his way to be an asshole: "I’m not about to personally slaughter a cow to eat a hamburger, but I’m also not about to go vegan. I tend to think when you’re at the top of the food chain it’s okay to flaunt it, because I don’t see anything complicated about drawing a moral boundary between us and other animals, and in fact find it offensive to women and people of color that all of a sudden there’s talk of extending human-rights-like legal protections to chimps, apes, and octopuses, just a generation or two after we finally broke the white-male monopoly on legal personhood."

Yeah? Well FU.

So I don't like hyperbole, I don't like factual misstatements, and I don't like rationalizing assholes accusing us we're rationalizing assholes.

But what also irritates me is that people seem to imply that everything is awesome and only going to be bad because we are short-sighted and selfish.

Things are not great for the majority of sentient creatures - in large part because of speciesist assholes like Wallace-Wells.

But more than that, things could get much much worse for humans and, in terms of percentages, not be as bad as things were just decades ago.

The percentage of people living in absolute poverty, the percentage of people dying from preventable diseases, the percentage of people held as chattel, etc - all of these were unimaginably worse just a few generations ago (1, 2). Much worse than the under the worst projections of climate change.

Just consider basic life expectancy:

"Life expectancy is up, from a world average of less than 30 years in the mid-18th century to over 70 years today; and the increases are seen by all age groups and all continents. Child mortality and maternal mortality in particular have been drastically reduced: 'for an American woman, being pregnant a century ago was almost as dangerous as having breast cancer today.'"

Of course, this is not to say that we should not do anything to mitigate climate change. But it is one issue among many causing immense current and future suffering.

We should, I believe, recognize that history didn't start in 2019. We have made unbelievable progress. We can learn from that and do a lot more to reduce suffering in many ways - from harm-reduction advocacy through disease eradication. Writing self-important hyperbolic disaster porn is not one of them.

PS: Oh yeah - and vote D at every opportunity. If that isn't your message, STFU.


Monday, September 30, 2019

The most significant difference between people?

Some people think, "I have suffered, so I don't want anyone else to suffer."
Some people think, "I have suffered, so I want everyone else to suffer."

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Winning is the only thing

If you are writing or speaking about global warming (or plastic pollution or gun violence or health care or anything) and your main message isn't "vote and help get out the vote," you are doing worse than nothing. You are wasting precious time and distracting from the only thing that can help these issues: winning elections.

Monday, September 23, 2019

One person gets it

‘If our product can’t compete on regular metrics like taste, price, convenience, and nutrition, then all we’re doing is virtue signalling for rich people.’ 
Pat Brown on the Impossible Burger, paraphrased here.



PS: While long, the entire article is worth reading.

PPS: I think everyone who believes our craving for meat is a cultural construction is deluded.  There is every evolutionary reason to believe we have a natural craving for concentrated amino acids and fats.