You are viewing barking_iguana

The journal of Dvd Avins [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Dvd Avins

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

GMOs [Nov. 12th, 2014|12:57 am]
There are several issues where what I have to say is too long for a typical Facebook post, but too short for a magazine essay. These rattle around in my head and so far I've rarely gotten around to writing them. Tonight I was asked about GMOs, which is one of the topics, and I wrote it out. I hope you give it time for consideration. If you we are also friends on Facebook, you may want to comment there as well as or instead of here.

https://www.facebook.com/dvd.avins/posts/10203076330099531

---

I think the kind of GMO foods we generally have are harmful to the environment, but not directly to the individuals who eat them.

Specifically
1) They allow the use of pesticides that are harmful as well as beneficial and the harmful affects of those pesticides have not been adequately studied.

2) They encourage a lack of diversity among crop strands, so that if a new disease attacks the current varieties, we will be especially vulnerable to catastrophic collapse of some crops.

3) They go along with the monopolization of seeds, which puts under more farmers and through them the rest of under more control by a few large corporations, especially Monsanto.

Those are all good reasons to oppose the Roundup-driven GMO foods we see.
Aside from that, even though the evidence of direct harm to individuals who consume the foods is totally bogus, there's some small chance that term are long-term bad effects of specific modifications that have not been discovered. That's not different from possible bad effects of new varieties that are developed by traditional means. Or of bad affects of food that was eaten for generations, like sarsaparilla, that we later learn is harmful.

But remember that not all GMO foods are of the Roundup-ready type. In all probability, we will also be able to develop crops that are beneficial, though the progress on things like rice with Vitamin A is slower than many scientists expected.

The righteous fight against the Monsanto-type crops has led to hyping of supposed dangers that aren't there, snowballing into anti-scientific hysteria by people who should know better. But that doesn't mean Monsanto should get a free pass to inflict all of the harm described above.

I would like to do away with all propriety knowledge of chemicals released into the environment, whether it be pesticides, the toxic soup they use for fracking, or anything else. And withholding scientific information about them while using them should be a felony for everyone who knowingly participates in doing so.

I don't know whether, were all the information publicly available, it would make sense to ban Roundup and whatever will follow in its place now that Roundup itself is losing efficacy as pests evolve. I see no reason to ban all GMOs, but just as with the pesticides most of them are designed to work with, information on them should be in the public domain before the organisms themselves are in the public environment.

Laws that have prevented companies from advertising that their milk is BGH-free are absurd and should be repealed ASAP. I don't think there are such laws in any state with regard to GMOs, but if there are, they are equally bad.

Mandatory labeling of products that do have GMOs are perhaps a useful stop-gap method so long we we cannot get legislation making the information about the pesticides public, but I don't think that's the real issue nor should it be the political focus. Open information is much more important.
Link2 comments|Leave a comment

How GOP Paranoia Continues to Propel Hilary Clinton's Career [Jan. 1st, 2014|11:41 pm]
Around 1994, Rush Limbaugh decided that Hilary Clinton made the perfect bogey(wo)man. Without Limbaugh, she would never have had an elective career. Sure, she had some ambition in that area, but it was pretty far-fetched.

But Limbaugh was (try not to gag when remembering) one of the most influential voices in the country at the time. And he thought the notion of an ambitious woman (therefore by definition, an evil shrew) so close to the Presidency was a wonderful tool to amp up the sense of beleaguered outrage and paranoia among his base. By raising her profile, he dragged other commentators for all over the political spectrum to also evaluate and speculate on her as a possible future President. Without that boost, I think it's very unlikely she would have had the prominence she has had.

Then, in the mid-2000s, most Republicans, still fueled by the Hillary paranoia their gurus had been feeding them for over 10 years, took it as a certainty she would get the Democratic nomination. The fix was in. As it had been all along. Some Democrats were foolish enough to buy into it, too.

Of course in the real world, no non-incumbent is ever given a free pass to a presidential nomination, even less so in the Democratic Party than in the Republican. She lost, in part because she's jut not a very good candidate. She has non of Bill's gift for empathy on the stump. Instead, she has the skill-set of a party leader in a parliamentary system who tried very hard to make that close enough.

Now, once again, Republicans are dead sure she will be the next Democratic nominee and many Democrats are along for the ride. but she is old. She herself said when she took the Secretary of State job that she would be too old to run in 2016. I'm pretty sure she meant it at the time, too, though having the prize within site and not being worn out from a recent loss has likely changed her perspective since. Still, it's worth keeping in mind: whether she was determined to run, keeping her options open, and maybe if she knew she would not run, she would be acting precisely as she is acting. She has power to influence events because she is *believed* to be running, and she will not give up that power sooner than she has a good reason to. I rate the odds of her running at 5 out of 7.

If she does run, she still has the same weaknesses she had before, and likely less stamina, to boot. Whether an older appearance will help or hurt her, I don't know. Both, of course, but I don't know which more. The field of possible rivals for the nomination looks weak, but outside of presumptive favorites, it almost always does until December the year before. I rate her chance of getting the nomination assuming she runs at 2 out of 3 and I may be being too generous. That makes her chance of both running and being nominated 10 out of 21--just under 50%.

Now, if she *is* the candidate, he chance of winning the presidency is helped by the continuing Republican paranoia about her. I read Republicans salivating at the chance to attack her over Benghazi. I read some Democrats thinking that the recent New York Times report about Benghazi is an attempt to favor her. Even though 90% of what the Republicans allege about Benghazi is preposterous, the other 10% doesn't involve Clinton very much, and the Times report in now way absolves her of anything.

The best thing Clinton has going for her as a candidate is that she con compare the Republicans' obsession with her as a person to her own obsession (if she chooses to paint it that way) with serving the country. I don't particularly want her to be the nominee. But I also don't think anyone else who's likely to be nominated (that doesn't include Warren, though it may be worth a try) is much different. So if the Republicans think that their obsession with Clinton and what they perceive as scandals will work for them, I'll play along. Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Clinton For President! (Unless we find a better nominee.)
LinkLeave a comment

What is book-burning, really? [Dec. 24th, 2013|01:19 pm]
I keep running into the question at OKCupid, "Which is more offensive: book burning or flag burning?"

The obvious answer , for me (but keep reading) is burning books is more offensive. Burning flags is a symbolic act, while burning books is an attempt to deny other people knowledge.

But is that what burning books always is? Isn't it also a symbolic repudiation of the notions contained in the book? Sure, its associated with attempts at censorship, but would people in the 1930s who did not attempt to prohibit the sale of Mein Kampf but did publicly burn copies of it have been wrong? I don't think they would have.

So I've been unable to bring myself to answer that question.
LinkLeave a comment

Narcissism in the celebration of Mandela [Dec. 6th, 2013|07:37 pm]
Can we stop dishonestly patting ourselves in the back by pretending that Mandela has had such a profound effect on the whole world? Yes, he had a tremendous positive effect on South Africa. And yes, his words and deeds provide a wonderful example to those of us outside of his country. But the world at large has shown no sign of heeding that example. Until we do, his legacy to us is a challenge, not a victory lap.
Link3 comments|Leave a comment

Python observation [Sep. 22nd, 2013|07:51 pm]
Guido von Rossum must get paid a fraction of a penny every time someone writes self._
Link15 comments|Leave a comment

Stub Hub is backdoor legal gambling, I guess. [Sep. 13th, 2013|04:06 pm]
I just realized: the existence of Stub Hub makes some kinds of sports gambling legal. Buy late-season tickets at the beginning of the year and if the home team is in a close race, you clean up. If the home team has a playoff spot clinched, you probably at least break even. But if they're out of it, your ticket is close to worthless. For MLB, I wonder if you bought final day tickets for all 15 home teams and sold them with three games left, whether you'd cover Stub Hub's vig.
Link1 comment|Leave a comment

Martin/Zimmerman [Jul. 15th, 2013|01:48 pm]
If not for racism, Martin would have called 911 when he was being stalked. Instead, he grew up knowing that dealing with police was a bad thing and calling probably never occurred to him.

If not for racism, Zimmerman probably would have acted with more discretion, though the attempts I've seen to prove that don't actually prove it.

Martin's death was an especially horrible manifestation of the effects of the presumption of guilt that Blacks face and of the subsequent alienation of Blacks from their' rights as citizens.

Therefore the media, which is in the business of selling unthinking passion and more often finds success with that among conservatives, this time had a field day with Limbaughesque simplifications, lies, and innuendos, making Zimmerman seem too obviously guilty and an even worse person than we have good reason to believe he is (which is plenty bad enough).

He may well have been guilty of Manslaughter, but there was no way to prove it. He probably was not guilty of Murder, and even if he were, there would be no way to prove it. The trial happened because of public pressure, fed by the media, looking for a scapegoat not for this particular homicide, but for the disdain that Blacks are so often treated with in general.

But the criminal justice system is not about punishing individuals for societal ills, nor should it be. The jury got it right. If, as has been very plausibly alleged but not really shown, Zimmerman would have known better had Martin not been Black, I hope that can be shown in a civil case and that Zimmerman is in hock for the rest of his life. That's no real justice for Martin or his family, but it's all the facts of the case allow.

IMO, the verdict would have been the same even without Florida's backward burden of proof on self-defense claims.

I've already had a lot to say on the legal details. If you want to read that, see Bart calendar's post here and my Facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/dvd.avins/posts/4799561917322 , https://www.facebook.com/dvd.avins/posts/4799694880646 , and (with a lot of bad comments mixed in with the good) https://www.facebook.com/dvd.avins/posts/4792376097681 .
Link3 comments|Leave a comment

Concentric Circles [Jun. 5th, 2013|01:49 am]
LinkLeave a comment

The Voting Reforms actually needed [May. 31st, 2013|03:11 pm]

  1. that no one be disenfranchised for past criminal activity, so long as they are not currently locked up (and therefore subject to pressure from those running the facility)

  2. adequate staffing for all polling places, so that urban voters only have to wait the few minutes that suburban and rural voters do

  3. printed records of each vote without the voter name, where the voter may see and verify the record before leaving the machine, but may not touch the record and where air flow (or something) is used to shuffle the records so that no one can correlate the order of the records to the order of the voters

  4. instant runoff voting

  5. same-day registration

  6. early in-person voting at centralized locations, on a 24x7 schedule for at least a week, with adequate staffing

  7. a return to restricted access to absentee ballots, using the early voting instead as the main recourse to those who cannot conveniently vote on election day

Link9 comments|Leave a comment

Is this the next Batman movie? [May. 20th, 2013|12:38 am]
I can't be the only one who thought the last movie was setting up for this:

The former cop who inherited the Bat Cave sees batman is desperately needed as things get worse in some way. He is determined but uneasy about usurping Wayne's place. He may or may not know Wayne is alive. He's just about to go out as Batman for the first time, with grave misgivings, when Wayne shows up. The new guy becomes a much more grown-up version of Robin than we've seen before.

I don't follow fandom sites. I would guess this is not original. It seems pretty obvious.
Link1 comment|Leave a comment

How not to get killed by health fads (OK, it's not that sensational, except it is) [May. 3rd, 2013|01:31 pm]
We are bombarded with health fads that change every decade. Some of which are just a nuisance and some of which are actively harmful. (And a few of which are actually things we should know.) Tim Noakes is one of the chief heroes who separates the science from the nonsense.

LinkLeave a comment

How to Respond to Assad's Use of Sarin (and make geopolitical lemonade) [Apr. 26th, 2013|10:31 am]
The US should be meeting with the Turkish government and, acknowledging Erdogan's primacy and with his permission, other power centers in Turkey as well.

We should let it be known we're prepared to pump in as much money there as we do in Egypt if they will maintain at least their current level of democracy and act in ways that are mutually beneficial. Including establishing hegemony in Syria there if central authority in Damascus breaks down.

Then we should aid the rebels enough so they can topple Assad but not so much they can ignore Turkey.

Boosting Turkey's regional power vis a vis Iran and Saudi Arabia is a good think in and of itself. Now we're committed to doing something or cheapening the value of our words, anyway, and using Turkey as a surrogate is the logical way to follow through.
Link1 comment|Leave a comment

Sexual assault, things we do, and who we are [Jan. 29th, 2013|06:35 pm]
Originally posted by cos at Sexual assault, things we do, and who we are
I considered locking this to friends-only, but I think it's important and I want people to link to it and re-share it and that's not going to happen unless it's public. Please read it, and share it?

I'll start with a story, something that really happened though I changed the names and some details for anonymity. Ella was good friends with a couple, Bob and Cate, and they flirted and kissed. Sometimes they attended the same sex and BDSM parties and scened with each other. One time, years ago, at such a party, Ella was having sex with someone and Bob came over. While she was giving the other guy head, Bob went down on her after what he thought was a nonverbal okay from her to join in. Ella actually would've rather he didn't, but she didn't think she minded much and she was having too much fun to interrupt what she was doing and tell him to stop, so she just enjoyed herself and let it go. Later, however, she realized that it was more of a problem for her than she knew at the time, and it made her feel icky and a little bit violated. Wanting to keep her friendship with Bob healthy, she told him about it. Not only did Bob get defensive, but Cate really freaked out. She seemed to interpret this as an attack, an accusation that Bob was a bad person, and she knew he wasn't! They weren't able to reconcile this and the friendship fizzled.

It's been on my mind lately, partly due to attending the "Addressing Sexual Harassment in Our Communities" panel at Arisia and the hours of fascinating post-panel conversation with a few people. Not long after Arisia, a friend told me about finding out from someone close to her that, a long time ago, she'd had sex with the person thinking it was consensual when actually this person did not want to and wasn't able to tell her so and just went along with it. I've long known that it's possible that I've done something like that sometime in my past, despite trying to be very careful never to do so, and I might've really hurt someone, and if it has happened, I may never know. In fact, after that post-panel discussion, I told one of the people I'd been talking about one instance where I worried, after the fact, that I might've made a mistake and crossed someone's boundaries even though the interaction seemed good while it was happening. It's on my mind because I know that any of us - including most of you who read this - may possibly have done this to someone, and may never know for sure.

My reason for writing this post is my belief that our very efforts to combat harassment and assault and rape are exacerbating this aspect of the problem, and I want to explain why, and what we can change to stop doing this.Collapse )
Link4 comments|Leave a comment

Red Johanan? [Jan. 27th, 2013|11:12 pm]
I just saw an episode of The Mentalist in which some character actor playing a 'town goosip/retired teacher' seemed to be channeling John Fiedler, the memorable character actor who played the supernatural serial killer Red Jack in the Star Trek TOS episode Wolf in the Fold. The hidden serial killer villain in The Mentalist is known as Red John. It's very interesting, but I think it's a red herring.
Link1 comment|Leave a comment

What was that story? [Dec. 18th, 2012|10:39 pm]
I've posted about this before, but I think I'll keep posting about once a year until somehow I find the answer or someone else points me to it.

I read a short story, I think in the 1970s, thought he story may have been from the 50s or 60s and perhaps I didn't read it and it wasn't written until the 80s. In it, some school class of aliens are looking down on one of his classmates because his experimental universe doesn't terminate interestingly, but rather keeps on going. In the end, he's vindicated in a conversation with the teacher where he figures out what the teacher already knew: that not only are such universes as his more interesting because they allow the time needed for the development of intelligence, but that they themselves can be assumed to be the product of someone else's universe.

I wish I could find information about that story. It sort of bridges the gap between Poul Anderson's Tau Zero and Vernor Vinge's introduction of the Singularity.
Link5 comments|Leave a comment

Kyrsten Sinema [Dec. 6th, 2012|10:34 am]
You know how anybody really good doesn't run for elective office because they have to hide ways in which they don't conform? Or they do run, but pretending to be centrist? (Or simplistically anti-centrist if the primary is the real election there, but still not challenging local orthodoxies?) Well, get this, from a competitive district in Arizona, of all places:

Newly elected Kyrsten Sinema (age 36)

Religious affiliation: none. "When Sinema's religious views were raised as an issue, her campaign stated that she simply believes in a secular approach to government." 20% of Americans report they are atheist, agnostic, or have no particular religion. But of 535 members of Congress, Sinema will be 0.2% of whom that is true.

OK, so is that like one quirk she gets away with and so conforms everywhere else even more so? No.
She is the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

So maybe she succeeds by playing along with bosses and keeping her head down regarding controversial issues. Well, in the Arizona state legislature:
"In 2005 and 2006, she was named Sierra Club’s Most Valuable Player. She also won the 2006 Planned Parenthood CHOICE Award, 2006 Legislator of the Year Award from both the Arizona Public Health Association and the National Association of Social Workers, 2006 Legislative Hero Award from the Arizona League of Conservation Voters" and "In 2006, Sinema sponsored a bill urging the adoption of the DREAM Act."

Arizona has been the base of some of the most whacked out, reactionary politicians since before I was born. But it was also the home of Mo and Stewart Udall and it's trending Democratic. I wonder if someone like Sinema can eventually get elected state-wide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyrsten_Sinema
Link7 comments|Leave a comment

Why the GOP wants to means-test Social Security [Nov. 25th, 2012|01:17 am]
First of all, Social Security just isn't that out of balance. If you left the benefit cap and eliminated the payroll tax cap (for Social Security only) even the problem that's 20 years out would be gone and it would be able to meet full obligations for longer than anyone can project. (If you don't fix that problem, benefits will probably have to be cut 25%, at least until the baby-boomers die off. That's worth avoiding.) Medicare is a different story. But Medicare's problem is being intentionally conflated with Social Security in order to undermine faith in Social Security.

So why does the GOP want to means test? It does make a certain amount of sense, but only if you live in a world with no politics. Or if you really want to get rid of Social security altogether, but you know that's going to be a long fight.
In order to understand the world, I try on all sorts of unlikely hypotheses ans observe how the real world contradicts them. When the real world doesn't contradict them, I keep them in mind for long-term evaluation. If the world doesn't contradict them for long enough, I think they're probably true.

A long time ago, I supposed that with the ascension of Reagan's wing of the Republican Party in locked in place in 1980, the GOP leadership was committed to cutting social programs out entirely, for the purpose of making people desperate and therefore acquiescent to whatever cutbacks in worker safety, environmental protection, general working conditions and hours, and of course pay, that would maximize profits for large corporations. Further, that while public sentiment would prevent immediate elimination of many programs, diversion of funds to fantasies like SDI and to tax cuts would force the issue. Corporations did not especially need lower taxes, so long as the money was spent to maintain a healthy economy, as most of them recognized it did. But because the means of maintaining a healthy economy also increased the power position of individuals relative to the corporations, they would let the general level of civilization here slide.

I have been waiting in vain for 32 years to see a single think the behavior of the national GOP to contradict that hypothesis.
Means testing for Social security has theoretical merit from a progressive or a centrist point of view, but only if you're in that idealized world where the economy exists and politics doesn't. Roosevelt was smart enough to know that unless the program was structured so that everyone felt they had earned their share, it would not survive the periodic winds of political change. The attempt now to institute means testing is precisely to undermine that political cohesion, so that the whole program may be dismantled piecemeal. And that is exactly the goal.
Link2 comments|Leave a comment

Game Theory Musing [Nov. 8th, 2012|08:37 am]
Suppose you and an opponent each have an equal and large amount of resources. You will each secretly allocate those resources to three contests. For each contest, whoever allocates more resources wins. If each of you allocate the same amount to a contest, a fair coin is flipped to determine that contest. Your object is to win at least two of the three contests. Your opponent is a geek who will sacrifice any chance of guessing your psychology so that it is impossible for you to guess theirs.

How should you allocate your resources?
Link5 comments|Leave a comment

navigation
[ viewing | most recent entries ]
[ go | earlier ]