Hometown: New Hampshire
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 04:16 PM
Number of posts: 8,497
Hometown: New Hampshire
Home country: USA
Member since: Sun Oct 3, 2004, 04:16 PM
Number of posts: 8,497
There are so many different preconceptions to try to cut through here, it's hard to know where to start. One thing I might as well get out of the way is this: I'd love to see the Galapagos preserved. I want polar bears to stop losing habitat, and to regain what they've lost. I'd like for the vast islands of plastic garbage to disappear from the oceans, for the excess carbon dioxide to be cleared from the atmosphere.
As far as we know, however, we humans are the only ones who give a damn about any of that. We're ironically both the perpetrators of great ecological damage and the only ones with a "big picture" perspective to care about the damage we're doing. The other species on this planet aren't worrying about how their grand-descendants will live, they aren't conscientiously performing vital functions and nobly refraining from damaging behavior. They're just doing what they do.
Do you know why it's hard to find examples, apart from humans, of organisms that destroy the environment they depend on, kill themselves off, and take plenty of other species down with them? It's not because that doesn't happen. It's not because there's some "natural law" that other organisms are scrupulously obeying that humans have uniquely decided to break.
It's because nature has "let" it happen, has let all of the bad side-effects befall all of the other species as a destructive species kills itself off, and then natural selection puts and end to that particular species, or the ecosystem adapts to the new species and it's no longer obviously destructive in the newly adjusted environment.
The first cyanobacteria are a perfect example of this. Before photosynthesis came along, the world was nearly devoid of "free" oxygen (that is molecular oxygen, pure O₂). Oxygen was a poison to most life on earth. That didn't trouble the non-conscience of the cyanobacteria, however. Blithely emitting oxygen without hesitation or remorse, they went on to radically alter the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans, to plunge the world into an ice age, and to kill off most other life on the planet (and plenty of their own kind too) until a new equilibrium was reached over millions of years where life eventually not only adapted to, but came to depend upon, abundant oxygen. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxygenation_Event)
If you think of "nature" not just as living organisms, but inclusive of the Earth itself, this planet has indiscriminately killed organisms and species in vast numbers many times, as the result of major seismic, volcanic, and tectonic disruptions. Only by unprovable faith can you imagine that the physical planet is somehow guided by concern for some ultimate "benefit" to all life when it goes about causing so much death.
Expand the idea of "nature" to the universe as a whole, or at least our cosmic neighborhood, and then you have asteroids and comets causing death and extinction without a plan, without consideration of purpose or benefit. Only luck has saved us from total extinction of all life. There's no reason at all to imagine that nature somehow chooses the timing and the size of major impacts with a mind toward creating specific planned results, or that nature is even slightly constrained by any rough guiding principle to create some sort of "balance". If large enough an asteroid comes along, the impact will boil the oceans and turn the surface of the Earth into lava. If the melting is deep enough, every last living creature down to the hardiest subterranean bacteria will die.
If you do want to believe that there's some plan, some intelligence, some guiding principle, then humans would be part of that plan. How could you dismiss the purpose or benefit of humans if we're part of such a plan? Either the Planner or the Intelligence isn't that smart, or some mind much better than ours has its reasons for putting us here.
If you don't believe in such things (as I personally don't), then humans aren't apart from nature, we are nature. We're just one of those random things that nature churns out. "Artificial" is not the opposite of natural, it's a subset of natural. Only in the context of our own human thinking can we regret our impact on other life, possibly change course and prevent things from getting worse. Outside of that kind of human self-reflection, the destruction we cause is merely a different form of natural disaster (albeit a particularly elaborate form), among others that nature produces from time to time without any moral "right" or "wrong" about it, without purpose, without consideration of benefit to other living organisms.
Not one thing I'm saying here, or that I've seen anyone else say in this thread, is remotely equivalent to saying "Fuck the Galapagos!", no matter how strong your urge to repeat such an outcry out of exasperation or petulance, simply because others aren't willing to go along with your notions of "purpose" or "benefit".
Purpose is contextual. Without a defined context, defined goals, desired outcomes, "purpose" makes no sense. In the absence of humans, who or what would the context be? What would the goals be? "Benefit" doesn't mean anything without a context is which "the good" has been defined.
Is life itself a goal? If so, is more life better than less life? Should "more" be measured in bulk quantity, in metric tons of biomass? Is diversity what's supposed to be important about life, and if so, is having a billion species intrinsically better than a million? Is complexity of life a value, making alligators more valuable than lichen? Are intelligence and self-awareness important, making whales more valuable to preserve than yet another species of beetle? If you value whales for their intelligence, why not humans then?
You're utterly and completely applying your own human standards if you propose a system of value for life that tempers valuing intelligence and self-awareness with a moral judgment about perceived destructiveness. It's contradictory to wish away humans in order to preserve a world whose value is defined by humans. You might protest that there are "intrinsic" values that exist without us humans, but if you dig deeper than your surface emotional responses you'll find those supposed intrinsic values are elusive, and you'll see that nature shows no signs of itself promoting or maintaining those values.
And by the way, unless you're actively planning, like some action movie supervillian, to plot the destruction of the entire human race, isn't bitching about humans having no purpose, moaning about how the Earth would be better off without us, just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing?
If you want to define a possible purpose for humans, consider this: Life on this planet is doomed without us anyway. It's just a matter of time. If a giant collision doesn't kill us all first, or a massive gamma burst, then the sun is slowly heating up and in a few hundred million years will boil and burn away all life on this planet. In a few billion years the sun will expand into a red giant, likely expanding far enough to swallow up the entire planet.
For all of our human potential for destruction, we're currently also the best bet for preserving life on this planet and spreading it out among the stars, allowing life to go on without dependence on a single, fragile world.
Posted by Silent3 | Sun Apr 6, 2014, 10:07 AM (1 replies)
...must be "shilling" for the other side.
Nate Silver has a pretty sound methodology with a good track record, about which you have failed to point out any specific flaws. You're the only here just "saying shit".
Apart from that, calling the odds 60/40 in favor of Republicans wouldn't be very effective shilling even if Silver were a shill. For anyone who has any smarts, and was ever motivated enough to go out and work for Democratic victory in the first place, these results are in the useful kick-in-the-pants department, not the instilling hopeless despondency department.
Posted by Silent3 | Sun Mar 23, 2014, 04:03 PM (5 replies)
...according to the stats found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_number_of_police_officers
Now, before continuing from that, here are some annoyingly necessary disclaimers to hopefully reduce knee-jerk reactions to the inevitable straw men likely to be evoked by where this post is going:
1) I certainly believe that our police departments have many problems, especially in the way they've become increasingly militarized.
2) No, I don't hang out at "cop lovers dot com", I'm not involved in law enforcement myself, nor is anyone close to me involved.
3) I'm not trying to excuse any police officers terrible, especially murderous behavior.
4) I certainly don't like the way many cops "protect their own", when loyalty to the public should be higher than loyalty to each other when there's wrongdoing to cover up.
With that out of the way, I'd like to ask: What's the big picture on police brutality, on policing abusing their power?
What are the statistics behind the anecdotal evidence? How much do the horror stories we often hear characterize the behavior of cops on the whole?
Let us suppose there's one new horrible story of abusive police behavior every day of the year. Let's further suppose each one involves four different cops. If you post each and every one of those stories you'll definitely create a strong impression that cops are "out of control", that we're "living in a police state", etc.
If the above hypothetical case represents reality (and I'm not saying it does -- just go with me for a moment) that would mean roughly 1500 cops badly abuse their power every year. That would only be about 0.2% of all police officers per year.
OK, suppose you consider the reported stories only the "tip of the iceberg". If it's ten times worse than what we hear about (and I don't think we hear as many as 366 brand new horror stories per year, even if it seems like that on DU sometimes), we'd get up to around 2% of cops per year.
Is calling that "a few bad apples" way too dismissive? (Perhaps if it really were that much, one out of fifty, but I think we're rounding up a lot at this point.) Or is equating what's going on to living in a police state a greater exaggeration?
Does advocacy for victims of police brutality require ignoring whatever the actual percentage of bad cops is? Does it require being angry that I'd even write a post like this, because, as you see it, anyone's suggestion of putting things in some perspective can be nothing other than (queue the straw men) cop worship, dismissing all suffering of victims, and total obsequious submission to authority?
Oh, and does every bad cop thread require someone to reply "Yay, cops!" to that thread?
Posted by Silent3 | Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:36 AM (91 replies)
...has been miserable by modern standards, only 30-40 years as recently as two centuries ago.
When considering what's "natural" or not, please realize that long, healthy lives well into our 70s, 80s, and even 90s, is a wonderfully unnatural thing, not a realization of any basic nature. Our longest lifespans have corresponded with our creation of an increasingly unnatural environment. This is hardly to say that everything modern is healthy -- far from it -- but that, on the whole, the negative aspects of modern life that are mixed in with the positive ones can't be all that hugely bad if they haven't even come close to negating the gains.
If specifically apples harbor no worries in long term use, many other things from bananas to zucchini might. Or they might all be perfectly safe in normal use, but if you tested them the way artificial additives are tested, in huge doses and unrealistic concentrations, the same fears could arise.
The only advantage it makes sense that so-called "natural" foods would intrinsically have (once you jettison the mystical appeal of "nature") is that they perhaps have a slight edge in being more like what our bodies have evolved to tolerate. Two things diminish that edge: (1) A far wider variety of foods drawn from all over the globe are now part of our diet, as well as many new pre-GMO foods derived from selective breeding, making even a diet composed purely of "natural" products far more different and diverse than what human evolution has had time to significantly adapt, and (2) Since very few humans have ever lived and reproduced beyond their thirties, or even their twenties, during most of human evolution, there has been little significant selective pressure from what we'd now call "long-term effects".
Posted by Silent3 | Mon Feb 17, 2014, 08:39 PM (0 replies)
...foods and low calorie food, differences in activities and goals, saying "A healthy highly trained endurance athlete or bodybuilder exercising several hours per day is going to have very different needs and tolerances than a sedentary diabetic overweight office worker.", etc.
Keeping in mind that "Fat loss is ultimately about calories in versus calories out" is important because, while it may not be a good guide to specific food choices and exercise plans, it is useful for setting boundaries that people are all too likely to ignore when they get tempted by hype about "fat-burning foods" and infomercial exercise programs that supposedly burn away pounds and pounds of fat "in only twenty minutes per day!" Too many people are either causing themselves unnecessary grief by avoiding foods that have been unnecessarily demonized, or are failing to lose weight because they consume too many calories while expecting some "superfood" that they're eating to "melt" their fat away.
As long as you're getting the nutrients you need, the most important thing about food choices for people with weight problems is managing hunger. That doesn't change the essential truth about "calories in, calories out", however, it just changes how much will power is needed to prevent excess calories from coming in.
To the extent that food choices may actually change your metabolism, change the rate at which you burn calories, if such effects exist I don't know how well proven these effects are, and I doubt that these effects ever amount to much more than tinkering around the edges of the calories in/out balance sheet.
As for red meat...
I looked at many of the studies that your search brings up, and what I see is a lot of "could", "may", "is associated with", etc. Some of the studies are about particular metabolic reactions, but not looking at the big picture of what's actually going on when people eat red meat. Other stuff is bigger picture, but so "big picture" that it's talking about comparing diets that are greatly different not only in the consumption of red meat, but many other ways at the same time.
No, I certainly didn't go through pages and pages of matches from the search you suggested, but if the OP article's author's point was that there isn't a solid body of research that shows a clear, causal link between typical levels of red meat consumption and specific health problems, that seems to be the case from what I've seen.
Perhaps some people want to "play it safe", avoiding certain foods even when there's only one or a few reported "could", "may", and "is associated with" problems, but I suspect if you take that route, pretty soon you'll be afraid to eat anything -- or, more likely, in order to avoid starvation, you'll start to rationalize believing the research that fits your preconceived notions of healthy eating, and dismiss the studies that would attack whatever is left that you like eating until there's more evidence.
Posted by Silent3 | Mon Feb 17, 2014, 12:16 PM (1 replies)
Certainly the fat jokes about Christie should go. It's his bullying approach to politics, and his Republican politics, that deserve the focus of our criticism. We all should be more sympathetic to how difficult weight issues can be.
On the other hand, I do think, if not taken to excess, a little bit of social pressure helps, as long as it's motivating, not too cruel or harshly shaming. I have never blamed others if they didn't find me physically attractive when I was fat. I don't find fat very attractive myself, and I'm not going to hold a hypocritical double standard. Chemistry is chemistry. People can't just will themselves into physical attraction for the sake of political correctness.
For my own case -- although I certainly don't hold everyone else to this standard -- my weight really is a matter of personal discipline and effort. My highest measured weight (it may have gone higher during some long, unmeasured spans of time) was 263 lbs, back in April 2012. For my height of 6', that's about 35.7 BMI -- so not as severe as you got, but still quite bad enough. I'm now 178 (BMI 24.1), and even though that's near the upper end of the "normal" BMI range, most people think I look not just normal, but skinny now.
I lost weight once before in the 90s, coming down from a then-top weight of maybe 245 (I never weighed myself until after I noticed I was losing weight), and I kept myself fit and trim for 7-8 years. Then I slowly let my fitness slide when life circumstances made it more difficult to stick with my diet and exercise routine.
For a while I just didn't care. I didn't feel like the first 10-20 pounds I regained was such a big deal. And when that didn't seem like a big deal, the next ten on top of that didn't seem like a big deal either. Eventually my excess weight started to bother me a little, but still not quite enough to get me exercising and eating better again. I had never been a "rah, rah, feel the burn!" exercise enthusiast. Exercise was never better than a dreary chore to be done as far as I was concerned, which made it tough to stick to it for as many years as I had once before, and even tougher to return to it. Fitness was a fond memory, but the process of staying fit was anything but.
And oddly enough, for as much as people often recommend exercise to battle depression, I suffered the worst episodes of depression in my life while I was fittest I'd ever been. This made me fear that I might be prone to exercised-induced depression (turns out there is such a thing), and, whether it was merely another rationalization for hating exercise or not, that factor only added to my reluctance to get back to exercise and better eating.
It took a series of little shocks, spread out over a few years, to make me resolve to lose weight again. One of the first shocks I remember was when I was given, as a Christmas present, a visit to an indoor skydiving session. It turns out that there was a top allowed weight of 250 lbs. On the skydiving center's scale, in my winter street clothes, I came out to 253. They let the few extra pounds slide. When I was in the skydiving chamber, even though I'd previously watched others flying all around through the air while I waited, I barely managed floating 2-3 feet above the floor.
Then there were growing twinges of knee pain. Finding myself pushing off on the arm of the sofa to get up. Having to give into buying jeans with a 40" waist (I'm now wearing 30"!), and then having those 40-inchers starting to get tight. Suddenly having to chase after an escaping cat, but feeling I was mired in molasses up to my thighs the moment I tried to run.
The final straw came when my wife bought a new bathroom scale. I stepped on it and saw 270! It turns out that the scale had to be calibrated first, but even when that was done, and I stepped on the scale buck naked, I was still getting 263, which was bad enough. I think seeing that first uncalibrated, clothes-on weight of 270 was a good thing for me, however, because I not sure a "mere" 263 would have been, of and by itself, quite as much shock as I needed.
The next day I began regular exercise, and greatly improved my diet. I've been at it ever since. I lost 50 lbs in six months -- just in time to meet my first goal of losing 50 before turning 50. I've been under 200 for a full year now. I've been at my current weight of 178 about six months.
Having lost a lot of weight now twice in my life, and that first time having kept it off for many years, and showing all the signs that I'll again keep it off for many years to come, I can't, for my own case, ever accept any excuses about my weight being some weird biological or medical thing beyond my control. For me, discipline matters. Not being lazy matters. If I regain the weight I've lost, I will consider that a personal failing, and I think rightly so.
This time around I dumped the low-fat diet I used during the 90s. I didn't suffer too much from hunger while losing weight this second go round, and I hardly ever feel myself going hungry now that I'm eating to maintain my current weight. I still don't love exercise in general, but I've found stuff to do that I at least find more tolerable, and a few activities (that I unfortunately can't do often enough to be my main source of exercise) I actually do enjoy. The bad depression I'd experienced in the 90s did not recur.
One reason I'm not as tough on others as I can be on myself, however, is that I know I've got advantages working for me that others won't have (a gym at work, a very short commute that frees up time, getting an appetite suppressing effect from exercise), and I also know, having done it myself once before, how easy it is to fall off the wagon.
Posted by Silent3 | Sat Jan 11, 2014, 01:29 AM (0 replies)
Christie could conceivably recover from the bridge debacle, but he will be even more completely and truly out of the running for 2016 if the media finally look beyond Christie's well-crafted Sandy PR to see the far less inspiring real story behind his role in the storm recovery effort.
"Where is the money? Only 24% of Allocated Sandy Relief Funds Have Been Distributed" (as of 11/12/2013)
"Was Christie the Hurricane Hero?"
"Watchdog: Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund has raised $32M, doled out $0"
Posted by Silent3 | Thu Jan 9, 2014, 12:02 PM (0 replies)
A capital-C Conspiracy that is, not just two or more run-of-the-mill zealots colluding with each other.
(1) I don't deny that a Big Conspiracy is possible, perhaps even likely. Pope Francis is certainly making enemies in high places.
But I also think it's the kind of crime easily committed by a lone assailant, working completely on his/her own. Francis seems to love moving around out among the people, in ways I suspect often leave his personal security somewhat lacking.
No matter how possible it is for one person to plan and carry out such an attack, however, if the news reports that it's a lone gunman, you won't believe it.
You will not. You can not. Everything that could point to that simple explanation will seem contrived to you, untrustworthy. It will be the "official story", which is, in and of itself, a damning comment. The "official story" is always and only for suckers.
You will find "inconsistencies". Someone will have said something the day before that sure sounds like it foreshadows the upcoming event. Perhaps a few more cardinals than usual will be in Vatican City at the time, "clearly" there to be ready for the next papal election. Some transfer of funds within the Church will seem very suspicious. Some billionaire CEO will have recently met with some archbishop. There will be unexplained sounds. There will be odd glints and shimmers and puffs of smoke found in videos, played endlessly on YouTube with arrows and red circles drawn in to point them out.
Further, I marked item (1) for a reason. I can say (1) as many times as I like, but if I express any skepticism about the inevitable would-be conspiracy theories, you will either ignore that I have said (1), or treat it as a throw-away disclaimer. You'll be sure that I must actually be a shill or a dupe for the dreaded "official story", totally unwilling to question authority, like you so bravely do.
If anyone calls you a conspiracy nut for whatever wild theories you spin for what "really" happened, you'll snap at them, asking them what's wrong with "questioning" the official story. It will be clear from your tone and attitude, however, that your "questioning" is really damn near 100% certainty that only a big plot motivated by evil corporations, corrupt governments, and threatened church conservatives could have done it.
Lone gunmen? Puhlease!
Posted by Silent3 | Sat Jan 4, 2014, 03:20 PM (70 replies)
I've seldom seen anyone who responded to a disagreement with "Why are you against asking questions?" who was truly just asking questions... except perhaps of the "When did you stop beating your wife?" style of question.
To use an example not likely to raise hackles on DU, take climate change deniers as an example. When one of them asks something like, "If the earth is getting hotter, how do you explain snow falling on the pyramids in Egypt!?" (this did happen a couple of weeks ago), you could try to explain how climate change leads to wilder weather conditions, not just uniformly more heat everywhere, but you know damned well that person isn't going to listen to you. Their question is a rhetorical question, delivered with the smug assumption that you don't, and can't possibly, have a good answer -- certainly not an answer that's going to be good enough to satisfy them.
These people are pretty much always stating conclusions, and their passion belies any pretense that they're really reserving much doubt that they could be barking up the wrong tree.
Posted by Silent3 | Fri Dec 27, 2013, 02:51 PM (0 replies)
And I mean just for questioning, and no more than questioning a policy, a plan, a system, an authority?
Other than a religious zealots who might get angry with you for questioning their dogma, dogma that they quite literally expect people to accept without question, and perhaps a few non-religious zealots who treat other political and philosophical issues with the same degree of fanaticism, I don't think this supposed offense of being giving grief for just asking questions really happens all that often.
What does happen more often, however, is that people pretty clearly state a point of view on a subject, have clearly reached what, for themselves, is a fairly definitive conclusion, they might even be talking about a plan of action based on that conclusion... and then, when someone disagrees with them, disagrees with their logic or their supposed facts, doubts the wisdom of their proposed tactics for achieving change, they disingenuously whine:
"What do you have against people asking questions!"?
"Why don't you want me asking questions!?"
"What do you have against questioning authority!?"
Please, people, just own it. Own what you say you stand for and believe in if you're going to speak out passionately about it. Don't pretend that something that's got you fired up to change the world, has already changed the way you live, has changed how you vote (or don't bother to vote), has changed who you trust or don't trust, is somehow "just asking questions".
Posted by Silent3 | Fri Dec 27, 2013, 12:03 PM (14 replies)