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Member since: Sat Aug 7, 2004, 10:55 PM
Number of posts: 4,187

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What would you say about quantum mechanics, again?

Do I understand you correctly to be claiming that quantum mechanics is somehow woo-woo or new age? If so, you're wrong. Quantum mechanics is one of the most mathematical, most rigorous, and most successful areas of physics. You use it whenever you check your phone, microwave your food, or get an MRI. You see evidence of it whenever you look at a fluorescent lamp through a diffraction grating. Just because some of its mathematical conclusions appear unintuitive doesn't mean it's woo-woo or new-age.

One incident is not enough to conclude anything.

Based on one, self-made observation of acupuncture apparently working, you can't conclude that "sometimes natural things work."

Your observation was almost certainly the placebo effect. A reliable scientific study has to have the following checks:
1. It should be controlled. In other words, one group of people should receive placebo, while the other receives the actual drug.
2. The experiment should be double-blind. Neither the administrator nor the patient should know whether the patient is receiving the placebo or the drug. This will ensure that the study group isn't getting better care than the placebo group.
3. The sample size should be large to separate out fluctuation.

For these reasons, a single personal anecdote is not the equivalent of proper scientific research.

P.S. It may at first seem difficult to design a placebo for a study of acupuncture, but it's certainly possible. For example, one group of patients can get "real" acupuncture, in the supposedly correct spots, whereas the placebo group can get "fake" acupuncture, in random spots and using incorrect technique. My guess is that there wouldn't be any statistically significant difference in outcome between the two groups, if such an experiment were done.

This is a symptom of something much more general.

Over the past decade or so, we've lost a lot of ground. More and more, women are seen and treated like sex objects. Even my favorite shows on TV (e.g., Life) objectify and sexualize women. If a show has a female lead, she has to be shown bending over to reveal cleavage several times each episode. I can't go to the grocery store without seeing soft porn all over women's and men's magazines alike at the checkout. The general attitude is that if you're a woman and have a problem with the objectification of women, there is something wrong with you. And unfortunately, the vast majority of women seem to be fine with this state of affairs.

DU, in general, is male-dominated. If your handle is obviously feminine, that seems to be an open invitation for many DU men to bully you and argue with you (unless your post was acceptably feminine and indicated that you accept your place as a second-class human). The problem is that our society accepts such behavior in men. A man does not suffer in any way because he's a misogynist. On the contrary, some women flock to such men.

We feminists need to do much more consciousness-raising about this. I don't see anyone talking or writing about these issues any more. I'd like to know whether this is just my impression or whether other people feel the same way. Has activism on these issues died down, or have I just not been keeping up? I'd really like other feminists' opinions on this.

Feminism has nothing to do with whether one is male or female.

Feminism is the idea that people are equal regardless of their gender. The reason feminism is needed is that we all live in a world that views women as less than men: less intelligent, less capable, less valuable, less important. Our society still sees women's fundamental role as raising and nurturing children, and men's fundamental role as fighting, inventing, and leading. We all inevitably absorb this message, regardless of our gender. Even the most feminist women among us have sexist tendencies. Our society simply does not put women and men on an equal footing. The unfortunate result is that both women and men are repressed, held back from pursuing their dreams freely, and we all suffer collectively because of this.

If you are a woman, don't think that you are a feminist by definition. Chances are you are sexist like the rest of us, but the only way to change that is by keeping an open mind about the possibility that you might be sexist.

If you are a man, don't think that a feminist writing or talking about feminism is in any way accusing you personally of sexism. Chances are you are sexist like the rest of us, but the only way to change that is by keeping an open mind about the possibility that you might be sexist.

The only hope against any kind of discriminatory tendency is an open mind that isn't afraid to question itself.

It's depressing that most people can recognize the following:
1. It is better for colored and non-colored people alike if racism is eradicated from our society;
2. It is better for LGBT and non-LGBT people alike if anti-LGBT discrimination is eradicated from our society;
but have a problem with this:
3. It is better for women and men alike if sexism and misogyny are eradicated from our society.

To many people here, anything feminist is "over the top."

Making "over the top" one of the possible reasons for hiding a post ensures that any comment anyone finds remotely challenging to their way of thinking can be alerted and hidden.

PETA Is Not the Enemy.

While one can argue about the effectiveness of PETA's methods, it is hypocritical to use this as an excuse to avoid the question of whether to switch to a plant-based diet.

If an organization defended abortion rights by displaying graphic pictures of botched abortions in public places, would that make you anti-choice? If a group went around defending minority rights by showing graphic pictures of lynchings, would that make you join the KKK? Did the Dutch anti-Mohamed cartoons convert you to Islam?

There are three major reasons to switch to a plant-based diet. Many otherwise thoughtful and intelligent people either don't know about these or don't think about them long enough to reconsider their reluctance to switch to a plant-based diet. Here are those reasons.

1. Stop supporting the factory farm industry.
If you buy animal products at a grocery store, you are sending your hard-earned money to the factory-farm industry. As you can read here, "factory farms raise 99.9 percent of chickens for meat, 97 percent of laying hens, 99 percent of turkeys, 95 percent of pigs, and 78 percent of cattle currently sold in the United States." This is an industry that cares about nothing more than its bottom line. They push animals to the absolute breaking point so that they can make a few more pennies on each one. Read more here.

2. Reduce your environmental footprint.
You can reduce your carbon footprint more by switching to a plant-based diet than by switching to a Prius. Animal farming is not only energy-intensive, but it produces significantly more waste than the Earth can handle. Finally, the liberal use of antibiotics on factory farms presents a serious risk of an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Read more here, here, and here.

3. Improve your own health.
There is overwhelming evidence that a plant-based diet significantly reduces the rates of cancer and heart disease. Read more here and here.

It may at first seem inconvenient to have to make such a drastic change in one's diet. But any initial resistance you may feel should not stop you from considering the question. My husband and I both switched to a plant-based diet last February after watching Vegucated (available streaming on Netflix). It was much easier than we expected it to be. I've never been happier or healthier. If you'd like to try it, you can get help and ideas from those of us on DU who have done it.

I strongly recommend any omnivores on DU who can deal with having their assumptions challenged to watch Vegucated and to read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Eating Animals is a beautifully written book. Vegucated has a couple of brief graphic parts, but you get a warning beforehand, and you can look away. I looked away, and I still got the message. (Honestly: if you're too sensitive watch graphic videos of animals being slaughtered or put in cages for their entire lives, how can you bring yourself to eat animals? Don't kid yourself: the chicken on your plate, regardless of whether it was advertised as "cage-free" or "free range," came from an animal that was stuffed for its entire life in a space no larger than an 8.5x11-inch sheet of paper. The milk you drink came from a cow that was separated from its calf immediately after it was born. Every time you buy an animal product at your grocery store, you support an industry that cares more about money than about animal welfare, the environment, or your health.)

Think about this issue. You owe it to yourself and to the world you live in.

The jury system stifles discourse about important issues.

Yesterday, this thread was hidden:
Note that the OP was extremely polite. She attempted to bring an important issue to people's attention. One person complained that the videos were graphic, but the still images of the videos were not graphic or offensive. The content of the videos was clearly indicated. Anyone who was too sensitive to watch videos of animals being slaughtered or confined in cages could easily have chosen not to watch them. (Case in point: I am disturbed by such videos and cannot watch them. Despite this, I did not find the thread offensive, because I chose not to watch the videos.)

Disappointed by the hiding of this thread, I alerted this thread:
pointing out that the OP used offensive words in his post. Note that, unlike the thread that was hidden, this thread had zero intellectual content. It did not challenge the conventional wisdom in any way. It was intended to draw a knee-jerk reaction from people against vegetarians and vegans, and this is indeed how it evolved. When I alerted the thread, all six jurors chose to keep it open.

People who point out the benefits of a plant-based diet are routinely bullied on DU. And yet, if someone dares to point out the horrors of factory farming, they are accused of offending people's sensibilities. As someone who switched to a plant-based diet ten months ago after finding out about the horrors of factory farming, I think it is extremely important not to stifle discourse about this issue. Although many people have heard the term, "factory farming," only a tiny fraction realize how truly bad things are. If DU does not allow the spreading of awareness of an issue like this one, what is DU for?

If you want to allow the open exchange of ideas on DU, don't allow four people out of six to hide a thread permanently. This only produces an environment where inconvenient ideas are not discussed. Allow someone other than the OP to appeal the hiding of a thread or a post. In such cases, have an administrator review the judgment and overrule it if it was inappropriate. Have this happen quickly enough that the thread won't sink to oblivion before it's un-hidden. This improvement would bring DU closer to what I believe it was intended to be.

P.S. Please don't respond by simply telling me to start a new thread about the issue without posting graphic videos. I have considered this but am certain that any new thread would also get hidden. This issue is graphic at its core. It is not possible to post a thread about it without offending the "sensibilities" of people who want to remain in denial about what they are putting on their plate. This does not make the issue any less important -- if anything, it makes it more important.

Both the Senate and the Assembly are Democratic.

It hasn't stopped Chris Christie from doing stuff like this:
Chris Christie Vetoes Minimum Wage Increase
Chris Christie Vetoes Gun Ban
Chris Christie Vetoes Pig Gestation Crate Ban
Chris Christie Vetoes Tax Increase on Millionnaires

Why the ACA's lifting of caps is a big deal

Some weeks ago, I had a discussion with someone on this board, who was complaining because her old insurance, which she considered "good insurance," was being discontinued. As it turned out, this person's old insurance had an annual maximum of $100,000. In other words, the insurance company would not pay her more than $100,000 per year. If she happened to have an accident or a serious medical issue, she would have been out of luck. The person considered this a "calculated gamble" and would much rather have kept her old insurance. I tried to explain that the whole point of insurance is to cover catastrophic events. Thinking about it further on my own, I realized that such caps may have been playing a big part in rising health care costs in the United States.

Under the ACA, health insurance companies can no longer impose annual or lifetime maxima on essential health benefits. To understand why this is a big deal, let's go back to how insurance works.

Suppose I have a 50% chance of being in an accident that will cost me $1000. If I were to purchase insurance to cover me in case of such an accident, the expectation value of what the insurance company would pay me would be $1000 * 0.5 = $500. Since I have more than $1000 in the bank, however, I can weather such an accident. I will therefore not pay more than $500 for this insurance.

Now suppose I have a 0.01% chance of being in an accident that will cost me $1,000,000. Since I don't have anywhere near a million dollars in the bank, such an accident would bankrupt me. I would be willing to pay someone $500 to cover me in case of such an accident. In this case, the expectation value of what the insurance company would have to pay me is $1,000,000 * 0.0001 = $100. I would be willing to pay five times as much for this insurance, as I can't afford to pay $1,000,000 and don't want to risk bankruptcy.

Suppose 100,000 people make the same calculation and pay $500 for this insurance. The insurance company takes in $50M. Since the risk is 0.01%, 10 people have the accident. The company pays $10M. It therefore makes a profit of $40M, minus the cost of implementing the insurance program.

Any insurance system has costs. Insurance only makes sense if people are willing to pay more on average than what they are likely to get back. In other words, the amount you pay the insurance company has to be greater than the expectation value of your loss. People will only pay more if the event they are protecting themselves against is so catastrophic that they can't risk it. That's the whole point of insurance.

Now, let's suppose insurance companies refuse to cover people against catastrophic events. They say they will not pay anyone more than, say, $100,000.

In this case, the entire system falls apart. For one thing, anyone who has $100,000 will not be interested in purchasing this insurance. In fact, the system is no longer "insurance." Since we're no longer talking about truly catastrophic events, we end up with a situation in which "health insurance" covers only ordinary trips to the doctor, and people simply hope to pay into the system less than they get out of it. But insurance can't work if everyone pays less than they get back. The result is that costs spiral out of control. We have gotten to the point where simply going to the doctor is a semi-catastrophic event financially, which is why anyone still buys insurance.

Suppose you're a healthy 25-year-old. Will you buy "health insurance" that doesn't cover catastrophic events, if you rarely go to the doctor to begin with? Of course not. If the health insurance covered catastrophic events, however, you would be much more likely to buy it, since you probably don't want to risk starting your adult life with a bankruptcy.

This is how annual and lifetime maxima, which insurance companies thought were increasing their profits in the short term, were in fact discouraging healthy people from buying health insurance.

I think it was a stroke of brilliance to ban annual and lifetime maxima. While the ACA may not be single-payer health care, it is likely to immediately curb the increase in health care costs. Young and/or healthy people now have a compelling reason to buy health insurance. This will lead to insurance companies taking in more money. Due to the rules limiting the profit insurance companies can make, most of that money will have to go toward actual health care. In the long run, health care costs may actually go down!

The obsession with terminology.

Despite my plant-based diet, I'm not vegan either because I can't convince myself that plastic is good for the environment and, by extension, for the animals that depend on that environment. Leather shoes last for years if you take good care of them. My down comforter allows me to turn off the heat at night, and my wool clothes allow me to keep the heat down during the day. The native plants in my garden are there to provide food and shelter to wildlife. I compost to reduce the amount I send to the landfill. If there were an environmentally friendly alternative to down, wool, and leather, I would go for it. But none of that matters: I'm not vegan because I don't fit the 1944 definition of the Vegan Society of the UK.

A consumerist vegan does much more harm to animals than someone who eats an entirely plant-based diet; uses down, leather, and wool; avoids plastic bags and bottles; and rarely buys anything. But terminology-obsessed vegans are more interested in preserving the terminology than in reducing animal suffering overall. The harmful effects of plastics were not known when the term "vegan" was coined, but that doesn't seem to concern anyone. Even religions evolve, but veganism doesn't.

What we need is a term that combines environmentalism and veganism. After all, you can't be a true environmentalist if you eat animals, and you can't be all that concerned about animals if you use plastics. I am so tired of having to provide a long explanation every time an omnivore asks me whether I'm vegan. The sad thing is that they seem curious but lose interest the moment I tell them I'm not really considered vegan because I wear leather shoes. I think, from now on, I will simply say I'm an egan: someone who understands that animals depend on the environment.
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