Monday, 20 May 2019

The Scientific Method

The following is by Marc Proulx, a Montreal-based technical writer.

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Few things concern me more than the growing trend of ideology superseding established facts (which I largely trace back nearly 4 decades to the campaign strategy and resulting election of Ronald Reagan). I find it worrisome because it is the cause of, or prevents the solution to (or reduction of), many of the greatest threats facing humanity.

And I want to be clear that neither those leaning politically right or left have a monopoly on engaging in this. Each side of the aisle has beliefs they cling to in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (In my list below, I've tried to include an even number of traditionally left and right sacred cows.)

While few things can ever be absolutely proven in science, there does exist a scientific consensus on some questions that was achieved through decades of well-designed large-sample studies, replication of results, meta-analysis, field study, etc.

Some examples of questions for which a scientific consensus has been achieved are:

- Man-made climate change exists and is worsening.

- Vaccines do not cause autism (and are the single most effective tool ever invented in the fight against disease).

- Glyphosate is one of, if not the, safest herbicides.

- The earth is an oblate spheroid.

- GMO's are safe (far safer than the previous popular method of crop improvement, used since the 50's, of irradiating seeds and hoping some of the random mutations are beneficial). Among their many benefits for humanity will be a large reduction in the number of poor people (and especially children) suffering from blindness and death resulting from malnutrition (specifically Vitamin A deficiency) through the widespread distribution of Golden Rice. In 2012 the World Health Organization reported that about 250 million preschool children are affected by VAD, and that providing those children with vitamin A could prevent about a third of all under-five deaths, which amounts to up to 2.7 million children.

- All living things evolved from simpler lifeforms over billions of years.

Of course any and all questions in science are subject to change due to the discovery of new information (that is why science is the most effective tool we have for discovering truth, it is continuously self-correcting) however the way a greater and greater consensus is achieved is through many scientists attempting and failing to prove the consensus wrong, thus it has a greater and greater likelihood of being correct.

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Footnote: I disagree on his glyphosate statement but that's another issue entirely.

Friday, 17 May 2019

A Woman's Rant

 The following was written by Wendy White, an entrepreneur from British Columbia.

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I’m not even going to sit here and calmly try to explain why the (majority of the) female population is in an uproar. If you genuinely don’t understand at this point, you’re flat out stupid.

There is no discussion to be had. It’s not a debate. There’s no more acting stupid or pretending you don’t understand why women are angry.  If you’re silent on this, you’re complicit.

There is no neutral.  There is no comfortable medium. It’s all fun and games until it’s YOUR fundamental human rights that are being f***ed with.

Women’s rights are NOT optional.  Bodily autonomy is NOT optional.

Abortion is not the only thing being criminalized with these bills passing in Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia.

Birth control? Punishable by prison time.
Miscarriages? Punishable by prison time.
Traveling to another state where it is not a felony to have an abortion, to have a safe abortion? Punishable by prison time.
A 12 year old girl was raped, impregnated, and is now being FORCED to co-parent with her ATTACKER.

Are you f***ing kidding me?

How do people not see the price tag that old, white men have put on women? We are so insignificant that we are viewed as only being good for pregnancy. They believe we only take birth control to prevent pregnancy. They believe we can CONTROL miscarriages. They believe we are so useless and small that our rights aren’t as important as a man’s.

Nothing is more violating and dehumanizing than being told what you can and can’t do with your own body.

So how about this:

Men who wear condoms during sex will be sentenced 10 years minimum in prison with the possibility of the death penalty for conspiracy to commit murder for preventing semen from fertilizing an egg.
Oh, what’s that? You‘re outraged that you’re being punished for practicing safe sex?

How about mandatory vasectomies to prevent pregnancy and avoid abortions altogether, since a vasectomy can be reversed?
Oh, that violates your human rights and bodily autonomy? You’re a grown man and can make your own choices when it comes to your body?

Keep that same motherf***ing energy.

How twisted and corrupt do you have to be — not even exclusively as a politician, but — as a HUMAN BEING, to prioritize an UNBORN, or in recent bills, UNFERTILIZED “life” over the lives of REAL, LIVING, BREATHING, WOMEN?

Women’s rights who? Human rights who? Sorry, the United States government doesn’t know her.

The government would rather a TWELVE YEAR OLD CHILD carry her rapist’s spawn to term and GIVE BIRTH than allow her to have a safe abortion.

The government would rather a grown woman DIE carrying a parasitic pregnancy to term than allow her to have a safe abortion.

This is not about saving lives at all. This isn’t about safety. There’s no regard for women, their rights, or a fetus. This is about winning a political battle and retaining power over the oppressed. This is about possession. This is about patriarchy. This is about control.

The fact that anyone still believes this is a topic to argue over absolutely blows my f***ing top back. You don’t like abortions? Don’t have one. You don’t like birth control? Don’t use it.  But your personal opinion doesn’t give you authority over another person’s rights to their own body.

Oh and another thing, if you are pro-life (which is really just pro-birth because you don’t care for the lives of the women dying, or the life of the 12 year old rape victim, or the hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system, or the lives of the people being shot down in schools and clubs and concerts), you are NOT a savior. You are NOT a “voice for the unborn”. You are as ignorant as it gets, f*** off with your holier-than-thou s**t. Nobody cares. You’re not impressing anyone. Especially not me.

All in all, ladies: speak the f*** up. stop allowing your fear of coming off as an angry, irrational woman stop you from vocalizing your stance. And if you’re a man and you’re not fighting in this battle alongside the women in your life, get your s**t together. Your mama raised you better than that.

These laws are a violation of our Constitutional rights and they’re dangerous. Women’s rights are human rights.

Educate yourself. Stand for women.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Republican Logic

The following was written in a Facebook post by Lilyana Valdivia-Hursey, a student nurse from Chicago IL.  This was in response to a meme that stated the only lives that the Republicans care about are those of six-week-old fetuses, which referred to recent anti-abortion legislation in several states.

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"Tell me why, in America, people will go absolutely f***ing bananas when anyone even suggests any kind of sane legislation that may infringe on their personal right to own a thing that was made for the sole purpose of killing more efficiently; and in the case of high capacity weapons, killing as many things as possible in the least amount of time. Guns are for killing. That is why they were created.

Save me the "target practice / collectors' items" bull****. Guns are weapons. For killing living things. "How dare you take away my personal choice to own a weapon? Never." is the battle cry of gun owners.

How dare you say that a heart beat is the definition of life; that all life is sacred (although I think forced birth people really only mean white human babies) and then go out and intentionally kill with your weapon a deer, or a sleeping lion, or a baby elephant, all of which have heartbeats. All of which are alive and sacred. The hypocrisy is foul and vile.

What about all those people slaughtered in temples and schools... they had heartbeats. They were sacred life. Are they not worth saving? Apparently our legislators think not.

But a woman's right to be able to make a private personal.choice with what to do with her body? Those same die hard Second Amendment a**holes are ready to put her in jail or put her to death.
What the actual f***."

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Here in Canada, abortion has been legal since 1969, and is governed by the Canada Health Act. The procedure is provided upon request as well as during emergency situations, is required to be performed in a hospital, and is covered by Medicare.

In Canada, to own a firearm one must be licensed and certified in its use and there are strict controls on certain types, especially those capable of firing in a semi-automatic or automatic manner. There are also precise laws on the transport, handling, and storage thereof.

Much more civilized.

But the Republican influence is slowly creeping up to make itself known here.  The Conservative Premier of Ontario has slashed funding for education, child care, and public health (among many other cuts).  The leader of the federal Conservative Party has shown himself to be anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ. 

So it falls on the people to continue their vigilance against the oppressive and the radical.


Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous

Many people seek their "15 minutes of fame" and Zach Stone is no exception.  The titular character of this show is a young man who decides to pursue a dream of becoming rich and famous instead of going to college.  To that end, he uses his savings to hire a film crew to follow him around and record his quest to become a celebrity.  Unfortunately he has little talent and all of the schemes that he comes up with fall flat, with often hilarious results.

The wild ideas that Zach tries on his journey range from getting a makeover to emulating a celebrity chef to faking his own disappearance.  In the process of all this he manages to alienate most of his friends and family members.  When he realizes what he has done he makes amends, decides to ditch the cameras and go to college after all... until a chance news report catapults him into the fame he has craved all along.  But it comes with a price.

Critics gave mixed reviews of the series.  Some described it as "fresh and timely" as well as praising its satirical spotlight on fame and the warped ideology it can cause, while others were scathing and noted the stereotypical parodying of reality shows.  However many fans were extremely positive, calling star Bo Burnham "a comic genius".

Twelve half-hour episodes aired on MTV during May and June of 2013.  Its initial viewership dropped to half by the time the series was midway through the season.  The network shifted the time slot in an attempt to gain more viewers but that failed, so the last few episodes were burned off before the official cancellation.  Zach Stone appeared on DVD in late 2013 and is also viewable on Prime Video.

Young Blades

I enjoy reading fan-fiction and often I see stories that feature the children of the original characters from that particular universe.  The trouble is that very few such stories are as good as the original.  Such is the case for Young Blades, a historical fantasy series created by Dan Angel that followed the adventures of the son of one of the original Three Musketeers, Count d'Artagnan.

The younger d'Artagnan, played by Tobias Mehler, seeks to gain as much recognition as his illustrious father by training with the Musketeers, along with his friends Siroc (Mark Hildreth) and Ramon (Zak Santiago). It doesn't take long for the trio to run afoul of the evil Cardinal Mazarin (Michael Ironside) as they harbour a young woman who has disguised herself as a man in order to escape persecution.

The show boasted some illustrious supporting actors, from Michael Ironside as Cardinal Mazarin to Bruce Boxleitner as Captain Duvall.  Unfortunately a low-budget production quality and at-times problematic writing made it difficult for it to keep the interest of audiences.  Still, fans described it as having "personality and charm" and praised the efforts of the actors to keep things fresh. 

Thirteen episodes aired on PAX Television (now Ion Television) from January to June 2005.  The series has not been officially released to DVD but bootleg DVDs have been seen online, and clips are currently posted on YouTube.