Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. It is that time of year, once more. A time of joyful self-indulgence and oh so much stress for many people.

The latter has always struck me as interesting. Particularly for the very vocal “It is MERRY CHRISTMAS!” types. Aside from the short-sighted bigotry of the sentiment, it has always struck me as ironic. Once I grew out of the sheltered views of childhood and my teenage years, Merry or Happy are not words that are quick to come to mind when it comes to that stretch between December 23ed and January 3ed.

When I was a child, it was all magic and presents.  When I was a teenager and the magic had faded, holidays were still something to look forward to. A time to go feast with extended family that one does not see very often.
In my late teens, this time was made somewhat awkward when I realized that I was more secular humanist (or Atheist, as I said back then) than Christian. Looking back now, none of my family took the religious element all that seriously to begin with.  However, for someone exploring the world with a newly minted atheistic perspective, the often overt religiosity of it all was quite daunting. One doesn’t realize how even the most seemingly insignificant details can cause a stir. Almost a form of guilt.

Everything from nativity scenes to typical Christmas carols. When I no longer bought into the underpinning dogma of it all, it took a long time to figure out exactly how to navigate.

When I broke the barrier between being a minor and an adult, the awkwardness of the holidays was replaced by hatred. Working in various sectors of retail customer service played a very big part in this.
After Halloween (and Black Friday really, even though it’s not as pronounced in Canada) was the worst time of year.
The sheep would start the yearly ritual of shopping, shopping, and more shopping. Buying all kinds of crap that they may or may not be able to afford for who knows how many people. Spending on things that may or may not be useful (or even usable!) in 2 or 3 months from now. Copious amounts of both finite energy and resources spent on what amounts to little more than a yearly ritual.
An orgy of spending that is seen by most participants as giving, yet it often amounts to little more than being charitable to billionaires.

I used to stress over shopping, like many people. I often settled for the easy fix that is gift cards. Once, I paid a school friend to make personalized bead bracelets for all the aunts in my family. Most of which still have them (best money I ever spent on Christmas stuff). But generally, I was a standard consumer.

I hated shopping for gifts. I hated people shopping for gifts. By all accounts, it was baffling that the words Merry and Happy were at all associated with this time of year. Merry Christmas? Happy Holidays?

More like go FUCK YOURSELF!

In recent times, however, it occurs to me that much of my resentment of this time of year is tied to past perceptions, other peoples attitudes, and a bit of immaturity. I hated working on any holiday because it felt like a time that I should be doing anything but that. Particularly serving people. Don’t you people have other things to do than shop AGAIN?

As for the past, many of us romanticize the magic of our childhoods and teenage years. Before the innocence was lost, and the world was exposed as the smoldering hellhole that it is.
Nostalgia. Though the familiar is sometimes nice to revisit, it can never be relived. Such is the tragedy of the human psyche.

As for other people, there are many types of influencers. One of the biggest comes with the collective tragedy of the commons. Hundreds of annoyed self-serving consumers leaving a negative wake everywhere they go, oblivious to their contribution to the continued degradation of all that is civil. No matter what side of the service economy one resides, all but the most reclusive hermits have to deal with this macro.

Then there are the never satisfied. Those that hold a very narrow view of what Christmas and this kind of year should be. If not all traits are met to their satisfaction, they will mope and write off the season even before it arrives. Often times these standards are based on childhood experiences as well, so there is likely no appeasing them. Just listening to endless whining about how Christmas is over before it even begun.

And lastly, are the exceptionalists. Those with an ingrained view of what a happy, joyous and fruitful holiday looks like based on experience. They love this time of year, and all it brings and represents. So much so that they can not fathom any other way. At times to the point of flat-out bigotry.

People are often obnoxious, self-serving and without a 2ed thought. The less you allow them to influence your day to day existence, the better you are for it. Be it regarding the holidays, or anything else really.

Taking this all into account, this year’s holiday leadup has actually been fairly smooth. In other ways, it has been a terrible year. But for once in a very long time, I don’t recall ever looking back and wishing it just to be 2018 already.

As many an Atheist will tell you, most of what is so sacred about the Christian tradition that is Christmas, is stolen. Hell, much of the religion itself can be traced back to predating stories, myths, and ideologies. So feel no hesitation about changing so-called sacred traditions. Because They are no more sacred than anything from The Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter.

It is whatever you make of it. Be it a capitalist spending orgy, or just a day to kick up your feet and write a blog post that few will read.

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

Net Neutrality

Thirty-seven Democratic senators, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), sent a letter (pdf) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday, urging the panel to abandon its “reckless plan to radically alter the free and open Internet as we know it.”

If pushed through, the letter warns, the move, spearheaded by Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai, “would amount to the largest abdication of [the agency’s] statutory responsibilities in history.”

This is an exert of an article titled Warning Against Abdication Of Duty, Senators Demand FCC Abandon Net Neutrality Vote, published yesterday by common dreams. 39 senators attempting to stop the seemingly inevitable implementation of corporate governance over the infrastructure that makes up the internet (at least in the US).

That is what we all have heard on the news by now. How those platforms with money will likely be able to afford the regular tiers whilst everyone else falls by the wayside into the unpaid tunnel. And you thought the free speech situation online was ALREADY bad!

One question that I found myself asking was, what does this mean to me? For my content? And by extension, for everyone else that shares the platform of WordPress?

Being that I am not exactly a niche writer, I tend to draw in search engine traffic that originates in far more corners of the globe than I could ever hope to visit. My most popular posts to date are What On Earth Is The European Brotherhood? and Apistevist – A Term With Potential.  One has become infamous due to world affairs of the last 2 or so years (despite predating them), and the other due to continued waves of interest in the term.
Another of my recent works that have been viewed quite a bit lately is The Cure For Dementia – A Beverage?. This one was inspired by an ad I kept coming across in my travels to web platforms tailored to mainly to an older crowd. While I hate snake oil to begin with, knowing people that have had the misfortune of dealing with elderly parents suffering from dementia made looking into the ad a priority. No one is more vulnerable to manipulation than those who would likely give almost anything to spare a loved one from the nightmare.

Anyway, as the 3 posts outlined alone showcase, I have content that is utilized by for any number of reasons. A fair bit of the traffic to each is from the US. Could that change?
While I make no money from my platform, for those that do, how much effect could that have?

First off, we must consider the dynamics involved. WordPress is the brand we deal with, it is owned and hosted by a company named Automattic. So, the state of your content’s availability may well be tied to how much Automattic is willing to shell out. Being that the option of upgrading to a paid Go Daddy domain is both available and fairly effortless, I doubt it will be much in the interest of Automattic to concede to the various ISP’s extortion demands (Go Daddy can likely fork it over easily). And if I am wrong, then we may either find WAY more ad’s on our blogs or be no longer able to use them for free.

What does that mean for us?

For me, not a whole lot really. While some of my material is relevant to Americans at this point in time, losing that audience will not be the end of the world. Would all the work I have put in here over the years be worth paying into to ensure its continued availability?
I am unsure.
Is it worth it if the price is being used as a billboard of sorts? Yes.

Despite the fact that Americans are staring down the barrel of net neutrality, it seems that STILL, few have truly grasped the potential implications. Thus, it’s likely safe to say that many users of this very platform haven’t given it much thought.

So now that I have your attention, do you know what this will mean for you?

Posted in Free Speech, Opinion, Other, Various Commentary | Leave a comment

“Top 17 ​Health Problems That Improved In People Who Switched From GMO To Organic Diets” – (Ecowatch)

It has been awhile since I last looked into the material coming from Ecowatch. This seems as good a place to start as any. So away we go.

A peer-reviewed article released Tuesday in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine and conducted by the Institute for Responsible Technology revealed that the health of all of the participants improved after switching to a non-GMO diet or simply reducing the amount of GMO foods they ate.

https://www.ecowatch.com/health-gmo-to-organic-diets-2508836936.html

First off, sources.

The International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine’s website does not say all that much at first glance. It seems like a legitimate journal to my eye. Though that is not saying much.
I know that many so-called scientific journals will publish almost anything if the price is right, so as such, I will for now remain neutral in opinion. If you have further information, I welcome it in the comment section.

As for the study’s conductor, the Institute for Responsible Technology, their bias is blatantly obvious at first glance.  The most notable part of the site is this article from July of this year, the organization (and the anti-GMO movement in general’s) get out of jail free card.
The allegation is that Monsanto has a paid Army of trolls who’s only job is to berate and otherwise harass scientists and ordinary people conversing about the dangers of GMO’s anywhere in the public sphere. It’s a bit like the phrase “FAKE NEWS!” to political ideologues. Even legitimate opposition does not have to be weighed. Because they (we!) are all being paid to suck the Monsanto dick.

Having picked apart a few questionable articles on this topic (out of curiosity initially!), this bothers me. I don’t overly care if individuals come here and copy paste some message identifying me as a Paid Troll. Be a full-blown ideologue all you want. I can’t be bothered to get my hands dirty in those pointless interactions anymore.

What IS bothersome, however, is how the paid lobbying from BOTH sides is muddying the water for the entire debate. Very likely whole point.
Big Biotech pours money into helping their wares (even if not the most efficient methodology!) keep their market share. Big Organic pours money into growing their share of the marketplace. At BEST, it is a case of many feeling that the ends justify the means.

What is left, is a tangled mess. You have two sides offering various flavors of The Truth for those inclined to absorb information with little critical analysis. But for those in the middle that often just want some semblance of unbiased nuance, it’s often difficult to come by. Short of learning how to comprehend complicated scientific documents.

Capitalism as the main driver to these areas is not helpful to anyone in neither the short or the long term. Indeed, no, that is not likely to change anytime soon. However, its always good to know where you stand.

Paid troll!”

Yeah . . . bye. Show me you used your brain, and I’ll use mine on your retort.

Anyhow, back to the article.

The results, from more than 3,250 people, mostly in the U.S., closely matched reports by physicians around the nation who have seen similar results when their patients change to largely non-GMO and organic diets.

Participants reported improvements in 28 conditions; digestive problems was the most often cited at 85.2 percent. The vast majority said their conditions were significantly improved, nearly gone or completely recovered.

Health problems that improved include:

1. Digestive: 85.2%

2. Fatigue, low energy: 60.4%

3. Overweight or obesity: 54.6%

4. Clouding of consciousness, “brain fog”: 51.7%

5. Food allergies or sensitivities: 50.2%

6. Mood problems, such as anxiety or depression: 51.1%

7. Memory, concentration: 48.1%

8. Joint pain: 47.5%

9. Seasonal allergies: 46.6%

10. Gluten sensitivities: 42.2%

11. Insomnia: 33.2%

12. Other skin conditions (not eczema): 30.9%

13. Hormonal problems: 30.4%

14. Musculoskeletal pain: 25.2%

15. Autoimmune disease: 21.4%

16. Eczema: 20.8%

17. Cardiovascular problems, including high blood pressure: 19.8%

This confirms the reports from hundreds of healthcare practitioners and thousands of individuals. When people from all walks of life eat less GMO foods, a significant percentage get better quickly.

Alright. This seems a good basis from which to start from.

Here is one source that seems to have a fairly balanced assessment of the pros and cons of an organic diet. It’s worth a read.
One common thread with this particular line of inquiry is the number of articles outlining consumer confusion in regards what constitutes healthy food in this day and age. I completely understand, being that I can generally recognize misinformation and propaganda (and otherwise bullshit), but still can get lost where this topic is concerned.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/16/health/healthy-foods-confusion-study/index.html 

https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2015/08/13/87-of-consumers-globally-think-non-GMO-is-healthier 

Organic, non GMO and all natural are now big business

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nancygagliardi/2015/02/18/consumers-want-healthy-foods-and-will-pay-more-for-them/#469848e175c5

 

But (as I outlined earlier) I suspect it is all purposeful. Though there is mass consumer confusion, there is no shortage of sources of information that have all the answers you are looking for. It took some creative queries just to get past it all and actually find something for me to work with.

Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods, study finds

 

A team led by Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Center for Health Policy, and Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS, an instructor in the school’s Division of General Medical Disciplines and a physician-investigator at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, did the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date of existing studies comparing organic and conventional foods. They did not find strong evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or carry fewer health risks than conventional alternatives, though consumption of organic foods can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure.

The popularity of organic products, which are generally grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones, is skyrocketing in the United States. Between 1997 and 2011, U.S. sales of organic foods increased from $3.6 billion to $24.4 billion, and many consumers are willing to pay a premium for these products. Organic foods are often twice as expensive as their conventionally grown counterparts.

Although there is a common perception — perhaps based on price alone — that organic foods are better for you than non-organic ones, it remains an open question as to the health benefits. In fact, the Stanford study stemmed from Bravata’s patients asking her again and again about the benefits of organic products. She didn’t know how to advise them.

https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/09/little-evidence-of-health-benefits-from-organic-foods-study-finds.html

It reminds me a bit of the gluten-free craze. People assume a product is better just due to its price point and lack of a given ingredient, even though that is often times not the case. When it comes to food marketing, nothing surprises me anymore. Hence the common sense rule of thumb that we should all follow . . . READ THE LABEL!

I have even heard Dr. OZ admit to being fooled (live on his show!) due to not using this simple rule. He wondered why he couldn’t sleep very well for a few nights. He later figured out that he was drinking a vitamin water beverage which (unknowingly to him) contained caffeine.

That should tell you everything you need to know about the man.

For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running what Bravata called “tons of analyses.”

“Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Smith-Spangler, who is also an instructor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”

Having a medical school instructor say that is quite telling of the state of information with regard to this topic.

Another interesting finding:

The review yielded scant evidence that conventional foods posed greater health risks than organic products. While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What’s more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits. Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the significance of these findings on child health is unclear. Additionally, organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the clinical significance of this is also unclear.

Despite these findings, they are clear about their intentions. The goal is less about dissuading people from purchasing organics than it is about educating the public. Along with a dash of common sense.

“Our goal was to shed light on what the evidence is,” said Smith-Spangler. “This is information that people can use to make their own decisions based on their level of concern about pesticides, their budget and other considerations.”

She also said that people should aim for healthier diets overall. She emphasized the importance of eating of fruits and vegetables, “however they are grown,” noting that most Americans don’t consume the recommended amount.

While that covered organics, it didn’t cover GMO’s.

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/are-gmos-bad-for-your-health

So are GM foods safe?

I know you want to know — and I sympathize. GM ingredients and additives are used in so many of the foods we eat.

To begin with, there are 1500 published studies indicating that GM foods are safe. But I’m not going to rest a case on them. There are some animal studies that might raise red flags, but I won’t cite those, either.

Because here’s reality: While most scientists believe GM foods are probably safe, science will never prove it 100 percent unequivocally. 

The answer is much more complicated than “yes or no,” “pro- or anti-.” 

We need to get beyond that, to stop throwing studies at each other.

Nothing can be proved to be absolutely unequivocally safe. Pick anything, and somebody has died from it.

So let’s explore the grown-up questions and gray areas, and think about what trade-offs we’re willing to make, in a scientifically informed and literate way.

For instance:

  • What aspects of GM technology could be really good for the world? Why?
  • Which aspects should we be cautious about? Why?
  • What do we know to be true (or is probably true), and what is speculation? What’s the evidence?
  • How much is our discomfort with the unfamiliar driving the fears?
  • Are we correctly assessing risk and reward?
  • What’s an acceptable level of risk to get the benefits?

As a scientist, I would love people to embrace science, evidence, and the joy of discovery. Scientists grapple with some very difficult and complex questions. And most of them just want to make the world a better place.

What to do next

Short of going back to school for a Ph.D. in biology, what can you do right now?

1. Elevate your thinking game.

Almost no scientific question is about good versus evil. Even spacetime bends occasionally. Recognize that issues are complex.

2. Be a critical consumer, learner, and listener.

Contrary to what the mainstream media might lead you to believe, the biggest threats posed by GMO crops on the market today are not to your individual health, and they’re not even specific to GMOs.

Picking a side — and assuming the other side is unreasonable — makes real communication impossible. Scientific findings presented as the “final word” are probably being misinterpreted; be wary of anyone who tells you something is “100 percent true” about GMOs.

Even as sciencey folks ourselves, we’re not going to give you The Big Definitive Answer either. Because there isn’t one.

3. Address specific issues. Don’t mix them up.

With GMOs and other food safety and regulatory issues, it’s important to think critically about our concerns.

  • Are you against pesticides? Great! But that’s different from being against GMOs, and to focus on GMOs here is to ask the wrong questions.
  • Want GM foods to be labeled as such? Great! But the importance of food labeling goes way beyond GMOs.
  • Worried about large companies controlling our food? I get that. Be against Big Food, not GMOs.

Both conventional farming and GMOs use herbicides and pesticides, narrow the genetics pool, and increase the risk of catastrophic loss of crops. Conflating these issues means change will never happen.

4. Focus on the big picture and real-life priorities.

The fourth-largest cause of death in the United States is accidents. Wearing your seat belt will lower your risk of early death much more than worrying about GMOs. (And quit texting and driving. You know who you are.)

Other leading causes of death are largely due to the toxic combination of sedentary lifestyles, stress, and poor nutrition. Never mind GM vegetables — people aren’t eating vegetables, period.

That excerpt was written by Helen Killias, a scientist working for Precision Nutrition, a nutritional coaching company based in Toronto. While not the study or scientific paper that one would expect (or at least that I would normally cite), I have to agree with Helen with this.

Genetic modifications and Genetically Modified Organisms are not all Frankensteins and bad news. Somewhere within the simultaneous smoke screens created by vested interests in Big Biotech AND Big Organic (not to mention the mainstream food companies playing both fields) lies the truth. Though finding that truth in this debate can be a challenge for the best of us, it might not even be inherently necessary.

Knowing that much of this topic is often shrouded in grey (as often contrasted by the black and white representations of the fringes) is arguably half the battle. As is knowing that consuming a GMO food (or many, as is likely the case) is not the end of the world, by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, by being so paranoid of GMO’s, are you missing other potential threats?

Though this does not involve GMO’s, an example that comes to mind is A&W’s switch to hormone-free meat sources. Many people (including people I know) applauded the decision, even saying they would give them more business.

a.) People can eat where ever they want

b.) It IS a good thing on the part of A&W

I am not swayed much by this change, however. After all, fast food containing hormones and fast food containing no hormones is still fast food. I suspect the hormone aspect is negligible in comparison to the other nutritional factors at play.
Another example that I realized myself a couple years back, were problems with rice alternatives to GMO corn containing baby foods (arsenic). I wrote a piece criticizing another Ecowatch article for essentially scaremongering mothers. Though I didn’t mention it in the baby food piece, it came to mind last year when writing this one about China rejecting tons of Alfalfa due to literally TRACES of a GMO variety being found within it.

To quote me:

Rice is known to often times have MEASURABLE amounts of arsenic. To the point where it is recommended to severely limit the intake of rice and processed rice foods for children. Because very little (particularly for processed foods) can put them at (or above) the recommended limit.

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/how-much-arsenic-is-in-your-rice/index.htm 

Though I am not 100% sure how the arsenic content of rice and rice based foods compares to the amount of genetically modified genes that constitutes 0.1% of an alfalfa shipment, im almost certain that were talking more then traces. Just by the measurements.

An entire shipping container, verses a bowl of cereal, a few rice cakes or a quart of rice milk.

As always, context is everything.

 

 

Posted in Alternative Media Criticisms, Big BioTech / GMO's / Other Eco-Alternative Media Criticisms, Opinion | Leave a comment

“Is This Nuclear Plant To Blame For Soaring Thyroid Cancer Rates In New York?” – (Ecowatch)

I came across this article rather alarming headline today. I figure it deserves some attention. So here goes.

In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate.

First off, some graphic representation. Since I and most others are likely unfamiliar with the layout of New York State.

Above is a map of NY counties and districts (click to enlarge if necessary). You can see the 5 boroughs of New York City at the very bottom of the map (in pink). The 4 counties noted are just above on the mainland (the lower part of the red section).

The following is a map of where Indian Point is in relation to these counties (and New York City). The source bias is blatantly apparent, but none the less, it does the trick.

In the past (around 2011 to be precise) I had worried about this plant and its proximity to one of the biggest cities in the world. For an obvious reason (the worlds worst nuclear accident following Chernobyl had just occurred). But it’s been awhile since it’s been on my radar.

However, looks like it won’t be an issue (well, at least a continually operational issue) for much longer. More on that later.

Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.

That’s according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.

This change may be a result of airborne emissions of radioactive iodine from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is located at the crossroads of those four counties and has been operating since the mid-’70s.

Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer. Indian Point routinely releases more than 100 radioactive chemicals into the environment. These chemicals enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, harming and killing healthy cells. One of these chemicals is radioactive iodine, which attacks and kills cells in the thyroid gland, raising the risk of cancer.

The first thing I was curious about was wind patterns in New York State.  I got some prevailing wind information from a National Centers For Environmental Information PDF outlining the climate of New York in detail. The PDF can be found HERE, on page 7.

The prevailing wind is generally from the west in New York State. A southwest component
becomes evident in winds during the warmer
months while a northwest component is
characteristic of the colder half of the year.
Occasionally, well-developed storm systems moving
across the continent or along the Atlantic coas
t are accompanied by very strong winds, which
cause considerable property damage over wide areas of the State. A unique effect of strong
cyclonic winds from the southwest is the rise
of water to abnormally high levels at the
northeastern end of Lake Erie.

This information seemed important since it should give us a general idea of where any released radioactive particles are likely to end up.  Though 2 of the counties seem to match up, the 2 westernmost counties (Orange and Putnam) seem like outliers, being UPWIND for the majority of the time. Of course, I am not a climatologist. There may be other factors at work that I am not considering.

One thing that does occur to me, however, is that radioactive fallout releases have a tendency of traveling LONG distances from their point of origin. Chernobyl was famously discovered when workers at a Sweedish Nuclear plant were found to be bringing radioactive contamination INTO the plant from outside.
And even this year, something similar happened (with many also suspecting the origin being somewhere in Russia or Kazakstan). Either would make perfect sense, being that:

1.) It’s Russia.

If they accidentally created a black hole that slowly swallowed the world, we wouldn’t find out until large portions of their nation and population start mysteriously vanishing into the abyss

2.) Kazakstan (among other former Soviet satellite states) holds a lot of the legacy technology from that Era. Not to mention that I wouldn’t be surprised if Big Red still has a lot of influence over affairs. Particularly these days, with the west being increasingly undermined by its own shortcomings.

Either way, to bring it back, these releases tend to go a long way. Given the typical wind patterns, I would suspect releases (and thus, cancer rates) would not just be picked up in neighboring counties, but also in New York City, New Jersey, Long Island, and other downwind sections of the NY tristate area.

While again just speculation, I think it is built on a solid foundation of past anecdotes and incidents.

I next want to focus on one sentence of the article that sticks out.

Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer

This one has to be highlighted because it is somewhat disingenuous.

While most sources outline symptoms and causes (explanations of the medical jargon), few give much insight into what could be driving those changes. Possibly because so little is known (it’s better not to speculate). Web MD has this to say.

Experts don’t know what causes thyroid cancer. But like other cancers, changes in the DNA of your cells seem to play a role. These DNA changes may include changes that are inherited as well as those that happen as you get older.

People who have been exposed to a lot of radiation have a greater chance of getting thyroidcancer.

A dental X-ray now and then will not increase your chance of getting thyroid cancer. But past radiation treatment of your head, neck, or chest (especially during childhood) can put you at risk of getting thyroid cancer.

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/tc/thyroid-cancer-topic-overview#1 

The Mayo Clinic explanation seems more or less in agreement.

Factors that may increase the risk of thyroid cancer include:

  • Female sex. Thyroid cancer occurs more often in women than in men.
  • Exposure to high levels of radiation. Examples of exposure to high levels of radiation include radiation treatments to the head and neck and fallout from sources such as nuclear power plant accidents or weapons testing.
  • Certain inherited genetic syndromes. Genetic syndromes that increase the risk of thyroid cancer include familial medullary thyroid cancer and multiple endocrine neoplasia.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thyroid-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20354161

Also in the explanation from the Mayo clinic is this.

Although thyroid cancer isn’t common in the United States, rates seem to be increasing. Doctors think this is because new technology is allowing them to find small thyroid cancers that may not have been found in the past.

Maybe a factor in the overall picture? I guess we will see.

Let’s bring it back to upstate New York and the 4 counties in question. The Ecowatch article is based on a study (co-founded by the author of the article) that claims an increase in cancer cases both above background and taking the rising national average into consideration. Here is the abstract of the study itself:

Thyroid cancer incidence has risen steadily in the US for several decades. While any cause of this trend has yet to be clearly identified, most analyses have concluded that there are factors other than improved detection accounting for the increase. Since exposure to radioactive iodine is the only acknowledged root cause of thyroid cancer, a review of temporal trends in incidence since the late 1970s near the Indian Point nuclear power plant, just 23 miles from the New York City border, was conducted. Rates in the four counties closest to Indian Point, where virtually the entire population resides within 20 miles of the plant, were compared with national trends in the US. The relative ratio in the local area was 0.778 in the period 1976-1981, or 22.2 percent lower than the national rate. This ratio increased steadily, to 1.579 (57.9 percent greater than the US) by the period 2000-2004, which slightly declined to 1.515 (51.5 percent greater) in the latest period available (2010-2014). Significant increases occurred for both males and females, and in each of the four counties. Annual new cases diagnosed among residents of the four counties increased from 51 to 412 between 1976-1981 and 2010-2014. Because the two large reactors at Indian Point began operations in 1973 and 1976, and exposures to radioiodine isotopes can manifest as cancer from five years to several decades after exposure, iodine emissions from Indian Point emissions should be considered as a potential factor in these trends. More studies near Indian Point and other nuclear installations should be conducted to further explore this potential association.

https://www.scirp.org/Journal/PaperInformation.aspx?PaperID=80399

One thing that comes to mind is how the numbers compare to cancer in populations around other nuclear plants.

According to this paper (see page 26), many studies of this type of risk have been done in many countries involving many different types of population density and types of nuclear facilities, with all of them coming back with many different conclusions. Some found positive correlations to being in proximity to said facilities, though none were ever linked directly to the facilities. I am not surprised by this since the cancer variant is so misunderstood, to begin with.

Another interesting set of statistics to consider (also from the paper cited previously):

  • Approximately 1 million people lived within 5 miles of operating nuclear plants in 2010; over 45 million people lived within 30 miles.
  • Approximately 116,000 people lived within 5 miles of USNRC-licensed operating fuel-cycle facilities in 2010; over 2 million people lived within 30 miles.
  • Approximately 210 people lived within 5 miles of a USNRC-licensed operating in situ recovery or conventional uranium mill recovery facility in 2010; about 11,000 lived within 30 miles.

Millions live within a stone’s throw of such facilities. Do you?
That is just generalized stats. Maybe there is something wrong with this plant itself which would make it an outlier of sorts.

It looks like the plant does indeed have a bit of a troubled history, particularly since 2012.

The plant has had 40 “safety events”, “operational events”, and shutdowns since 2012. The shutdowns have exposed apparent fragility in the nuclear facility’s workings: in December 2015 the plant was shut down for three days after droppings from a “large bird” caused an arc between power lines and a transmission tower. In April 2016, Entergy admitted it had found that bolts holding together the interior of one of Indian Point’s reactors were damaged and, in some cases, missing.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/09/indian-point-nuclear-plant-close-new-york

Ah, humans. If greed isn’t what gets us, then it will be laziness. Also worth noting was some drama over the possibility of running natural gas lines on land very close to the facility.

Entergy also came under fire in 2016 after the Guardian published a safety assessment of proposed natural gas pipelines to be built by energy pipeline company Spectra on Indian Point property. The assessment, provided to the Guardian by engineer Paul Blanch and obtained through a freedom of information act (Foia), was partly hand-drawn and did not adequately account for the damage to the plant that could result from a breach of the lines.

One would think we would have been beyond such oversights with Fukushima in our rearview. But then again . . . humans.

The last part, however, brings to mind another possibility. Maybe the days of nuclear (like the days of this plant’s operations) are numbered.
Nuclear has always been a nemesis, but Fukushima certainly didn’t do the industry any favors. Though the plant does not seem to have any major infractions associated with it, just having such a facility so close to so much population is problematic on its own, even without the operational history. I suspect a combination of the increasing costs of running such a facility (particularly in the face of cheaper alternatives like natural gas and renewables) and bad public image of both the plant and nuclear energy in general as the deciding factors here. Having uncontrolled releases into groundwater sources nearby certainly didn’t help things either.

Either way, I wandered somewhat from the outset of this piece. That said, there is not much more to say on the topic. Did the plant result in a spike in the cancer rates in close proximity?

I don’t know. However, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Though the authors of the study (and the article) claim legitimacy, I can’t help but question the bias. I will not disagree, however, that more studies can’t hurt. The more information that is available, the better off everyone is.

In conclusion, overall, I am not a big fan of nuclear energy.

In its favor, it is carbon neutral (or very close, anyhow). And it may function as a good stepping stone between the age of fossil fuels and renewables (since uranium is also finite).
That being said, it could also be seen as insanity, being the risk involved. Indeed, meltdowns and accidents are fairly few and far between. But we still have not figured out a permanent solution to radioactive wastes that will long outlive our civilizations.

Fortunately, the fact that these things are prohibitively expensive to build and operate will deter many new installations.  But those that do should consider the consequences.

Imagine a world with half the overall population (say a pandemic wiped us out), but the same number of nuclear facilities to oversee. Without constant inputs and attention, spent fuel ponds run the risk of going dry and dumping massive amounts of radioactivity into the enviroment.

Not something I considered during my freakout in 2010, or even 2011 (when the nuclear industry had the world on edge). Though possibly a good thing.

I may not have ever slept again.

Posted in Alternative Media Criticisms, Big BioTech / GMO's / Other Eco-Alternative Media Criticisms, Opinion | Leave a comment

Freedom

Freedom.

It’s a word that we are all too familiar with now.

Libertarians & Conservatives talk endlessly about defending it, despite Liberals generally being more committed to the cause overall. It is a word, but it really is a whole lot more. I can’t even really call it a philosophy. It certainly applies but in many different ways.

Every country has different interpretations when it comes to the context of the word in terms of the law. But no 2 people are alike when it comes to their PERSONAL interpretation of the word. Of course, these personal interpretations generally are irrelevant if in conflict with local laws.
A fact that makes me glad the world (at least at the moment) is not all that anarchist (or anarcho-capitalist). I’ve seen the workers sleeping on job sites in Nations and Emirates that operate in a more laissez-faire manner. It’s not pretty.

Either way, freedom may be the ultimate oxymoron. It simultaneously means the world, whilst also meaning nothing at all. All depending on how you look at it.

Take economic freedom. Otherwise known as the system revered and enjoyed by most of the world at the moment. It is true that a small percentage within this paradigm do enjoy what one could call true economic freedom. The mansion, the cars and everything else that comes with access to limitless amounts of fiat currency.
The same can not be said the lower you get on the economic ladder, however. While it is more apparent (and focused on) in the lower rungs, one can also argue bondage in the mid to upper mid class sections. While disposable income often opens up access to bigger homes, cars and more toys, you often spend the majority of your existence on the clock. The majority of your existence is spent in performing mindless tasks endlessly, with personal time coming in short bursts (with even THAT line blurring in this age). Everyone punches the clock day in day out, looking forward to old age and retirement at 50 or 60. The so-called golden years.

At a time period when natural entropy and decades of wear and tear imposed by a career have rendered many people in various states of discontent and discomfort, is when our system decides it a good time to give its sentient cogs free time.
Not when they are younger to middle-aged, full of energy, ability, and desire.  No. Wait till they have been used up and squeezed for every fiat penny that can be earned out of them. Then let them have their fun times.

If they happen to come to some unfortunate demise (be it natural or otherwise) beforehand, whatever. They may have been shortchanged of their hard earned capitalist payout by fate, but their efforts were not in vain. The entity that they enriched in life keeps chugging along. Be they show this appreciation to the next of kin or not.

There it is, my take on capitalism. It would seem that I don’t put much stock in my societies way of life. No wonder I often find myself aimlessly flipping past want ad’s and feeling irritated by resumes, cover letters and interviews.
I don’t give a fuck about rules, policies, or often irrational procedures (to be followed TO THE LETTER!). I am here to survive, and my only vessel to this end in this paradigm is through my labor. A fact that most are quick to exploit.

Insanity at best. Inhumane at worst.

If you REALLY want a glimpse into the latter, look into the plight of long-term recipients of workplace injury benefits as covered by Workmans Compensation Board’s pretty much everywhere.  In a nutshell, calling it long-term injury benefits is another oxymoron because almost, as a rule, they DO NOT cover long-term claims. They are paid by and work for the employer, and function like almost any health insurance company . . . the bottom line comes first and foremost. Avoid covering as many pricy claims as possible. And if you want to fight them in court . . . good luck. Public legal council doesn’t have the resources to help you, and the real thing will be WAY out of your range even if it does make it to court.

I saw my dad go through it, starting in around 2000. And he has never recovered from it. And likely never will.

Yet another aspect of freedom that has been long ago debunked for me.

Fortunately, there is a 3ed that is worth exploring. One that, unlike the other 2, is actually somewhat within our control. That is, mental and/or physical limitations as imposed by ourselves.

Sometimes these things are seemingly innate parts of our personalities or being. Sometimes these are things picked up along the way. The throughline of all of them being that changing them often seems impossible.
Addictions. Bad Habits. Phobias. Bad relationships. There many quirks or situations that could fit in here. Sometimes more than one at a time.

Sometimes the feeling of impossibility is just a representation of reality. Not everything can be corrected, and not everyone will be successful (even if they try). But what if the seemingly impossible is actually attainable?

It would seem that to be the ultimate form of freedom. Shaking off the shackles of mental and/or physical limitation (as they are at times connected).

This came to mind in the oddest way (as many things do with me). One night when diving into some youtube algorithmic vortex, I ended up on a video called Climbing A 360M Spire In Dubai (Nearly Caught). Naturally, I clicked (you can’t tell me that wouldn’t make you curious).
I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Though I nearly had a panic attack.

Heights have never been my cup of tea, so while I SHOULD have known what I was getting into, going right to this video was likely the equivalent of going straight from drug virginity to heroin. When the hatch opens and suddenly the 20 or so storey buildings nearby look like toys, it hits you. Then the crazy bastard stands up, and I have to pause the video. Had to remind myself that I am safe on my couch, not on top of a 360-meter high spire in the UAE. Note, NOT the Burj Khalifa (though you can get a view from that 828-meter spire  HERE. If you dare).
For another hair-raising experience, go to time stamp  2:56 on this one.

Either way, after watching some more videos like this from this guy (James Kingston, from Southhampton, UK), I learned somewhere that he was once afraid of heights.
Apparently, it all started with Parkour (Freerunning? Apparently there are 2 distinct communities, and one sees itself as incompatible with the other). Though little else could help him escape a shell, this activity did. To the point that all that was left was a strong fear of heights.
And that fear was eventually demolished by way of increasingly higher climbs.

Interestingly, it made me view these types of videos in a different way. The common views (both of which I have been guilty of holding in the past) are

1.) “What is he NUTS?! He could die!”

2.) “Darwinism at work. Let the simple wipe themselves out”

The last one may make the intellectuals shudder, but you get the point.

Of course, one can not condone this. Taking defiance of gravity right to the edge is not without risk to self and others, particularly when in urban areas. Even a falling smartphone is a dangerous proposition in a populated city or construction site. And of course, you are putting a lot of faith in a weld. While it presumably should be good, it only takes one.

None the less, I guess you could say that I understand this.

There is danger involved, and it is crazy, no doubt about it. But there is also the aspect of a freedom that is not shared by many people. Freedom from a quite common form of mental bondage that keeps many people (me included) from potentially many experiences. Even if not scaling tower cranes or climbing spires, then things like high altitude downhill skiing, bungee jumping, skydiving, rock climbing.

To shift this away from hights altogether, imagine something like weight loss. Quitting smoking or casting aside the shackles of some other nemesis. Conquering some habit, trait or phobia that previously made straightening out the Isreal/Palestine conflict look like a breeze in comparison.
Yeah, apples and oranges. But it plays into the often irrational nature of these things, as interpreted by us.

To conclude, freedom is an ILLUSION!

Like many things in life . . . sort of. When it comes to typical contexts of the word (law and economy), it is indeed what you make of it. In terms of the law, it will always be some balance between the obvious and the ridiculous. It’s the ultimate culmination of a system of order that is enforced by mere humans prone to outside influence (greed and herd ideology, among others).
Economic freedom is generally also what one makes of it, though the illusion (if you choose to call it that) becomes less visible the higher one is on the economic ladder.

Of the 3, personal freedom is where it’s at. It’s not everything (the other 2 are still the macro’s for most of us). None the less, there is nothing more rewarding than breaking down a barrier of the self. Whatever form that may take.

 

Posted in Personal | Leave a comment

True Online Free Speech – Impossible?

Part 1

Freedom of Speech.

The favored ideological cash cow of the past few years.  For a topic that generates so much noise, very little is of actual substance. Though I suppose that could be said for many dialogues in the digital realm.
It is also one of the very few cases in which the generally accepted practice (even in terms of respected intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky) is to place yourself at an extreme. All must be accepted.

First off, a little clarification. My tone suggests a bias that may not exactly be accurate. I am not against free speech. I am just fed up with the conversation as it has existed for quite a while now (in the context of free speech online, anyway). Endless yammering on and on, yet little actual constructive solutions aside from crafted points outlining how things should be. What platforms should be doing.

I am not a free speech purist. I am not a free speech anything really. I generally do very little censorship of anything that I am in control of (Twitter, blog, facebook etc), so I basically embrace pure free speech without the virtue signaling flair.
However, I question a few aspects of the free speech purist’s arguments. Let us explore.

One is the “Sunlight cures bad ideas” argument.

Aside from the speech aspect, the assumption is made that everyone is equally able to evaluate all information that is being presented to them, including that which is involving the complicated. Considering how often I see Dave Rubin and Sam Harris types being called out here and elsewhere, yet STILL they grow in popularity, I call BS on this assessment.

Going back to the speech aspect, I am unsure if reactionary actions provoked by incendiary speakers should be as readily dismissed as many people seem to think. In all honesty, I am unsure if most (be they purists or otherwise) have given this aspect much thought.

Incendiary speech from a pedestal comes to mind here, first and foremost. But also applicable are those dialogues which are not explicitly incendiary, but none the less toxic. Racist, sexist, xenophobic, that sort of thing.

Reactions due to incendiary speech tend to be rare. Like other forms of terrorism and violence, too much emphasis here may distract from other areas.

And so, other areas. It is generally accepted at face value that Racism, Sexism, Xenophobia etc must be tolerated, but rebutted when applicable. Anything else is, slippery slope fallacy!

I do not entirely write off the premise. We are dealing with people after all. However, I do have to raise an eyebrow.

Call me an authoritarian progressive, but I see little wrong with drawing a line in the sand when an idea has been decided to be explicitly wrong, or harmful. We have figured out that bias based rhetoric (be it racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, whatever!) can lead to nowhere good. So why put up with it?
It eats away at the foundations of civil society.

Of course, many people of previous generations (along with many people that listen to copious amounts of Dave Rubin or Sam Harris) may disagree.
However, when it is a case of (more often than not) misrepresented or misunderstood data deliberately targeting a cohort that fears the loss of its everlasting dominance VS reality, I will stick with reality.
Speaking of reality, wait until oceans start pushing coastal dwellers further and further inland. You ain’t see NOTHING yet!

Anyway, back on track.

While the whack a mole rebuttal as necessary tactic is preferred, I am unsure if it is effective. First, the exposure of the ideas generally leads to more attention. And 2ed, there is again an assumption that the listener will be equally able to weigh and analyze even complex ideas, even if they are being described very convincingly and in a charismatic way.

Noting recent events pretty much the world over, I SERIOUSLY call into question this line of reasoning. However, am I going to explicitly come out against this “Free Marketplace of Ideas”?

No.

I just think that the tactics and the views accepted and employed almost thoughtlessly by many of us are worthy of a second look, of further consideration.
I could be barking up the wrong tree. But there is only one way to find out.

Well, 2 ways, if you take the out of the typical ideologue (“You are WRONG. PERIOD!”). If you are one of these extremely entrenched people, there is not much point reading beyond this.

More on free speech absolutism . . . it would be a bit silly for me to take that stance for a couple reasons.
For one, I live in a country that does not embrace as much free speech as the United States. Jordan Peterson makes a good living off of selling that point to anyone who will listen.
But more importantly, the context in which the free speech absolutism would be most applicable for me is in the online realm. Be it here (whether you are seeing this on WordPress or Reddit), Facebook, Twitter or otherwise. Such self-governing bodies reserve the right to not allow pretty much any speech or expression they choose (such is the accepted reality of using a privately owned and run domain). As such, me calling myself a free speech purist is just silly. Dare I say it again, virtue signaling.

As noted, I criticize people for presenting more noise than solution when it comes to so-called Free Speech online. As such, I will propose mine.

Part 2

In the free speech dialogue, once you get past the How Things Should Be stage, there is nowhere left to go but to acknowledge reality. There is currently no government-owned and/or regulated platform that can serve as the public square of the internet. End.

Okay. Where to from here?

In order for this to happen in the current status quo, the current platforms will have to embrace this practice. What if they refuse?

Do you force them using the judicial system? Nationalize them?

Remember that there are now billions of dollars on the line. Billions of dollars can buy one HELL of a fight (just ask Bernie Sanders). Not to mention that if one has a conservative/libertarian lean, overlooking such an act of economic aggression should REALLY make you question those values.

However, you don’t NEED to go through all of that trouble. Because the infrastructure to circumvent the status quo is already there. All you need to do is build the platform of your choosing.

Yes, it will cost some money and likely take some effort, but it should be worth it. Not only could it be equitable to a government-sanctioned public space, but even better. Total and complete control of content, but for federal or regional laws. And even THAT can be bypassed, depending on what country you choose to host.

The solution to the online speech situation is possible. And relatively easily attainable. It just needs to be funded and pursued.

Of course, this is dependant on net neutrality remaining in place. If you know little about the topic, look into it. But most importantly, if you still want even the OPTION of having such a platform as the one I described earlier being as readily available as the whole internet is now, make some calls.

That is my solution to the problem. The internet is built for this type of thing, so its surprising that it has not happened yet. I know that Facebook, Google and other big tech firms like buying up the competition in order to continue bucking the Myspace trend, but none the less . . . over a decade and STILL nothing?

Part 3

Before now, this would have been the end of the road. Evaluation of where the current conversation falls short, outline of how to easily remedy the solution, done. You now have the solution, so if you continue to play the typical cards, I won’t take you seriously. Because you are all bark and no bite!

Though it ended there for me before, a recent Vox video clip shone an interesting light on the topic. Though we typically see Twitter as being not all that different than the rest of them at this point, apparently that is not how it started.

If taken at face value, it was supposed to be a platform that prioritized free speech above all else, but for a few circumstances. And they supposedly tried to keep following that lead. However, years of rampant harassment begun to drive more and more users away. Which presumably forced the platform to act at the risk of losing too much of its regular user base.

That is the story, what they say. I have also heard of cases of Twitter targeting (or at least prioritizing) right-leaning accounts in its sweeps. People say a lot of things, particularly when they feel they have been wronged (or want you to believe they have no culpability). Having said that, however, I don’t doubt that harassment increasingly became a big problem. Its common knowledge that pretty much anyone with a wide online presence has to put up with this.

So, let’s say that someone finally makes my idea of a digital free speech utopia a reality. How would one prevent such a fate from condemning that platform?

Where is the line between free speech utopia and current day Twitter?

Posted in Free Speech, Opinion, Various Commentary | Leave a comment

Decimated Puerto Rico – Corporate Cash Grab?

First off, yes. The title needs some clarification.

While recent events more than likely come to mind for most of us now, the reality is that Puerto Rico has been in dire straights for decades. The nation-state equivalent of an indentured slave with a cruel owner. To take the analogy to the present, the nation-state equivalent of a poverty-stricken and indebted inner-city resident that has had to downgrade and sell so much just to get by that there is literally NOTHING LEFT to part with. And then came the divorce.

Fine, maybe a bit distasteful. But being the sexist habit of associating predatory women with dramatic weather phenomena, and having a storm named Maria involved . . . I couldn’t help myself.

Either way, despite being a US holding with residents that are technically American citizens, their treatment at the hand of the homeland is FAR from that enjoyed by any of the 50 more well-known states. Along with apathy, the nation was also allowed to become a sort of playground for corporations to do what they do best. Slap down roots and demand the world, while giving very little in return for these favors of the commons.

Either way, without the help of the homeland or its corporate parasites making use of the island for all it can give (and then some, because fuck you Puerto Rico!), the Island’s government in its desperation, had to get creative (albeit short-sighted) in its dealing. Enter Wall street and the addictively convenient financial instrument that is the bond.
Now, because of the widespread use of this instrument, not only is the fate of Puerto Rico at stake. Also at stake, are many, MANY investors of all kinds. Some of which may not even know that they have a stake in it.
People like me, with pension plans embedded in bonds and other financial instruments that are managed at arm’s length. And for those that DO want to gain some nuance as to where your stakes may lie . . . good luck.

As is his style, John Oliver puts it nicely in this segment.

When watching the clip for the first time not too long ago, I was surprised to see it dated April of 2016. Imagine that bitter pill. Decades of pillage and indentured servitude, plus hurricane, plus the Jones act, multiplied by orange snowflake more triggered by a female authority than death and destruction, equals they are screwed. Short of the guts of the US governing system doing one of the least psychopathic things in the history of the nation . . . Its hard to see any silver lining.

Either way, while the hurricane has put the island back on the map, if only briefly (I once tweeted San Juan is the new Allepo), few knew of the disaster that unfolded long before the storm. Something that is important for a couple of reasons:

1.) Problems we are ignorant to are not problems we can even HOPE to begin to fix

2.) Past actions tend to dictate future actions, even if we don’t always like (want?) to admit it

Which is where the next part of this post comes in. Companies and corporations donating goods and manpower towards the cause of rebuilding the Island. The two most notable that I have seen so far being Tesla and Google (with help from AT&T).

By now, most of us have likely heard about the Whitefish Energy fiasco. Corruption right out in the open, essentially. Or so it seems.

That is not all that is happening on the ground in Peurto Rico in terms of the energy infrastructure, however.

Enter Tesla, and Elon Musk.

I do have some issues with the man (as previously written about) that should be gotten out of the way right off the bat.

In terms of AI, he seems more prone to fear mongering than much else. I am not much of a fan of the Hyperloop, as the whole concept seems WAY more complicated and impractical in terms of the real world than even just focusing on more fuel efficient (or ideally, electric!) airliners.
And I am almost certain that Mars (and other Alein worlds) are NOT the answer to our future earthly inferno. The ultimate manifestation of our arrogant throwaway culture.

Such solutions are but the product of the scientificly engrained YET AGAIN persuing easy results without adequate contemplation. Otherwise known as, how we ended up here in the first place!
If science reunited with philosophy centuries ago, would nuclear weapons still be a thing?

Either way, a bit off topic. Having said all that, I do not dismiss ALL of Elon Musks work. Tesla is great in terms of electric vehicles and further advancing battery storage technology. Technology that the company is now donating to Peurto Rico in order to help the island build more microgrids.

And yet, with all the sad and depressing things that have been happening with Puerto Rico’s recovery, there is still a happy story—it just doesn’t come from Donald Trump and company. Elon Musk and his company Tesla got a massive number of solar panels and batteries down to Puerto Rico and used them to get the power back on at San Juan’s Children’s Hospital, which serves thousands of Puerto Rican children and had been without power despite having critically ill patients.

The coup de grace? He did it all for free, and made it clear on Instagram that this is just the first of many planned power projects in Puerto Rico.

https://www.gq.com/story/tesla-puerto-rico 

This is one single sample article, but most of them are toned more or less in the same way.

Next, Google.

Or more accurately, Alphabet, the parent company of Google. It seems that in 2015, Google restructured itself so as to make all of its subsidiaries (a mixture of both online an non-online related) more cohesive. Thus, Alphabet is the parent company, and X is the subsidiary in charge of the project.

In short, along with the power grid, a huge percentage of the communications infrastructure was also decimated. Everything from pole based fiber and copper, to cell towers. All of which takes time to repair and reboot back to service.

Where X comes in, is in essentially communication balloons. Functioning in much the same way as communication satellites, the balloons would substitute for cell towers, relaying LTE signals from mobile devices and back into the cell network VIA specially configured towers (where AT&T & others come in). Thereby bringing light connectivity to large swaths of the island with relative ease. Basically, people in these new balloon-based macro cells can text and do some light web browsing. Information can now flow in and out in real time.

Though this is the first I have ever heard of this solution being put into practice in the mainstream, I have heard of the concept in the past. And it has been used in past disaster zones to positive results. Part of the reason why it was so quickly deployed in PR (some of the kinks were ironed out).

Despite being locked in the past and held down by overbearing imperialists and unfathomable obligations, Tesla and X are giving the island a taste of the future. One hopes to rebuild the power grid into more resilient microgrids. And one is untethering major communications infrastructure from the land and putting it somewhere far more logical. The air is not just beyond land availability and NIMBY limitations, but also beyond most topographical limitations. While urban canyons and mountainous terrain are hard to cover by land, by air is another matter.

Peurto Rico has become the perfect location and candidate for real-world experimentation, testing, and demonstration of a lot of this new technology. For the Peurto Rican people, it should indeed be a net positive, being that they will presumably get a cleaner and more resilient power grid out of it.

However, I still have to look with raised eyebrows.

X’s balloon operation is temporary (presumably it will be unnecessary when most of the land-based macrocells are back online). A temporary demonstration for both research purposes and publicity. However, the power grid is not going anywhere.

My concern is ensuring this is not just business as usual for Peurto Rico, just with a different set of actors. I will not dispute the value of data collected from real-world deployments of technology. I just worry that other strings may be attached. As seems to be the common status quo when it comes to corporate influence on the island.

Posted in Opinion, Various Commentary | Leave a comment