Gordon Ramsay – The Secret To Imense Riches?

Wait, what?

That was certainly my reaction upon coming across the link to this article somewhere (maybe Twitter).

One thing is for sure, there is definitely a lot going on here. No less than 5 trademarks and the alleged words of 1 internationally renowned celebrity. Let’s go further.

If you thought 2020 couldn’t get any more wild meet 96-year-old Beth Stanson, who in her advanced age has been somewhat of a homebody. In a time where we’re told to keep our distance from family and friends Beth spent many hours watching TV and surfing the web but her grand-children became curious about what she was up to all this time.

She revealed that over the past few months she had been secretly amassing an enormous wealth. So much so that all of her 16 grand-children would be able to quit their jobs so they could pursue their dreams.

The interesting thing is exactly how she was able to make so much money. Beth used a new automated bitcoin trading platform that she had seen on TV.

I admit that I stumbled into this out of pure curiosity, drawn to the link by a photo of Gordon Ramsay (as I’m sure is the case for many people). Though it held the feel of a local news story for the first paragraph, this quickly fell apart when I read “so much so that all of her 16 grand-children would be able to quit their jobs so they could pursue their dreams.

Which made me curious (as did all of the testimonials running down the right side of the page). Automated bitcoin trading platform? 

Also, what does Gordon Ramsay have to do with this?

 

Multi-Michelin star celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay just bought his ninth Ferrari using money he earned not from his hosting shows or restaurants – but from a new controversial investment he revealed on live television.

During our exclusive interview with the “Hells Kitchen” chef himself, Ramsay admitted he earned $13.5 million last year through a new controversial system he shared with Phillip and Holly on ITV’s This Morning.

Here’s what the superstar chef himself has to say about his secret money-making methods:

Listen, I’ve been wanting to do something different. Something special. You see, I’ve been blessed to live my dream life because I’ve had the privilege of owning my own restaurants and staring on reality TV shows.

Today, I want to give back and show everyone EXACTLY how I’ve made millions of dollars over the last few months outside of my regular businesses. It’s something I’ve been doing on the side, and something anyone in the UK can do, and it’s made enough for me to buy my ninth Ferrari.

My passion will always be cooking, but recently I’ve been learning about investing. I stumbled upon a new system called The News Spy that’s made me more money in the last 6 months than any of my other buinesses. And the best part is, this amazing opportunity just became available to regular folks in the UK so I have to share it with everyone.

I’ll explain what The News Spy is in just a bit. But first, to prove how amazing this system really is. Holly, I’m going to give you £195 to deposit and try it for yourself right now.”

Ramsay then wrote a check to Holly for £195 ($250 USD), which she deposited into the system to try for herself. Within minutes, Holly‘s jaw dropped open as she began making a real profit – on live television!

 

While I don’t know Ramsay personally, I’ve never seen him driving a Ferrari in any of his shows older to fairly recent shows. In most of his older shows (Boiling Point, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Behind Bars) he drives an Audi sedan, and in the newer American shows, he’s usually in a GM SUV of some sort (almost always black). Though I seem to recall him pulling up to the Hell’s Kitchen studios in a Ferrari, that hardly seems his MO.

But that is just the conjecture of a Ramsay fanboy. What is more important is, did he actually say that? And if so, is there footage?

Speaking of footage, why not share THAT instead of just a screencap?

Before I go digging again, let’s see what else Gordon has to say.

Ramsay continued,

“Now I know what you’re thinking Phllip and Holly. You probably think this is a trick or it doesn’t make sense. You may have seen Bitcoin or Ethereum on the news, and maybe even invested into it yourself. Maybe you think it’s a scam because you don’t understand it or lost money.

Well, what I do to earn at least 6 figures every month is something completely different. I use this The News Spy to cash in on the Bitcoin boom with absolutely no investing or technology experience. And the best part is, anyone can do the same.

You just saw for yourself how fast this works”

Before Holly could even muttor a word, Ramsay continutes…

“Look guys, I love to cook and help up and coming chefs improve thier cooking. I don’t have time to sit in front of a computer and trade cryptocurrencies all day. That’s why I use The News Spy to do it for me automatically. It’s is backed by Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg – some of the smartest tech minds on the planet.

See, most people think the Bitcoin boom is over. But in fact, it’s just getting started.”

 

If there is one thing I can say about that Ramsay live TV segment, it does not sound natural to him at all. Even his commercial selling for Rogers was more authentic than that!

I hate Rogers Communications with a passion, but this was the only place I could find the video, so Rogers tweet it is. No,
this is not an endorsement. FUCK ROGERS!! FUCK your monopolistic, parasitic, greedy shit show of a company. And to all the
current day Shaw customers out there . . . I pity you. I really do. You didn’t ask to be part of the Rogers march to becoming 
the Comcast of Canada!

Just in case it’s not clear by now that this isn’t an endorsement . . . FUCK ROGERS !!!!!!!

 

Either way, getting back to where we started, I seem to have found the video clip the article is referring to. At least it has a matching thumbnail to the one used in the article.

Though the video was 7 minutes long, not one mention of Bitcoin, finances, or anything related. Just a conversation about food, family, and other far more Ramsay-esk subject matter. Also, who on earth is Philip & Holly?

Also morning show hosts, according to Wikipedia and other sources. Like other such variety shows, the rooster of main hosts seems to alternate due to various factors. Either way, irrelevant, since the clip has nothing to do with shilling bitcoin or anything else aside from the benefits of healthy living.

I don’t know what Holly is looking at, but I’m almost certain that it isn’t the shocking returns on her investment of Gordon’s pocket change. I mean . . . really. I’ve tipped more percentage-wise to service workers than Gordon gave Holly to invest.

But again, that is irrelevant since its obvious that Gordon has nothing to do with this. With that in mind, let’s see where else this journey takes us.

The News Spy is backed by Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Mark Zuckerberg

“Now I’m not going to bullshit you or your viewers. Not every trade is a profitable one. See, theautomated software using advanced machine learning and data modeling to make trades. To be honest, I barely know what that means besides it works very well.

However, the system does mess up sometimes. Nothing is ever going to be right 100% of the time. Yet even with it’s mistakes, I’m still profitable about 80-89% of the time. That means for every 1 losing trade, there are about 9 winning ones.

It’s trading hundreds of times per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you can imagine how that much adds up. On an average day, I’ll make about $5,000 to $8,000 profit. Unbelievable right? What I do is take out about half for play money – travel, cars, toys. And then I reinvest the other half. That’s how I’m able to earn more and more money over time.

 

Now, as Gordon continues to explain the risks and benefits of whatever the fuck, 3 more names have been dropped, AND another trademark has made an appearance. But it does help make my job a little easier.

In short:

“Hey Google, does Elon Musk back The News Spy?”

. . .

“No”

https://blog.sircles.net/post/2021/07/13/elon-musk-news-spy-ads

 

To cut right to the chase of that link:

 

 
 
 
Good luck indeed.
 

But now you know. I may have click baited to get you here, but now you are just a little more aware than you were before. When it comes to the internet, you can never be too careful. There are many fingers that would LOVE access to your wallet.

Crypto or otherwise.

Richard Dawkins Opposes Trans Rights

For many readers of this piece, you are likely coming at this from one of 2 angles. Some may think “Wait, what?!”. And for the rest of us, it’s “Here we go again . . .”

In truth, I am less interested in critiquing Dawkins himself than I am in getting to the source material. The man has proven willing to align with the wrong side of history more than once, so to hell with him. Just the latest example of the spectacular fall of the once-revered 4 horsemen of reason.

There is nothing new to see here.

With that, we will move directly on to the declaration that the man signed, and wanted the rest of us to sign. With approaching 30,000 signatories from over 153 countries and over 400 organizations, the Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights is the product of the Women’s Human Rights Campaign. The aim of the organization is summed up by the title of the declaration itself:

Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) is a group of volunteer women from across the globe dedicated to protecting women’s sex-based rights. Our volunteers include academics, writers, organizers, activists, and health practitioners, and aim to represent the total breadth of the human female experience.

Based in the UK, the organization appears to have a very meagre budget despite having members the world over (as can be seen by their financial statement, which can be found at the bottom of this page). Either way, having explored the background of the group, we will now get right into the declaration.

Declaration on Women’s Sex-based Rights

On the re-affirmation of women’s sex-based rights, including women’s rights to physical and reproductive integrity, and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls that result from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity’, and from ‘surrogate’ motherhood and related practices.

Before we even begin, I feel the need to address the difference between some terms (both included and not). The terms are sex, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Sex applies to the physical differences which are visible or detectable. Gender covers the social constructs and implications coinciding with each sex. As for gender identity, that covers the individual lived experience (regardless of variables imposed by sex, gender, environment and others). Sexual orientation is more concerned with who you are attracted to.

There are also some useful terms that I have not included here:

https://www.hrc.org/resources/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-terminology-and-definitions

Some of these terms are uncontroversial, others . . . not so much. I felt the need to do this right off the bat to establish my stance going into this. To put it another way, I’m laying out my bias up front. Even if that bias happens to coincide with our lived reality.

A big issue that we run into right away is that people tend to be messy as far as fitting into rigid labels is concerned. And at the same time, many people find it difficult to comprehend others that live fluidly to rigid labels and expectations.
Some of this can be attributed to personal bias, but a bigger part of this comes from the social constructs of gender which are imposed by societies themselves.

1.) Using the term society tends to be far too broad a term in this context since what constitutes gender can fluctuate from one region to the next within a given macro society (such as a nation). One of the more obvious examples of this will be the differences between cities and rural areas. And even within the various boundaries of the city itself (such as the core areas VS suburbs, or even between various suburbs).

2.) I hesitate to use the term bigotry since ignorance does not always equate to bigotry. Anyone without the time to sit down and research many terms can get lost in the fog. However, refusal to even consider a contrary opinion to their predetermined bias is certainly a big red flag.

Most people are rightfully confused by this stuff. However, the difference between being ignorant and being bigoted lies in one’s ability to accept new information. With this in mind, we will once again proceed.

Introduction

This Declaration reaffirms the sex-based rights of women which are set out in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979 (CEDAW), further developed in the CEDAW Committee General Recommendations, and adopted, inter alia, in the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women 1993 (UNDEVW).

Article 1 of the CEDAW defines discrimination against women to mean, “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.’’

Sex is defined by the United Nations as “the physical and biological characteristics that distinguish males from females.’’ (Gender Equality Glossary, UN Women)

The CEDAW places obligations on States Parties to ‘‘take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women.’’ (Article 2 (f)); and to take, in all fields, “appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on a basis of equality with men.’’ (Article 3).

It has long been understood in the area of human rights that the stereotyped sex roles of men and women are a fundamental aspect of women’s inequality and must be eliminated.

 

The thought occurs to me that a better wording choice would have been stereotyped gender roles of men and women. But I’ll overlook it, lest I run the risk of it coming across as mansplaining.

Article 5 of the CEDAW states,

“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures:

1.

To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.’’​

2.

Gender refers to “the roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society at a given time considers appropriate for men and women… These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization processes.’’ (Gender Equality Glossary, UN Women).

Recent changes replacing references to the category of sex, which is biological, with the language of ’gender’, which refers to stereotyped sex roles, in United Nations documents, strategies, and actions, has led to confusion which ultimately risks undermining the protection of women’s human rights.

 

Though I am unsure of exactly what documents are being referenced here (likely many), I did find this:

Guidelines for gender-inclusive language in English

These Guidelines include a number of strategies to help United Nations staff use gender-inclusive language. They may be applied to any type of communication, whether it is oral or written, formal or informal, or addressed to an internal or external audience.

When deciding what strategies to use, United Nations staff should:

  • Take into account the type of text/oral communication, the context, the audience and the purpose of the communication;
  • Ensure that the text is readable and the text/oral communication clear, fluid and concise;
  • Seek to combine different strategies throughout the text/oral communication.

Gender in English

In English, there is a difference between “grammatical gender”, “gender as a social construct” (which refers to the roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society at a certain time considers appropriate for men or women) and “sex” as a biological characteristic of living beings.

English has very few gender markers: the pronouns and possessives (he, she, her and his); and some nouns and forms of address. Most English nouns do not have grammatical gender forms (teacher, president), whereas a few nouns are specifically masculine or feminine (actor/actress, waiter/waitress). Some nouns that once ended in -man now have neutral equivalents that are used to include both genders (police officer for policeman/policewoman, spokesperson for spokesman, chair/chairperson for chairman).

A challenge for gender-inclusive communication in English is the use of the masculine form by default. For example, “Every Permanent Representative must submit his credentials to Protocol.”

https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/guidelines.shtml

 

Not a big deal, i’de say. In fact, I even find myself occasionally using/typing or otherwise dealing with a term ending in man and degendering it since it only makes sense to be clear. I met many salesmen, but it doesn’t take balls to be a salesperson. To cite the observations of one of my favourite cyber security podcast hosts (Steve Gibson) on the topic of ageing technology creating growing vulnerabilities in worldwide cyberinfrastructure, the problem is inertia. No one perceives a problem, so no one feels any need to change.

Which is the problem in both cases. Perception is subjective, particularly from starting points of authority or privilege. People that have never had to deal with sexism or misandry won’t see the issue with gendered unnecessarily gendered language. 

Note: I know that Steve Gibson has run into criticism on at least one occasion when it comes to the issues that this article deals with. However, having heard him for the most part clarify the speech in the next episode, I give him the benefit of the doubt (ignorance vs bigotry).

As niche a reference as the man is, I felt the need to get ahead of this.

1.1 Forms of address

When referring to or addressing specific individuals, use forms of address and pronouns that are consistent with their gender identity.

For United Nations staff members, you may check the intranet or the organizational or staff directory. If the staff member appears as “Ms.”, that is the form of address that should be used for her, and female pronouns are appropriate. Alternatively, and if the situation permits, you may ask the persons you are addressing or writing about what pronoun and form of address should be used for them.

Note for United Nations staff members who draft texts to be translated: If you are the author of a text that is going to be translated, and your text is referring to a specific person, please let translators know what the gender of that person is so they can use appropriate language in their translations. This is crucial for languages such as Arabic, French, Russian and Spanish.

There should also be consistency in the way women and men are referred to: if one of them is addressed by their name, last name, courtesy title, or profession, the other one should be as well.

Less inclusive: More inclusive:
“Professor Smith (surname and title for a man) and Madeline (first name for a woman) will attend the luncheon.” “Professor Smith and Professor Jones will attend the luncheon (surname and title for both).”

Ms. or Mrs.?

Care should be taken to use the form of address preferred by each individual. However, when that preference is not known, precedence is given to Ms. over Mrs., as the former is more inclusive and can refer to any woman, regardless of marital status

Jordon Peterson would have a shitfit (making a ton of cash in the process. Let’s be honest here!) reading about this horror show. Using a proper pronoun?!

Blasphemy!

Not quite. I’m sure that most people won’t take issue with being misidentified once. Mistakes happen, particularly when meeting for the first time. However, most people can tell the difference between honest mistakes and malice. Again, people are messy so I don’t doubt that some will flip out even if it happens once. But I have yet to meet one of these people in my life. And I have met many different people.

And I am NOT always the most woke behaving person, contrary to what this post may entail. I’m not beyond showing my ass on occasion (in the metaphorical sense, of course).

Anyway, back to the declaration.

 

The confusion between sex and ‘gender’ has contributed to the increasing acceptability of the idea of innate ‘gender identities’, and has led to the promotion of a right to the protection of such ‘identities’, ultimately leading to the erosion of the gains made by women over decades. Women’s rights, which have been achieved on the basis of sex, are now being undermined by the incorporation into international documents of concepts such as ’gender identity’ and ‘Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities (SOGIES)’.

*raises eyebrow*

Race also played a big part in Women’s rights, at least in the first 2 waves. But again, I’ll read on for fear of being seen as mansplaining. 

 

Sexual orientation rights are necessary in eliminating discrimination against those who are sexually attracted to persons of the same sex. Rights relating to sexual orientation are compatible with women’s sex-based rights, and are necessary to enable lesbians, whose sexual orientation is towards other women, to fully exercise their sex-based rights.

However, the concept of ‘gender identity’ makes socially constructed stereotypes, which organize and maintain women’s inequality, into essential and innate conditions, thereby undermining women’s sex-based rights.

For example, the Yogyakarta Principles state that,

“Gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.’’ (Yogyakarta Principles: Principles on the application of internationals human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, March 2007).

The right of individuals to dress and present themselves as they choose is compatible with women’s sex-based rights.

However, the concept of ‘gender identity’ has enabled men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ to assert, in law, policies, and practice, that they are members of the category of women, which is a category based upon sex.

And there it is ^^. Members of the category of women, which is a category based on sex.

No, it is not a category that is based on sex. It is a category that is defined by sex, both literally and otherwise.

I can’t help but think of this interview between Neil Degrasse Tyson and one of America’s snarkiest shitheads, Ben Shapiro. Though you can tell that Ben clearly had no intention of even considering the left position in terms of this subject (always chomping at the bit to inject some prefabricated talking point), Tyson was very careful in his responses. Despite being interviewed by someone who has become the master of employing the gish gallop technique, Tyson was never overwhelmed by it. Despite being more focused (in terms of his career) on astrophysics than on gender studies, it was easy to tell who was genuinely scientifically curious, and who had an agenda to push.

In truth, I normally can’t stand Neil Degrasse Tyson. I’ve never quite gotten over his offhanded dismissal of philosophy as a useless subject matter, despite this coming from a man that spends his career staring out of a telescope into space. Way to help feed the world, bud!

Of course, such is a below-the-belt hit from back when I was irritated at the perception of philosophy in the overall academic community. I’ve since largely relaxed my expectations on us mortal humans. We are all prone to bias. Whether that’s prizing the tool of scientism above all metrics seemingly irrationally, or stretching sex definitions far past what is printed in the dictionary.

Nonetheless, the very measured stance on transgenderism and the entire spectrum that makes up the sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and all else related to this topic, was very reasonable. And he is correct that is VERY dangerous to be putting these decisions in the hands of politicians.

Remember that even Obama has quotes against marriage equality from as recently as 2 decades ago. This is a very different era, with a VERY different political climate. Short of packing the US Supreme court to bring some balance once more, there is no way that putting this in the hands of the politicians would turn out well.

It makes me wonder about organizations like the one promoting this declaration. Since the very much right-leaning paradigm we are in now is perfect timing for such a theme, would they be willing to overlook everything else out of pragmatism?

It is potentially an unfair question. But given the situation in which we live, I don’t believe it unreasonable.

Back to the declaration.

 

The CEDAW General Recommendation No. 35 notes that, “General recommendation No. 28 on the core obligations of States parties under article 2 of the Convention as well as general recommendation No. 33 on women’s access to justice confirms that discrimination against women is inextricably linked to other factors that affect their lives. The Committee’s jurisprudence highlights that these may include…being lesbian.” (II, 12).

The concept of ‘gender identity’ is used to challenge individuals’ rights to define their sexual orientation on the basis of sex rather than ‘gender identity’, enabling men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ to seek to be included in the category of lesbian, which is a category based upon sex. This undermines the sex-based rights of lesbians, and is a form of discrimination against women.

Some men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ seek to be included in the legal category of mother. The CEDAW emphasises maternal rights and the “social significance of maternity’’. Maternal rights and services are based on women’s unique capacity to gestate and give birth to children. The inclusion of men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ within the legal category of mother erodes the social significance of maternity, and undermines the maternal rights for which the CEDAW provides.

 

A lot of this seems to be based on rigid definitions of words, particularly those associated with sex. Aside from “imagine that!”:

1.) When the term man is used above, I question if the context is someone who is unmistakably cyst gender (like myself), or if is all-encompassing to the point of deadnaming trans women.

Since even the most committed shitheads don’t go as far as coming out as lesbian, I am forced to assume that man in this context entails anyone born with a penis. The first question that comes to mind is “How does this discriminate against lesbians?”.

The second is, how would you know?

Let’s play a game called spot the pecker. Of the 3 images below, who has/had a pecker?

   

Fine . . . it’s hard to do this when using the rich and famous as a guideline. Nonetheless, I have my doubts that most people unfamiliar with these celebrities would realize that only one of them is a biological female. This brings me back to asking . . . discrimination against lesbians, how?!

 

2.)

Some men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ seek to be included in the legal category of mother. The CEDAW emphasises maternal rights and the “social significance of maternity’’. Maternal rights and services are based on women’s unique capacity to gestate and give birth to children. The inclusion of men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ within the legal category of mother erodes the social significance of maternity, and undermines the maternal rights for which the CEDAW provides.

The first thing I am curious about is what is entailed by the legal category of mother. A lot, as it turns out. And all depending where you live.

In the Netherlands:

A child’s legal mother is:

  • the woman who gave birth to the child. This also applies if the child was conceived using a donor egg;
  • the woman who adopted the child;
  • the duomoeder (female partner of the birth mother)  who has automatically become the child’s parent, or has acknowledged the child, or has been declared the child’s parent by a court.

https://www.government.nl/topics/family-law/question-and-answer/difference-biological-legal-parenthood

 

In the UK:

being a child’s “mother” or “father” is not necessarily gender specific and that a person’s gender can be different to their status as a parent.

Being a mother, he ruled, is the status given to the person who undergoes the physical and biological process of being pregnant, carrying and giving birth to a child. This has historically, of course, been associated with being female. The judge decided that the definition should remain the same, despite it being medically and legally possible for someone recognised as being male to become pregnant and give birth. On this basis, Mr McConnell should be registered as his son’s mother.

* * *

The judge did however recognise that the ‘social and psychological reality’ of the father’s relationship with his child did not work alongside the law as it stands in this country. He noted the ‘pressing need for Government and Parliament to address square-on the question of the status of a trans-male who has become pregnant and given birth to a child’.

https://www.familylaw.co.uk/news_and_comment/does-the-legal-definition-of-a-%27mother%27-suit-modern-society

 

In Canada:

The birth mother is the person who goes through the pregnancy and gives birth to the child. The law says she’s the child’s legal mother at birth.

Even if she used someone else’s egg to get pregnant, the woman who gave birth to the child is the birth mother.

But the birth mother stops being the legal mother if:

  • the birth mother was a surrogate and all the legal rules about surrogacy are followed (see Surrogacy, below, for more about this), or
  • the child’s adopted after birth.

https://family.legalaid.bc.ca/children/parenting-guardianship/who-parent

 

In the US, it’s complicated. Ye ole history entangled with the changes and adjustments of modernity makes for a complex tapestry of legal outcomes that only a paralegal or a lawyer would be able to sort out.

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/family_law/publications/family-advocate/2021/spring/who-a-parent/

Despite all the international ambiguity in this area, one thing is clear . . . legal motherhood is just as strong as it ever was. Not that this surprises me. The laws in most democratic countries are fluid, and generally able to be updated for changing times. Normal biological mothers are not losing status (or whatever is the claim here). What is changing is how many people the legal definitions encompass by way of addendums.

As for how all of this undermines the social significance of motherhood, I am hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Well, aside from it being a symptom of a cohort paranoid about losing control over a cultural staple that they view as being theirs and theirs alone.

Where have I heard this narrative before?

Back to the declaration.

 

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) states that,

“The explicit recognition and reaffirmation of the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility, is basic to their empowerment’’. (Annex 1, 17)

This right is undermined by the use of ‘surrogate’ motherhood, which exploits and commodifies women’s reproductive capacity. The exploitation and commodification of women’s reproductive capacity also underpins medical research which is aimed at enabling men to gestate and give birth to children. The inclusion of men who claim a female ‘gender identity’ within the legal categories of woman, of lesbian, and of mother threatens to remove all meaning from these categories, as it constitutes a denial of the biological realities on which the status of being a woman, being a lesbian, and being a mother are based.

 

I’m hearing echoes of the traditional marriage proponents that I crossed occasionally in my online adventures of youth. I’m also hearing echoes of the anti-interracial marriage crowd. If these changes are allowed to occur, the meaning (or sanctity) for all is bound to be lost.

And yet, nothing is being lost. Certainly not the meaning (legal or otherwise) of all of the words above. What WILL be lost, however, is the uninclusive wall in which their current definitions cast up in front of modern, perfectly legal familial circumstances.

As for this mention of biological realities . . . I will again refer you to the 4 images above. Which 3 have a/had a pecker? If I show them all to someone that is unfamiliar and they guess incorrectly on all counts, what then for this biological reality? If a biological man can have a conversation with you and you don’t realize it, does this really matter?

 

Organizations that promote the concept of ‘gender identity’ challenge the right of women and girls to define themselves on the basis of sex, and to assemble and organize on the basis of their common interests as a sex. This includes challenging the rights of lesbians to define their sexual orientation on the basis of sex rather than ‘gender identity’, and to assemble and organize on the basis of their common sexual orientation.

Uh . . . wat?!

Remember that gender identity is the lived experience. The concept of gender identity does not challenge any of the rights of women and girls, it expands them. It expands them by making people more comfortable in accepting the fluid and messy nature of human sexuality. Unless the challenge is coming from the flood of new entrants to the GLBTQ+ community that wouldn’t have otherwise felt comfortable with . . . being more comfortable with themselves.

 

In many countries state agencies, public bodies and private organizations are attempting to compel persons to identify and refer to individuals on the basis of ‘gender identity’ rather than sex. These developments constitute forms of discrimination against women, and undermine women’s rights to freedom of expression, freedom of belief, and freedom of assembly.

Men who claim a female ’gender identity’ are being enabled to access opportunities and protections set aside for women. This constitutes a form of discrimination against women, and endangers women’s fundamental rights to safety, dignity and equality.

Article 7 of the CEDAW affirms the importance of measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life, and Article 4 affirms the importance of temporary special measures to accelerate de facto equality between men and women. When men claiming female ‘gender identities’ are admitted to women’s participation quotas and other special measures designed to increase women’s participation in political and public life, the purpose of such special measures in achieving equality for women is undermined.

 

I agree. Trans women are women. It’s time to recognize them for the real women that they so clearly are.

I’m confused . . . is this an organization concerned with the human rights of women, or a front for academic TERF’s to use for virtue signalling?

 

Article 10 (g) of the CEDAW calls on States Parties to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men to participate actively in sports and physical education. Due to the physiological differences between women and men, the exercise of this right by women requires that certain sporting activities are single-sex. When men claiming female ‘gender identities’ are enabled to participate in women’s single-sex sporting activities, women are placed at an unfair competitive disadvantage, and may be placed at increased risk of physical injury. This undermines women’s and girls’ ability to have the same opportunities as men to participate in sports, and therefore constitutes a form of discrimination against women and girls, which should be eliminated.

It has long been understood in the area of human rights that violence against women and girls is universally endemic, and is one of the crucial social mechanism by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women recognizes that,

“Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men.’’

This domination and discrimination is based on sex and not on ‘gender identity’.

 

Trans women in sports spell defeat for the other women, you say. Okay. Let’s find some examples. 

Wait . . .

Like so many other trans women in women’s sports, Seplavy has been frustrated by the growing chorus of detractors who claim her very presence in women’s sports puts the future existence of women’s sports at risk. While some trans women are finding competitive success in sports, she knows she will never be the dominant trans female athlete held up by a few loud voices as the harbinger of doom for women’s sports.

Part of Seplavy’s frustration is the first-hand knowledge she has of the rapid decline in performance trans women experience as they transition. She can quantify to some extent the change in her personal performance since transitioning. While competing against men years before her transition, she raced a local course in 2 hours, 20 minutes. Post-transition the same course took her 2:29, over a 6% drop.

Yet the gap would be greater if she were able to compare apples to apples. Racing in her pre-transition 20s and 30, Seplavy gave little care for her body, weighing around 40 pounds more then than she does now. She was, of course, also a decade-plus younger. If she had trained as hard then as she does now, that 2:20 would have been considerably lower, she asserts.

In addition, Seplavy said post-transition training is that much more difficult.

“A lot of people don’t realize how hard it is to athletically train when you’re on hormones,” she said. “As my coach said, I’m anti-doping. I’m putting chemicals in my body that actually detract from athletic performance.”

With all that, of the 100 or so women’s bike races she’s entered in the last three years, she “can’t even remember the last time I legitimately won a bike race.” She said depending on who shows up for a race she may land on a podium (top-three) in an age category.

“I went from being a mediocre dude on a bike to being a mediocre woman on a bike. It’s not like I just changed my gender and my times stayed the same. I have to work that much harder for marginal gain.”

https://www.outsports.com/2019/12/3/20990763/trans-women-athlete-sports-winning-losing-transgender

 

Indeed, she said it herself. She wasen’t the greatest even as a male. But what about an Olympian?

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, one of the first transgender athletes to compete in the Olympics, failed to win a medal Monday in the women’s over-87-kilogram division weightlifting event. It was her first and only event at the Tokyo Games. 

The inclusion of Hubbard, 43, who transitioned in her mid-30s and has competed at the women’s international level since 2017, was divisive, with her supporters welcoming her participation while critics questioned the fairness of transgender athletes competing against cisgender women.

https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-news/transgender-olympian-laurel-hubbard-fails-win-medal-olympic-debut-rcna1568

So, what have we learned?

1.) The process of transition actually tends to hinder athletic performance instead of helping it. At least, short of extremely hard work to get back to where you used to be.

Burton’s experience is typical of male-to-female (MTF) transitions, says Robert S. Beil, M.D., of Montefiore Medical Group. “Losing testosterone means losing strength and having less athletic agility,” he explains. “We don’t know if testosterone has a direct effect on muscle strength, but without the testosterone, they are maintained at a lower pace.” This means that women typically need to work harder for longer to maintain muscle mass, whereas men see results more quickly.

Beil adds that men have a higher average blood count rate, and transitioning can “cause the red blood cell counts to go down, because the amount of red blood cells and red blood cell production is influenced by testosterone.” Your red blood cells are integral in carrying oxygen from the lungs to your tissues; people who get blood transfusions often feel a surge of strength and vitality, whereas people with anemia feel weak. This could explain why Burton also reported a decrease in stamina and endurance, particularly when going for a morning run.

https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-does-transitioning-affect-transgender-athletes-sports-performance

2.) Trans women don’t dominate in their chosen athletic endeavours as a given, and if they do, they obviously put in the work to get to where they are. This is certainly the case for athletes reaching Olympic-level skills (or otherwise the top tier of their sport of choice).

Trans women do not constitute discrimination when they play on the same teams as other biological women.

Enough of this garbage.

 

The conflation of the category of sex with the category of ‘gender identity’ hinders the protection of women and girls from violence perpetrated against them by men and boys. It increasingly enables men who consider that they have a female ‘gender identity’ to claim access to female single sex victim support services and spaces, as both service users and as service providers. This includes specialist single-sex provisions for women and girls who have been subject to violence, such as shelters and health care facilities. It also includes other services in which single-sex provision is crucial to the promotion of the physical safety, health, privacy, and dignity of women and girls. The presence of men in female single-sex spaces and services undermines the role of these services in protecting women and girls, and could make women and girls vulnerable to violent men who may claim a female ‘gender identity’.

The CEDAW Committee in its General Recommendation 35 underlines the importance of collecting data and compiling statistics relating to the prevalence of different forms of violence against women in relation to developing effective measures to prevent and redress such violence.

 

Okay. Examples of trans men causing violent situations? 

I couldn’t find any. What I did find, however, was plenty of documentation about how hard it can be for transgender individuals to get help in domestic violence situations due to their unique needs.

And also this:

 

Statistics documenting transgender people’s experience of sexual violence indicate shockingly high levels of sexual abuse and assault. One in two transgender individuals are sexually abused or assaulted at some point in their lives.1 Some reports estimate that transgender survivors may experience rates of sexual assault up to 66 percent, often coupled with physical assaults or abuse.2 This indicates that the majority of transgender individuals are living with the aftermath of trauma and the fear of possible repeat victimization.

                                                                        * * *

Victims

Sexual violence has been found to be even higher in some subpopulations within the transgender community, including transgender youth, transgender people of color, individuals living with disabilities, homeless individuals, and those who are involved in the sex trade. For example, the 2011 Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 12 percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff; 13 percent of African-American transgender people surveyed were sexually assaulted in the workplace; and 22 percent of homeless transgender individuals were assaulted while staying in shelters.3

Perpetrators

Sexual assaults can be perpetrated by any individual; however, it is particularly startling when professionals who are in “helping” roles abuse their power and sexually assault individuals they are supposed to be serving. Fifteen percent of transgender individuals report being sexually assaulted while in police custody or jail, which more than doubles (32 percent) for African-American transgender people. Five to nine percent of transgender survivors were sexually assaulted by police officers.4 Another 10 percent were assaulted by health care professionals.5

Hate crimes

Sexual assault perpetrated against transgender individuals may be a component of an anti-transgender hate crime or may be linked to other demographic variables such as race. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP):

Acts of hate violence, such as harassment, stalking, vandalism, and physical and sexual assault, are often supported by more socially sanctioned expressions of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and are intended to send a message to LGBTQ communities. . . . Many LGBTQ people also face substantial bias because they belong to other traditionally marginalized groups along other axes of identity such as race, class, incarceration history, immigration status, or ability. . . . membership in more than one traditionally marginalized community can increase targeting for severe violence.6

In the NCAVP 2009 report on hate violence, 50 percent of people who died in violent hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people were transgender women; the other half were male, many of whom were gender non-conforming.7 Sexual assault and/or genital mutilation before or after their murders was a frequent occurrence.

In 2009, 17 percent of all reported violent hate crimes against LGBTQ people were directed against those who identified themselves as transgender, with most (11 percent of all hate crimes) identifying as transgender women.8 The remainder identified as transgender men, genderqueer, gender questioning, or intersex.

https://ovc.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh226/files/pubs/forge/sexual_numbers.html

 

That. is. Horrifying.

Acts of hate violence, such as harassment, stalking, vandalism, and physical and sexual assault, are often supported by more socially sanctioned expressions of transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia and are intended to send a message to LGBTQ communities. . . .

It’s almost as if . . . declarations promoting the sanctity of biological women are incredibly stupid and irresponsible.

 

Though I had initially intended to evaluate the entirety of this declaration of women’s rights, I’ve decided to stop here because the reality of the document is obvious. That the stated goal is equality for all women is a crock of shit.

I certainly hope that all the signatories know what they are getting into.

Maxime Bernier’s Defamation Lawsuit Dismissed

This is a quick follow-up to a post I wrote in May about the lawsuit. Without going into much detail into that one, I found the whole affair to be quite amusing (failed candidate Maxine tarnishing the PC brand on his rapid descent back into obscurity). The affair also served as a vehicle for exploring the issue that is people’s previously publicly shared bad takes coming back to haunt them long after.

In terms of the lawsuit, I had this to say:

In closing, I’d be surprised if this goes anywhere.


As it turns out, I was right (you didn’t need to be a lawyer to figure that out). One can’t help wondering why Bernier’s legal team wouldn’t have advised him of this and saved the court costs. Unless the goal was less about a legal victory than it was tarnishing the Progressive Conservative brand (with the help of the national media) with a giant brown stain.

If that was the case, mission accomplished.

Either way, we will now read from the CBC News coverage of this affair.

 

A defamation lawsuit launched by People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier against an outspoken political commentator and strategist has been dismissed by an Ontario court.

Bernier had been attempting to sue Warren Kinsella over comments that painted the PPC leader as a racist, misogynist and antisemitic prior to the 2019 federal election.

Bernier says those descriptions damaged his reputation and subjected him to public scandal and embarrassment.

In a ruling published on Wednesday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Calum MacLeod dismissed the lawsuit because he said Kinsella would likely have been able to mount a valid defence for his criticisms.

The judge also said any harm caused to Bernier did not outweigh the importance of freedom of expression when discussing politicians and political parties in the public sphere.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/bernier-kinsella-lawsuit-dismissed-1.6245137?ref=mobilerss&cmp=newsletter_CBC%20News%20Top%20Headlines%20%20%E2%80%93%20Morning_1613_330745

 

That is an interesting ruling. It sounds like the fact that this was a political race was the factor that tipped the scale (in my opinion, rightly). It raises the question of what may happen in such a scenario outside the realm of politics. For example, if a person’s controversial views (or something else that is damaging to their reputation) are openly publicized without their knowledge, can the ramifications of that constitute harm?

While I am aware of the notion that most people’s censorship problems are less about censorship than they are the consequences of one’s speech, this judgement strikes me as potentially muddying the waters legally.

But I’m not a lawyer. Feel free to share your view in the comments if you wish.

 

Kinsella celebrated the lawsuit’s dismissal on Twitter.

In an interview with CBC News in October, Bernier expressed confidence that his case would succeed.

“Kinsella said that I said that I was a racist and a Nazi and I’m suing him for discrimination. And I will have that decision and I can tell you that it will be positive in our favour,” he said on Oct. 6.

Kinsella’s consulting firm Daisy Group was hired to “seek and destroy” the PPC in the run-up to the 2019 federal election, according to documents seen by CBC News.

A source with knowledge about the project said Kinsella was hired by the Conservative Party of Canada, which wanted to discredit the PPC before its first election as a registered party. Kinsella has not confirmed any direct involvement with the Conservatives and says instead that he was hired by CPC sympathizers.

The PPC failed to win a seat in the 2019 election, capturing 1.6 per cent of the national vote. The party also did not win a seat in the 2021 election, though its share of the popular vote grew to 4.9 per cent.

 

That the share of the PPC popular vote is slowly growing isn’t great (following a pattern of fascist tendencies worldwide). But it’s hard to not consider the party as being a joke. Frankly, a cheap clone of the brand sold by Donald down south.

This is obviously no joke to the Progressive Conservative party, however. After all, it won’t be the left-wing vote that the party will be potentially splitting. Otherwise known as, this isn’t going to be as easy as absorbing the Canadian Alliance Party back in the day. 

 

MacLeod also noted that Bernier and the PPC were being widely criticized within Canadian political discourse during the 2019 election.

“Widespread characterization of Mr. Bernier and the PPC as racist and xenophobic or at least as pandering to those elements of the political spectrum was rife in the media. Comparisons with Donald Trump, [pro-Brexit politician] Nigel Farage or [far-right French politician] Marine LePen were widespread,” MacLeod wrote.

“Mr. Kinsella may have approached his task with particular caustic enthusiasm, but, at worst, Mr. Kinsella’s postings can be seen as a drop of vitriol in a sea of criticism.”


He’s certainly not wrong (I just did it). Not without precedent, however. After all, if the whole thing couldn’t have been backed up, Benier would have lost the suit!

Either way, as a leftist, this can only be a good thing. If the Progressive Conservatives keep being dragged into the PPC dumpster fire, running against them from the left will be a breeze.

Things That Annoy Me – Part 23

107.) Easy Tear Packing Tape

Is it me, or is this stuff only easy to tear when you don’t actually WANT it to tear?

Try as I may, it won’t rip when I want it to. But break in half when I’m trying to peel it (causing the waste of an inch or so as I again re-align the tap as a whole) . . . an almost inevitability!

Fuck you, easy tear packing tape.

108.) Useless Voicemails

Few things drive me more bonkers than when someone feels it pertinent enough to call me and leave a voicemail, but they don’t actually tell me why they are calling.

“Hey _______, can you give me a call? I really need to talk to you. Thanks.”

Okay, talk to me about what? Something I need to do right away? Or something that can sit at the back of the priorities pile until further notice?

Since the people that engage in this behaviour tend to fancy themselves as self-important, I tend to end up placing these requests at the back of the to-do pile anyway. Another reason for this is that it is never ever about helping me out (“I have the money I owe you!”). It is ALWAYS something to be done for them (“Can you lend me $10?”). 

If your gonna call me about something pertinent, tell me WHY it is pertinent. I don’t have the time or the patience to stroke your ego when all you want is $20.

This leads nicely to my next entry.

109.) Unnecessarily Lengthy Phonecalls

I phoned you to ask a question or otherwise complete some task that should not take over 5 minutes (often much less). I should not have to block out 45 minutes or more just because you don’t grasp the concept of other people having a limited amount of time to chat. This ties nicely into the last one because it is often the same people that do this.

In all honesty, I hate phone calls to start with. Considering how much time I spent tieing up the landline as a teenager, this is a relatively new development. Nonetheless, there is a much more efficient method available for the communication of minor bits and pieces of information than the telephone call . . . it’s called texting. Or Facebook messenger.

That I now have to set aside 45 minutes to reply to a voicemail is thus highly irritating. Which serves as a nice segway to the next gripe. 

110.) Complete Disregard For Your Time

 Sometimes after receiving a completely useless voicemail and finding a block of 45 minutes to set aside for such a conversation, you are faced with the probing conversation highlights and questions.

“You don’t normally call back the same day, is everything all right? What did you do today? Were you working? Were you out with your dad? Are you sure there is nothing wrong because it seemed a bit like you were avoiding me”

We all have to accept that everyone has flaws (as they must also do so for us). But for the love of nothing, enough with the questions just because I didn’t drop everything and immediately prioritize whatever the hell you called about.
Maybe there were other matters to attend to. Maybe I was not in the headspace to muster the amount of energy required to deal with the situation. Loved one or not, some people (mainly older types who seem to think that they are owed the world) seem completely incapable of fathoming how much strain they often put on people around them without a second thought.

Many might be prone to call that the typical rantings of a weak snowflake millennial.

To that I say, some of you old fogies REALLY have no concept of how much leeway and privilege the world has given you. And I’m not just talking about money and wealth, either. I’m talking about the freedom to continually spew and spread all manner of false, outdated and otherwise wrong information without remorse.
Whether it’s refusing to listen to my advice that you should NOT fully discharge your iPhone every time (battery technology has changed, making that process VERY BAD for the batteries long term health!), dead-naming transgender individuals or spewing racially tinged rhetoric about some other race, conversing with you ageing boomers can sometimes take A LOT of energy. For a cohort that can’t seem to shut up about Cancel Culture, they sure don’t seem to have any hesitation with saying anything that comes to mind.

Then there is the drop-in. Sometimes the problem is so important that they can’t wait for you to set aside a timeslot for them to see you, and they instead show up at your front door. Though I can categorize the rest of the annoying dealings of this cohort into it is what it is category and move on with my day, the drop-in tends to flat out piss me off. Though I know that the person sees nothing wrong with the gesture:

1.) As a quite introverted personality, even the sound of a ringing telephone is often intrusive, let alone the sound of an unexpected knock at the door or ring of the doorbell.

2.) Showing up at my door tells me that you don’t care what is or isn’t going on in my life at that moment, because your inquiry/problem is more important.

As much irritation as these certain sets of folks cause me in life, I doubt they will ever change. Because I doubt that either of these people could wrap their head around the fact that there is even a problem with this behaviour, let alone that they ought to lay off. I suspect it to be the ways of a different era and generation, despite the younger ones doing things differently.

111.) Covidiots and Vaccine Hesitation

I already wrote about this topic years ago after some previously well-controlled eradicated contagions began making a comeback in anti-vaccinated circles. This one really rubbed me the wrong way since the worst effects of the diseases were often being seen in the unvaccinated children of often times vaccinated parents. Say what I will about the previous generation in other areas, at least most of their children grew up immune to measles and whooping cough. Even if a segment of their kids would grow up to listen to the god-awful nonsense of Janny Mcarthy, Robert F Kenedy Jr and other anti-vax windbags.

112.) Facebook Goes Meta

Recently, Facebook Incorporated decided to rebrand and restructure itself. Instead of just being Facebook, owner of Instagram, WhatsUp and a handful of other apps that are increasingly gaining a sullied reputation, we now have Meta. Just as Google was spun off into a subsidiary of the parent company Alphabet some years ago, this is what Facebook has also done with its brands. Complete with a douchy name.

Companies tend to rename themselves for a select few reasons. Sometimes a name change reflects new business ambitions, as when Apple released the iPhone and stopped calling itself Apple Computer. Other times, it signals a corporate restructuring, as when Google renamed itself Alphabet; Larry Page became the CEO of Alphabet, not Google, clarifying his leadership beyond just search. Other times, a company seeks to distance itself from a sullied brand, as when cigarette-maker Philip Morris renamed itself Altria in 2001.

Facebook’s rechristening as Meta has some elements of all three. The company wants to define itself as a “metaverse” company, not just a maker of social media products. And Zuckerberg wants more of a hand in those new pursuits, rather than overseeing the Facebook app. The company also seeks a way out of the past few years of everyone dunking on Facebook, a name that’s become synonymous with mistrust and skepticism (not to mention conspiracy theories and genocide).

https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-name-change-meta/

 

Speaking of douchy . . . what in the fuck is a metaverse company?!

Metaverse is a speculative future iteration of the Internet part of shared virtual reality, often as a form of social media.[1] The metaverse in a broader sense may not only refer to virtual worlds operated by social media companies but the entire spectrum of augmented reality.[2] The term arose in the early 1990s, and has come to be criticised as a method of public relations building using a purely speculative yet still “over-hyped”[3] concept based on existing technology.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaverse

There is nothing like seeing black mirror episodes slowly come to life in the most painfully benign way possible.

Then again, such is the way of existence, isn’t it?

We all live in fear of the big IT that will spell the end. The asteroid, the virus, the EMP knocking out the continental electrical grid, the nuclear war. When in reality, the shift is far more gradual than sudden. Today, Facebook is threaded into the fabric of online life for most of us. In a decade, Meta might be a big part of whatever comes to constitute life as we will then know it.

Meta. Alphabet. Odeo. Tencent. Bytedance. Advance Publications. Snap Incorporated.

You may not know many (or ANY) of the companies above, but you can be certain that most of them know at least a little something about you. And that is just social media.

Amazon. Microsoft.  ContextLogic Incorporated. Alibaba Group Holding Limited.

As a single cog, I am but a ripple in this tumultuous sea of evil. A raindrop in the ocean, if you will. Even this blog can’t escape, being hosted on a platform that plays host to a huge number of the internet’s websites (455 million, or over 62%). This monstrosity of content is known to the business world as Automattic.

Either way, the road to totalitarianism by corporate takeover is WAY too boring. At least Sam Esmail of Mr. Robot fame had the right idea in basing the show’s antagonist corporate entity E-corp (aka Evil Corp) loosely on the infamous Enron. Since it’s much easier to sell a huge cyber battle with Evil Corp than it would be to sell one with Alphabet, Tencent, Amazon or Meta.

Meta . . . more like Beta.

113.) Enough With The Legal Weed Limitations

The last time I put one of these multiple-choice rants together, I told employers who expect employees who push brooms, tap on keyboards or otherwise mindlessly toil away for WAY too little pay to go fuck themselves if they demand said employees to pass a drug test. I mean, imagine how controlling and narcissistic you have to be to pay a pittance and still think you own an employee for the entire duration of their employment.

I hope these managers sit on a cactus. After all, it would at least provide a reason for being such a prick. A thorn up the ass!

Todays rant, however, lays with the politicians. Not just the politicians, though. Also, doctors, police officers, guidance councillors, parole officers and everyone else whose largely uninformed opinions are bottlenecking the implementation of the legal cannabis market in this nation (Canada). After all, who else but the “What a terrible idea! Do you realize how POWERFUL today’s cannabis is?!” crowd would think that a 30 gram daily limit on cannabis was necessary. This, whilst a minor can purchase 216mg’s of caffeine through energy drink 6 packs at any convenience store or supermarket.

The sooner dumb and easily manipulated boomers are not in control of this stuff, the better.

Edible Marijuana Imitating Major Snack Brand Packaging – Really?!

As a longtime advocate for the personal freedom of intoxication for every adult, the idiotic actions of those within this culture sometimes forces me to shake my head. What the HELL are you thinking?!

But, before we get that far, let’s explore the origins of how I first learned of this phenomenon. Covered in the October 27th (2021) edition of the very informative Marijuana Moment email newsletter, the story covered a warning put out by the Auturnys Generals in several states. Parents were advised to watch for highly deceptive (and highly potent) cannabis edibles disguised as typical snack brands. Disguised may not be the right word here, but some of the products would certainly be very easy to mistake.

I’ll start by quoting the warning as published on the webpage of Arkansas AG Leslie Rutledge.

 

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is warning the public about the dangers of cannabis edibles and hemp derivatives in packaging designed to look like well-known snack foods and candy. These products are unregulated, illegal, and may be extremely dangerous. As Halloween approaches, parents should be aware that these look-alike products are being offered for sale online. 

“The unregulated look-alike products are dangerous and marketed to kids and young adults and when consumed by a child can have 120 times the potency of the maximum legal adult serving,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “If anyone sells these products to Arkansans I will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law. If you see these look-alike products for sale, report them to my office immediately.”

These products may contain high concentrations of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive compound found in cannabis, and if eaten by children, can lead to an accidental overdose. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the most common overdose incidents among children involve ingestion of edible cannabis foods, and such overdoses are on the rise. In the first nine months of 2020, 80 percent of calls related to marijuana edibles to the Poison Control Center were for pediatric exposure. In the first half of 2021 alone, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports poison control hotline calls have received an estimated 2,622 calls for services related to young children ingesting cannabis products.

If a child were to eat the entire bag, he or she would be consuming 120 times the maximum legal adult serving.  Individuals and companies responsible for putting these edibles within the reach of children should carefully reconsider whether they choose to continue to profit from illegal look-alike cannabis edibles sales. Sellers may be subject to legal action and substantial civil penalties under the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Like any other drug, adults should take strong precautions to ensure that children do not have access to any products containing cannabis. Products advertising cannabis should not be purchased online through direct shipment platforms. Parents are encouraged to speak with their children, including young adults, and provide age-appropriate guidance about the dangers look-alike products pose. Symptoms of THC overdose include respiratory distress, loss of coordination, lethargy, and loss of consciousness.  If you suspect your child has eaten food containing high amounts of THC and become sick, call the Arkansas Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Consumers who encounter look-alike cannabis edible products are encouraged to file a consumer complaint with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (501) 682-2007 or OAG@Arkansasag.gov.

 

Assuming that this is accurate and not overhyped, I can certainly see why people would be worried.

I recently embraced Canadas legal Cannabis scene by trying out a small 10mg THC/CBD edible in its entirety. Though I thought the two 5mg THC experiences I had before (involving 2 low-dose cannabis beverages) had prepared me, I was certainly surprised at just how big of a difference there was in the experiences. It took 40 minutes to kick in, but god damn . . . respect the power of the edible!

Knowing that I was expecting and fully anticipating getting stoned and still got taken by surprise, I can’t even imagine what 600mg’s of no doubt pure THC distillate would do to someone unsuspecting. Let alone a child.

But like I said earlier, this is assuming this is not being overhyped as an issue. Is edible cannabis the new razer blade in the treats for panic-prone parents?

One of the first sources we run into is good ole Snopes.

 

We didn’t find a single case of a person purposefully giving children marijuana edibles on Halloween in an attempt to harm them.

                                                                                                                                             * * *

This warning — that parents should check their children’s Halloween candy because strangers may intentionally be trying to harm them with marijuana edibles disguised as Sour Patch Kids, Cheetos, and SweeTarts — has been repeated by parents and police stations across the country since at least 2010.

But is there any truth to these rumors, or is this just another Halloween urban legend? In this article, we’ll take a look at how these rumors started, and try to determine if children are really in danger of eating tainted candy on Halloween.

Decades of Rumors

The claim that kids are in danger of receiving marijuana-tainted candy on Halloween has been around as long as marijuana-infused candy has been around. 

Throughout their history, marijuana edibles have largely been homemade concoctions, starting around 2000 B.C., when cannabis, deemed one of five sacred plants in The Veda, was mixed together with nuts and spices to make a drink called Bhang. Edibles first gained popularity in the United States in the 1960s, thanks in part to a “Haschich Fudge” recipe that was published in “The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book.”


Interestingly enough, the brand of chocolate that I tried was called Bhang. If you notice the packaging, there is almost no way to mistake this for a non-THC candy bar. Though not visible in the image, the resealable packaging is also fairly difficult to open once the seal is torn open. All of the legal products in Canada are well marked for what they are and the THC/CBD content contained therein.

 

 

Chowhound described Toklas’ recipe as a “raw granola bar made with black peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, de-stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds, peanuts, and sativa cannabis, which is pulverized and combined with a cup of sugar dissolved in a large serving of butter.”

Edibles have come a long way since that raw granola bar, but when California became the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, the edible was still largely relegated to baked goods and tinctures that could be added to tea. In other words, products that couldn’t be mistaken for Halloween candy.

But by 2010, medical edibles (dubbed medibles) were being advertised in newspapers.

And as these first marijuana candies appeared, so did warnings that unscrupulous candy givers would be handing them out on Halloween in an attempt to harm children. In October 2010, after the Los Angeles Police Department confiscated various THC-infused candies and snacks from local dispensaries, and a few days before the city voted on legalizing marijuana (which did not pass at the time), the police issued a warning that these marijuana edibles could get mixed up in unsuspecting children’s Halloween candy. 

We searched for cases of children accidentally eating marijuana edibles that were slipped into the Halloween candy for every year since 2010, and while we found multiple warnings during this timeframe, we didn’t find a single case of a person purposefully giving children marijuana edibles in an attempt to harm them.

Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, said:

“Children are not at risk for contaminated treats … For one thing, edible marijuana products are very expensive and this would be a very expensive prank.”


“My research stretches back to 1958 … I have been unable to find any evidence that any child has been killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating.”

 

The quote from professor Joel was my very first thought, to be honest. At least in Canada, the average price for A 10g chocolate serving (about the size of the average Halloween candy bar) is $4.99 EACH, with packages of 10 gummies and other candies averaging at about $7.99 each. For every 1 criminally offensive THC candy, you can get a package of 50 to 100 genuine Halloween candies.

And not look like a fucking idiot. 

I guess we are dealing strictly in the realm of hyperbole once again.

 

Halloween candy has been the subject of dozens of rumors over the years. This rumor, in many ways, is simply a rehashed version of an urban legend that stretches back decades when parents feared that unsavory characters might slip poison into their holiday treats. 

This urban legend reappears in a new form from time to time. In 2000, police worried that drug-laced suckers were being given to children, in 2015, rumors circulated that people were placing ecstasy-laced candy in Halloween bags, and in 2019, people feared heroin that was disguised as SweeTarts

These urban legends can generally be traced back to a case in the 1970s when a father was convicted of murder after they added cyanide to Pixie Stix and then placing them with his son’s Halloween candy.

You can read more about some of the stories and hoaxes in our previous article, Poisoned Halloween Candy

A Morsel of Truth?

During our research, we found only two cases that somewhat resembled this rumor, although neither case involved an ill-intentioned neighbor intentionally drugging a child. 

In 2019, police in Nova Scotia reported that a parent had found a cannabis edible in their children’s candy. The police report does not provide any information about how the edible got into the candy or even whether or not the edible contained TCH (no testing on the product was done). The report also states that that this child was trick-or-treating in a group but no other child in this group received such a product. Lastly, the child never ate the candy. 

In other words, there’s no evidence that this marijuana edible was intentionally placed in a child’s Halloween candy in an attempt to harm them. We reached out to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but have not heard back. As far as we can tell, nobody was ever arrested over this incident. 

In 2018, five children in Arizona were sickened after a 12-year-old accidentally brought marijuana gummies to school. While these drugs reportedly came from a family’s bowl of Halloween candy, this incident took place in February (four months after the holiday) and it’s not clear how the drugs got in the bowl. 

An Increase in Accidental Poisonings

While we were unable to find a single instance of a stranger intentionally attempting to drug a child by handing out marijuana edibles on Halloween, there have been instances of children accidentally consuming marijuana edibles.

Julie Weber, the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ Board President and Managing Director of the Missouri Poison Center, told us that the “accessibility of these edible products” has lead to an increase in incidents of children mistakenly eating a marijuana edible. These incidents, however, are not isolated to Halloween. 

Weber said:

“Incidents of children mistakenly ingesting marijuana edibles are increasing. Often, edible forms of marijuana can look like treats: baked goods, beverages, or candies. Young children may not know the difference between a candy gummy bear and a marijuana edible. It is the accessibility of these edible products in the home leading to the increase in exposure noted by the US poison centers. This increase in cases has been identified as more states legalize the use of both recreational and medical marijuana. The increased exposure cases are not isolated to Halloween.

 

Given the panic-prone nature of the American public (and how real incidents tend to inspire tall tales in the cultural zeitgeist in the ensuing months, years and decades), none of this is really surprising. Nor would the fact the an uptick of THC poisonings no doubt caused by idiots not being careful with their potent edibles play right into the fear that is often prominent in American culture.

I can’t even rightfully say American Culture since I remember my parents checking our candies for things like razor blades and tampered packaging. I even remember things like fruits and baked goods being automatically trashed since they couldn’t be trusted.

An amusing assumption to think of now since it’s a lot harder to hide tamper attempts on an orange, Apple or Banana than it is to glue or rubber cement a candy bar wrapper shut.

But, such is the strength of this stuff. It spread far and wide even before social media connected every corner of the world.

 

Labeling Laws

One misconception that stems from this rumor is that marijuana edibles are indistinguishable from regular candy. But that’s not the case.

While states set their own laws in regards to how to sell and package marijuana products, generally speaking, legally purchased marijuana products are required to have labeling that identifies their THC content and also must be packaged in child resistant packaging. 

Leafly, a marijuana news website, writes: “Proper cannabis labeling and packaging is a crucial component to staying in compliance with state guidelines. Cannabis companies must ensure that their packages are tamper-proof, child-proof, and within accordance of their local laws.” 

 

Which is perfectly logical.

 

Are Strangers Giving Marijuana Edibles to Kids on Halloween?

We have not been able to find a single incident of a child eating a marijuana edible that they were given by a nefarious stranger on Halloween. While marijuana edibles can truly resemble candy, and while there have been cases of children mistakenly eating marijuana edibles, these cases typically involve parents or other family members who left their stashes within the reach of children, and not random strangers who are out to do their children harm. 

Or, in Halloween parlance, the danger is coming from inside the house. 

 

So, we can move this one to the unlikely category and call it a day. If this is of enough concern to inspire fear inside of you, make sure that the potent contents of both your medicine cabinet and your liquor cabinet are getting as much attention as this largely non-existent threat.

Despite coming to this conclusion, I do still wonder about the faux-snack treats that we were warned of by various AG’s in the US. Is this also hyperbole?
Since this topic also came up on The Daily Show with Trever Noah recently (I saw the clip on Snapchat yesterday), it makes me very curious, since the show didn’t look all that in-depth into the phenomenon. It was an absurdity of our day-to-day reality, and the show used it as such.

Which makes me wonder:

1.) Who is manufacturing these faux-branded THC treats?

2.) Why the hell are they not being sued into the ground by Kraft, Mondelez, Pepsi-co and every other multi-national corporation of which they are blatantly infringing patents in the worst way possible?

The answer surprises me. Knowing what I do about counterfeit overseas manufacturing and 3ed shifts, I figured this was yet another case of overseas manufactured goods sneaking in via the online retail market. Not unlike the endless game of whack-a-mole that government regulators worldwide must engage in to keep up with the constant flux of synthetic cannabinoids and other compounds.

While the packaging does indeed seem to originate from overseas manufacturing sources, the factories appear to be only making the packages. They instead appear to be sold online to dealers within places like the US, of whom pack their own presumably homemade edibles inside. Another possibility is the addition of THC compounds to real (otherwise THC-free products) like candies and chips. Why else would many of these packages mimic real products if not for this purpose?

If you’ve bought or been offered black market edibles over the past year, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Medicated Nerds Rope or Stoney Patch Kids. If you haven’t heard of them, check the local news stations and federal health warnings. From California to Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota, and everywhere in between, law enforcement has seized thousands upon thousands of identically labeled Nerds Rope and Stoney Patch edibles. So how are dealers in every corner of the U.S. getting the same product, and how do they look so much like real Nerds Ropes and Sour Patch Kids?

The answer goes back to those same bootleg packaging sellers who make thousands of fake BackPackBoyz mylar bags. Instead of popular weed brands, though, these bags are marked with fake Nerds Rope or Sour Patch Kids candy graphics and labeled with arbitrarily high THC quantities—as high as 400 milligrams. With those ready-to-seal bags easily available online, all dealers need to do is unwrap bulk quantities of real Nerds Rope or Sour Patch candies, spray them with cheap THC distillate, and repackage them in the pre-labeled edible bags. In most cases, the THC distillate is the same illicit pot product that is used in the counterfeit vape cartridges that sparked a health crisis last year.

 

1.) While I did know about all the commotion surrounding vapes, I didn’t realize that many of them were counterfeit. Though the problem appears to have intensified last year, the issue of counterfeit vapes appears to have been prevalent long before. The only way of avoiding such counterfeits appears to be purchasing from only reputable sources.

Be careful out there.

2.) So it is just real food products getting tampered with.

 

Since eating edibles doesn’t affect the lungs, it is unlikely tainted distillate edibles will result in another health crisis, but the facade of professional packaging hides product of uncertain and widely varying potency and potentially unsafe manufacturing and handling techniques. The knockoff edible market is so big that Nerds Rope parent company Ferrara Candy Company has made public statements distancing itself from and rebuking the popular black market product. At the end of the day, there is nothing stopping dealers from repackaging plain candy in edible-labeled bags without any THC added at all.

 

The article that I opened this post with (along with the many local news stories covering it)  used the word unregulated many times in describing this industry. And this is certainly the case. But it strikes me that the answer to this problem (or at least a good part of it) is starring all of these people right in the face.

Though I am not sure how prevalent (if at all) this sort of thing is in Canada, it strikes me that it would be less so just on account of the legal status of Cannabis on a national level. There are no provinces and territories in which cannabis remains illegal. As such, few (if any) places exist wherein it makes any sense to risk purchasing this questionable stuff over easily available legal varieties. After all, you can pay for legal cannabis by credit card and have it delivered to your house!

In the US, I can’t help thinking that this is going to be a problem until cannabis is fully legalized at the federal level. Though there will no doubt still be individual States that turn their back on such a ruling by disallowing dispensaries by way of  local and regional plebiscites, this won’t stop mail order or otherwise out of state purchased cannabis. After all, federal law is the law of the land. 
This should happen anyway so that the US cannabis industry can meaningfully access the national and international banking system. It’s ridiculous that legitimate businesses still don’t have the same banking access afforded to a newly opened liquor store or pharmacy.

This is not to say that bringing the cannabis industry above board once and for all will totally eliminate the black market. After all, even in a nation that has arguably become the worldwide gold standard for legalization (Canada), the implementation still has its problems.
One of them is that the legislation has all the hallmarks of a law passed by people that don’t understand cannabis. That is to say, THC is still treated very differently than pretty much any other drug available to lawfully purchase.

In Canada, the limits are thus:

The possession limits in the Cannabis Act are based on dried cannabis. Equivalents were developed for other cannabis products to identify what their possession limit would be.

One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:

  • 5 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 15 grams of edible product
  • 70 grams of liquid product
  • 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
  • 1 cannabis plant seed

This means, for example, that an adult 18 years of age or older, can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis.

https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/cannabis/

 

While a quick read of this by most people (including me in the past) would not reveal any problems, I found myself running into this limit recently. Not in terms of fresh cannabis or edibles, instead in terms of liquid products. I recently purchased 5 cans of low-dose liquid products and 10g’s of chocolate. Though I wanted to purchase 7 cans of liquid product, I was limited to the 5 in that order. The issue I faced was in how the liquids are measured.

While a daily purchase limit of 30 grams per day may not strike most people as problematic (and I found it pretty funny to be hitting the limit as a beginner experimenting in low dosages), the absurdity comes in the context in relation to other easily available drugs. 

We will start with caffeine. Anyone (even a minor) can walk into almost any convenience store or supermarket and purchase a 4 or 6 pack of highly caffeinated canned energy drinks without issue.
Moving on to alcohol, 6, 12 and 24 packs are the standard packaging sizes for beer (with no limit on the number one can purchase) at one time. Spirits can range in size from 300ml and under to 1.5L and higher (again, without any purchase limits). To use a personal anecdote from my life, I was able to purchase a 24 pack of Rockstar Vodka along with 24 cans of beer in preparation for a birthday party when I was 18. The only thing asked of me was my ID and my debit card.

Whether or not one ever should find themselves running into the 30-gram daily cannabis purchase limit is arguably beside the point of why said limit exists in the first place. Since cannabis legalization is new ground for everyone involved, however, we can hope that this is just the beginning. The product of a justice system and society still hesitant to a substance that was demonized for the better part of all of our lives.

But, it’s time to bring this to a close.

Canada – Lifting (or at least, raising) the arbitrary cannabis purchase limits can only help to eliminate their bottleneck factor in terms of bringing long-time black market users over to the legal side. Another way to help achieve this would be to relax the arbitrary caps on potency.

United States – Start by legalizing cannabis (thus rendering the creation of faux-edibles and the purchase of synthetic cannabis as largely obsolete). After that,  join Canada in sorting out the rest of the specifics.

The Holiday Shopping Season Is Coming . . . But The Shelves Are Empty + An Alternative To Rampant Holiday Consumerism

Today, we will explore an article outlining the coming supply shortages anticipated for this Christmas holiday shopping season. Following this will be an idea for an alternative to the shop till you drop nature of what the modern-day holiday season has become.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/10/21/start-holiday-shopping-early-2021/?utm_source=pocket-newtab

The supply chain meltdown will make holiday shopping messy this year. Here’s what you need to know.

Expect delays, limited inventory and higher prices but, most importantly, start early

The pandemic is haunting the global supply chain and, by extension, shoppers.

Two months out from the peak holiday shopping season, consumers are encountering empty storeshelves, rising prices and shipping delays that seem to stretch into oblivion. Container ships are clogging ports, awaiting cargo or unable to get past the gridlock to unload their goods. Some factories have gone dark, lacking raw materials and hands to run machines.

Shoppers are beginning to fret: A third of the more than 5,700 people recently surveyed by Oracle, which provides cloud services for such large retailers as Prada and Office Depot, worry they won’t get everything on their wish lists and will be paying more when they do. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a holiday shopping nightmare.

 

That is interesting wording, considering that I was under the impression that holiday shopping tended to be a nightmare for most people, supply chain restrictions or not. Hence the reason why stress and substance abuse tends to skyrocket during the lead-up and the peak of the holiday season.

But I digress . . .

 

Why are so many store shelves already empty?

The coronavirus pandemic has been wreaking havoc on global supply chains since it began nearly two years ago, with suppliers and retailers wading through a sea of challenges — keeping the virus out of offices and factories, navigating shutdowns and business restrictions. Then there’s the steady rise of raw materials prices and skyrocketing shipping costs. The nation also is short on truck drivers and warehouse workers.

The tangle of pressures has driven inflation to a 13-year high of 5.4 percent, forcing many companies to pass costs along to consumers.

Problems have been compounded by a labor shortage that has intensified in recent months, as more warehouse and retail workers become part of “The Great Resignation” — a phenomenon driven by pandemic burnout and an existential reassessment of life and work. A record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, Labor Department data shows, and big box stores and local retailers alike are struggling to fill positions and store shelves.

All the while, demand is on the rise:Retail sales rose unexpectedly the past two months despite a resurgence in covid cases brought on by the delta variant, which had a dampening effect on business activity. Last month, U.S. retail sales hit $625.4billion as consumers flocked to shops, bars and restaurants, federal data show. Gasoline sales were up 38 percent compared with the same period in 2020.

 

This is certainly an interesting trifecta of factors.

A pandemic still wreaking havoc with production and shipping around the world. A revolting labour force fed up with putting their lives on the line for consumers and employers that don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves or the bottom line. And an energetic newly released public that is anxious to live it up in a way they haven’t been able to since 2009.

Virus + Fatige + Excitment = Pandamonium.

 

Holiday retail sales are projected to climb 7 to 9 percent, according to Deloitte’s annual forecast, to as much as $1.3 trillion this year.

Marwan Forzley, chief executive of Veem, a payments platform that works with thousands of U.S. retailers, said the outlook is promising given that more people are comfortable shopping in stores and dining out amid rising vaccination rates.

“We can expect this to continue into the winter months,” Forzley said in commentary emailed to The Washington Post.

Do I really need to start shopping now?

If you have specific gifts — especially trendy ones — in mind, yes.

Mark Kapczynski, chief marketing officer of Gooten, a supply chain solutions company, said that consumers should plan to get their shopping done well ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday window if they want gifts to arrive on time.

He pointed to the record backups at U.S. ports due to covid protocols and labor shortages, adding that the delay of raw materials will cascade through supply chains and create shortages across many product categories.

 

Good luck, folks. You are already too late!

 

President Biden recently called on the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest port, to stay open round-the-clock to ease some kinks in the supply chain. The White House even weighed tapping the National Guard to fill in the gaps across the country’s sprawling network of ports, planes, ships and trucks, The Post has reported.

Recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service will lengthen delivery times. On Oct. 1, the agency implemented new “service standards,” or the amount of time it says it should take for a piece of mail to get delivered, and raised prices for a variety of services.

“All of the major carriers — USPS, UPS, FedEx — are not guaranteeing any specific delivery times this year, so absolutely shop ahead as much as possible,” Kapczynski told The Post in an email.

 

Though this is strictly speculation on my part, I have to wonder how much of the current situation with the USPS is rooted in the sabotage efforts of its Post Master General under the previous administration. Though I don’t doubt that Biden stopped the bleeding, did he reverse the changes (such as the removal of sorting equipment)?

 

Holiday shopping season has been starting earlier and earlier since 2014, when big box stores first opened their doors for Thanksgiving Day deals, according to Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry adviser for the NPD Group.

This year, more than half of shoppers surveyedplan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving Day, according to NPD’s Holiday Retail Outlook.

Consumers are expected to spend $785, on average, in 2021, which is higher than either of the past two years, according to NPD. The uptick reflects how they have “settled into the current phase of pandemic life,” Cohen wrote in commentary Wednesday, “and are balancing a new sense of comfort alongside remaining concerns.”

Early shoppers plan to spend more money, and have already started picking up consumer electronics, clothes and gift cards, according to NPD’s research. Retailers have catered their events and deals to the early birds: Amazon started hawking its “Deals for Days” promotion in early October. Nordstrom is opening its in-store holiday shops on Oct. 18. Lowe’s is having its “Season of Savings” kickoff on Oct. 28 and wheeling out its Christmas trees and twinkly lights in November.

Anxiety about delays and scarce inventory will motivate many shoppers to “grab what they want when they see it,” Cohen wrote, “instead of waiting for better deals later in the season.”
I will end my quotation of the article here since you know all that you need to know already. That is, if you thought that holiday shopping was stressful in a normal year, this year will be WAY worse.
 
This brings me to the amount that the average consumer is predicted to spend during this round of holiday-related consumption . . . $785. And this is only the average. Early shoppers are spending even more as retailers push the start of the holiday season further and further back in the year.
Given the state of the supply of many items, it would not surprise me to see scalpers buying up trendy items and scalping them on auction and marketplace sites for WAY more than their original MSRP in the coming weeks and months (this became a major issue for the tech industry recently). For the truly desperate, this can only drive the $785 figure even higher.  
 
It makes me wonder how many people actually want to participate in the whole gift exchange thing, to begin with.
 
This is where I propose my alternative.
 
Consider the gifts you received throughout the Christmas holidays in the past few years (if not indefinitely). How many have you actually made use of? How many ended up being tucked away in a cupboard, drawer or basement? And after this stage in the process, how many of these items end up being thrown in the trash due to non-use?
Sure, things can and do get donated. But given the glut of stuff that such organizations always have coming in, what is the chance that your likely outdated product is going to make the cut?
How many Christmas gifts have you used to the point wherein they actually get disposed of due to wearing out?
 
Then there is the alleged faux pas that is the re-gifting of undesirable items. How often have you simply passed on an item the next year (or at the next holiday function)? How many items end up in this endless loop before finally getting trashed?
 
Break the cycle of perpetually spending money we don’t have to buy crap that people around us don’t need. Instead, consider how that money could be better utilized.

For example, instead of loading up on consumer products, why not write a few cheques to charitable organizations that could use the cash?
If you like, you can tailor these donations to the interests and/or preferences of those for whom you would be buying gifts for.

If your family is one that actually enjoys one another’s presence more than once or twice a year, what about using that cash to purchase some activities that everyone can enjoy and that promote even more gathering opportunities?
For example, a pool or shuffleboard table or a videogame console. Such an investment can provide your immediate family entertainment at any time, and provide entertainment for family gatherings and party guests for years to come.
 
And of course, there is the option of not spending anything at all. Your reasons don’t matter since it’s a personal choice.
 
Not everyone will be on board with such a move. Once your new view of the holidays is known to your wider circle of friends and family, reactions may vary from “Whatever, Mr. Grinch!” to “We are no longer friends!”. Nonetheless, I can assure you that this new rocky social reality is still better for all involved than the old status quo.
Sure you will have your mindless critics that have likely never put a second thought into any of their collective traditions or practices. But I sense that this should be a short-lived problem. Give it a year or 2, and most should just accept your choice. After all, boiled right down, it’s just the mutual expectation of wanting nothing, and expecting nothing in return.

As for those that do still take issue . . . tell them where to go. I get that this can be much easier said than done (particularly in a familial context), but chances are if the person is selfish enough to take issue with this, then this is likely not the only area of your life that they are causing trouble in. Existence is too short to live with petty BS like that.
 
But overall, no matter how you choose to spend the holidays, try to enjoy yourself and have a good time. Whether that means meeting with the family, having a quiet day by yourself, or making it magical for the kids, try and stay positive.
 
I used to be one of those people that dreaded the period between around October 31st right through to the 24th (if not January 1st) because of all the Christmas overload. Since my career has primarily been within the service and retail industries, much of this animosity was on account of the nastiness of everyday people in the lead-up to the big day. Never have I met a more miserable human being than the fellow dawning a badge proclaiming Keep the CHRIST in CHRISTmas!! .

Whatever happened to Merry Christmas?! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!
 
Then there are the “It’s not the same as when I was a kid!” crowd. People who decided that it’s all changed WAY too much, and therefore they will inflict their holiday misery on everyone else around them. There is no looking for silver linings or making the best of it, Christmas is RUINED! It may be only November 5th, but they have decided that the whole thing is a loss because they are not in the christmas spirit
 
I get that. The holidays lost their magic way back when I was a teenager, in large part due to my then acceptance of my atheist stance. From grade 9 throughout the rest of high school, Christmas was a time of a lot of guilt for me. Though I was surrounded by and participating in the same religious rituals as the rest of the family, I felt some guilt in doing so. As though I was lying, and didn’t deserve to be part of the joy.

Of course, this all changed 2 years out from high school (of all times, a MONTH before Christmas!) when bad privacy settings on Facebook led to an image I commented on being shown to my entire friend’s list (this nsfw image). I ended up skipping out on that years gathering, and the one next year was a bit awkward (a few obviously still had an issue with the stance). But that has all evaporated now. If anyone cares, then they either have long forgotten or moved on.
 
Either way, as an adult, we will naturally assign magical details to our childhood experiences that will never live up. Not only has a lot changed since then, it’s also a function of our brains not being accurate. I can almost guarantee that even if a good effort was put in to accurately capture the atmosphere of the childhood celebrations, it still won’t feel the same. There will be details that you have long forgotten, and there will be negative details that you long ago scrubbed from mind. 

There is no reliving the past, hard as one tries. There is only finding out what can make the experience positive in the modern era. Whether that means going to see the family, or staying home and cracking a bottle of booze (or partaking in some legal cannabis!), the choice is yours. You don’t need to involve family OR drugs, it’s whatever suits you.

I will probably spend my holiday under the relaxing intoxication of one or 2 cannabis-infused beverages while doing some housework (or writing) to pass the time. That is what works for me. 
 
Figure out what works for you.
 
 

Using Recycled Plastic To Build Homeless Shelters – A Few Critiques

A few days ago, I came across a local Kickstarter with an interesting twist. Taking on 2 very prevalent problems of modern-day society (houselessness and plastic pollution), a Winnipeg man had the idea of recycling plastic into blocks to build shelters for keeping the desolate out of the elements. I’ll now refer to the CTV Winnipeg article for more details.

WINNIPEG – One Winnipeg man is hoping to help put an end to homelessness in the city – brick by brick.

Josh Griffin, 30, has started a fundraiser with the goal of creating temporary homeless shelters made out of recycled plastic that has been converted into bricks.

Griffin said the idea first came to him when he was living in Indonesia and noticed there was a lot of plastic waste washing up on the shores. Then, when he returned to Winnipeg, he began to notice there was a lot of people experiencing homelessness in the city.

He said his mom always taught him to help those in need, but he didn’t know what he could do. Eventually, an idea came to him.

“I remembered seeing a little video put out by Precious Plastics in the UK, showing how they were making bricks from discarded plastic waste. That was it,” he said in an email to CTV News.

“I was going to do that and build shelters for those that needed them.”

From there, Griffin began doing his own research to see what types of natural additives could be combined with plastic to make it safe and ensure it could withstand the frigid Winnipeg winters. He also found someone who could build him the customizable equipment he would need to start producing the products.

However, his challenge has been coming up with the funds, which is why he started a GoFundMe and Kickstarter.

https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/winnipeg-man-raising-funds-to-build-temporary-homeless-shelters-out-of-recycled-plastic-1.5618679

 

So far, there is nothing disagreeable about the project or its creator. Having looked up the Precious Plastics website, their shared goal of helping people anywhere start plastic recycling-related business ventures is enviable. And as for the end result product, I would have no issue with buying them and having them in my home.

Check out the chair pictured on the website or the tabletop showcased in the following video. Not only are they beautiful pieces, but they also utilize a material that is commonly rejected by North American recycling facilities from coast, to coast, to coast.

Black plastic. 

Being invisible to the cameras and sensors that now dominate many recycling facilities (since they blend in with the belt, which is also black), many communities ask that black items be trashed even if made of commonly recycled resins like #1, #2 and #5. Something worth considering when taking a walk down the personal care aisle at any store. Shampoos and body washes are notorious for this kind of bottle colour marketing (particularly brands and formulas targeted at males).

 

 

“I want to produce various high quality building materials,” Griffin said.

“I want to give home builders here in Canada an alternative to costly lumber. I want to be actively trying to reduce plastic waste by repurposing, which helps the planet! I want to be in a position where I can either organize a build or provide the materials for free to local groups that will have the biggest impact on the unsheltered.”

Griffin said he needs $60,000 for various costs, including securing a workspace, building equipment and molds, monthly utilities, and creating prototypes with different additive testing.

“I really want this to be a local (Winnipeg) new technique that we could introduce to the rest of Canada,” he said.

“However, at this point I have to consider all interests that may be presented, so that I can actually begin hands on.”

Griffin noted he’s been working on the project for two years, and is still not in the position to take it to the next level.

He said this process has been frustrating at times.

“I didn’t think that almost 2 years later I still wouldn’t have been able to get this accomplished,” he said.

“Going to keep motivated though. I have to.”

 

In terms of crowdfunding, he’s done a lot better on GoFundMe than on Kickstarter, earning $3,415 as of publication vs $101 on Kickstarter (though neither is even close to the Kickstarter goal of $62,000 or the GoFundMe goal of $18,000). Since the article is very sparse with the details of his proposed overall process, we will now turn to Josh’s Kickstarter page.

 

Long-lasting design

Plastic building materials last a lot longer then concrete wood or metal. And can always be recycled again in the end into new materials.

 

While it is in fact true that plastic lasts much longer than almost any other building material we know of currently, I question the recyclability claim at the end of life of the product. While it is true that high-density polyethylene (aka resin #2) is extremely recyclable, the term recyclable can be very problematic with plastics.

Unlike aluminum, steel, cardboard, glass and paper, plastic is far more of an umbrella term than a descriptor.

An aluminum can is an aluminum can, whether it had soda, carbonated water, beer or an energy drink in it. Same for a steel can (whether it had soup or cat food in it). Paper is a bit more complex, but generally speaking, most consumer scrap fits into 3 categories:

1.) Newsprint

2.) High-Grade Deinked Paper (letterhead/copy paper. envelopes)

3.) Mixed grade (everything else)

Glass has to be sorted by colour when properly recycled, but again, a glass bottle is a glass bottle. When it comes to plastic, however, the understanding is not nearly always as interchangeable. For example, let’s consider 2 items that I happened to have sitting in my own blue bin.

One initially held instant coffee and the other a delicious pumpkin spice coffee creamer I’ve never had before. Both are made of technically the same plastic resin #1 (PETE, or Polyethelene terephthalate). One is shaped very similarly to a typical 355ml/500ml/2L plastic bottle used for water/soda/juice (also made of PETE) and will likely be sorted as such.

The instant coffee package on the other hand has some very different properties to the bottle next to it leaving me to wonder if it really will be recycled in the end. The first is that it is much thicker than the bottle next to it. And the second is that it is very rigid (particularly the neck area) which may make it difficult to compact.

The reason this comes to mind is because of yet another type of PETE plastic which my city explicitly tells residents to trash due to the lack of a market for the material. That packaging is either square or rectangular trays that often hold berries or baked goods. This sort of thing:

 

 

Knowing that all of this is pertaining to materials made of the same resin, it’s no wonder that consumers are confused about what goes where. And even if we can get past the issues related to many resins of plastic, many colours of plastic and packaging that ships with more than 1 resin as part of the original packaging, you still run into the problem that is downcycling.

That is to say, viewing plastics recycling as a closed-loop (bottles to bottles, bottles to jars etc) is often wrong. Unlike a product like glass or most metals, plastic tends to degrade with each consecutive meltdown.

Less than 30% of plastic bottles are recycled in the U.S., but technically speaking, most are “downcycled.” Also known as cascaded recycling or open-loop recycling, downcycling occurs when a material is remade into an item of lower quality. These items typically can’t be recycled again, which cuts an item’s overall life cycle short. 

While recycling closes the loop and keeps an item in circulation – just like the chasing arrows on the recycling symbol would suggest – downcycling turns that loop into a one-way arrow. From there, a material can only go downhill: After outliving its usefulness as a carpet or a bench, the next stop is the landfill or incinerator.

Even with recycling, there are limits to how long an item can circulate. The idea that our recyclable waste will be “cycled indefinitely” is a widespread myth, according to Dr. Trevor Zink and Dr. Roland Geyer.

“The belief that recycling automatically diverts material from landfill ignores the fact that, even in the most ideal recycling cases, material degrades in quality, diminishes in quantity (yield loss), or both during each use and recovery (i.e., collection and reprocessing) cycle,” Zink and Geyer wrote in a 2018 paper.

https://oceana.org/blog/recycling-myth-month-plastic-bottle-you-thought-you-recycled-may-have-been-downcycled-instead


And speaking of Polyethelene terephthalate:

 

This is especially true for single-use plastics. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – the lightweight resin commonly used to make beverage bottles – diminishes in quality when recycled. According to Zink and Geyer, these bottles are often downcycled into fiber or wood replacements instead of being recycled into new bottles.

And if a manufacturer really wants to return a used bottle to its original purpose, they might need to add virgin plastics to the mix to achieve the same quality. That’s right: You have to add new plastics to recycle old ones.

PET is one of the most valuable types of plastic, so you can imagine how difficult it is to effectively recycle other plastic resins. Industry-funded website PlasticFilmRecycling.org notes that plastic film – a material notoriously difficult to recycle – can be downcycled into composite lumber and refashioned into decks, benches, and playground sets. In other cases, plastic air pillows or grocery bags may find new life as containers, crates, and pipes.

Oh yes, I forgot all about film plastics. Most often made from either High (#2) or Low (#4) density Poly Ethelene, this already virtually useless plastic product tends to finds its way from the grocery stores recycling box to the impoverished countrysides of nations like  Malaysia,  Vietnam or any other nation that wherein illegal importers can set up illegal recycling depots.

Yes, that is a thing. It has been since China slammed the door too close to all western originating recycled goods (which have been declining in quality for years). With enough of their own on account of a growing population and growing fatigue of dealing with all manner of unsorted and/or contaminated recyclables from other First World nations, the CCP put its foot down. With every city, town, and waste removal company in the western world now sitting on millions of tons of scrap plastic they could not pay anyone to move, the criminal underground seen an opportunity. Make some cash off the valuable material, and as for the worthless crap that gets sent with it . . . just dump it by the roadside.

Greenpeace Malaysia has been conducting a field investigation on the broken system of recycling and how it impacts Malaysian society. The findings were shocking: a new ‘dump site’ of plastic waste from more than 19 countries — most of them are developed countries. The investigation found illegal practices, and blatant violations causing environmental pollution as well as harming people’s health conditions.
Since China banned plastic waste imports in January 2018, countries in Southeast Asia – particularly Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia – have accepted an increased amount of plastic waste. Between January and July 2018 alone, Malaysia imported 754,000 metric tonnes of plastic — the weight of approximately 100,000 large elephants. It came from countries like the United States, Japan, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Canadian plastic ‘recycling’ polluting unregulated facilities in Southeast Asia

I could also get into the dynamics of how western nations have a tendency to flooding Africa with millions of tons of both e-waste and used clothing, both of which generate millions of tons of pollution yearly. However, we are already WAY into the weeds.

Getting back on track, despite the altruism behind the project of housing the homeless in a shelter built of sturdy and durable plastic, I fear that this is just another case of downcycling. Living in the same climate as Winnipeg (where this project’s creator is located) I can tell you that the bitter winter cold is not the only extreme that one has to deal with. We also have the baking hot summer sun which will promote photodegradation (depending on whether or not the plastic is protected). At the end of the lifecycle of the average poly building material, will what is left be of enough quality to be worth recycling?

And speaking of recycling, the limitation in the choice of material bothers me a bit. Only High-Density Poly Ethelene is proposed to be used for this purpose. 

While I know that I did in fact address my own concern here previously when talking about the different melting points of different plastics, frankly, it’s hard to see this as a solution to the problem when a big part of the problem is every not #1, #2 and #4 resin. Not that putting all them discarded milk jugs to good use isn’t a bad idea . . . it’s just hardly addressing the problem when that material already has a market. Unlike the hundreds of tons of PETE being dumped yearly in Manitoba alone.

According to the following source, the technology for using combined (once thought to be incompatible) resin types is improving, though it is still cheaper and easier to use single resins. In particular High-Density Poly Ethylene, and even more pointedly, milk jugs. Since their opaque nature allows for the end result to be pigmented into whatever colour is desired.

Polymer/Polymer Systems is an interesting new technology developed by Rutgers University, which discovered that specific blends of polymers, normally thought to be incompatible (such as polyethylene and polystyrene), can form composites with properties that dramatically exceed the expected performance of the blend. Under the right conditions of mixing and component levels, an inter-penetrating network of the polymer can achieve a better balance of modulus and impact strength.

A Review of Recycled Plastic Lumber Production

The additives section is also interesting. It looks like there are many options available for weatherproofing outdoor installations (much as metal-infused pigments).

Another thing that comes to mind upon reading that source is that lumber and building materials made from recycled plastic are already a fairly well-established market. If Josh plans on sticking to only sourcing HDPE, then I can see why both crowdfunding links are so under-funded. Why pay someone to follow the path of innovation towards the wheel when the wheel already exists in a well-defined form?

Keep in mind, this is only the case in terms of the single-stream polymer production process that seems to be the goal here. If the goal were finding a way to cheaply manufacture durable building materials and furniture out of combined resins, then that could certainly be an opening in the wider market. I can almost guarantee that such an end result would be desirable since the raw materials are dirt cheap, and any company using the methodology could market the hell out of the Green aspect of it.

I will now return to Josh’s Kickstarter page.

 

Reusability and recyclability

The product is made from recycled plastics and can be recycled again and again into new building materials

 

Are you sure about that?

Though I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt, this seems to go against everything that we’ve learned about the overall plastics recycling system.

 

Sustainable materials

I plan to collect recycled hdpe #2 plastics from local business’s and turn them into plastic building materials to create temporary shelters for the ones in need

 

I have to say that sustainable materials sticks out like a sore thumb in this context. After all, the material collected from the businesses will almost certainly be sourced from virgin polymers. That is not sustainable.

Of course, whether or not the term actually applies will depend on if the end product is indeed recyclable (or more accurately, if the financials make sense for it to happen). As such, I will again give the benefit of the doubt.

 

Environmentally friendly factories

I’ll select a plant that minimizes its own impact

 

That statement is far too broad to even have any meaning.

 

Sustainable Distribution

Plastic pallets/shipping crates can also be made from recycled plastics!

 

Again, with that word . . .

Putting aside the argument I made earlier, the plastic pallets and shipping crates come with their own problems. That is, the creation of yet more microplastics to escape into the environment as the pallets and crates are slowly worn down by the grinding wear and tear of life in the distribution chain.

And by grinding, I mean quite literally. Working in a warehouse environment that moves around many pallets in a day (mostly wood, but with the occasional plastic one), the floor where the pallets are stacked before return to the DC is often covered with splinters of all sizes. Though plastic would have the same problem, the resulting particles will be much smaller. And much more contaminating of the natural environment should they be released outdoors.

As for the solution to this, the first thing that comes to mind is to stick to the tried and tested (wood). Though the lumber industry tends to be unsustainable as it exists today, this is not an unsolvable problem. Trees are self-replicating after all.

If you could find a solution to make contaminated cardboard and/or low-quality paper fibres mouldable and rigid enough to use as pallets or shipping crates, even better.  These will no doubt also shed fibres during their lifetime, but the result should be less problematic than microplastic (depending on the binding chemical, of course). Not to mention that the use of hemp could be considered as an alternative to cutting into the valuable high-quality paper supply if the low-quality supply somehow vanishes.

Though this post is filled with critiques that could be viewed as anything from nitpicky to unreasonable, I do only have good intentions in mind. Whilst my inner cynic definitely makes a strong appearance in this piece, it is only because people have to be cynical when it comes to crowdfunding.

When it comes to coming up with inventions and business ventures, no one blames visionaries for having no bounds in terms of the potential they see in their projects. However, this optimism can come at the expense of blindness to phenomenons that may not bode well for the vision but are not considered (or just not known about).
In the traditional way in which business ventures have been seed-funded, these concerns are addressed by business coaches, loan officers and such. Though their judgements may not always be correct (such is the way of humans), the process generally serves as a way to ensure funding only goes where it’s most useful. Not only does such due diligence protect investors, but it could also protect visionaries from putting too much funding into what may well end up being a failed venture.

While it is easy for crowdfunding fans to view the technology as a way of evening the playing field for all future entrepreneurs (I really hate that word), what crowdfunding lacks is this inherent vetting process. Your backers are just as invested (blinded?) by the dream as the founder, thus potentially bad ideas end up getting WAY more traction than they otherwise would (or should).

In closing, this post may seem harsh given the details. Nonetheless, any venture worth its weight will be able to easily brush past such critiques with facts and details. If critiques do not serve to make a business venture stronger, then I would really question its long-term viability.

And besides, if you think that THIS is harsh, you should see what I wrote about Solar Freakin Roadways.

Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Figurehead, Denounced By Over 50 Scientists, Scholars and Communicators

It’s 6 years since I last dabbled in the area of GMO research and thus came across this name. But Vandana Shiva has continued her war on all things GMO in the ensuing years, and as such, has caught the attention of a fairly large and very knowledgeable cohort.

Let’s dig in.

https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2021/10/06/prejudiced-anti-science-anti-social-stances-letter-denounces-university-of-missouri-lecture-series-speech-invitation-to-anti-biotechnology-misinformation-spreading-vandana-shiva/?mc_cid=b57d992726&mc_eid=2262665973

Vandana Shiva, an Indian activist philosopher who maintains the Green Revolution was a failure and promotes small-scale farming to address the growing global food needs, is speaking at the University of Missouri-Kansas City on October 7 as part of its “Social Justice” series. According to Shiva’s website, she is paid $100,000 plus business class travel reimbursement to advocate on behalf of the poor. A group of more than 50 scientists, scholars and communicators, including a Nobel Prize winner and a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have signed a joint letter addressed to the Chancellor outlining Shiva’s misrepresentations. 

Below is the letter, the response from the Chancellor, and a response to the Chancellor from Nobel Laureate Sir Richard Roberts:

Date: 28 September 2021

To:  C. Mauli Agrawal, Chancellor, chancellor@umkc.edu

Cc: Sheri Gormley, Chief of Staff, gormleys@umkc.edu; Andre Logan, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Andre.logan@umkc.edu; Veronica C. Jackson, Senior Executive Assistant, vjackson@umkc.edu

Ref.: University of Missouri-Kansas City Social Justice Book and Lecture Series on Oct. 7 with Dr. Vandana Shiva.

Dear Chancellor,

We are scholars of life sciences and social sciences who have published many scholarly papers and articles about agriculture, food and related biotechnologies; some of us are science communicators and agronomists.

Perhaps you are unaware of Dr. Vandana Shiva’s constant use of anti-scientific rhetoric to support unethical positions. We are surprised that any science-based and ethically inspired institution would invite her to speak.

Here are just a few examples of her prejudicial, anti-science, anti-social stances:

1. Her astonishing tendency to nonsense

See the absurd statement regarding the supposed functioning of the Genetic Use Restriction technology (GURT), from her book Stolen Harvest (p. 82-83):

Molecular biologists are examining the risk of the Terminator function escaping the genome of the crops into which it has been intentionally incorporated, and moving into surrounding open-pollinated crops or wild, related plants in fields nearby. Given Nature’s incredible adaptability and the fact that the technology has never been tested on a large scale, the possibility that the Terminator may spread to surrounding food crops or to the natural environment MUST be taken seriously. The gradual spread of sterility in seeding plants would result in a globalcatastrope that could eventually wipe out higher life forms, including humans, from the planet

She has repeatedly used the same words in other documents in her websites. One may need to read these statements twice, because they are too bewildering to be understood at first sight. In fact, she claims that sterile seeds – which of course cannot germinate – can spread sterility. A middle school student expressing such views would fail the biology exam.

 

Interestingly enough, I have heard this argument and precaution before. Not from Vandana herself (or in my research), but from my father, him being very much knowledgable of plants and horticulture (though not officially trained or employed in the field). That he would have come across this concern in his journeys online outlines the risk that such misinformation represents. When even people with some knowledge in the area can not tell the difference between science and propaganda, problems are bound to result.

Knowing how complex this entire field of study is to navigate (having done so myself in the past), I don’t blame my father (or anyone like him) for getting lost in the debate. It makes me really feel for the everyday laypeople in which people like Vandana Shiva are really targeting with this stuff. If people with knowledge can’t sort this stuff out, what hope does your grandmother or father have?!

 

2. Her stunning ignorance

 

Somebody should explain to her that Bt proteins are toxic to some clearly identified classes of insects (plant pests), but not to fish, birds, or mammals. See also the scientific papers quoted in response to her delusional Twitter post, in particular, the “classic” study by Ames et al. which clarifies that plants naturally produce substances to defend themselves from pests and 99.99% of pesticidal substances in food are natural – and harmless to humans.

 

I can also attest to this, having looked into this claim myself (Twice. 1 and 2). If I remember correctly, the toxin was activated in the stomach of insects attacking the corn by the alkaline content of their stomach, but it had no effect on humans since our stomachs are not alkaline. Our stomachs are acidic. Hence, stomach acid.

Let’s just do a quick check for ourselves.

 

Is Bt Safe for Humans to Eat?


Bt is a bacterium that is not toxic to humans or other mammals but is toxic to certain insects when ingested.


Bt works as an insecticide by producing a crystal-shaped protein (Cry toxin) that specifically kills certain
insects.


Bt is naturally found on leaves and in soil worldwide and has been used commercially both in organic and
conventional agriculture for over fifty years.


Most genetically engineered, insect-resistant crops express one or more Bt insecticidal Cry toxins.


Over two decades of review, the EPA and numerous scientific bodies have consistently found that Bt and
engineered Bt-crops are not harmful to humans.


What is Bt?


Bacillus thuringiensis (often referred to as simply “Bt”) is a common, naturally occurring bacterium found in soils and
on plant leaves worldwide. First discovered in 1901 in Japan, Bt has revolutionized how we stop insects from eating
our crops. For over fifty years, Bt has been applied directly to a variety of agricultural crops and plants in home gardens
as a living pesticide to control insect pests.


The secret to Bt’s success is a family of proteins that these bacteria produce that specifically target insect digestive
tracts. These proteins are shaped like crystals, so they are commonly called “Crystalline toxins” or “Cry toxins.” These
Cry toxins remain inactive until consumed by an insect. Once digested, the protein is activated and then binds to specif-
ic receptors in insect guts. Once bound, the Cry toxins pierce holes in the insect’s gut, ultimately causing the contents
to leak and the insect to starve. Importantly, humans do not have the same receptors or gut conditions as insects, which
means Cry toxins pass through us with no effect. Studies show that humans digest Cry toxins like any other protein that
would be ingested when eating foods like meat, beans, leafy greens, or tofu.

What are Bt-crops?

Crops that have been genetically engineered to produce Cry toxins are often described with the prefix “Bt” (such as Bt-cotton or Bt-corn), even
though they do not contain living Bt bacteria; rather, they contain genes from Bt for producing insect-specific toxins.

Click to access ESA-Factsheet-Bt.pdf

 

This abstract has a bit more explanation of the role of PH in bt activation.

 

In general, PFT producing-bacteria secrete their toxins and these toxins interact with specific receptors located on the host cell surface. In most cases, PFT are activated by host proteases after receptor binding inducing the formation of an oligomeric structure that is insertion competent. Finally, membrane insertion is triggered, in most cases, by a decrease in pH that induces a molten globule state of the protein ().

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1857359/

I am not a biologist, so most of that sentence (and that scientific paper) is WAY over my head. But decrease in PH tells me that I am not far off from the knowledge of the matter.


Speaking of things related to the BT corn conversation (but unrelated to the current post), it occurred to me years ago that the fear people had of BT corn (and of all corn-containing products) could potentially be causing another issue. The jist of the argument surrounds parents with children and corn-containing foods such as children’s snacks. Since people were freaked out about feeding any corn to themselves (let alone their children), the next most commonly available grain for children’s snacks tends to be rice. And true to that, some corn-fearing influencers (a name they didn’t have back in 2014/1015, but a name that seems to fit best now) listed rice products as a good alternative to corn.

This was a problem for me since much rice is known to contain some level of arsenic. These levels increase in processed rice foods (like chips or cereals). So known is the risk that governing bodies actually have maximum recommendations in terms of rice (in particular, of processed rice products).

Quoting myself:

 

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.

The 2015 Round Up Ready Alfalfa Disaster

 

Fortunately, someone was paying attention, which led to the publication of THIS ARTICLE later. Whether or not my critique had anything to do with its creation is debatable (my ego certainly would love to take credit!). Either way, it’s good to know that not everyone was blindly willing to trade a largely benign hazard for one that was very real. 

Anyway, back to why Vandana Shiva is an ideologically biased hack.

 

3. Her proclivity to outrage

 

She compares farmers, who grow crops which are scientifically and legally recognized as safe, to rapists! It’s a grotesque insult to millions of honest workers who use modern technologies to farm more sustainably and efficiently. Understandably, her outrageous abuse raised many angry reactions (see the replies to the same post).

 

Holy Guacamole!

I knew the woman was a nut, but god damn . . . this makes Oprah Winfrey’s feud with the meat industry back in the 90’s look tame.

 

The American cattle industry was already in the spotlight amid growing concerns of mad cow disease in England, but the queen of daytime talk shows ratcheted up the problems for US beef on a 1996 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

A discussion with animal rights activist Howard Lyman focusing on mad cow disease put the famous talk show host at odds with the American cattle industry.

With Lyman offering his prediction of widespread impact to American beef from the disease, Oprah declared that the conversation had, “stopped me cold from eating another burger.”

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/joshbillinson/oprah-winfrey-texas-beef-industry

 

Don’t get me wrong, Oprah’s reason for causing that whole fiasco was largely irrational given the state of the beef industry at the time (no disease yet detected in North America). And there are plenty of reasons to adopt a diet with less beef. But fortunately, she rightfully won the lawsuit against her brought by the beef industry.

As irrational as the attitude was, it is in fact protected by free speech.

Either way, god damn . . . Vandana really went there. Despite being born in a  nation with a terrible rate of sexual assault, she actually degraded the term rapist.

Boy howdy.

 

4. Her rejection of technologies which help farmers (mostly women and children) to alleviate the painful, back-breaking labour of hand-weeding

Indian women selectively do weeding by hand, hereby preserving our biodiversity

(Photo and caption at p.21)

This is a preposterous statement; any act of weeding is exactly aimed at eliminating detrimental plant “biodiversity” which, in a field, stifles crops.

 

It is easy to speak from a pedestal when you are not actually doing the work, after all. Particularly when people are paying you thousands in endorsements for doing so. 

Check your privilege, Vandana!

 

5. As a final treat, a ridiculous statement

Fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture. I think it’s time to ban it. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Its use is like in war, because it came from war.

From a speech in 2011 quoted in the New Yorker and in other websites.

Let us ask her if she is going to ban metallurgy, since it has been used to forge cannons.

 

This one is almost too idiotic to retort. Since there are probably several thousand ways to approach this, ill settle for 2.

1.) Airplanes (and in particular, jet engines) were also a product of war. This doesn’t stop Vandana from hopping on an airliner and flying to various venues to share her propaganda, however.

2.) Without fertilizer, MILLIONS of people in all areas of the globe would not be alive. I am almost certain that I would not exist without fertilizer. Though it is certainly a major containment in waterways when used improperly, that makes it no different than any other tool (when used improperly, the result may be less than desirable).

A hammer in the wrong hand can be a murder weapon. As such, should hammers not exist?

 

We would greatly value a point-by-point response to the important matters we raise. Here are some links to articles that contained reasoned criticism of Dr. Shiva’s untenable stances:

Who is Vandana Shiva and why is she saying such awful things about GMOs? (Reprinted in Forbes: Vandana Shiva, Anti-GMO Celebrity: ‘Eco Goddess’ Or Dangerous Fabulist?)
Vandana Shiva: ‘Rock Star’ of GMO protest movement has history of opposing Green Revolution and agricultural technological innovation
The GMO-Suicide Myth
Seeds of Doubt
Vandana Shiva Compares GMOs to Rape
Vandana Shiva’s Myth Busted: Monsanto Didn’t Cause Farmer Suicides In India
Counterview: In GMO debate, Vandana Shiva has chosen fear-mongering and denialism
Vandana Shiva: Fearmongering in Oregon
Lies, Lies And More Lies
Activism and the gift of delusion
Vandana Shiva is confusing ideology for science – and getting rational people to believe her
Viewpoint: GMO critic Vandana Shiva’s anti-modernity crusade threatens world’s poor
‘Social Justice Warrior’ Vandana Shiva Is A Poor Advocate For The Poor

Sincerely yours,

[Signatories in alphabetical order. Institutional affiliation is for identification purposes only and does not indicate institutional endorsement]

Philipp Aerni – University of Zurich, Switzerland, Director, Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Geography, Public Policy
Klaus Ammann – University of Bern, Switzerland, Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
David J. Bertioli – University of Georgia, USA, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and Professor, Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics
Giuseppe Bertoni – Università Cattolica, Piacenza, Italy, Professor Emeritus of Animal Husbandry
Peter Beyer – Albert-Ludwigs University Freiburg, Germany, Professor (retired). Co-inventor of the Golden Rice. Member of the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Borut Bohanec – University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Biotechnical Faculty, Plant Biotechnology and Breeding
Ildebrando Bonacini – Agricultural organization manager, agri-food journalist, Cremona, Italy
Enrico Bucci – Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, Adjunct Professor in Systems Biology, Sbarro Health Research Organization
Trevor Charles – University of Waterloo, Canada, Professor in the Department of Biology, Director, Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research
Bruce M. Chassy – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, Professor Emeritus, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Felice Cervone – University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Italy, Full Professor, Dept of Biology and Biotechnologies, M.A.E. (Member of Academia Europaea)
Pellegrino Conte – University of Palermo, Italy, Full Professor, Agricultural Chemistry
Gilberto Corbellini – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Rome, Italy, Full Professor of Bioethics and History of Medicine, “Sapienza” University of Rome
Terry Daynard – Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Former Professor of Crop Science, former Associate Dean of Research and Innovation
Roberto Defez – Italian National Research Council (CNR), Naples, Italy, Senior Researcher, Microbial Biotechnology laboratory
Adrian Dubock – Former Global Head M&A, Ventures and Licensing, Syngenta, Switzerland (retired), Member & Executive Secretary, Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Jon Entine – Genetic Literacy Project, Cincinnati, OH, USA, Executive Director
Edgardo Filippone – University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy, Full Professor, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Section of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology
Kevin Folta – University of Florida, Department of Horticultural Sciences, Professor
Corrado Lodovico Galli – University of Milan, Italy, Department of Pharmacological and Biomolecular Sciences
L. Val Giddings, PhD – PrometheusAB, Inc., USA, Expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Jonathan Gressel – Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, Professor, Plant & Environmental Sciences
Alberto Guidorzi – Agronomist, Sermide Felonica (Mantua), Italy
Larson C. Hannah – University of Florida, Professor Emeritus, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology & Horticultural Sciences
Klaus-Dieter Jany – Wadi International University, Syria, Vice-President for Teaching and Research
Jonathan D. G. Jones FRS – The Sainsbury Lab, Norwich, UK, Professor and Senior Group Leader
Drew L. Kershen – University of Oklahoma, USA, Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus
Marcel Kuntz – University of Grenoble-Alpes, France, Director of Research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Christopher J. Leaver CBE FRS FRSE – University of Oxford, UK, Emeritus Professor of Plant Science
Michele Lodigiani – Agronomist, farmer, science communicator. Piacenza, Italy
Alan McHughen – University of California, Riverside, USA, Botany and Plant Sciences, expert in agri-food biotech regulation
Henry I. Miller, M.Sc., M.D. – Senior Fellow, Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, USA, Founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology
Giovanni Molteni Tagliabue – Como (Italy), Independent researcher in philosophy of life sciences, political science
Eliano Morello – Agronomist, Padua, Italy
Piero Morandini – University of Milan, Italy, Researcher, Environmental Science and Policy Department
Jean-Paul Oury – Chief Editor of “The European Scientist” website, Paris, France, PhD in history of science and technology
Marco Aurelio Pasti – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili, Venice, Italy
Deborah Piovan – Farmer and scientific communicator, Padua, Italy
Ingo Potrykus – ETH Zurich, Switzerland, Institute of Plant Sciences, Professor Emeritus, Co-inventor Golden Rice, Chair Golden Rice Humanitarian Board
Channa Prakash, Tuskegee University, USA, Dean, Arts & Sciences
Sir Richard John Roberts – Chief Scientific Officer, New England Biolabs, Ipswich, USA, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Daniele Rosellini – University of Perugia, Italy, Associate Professor of Agricultural Genetics
Eddo Rugini – Università della Tuscia, Italy, Past Full Professor in Fruit Tree Science and Biotechnology
Donatello Sandroni – PhD in Ecotoxicology, Journalist & Science communicator, Italy
Angelo Santino – Institute of Sciences of Food Production, National Research Council (CNR), Lecce, Italy, Senior Scientist
Giuseppe Sarasso – Agronomist, member of Accademia dei Georgofili and Accademia di Agricoltura of Turin, Italy
Teemu Teeri – University of Helsinki, Finland, Professor in Plant Breeding
Roberto Tuberosa – University of Bologna, Italy, Professor in Biotechnology Applied to Plant Breeding, Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences
Ignazio Verde – Council for Agricultural Research and Economics (CREA), Rome, Italy, Senior scientist on Plant Genetics and scientific advisor
Robert Wager – Vancouver Island University, Canada, Molecular biology, Biochemistry
Allan Wenck – BASF, Morrisville, NC, USA, PhD molecular, cell and developmental biology

 

The University of Missouri responded to the letter with this:

To which one signatory retorted with this:

 

Response from one of the signers, Sir Richard John Roberts:

Dear Chancellor Agrawal:

Frankly, I am appalled by your response (attached) to Dr. Giovanni Tagliabue and his colleagues. You seem to consider Vandana Shiva’s views as merely controversial, when she continuously spews lies and falsehoods to support her views. Has the University of Missouri lost faith in the value of the truth?

Controversy implies opposing interpretations of facts, not pitting facts against fabrications. By exposing your students to blatant lies and giving them equal credence with truth you do them a great disservice.

It is not too late to rescind your decision to invite her to speak.

Rich Roberts

Sir Richard J. Roberts Ph.D. F.R.S.
1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Chief Scientific Officer
New England Biolabs
240 County Road
Ipswich, MA 01938-2723 USA

 

To be honest, this letter (and most notably, the reply above) presents me with some internal conflict. It feels a bit Cancel Culture-esk. A phenomenon that I have no doubt Vandana Shiva would jump behind in a heartbeat if she thought it would help her get ahead. And in this climate of political discourse, there is no doubt that it would help.

Which makes this an interesting situation. While much of what Vandana spews is nonsense and at times propaganda, it’s not exactly hate speech. Though I have no doubt that she contributes to phenomenons that hold back biotechnology research (and arguably science in general), that is very different from speech that can be seen to incite. Which makes me hesitant to call for her removal from the roster of speakers at this event.

Having said that, I completely concur that her views should not be showcased to uneducated pupils of any age as though they are simply the flip side of some debate. Without context being made clear at the outset, I do not doubt that her views can result in people being dragged in the wrong direction. At the very least, the platform should allow for critiques (if not during, then directly afterward). This should ensure that most people viewing the presentation will also see the critique.

Her presentation should not be cancelled. However, it would indeed be doing the students of the University of Missouri a great disservice to have her presentation happen without any other context presented.

 

Note: As it turns out, I’m coming to this 3 days too late. I don’t know how the presentation turned out, but if it is posted online, I will link it below.

CIA Plots To Kill Jullian Assange – WHAT?!

Jullian Assange is back in the news. And unlike the last time I covered his plight back in early 2019, I actually have some sympathy for the man. For it is through him that we now get to see how dark things really got at the upper levels of the Trump administration.

While I fully expect there to be many more frightening revelations in the coming months and years relating to the Trump Administration, this one was certainly a doozy.

 

The CIA Plot to Kidnap or Kill Julian Assange in London is a Story that is Being Mistakenly Ignored

Three years ago, on 2 October 2018, a team of Saudi officials murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The purpose of the killing was to silence Khashoggi and to frighten critics of the Saudi regime by showing that it would pursue and punish them as though they were agents of a foreign power.

It was revealed this week that a year before the Khashoggi killing in 2017, the CIA had plotted to kidnap or assassinate Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who had taken refuge five years earlier in the Ecuador embassy in London. A senior US counter-intelligence official said that plans for the forcible rendition of Assange to the US were discussed “at the highest levels” of the Trump administration. The informant was one of more than 30 US officials – eight of whom confirmed details of the abduction proposal – quoted in a 7,500-word investigation by Yahoo News into the CIA campaign against Assange.

 

As much as this doesn’t really surprise me (given the many times that the US has resorted to underhanded tactics in order to forward its own national and/or corporate interests), it still has quite the punch when viewed from the perspective that is not even a decade ago.

 

The plan was to “break into the embassy, drag [Assange] out and bring him to where we want”, recalled a former intelligence official. Another informant said that he was briefed about a meeting in the spring of 2017 at which President Trump had asked if the CIA could assassinate Assange and provide “options” about how this could be done. Trump has denied that he did so.

The Trump-appointed head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said publicly that he would target Assange and WikiLeaks as the equivalent of “a hostile intelligence service”. Apologists for the CIA say that freedom of the press was not under threat because Assange and the WikiLeaks activists were not real journalists. Top intelligence officials intended to decide themselves who is and who is not a journalist, and lobbied the White House to redefine other high-profile journalists as “information brokers”, who were to be targeted as if they were agents of a foreign power.

Among those against whom the CIA reportedly wanted to take action were Glenn Greenwald, a founder of the Intercept magazine and a former Guardian columnist, and Laura Poitras, a documentary film-maker. The arguments for doing so were similar to those employed by the Chinese government for suppressing dissent in Hong Kong, which has been much criticised in the West. Imprisoning journalists as spies has always been the norm in authoritarian countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt, while denouncing the free press as unpatriotic is a more recent hallmark of nationalist populist governments that have taken power all over the world.

 

Given the things Donald has said in full view of the public, I have no doubt that he inquired about this course of action. In a way, none of this is really news. Everyone already knew that Trump loved the ways of the authoritarian. Shocking as this instance is, it’s just more of the same.

As for Glenn Greenwald, this certainly brings an interesting twist to his new stances. While the money of a grift is certainly good, avoiding being in the bad graces of potential future authoritarian tyrants is certainly also a good incentive. Though still a futile one, since I have no doubt that they will still find a way to make him an enemy.

Wow. This just got a whole lot bleaker.

 

It is possible to give only a brief precis of the extraordinary story exposed by Yahoo News, but the journalists who wrote it – Zach Dorfman, Sean D Naylor and Michael Isikoff – ought to scoop every journalistic prize. Their disclosures should be of particular interest in Britain because it was in the streets of central London that the CIA was planning an extra-judicial assault on an embassy, the abduction of a foreign national, and his secret rendition to the US, with the alternative option of killing him. These were not the crackpot ideas of low-level intelligence officials, but were reportedly operations that Pompeo and the agency fully intended to carry out.

This riveting and important story based on multiple sources might be expected to attract extensive coverage and widespread editorial comment in the British media, not to mention in parliament. Many newspapers have dutifully carried summaries of the investigation, but there has been no furor. Striking gaps in the coverage include the BBC, which only reported it, so far as I can see, as part of its Somali service. Channel 4, normally so swift to defend freedom of expression, apparently did not mention the story at all.

In the event, the embassy attack never took place, despite the advanced planning. “There was a discussion with the Brits about turning the other cheek or looking the other way when a team of guys went inside and did a rendition,” said a former senior US counter-intelligence official, who added that the British had refused to allow the operation to take place.

 

I can’t imagine WHY the Brits would refuse to have an operation like that go down right in the heart of Britain’s largest city. I mean, talk about bad optics when that hit the press.

Imagine how many tourists would go to Turkey if it was revealed that they sanctioned the whole Kashoggi thing . . .

 

But the British government did carry out its own less melodramatic, but more effective measure against Assange, removing him from the embassy on 11 April 2019 after a new Ecuador government had revoked his asylum. He remains in Belmarsh top security prison two-and-a-half years later while the US appeals a judicial decision not to extradite him to the US on the grounds that he would be a suicide risk.

If he were to be extradited, he would face 175 years in prison. It is important, however, to understand, that only five of these would be under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, while the other 170 potential years are under the Espionage Act of 1917, passed during the height of the patriotic war fever as the US entered the First World War.

Only a single minor charge against Assange relates to the WikiLeaks disclosure in 2010 of a trove of US diplomatic cables and army reports relating to the Iraq and Afghan wars. The other 17 charges are to do with labeling normal journalistic investigation as the equivalent of spying.

 

As much loathing as I have for the man for evading justice for his alleged sexual assault in Sweeden by simply going into hiding in essentially plain sight, even I agree that 170 years (life in prison, really!) is too much.

First off, this seems like a good argument for selectively delaying the statute of limitations of sexual assault cases under some circumstances. In this case, though everyone knew where the man could be found, he was unavailable for prosecution for reasons uncontrollable by either the victims or the authorities trying the case. As such, I don’t think it unreasonable to have a clause in law wherein the statute of limitations for the crime should be put on hold until such a day that it is at least feasible to try the case. Though the Assange situation is a one-off, consider cases where a  person flees town (or even the country) in order to avoid prosecution. Given that a person can hop on a plane and be in a nation without an extradition treaty in under 24 hours, the laws of nations really should really take this into consideration when limitation timeframes are determined.

As for the Assange charges themselves, no, he should not be in prison for 170 years for espionage.

This is a hard thing to consider knowing that the data dumps did in fact put some lives in danger. However, unless there are details that we are not privy to, this does not sound like espionage. Though I touched on an instance of Assange seemingly trying to open up a backchannel with Sean Hannity in order to undermine the Democratic Party, political favouritism is hardly espionage. Treating it as such will only set a dangerous precedent for the future.

Imagine a 2ed Trump presidency (or worse!) with this precedent woven into the fabric of American law.

 

Pompeo’s determination to conflate journalistic inquiry with espionage has particular relevance in Britain, because the home secretary, Priti Patel, wants to do much the same thing. She proposes updating the Official Secrets Act so that journalists, whistle-blowers and leakers could face sentences of up to 14 years in prison. A consultative paper issued in May titled Legislation to Counter State Threats (Hostile State Activity) redefines espionage as “the covert process of obtaining sensitive confidential information that is not normally publicly available”.

The true reason the scoop about the CIA’s plot to kidnap or kill Assange has been largely ignored or downplayed is rather that he is unfairly shunned as a pariah by all political persuasions: left, right and centre.

 

Yeah . . . don’t do that Britan. You can do much worse than Brexit and Boris Johnson. If you thought Tony Blair was bad . . .

 

To give but two examples, the US government has gone on claiming that the disclosures by WikiLeaks in 2010 put the lives of US agents in danger. Yet the US Army admitted in a court hearing in 2013 that a team of 120 counter-intelligence officers had failed to find a single person in Iraq and Afghanistan who had died because of the disclosures by WikiLeaks. As regards the rape allegations in Sweden, many feel that these alone should deny Assange any claim to be a martyr in the cause of press freedom. Yet the Swedish prosecutor only carried out a “preliminary investigation” and no charges were brought.

Assange is a classic victim of “cancel culture”, so demonised that he can no longer get a hearing, even when a government plots to kidnap or murder him.

 

I was going to ignore the mild Assange pandering in the previous paragraph, as it was mild in comparison to other instances (not to mention that the overarching topic at hand is much more pertinent).

I was going to ignore it. But then the author turned into a rape apologist.

There was only a preliminary investigation and no charges were brought . . . no fucking kidding. There were no charges because he was not even in Sweeden at the time! He left the country and evaded the charges so as not to also deal with being potentially extradited to the United States.

One can certainly point the finger of blame at the United States for causing the whole mess in the first place. And assuming that there are no details of which we are unaware, he should not have to face a lifetime in prison in the US (or elsewhere). However, he is not a victim of cancel culture. HIS VICTIMS are victims of cancel culture, you deluded moron! 

Assange should not be a martyr, PERIOD. For the simple reason that in the eyes of the ideologically focused (or just the idiotic), a martyr can do no wrong. One step above the superstar status of people like Elon Musk, the martyr has the benefit of having even more wiggle room when it comes to curating their own public persona. Though the masses often stop associating human traits (both positive and negative) to both superstars and martyrs, martyrs often are assumed as altruistic strictly on account of the principles n which they stand for. 

I get it. There was a time back in 2016 wherein I just assumed that Jullian Assange would do what was best for the American democratic process. After all, the WikiLeaks stuff was certainly (for the most part, anyway) beneficial to the public good. However, like the human that he is, he soon proved that he did have a favourite pick to win. And also like the human that he is, he used his unique position in order to help boost his chosen political affiliation. And judging by the Hannity revelation of 2018, this behaviour is less an outlier than it is the norm.

Few flawed humans have the self-control to properly bear the title of martyr. Suffice to say, Jullian Assange is NOT one of them.

 

In reality, Khashoggi and Assange were pursued relentlessly by the state because they fulfilled the primary duty of journalists: finding out important information that the government would like to keep secret and disclosing it to the public.

 

As scathing as the last paragraph was, I can’t help but agree with this sentiment.

Allowing governing officials to dictate who and what entities are considered to be journalists is dangerous, but particularly so in the face of an ever-evolving media landscape. With many forms of what can be labelled as traditional journalism either stagnant or slowly dying due to changing media consumption habits, it’s risky to assign too much rigidity to the term.

First off, because fledgling traditional journalistic entities are going to be more vulnerable to burying inconvenient stories if pressured to do so. But also because the face of journalism is changing. Information sources (and platforms) are gradually fragmenting. Though the big powerhouses of cable and print news media still dominate the scene today, I suspect that these days are numbered. There is still much to sort out, but I’m almost certain that the media landscape will be very different some 20 or 30 years from now.

Journalism isn’t (or at least, shouldn’t) be about your employer or your job title. It should be about the information that you bring to the table. Be it in front of a TV studio broadcasting to millions, or sitting behind a laptop with a current readership in the tens, journalism comes in many forms.

Fuck Jullian Assange. Long live journalism.

Cali Recall Candidate Claims Electoral Fraud Before Results Even Called

After the 2016 election, though the news cycle was filled with all manner of stuff to talk about, I mostly quit commenting about American politics. It wasen’t because of a lack of opinion on the matter. It was more because I (for the most part) didn’t have anything new to add to the discourse that was not already out there. This, along with the fact that as filled and fast-moving as the news cycle of the past 4 years has been, it’s been mostly childish nonsense. That is to say, I can likely walk into any grade 3 class in North America (short of the deep south) and come across a more competent assessment of current affairs than one can garner from viewing sessions of US congress.

In a nutshell, this stuff is mind-numbingly stupid. As dangerous as many aspects of this new era is, it’s just mind-numbingly fucking stupid.

Take, for example, Ted Cruz. He was on Twitter shitting on California’s power grid months before his own state’s grid would prove ill-prepared for a short cold snap (AND a summer usage spike a few short months after that!).

The grid is straining as Texas attracts more residents and new companies. U.S. Census data shows Texas’s population – already second-largest only to California – rose by 16% in the last decade, more than all but three other states.

ERCOT operates the grid on a thin margin of reserve capacity of about 16%, or half the cushion of other U.S. grids. Last week, ERCOT put customers on edge when it said generator outages spiked to 11,000 megawatts, compared with a typical level of about 3,600 megawatts for this time of year.

The grid is straining as Texas attracts more residents and new companies. U.S. Census data shows Texas’s population – already second-largest only to California – rose by 16% in the last decade, more than all but three other states.

Bob Hall, a Republican Texas state senator, said the grid’s operating problems have not been fixed. “If I were a business right now, as desirable as Texas is, if I’m dependent on a steady supply of electricity, I’d be very concerned about coming here right now,” he said.

https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/texas-power-grid-faces-summer-having-changed-little-february-freeze-2021-06-24/

 

Let’s stop and talk about the politics of electricity so we can bring some context to this picture. It can be fairly easily summed up in 3 images.

 

In North America, though there are a number of regional power authorities that control various geographical regions of the continent, Canada and the United States are broken up into 5 distinct interconnections (Western, Eastern, Texas, Quebec and Alaska). Of the 5, only 3 are directly interconnected (and thus, can aid in electrical distribution). The 2 outliers are Alaska (due to its location far from the rest of the southern grid) and Texas. Like Quebec, Texas maintains its own interchange for the purpose of political clout. Having their own interconnection isolates them from many regulatory standards employed by of the rest of the grid.

Unlike the Quebec interconnection, however, Texas has few (if any) connections to the rest of the North American power grid. And unlike the Quebec interconnection (which was built with the Canadian climate in mind), most Texas utilities spared the expense of winterizing their infrastructure, failing to see a need for such measures.

After all, it’s Texas! Heat and hurricanes are the main threat.

This was the reason why the Texas interchange very nearly collapsed under the strain of the February cold snap as the rest of the North American power grid was shifting energy from and too all over the continent to cover skyrocketing demand. Failing and frozen infrastructure would cripple the entire ERCOT interchange, necessitating massive load shedding (aka shedding thousands of customers worth of demand). The longevity of the cold snap resulted in billions of dollars in property damage to homes all over Texas (because much of the equipment could not be restarted due to being frozen!). While these homes will in fact be recovered by insurance (up goes the customer’s rates!), this could have all been avoided with at minimum, winterization of the grid. Joining the Eastern and Western interconnections would also be great, but not necessarily life or death. 

Yes. The billions of dollars and the catastrophe (not to mention the lives lost) were completely preventable. Yet billions of dollars and 7 months later, little has changed.

Bob Hall, a Republican Texas state senator, said the grid’s operating problems have not been fixed. “If I were a business right now, as desirable as Texas is, if I’m dependent on a steady supply of electricity, I’d be very concerned about coming here right now,” he said.

Can you afford to shutter (and potentially sustain property damage) during what would otherwise be just a bitterly cold period in nearly any other part of the country?

* * *

With that out of the way, we can now get back on track.

 

Larry Elder Claims “Fraud” Before California Even Publishes Recall Results

The California recall election results have not yet been tabulated or released to the public — yet the leading Republican challenger in the race has already pushed discredited and errant claims of fraud in the election, disputing a loss that hasn’t even officially happened yet.

The latest aggregate of polling data compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows that current Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) is in a good place heading into recall election day, with the average of polls showing 57 percent of voters currently want him to retain his position in office. Less than 42 percent of voters support his removal.

Republican candidate Larry Elder, whom many see as the leading GOP choice to replace Newsom should he lose the confidence of voters in the recall, has so far refused to say whether he will accept the election results. Elder’s campaign, however, is already prognosticating his loss — and without evidence of any kind, they are blaming fraud for Newsom’s win.

 

The last time I heard the name Larry Elder was when I was listening to Dave Rubin interview him about something years ago. I think it was this interview, but it could have been before that too. It’s been years since I’ve taken Dave Rubin with any seriousness.

Either way, I wish that had been the last time I heard his name (either name, really). But that is not to be.

Instead, we all have to deal with a cringeworthy video of Dave Rubin faking (?) a hot mic reaction to Larry Elder’s loss. And we have Elder himself declaring the results of the election fraudulent before the counting of the ballets had even been completed.

While this instance of the new Republican normal from here on out (really, November of 2020 on out) is particularly idiotic in Elder’s failure to even attempt to hide the scheme that he is pulling, this is nonetheless what we now have to look forward too.

A public that has been conditioned to believe the nonsensical. And a party filled to the brim with radicals and pragmatists that are ready and willing to trade in their credibility for everlasting political clout.

See?

Mind numbingly fucking stupid.

On the bright side, however, now you know a little more about Texas than you did before. Knowledge to remember the next time either a cold snap or a prolonged heatwave sends ERCOT into a panic, causing much misery (if not death) for citizens caught in the crossfire of the State’s unregulated pro-business status quo.