Fukushima Daiichi Update

Fukushima Workers

I squeezed some of this topic into a recent podcast on My Podcasts on YouTube. It’s important to know that the Fukushima reactor is still not fully scrapped and that while radiation levels are low they are also not decreasing by any significant measure in all recent online published studies.

Resources and Blogs:

IAEA Updates

The Guardian Reporting On Worker Death In Decommission Process; accidental death by all reports and not a direct failure of TEPCO to safeguard their employees health and well-being in this specific case.

Fukushima Update Blog (LA Times Reporters)

Fukushima Diary (Iori Mochizuki)

Radiation Warning

I Don’t Blog As Much As I Used To

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I just don’t compose much that goes into blog format these days.  Sorry about that if were around back when I posted like wildfire. I do a lot of writing and have been plagiarized the times that I posted my best work. However, I’m leaving Web-impressions somewhere if not around here and I thought I might share a decent argument I wrote against the notion that God created the universe.

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I find it way harder to believe the universe always existed.That’s fine. Math and science have nothing to do with what you find acceptable. So big whoop. You have weird stances on logical deduction and sound reasoning. You’re hardly the first and won’t be the last.

Or the universe created itself, or popped out of nothing. All of these are absurd. Man the lengths people are willing to go to deny God.”

Again you just don’t understand the Big Bang Theory (sometimes called the “first event“) in any meaningful way. Nothing was “created” because that word implies an intelligence for which we have no evidence of. “Popped out of nothing” is just a poor way of expressing the concept. A better way to say it might be “exploded out of non-spacetime” or “expanded outward from highly condensed existing matter.”

I get that you think this is big exercise to disprove your God but in fact this is, like all valid science, just following where the facts lead us. The “God did it” explanation is one that is very easy and explains nothing to us about the how and why. Whereas the Big Bang model (which has many variations that I’m probably screwing up as a layperson) exactly addresses these issues in cosmology with real answers that form together like a symphony of knowledge of what we already understand to be true.

I feel the need to point out, however, that in cosmology a deistic god (very specifically not the Christian or Abrahamic god) is highly plausible while at the same time being completely unnecessary to the model. A deistic stance on the creation / formation of the universe doesn’t break down the models or change the level of logical accuracy. But it also adds nothing new into the equation either, making it this little weird caveat that some people like to throw in but others find repugnant because they are very rigid about their mathematics.

I myself am not so clear on that one, having had too much time to think about it. It’s also valid to talk about self affirmation in existence, in which I mean human time travelers started things not that we define our physical reality crap. Think about it if you’re still reading this whoever you are: a point in our future results in technology that allows to bend time backwards to the First Event (Big Bang) and we find nothing there, realizing that if we don’t detonate our vessel’s drive to trigger said event that all of existence will thereby fail to exist. Yeah, see this way more plausible than even the deistic logic let alone the theist’s stance on these matters. 

Anita Sarkeesian: Entrepreneur, Activist or Phony?

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For those not keeping up with the pulse of YouTube: a channel by the name of Feminist Frequency run by Anita Sarkeesian has recently gathered $160,000 via Kickstarter to produce what is currently a three part video series focused on sexism in videogames entitled “Damsel in Distress.” Originally she asked for $6,000 for this project and spoke of academic value as well as intense research involved in the final product.  But the videos about videogames are only the catalyst in a tale of Internet Infamy that begins with feminism and ends with pseudo-science.

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The dubiously high amount of money involved raised many eyebrows due to the fact that YouTube videos of this exact nature are produced on shoe string budgets every day. She refuses to allow comments or ratings which is a tactic looked down on by most Internet users for obvious reasons. Compounding this is some evidence to show she likely screen captured the videos of other YouTube users rather than recording original video from the games she supposedly bought for the research stage of the project. But I’ll return to that topic later. Whatever else may be true of Sarkeesian there’s no arguing that she has become extremely successful directly as a result of this Kickstarter project and is rumored to have entered the professional gaming industry as a consultant to EA Games on the title Mirror’s Edge 2.

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Which brings me to the first quandary: Is she a capitalist genius or just a case of luck combining with opportunity? I don’t think it’s as easy as some of her detractors would like to discount her as simply a “troll” (meaning intentional instigator) taking it to the next level. That’s one possibility but considering the nature of human greed I find it also likely she uses pop culture as a crutch to avoid the more scientific elements of social commentary all while appealing to her base, in this case hard-line feminists, to keep the donations coming with lots of red meat. All the benefits but none of the heavy lifting. As an example of this she doesn’t present any information to the viewer about learned and demonstrated behavior in the field of Child Development Psychology which would be the cornerstone of a hypothesis involved in linking external input like the themes and plot devices in videogames with outward attitudes toward the opposite gender.  Fancy way of saying she is obviously not doing an academic piece.

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One thing that occurred to me when I saw her first video was most of her arguments could be transplanted to rail against rap and hip hop music, or against the fringes of the artist community, or pretty much any extreme form of expression. But somehow I don’t imagine a young woman who wants to decry the evil rap music industry right next to figures like Bill O’Reilly and Pat Robertson would catch much traction on YouTube. Sarkeesian’s main point in summation, while it takes a different route to get there, is no different from the position of the religious right-wing: society is harmed by things I find offensive being popular.

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That brings me to my second quandary: Is she an earnest activist that is merely making amateur mistakes or is there intentional deception by stating her opinions as facts numerous times? Again I’m not entirely convinced the worst to be true. It’s not all that impossible most of what she has presented that has ruffled feathers is just us witnessing a slow learning curve on her part to avoid logical fallacy. I read some old political posts of mine and felt deep shame … because I wrote them prior to taking a college course on critical thinking and proper argumentation. So hey, total benefit of doubt thing going on here. But to ever buy this one in full I need to see her start basing factual statements in facts and come to see that if you decry a social injustice you perceive but provide no positive solutions then others who feel as you do are left feeling disempowered (common theme in her videos) instead of united in this common worldview.

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My final quandary: Are we being lead around by the nose here or not? The strongest point that leads me to think this a con artist at work is not so much the large pile of cash she got but rather what other users pointed out: she is almost certainly using footage of Let’s Play videos (someone voices what is essentially a podcast alongside a game they’re playing) to pad out her game footage shots and blatantly ignores or misrepresents the context within a story line she critiques. As a quick example of misleading viewers about the contextual story line within these games she references Fable 2 as a title that represented the “male revenge fantasy” overlooking the fact you can select to be female without affecting any element of the story and after the death of your sister you are mentored by a powerfully authoritative female character. As to the other point I’ve heard some users say she “stole” these clips of game footage but (1) not giving attribution is bad Web-etiquette but not stealing per se and (2) with the exception of the audio these Let’s Play videos are likely the sole property of the game makers or YouTube not the person who used a computer to mesh together game play and commentary. Find a copyright lawyer to really nail that down but in the case of potential plagiarism I’m near positive that unless they have a partnership with a gaming company thus a legal department behind them they can forget about this sort of thing being declared anything other than Free Use by YouTube. That said, it’s beyond suspicious to me that such a highly funded project would borrow footage in this way at all.

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The sad part is no matter what Sarkeesian holds as her true intentions the focus on tired clichés being overused in gaming and how these plot devices, or tropes, are used to enforce unfair gender stereotypes is an opinionated stand to take but it’s just a simple fact that the professional gaming industry is predominately male and could greatly benefit from say a youthful female voice on YouTube encouraging women to strike out toward careers in gaming design and development. I have no doubt the gaming industry as a whole would welcome a more gender balanced input when it comes to design and development. The number of female gamers in the market keeps rising and they often bring different tastes and expectations to a videogame than male gamers do.

But instead of that sort of encouragement, so far anyway, we have three videos that contain contradictions and have yet to succeed in proving or even attempting to prove the central premise that fictional fantasies lead to negative attitudes and beliefs about others. We already beat that horse to death with the whole violence in the media causes violence in real life bullshit that was debunked over and over again.

Correlation is not causation, Anita.

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More Video Links:

More than a Damsel in a Dress: A Response” by KiteTales

Three Simple Questions for Anita Sarkeesian” by IWALVG

Female Game Developer’s response to Tropes vs Women” by dolldivine

Damsel Trek…” by Triox45

GAME OVER: Anita Sarkeesian has won” by MundaneMatt

USAToday: ‘Embryonic Stem Cells Used On Patient For First Time’

 

USAToday.com:

 

For the first time, surgeons have injected a spinal cord injury patient with human embryonic stem cells in a federally approved experiment, a biomedical firm said Monday.

Food and Drug Administration officials approved the start of the privately funded safety trial in July, allowing a long-awaited test of the cells, which were grown from a single embryo to resemble forerunners to spinal cells.

The unnamed patient received the cells at the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital specializing in brain, spine and related ailments.

 

Despite religious objection of some the benefits of embryonic stem cells are already being applied to better the lives of others. I see this as a victory over religious insanity and unthinking, arcane dogmas that serve no purpose in the modern world.

Paul Krugman: Health Care Now (+ Analysis)

This is the article and accompanying essay that drove me to talk about student peer review editing in a previous post.

Dr. Krugman explains his case on NYTimes.com:

The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.

The bottom line, then, is that this is no time to let campaign promises of guaranteed health care be quietly forgotten. It is, instead, a time to put the push for universal care front and center. Health care now!

And then there is this college essay of mine:


Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, wrote an opinion piece appearing in The New York Times where he argues strongly for social reform of health care access and ensuring affordable premiums for all Americans. The central thesis of this paper being that Krugman effectively conveys a sense of urgency in the health care social reform agenda by using a combination of rhetoric, “considering counter-examples” and a series of rational arguments that are all valid in nature. Written at a time when the Obama White House had yet to reveal its presidential proposal on health care reform, Krugman uses the economic forecasting of both his own make and that of the Obama administration to predict of likely “prolonged unemployment,” and warns of a “looming health care disaster” upon the horizon. Krugman believes the U.S. alone will share in this fate of a “health care catastrophe” in which basic medical care will not be available to millions as unemployment persists and the recession continues forward.

Krugman argues the banks and lenders were essentially sick and the government gave them medicine in the form of financial assistance, what kind of medicine and how much he sets aside by stating “I have problems with the specifics,” which was the right thing to do and now the American people are sick or in danger of becoming extremely ill so the government must provide medicine in equal fashion to all and not only the wealthy few. Krugman feels a measure of fair treatment must be shown clearly to Americans who have not benefited from government bailouts or other recovery measures taken by the government.

Working on the assumption that some members of “Mr. Obama’s circle” are advising to place health care on a low priority policy agenda Krugman considers a series counterarguments that would be likely proposed from that perspective. Considering the perspective that crisis and turmoil are not the time for committing to social reform is one of three examples of “considering alternative examples” on behalf of Krugman. He argues that times of turmoil are in fact the best time to engage in social reform by citing the actions of F.D.R. in the Great Depression and also by “seeking informed sources” in quoting White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel to assess the current mood in the White House of placing health care in a top priority who is quoted as saying, “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” One could argue against Krugman’s position by saying that the national economy is unstable at this time and that any budgetary measures not solely centered on spending cuts should be resisted until marked economic stability can be seen. Krugman assumes that the issue of cost to be one of the possible arguments against health care priority in the Obama White House.

Instead of arguing the point that universal health care will save us money in the long term despite initial costs, instead the case is made that universal health care is costly indeed but compares that expense to other government expenditures in contrast against a prediction of the Commonwealth Fund of the cost of Obama’s campaign health care promises totaling $140 billion in federal spending. Krugman refers to $140 billion as “not a small sum,” but then compares this against the Bush-Obama recovery spending and cites this Commonwealth figure directly against that of the Obama stimulus small business tax cuts. I believe Krugman could have shown a contrasting numerical figure against the Commonwealth figure to enhance our ability to properly consider the “background rates” of the Obama stimulus tax cuts and the Bush recovery efforts in terms of the number of billions of federal dollars spent.

The third counterargument, and the one that Krugman suspects to be “the real reason” behind the then stalled health care agenda, is one of a political point of view that the people of America are focused on “the economic crisis” and it “is a bad time to pushing fundamental health care reform.” Citing the history of both the failure of Bill Clinton to complete reform and the success F.D.R. he calls this argument “precisely wrong.” He succeeded in strengthening his case by using “more than one example” of how a economic recession or depression is in fact the best time to do social reforms. This use of a fact based argument with multiple examples is a very sound and logical way to present his counterargument and effectively defeats this notion. In his saying “it’s possible that those of us who care deeply are reading too much into the administration’s silence,” there is a recognition of his strong personal investment in the matter thereby confronting the issue of personal bias possibly effecting the objectivity of the argument presented. This confronts the matter of “considering objections” and “making fundamental changes in advance” which is pivotal to weight of his argument as a whole.

By confronting the matter of objectivity outright and presenting this in his argument he clearly recognizes that “the truth as one sees it can still be biased.” Drawing upon a series of analogies between 1929 and 2009 which vary from extremely relevant to somewhat “relevantly similar examples.” First, he compares Social Security to the health care reform which is a strong analogy in that both are important life planning matters but not readily apparent in their importance such as basic needs like shelter or clothing. Second, he compares the current recession to the Great Depression which is a fair analogy to make for the two events in size and scope may differ greatly but the underlying global effects remain the same. Third, he compares financial bailouts and health care access which is relevant but less than concrete as the bailouts were a reactionary government measure while the “health care catastrophe” is yet to occur therefore the analogy is sound but lacks a concrete correlation between financial bailouts and working-middle class social safety nets in an absolute sense.

In conclusion, the argument for the priority of health care reform and the conveyance of a sense of urgency surrounding that agenda are presented in a logical and focused manner by Krugman. The credentials of the source of this argument combined with the use of historical arguments give a high level of validity to the position that Krugman is supporting. In a both tactile and ominous manner this case for reform resounds strongly with the reader for it is not a case of pure rhetoric, but rather a case of rhetoric backed by valid arguments and intelligent dissection of all plausible counterarguments to his thesis. Krugman’s diagnosis of the situation may be dire but the disturbing nature of the news does not make it any less important to listen to the doctor.

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Citation:

Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments. 4th. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009. Print.

HuffPo: Texas Textbook Massacre

This recent development has me extremely enraged, in a time when I can afford no more of that emotion without bursting at the seams.

From the Huffington Post:

AUSTIN, Texas – A far-right faction of the Texas State Board of Education succeeded Friday in injecting conservative ideals into social studies, history and economics lessons that will be taught to millions of students for the next decade.

The Board removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum’s world history standards on Enlightenment thinking, “replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin.”

Richard Dawkins – The Virus of Faith

Some say that while religious fundamentalists betray reason, moderate believers betray faith and reason equally. The moderates position seems to me to be fence-sitting, they half-believe in the Bible. But how do they decide which parts to believe literally, and which parts are just allegorical?”

As a member of the religious moderate camp, I take issue with these statements. There is no question that fundamentalists betray reason, but a moderate does not betray faith nor reason and here is why: scientific facts are not rejected by a moderate as they are by a fundamentalist therefore that which accounts to the betrayal of reason for the fundamentalist is not true of the moderate; by drawing upon a more personal and perhaps more primal sense of faith and understanding the moderate is only leaving the confines of faith that are formed as preconceived misconceptions in the minds of others while never betraying the true nature of their own faith. By my logic, moderates are neither betraying faith nor reason. While there is nothing less than truth in the statement, “they half-believe the Bible” I believe the position is not “fence-sitting” in the least and here is why: The Bible is a flawed book, like trying to look at the truth through broken glass; if we draw a distinction between a precept or a series of moral teachings against certain stories that the vast majority of our number believe are purely allegorical in nature that is not failing to take a position but rather the act of taking the position that these pieces should be venerated while others diminished. The question posed by Dawkins is profound and requires a more lengthy response than I am willing to formulate at this moment. The short and witty answer is: arbitrarily. But that is mostly in jest and mainly meant to point out that there is no one definition of moderate religious belief so much as there is a loose grouping among many faiths and churches. It cannot to be answered to the satisfaction of Dawkins and others that would apply strict logical reasoning to the equation but the difference between allegory and literalist in the Bible comes from divine interpretation or, to use a less provocative term, personal spiritual guidance.

We are privileged to be alive, and we should make the most of our time in this world.”

I could not agree more with Dawkins on this point.

Life is precious and should not be given any less value to every waking moment of it.

Where I divide greatly from Dawkins is centered around this conflict between God and science.

Religion, expressly organized and established religion, are in direct conflict with science. There is no doubt of this whatsoever.

But I and many others do not see God and religion as one in the same.

God exists as a metaphor for the unknown, in one mode of thought, and the very practice and essence of science relies entirely upon an unknown in order to exist.

The day we know everything, we will have little more use for science.

This is much the same I feel about God or more loosely the concept of a “higher power”: the day we control life and death, the flow of time, and have attained all power the universe has to bestow is the day none alive would see a use for a “God”.

The unknown itself, defines both science and faith.

Faith is irrational, and taken to extremes it is always dangerous. While science has no such pitfalls.

But I still do not advocate the eradication of faith, though I do agree with Dawkins in regards to religious upbringing not being a healthy psychological practice to put a child through.

I believe, and I shall surely write more of this in days and months to come, that faith combined with reason is not a flawed stance or lacking any amount of logical context.

I would also argue from a more emotional standpoint that a purely scientific view of the world, as I once held myself, is “sterile” and “overtly plain”.