Tuesday, July 30, 2013

End of World Scenarios are Multiplying

Would you believe this could end the human race?

This was a headline that I spotted this morning:  "Could This End the Human Race?"  Are you guessing I was watching Fox News? No, that was The Weather Channel.  Were they referring to global warming?  Of course not, commercial media have gone silent now for several years about global warming.  They were referring to a solar flare, which they were calling a solar tornado.  And, according to the video presenter, Matt Sampson of weather.com, if this solar flare erupted on Earth, it could wipe out the human race.


It seems that no exaggeration is too great any more in the quest for attention grabbing headlines.  Especially on the internet, where mouse clicks result in advertising revenue. As you might expect, when you click this headline you first get a short advertisement just before you find out if the human race is really about to be wiped out. In my case, the ad was about making sure your dog is emotionally healthy.  Of course my dog is emotionally healthy, he does not read headlines like "Could This Wipe Out the Entire Shit-zu Race?" before his first coffee of the morning.

Now lets get back to reality for a second, just in case you were worried, too. A solar tornado cannot happen on Earth, for many reasons.  I will not bother to explain all of them, but suffice it to say that if the surface of planet Earth was like the normal, average surface of the sun, for only ten minutes,  with or without the solar "tornado", all life on earth (not just the human race) would also be wiped out.

Underneath the video are buttons for viewers to express their reaction.  You can choose from  A. Unbelievable B. Terrifying C. Crazy.  Apparently you are not allowed to choose D. "Are you kidding me?"

What bothers me the most about these headlines is that we have now seen from years of surveys, that about 18% of people believe anything they see on TV, newspapers or the internet.  That 18% is the irreducible stupidity element, or I.S.E., and that percent is big enough to swing elections.  It is also big enough to hamper our education system, clog our justice system, water down our health care system, and create mayhem with our traffic system.  They should not be encouraged.

Here is another result for my search for "End of the Human Race".  It's Montana Steam Power Co, that provides emergency electric generators in case the grid goes down, which as they say, will also result in the end of the human race. Unless somebody buys one of these steam generators.


Picture: It's pretty obvious that a robot uprising is more likely to wipe out the human race than either of the first two alternatives.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Were Humans Used in Nutritional Experiments in the1940's?

On the CBC news this morning, I heard a newscaster make some disturbing allegations.  Apparently, nutritional researchers withheld food from hungry aboriginal children in residential schools in Canada, in order to study the effects of malnutrition.

I had already heard about the previous scandal, an experiment where researchers apparently gave vitamin and mineral supplements to some, but not all aboriginal schoolchildren.  To me, that did not seem as bad as withholding food from starving children.

I am not trying to make excuses for things that were done a long time ago.  I understand there was a lot more racism back then, in fact there is still a lot today, but at least it is not as overt.  There was also a different attitude towards corporal punishment of children.  We don't have the death penalty in Canada today, but we did then.  Experiments used to be performed on human beings, not just aboriginals either.  Check out Donald Ewen Cameron on Wikipedia, doing experiments with shock therapy and drugs, resulting in death of human test subjects.


So it seems the ethical aspect of human experiments has come a long way since the fifties, in that we are much more careful about obtaining "Consent" of the subjects, and when we finally do the experiments, it is done with proper procedures and documentation, ensuring that we actually get some scientific benefit from the experiment.

Here is what the "Idle No More" (an Aboriginal activist) website posted about the situation, as quoted from the Canadian Press, under the title "HUNGRY ABORIGINAL PEOPLE USED IN BUREAUCRATS' EXPERIMENTS".  This title appears also on the CBC website, and many others.


If they withheld food from half of a group of starving children do see if they would die faster than a control group that got the regular rations, then that was evil by any standard.

If they gave minerals and vitamin supplements unknowingly to half the group, to see if there were any benefits to their health or mental states, without cutting back in any way on the food they were getting already, then the bureacrats and researchers were not evil, they were simply not acting according to modern standards on human research.

From the article above:

"The first experiment began in 1942 on 300 Norway House Cree. Of that group, 125 were selected to receive vitamin supplements which were withheld from the rest.
At the time, researchers calculated the local people were living on less than 1,500 calories a day. Normal, healthy adults generally require at least 2,000."

According to this, all the natives in some communities were basically going hungry, not just the children in residential schools. Instead of providing more food to the communities, the researchers gave selected people vitamin supplements.  If all the natives were hungry, that brings up many other questions about how they were fed, who was responsible for feeding them, and why were they not hunting/fishing/gathering berries, or otherwise using traditional sources of food?  None of that was mentioned in the article, although it seems familiar, just from Canadian and US history, and movies.

Here is another quote:

"One school deliberately held milk rations for two years to less than half the recommended amount to get a 'baseline' reading for when the allowance was increased."

If true, it would surely be a criminal act, even by the loose standards of 1947. But, I notice it does not say the rations were "cut", only "held".  Does that mean it was already normal practice to give half the recommended amount of milk?  Why?  Who set the recommended amount in the first place?

"At another, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one that didn't."

Sounds reasonable for 1947.

"One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted."

Did people know what vitamin B1 was in 1947?  If so how was the level depressed, by withholding food?  Was it in pill form?

"A special enriched flour that couldn't legally be sold elsewhere in Canada under food adulteration laws was used on children at another school."

This actually doesn't sound too evil, as I think we now basically use enriched flour everywhere and think nothing of it. It is your basic white  "Wonder Bread".  Of course if the illegal enriched flour had proven fatal, that would have been a bad thing.

"Many dental services were withdrawn from participating schools during that time. Gum health was an important measuring tool for scientists and they didn't want treatments on children's teeth distorting results."

If true, that is a crime, unless the treatments that were being withheld were also experimental.  In which case it's the opposite of a crime.  The actual treatments that were withheld are not specified.

"They knew from the beginning that the real problem and the cause of malnutrition was underfunding. That was established before the studies even started and when the studies were completed that was still the problem."

Studies in nutrition are not simple, because even when people have enough money and access to food, they can still be malnourished.  You need to have a healthy balanced diet, and not all people understand what a healthy diet is, or want to eat it.  You can be obese and still  suffer from nutritional deficiencies.  You cannot drink Coke and eat potato chips your whole life without serious side effects, not that I am suggesting anyone in 1947 would do that.  But you also cannot easily force people to eat a healthy diet.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Was Slavery Allowed in the Bible?

If you travel around the USA, you may come across a billboard like the picture to the left.  And you may wonder, why are they still arguing about slavery and about the bible being God's word?  It could be a legacy from the time of slavery.  The situation, (maybe oversimplified) is that today, there is a sizeable part of the USA that believes in the bible as the literal word of God. Others believe we need to interpret the bible for a modern world.  (Or don't believe it at all)

To anyone who looks further into the debate about the bible, it seems like the strongest support for the literal interpretation of the bible comes from the Southern Confederate states in the civil war.  Did the civil war have anything to do with this split on how the bible is interpreted?

I found this in Wikipedia: "Religious conflict over the slavery question"


Before the Civil War, most Americans held the belief that the bible was literally true. According to the proslavery side, was written in the bible that white people should enslave the black people.

The slavery debate raged on with each side combing through the bible for passages that supported their cause.  The pro-slavery side won the technical debate by a landslide.  Apparently there are a lot of passages in the bible supporting slavery, and almost none to refute it. So the literal interpretation of the Bible actually does support slavery. The reference given in Wikipedia is a book by Mark Noll, "America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. (2002)"  I don't have the book, but apparently it explains how the bible debate was won by the pro-slavery faction.  But the abolitionists felt in their hearts that slavery was wrong anyway.

The book "Slavery and Sin: The Fight Against Slavery and the Rise of Liberal Protestantism" By Molly Oshatz has some words about the debate on p 61:

"Christian abolitionists ... endeavored to make the case that the bible did not in fact sanction slavery, an argument that proslavery exegetes quickly dismantled... The most persuasive antislavery moderate of all, Harriet Beecher Stowe, avoided biblical argument in favour of narrative." 

If it is true that a literal interpretation of the bible supports slavery, where does that leave bible literalists?  Today slavery is seen as an evil. Even the Southern Baptists have officially apologized for supporting slavery.  The only concession by literalists seems to be that the word slave was mistranslated.  If an important word like slave could be mistranslated (I don't think it was, but anyway...), what else could be mistranslated?

Before the war, three major branches of American Protestantism split into north and south versions because of their interpretation of God's will on slavery. The Methodists in 1844, the Baptists in 1845, and the Presbyterians in 1857.  The southern versions of these Churches could insist on an even stricter literal interpretation of the bible, while the northern branches had to use a more liberal interpretation of the bible, to support their view that slavery was wrong.  The Northern churches could begin to acknowledge that the Bible was written more for the ancient desert people than it was for 19th century America.

The debate that could have been settled by reading of the bible, ended up in a shooting war, with hundreds of thousands of Americans killed.  But even though the north won the war, southerners apparently remained convinced that the bible was literally true, while eventually conceding that slavery was wrong.  And that is about where we are today, with the bible literalists now attacking Darwinists and homosexuals instead of Abolitionists.  Hopefully this time it will not be resolved with guns.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Biker's Guide to Cobourg, Ontario

Yesterday Mary Ann and I visited Cobourg Ontario. Cobourg is a small town on Lake Ontario.  It has a spectacular old town hall, and a historic district with several buildings that look like they were put up in the 1800's.  It is also on the beach, and even has a campground right on the beach. With all the outdoor cafes, it is my favourite kind of town to visit.  We both went on my Kawasaki Vulcan 900.

In theory, we live only two hours away from Cobourg, but we had never been there before.  That's because Cobourg is on the other (east) side of Toronto.  There is no easy way to get through Toronto, so if I want to just go for a drive and visit some random town, it will be one that is west of Toronto.  After living in Kitchener for 33 years, I know south western Ontario quite well, but south eastern Ontario is unexplored territory. The only way to cross Toronto is either the 401 or the 407. The 401 is up to 12 lanes of insane drivers stuck in senseless traffic jams that go on for miles.  The 407 is a less frantic alternative, but it is toll road, and oddly ends nowhere.

We chose to visit Cobourg because we went to see some people who live there. We also got to see a beach volleyball tournament, and the annual Great Pine Ridge classic car show.  I was amazed by the number of restored cars I had not seen before.  Our hosts had an old Commer camper van entered in the show.  Here is a link to the show, and an entry on Wikipedia for Commer in case you have never heard of this old British manufacturer.



I didn't have my camera, but there are a lot of great pictures of Cobourg here

The weather forecast for the entire day was 50% chance of precipitation, in isolated thunderstorms.  So I brought along my good luck charm against thunderstorms, the smartphone with weather radar on it.  Despite all the wet weather we have had this year, so far I have not driven into a heavy rain storm.  The drive to Cobourg in the morning had no traffic jams, and no rain.  Apparently about half the vintage cars skipped the show because of the threat of rain.  It didn't matter to me, as approximately one hundred cars did show up.  With Mary Ann, who can take or leave old cars, (mostly leave actually), and other things to do like beach volleyball, visiting the marina, and reading historical plaques in downtown Cobourg, the extra cars were not missed.

We left at 8 PM for the ride back to Kitchener.  There were three problems.  It was getting dark, there were isolated rain storms around, and the traffic would be much worse.  In Toronto, we got stuck in a half hour long traffic jam when some rain started.  But we still were reasonably dry, even without putting on our rain outfits.  I guess with the windshield, the clothes I was wearing were kind of water resistant.  When we finally got out of Toronto, I wanted to stop and check the weather radar, but I missed our first opportunity, which is Milton. The next place to check the radar would be Morriston, but before Morriston my luck ran out and went through the middle of a heavy rainstorm.  It is bad to get a lot of rain at night, on a freeway, riding a motorcycle, without proper rain gear on. We were doing all those things. By the time we reached Morriston my boots were filled with water and I was leaving a trail of wet footprints wherever I walked.  The rest of me wasn't too wet, even though I forgot to close the vents on my jacket.  It was cold in Tim Hortons, but warm enough outside on the road.  When I finally checked the radar, the rain had passed, so I zipped up my vents, put on the wet gloves, and was home by midnight.  The gear is still drying out.

It will probably be quite a while before we visit the unknown side of Ontario again. South Eastern Ontario is a great place to go motorcycling, probably a great place to live, but Toronto remains a formidable barrier for us western people.

Picture: A CL16 sailing in front of Cobourg marina.  I saw lots of CL16s at the sailing club. I got the picture here:

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Justin Carter: A Psychoanalysis

Which one is just kidding?

Justin Carter, a 19 year old male in Texas, made this comment on the internet:

"Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts"

This was followed by LOL, and JK, which as everyone knows means Laughing out loud and just kidding.

So a Canadian woman spotted this, and alerted authorities in Texas, who put Justin in Jail and he is still there, awaiting trial and in solitary confinement, four months later.

Following some of the discussion on the internet, I notice a trend for left wingers and right wingers to each blame the other for this incarceration.

It starts with Texas, a well known right wing state, and the location of this debacle.  So you might think that this is the typical right wing Texas justice, famous for executions and harshness.  But no, apparently this is in Austin Texas, and the crime is a Federal crime.  Austin is the left wing stronghold of Texas, and of course Obama is president of the Federal government, so it's all his fault.  But actually that is partly a lie too, because the court that set the bail of $500,000 is not a federal court, and is not even in Austin. It is in New Braunfels, Texas. Not only is New Braunfels closer to San Antonio than to Austin, it is a German community like my home town of Kitchener (The Lost Motorcyclist lives in Kitchener, Ontario).  From the New Braunfels web page:

"Willkommen! to a little bit of old Germany smack dab in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. New Braunfels is the kind of old-fashioned town that makes folks feel right at home."

The court that set the bail for Justin, and delayed his trial, and the jailers who put him in solitary confinement, are not directly under federal jurisdiction.  While it is a federal law that has been violated, I'm not so sure Obama or the Lefties take all the responsibility for a law against uttering terrorist threats.

But of course, stupidity does not stop there: check this out, from a blog named "Small dead animals"


"The woman who called police about this "threat" should undergo some intense involuntary re-education in recognizing sarcasm and satire. A couple of years of "re-education" would likely be appropriate."  by Loki, July 1, 2013

Well, it seems to me that arresting Justin is only the tip of the iceberg of stupidity.  I mean: An ordinary citizen notifies the police of a threat to shoot kindergarten kids, and the concerned citizen should be locked up for two years? In my opinion, the concerned citizen has really done nothing wrong, and everything right. She is not responsible for any of the 4 month detention or harsh conditions in the jail.  She does not even really understand the Texan judicial system, as she comes from Canada and may not have watched "Thelma and Louise".

Although we cannot prevent any given person (either Justin or Loki) from being stupid, society's response to stupidity should be rational. After investigating Justin Carter, and seeing there was no credible threat, the police should have released him.  Then nobody needs to get their knickers in a twist until Justin actually goes into a school armed to the teeth and kills twenty kids just before killing himself.  And what is the probability of that happening? 1% maybe?  And I base that 1% entirely on the fact that Justin was stupid enough to make that comment, in response to some online friend saying he was crazy.  Otherwise I would say effectively 0%.

Now for Doctor Lost's (me) official psychoanalysis of the situation.  Justin seems to have a style of communicating that does not mesh well with reality.  I don't know the full context of how his crazy conversation got started, but let me guess that Justin said many crazy things online, prompting one of his gaming buddies to comment on the fact that he seemed "messed up in the head".  To which Justin gave his classic answer "Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts".  Now that response indicates a person who has a tendency to answers that make him look even crazier than was originally thought.  If this is Justin's shtick, (i.e. he does it all the time) then what response did the police officers get when they questioned him about his online comment?  I'm guessing Justin was not aware of his own condition, and unknowingly continued with his sarcasm until the authorities finally decided to lock him up.  "Tourett's syndrome" is a disorder where a person cannot help swearing inappropriately.  I imagine there is another as-yet-undiscovered syndrome where a person cannot help getting themselves in deeper trouble with sarcastic comments, I will now name it "The Cousin Vinnie Syndrome" after a movie by the name of "My Cousin Vinnie".  And I think Justin Carter probably has it real bad.

Picture: The guy in the orange wig was not "just kidding" (allegedly).