Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Rationality

The Green Bay Packers are the greatest sports team in the history of the planet.

There is abundant evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, even if the statement were true historically, it doesn't make the Packers the greatest sports team on Earth at this very moment. And vice versa.

I don't care. I am completely irrational on the subject. I choose my evidence selectively to reinforce my prejudice. And it IS a prejudice. I recognize this. I still don't care.

But, get me away from this particular subject, and I'll be just as gimlet-eyed, evidence-demanding, flim-flam doubting, skeptical, rational, and free thinking as the best of 'em.

I've occasionally remarked is that the difference between science fiction and fantasy is the number of wild cards they allow in the deck. SF confines itself to 1 or 2 (like faster-than-light travel or telepathy), while fantasy allows for lots more.

Same deal here. I figure everyone's entitled to 1 or 2 favorite irrationalities. The Packers are mine. (That and dairy products, which will probably kill me some day.) They're mainly harmless. I'm not trying to inflict them on the unwary, unwilling, or emotionally incompetent. And they don't cost anything. (Well, honestly, looking at all the Packer paraphernalia festooning my home, vehicle, and person, and all the milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream in the fridge, I guess I should say they don't cost MUCH.)

Religion, OTOH, is essentially nothing BUT wild cards. And, whatever time, money, energy, devotion, and creativity any of its followers pours into it, religion always demands more. That's not just nuts, it's dangerous.

So let people have fun with their little personal irrationalities, as long as they pay attention to reality when it comes to the things that really matter. I guess I only start to get nervous when it becomes apparent that fandom has shaded over into fanaticism.

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Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

-- Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Would States Rather Melt Down Financially Than Legalize Drugs?

2010 June 19

Time Magazine Letters
Time & Life Bldg.
New York NY 10020

I wonder how many of your readers were able to connect the dots among half a dozen articles in your June 28 issue to detect the underlying pattern.

Article #1 showed how legalizing one drug (marijuana) for one limited purpose (medical treatment) has provided new jobs and economic hope in unemployment-ravaged Michigan. Articles #2 and #3 spoke of decapitation bowling among the drug lords of Mexico and the US’s increasingly futile war against the drug-funded Taliban in Afghanistan. Left unmentioned in both cases is the rock-solid fact that the US is financing both sides in these conflicts; yes, we’re paying the bad guys, too.

Article #4, your cover story, spoke of anguished hand-wringing among the states over their massive budget deficits. Of course, the answer to their problems is staring them straight in the face: Legalize recreational drugs, then regulate and tax them. This increases revenues. Then release all non-violent drug offenders from prison and cut back on the cops, DAs, courts, judges, juries, prisons, wardens, guards, and probation agents that we’ve been using to persecute them for their victimless “crimes”. This reduces expenses. (To maintain our standing as the most incarcerated society in the history of the planet, our states spend more each year on prisons than they do on higher education.) Presto! Balanced budgets.

Plus which, legitimate merchants will avoid like the plague selling drugs to minors (just as they currently do with alcohol and tobacco), thereby keeping our kids safer from drugs than they are now, when it pays the dealers to recruit them young and use them as runners and lookouts in addition to getting them hooked.

It’s been said that one indicator of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So it is with America’s literally insane war on its drug-using citizens. It’s like picking your favorite car crash and re-enacting it every day, except with different vehicles and victims. It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It never will work. All it’s doing is piling up more corpses. You’d think we would have learned from the Old Prohibition, but no, we just keep on trucking with the New Prohibition, expecting that someday, somehow, we can make recreational drugs so expensive, illegal, hard to get, and dangerous that Americans will voluntarily surrender their cravings for them. But the final grade is in: Fail!

Is the fiscal crisis in the states so catastrophic that some brave state legislature, somewhere among the 46 searching frantically for answers, will finally face reality and set a good example by legalizing recreational drugs? The answer may be found in Articles #5 and #6, on professional poker and online penny auctions: Don’t bet on it. Our national supply of stupidity and delusional thinking seems endless. If only there were a reliable source of sound information that would “favor ideas that make sense, that challenge us to rethink customary ways of doing business”.

Sound vaguely familiar? It should. Those words are from Article #7, in which Managing Editor Richard Stengel dislocates his shoulder patting Time itself on the back. “We don’t just cover the news,” he claims, “we put it in context and explain its larger meaning.” The very issue in which those words appear suggests otherwise. You give us stories and pictures of individual trees, when the nation as a whole (and your readers in particular) would have been better served had you taken a few steps back and said “Hey, know what? Turns out there’s a forest here.”.

Don’t just draw the dots: connect them!

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Repeal Prohibition. Again. For all the same reasons. -- bumper sticker

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Oil Leak

Nuke it!

Why not? How much worse could it get?

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The 1st rule of holes is, when you're in one, stop digging.

-- Molly Ivins, syndicated political columnist

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Boycotting BP

Whenever I encourage people to boycott BP gas stations in protest over their disastrous mismanagement of deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, I get the same lament: "But that'll only hurt the local independent dealers."

Well, 1st off, it won't hurt ONLY the independent dealers, it'll also hurt BP, which is the whole point of the boycott. And 2nd, if they're truly independent, they could switch to a different supplier.

But, the apologists come back, they're not THAT independent. BP has tied them down to long-term contracts. I've likened this to the Taliban holing up in elementary schools, which is despicable conduct, to be sure, but effective, since we don't want to blow up school kids just to get the scumbags who've taken refuge among them.

So what CAN we do to hurt BP without damaging the gas stations who peddle their products? I've got 2 answers for this:

(1) Personally tell the station manager to post a huge sign out front saying "My contract with BP runs thru (date), and I pledge to buy my gasoline elsewhere when it's done." If they'll do that, continue to give them your business. If not, go elsewhere.

(2) Stop in and support the merchant by buying convenience-store products — milk, bread, beer, snacks, ice, etc. (which is where they make most of their profits, anyway) — but when they ask "And did you have gas, too?" tell them "No way, not as long as you're selling BP."

You DO have a choice, and where you CHOOSE to spend your money DOES make a difference.