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.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

About Need

(1) "I think those pictures are shocking and disgusting. You didn't NEED to print them."
"Maybe not, but I WANTED to print them, and as an American citizen with freedom of the press, I have a RIGHT to print them, so it doesn't matter what you think I need."

(2) "You claim that the Prophet Mohammed was a pedophilic warmonger. You don't NEED to believe that."
"Maybe not, but I DO believe that, and as an American citizen with freedom of religion, I have a RIGHT to believe anything I want, so it doesn't matter what you think I need."

(3) "That's an insult to our governor. You didn't NEED to say that."
"Maybe not, but that's the way I FEEL about him, and as an American citizen with freedom of speech, I have a RIGHT to spout off, so it doesn't matter what you think I need."

(4) "Well, maybe you think those songs are funny, but I don't, and you don't NEED to be singing them here in the Rotunda."
"Maybe not, but I ENJOY jolly lampoons of buffoons, and as an American citizen with freedom of assembly, I have a RIGHT to do so musically, so it doesn't matter what you think I need."

(5) "Maybe you occasionally do a little hunting or target shooting. You don't NEED a semi-automatic rifle to do that."
"Maybe not, but I LIKE semi-autos and can afford one, and as an American citizen, I have a RIGHT to keep and bear arms, so it doesn't matter what you think I need."

Why is it, my fellow liberals, that the question of what YOU think are MY needs never enters into your sincere defense of my right to freedom of religion, speech, the press, or assembly, but when we move on from the 1st Amendment to the 2nd, suddenly your opinion about my wishes and desires gets to trump mine, and the question of whether I "need" something (in your own deservedly humble opinion) suddenly becomes so important to you?

If "need" were the only factor to consider in assigning rights, the only things I could ever possibly have that would be entitled to protection would be air, water, food, a reasonable temperature range, and chocolate. Everything else — EVERYTHING else — is just a want.

Just as the only speech that really needs protecting is unpopular speech, so the only weapons that need the cover of the 2nd Amendment are the unpopular ones. That's the only "need" you should be concerned with.

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Over 99% of guns in America are never used in the commission of a crime of ANY kind, let alone murder.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


During the recent presidential campaign, Republicans kept pointing at the stagnant economy and high unemployment, demanding to know why Obama deserved a second term with numbers like that on his track record. The response from the Democrats was "Well, it would have been much worse doing it your way!"

Now we have liberals pointing at the nation's gun policies, demanding to know why the murder rate isn't at zero, the way it is everywhere else in the world, and it's the GOP that gets stuck with the line "Well, it would have been much worse doing it your way!"

In neither case does the other side find that line convincing.

You see the problem here, of course. There's no way, short of running a parallel space-time continuum, that we can ever know how things might have been, we can only know what they have been and are left with mere speculation as to what they will be.

Sadly, in a nation where half the population believes the world is only 10,000 years old, there are never any new species, nuclear power plants are more dangerous than coal, climate change is just a naturally occurring temporary blip in weather patterns, genetically modified crops are insidious health hazards, voter impersonation is a huge threat to democracy, and Kardashians matter, it's difficult enuf getting people to grasp what is, let alone what could have been. Anyone who thinks that an informed electorate is an essential prerequisite to self-governance should be justly appalled.

And yet, that's democracy. Which, as Winston Churchill remarked, is the worst possible form of government, except for all the others that have ever been tried.

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Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

— H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), American journalist, essayist, editor, and critic