Thursday, April 30, 2009

Miley Cyrus Seems Nice

Some folks are everywhere all the time, and I start to hate them for it. Paris Hilton, Donald Trump, you know about whom I am talking. Others are such nice people that I can't get enough of them. Rachael Ray has TV shows, a magazine, does commercials and is exposed as much as anyone ever, but doggone it I love her. Can there ever be enough Oprah Winfrey? I reckon not. That little Miley Cyrus is another one. She seems so nice that it didn't bother me one bit to observe that she has her own breakfast cereal. You go girl!

Now Miley's in trouble with the hatemongers of the religious right because she is not a gay hater. Via AmericaBlog, we learn that the wingnuts are up in arms for comments Miley made about gays, such as:

"Everyone deserves to love and be loved and most importantly smile."

"Jesus loves you and your partner and wants you to know how much he cares! That's like a daddy not loving his lil boy cuz he's gay and that is wrong and very sad! "Like I said everyone deserves to be happy."

"God’s greatest commandment is to love. And judging is not loving."

"I am a Christian and I love you - gay or not - because you are no different than anyone else! We are all God's children."

It seems to me that Miley Cyrus is a pretty good role model and has a better understanding of the teachings of Jesus than her detractors in the religious right. Thank you, Billy Ray Cyrus. If having to endure "Achy, Breaky Heart" was necessary for us to have Miley so famous and popular, then it was worth it. God works in mysterious ways.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

All Scriptue

When I was a kid in the Bible Belt, religious folks explained to me that the Bible was true because it said so, right in a Pauline letter to Timothy. You know the passage: "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To the fundamentalists who tried to instruct me, the passage itself was Scripture, self authenticating. The passage applied to the whole Bible as they knew it.

Yet, just before this passage, Paul, or someone writing as Paul, refers to "the sacred writings" that Timothy has known "from childhood". Clearly, the author was not referring to his own letter as Scripture. Moreover, Paul or Pseudopaul as the case may be wrote letters before the Gospels were written, so he couldn't have meant the Gospels, or Acts, or the Apocalypse. He couldn't have meant any of the New Testament.

Scripture clearly refers to some part of the Old Testament as "sacred writings" which are efficacious for certain purposes. Nowhere in tis passage does Paul or his impostor claim that Scripture is a law book or a history book, only that is inspired by God and useful to equip the man of God. Perhaps the letters of Paul were inspired by God in some sense and are useful. Perhaps someone right now is writing something under the influence of the Spirit and this will be useful. Some sermon to be delivered this Sunday may well be God breathed and useful for a man of God.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bad Negotiators Get Deals Killed

I had the rare pleasure today of trying to negotiate with some clueless old pettifogger who had no idea how to negotiate at all. His strategy? Tell us that our concerns were silly nonsense that didn't need to be addressed. In his view, the contract language covered us and our requested additions would be superfluous. He didn't have any issues in principle with what we wanted the contract to do, but his literary sensibilities would have been offended by making the implicit explicit. I killed the deal because of him, and I'm sure his client will be pissed about it. That's what they get for hiring a shitty lawyer.

I even tried to help him negotiate. Hows about we each share with each other what our concerns are, and then we can put our heads together and see if we can work out some language that covers us both? He didn't bite. "I've told you again and again that you don't need any additional language!" Here's a tip for would be negotiators: you don't get to tell the other side what they need. They know what they need.

It's amazing to me how many bad negotiators there are in positions where they have to negotiate. I've worked with general counsels who couldn't negotiate at all and who would only work with redline drafts going back and forth. Most bad negiotiators are grateful to have a skilled individual, even if they're on the other side, to provide some structure and a basis for proceeding. I can't tell you what a joy it is to work with other skilled people and solve probems to get deals done on good terms.

The douche today was not a joy to work with. He wasted everyone's time.

Garden and Bird News

We saw our first hummingbird of the season yesterday, the earliest I have ever seen one on Hosner Mountain. Mrs Vache Folle starts putting out nectar in mid-April in case any migrant hummers would like a drink of sugar water on their way to the Maritimes. Our resident birds didn't show up until May 9 last year, but I suspect we'll see them sooner if the temperature stays hot.

Also making appearances this weekend: rose breasted grosbeak, tree swallow (first ever sighting on the property), and a pileated woodpecker (first ever on the property). The pileated woodpecker has a call that sounds a bit like Woody Woodpecker, and that's what allowed me to sight him.

We planted the raised beds. It took nearly six yards of topsoil on top of a layer of detritus. Now we have to figure out a way to keep Jasper from wallowing in them. He likes to swim in the pond after frogs and then roll around in the garden beds until he is covered with dirt before he goes back in the house. Thank goodness we have housekeeping help now.

I got in the pond on Saturday and took out a great deal of muck from the sump. I have a lot more to get out, so I expect to spend some time in the pond over the next few weekends. I have figured out that using a net works better than a shovel, although the full net is pretty heavy. The methane under the rotting leaves and detritus is a little hard to take sometimes, but the pond ain't gonna muck itself. I have lots of swampy places where a little pond muck would be welcome. Grass grows great on pond muck.

Mrs Vache Folle and I improved the retaining wall and the planting beds on them, and it looks way better. She is very helpful at keeping me from doing a half assed job even if she does sometimes try to work out of sequence.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Suppressing Black Fertility

My Idiot Brother in Law loves "the black family". Black people? Not so much. He wants to see "intact" black families and an end to the high rate of bastardy among black people. He uses the term "illegitimacy", but I prefer bastardy because it has a nice ring to it. What he really wants to see is an end to the births of bastards. He wants poor black women to wait until they are married and are established financially to reproduce and then to reproduce at less than replacement rates like white people. It's for their own good, you see. Those bastards would be better off if they had never been born. How does he propose to suppress black fertility? Cut off all public asistance of any kind. That's it. That's the solution to the "problem" of too many black births.Ultimately, underlying all of IBIL's talk of helping blacks by not helping them and freeing them from the cycle of dependency is his conviction that black people are the problem.

IBIL doesn't propose to do anything about the particular constraints under which black folks live or to make marriage any more of an option than it already is. He reckons that their community and families will grow stronger through suffering and that, best of all, fewer black children will end up being born than under the current system. This is not likely to be the case if impoverished populations in other parts of the world are illustrative, but it would nonetheless satisfy IBIL because it takes away benefits from black folks whom he hates.

I reckon that a more humane means of suppressing fertility among young black women would be to increase their opportunity costs of reproduction by taking steps to ensure that they actually have opportunities to sacrifice. This assumes that suppression of black fertility is your goal.


I rented Bill Maher's "Religulous" in which he pokes fun at religious people. It was painful, but still funny, for me to watch many of my co-religionists make complete asses of themselves. Every damned one of them (except for a senior priest at the Vatican) fell into the trap of arguing that their religous beliefs have been "proven" to be true. Even the smart guy from the human genome project went off on how the New Testament is clearly a historical document, blah blah quack woof. Wrong answer! Bill Maher will eat you alive!

The only right answer is something along the lines of: "I came to believe in [insert religious belief here], and my conviction in the truth of it has been sustained through my own experience. I don't claim that this conviction is rational. Rather, it is a matter of faith and conscience. And, by the way, I don't actually believe in a literal talking snake."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dr Block is Guilty of Faulty Reasoning and Signs of Douchebaggery, But He is not a Racist as far as I Can Tell from One Lecture

JL Wilson comes to the defense of Walter Block

Dr Block, an economics professor at Loyola in New Orleans, gave a talk at Loyola in Baltimore on the issues of the gender gap and the racial gap in earnings. This led the Diversity Task Force at his school to publish a letter distancing the school from Dr Block's remarks. The letter claimed that the talk had ignored structural conditions in society. Some other folks complained that Dr Block is a racist and/or a sexist.

I took up Wilson's challenge and viewed the repeat performance Dr Block gave of his talk. I have several observations: (1) that's two hours of my life that I will be regretting on my death bed; (2) if I ever decide to study economics, I will not do so at Loyola in New Orleans; (3) Dr Block, who refers to people who disagree with him as "monstrous, vicous and depraved", is not easy to sympathize with; (4) Dr Block's talk was among the lamest I have ever endured; and (5) there is no basis for charging Dr Block with racism based strictly on the content of the talk.

The Diversity Task Force was almost on point when it criticized the talk for ignoring structural conditions. He didn't so much ignore structural conditions as illustrate their very existence and then fail to recognize what was right in front of his nose.

Let's take his discussion of the gender gap. Dr Block sets out to refute the feminist argument (the straw one that he sets up anyway) that the gender gap is due solely to sexist discrimination and is an artifact of the capitalist system. I have read some feminist critiques of the capitalist system in my day, but none were quite so superficial as Block's straw version. He argues that the cause of the gender gap is explained by the "marital asymmetry hypothesis". Women have more responsibilities in the home than men and are, therefore, disadvantaged in the labor market. If women are cheaper than men with equal productivity, then free market folks will hire more of them and make more profit and ultimately get rid of the gender gap. This has not occurred; therefore, either women are less productive than men and should earn less or there is no wage gap.

Dr Block stipulated several times that men and women were equally productive, and he admitted the existence of the wage gap, so the conclusion about variable productivity has to be teased out. What Dr Block failed to recognize was that the domestic asymmetry he describes is a structural condition that imposes on the free market system that he appears to believe we actually live in. Economic actors take the structural conditions of society as they find them. Women are burdened with domestic responsibilities and are, therefore, less productive than their husbands who can ignore sick children and dirty dishes and get lots of face time with the boss. This makes for a feedback loop. Women get paid less than men, so their jobs are the ones that get sacrificed for childrearing, sick kids, what have you. They are the ones that give up their jobs when their husbands get relocated. It's the only rational decison they can make in a society structured to impose the majority of the domestic burden on women. Women without kids, or whose kids are grown get penalized because of the perception that their possession of a vagina necessarily makes them less productive.

It's not enough for Dr Block to recognize that the capitalist system is vindicated in this analysis. Capitalists didn't make marital asymmetry; they just take it into account as a social fact. Dr Black has to take it one superfluous step further and declare that marital asymmetry is due to biology. Men and women are variably productive because in the pleistocene our male ancestors couldn't be bothered to run the vacuum cleaner or empty the dishwasher now and again? Dr Black insists on making marital asymmetry an act of God or Evolution which is utterly unproblematic.

Also, Dr Block seems to deny that a lot of men (and women for that matter) are sexist douchebags who can't work with women and who won't advance their careers. This is not to say that they don't love their wives and mothers and daughters and sisters. They just have some irrational subjective preferences about whom they want to spend time with at work and on the golf course. I'm a corporate tool, and I know whereof I speak.

Because Dr Block goes out of his way to demonize and mischaracterize feminists and, for no apparent purpose, posits an essentialist argument for marital asymmetry, I'm going to classify him as "sexist". I'm not saying he is a misogynist or anything, just that he holds to the view that a great many more gender differences are essential and immutable than is accepted in the mainstream.

On to the part about the racial gap in earnings. According to Dr Block, his talk in Baltimore provided two explanations for the wage gap: (1) lower productivity among blacks being due to existential factors, or (2) black people are stupider than white people. He claimed not to have a position on this, but in his New Orleans recap, he added a number of additional existential explanations (welfare, family instability). He didn't deny that racial prejudice exists, but he spent quite a bit of time trying to rationalize it.

The gravamen of Dr Block's argument with respect to the racial gap is that the capitalist system would eliminate it because folks would have to pay for their prejudice. Well, I'm here to tell you that folks do pay for their prejudice. Also, once again, let me point out that we don't live in the free market paradise Dr Block is counting on. There are structural obstacles put in the way of black people and the folks who would employ them. Reduced black productivity is not the whole story. It may not even be the biggest part of the story.

In the end, though, Block never crossed the line into racialism. He didn't argue that the differences of black folks to white folks are essential. Since he didn't even get racialist, he certainly didn't display racism. It was a mistake to bring up the "black people are stupider" theory since it did not contribute to his argument, and it may have left the impression that he bought into it, in which case you could plausibly suspect him of racism.

Here's where Dr Block disappoints me. He could do a lot of good work by using his free market models and ways of thinking to show what a free market system would look like under ideal conditions and then to show where there are discrepancies from the ideal and how those discrepancies persist. We don't need economists to tell us why they persist. That's not a meaningful social scientific query. We don't need economists to be apologists for the world as it is. We have prozac for that.

I support Dr Block's right to hold contrarian views and expound on them no mattr how stupid I think they are. Hell, I reckon he has a right to racist or sexist views and to express them if he held them. On the other hand, everyone else has a right to call bullshit. I think even Dr Block would agree to that. He read an excerpt from JS Mill's "On Liberty" before his repeat performance, the one where Mill argues that all views should be expressed. I would not want to see Dr Block silenced. I would not want his critics to be silenced, either.

Where's My False Confessions?

The "enhanced interrogation techniques", otherwise known as torture in civilized societies, employed by the Bushcheneyregime were designed to get prisoners to make false confessions for political purposes. Evidently, the Bushchenyregime couldn't even get any decent false confessions out of their victims. This leads me to conclude that (a) the torturers were incompetent, (b) the torturers were sexually aroused by torture for its own sake, (c) both (a) and (b).

It's not that the Bushcheneyregime couldn't have used some false confessions. "I admit it, I smuggled the Iraqi WMD to Syria in my ass." "I arranged a meeting with Saddam and bin Laden to coordinate their secret plan to take over the world." "Damn your warrantless wiretapping and widespread eavesdropping for you have thwarted yet another al Qaeda scheme thereby!"

And yet no such confessions were elicited. I doubt that any significant actionable intelligence was elicited, either. Not that it would have mattered. The Bushcheneyregime didn't need no stinking intelligence to take action. They just made shit up and did whatever they wanted.

Legal Opinions Cover All Sins

If only the war criminals tried at Nuremberg had had some memos from the Nazi equivalent of the Justice Department in their files. They'd have been totally exonerated! Same goes for the Japanese guys who ended up on the gallows.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Recycled Funnies

Since most jokes we know have been around the block a few times, it is sometimes helpful just to recite the punchlines. That way, you get to remember the joke without going through the trouble of hearing the set up. What's more, you get the pleasure of reconstructing the joke. Finally, if you don't know the joke, it can be fun to imagine the set up. This is a great way to recycle the oldies but goodies.

Here are some examples:

"He was charged with transporting gulls across a state lion for immortal porpoises."

"You didn't get one?"

"It's the cat!"

"I wanted to know whether to bargain him down or steal it."

"I've seen shaggier."

"Look who thinks he's nothing."

I enjoy ethnic humor now and then, but I like to use rare ethnicities that aren't likely to be represented in the room when I tell the joke. "An Inuit walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The bartender says, 'That's neat! Where'd you get it?' The parrot answers, 'In the Yukon. They run wild there.'" Damn. It's even funnier with the Inuit in it. It's also fun to substitute ethnicities so as to transfer stereotypes in novel ways. "What did the Sicilian yell at the football game? Get the quarter back!" "How did the Soviets defeat the Germans. They marched in backwards, and the Germans thought they were leaving." "What's the most confusing holiday in Israel? Fatrher's Day."

Lawyer jokes are ten times funnier when you apply them to novel professions, such as nurses or hostel workers. "What do you call a thousand hostel caregivers on the bottom of the Hudson? A good start."

See how much mileage you can get out of your old jokes with just a few minor changes?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stuff About My Boring Life

I thought Jesse Lou Baggett wasn't going to make it for a while. His vestibular disease hit him hard. He has made a good recovery, although he is slightly slower and clumsier than he once was. Back in his day Jesse was a graceful speedster. So was I. Now we're both slower and less steady on our feet. His appetite came back with a vengeance. Since he has been off steroids for a few weeks, he has stopped pissing all over the potted plants and the TV stand. For a while there, I would come home to five or six piss puddles.

Jasper has been more uppity than usual, perhaps sensing that Jesse's alpha status is not so secure. Eventually, Jesse will tear him a new one, and the old regime will be restored completely.

Jasper is back to frog hunting and spotted Brad the Water Snake on Sunday last. This is the earliest we've ever seen Brad. Two comets appear to have survived the winter, but there's still no sign of the koi or the other thrity comets who made it through the autumn. Are they hiding under the leaves and muck? I've been mucking a little to get some detritus for various projects, and that's when the comets appeared.

I built raised beds 12 by 6 feet and am tilling the herb garden, so we'll have over 200 square feet of crops. We planted the one bed that I finished filling with topsoil on Sunday, and I hope to have the other bed filled by this weekend. I bought six yards of premium topsoil, but I don't reckon it will be enough for all the stuff I have planned.

Mrs Vache Folle has been very helpful with the garden this year so far. I try to get her to do the actual planting and detail work while I push wheelbarrows of dirt, mulch and rocks and shovel muck out of the pond. This division of labor seems to work for us.

We hired our neighbor to clean our house every week. She's already our dog walker. This way we can avoid spending our weekends on housework and can have a little fun for a change.

Cheney Speaking is Torture

According to my morning briefing from Red State (I don't know why I get these), Dick Cheney claims that if the torture memos are released, then all the good results gained by torture should be publicized. Bullshit, say I. If there were any good results the Bush administration would have been crowing about them. Moreover, I would be afraid to see what Dick Cheney considers "good".

As far as I am concerned, it doesn't matter if torture yielded any useful information. It's still wrong. I could rob some banks and point to how rich I got as a result, but that wouldn't make robbing banks OK. Scott Petersen could, if he folllowed Cheneyist moral logic, have argued that the murder of Lacy yielded good results for him and should be excused. Hitler's genocidal rampage was OK because it helped his cause in some way. Mao was able to get rid of a lot of hungry mouths in the purges of the Great Leap Forward, so good for him.

The bastards who wrote the torture memos should be disbarred and prosecuted. Those who followed the memos should be investigated and prosecuted if it is suspected that they knew better. If they didn't know better, they should be fired, because they're too damn stupid to occupy positions of trust.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Another Business Idea

As soon as it's legal in New York, I reckon I'll open up a payday lending office. Returns are something like 1000%, so how can I lose? This won't just be a payday lending office, though. It'll be a whole shopping center for the working poor. There's an abandoned mall off Route 9 that could house the whole shebang.

Inside the payday lending office, we'd also sell lottery tickets. Next door we'll sell cheap liquor and beer and cigarettes. Just down the way, you can rent furniture and appliances. Why wait when you can get it now for just a few dollars a week? There'll be a pawn shop, a tattoo parlor and piercing center, and a jewelry store that will let you buy on time. All the shops in the mall will have layaway.

We'll also have a dollar store area where folks can pick up gewgaws for next to nothing and a huge flea market where they can buy and sell NASCAR memorabilia and knick knacks and inexpensive clothing.

The food court will feature fried dough, those onions made into flower shapes and deep fried, and other fried stuff. Of course, folks can bring a picnic if they like. We'd love for them to make a day of it.

We'll also have a 99 cent theatre and show all kinds of movies.

In the center of the mall, we'd have live entertainment on weekends. We'll have both kinds of music, country and western.

In the parking lot, we'd encourage folks to work on their cars and share parts and such like. If your ride won't run, there's a used car lot, and your job is your credit. Also, you can have a tag sale out of the trunk of your car or the bed of your truck for all we care. You can live in your RV in the parking lot if you like.

I think I can make money on this.

Expel Texas from the Union

Word has is that some Texicans are talking secession. That's been tried. Some New England states balked at the War of 1812 and made noises about nullification and secession, but they thought better of it. South Carolina made a fuss about secession in 1832 or thereabouts, but Andrew Jackson blew their arguments out of the water. We even had a bloody war over the issue back in the 1860s. The secessionists lost. Whatever the Founders may have intended with respect to secession or whatever Constitutional argument one might have had in favor of secession the fact is that the issue has been decided in favor of perpetual union.

That's not to say that circumstances might not arise under which secession would be possible. A wekened federal government, widespread sentiment in favor of dissolution of the union, alliances by traitors with foreign powers, or what have you could make secession a reality.

In the case of Texas, I would support its secession. I'd like to see it expelled from the union if it won't secede. Let's amend the Constitution to expel Texas. We should, in all fairness, cede Texas back to Mexico from which we stole it in the 1840s as a token of reparations to that country.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hide Your Penis or Else

I wonder why the state cares so much about penises. There's just about nothing that gets the state as riled up as allowing photons that bounce off your penis to enter the eyeballs of other people except in rare circumstances, such as in locker rooms and at the doctor's office. And if those photons enter the eyeball of a human not yet 18 years of age, you are a particular target of the state. Even photons from a two dimensional representation of a penis are not permitted to enter eyeballs most of the time. If the penis itself is attached to a juvenile human, woe unto those who behold it.

What's the big deal? Half of us have penises, and the other half surely know what a penis looks like. I don't reckon anyone was ever damaged by the sight of a penis. So what is the state's interest?

It's not just the sight of the penis that the state cares about. It cares about where you put it and who touches it. Why?

I suspect that it's sex. Penises are part of sex, and they must be mystified and subjected to policing. The state would like to control all aspects of sex. Nobody should experience pleasure that it is not either controlled by the state or that does not result in a benefit to the state.

To the extent that sex leads to reproduction, the state gets new subjects. Otherwise, it's just useless pleasure that people can, if the state isn't vigilant, enjoy without state intervention. In a perfect world, the only time anyone would experience sexual pleasure would be incidental to attempted reproduction at times and under circumstances dictated by the state. It may even be possible with technology to render it unpleasureable or even painful some day. In vitro fertilization may render it obsolete and pave the way for total prohibition. This is probably decades away, though.

Already, as far as the state is concerned, the only officially sanctioned sexual activity is vaginal intercourse by heterosexual couples who have been licensed by the state. Everything else is illicit. Within the permitted arrangements, the state can be more or less indifferent to whether the participants take pleasure in their state sanctioned sex because this pleasure will not last very long. It will fade, and the frequency of the act will diminish steadily until most couples are all but asexual. Penises will not be unduly visible even within the homes of married couples.

Ghosts and the Afterlife

A couple of issues that I had been confused about came together this week. Firstly, what happens to us when we die according to my religion? Secondly, why are the ghost hunters on the TV always so damned scared? The ghosts they're hunting can barely manifest themselves let alone do them any harm.

I have always believed that when we die we "rest in the Lord". We cease to exist except in the mind of God until the Resurrection whereupon we exist again. We die, then as if no time at all has passed we rise again in Paradise with everyone else. When I explained this to a coreligionist one time, she asked how that could be if Jesus had promised one of the thieves on the cross that he would be with him that day in Paradise. I was stumped. Did Jesus go to Paradise on Good Friday to get the thief situated? The creeds don't mention it. They have Jesus descending into Hell and then rising with no stop in Paradise.

Having been raised as a fundie, the idea of Jesus in Hell is difficult to reconcile with the concept of Hell as a place of eternal torment. Then again, if we think of Hell as the place of the dead, like Hades, it would make sense for Jesus to visit there and interact with some of the dead. Is there a place of the dead where some aspect of each of us, our souls perhaps, wait for the Resurrection? Or do we believers ascend to Heaven to wait? Is that what Jesus meant when He promised that believers would never die? How would we exist in Heaven or Hell without bodies? What would existence even mean? I'm still drawn to the idea of nonexistence before the Resurrection for the sake of simplicity. Since I reckon that the End of Days won't occur for billions of years, it would be more merciful to the dead for them to sleep in the Lord. Of course, it doesn't make any difference to how we live here and now, does it?

Back to ghosts. I reckon that there are no ghosts. I once heard a preacher argue that there are ghosts but that they're really just demons pretending to be dead people. I suppose if that's true, then ghosts would be scary. If you're scared of ghosts, though, why be a ghost hunter? It seems to me that ghosts are extremely easy to avoid. Most folks have never seen one. I'm scared of grizzly bears. You don't see me traipsing around in grizzly habitat looking for trouble, do you? The ghost hunters should follow my lead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is Legal Pot Good for the State?

Lately, I've been hearing arguments about how decriminalization of marijuana would be good for the state. It would allow the state to devote scarce resources to other areas and would constitute a source of tax revenue. These arguments, while true in a sense, are misguided.

First off, police resources are not especially scarce if seat belt check points and undercover airport bathroom surveillance operations are any indicator. The police devoted to pot would probably not be transferred to anything more helpful. And forget about cutting police budgets! How would that be good for the state?

Secondly, the War on Drugs isn't really about stopping drugs. It's about providing an unquestioned rationale for massive programs of surveillance and harassment in poor neighborhoods. It's about providing cops and prosecutors with leverage against suspects in other offenses. It's about creating an atmosphere in which eavesdropping, snitchng, no-knock raids, and other violations of basic rights are tolerated and celebrated by the public.

Thirdly, the tax revenue generated by taxes on drugs would not be enough to make up for the massive infusions of revenue that the public gleefully pays now in order to fight the War on Drugs. The state needs the crisis of drugs to frighten the populace into funding a police state, a bloated prison system, and programs of indoctrination. Won't someone think of the children?!?

Decriminalizing marijuana would be the thin end of the wedge, a dangerous precedent which could lead to calls to decriminalize other substances. The state would place at risk an important source of revenue and power, and, what is worse, would take the risk that demystifying the War on Drugs might lead to further demystification.

Perhaps an argument could be made for decriminalization as a benefit to the state along the lines of public lotteries. In that case, gambling, a terrible evil the state had to combat, became a positive good when controlled by the state. Perhaps one could argue that state run and state controlled marijuana production and sales, with the proceeds going to some benign program such as Head Start or Physical Fitness, would transform pot into a good thing. This would mean no loss of revenue and no loss of power (the state would still have absolute power to interdict non-state sources) and would allow trhe state to be seen as the beneficent provider of pot induced bliss. Everybody wins. The state stays powerful, and the subjects get to smoke pot to help them forget about the state.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Love Social Conservatives and Dumb People

In a comment to my recent post on the teabaggers, JL Wilson seemed to suggest that I have been too hard on dumb people and social conservatives. I would like to take the opportunity to deny this. I am not hard on dumb people per se, just dumb people who do things that annoy or inconvenience me. In this regard, I am equally hard on smart people who inconvenience and annoy me. Also, I don't have a beef with social conservatives per se; it's the ones who want to force everyone else to adopt their preferences who get me riled up.

In many ways, I am a dumb person. I grew up with my head up my ass in rural North Georgia where I received a fourth rate public education. Once I got out of there, I made plenty of boneheaded blunders and held idiotic opinions for many years. I'm still prone to stupid moves, but I am more comfortable with my opinions nowadays, especially since I have a better sense now of what they're worth than I did when I was younger. I have also taken the time to become better educated. I have become more tolerant of my fellow man and their foibles over the years, and I have a special love for the intellectually challenged. I hate to see them manipulated to act against their own interests, but I recognize that they are probably doing the best they can, bless their hearts.

On the other hand, I reckon it's my duty to speak up when my countrymen of the dimmer persuasion are hell bent on self destruction and get enlisted in the cause of authoritarianism. They don't mean to be authoritarians most of the time; in fact, they often think they're working for freedom because that's what their manipulators have told them.

It also turns out that I'm a social conservative. My personal preferences by and large line up with the socially conservative template. Am I a heterosexual with deep rooted sexual repression? You bet. Am I faithfully monogamous? Yes. Do I like to have a quiet life puttering around the garden and doing wholesome activities? Yes. Do I dress and behave like the whitest white man who ever lived? I do. I'm even an evangelical Christian! I hate rap music, and kids with baggy pants and trucker caps askew annoy me.

The difference between me and the social conservatives whom I criticize is that I don't reckon that my preferences should be enacted into law or otherwise privileged in any way. I like to mind my own business. I want society to evolve naturally and for there to be a free market in culture and ideas. If socially conservative preferences are "superior", they will prevail without the need for social conservatives to enforce them with autos da fe.

I'll even take it a step further. Not only do I tolerate that other people have different preferences, I celebrate and embrace it. It makes me happy. It means that I live in a society that is in some sense free. It seems that many of my fellow social conservatives hate freedom unless it's the freedom to do as they say you should. What's conservative about that? It seems radical to me. Take it to its logical conclusion, and you end up with something like the Taliban.

Easter Life

Easter was pretty nice. We sang in two services, and we botched only one piece, the final movement of Handel's Messiah. Most folks couldn't tell, or they were too kind to mention it.

I got to hear the same Easter sermon twice. The point was that the resurrection and the life aren't something we sit back and wait for; rather, we are to live them now. All in all, it was some pretty good preaching. Two points gave me pause, however.

In the first instance, the pastor went on about atheists and agnostics and how their worldview lacked meaning. He read an excerpt from Bertrand Russell about how we are lumps of impure carbon and water on a speck in space and return to the elements. He remarked that this was depressing. I don't find it depressing at all. It's rather wonderful that the universe is so expansive and that we have our moment in it. If that were all we got, it would be something to be grateful for and to praise God for. It's no more than we deserve, as we Calvinists like to remind ourselves.

Atheists and agnostics are not bereft of meaning. They just endow their lives with meaning based on other irrational metaphysical assumptions than we are famiiar with. We Christians (supposedly) endow our lives with meaning informed by our irrational belief in Jesus Christ as Divine Savior and Lord. It is hard for us to imagine other core assumptions, but our lack of imagination should not make us too quick to charge nonbelievers with nihilism.

My second issue was with the pastor's assertion that death was not part of God's plan for us. How can this be so? How can anything happen that God did not ordain? If God's will is that none should die, then none would die. Is God thwarted in His will? I just don't get the whole Fall and Redemption narrative. I tend to look at the coming of Jesus as God's plan from the beginning. I'm no theologian, though, so what do I know?

Friday, April 10, 2009


I had to explain why I don't have children today to the woman at the nail salon and to the hairstylist. I don't usually have to explain it, but these women were aliens who had a hrd time understanding that anyone would voluntarily forego the joys of parenting.

"You don't like children?" each asked in a different accent, one Chinese and the other Ecuadorian. I like them fine, just not enough to want to keep one in my house. I like chimps, too, but I don't want to share living quarters with one.

I didn't have kids because the numbers did not add up for us. The amusement we might have gotten from children did not seem to exceed the value of their direct costs and the opportunity costs they presented. In fact, we were rendered skeptical about the amusement value by the apparent misery of so many of our acquaintances who were parents. Accordingly, the amusement value had to be discounted by a factor that accounted for the uncertainty that it would be realized. This tipped the scales ever further toward the childfree lifestyle.

Other factors that influenced us were the degree to which Mrs Vache Folle's nephews were unbearable ingrates and whiners. We couldn't take a chance on ending up with kids like that.

Also, the creepiness of little children was a consideration.

I suppose if you could get your child at age 5 and up, when creepiness falls off, and could be sure that he or she was not a total douche, we might have considered it.

Do I regret that I never reproduced? It was the logical choice for us. If I have a regret it is that I live in a society that renders having children too costly and too risky.

Tea Bagging

Here's how the wingnut teabagging stunts resemble the Boston Tea Party:

Both involved tea.

Here are some of the ways that they differ:

The Tea Party was a protest of a tax on tea, so dumping tea was pretty much right on point, whereas the tea baggers don't seem to have much of an idea of what they're protesting.

The Tea Partiers were subject to the tax on tea, whereas the tea baggers are probably going to get tax cuts. They seem to be protesting tax increases for their betters who make more than $250K.

The Tea Partiers had a legitimate beef in that the tea tax was imposed upon them without their having any representation in Parliament, whereas the tea baggers all had a chance to elect Congresscritters and are represented.

The Tea Partiers were committing a crime and exposing themselves to prosecution for their political convictions, whereas the tea partiers are just out on a lark.

If your ancestor was a Tea Partier you might brag about it, whereas if your idiot brother in law is a tea bagger you'd be ashamed.

The Tea Partiers would be mortified if they knew that their protest was being demeaned in this way by its association with wingnuttery.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Speaking of Pantloads

Why would anyone pay any heed to Newt Gingrich? The man is an archetypal douchebag. He was a mediocre academic at a fourth rate state college who convinced the slack jawed yokels in his district in Georgia to send him to Congress. It is evidence of the GOP's bankruptcy that he became the Speaker of the House, arguably the least effective ever. He resigned in disgrace.

He has nothing to say of any interest to anyone. He is an idiot.

By the way, when he scoffed at President Obama's goal of eliminating nukes, he could as easily have scoffed at GOP God Ronald Reagan who espoused the self same goal back when the nukes were moments from launch.

I grew up with hundreds of nuclear missiles aimed at me. It was always ten minutes to the end of the frakking world. That sucked. A world without nukes would be wonderful. A world without Newts would also be nice.

Pantloads on the Moon

When the astronauts walked on the moon, they walked around with pantloads of shit. There was no toilet on the spacecraft. Their spacesuits were their toilets. Kind of takes the shine off the whole enterprise.

I don't recall ever hearing anything about the astronaut's having to shit themselves, and I was an avid follower of the space program. Come to think of it, the logistics of crapping never came up.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Raised Beds Installed

I built my raised beds with some pressure treated lumber, and now I have to fill them up with silt and soil to get them ready for planting. They are in the sunniest spot in the yard, so I have high hopes for the garden. I aim to plant maters, squash, string beans, peas, cucumbers, spinach, four kinds of lettuce, cabbage, scallions, a variety of herbs, and I don't know what else. There will be salads at the Folle house this summer.

With the discovery of Fleisher's free range, organic, grass fed meat and the planting of a salad garden, I reckon we'll be grilling and munching on raw veggies just about every evening when the weather turns. So far the spring has been too damned cold and wet for my liking, although Palm Sunday was quite nice.

David Frum is a Dumbass

Bill Maher brings on conservative "intellectuals" and lets them speak their minds. Most recently, he had on David Frum who kept going on and on about how going green comes with a price. It never seemed to occur to him that not going green also comes with a price. Going green will mitigate certain potential environmental catastrophes which, if unmitigated, will be plenty costly. Yes, David going green is not free, but not going green is not free, either.

He was also a douche about nuclear power and framed the debate about whether to use nuclear power as "if you have concerns about nuclear power, you are not serious about the environment". I have concerns about nuclear power. I want the nuclear power plants to be situated far away from where I live and work in case something goes wrong. Maybe David Frum would like a nuclear power plant in his back yard. I would not. I'm not saying we shouldn't go nuclear. I'm just saying that we should go nuclear away from population centers. We could run wires from them to transmit electricity to where it's wanted, and if they melt down relatively few folks will be injured.

Anyway, that's all David Frum had to contribute except that he claimed that religious nuts are also totally pragmatic about worldly issues. I bet he doesn't know any fundie wingnuts, because if he did, he'd know better than to make a claim like that.

Friday, April 03, 2009

FEMA Camps

I am getting sick and tired of wingnuts' complaining about supposed "FEMA Camps". First off, they're not "camps"; they're fully equipped re-education centers with all the amenities of a regular college campus, only with better security. They have state of the art treatment facilities for all the latest mental disorders from the yet to be published DSM, such as Freeperism and Being Jonah Goldberg.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Treason? Now?

The wingnuts are getting wingnuttier by the minute. The country is ruled by a political party that is only slightly ideologically different from their own preferred party, and they're talking about taking up arms. Detention without trial? No problemo. Perpetual pointless war? Down with that. More oversight of Walll Street? Get your rifle, Cletis, the country is gone to hell!

As far as I can tell, the differences between the GOP and the Democratic Party amount to differences in what they choose to regulate (nothing is out of bounds for either party) and whom they choose to benefit (they both redistribute like crazy). And it happens that at this moment in history the GOP is full of incompetent mulletheads. And to make things worse for them the conservative intelligentsia doesn't have the intellectual wattage to run a night light.

A pox on them all, say I; provided, however, that I prefer to be on the receiving end of redistributions (as long as they're inevitable, why not?), I don't want fundie loons to have much of a say about how I live my life, and I prefer competence to incompetence (it costs less).

That said, treason is as American as apple pie, so the wingnuts are just enacting the American tradition, albeit in an armchair fashion. Washington and Jefferson, both traitors, have huge monuments in the capital and their faces carved into Mount Rushmore. Stone Mountain has a monstrous carving of revered traitors Lee, Davis and some other guy, and their horses, too.