Sunday, December 7, 2014

Someone actually wrote this: Big Tobacco and Big Marijuana

In response to the movement to legalize marijuana, Dr. Samuel Wilkinson writes,
We should not overlook ... valuable lessons from our experience with another legal drug: tobacco.

[parade of horribles about tobacco]

The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco: Identify a product with addictive potential, aggressively market it to as large an audience as possible, develop technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption, and deny or minimize potential costs to human health. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences.

He offers the following solution:
If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities.
In doing so, Dr. Wilkinson commits the nirvana fallacy by comparing the private sector in practice to government as it works only on paper. Anyone who thinks that corporations have incentives to do undesirable things, but that government does not, has to assume away not only the examples of state ABC stores, state lotteries, and state dependence on tobacco revenue, but also just about all of human history. As an aside, people have accused me of attacking a straw man for mocking exactly the argument that Dr. Wilkinson actually makes.

Dr. Wilkinson closes:

While the health effects of marijuana are generally not as severe as those of cigarette smoking, the consequences — including addiction, psychosis and impaired cognitive abilities — are nonetheless real. Notably, these effects are most pronounced in children and adolescents. Claims that marijuana legalization will make it easier to prevent use by minors are not backed by scientific or historical evidence. The most prevalent drugs consumed by teenagers are those that are legal: alcohol and tobacco. This should give us pause to consider the optimal way to legalize marijuana — and indeed whether other states should consider legalization at all.
The concern over "whether other states should consider legalization at all" is the perfect-solution fallacy, as the author's own example of teenage consumption of alcohol and tobacco shows.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Free markets in action (yes, another Barilla post)

The right-thinking people routinely tell me that free markets are powerless against bigotry and that only government can protect us. Yet The Washington Post, citing the Human Rights Campaign (and the latter is not exactly known for its libertarian bias), reports,
Not long ago, pasta-maker Barilla was just one more major company that had run afoul of the gay rights movement, a distinction it earned last year when its chairman said he would never feature a same-sex couple in an ad. If gays didn’t like it, he added, they could eat something else.

But in a sign of how toxic it has become for a company to be viewed as unfriendly toward gays, Barilla has made a dramatic turnaround in the space of one year, expanding health benefits for transgender workers and their families, contributing money to gay rights causes, and featuring a lesbian couple on a promotional Web site.

* * *

The remarks grabbed headlines around the world and prompted boycotts in the United States, where the firm has 30 percent of the pasta market with $430 million in sales in 2013, and elsewhere. Harvard University dumped Barilla from its cafeterias, gay rights groups promoted names of other brands of pasta, and Barilla’s competitors seized on the opportunity to present themselves as more forward-thinking, with Bertolli Germany posting a comment on its Facebook page promoting “pasta and love for all!”

So no law was needed to enforce goodthink. Instead, private parties, acting freely in the marketplace, convinced Barilla to change course.

Social conservatives have left some amusing comments. It seems that they are so outraged that Barilla has caved in to a boycott that they will punish it by boycotting it. Um, okay.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Washington, D.C., and cutting-edge art

In discussing Melissa Chiu's new role as director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, The New York Times stays true to form and characterizes Washington, D.C., as "staid"; "focused on the traditional, sometimes staid, vocabulary of civic monuments [and unwilling] to embrace a more risk-taking approach"; and "a tough place to introduce unconventional ideas," as opposed to New York, which it calls "a well of contemporary creativity worth tracking." Yet a city's aesthetic tastes are necessarily a macroscopic averaging of those of the people in it, and a city known chiefly as a seat of government tends to attract a different sort of person from one of the world's leading centers of commerce. This point seems lost on the government-worshipers at New York Times.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Someone actually said this (twofer): Gay libertarian gun nuts

Under the completely objective and not at all inflammatory headline "Meet the Gay Libertarian Gun Nuts," Cecilia D'Anastasio writes,
If you find the “gay libertarian gun enthusiast” identity perplexing, you’re not alone.
Gosh oh golly, yes, that is perplexing. What could individual liberty have to do with itself? The author then gives Shelby Chestnut of the Anti-Violence Project the last word:
"We need to look at the systemic inequalities that are causing people to be victims of violence,” she said. “The solution to that is definitely not creating violence to end violence."
Ms. Chestnut is welcome to ride her "systemic inequalities" unicorn, but some of us think that in the real world, intervening in violence to prevent violence from coming to fruition is enough of a solution.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

This week's eternal verity about majority rule

All right-thinking people know that since people are too stupid and lazy to run their own lives, a government elected by those same people should run our lives for us. Apparently, the voting booth is like the Great Teacher from Star Trek. Also, a progressive recently told me that while markets are not self-regulating, government is because of voting.

Now, however, the plot thickens:

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says his state's voters were "reckless" for voting to become the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The Democrat's statement came during a debate Monday with his Republican opponent, Bob Beauprez, just four weeks before voters head to the polls for the state's hotly contested gubernatorial election.

In 2012, more than 55 percent of voters in Colorado supported Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use. The amendment aimed to regulate marijuana in roughly the same way alcohol is regulated.

Since the new law took effect in 2014, the state is on track to raise more than $40 million in new annual revenues for education and other priorities from marijuana-related taxes. There has been little evidence that crime rates or driving fatalities have increased since the law took effect. In fact, the opposite appears to be true: Violent crime rates in Denver were lower in the first half of 2014, and traffic fatalities in the state are near a record low.

So those brilliant voters are stupid after all, at least when they disagree with those politicians whom they had the sheer genius to elect. I guess we should just go back to the days of kings by Divine right. For one thing, rulers who enjoy the Mandate of Heaven never have conflicts of interest:
Hickenlooper said he is concerned that teenagers using the drug may experience long-term-memory loss. The governor, who made his fortune as a beer brewer, did not express similar criticisms or concerns about alcohol, which many scientists consider far more toxic than marijuana.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Someone actually wrote this: Republicans scaring up another war

To the people who still wonder whether the mainstream LGBT media shill for Team Blue: Both of you may want to look at this. The author, while lumping together stuff that he doesn't like, helpfully tells us who is responsible for the don't-call-it-a-war in West Asia:
The speed with which we are being goaded into war is not a sign of strength. It is easy to mock Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his overcompensating sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for their endless saber rattling, or Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) for his claim that ISIS members are sneaking across the Mexican border to cut our throats. But already our fears have been successfully exploited to justify yet another Mideast war effort.
Gosh, I wonder how Obama is handling all of this. Well, he does merit one mention in the column:
A better use of our military resources is the humanitarian mission announced by President Obama on Sept. 16, in which American forces will set up field hospitals and train local health workers in West Africa to help the fight against Ebola.
So I guess that's all he's up to.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Faux News: Democrats, Republicans offer competing plans to replace Statue of Liberty.

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2015 (Faux News) — As the nation mourns the destruction of the Statue of Liberty in the Great Blowback of 2015, Republican and Democratic U.S. senators have offered competing plans to replace the iconic statue with images that they say are more in keeping with contemporary American values.

Senator Brianna Fischer proposes rebuilding the Statue of Liberty as the Statue of Equality. Explains the Northeastern Democrat, "Liberty is an outmoded concept, and the word is just a code word for racism. Since we now understand that equality is what actually matters, our nation's iconography should reflect that."

Meanwhile, Senator Cody Brennan proposes building the Statue of Security on the site of the destroyed statue. Explains the Deep-South Republican, "Liberty was fine in the past, but the Great Blowback of 2015 changed everything. Those who would give up liberty for security are simply making the common-sense recognition that the Constitution isn't a suicide pact."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

More on freedom for me, but not for thee

I came across the following in the Twitter feed of an acquaintance: That is fine as far as it goes, but by what neutral principle is it okay only in the situations specified? In general, people in the mainstream LGBT movement regard freedom of association as a scourge upon the earth. We also have those activists who sound like anarcho-capitalists when they talk about their own lives but like nanny-statists as soon as the topic turns to anyone else's. It's okay to want freedom for yourself; it's not okay to engage in special pleading to want freedom only for yourself.

Someone actually wrote this: China, Mexico, and the soda tax

In The New York Times, Mark Bittman writes,
Say what you will about the Chinese, but they know how to make wholesale changes, and sometimes those changes are inarguably for the good. As noted in an editorial in The Lancet last week, the life span of the average person in China in 1950 was 40 years; by 2011 it was around 76. (The average life span in the United States in 2011 was 79.)

The causes of this near doubling of life span are no secret: China has developed public health programs that have reduced communicable diseases to a manageable level.

Yes, that must be it, since nothing else whatsoever has changed in China in that time period. By the way, his own source does not support his claim of causation. Also, another Lancet article paints a more complicated and less fawning picture of public health in China and includes the minor detail that "Mao killed many more people than his medicine saved."

Having given airtight proof of the success of Chinese public health, Bittman shifts to Mexico and draws the following lesson:

With a staggering 70 percent of our adult population overweight or obese, the United States was until recently the world’s leader in this unenviable race. Recently, Mexico (71.3 percent), took our place. (In China, the combined obesity-overweight rate is hovering at under 30 percent, still frightening.) Yet Mexico, which many Americans and Europeans haughtily consider primitive, was the first major nation in the world to institute significant soda and junk food taxes. That law went into effect early this year, and the results are already positive: Sales of soda are slipping.
I need a decoder ring to determine when tax disincentives work and when they are just a right-wing myth.
If we know how to diminish needless human suffering and mortality, why would we not? As Mexico has shown, it’s the responsibility of government to protect its population from hyper-processed food.
When government intervenes in people's choices over their own bodies, especially "to diminish needless human suffering and mortality," what can possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My comment got printed in Reason.

My comment on an article in Reason got printed in the August/September issue. It's at the bottom right corner of page 7, at least according to my Kindle, and it's in response to an article on progressive puritanism. Here's the pertinent part:
By circa 1990, when home HIV test kits became an issue, the LGBT rights movement cast aside its stated goals and joined forces with social conservatives for its revealed goal of reduced freedom as its own reward. But remember: It has always been those nasty Reaganites who want to deprive you of your the right to make choices over your own body.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In which a Washington Post writer states her conclusion and immediately demolishes it

Washington Post local reporter Julie Zauzmer presents her analysis of data on D.C. traffic accidents, including the following insight:
5. The numbers are in: Men are worse drivers than women.

This goes way beyond refusing to stop for directions. Men were the drivers in about 65 percent of all crashes in the study. There’s no way to tell, for the sake of comparison, exactly how many men and women are on the roads in Washington.

That is, she states her conclusion and then immediately explains why the data do not support it. Her conclusion would make sense if men and women drove the same amount — something that no one admits to believing. She is entitled to her own opinions about the relative driving skills of the sexes, but not to her own rules of statistics.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Someone actually wrote this: Julie Bindel on the Proud Whopper

Julie Bindel, ever eager to enlighten the rest of us on the one correct way to live, rails against business marketing to the LGBT market:
As lesbians and gay men all over the world fight to end oppression, corporations have been piggy backing on our struggles to sell us whatever they can dress up as "gay-friendly". The latest to offer us commercialism masquerading as campaigning is Burger King. It recently introduced the Proud Whopper, just in time for the San Francisco Pride march and festival, with rainbow-coloured wrapper and the inscription: "We are all the same inside".
Companies want to do business with us, and that's terrible.
The gay community used to be defined by politics,
I thought it used to be defined by something else — exactly what something else, I'm not quite sure, but there must be something.
but lesbians and gay men no longer share a political base – only, in some quarters, a social one.
In other words, the big problem with the LGBT community is that it has too little political groupthink.
This deradicalised version of gay life revolves around marriage, babies and mortgages. Many gays have kidded themselves that bigger and richer sponsors for our Pride events and charities means acceptance rather than acquiescence; that it is a sign we are reaching full equality.
You're only kidding yourself if you think that you get to have an opinion on what equality means to you. Only the anointed, like Julie Bindel, have that privilege, and they get to tell you what you should want.
But how can we be liberated when there are still daily attacks on gay people, and when the school playground remains, in many ways, hostile to gay pupils?
If we can't have everything we want, right this second, then nothing is worth pursuing at all.
When I came out in 1977, the GLF had fizzled out, but the gay men and lesbians I met celebrated the counter-culture over the status quo. Many of us lived collectively, raising children as a community or friendship group, rather than in traditional couples. We critiqued monogamy and the privileging of the nuclear family. We have now swapped laughing at marriage for lauding it.
Now? Did the last three decades of political correctness not happen in Ms. Bindel's world?
What would real gay liberation look like? Marriage would be abolished for all in favour of something based on equality and next of kin rights rather than ownership and tax avoidance.
If Ms. Bindel believes in privatizing marriage, I'm all for that, but the general tone of her article suggests that she doesn't.
We have been sold a dream of marriage, babies, and conventionality at a huge cost to our radical potential, and the profits will not go to our freedom and liberation.
Ms. Bindel loves us for our potential.
While lesbians and gay men fork out on marriage, an institution previously eschewed by feminists and anti-capitalists, our brothers and sisters in Russia, India, Uganda and elsewhere are suffering the most grotesque oppression by the state....
That's just it. Not all of us follow what anti-capitalists tell us because some of us know how the story ends.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Someone in authority actually said this: DC council member on expanded townhouses

On the subject of "pop-ups," townhouses that have been renovated to tower over their neighbors, The Washington Post quotes D.C. council member Jim Graham:
“Supporters of pop-ups — other­wise intelligent people — talk about the need for Washington to respond to the great housing demand. That’s patently absurd,” Graham said. “This is about profit. It’s about the historic streetscape in the city. And it’s about, when will it end?”
What's patently absurd is the apparent disconnect between profits and the need to respond to housing demand. Market economies, how do they work?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Religious right or P.C. left? Quotes 47 and 48

In this series of blog posts, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read each quote and guess, before doing a Web search, whether someone in the religious right or the politically correct left said it.


Postmodern and queer theorists share with transgender theorists the idea that ‘gender’ is a moveable feast that can be moved into and out of, swapped and so forth. Gender, used in this sense, disappears the fixedness of sex, the biological basis....


The infinite malleability of the postmodern idea of “gender,” as opposed to the stubborn concreteness of sex, is precisely the reason the concept was invented. For all of the high-academic theory attached to the question, it is simply a mystical exercise in rearranging words to rearrange reality. * * * Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Someone in authority actually said this: Baltimore police commissioner on teen curfew

The Baltimore City Council plans to impose one of America's toughest teen curfews. Some people question how workable it is:
“If adopted, it would make Baltimore’s daytime and evening curfews one of the most extreme curfews in the country,” said Sonia Kumar, ACLU Maryland.

Kumar sent a letter to the council saying enforcement of the curfew expansion encourages unnecessary police stops for young people.

“I can’t look at you and say, `You’re over 14; you’re under 14; you’re 15.’ And moreover, I can’t look at you and know whether you are on your way home from school,” she said.

Not everyone agrees:
But Police Commissioner Anthony Batts says he believes it’s enforceable.

“I think it’s fairly easy to see the difference in a 14-year-old, 13-year-old, 12-year-old,” he said. “And if this keeps them safe, I think it’s a positive.”

Fairly easy, my ass. When I did my undergrad at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore had a curfew for high-school kids, and I was routinely stopped, so you can guess how I looked when I actually was in that age range. I don't think I'm such a rare outlying data point; it's just a fact that people physically mature at different rates. If I may put it another way, if it's so easy to tell a person's age just from looking, how old was the person in this picture when it was taken?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Would she be happier if the advertisements were in Newspeak?

In Richmond, British Columbia, this is happening:
A Richmond woman has renewed her call for a ban on Chinese-only signage after ads for Crest toothpaste appeared in several city bus shelters.

Kelly Starchuk says advertising only in a language other than English or French acts to isolate people rather than bring them together, which she believes is a threat to multiculturalism.

"If we can work together and be honest with one another and have this inclusive community which includes our official languages where we communicate with one another, that is the utmost important thing," she said.

Right, because nothing says "multiculturalism" and "inclusive" like trying to get a municipal government to dictate the linguistic content of advertisements. Whether Proctor and Gamble should put up Chinese-only advertisements is up to the market to decide, and here, the market is more multicultural and inclusive than at least one resident nanny-statist wants it to be.

Starchuk adds, "There doesn't seem to be a solution." Perhaps because there doesn't seem to be a problem? On this side of the 49th parallel, we have plenty of Spanish-only advertising, but Anglophone Americans somehow muddle through.

Finally, this comment deserves a shout-out:

All adverts should be in languages Indigenous to this land, not those imported from Europe or Asia.

Self-ownership for Michael Bloomberg, but not for you

Michael Bloomberg, regarding his failed war on soda, recently said (emphasis added),
“We have a responsibility as human beings to do something, to save each other, to save the lives of ourselves, our families, our friends, and all of the rest of the people that live on God’s planet,” he said. “And so while other people will wring their hands over the problem of sugary drinks, in New York City, we’re doing something about it.”

Bloomberg wanted the public to know that the decision overturning his big beverage ban “was not a setback for me.”

Rather, “this is a setback for the people who are dying.” He added, lest there be any misunderstanding about his paternalistic motives, “In case you hadn’t noticed, I watch my diet. This is not for me.

Bloomberg seems to think that while he can be trusted to watch his diet, the peasants cannot be, so that they need the supervision of the ruling class. I should prefer it if politicians watched their diets and left me free to watch mine as I see fit. Liberals and progressives who disagree should remember that the itch to restrict people's freedom for their own good has been used against LGBT people, among others.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Elane Photography: It's time to switch talking points.

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's denial of certiorari in Elane Photography, the socially liberal left and the socially conservative right have abruptly switched talking points on whether we should be left alone to live life as we see fit or submit to government to impose a common moral code on all of us, on whether we should trust democracy or ask the judicial branch to protect our rights from the howling mob. Be careful what you wish for; you just might will get it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Someone actually said this: Robert Caro on Manhattan's bookstore desert

We read in this New York Times article that rising rents in some of America's richest neighborhoods, as well as new business models such as online shopping, are driving booksellers out of Manhattan. At least one person has already called for government to step in and do something:
“Sometimes I feel as if I’m working in a field that’s disappearing right under my feet,” said the biographer and historian Robert Caro, who is a lifelong New Yorker.

* * *

“How can Manhattan be a cultural or literary center of the world when the number of bookstores has become so insignificant?” he asked. “You really say, has nobody in city government ever considered this and what can be done about it?”

I hope not; do we need subsidized rents for bookstores on Fifth Avenue? Nonetheless, I imagine that someone in city government has considered it. One of the first things that we learned in law school is "Not every bummer is a tort," but in today's political climate, every bummer is a call for government action.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: evolve

evolve, v.i. to be altered to suit changing political expediency: The candidate's position on that issue has evolved.

How you see your Maine coon....

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today's vocabulary term: appeal to nature

appeal to nature, n. phr. an informal logical fallacy that says that something is good because it is natural or bad because it is unnatural. When I read a letter to the editor saying that nonhuman animals don't do such-and-such, I wonder how often nonhuman animals write letters to the editor.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Someone actually wrote this: Jeremy Rifkin, "The Rise of Anti-Capitalism"

I've previously noted the weirdly popular view that because we are approaching a post-scarcity economy, we should determine our political and economic beliefs accordingly. Now, in this column in The New York Times, Jeremy Rifkin attempts to prove that we are approaching what he calls "a zero-marginal-cost economy." Let's look at some of his examples:
The first inkling of the paradox came in 1999 when Napster, the music service, developed a network enabling millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry.

* * *

This phenomenon has even penetrated the manufacturing sector. Thousands of hobbyists are already making their own products using 3-D printers, open-source software and recycled plastic as feedstock, at near zero marginal cost.

So how is this going to work in the rest of the economy? Will we be able to 3D-print everything from cars to electronics in our own homes, or will we just download new ones, as with Napster?

Lest you think that Mr. Rifkin is alone in thinking such things, he informs us, "Industry watchers acknowledge the creeping reality of a zero-marginal-cost economy...." He never identifies those industry watchers, though. As far as he lets on, they could be roadside psychics, and why would I not be surprised?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: bipartisanship

bipartisanship, n. an agreement between two parties, one of which holds that 2+2=3, and the other of which holds that 2+2=5. The agreement involves determining whether, for a given situation, 2+2 shall equal 3, 5, or both simultaneously.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: apostrophe

apostrophe, n. a punctuation mark having two purposes: signaling an impending letter s and spelling extraterrestrial beings' names

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We are at the mercy of huge corporations.

Just what it says on the wrapper: We are at the mercy of huge corporations. Whatever they decide to make, we have to consume, and we have no recourse against them and no way to refuse them. I had this realization while I was driving my Imperial to Dart Drug to buy some New Coke.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The perfect argument, if we hadn't forfeited it

Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality presents an intricate argument here that decriminalization* of marijuana would benefit transgendered people. A much simpler and firmer argument would be that the principle of self-ownership includes both the freedom to use marijuana if you so choose and equal freedom for LGBT people. At least it would be a firmer argument if we hadn't made a Faustian bargain with collectivist, authority-worshiping political correctness and learned to regard the principle of self-ownership as heresy.

*While I support legalization, I consider decriminalization to be a step in the right direction.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The golden age of big government

Progressive acquaintances of mine like to portray the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations as a golden age of big government in which high taxes paid for projects like the Interstate Highway System. They tend to overlook things like this:

Besides, I thought that progressives didn't like such big projects, but now it seems that they want higher taxes to fund them. If I didn't know any better, I'd almost start to think that they regarded taxation as its own reward.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The newest right, the right always to be comfortable

Just in case the right not to be offended isn't bad enough, we now have Right Not to be Offended 2.0, namely, the right always to be comfortable. As seen here:

a California politician has justified a ban on open carry with the following argument:

Just because one person is comfortable with their weapon doesn't mean that gives that person the right to infringe on the rights of other people who aren't comfortable.
Well, that certainly trumps the rights that are actually in the Constitution. Also, there is no way that it could be invoked against LGBT people, no sirree Bob.

Comcast and Time Warner: Oh, no, free enterprise!

In response to the announcement about Comcast and Time Warner, progressives are already blaming their favorite supervillain, free enterprise. Nothing says "free enterprise" quite like businesses that have based their business plans on sweetheart deals, if not outright monopoly franchises, from local governments.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The politically correct gay purity test

1. What does diversity mean to you?

A. Associating with people having differing outlooks, so that we can all learn from one another. (0)

B. Bringing people of differing backgrounds into the company so that we can better relate to our customers. (2)

C. Bringing people of differing backgrounds into the company so we can look good in our annual report. (4)

D. A matter of social justice. (6)

E. Bringing together a group of people of different races, ethnicities, sexes, socioeconomic levels, and geographical backgrounds, all of whom think exactly alike. (10)

2. Why do you believe what you believe about religion?

A. I carefully studied the teachings of the faith or faiths in which I was interested to determine whether they made sense both internally and in light of the evidence. (0)

B. I believe whatever I was brought up to believe. (2)

C. I am a militant atheist because I want to stick it to this majority Christian society. (4)

D. I believe whatever I was brought up to believe, except for the parts that don’t agree with modern liberal sensibility, since those parts cannot possibly represent what God actually meant to say. (6)

E. I am a devout member of the religion with which I identify. I don’t follow most of its teachings and have only a hazy recollection from Sunday school (or its equivalent) of what they even are, but I am still a devout member because I choose to identify as such, and you have no right to say otherwise. As for the content of what I believe, whatever I feel in my heart is the surest expression of what God actually meant to say. (10)

3. What is your political persuasion?

A. Pro-choice on everything. (0)

B. I am a Log Cabin or GOProud Republican. (2)

C. I am a moderate Democrat. (4)

D. I am a progressive. (6)

E. Bigger government is per se better government, except on abortion and, when a Republican is president, on national defense and foreign policy. (10)

4. Do you support equal freedom for transgendered people?

A. Yes, because people should be free to make choices over their own bodies. (0)

B. No, because trans is icky. (2)

C. Yes, because the religious right opposes it and because all right-thinking people know that transphobia is based on patriarchy and misogyny. (4)

D. No, because radical feminists oppose it and because all right-thinking people know that the entire transgender movement is based on patriarchy and misogyny. (4)

E. Both C and D, because Capital-T Truth is based not on what is said but on who is saying it. (10)

5. Julie says that since one gay man was once mean to her, all gay men are mean. Tim says that she shouldn’t generalize to all gay men from one person. How do we know that Tim is wrong?

A. Actually, Tim has a point. (0)

B. Tim is wrong because he is a man. (3)

C. Tim is wrong because he is thinking logically, when we all know that only the right people's emotions count. (3)

D. Tim is wrong because there are no individuals, only identity categories. (3)

E. All of B through D. (10)

6. With which Animal Farm character or characters do you most identify?

A. Benjamin the donkey (0)

B. Moses the raven (2)

C. Napoleon the pig (4)

D. The sheep (6)

E. Both C and D. (10)

7. With which Atlas Shrugged character do you most identify?

A. John Galt (0)

B. James Taggart (6)

C. Lillian Rearden (6)

D. Wesley Mouch (8)

E. I refuse to read that book, lest I poison my mind with wrong thought, but I still reserve the right to form an opinion about it, based on nth-hand accounts and pure speculation. (10)

8. How do you react when an acquaintance expresses a viewpoint with which you disagree?

A. It depends on how well that person supports that viewpoint with evidence and logic. (0)

B. It depends on whether that person is in a position to do me any favors. (2)

C. I denounce that person as a racist and a fascist without considering whether doing so makes any sense. (4)

D. I respond with appeals to ridicule and outright lies. (4)

E. Both C and D. (10)

9. A celebrity or business leader says something homophobic, but in a way that will make no difference in your life. How should our community leaders and allies react?

A. They shouldn’t. Haven’t you heard that you shouldn’t interrupt your enemy while he is destroying himself? (0)

B. They shouldn’t. They have much higher priorities, and we have neither the right nor the obligation to be the moral guardians of the whole world. (2)

C. They should find a channel through which to express an opposing view. (4)

D. They should take every possible opportunity to tell the world what a bad person that person is. (8)

E. They should do everything possible to punish that person. It won’t do any good, but at least they’ll be able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by changing the public perception of that person from a bigoted jerk to a martyr for freedom of speech. (10)

10. What is your view of the First Amendment?

A. The rights set forth in the First Amendment are an essential part of freedom. (0)

B. The First Amendment, like the rest of the Constitution, is not a suicide pact. (4)

C. It should take a back set to anti-discrimination laws. (6)

D. It should take a back seat to both anti-discrimination laws and hate-speech laws. My right not to be offended is more important. (8)

E. The rights set forth in the First Amendment are outdated, reactionary, and even racist, except when I want to take advantage of them, in which case they’re sacred. (10)

How to score: Add up the numerical values of all of your answers. If you got 100, you have passed the purity test. If you got 0 through 99, you have failed the purity test and are unclean.

Two kinds of religious people

The way I see it, there are two kinds of religious people (and I am referring to actual religious people, not merely cultural or nominal members of religions). The first kind will gladly explain to you in detail not only what they believe, but also why they believe it. Their understanding of evidence and logic may make your head spin, but at least you'll know where they're coming from.

The second kind, the fluffy bunnies, simply assert that something is the case. They almost never go beyond that, but if they do, it will be only to something like "I feel it in my heart," as though their emotions were a special red telephone to God. If you've ever tried to have a discussion with such a person, you know that it does no good to point out that lots of people "feel in their hearts" lots of mutually exclusive positions, that they cannot all be right, and that that person has provided no test for determining who is hearing from God and who is simply engaged in wishful thinking. If you ask them how they know what they claim to know, and in the off chance that they acknowledge the question at all, they will say things like "Shut the fuck up" (and I quote that mature and Christlike language verbatim from one such person).

See also I just know and Queer religion.

Today's vocabulary word: blighted

blighted, adj. occupied by people or businesses that we should prefer to see somewhere else; desired by a politically connected developer: The city should step in and do something about this blighted neighborhood.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: suicide

suicide, n. the act of taking one's own life. In some legal systems, suicide is a crime because it involves the destruction of government property.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Today's vocabulary word: majoritarianism

majoritarianism, n. the belief that since people lack the intelligence, responsibility, or moral authority to run their own lives, we need the same people to elect a government to run everyone's life, including the lives of majoritarians

Sunday, January 5, 2014

How dare you notice that what happened happened!

Sometimes, when discussing a subject that someone takes as faith-based — typically religion or either left-wing or right-wing political correctness — I bring up an inconvenient fact that contradicts that person's views. If the offended party cannot show that I am wrong or even that I have cherry-picked the facts, that person may instead shout me down for having had the temerity to point it out. Apparently, I am sometimes not even allowed to point out that a person has said or done the very thing for which that person expects humanity's gratitude. I've seen it happen with a Team-Red-bot on a gaffe by George H. W. Bush, with a radfem on transphobia, and with believers in various religions on many topics.

Today's vocabulary term: circular logic

circular logic, n. phr. the best kind of logic, since it always gives exactly the result that the person using it wants