Politics


Mathematician 1: I have three sons. Their ages add up to 13. [Looks around] And the product of their ages is equal to the address on that building there.

Mathematician 2: Anything else?

Mathematician 1: My oldest son has red hair.

Mathematician 2: Ah, I know their ages.

What are they?

A husband and a wife of 30 years are being interviewed and are asked how they managed to keep a family together all this time. The wife responds: “It’s all about a clear separation of labor. My husband makes the big decisions and I make the small ones. I choose what’s for dinner, what school our kids attend and what house to get. My husband decides when to declare war on China.”

This really should not have come as a surprise for me, but I was amazed at how different people can interpret the above joke to further advocate their own personal views and opinions. Meh.

The mirror test (Wikipedia article here) is a method of measuring self-awareness by verifying if an animal is able to recognize itself in a mirror. But, really, I don’t see this as anything monumental. It’s not so much testing self-awareness as testing the complexity of the physical model that the organism maintains. (What I am here calling a physical model is the conceptual model of the world we necessarily maintain in our minds. This is the model that allows you to, for instance, walk around your house without concentrating too much on your surroundings, as you know where everything should be and was, the last time your model was “updated”. Unless you have little furry creatures in your house and they are liable to run under your feet.) The mirror test seems to only gauge if the subject’s physical model is robust enough to properly map the external environment to self when faced with contradicting visual input. Nothing more.

Currently listening to Pink Floyd.

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Jedi humor, it never gets old.

If a cat gets it, why doesn’t the average American?

OK, seriously Russia, please replace Putin with someone who’s not batshit crazy. Or at least have him not appear in the stranger photos.

Man… I keep thinking, what with my love of classic Rock and the allure of Peace, Love, Flowers and Drugs, I was seriously born in the wrong decade.

In the August 2009 issue of Scientific American I found this great quote from Tom Coburn on President Obama’s heightened gas mileage standard:

What if you want to drive a gas hog? You don’t have the right any longer in this country to spend your money to drive a gas hog?

See, Tom, you’re what I would call a “hypocritical shit-bag”. Yes, with the President’s new standard would mean that by 2016 all US vehicles should average some 35 miles per gallon. (The article mentions that this is something that two-decade-old Japanese cars, like the Honda Civic, have already gotten right.)

This would mean (nominally) that it’d be illegal for you to get a gas-guzzler. But with the bills and laws that you – Tom Coburn – sponsored, in this country it would be illegal to: burn a flag, marry a person of the same sex as you, use medical marijuana. So, Tom, let me see if I get this shit. You’re opposed to something that people do which has no negative impact on anyone else (flag burning and medicinal marijuana), or in fact has a positive impact (gay marriage), but get steamed up about not being allowed to pollute as much as you want?!

Holy Zombie Jesus, this guy a hypocritical shit-bag.

PS: Just remembered a very fun tid-bit. A few years ago I heard of a Ford hybrid car (gas-electric) that got the same mileage as comparable Ford non-hybrid cars. Ford designed a hybrid that did as “well” as a non-hybrid! WTF is the damn point?!

While biking, I generally listen to stand-up. It’s more interesting than music or just plain silence. And I’ve gotta say, aside from the Blue Collar Comedy Tour folks, I have yet to hear a comic come even close to being conservative or having conservative material in their show.

A lot of comics do liberal bits, because they’re just so damn simple. It’s very easy to appeal to San Francisco crowds with the usual litanies about Republicans being anti-gay while at the same time being caught in gay scandals, or with classic Bush-bashings.

Today I listened to two albums by Margaret Cho. Some good stuff there, but that much political commentary really made me realize that there really aren’t a lot of conservative comics. Probably the same reason that movies and TV shows are generally about Democrats: it’s hard to cheer for a President who’s pushing for oil drilling in Alaska, as opposed to working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (“The American President”).

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how politically right-wing material can be made funny. It’s one thing for Carlin to pull this left-leaning gem out, “‘Have you ever noticed that all those women who are against abortion are the ones you wouldn’t want to fuck anyway?”, but  making Ann Coulter funny is something else.

On second thought… Maybe Ann Coulter can be a successful comic. Just tell people that everything she says is an act, that no one in their right mind would be such an intolerant and hate-filled bitch. See, Coulter is just a female version of Colbert. Hell, the first article I read by her, I assumed it was all satire. I didn’t think anyone could seriously say any of that shit. Boy, that was a rude awakening.

Well, enough about that. Here’s a cute Carlin bit about rights:

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Blair feared faith ‘nutter’ label

In an interview for BBC One’s The Blair Years, he said that his faith had been “hugely important” to his premiership.

His ex-spokesman Alastair Campbell once told reporters: “We don’t do God.”
Mr Campbell has now acknowledged to the programme that his former boss “does do God in quite a big way”, but that both men feared the public would be wary.

But while it was commonplace in the US and elsewhere for politicians to talk about their religious convictions, he added, “you talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you’re a nutter”.

British voters imagined that leaders who were informed by religion would “commune with the man upstairs and then come back and say ‘Right, I’ve been told the answer and that’s it'”.

Wow, that’s quite a different take on religion and politics from what we’re used to: if an American politician doesn’t “plug” their own beliefs, which better coincide with those of the majority, they’re burned in effigy.

Isn’t that ironic, though? Here’s a country that is based on the principles of the separation of church and state, it’s one of the main articles of the Constitution, the founding fathers left England in search of religious freedom and now our friends across the pond embody more of our principles than we do.

Given a few years, will Americans be making the “return” journey to the British Isles?

Has the idea of personal responsibility completely died out in this generation? People can and do blame their problems on every imaginable external source: McDonald’s is the cause of obesity in America; video games are the cause of teenage violence; parents and even DNA are what caused you to fail in life. Stop! Stop blaming everyone else and accept responsibility for your own actions! If people are fat, it’s not because McDonald’s force-fed them, it’s because they ‘live’ on a diet of four Big Mac’s a day. If a teenager goes on a shooting spree, it’s not because they saw it in a video game, it’s because they picked up a gun and decided to commit a horrendous act. If your life isn’t quite what you imagined it to be, it’s not because mommy cut your sandwiches diagonally instead of into rectangles: look around, realize that you’re not the only one with problems, stop whining and do something about it.

I know not everyone is crazy about playing the one-player blame game, but maybe we as a society should start. The following is several loosely-tied examples of exactly what the hell I’m talking about.

A new game, ‘Manhunt 2’, has been the center of quite a bit of controversy. In the United States this game has been given the dreaded ‘Adults Only’ (‘AO’) rating, pretty much dooming the game. See, the ESRB, the organization that gives games their ratings, has deemed that ‘Manhunt 2’ is rated ‘AO’, meaning that it should only be played by players who are 18 years of age or older. This is somehow different from the ‘Mature’ (‘M’) rating which specifies that the player must be at least 17 years old. Idiotic ratings will be the subject of a different rant, back to the task at hand. The fact that a game is rated as ‘AO’ pretty much kills it: retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target refuse to carry the game and two out of three console makers have policies against ‘AO’ games on their consoles (Sony and Nintendo). Why? Why is the consumer not given the choice in the matter? How dare a corporation dictate what I can and can’t play? When Wal-Mart pulls a ‘controversial’ book/CD/game off their shelves, they are imposing their twisted sense of propriety and morality on our culture. And here’s the tricky part: we let them. We allow these companies to have a word on what is supposed to be our own choice. We allow our experiences to be cut short by the ‘Wives With Knives’ Club.

Wives With Knives

The reason that the multinational corporations institute these policies is because a large part of their customer base loves to blame social problems on ‘evil’ books, music and video games. Here’s where this is actually relevant to whatever I wrote two paragraphs back. Because people decide to blame video games when a messed up kid goes berserk, the rest of us aren’t able to make the choice for ourselves on whether or not we should be playing ‘Manhunt 2’.

If you’re reading this, you probably know about my weekly cheese tastings. I love cheese. And I enjoy getting together with a bunch of like-minded individuals, opening up a bottle of wine and munching down on half a dozen different types of solidified curdled milk. But did you know that it is illegal to sell some cheese in the United States? Yes, there are laws on cheese. For example, it is illegal to sell cheese made from raw milk that has been aged for less than 60 days. According to the FDA, raw-milk cheeses can cause “serious infectious diseases including listeriosis, brucellosis, salmonellosis and tuberculosis”. But of course in matters such as these there does exist contradicting opinion that the pasteurization of milk does not ensure its safety. There’s also statistical evidence that even in countries that have not made raw-milk cheese illegal, the majority of cheese-related food poisonings stem from pasteurized cheese. But that’s not the point, is it? The point is that I don’t have a say in the matter. Once again we come to the original point of personal responsibility. If I want to risk my life by partaking in some ‘dangerous’ cheese, that should be my right.

So, what’s with all the talk about laws? It’s quite simple, really. I think laws should exist to protect people. Period. Laws against victimless ‘crimes’ should be done away with. This also includes such acts that a person can perform that harm themselves: suicide, eating raw-milk cheese, smoking cigarettes/marijuana/whatever and a variety of other ‘crimes’ in which the only person being affected is the one carrying out the actions.

What would this accomplish? Well, for one thing, there’ll be less idiots walking around: if a person is given the first and last choice on the use of dangerous substances or whathaveyou, the idiots will automatically weed themselves out. Imagine if that raw-milk cheese was actually available from Whole Foods. It would of course come with a label that said something along the lines of “made from raw-milk, the FDA suggests that you don’t buy this cheese, it might make you sick, but it’s your ultimately choice”. Obviously not everyone (or is it ‘no one’?) reads warning labels, so we’ll clear out quite a large segment of society. Also, and this is equally great, the rest of us would be able to live our lives out the way we want to, not how a religious asshole, neglectful parent, nosy neighbor or self-proclaimed knight in shining armor would tell us to live our lives.

On the subject of all the above-mentioned so-called ‘Good Samaritans’:

To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good… Ideology – that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination. That is the social theory which helps to make his acts seem good instead of bad in his own and others’ eyes, so that he won’t hear reproaches and curses but will receive praise and honors. – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

I can’t think of a way to wrap this up in a cogent manner, so pretend that I concluded with a poignant quote by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.

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