For those of you who have no opinions of your own, I invite you to adopt mine.
GEORGE W. OR AL GORE
I guess if the Democrats ran a possum for president and the Republicans ran a racoon, our president would either be a possum or a coon.
I'm against it, but I'm also against punishing it. When Moses came down with the tablets and saw the Jews had made a golden calf he broke the tablets and said, "This is the law which you have broken." Flag burning is frequently a symbolic expression of a similar sentiment. Unfortunately, the gesture requires the viewer to think in the abstract, so we're screwed. He's not going to get the same message that the protester is sending. Even though flag burning is misguided, it's still a symbolic attack, no more real than sticking pins in a voodoo doll or tearing up a picture of somebody. An attack on an inanimate national symbol might be a property crime, but it shouldn't be punished as if it were an attack on the nation itself. On top of that, sure as shooting some protesters are going to start burning things that are almost flags and our courts will be clogged with questions of whether or not it's legal to burn a picture of a flag or to destroy a newspaper that has a flag printed in an advertisement or to burn a handkerchief that has a red-white-and-blue motif similar to that of the flag, and just how similar? Is it punishable to burn a 48-star flag? How about a flag with 51 stars and 15 stripes? What if the flag is purple, pink and gray instead of the usual colors? I know it sounds stupid, but if flag burning is outlawed millions of dollars in legal fees and tens of thousands of the court's hours will be spent deciding these useless questions. If it'll make people feel better, we could proscribe some symbolic punishment for the symbolic crime like putting a photograph of the perpetrator in prison.
GAYS IN THE MILITARY
Ideally all citizens should share the burden, sacrifice and honor of the national defense and shouldn't be excluded for reasons not related to their ability to perform that duty. However, the way our culture is set up, the military relies on a traditional interpretation of manhood in order to induce young men to sign up. The risk is high, the pay is less than civilian wages, a recruit's life is highly regulated and daily uncomfortable. Joining the military confers on the recruit instant status of full grown man, and that's an important inducement to a nineteen-year-old boy. The probation of manhood aspect of military service might be weakened by the admission of gays into the organization. Machismo is a psychological tool used by the military to recruit and train soldiers. If the military is slow to let go of such a proven reliable mechanism, maybe we should proceed slowly with measures allowing soldiers to be openly gay.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Probably not going to happen as long as the guys we elect can raise money the old fashioned way. They'll surely put loopholes in any law they'll pass. They're not going to give up the money. They need it to defeat their identical opponents and keep their jobs, and people with money who want to back like-minded politicians will find a way to get money to them. The sensible solution is full disclosure. Raise all the cash you want from any source you want as long as you publish the amount and source. In short, we know you're somebody's bitch, just tell us whose bitch you are.
The Cubans living in South Florida really shot themselves in the foot this time. They showed they'd stoop pretty low to advance thier "annoy Castro" agenda.
SAVING SOCIAL SECURITY
Some have suggested putting Social Security money into the stock market. I don't want to be the guy who came up with that plan when the market suffers a downturn.
THE DEATH PENALTY
1) If the prospect of life in prison doesn't deter somebody, I don't think the prospect of the death penalty will. 2) I don't want the government to kill people on my behalf unless they really have to, and... 3) Once a convict is in prison for life, from the point of view of the population at large he represents minimal threat. 4) If new technology or new evidence arise which shows the inmate to have been wrongly convicted, as long as he hasn't been executed we can give him part of his life back. 5) We spend lots of legal time and money determining whether a prisoner is to be imprisoned for life or executed. Think of all the junk the courts wouldn't have to deal with if exection were not an option. 6) Understanding a problem being an important part of solving the problem, bear in mind that an executed convict is harder to study than a living one.
There are so many safe, inexpensive and effective methods of birth control there should be no need for abortion except in the cases of rape, incest and serious health hazard to the mother.
This is a plan by rich people and schools with religious agendas to funnel tax money into their institutions. Don't fall for it.
Why should the motive alter the punishment for a crime? What difference does it make whether a guy attacks me for my wallet or for my religion? The courts will end up wasting loads of taxpayer time and money sorting out superfluous legal distinctions regarding the social opinions of suspects.
Some drugs should be illegal, but in the case of marijuana the cure is worse than the disease. In addition to which the cure doesn't seem to affect the disease. The politicians promise war ON drugs but deliver war AND drugs.
THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS
Every government since the beginning of time has had state-sponsored art, from the scribes who pecked heiroglyphs on Egyptian obelisks to the Duke of Saxe Meiningen to Soviet political propaganda. The way a government sponsors art tells you a lot about the government in much the same way the art in a house tells you something about the occupant. The NEA is such a small part of the federal budget anyway, what would be the point of abolishing it?
HILLARY RUNNING FOR SENATE
My main objection to electing Hillary for anything is the same objection I hold against Gore and George W. I find the notion of political families bothersome and elitist. Our republic is based partly on the premise that heredity was not a good basis for deciding who wields political power. Still, from the point of view of the Democratic Party, Hillary has been a valuable team player. She stood by Bill and forgave his dalliances in order to preserve his political viability. As far as the party is concerned she has a golden ticket, and there's no doubt in my mind that they'll use up all their favors trying to get her into the Senate.
I wonder how New Yorkers will interpret Hillary's history. Over and over again she has kept her jaw set and forgiven Bill's adulterous adventures. From one point of view she's a tough, self-sacrificing team player. From another she's a door mat. The characteristics you want in a first lady might not be the characteristics you want in a senator. Personally, I'd like my senator to be able to say, "I don't have to take that crap."
THE BILL OF RIGHTS
I'd like to propose a constitutional amendment. "Congress shall not exempt congressmen from any law created by congress."
THE CONFEDERATE FLAG
The confederate flag is not the symbol of the political power which governs South Carolina, therefore the confederate flag shouldn't fly over the seat of government. However, I do object to the notion that public reference to parts of our history should be deleted on the grounds that some aspect of that history is shameful. The abhorrence of slavery is not a good reason to remove confederate monuments. In the ancient world, frequently a king would attempt to have all record of his predecessor destroyed... all the statues, all the historical accounts, all the proclamations, everything. This happened to Hatshepsut, the "woman king" of Egypt. Most of the of historical material relating to her was destroyed by her successor, who tried to erase the national shame that Egypt had been ruled by a woman king.
EVERY ELECTION ANOTHER GAMBLING INITIATIVE
If you want gambling to be legal in Arkansas, all you have to do is repeal the laws against gambling. You don't need to amend the constitution. Gambling proponents are always proposing constitutional amendments which award gambling franchises to selected reserves--always the same two pieces of real estate. No competition allowed. No free market for us. (Seems like once somebody climbs the ladder of success, the first thing they want to do is burn that darned ladder.) I'd vote to legalize gambling if they'd let anybody play. But so far it's just gravy for the Old Boys.
It is proper for state governments to raise money with taxes, licenses and fees. It's not proper for a state to raise money by operating a gambling enterprise like a lottery. I've got no problem if the state wants to tolerate a harmless vice, but the state shouldn't sponsor or promote it. It would be proper to raise money by issuing gambling licenses.
WASTING YOUR VOTE
The Democrats and Republicans will pull this nonsense on you this time because you fell for it last time. They'll say that the next president is going to be from one of the established parties, therefore a vote for a better man from a lesser party is a waste of a vote. You vote won't count.
An election isn't a parimutuel situation. You don't get money if you pick the winner and you don't get frequent flyer miles and the candidate doesn't know who you are and he won't be grateful. To him you are one vote in a demographic bushel basket. When you vote you've got to be just as impersonal about him. You're hiring him to play with your money.
Seems to me that the best way to waste a vote is to let this argument persuade you to vote for an idiot. If you vote for anybody other than the candidate you prefer for president, then you've wasted your vote.
Put biblical apocalypse on the back burner. Forget plagues and famines. Forget about nuclear war, earthquakes and tidal waves. Forget about giant earth-killer asteroids. Those are all hypothetical judgement days. There is one judgement day you're not going to avoid. One day your children are going to be old enough and smart enough to see you for what you really are. If you want a judgement day to prepare for, there you go.
People who wear sunglasses don't see the world as it really is. I took a friend to see some petroglyphs at Petit Jean State Park. He couldn't see them and I couldn't understand why. They looked plain as day to me, red marks on a gray brown wall. On the hike back to the car he mentioned that his glasses were rose-tinted. He couldn't see the red marks because everything looked red to him. He had the notion that the tinting in his glasses was an improvement on reality, but his refusal to accept the harsh frequencies of sunlight along with the soothing ones kept him from seeing the ancient pictograms on the cave wall.
THAT SURVIVOR TV SHOW
Canoeing, swimming and sitting in a circle daring each other to eat a bug. That's not a survival experience. That's summer camp.
The producers seem to have intentionally selected contestants who have very little outdoor experience even less emotional maturity. I guess they want to make sure there are lots of outbursts to display.
Every election is a potential term limit. If we want them out we can vote them out. If we're dumb enough to elect them again, then we really are human cattle and don't deserve better representatives. Besides, after their term limits they just swap homes with another legislator and run for each others positions, or they migrate to a district with a retiring incumbent (a la Hillary), so most rules regarding term limits are barely an inconvenience to career politicians.
I'm told that half of all smokers will die from smoking. I used to hear that a third of smokers died from smoking, but now they say half. Either tobacco has become significantly deadlier in the past couple of years or the statistics can be interpreted more freely than we are lead to believe. Anyway, the figure of the day is that half of smokers die from smoking. I infer the other half are nagged to death.
ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS
From time to time an animal rights activist will throw red paint on some fashion model's fur coat to protest the use of animal skin as clothing. I've never heard of one of them going down to the rodeo and throwing red paint on some cowboy for wearing leather chaps. Pretty much any animal activist figures he could deflect the wispy attack of an 85-pound fashion model. Those cowboys, though, are not going to take the time to reflect on your symbolic intentions.
Gore says the taxpayers through taxes should subsidize drugs for geezers. Bush says the taxpayers through insurance companies should subsidize drugs for geezers. They seem to agree on the principle of keeping the geezers doped up. This is a hotbutton issue with geezers because geezers love to think they're getting something for free. Most importantly, geezers vote in larger numbers than any other group. Its drugs for votes.
You take this drug in order to have fun for an hour or two. It's relatively safe and it's legal. Marijuana is a drug you take in order to have fun for an hour or two. It's relatively safe and it's illegal. The legal status of recreational drugs seems to depend largely on the drug's patentability.
EUGENICS, THE NOBEL SPERM BANK, ETC.
This is a bad idea. You're not doing the kid any favors by monkeying with the laws of nature this way. What you do when you go to one of these sperm banks is replace natural selection, which is right by definition, with your personal values, which are based on social biases. Natural selection will tend to suppress traits in the population which reduce the survivability of the population and magnify traits which increase survivability of the population. The survival of the population is natural selection's only ethic.
So suppose everybody decides that the best thing for a kid to be is a political genius. Then everybody runs down to the sperm bank to get a tube of Clinton jiz. Twenty years from now, the world is plunged into a dark age (Don't think it can't happen. It darned near did in the early 1940's.) in which political thought is ruthlessly suppressed. Too bad about that generation of political geniuses. They're all in the gulag. Also, since everybody so enthusiastically raised a generation of chiefs, there just aren't enough indians left to fix the roads and drive the trucks. Every carpenter is a frustrated politicain.
When we collectively pick genes from a catalog, whether the government does it for us or we do it individually, we're biasing the gene pool toward our own prejudices, not on the traits that will insure the survivability of our species. We have demonstrated time and again that our conscious biases are horribly flawed. For example, a hundred and fifty years ago we accepted slavery as a fact of life. Five hundred years ago, if your army captured a town which resisted, it was within the rules of civilized behavior to murder all the inhabitants of the town. What would have happened if we had resorted to the sperm bank in those days? Those descendants who had inherited their dad's genes for violence and ruthlessness would have to be kept in jail today at great expense.
The values you use when selecting a sperm donor are based on your evaluation of things that happened to you in the past, not on what is happening in the world at large today. You're preadapting your child to be successful in conditions which existed in the past thirty years, not the next thirty.
Here's an analogy. I know you like analogies. When I entered college, people were being ramrodded into MBA programs because MBA degrees were in high demand. Liberal arts degrees were a dime a dozen. Six years later, the situation had reversed. The business community had discovered the value of a well-rounded education, and they had discovered that an MBA degree didn't prepare people for the business world much better than did any other degree and what business they needed to know was picked up more or less by OJT anyway.
Further, while those students were working on their MBA's, Microsoft and Apple came into existence and the business world changed utterly. Still with all the best intentions in the world and all the scientifically generated figures to support their opinions and without any coercion by the government, the academic establishment of America created a generation of MBA temp workers.
A whole lot of really smart eggheads decided to make the world topheavy with MBA's. A whole lot of really smart eggheads decided that kudzu should be planted in Mississippi. Do you think you have the wisdom to have a preference for even your child's eye color? No matter how many really smart eggheads you have making this kind of decision, they're going to be wrong because they can't predict what the world will be like in thirty years. Doing things the old fashioned way will at least give our species the advantage of genetic diversity.
I know it's tempting to want the best of everything, and that's what makes this practice so poisonously self-destructive. If we breed ourselves like we breed our animals, we will become, like them, fragile and dependent. Look at the inbred dogs created by professional breeders. They're perpetually ill, prone to all sorts of otherwise rare hereditary maladies, high strung and anti-social. Their dogs are the same way.
Your pound variety mongrel, on the other hand, gets along well with kids and other dogs, can tolerate weather, can subsist on garbage, rarely gets sick and is generally happier. Yet the breeders have decided that the mutt is inferior because it can't step on its own ears. Highly bred animals are expressions of the breeder's vanity and are not well adapted to do anything other than satisfy the breeder's opinion as to what part of an animal should be magnified.
I can understand breeders attempting to change animals to better satisfy the needs of people, but in doing this we create physically fragile, dependent and unhappy monstrosities. Personally, I don't feel much guilt over the creation of a turkey with a breast so big it can't walk. However, if we apply similar wisdom in the breeding of our own kind we have to expect similarly undesirable results. For cryin' out loud, people, didn't you see the Star Trek episode "Space Seed?"
Movie critics are next to useless when it comes to helping decide what movies to see. They tend to dwell on moviecraft irrelevancies. Here's an example. If you saw "Cop Land," you saw one of the best movies ever written. But the first three column inches of every review detailed the weight gained by Sylvester Stallone for his role. If the whole review was three inches then the whole dang review was about Stallone's girth. It's just not useful information.
Rule of thumb for evaluating the entertainment potential of a movie: If after seeing the trailer you have been told part of the story, it's probably worth the money. If all you can remember are the slow-motion explosions and the name of the star, save your money.
GUNS AND DRUGS
The U.S. government spends the lion's share of its money on weapons and drugs. "Don't you know (chakkawakkawakka) that it's true? (chakkawakkawakka) That for me (chakkawakkawakka) and for you, the world is a ghetto."
The "BIPARTISAN Committee on Presidential Debates" decides which presidential candidates are legitimate enough to appear on TV. That should tell you why only two candidates get to debate.
Politicians speak of family values in the abstract, although none has ever mentioned one family value or made a list of them.
The value of showing mercy or charity or any other Christian virtue is that the practice makes us merciful and charitable. Whether or not the object of our mercy or charity is worthy or appreciative is not all that important. When we cut short the Gulf War to spare the lives of ten thousand Iraquis, the act had a civilizing effect on us. Saddam's opinion of the act and his subsequent political survival are irrelevant. If our allies behave brutally against their enemies, "a head for a tooth," for example, they make themselves brutal with practice. We should not support their efforts to make themselves into monsters.
Think of the Christian virtues as you would a good bottle of wine, as luxuries which are good for us and make us feel good and should be indulged in along with a certain amount of prudence whenever they can be safely afforded.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
If you take out the ones aimed at God's ego, there are only five.
RAZORBACK FOOTBALL AND BASKETBALL
The season always begins with two games against teams that the Razorbacks can easily defeat. The theory is that these season openers are more than practices, but less than games. They're a shakedown cruise for the team. I wonder if there aren't flaws in this reasoning. Step one, the team plans to be unprepared for the beginning of the season. Step two, when the unprepared team wins against pushovers unreadiness is rewarded by victory; and the team gets a false sense of confidence. Step three, the team gets shocked and demoralized when it faces real competition.
ADVICE FOR THE KIDS
Don't mail an important letter within 24 hours of writing it.
Maintain your own car. Manage your own investments.
Notice how few people make "honest mistakes" in your favor.
Don't spend money on things that don't matter.
Don't buy cheap crap. Buy the highest quality crap you can comfortably afford. That way you'll have better stuff and more room in your house. Not only that, the purchase of cheap crap encourages the manufacture of cheap crap, and that's spiritually damaging to the people who manufacture it.
Money spent does more social good than money given to charity.
Don't live poor and don't die rich. (I'm not exactly sure what I mean by that, but it's rhetorical perfection, isn't it? Surely it's been said before.)
People who smugly warn you about the "real world" don't have a clue. What they're actually warning you of is the danger of ending up in their particular unfortunate circumstances. By mysterious means, on your fortieth birthday you discover that there is no real world and that you've basically been had. (Mid-life crisis to pop psychologists.)
From time to time, somebody will decide to "teach you a lesson." The lesson is always the same. They want you to know that they can do something horrible to you and get away with it. You know that lesson from the age of three, but they never get tired of teaching it to you. Don't judge them too harshly. It's the only thing they know.
Never underestimate the willingness of publicly upright citizens to do something really really wrong.
Honors and awards are meaningless, particularly those decided by panels of judges.
Honorary degrees are an insult to those who achieve them by completing a curriculum. Don't accept one if it's offered.
Tell everybody at work how much you make.
If you ever manage to say something quotable, it will either be attributed to Mark Twain or plagiarized by Mike Barnicle.
Don't vote in primary elections. Let the parties pick their candidates and bear the expense of doing so. A primary election is just a national focus group to tell the party bosses which of their boys is most electable.
State lottery is a game for suckers. If a casino paid out forty cents on every dollar bet, the gaming commission would shut it down.
Take a course in statistics.
Your most paranoid delusions are not that far wrong. Just because you saw a dragon in the clouds doesn't mean the clouds don't exist.
Sincere self-confidence is evidence of a middling intellect. Really smart people have a much broader catastrophe horizon.
Don't waste your time arguing with idiots. Tell them, "Yes, yes. You're absolutely right."
Never make a snide remark to anybody who handles your paperwork.
Don't shop with coupons. Very little you can buy with coupons is really good for you. You never see coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables, do you?
Most of the decisions you make will have no effect on anything. They are mock decisions, illusory and distracting.
If a restaurant has to give away plastic toys to attract customers, what does that say about their food?
If you habituate fast food restaurants, memorize the damn menu.
Forget about changing anybody's mind. I've never persuaded anybody about anything if they already held a contrary opinion. Likewise, I can count on my thumbs the times somebody else has by argument reversed my opinion on any issue.
People who mean you know harm deliberately cause you the most of it.
Things really are getting better.
You don't have to lie, cheat and steal.
I've seen nothing that approaches proof of the proposition of the existence of God. That doesn't mean he's not there. Maybe he doesn't want to be bothered.
Integrity is the only game worth playing.
Why should somebody hire better-than-average you when he's surely got a relative somewhere who is better-than-average?
Your financial advisor doesn't know or do anything. There's a program at a central office that tells him what to do and say. If he deviates from the program he'll lose his job.
Astrology is false.
Preachers can not make a list of the spiritual needs of their flocks. Politicians can not make a list of family values.
A lot of stuff you really believe when you're twenty is going to turn out to be wrong when you're forty, so don't have your world view tattooed on your skin. Piercings heal over, hair grows out, but tattoo removal is painful and expensive.
GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR RELIGIOUS SOCIAL PROGRAMS
This is the beginning of socialized religion in much the same way medicare is the beginning of socialized medicine. Churches are political organizations as well as spiritual ones. Historically churches have harbored and even sometimes fostered political dissent. Any government would be eager to find a way to exert influence over the churches within its borders. Legitimizing some beliefs with tax-exempt status allows the government to favor one or another general spiritual philosophy over another. Funding individual "faith-based" social programs will allow the government to be more discriminating and show favor to individual church leaders. Conversely, any religious leader who suddenly gets uppity could be shut down by having his social program funding revoked. This is one more tool the government can use to bring the Sharptons and the Jacksons to heel.
When I'm wrong, I'll admit it. The Germans did just what you said they would. Their promises just didn't stick to the paper. Further, they behaved as if they hadn't done anything wrong. I can't argue that they haven't shown their true colors.
Want to argue about it? Send me mail.