The fudge?

July 29, 2009 at 6:53 am (Politics) (, , )

I… really don’t know *what* to say. Article found courtesy of Free Range Kids.


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The Gift of Life

July 23, 2009 at 9:54 am (Politics) (, , , )

Two weeks ago today, I went down to give blood for the Red Cross. When I did so, I was a little worried that any of a number of issues might have prevented me from being able to donate – my blood pressure is high (but not too high for that), I’m on several prescriptions (none of them issues, it turns out), etc. But I didn’t really expect one thing to be on the list.

Quoting from the Red Cross’ donor eligibility page…

“You should not give blood if you have AIDS or have ever had a positive HIV test, or if you have done something that puts you at risk for becoming infected with HIV.”

Well, fair enough, makes plenty of sense there, you’re thinking. But then we read on….

“You are at risk for getting infected if you…are a male who has had sexual contact with another male, even once, since 1977.”

There are a lot of things on the list, but that one flashed out at me with big, bright, neon lights. Now, I wasn’t disqualified by that criteria, but a hell of a lot of my friends would be. And why? Pure homophobia.

Now, some of you might be thinking that it’s not pure homophobia – HIV is more common in the gay community, so it makes sense. Well, no, it doesn’t… and here’s why.

  1. HIV isn’t a ‘gay problem.’ It’s potentially a problem with all sexual contact. Having sex with a man isn’t a risk factor – it’s having unsafe sex with anybody who might be infected, and just about anybody could be infected. They’ve picked it up in the gay community, the straight community, even in the virginal community… so given that, singling out only one of those groups is blatantly discriminatory.
  2. Even if we do make the assumption that HIV is sufficiently more common in the gay community to justify this ban, infection can be prevented through safer sex techniques. But using them doesn’t matter to the Red Cross, despite the fact that somebody who uses condoms properly could practically eliminate their risk factor.
  3. Within 6 months of infection, HIV can be detected. So, even at the most paranoid, you could make this one of your “in the last 6 months” bans, rather than a blanket ban. The Red Cross tests their donors for HIV (among other things) anyways, just in case somebody’s lying (or, oh, I don’t know, falls into the category of ‘people who have it who weren’t part of the communities we ban’), so if you haven’t been potentially exposed in the last 6 months, they’ll know if you’re clean or not.

So, what do we have here? The Red Cross is – I have to think consciously – excluding a very large community of potential donors for no more reason than homophobia. If they wanted to be sure that they excluded anybody with HIV, they’d have to ban anybody who’s had sexual contact with anybody in the last 6 months. If they only wanted to be reasonably certain, they’d have to exclude anybody who’s had unsafe sexual contact with a partner who hasn’t been tested at least 6 months after their last possible exposure.

And yet, I could go out to a bar and hook up with a different woman each night for the week before I donate, and as long as I didn’t pay her for the privilege, they’d take me. On the other hand, if I did a little safe experimentation in college 3 years ago – or 30 years ago – I’m banned, even though they can test my blood and find out whether or not I’m infected.

What’s wrong with this picture?

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Plato was a hack

July 21, 2009 at 10:34 am (Politics) (, , , , )

Yes, you read that right.  Plato was a hack.  An overbearing, arrogant, philosophical hack.  Now, I could point at any of a number of things to support this statement (not the least of which was his unwillingness to present his views as his own in his Symposium), but I’ll pick this one.

Plato’s Republic.

The upshot of the Republic?  That a man who can live without the support of the larger society is inherently a threat to society that must be done away with.  Unfortunately, this idea has taken root very, very thoroughly, even in countries that are ostensibly founded on the ideals of liberty, freedom, and self-reliance.

To Plato, the state was all-important (despite it effectively murdering his mentor).  It was so important that nobody could be allowed to present a danger to it; it was imperative that people be, in some respect, reliant upon it for their life.  If they weren’t, they had to be forced to be – for the good of the state.  Why?  Because somebody who didn’t rely upon the state for critical functions presented the idea that people could live without the state.  And if that happened, then people might choose to live their own lives, rather than allowing themselves to be dictated to by their elected officials.  The state itself becomes unimportant for daily life… and that is the great threat of a self-reliant man.  That he gives people the idea that they control their own lives.

These days, much the same mentality seems to rule.  We need the government to provide everybody with health insurance – and if they don’t want it, too bad, they have to take it anyways.  Don’t want to pay for it?  Well, we’ll just make a law that says you have to.  You have to rely on the government.  Sure, there are still public options… for now.  But we’ll see how long that lasts.

You shouldn’t have the ability to defend yourself – if you can defend yourself, then you could decide to hurt somebody else.  Let the professionals paid by the government (through your taxes) do that.  The police should be the only people with weapons or the ability to use them, because you can trust the government.  But the government can’t trust you.

You should put us into power, because we’ll build up the army and send it out to protect you from the big, scary world out there.  We’ll defend your moral values, don’t you worry about that.  Your neighbor can’t be trusted to make the right choices – you can’t be trusted to make the right choices.  So let us do that for you.  We’ll tell you who to hate, who to fear, and then we’ll make them go away.  We’ll decide who you should fall in love with and marry, because you’re doing it wrong.

The guys who used to be in power were manipulative war-mongerers who ignored the damage we did to the world.  Put us back in power, and we’ll lead you out of the darkness.  Just follow the piper, and he’ll show you the way to a world of justice and equality for all people!

The same words used by every dictator in history.  The same justification used by every dictator in history who read his own press.

I would like to think that, if he saw what his philosophy was being used for, Plato would rip the whole thing up.  I’m not entirely sure that he would, but I’d like to think so.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way.  I don’t advocate rebellion against all government, or total anarchy.  I like being able to walk the streets without carrying a small arsenal.  Just as government has screwed up a lot of things, it’s made a lot of good things possible too.

But one must always have the capacity to exist without the government.  When the state makes it illegal to exist without the state’s support, it begins to wrap itself around your heart, to make it impossible to exist without the state’s support.  When that happens, the people cease to be the power behind the state – they become organs of the state, components unable to extricate themselves from the parasitic monster that they themselves created.

And when that happens, freedom dies.

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Having your Cake

July 9, 2009 at 11:50 am (Politics) ()

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Dane County – where you can have your cake, and eat it too, as long as you’re a Democrat.

Y’see, in my state, they have these things called “RTA’s,” or Regional Transit Authorities.  They’re areas where you get the privilege of paying a $2 fee on rental vehicles and such in order to pay for investment in the transit infrastructure.  Well, that’s what it *used* to be.

Now, in the new budget, they’ve changed that.  Instead, the RTA is now an unelected body that gets to charge up to half a percent in sales tax for investment in the transit infrastructure.  Supposedly, it will be for an investment in any sort of transit, but the big thing that they’re pushing for in one of the new RTA areas is very limited commuter rail.

Now, that *sounds* like a good thing.  I know that I would prefer commuter rail to get me from home to work, if done properly, and when it is done correctly, I support such a thing.  But every single study and test of the proposed rail system has said that it’s not going to work.  There’s just not the population density in Madison here for it, and the rail system is limited to Madison.  It won’t even go to Verona, Monona, or Fitchburg, which are communities that Madison has basically grown around.  Because of this, every time they’ve tried to get the people to vote to support it, they’ve voted it down.

Here’s the fun part.  The RTA is going to tax all of Dane county (including Verona, Monona, and Fitchburg) in order to build this thing.  So if you don’t live in Madison, but do live in Dane County, you get to pay an extra half percent sales tax for the privilege of saying “I paid for that train I never get to use!”

And they don’t need a referrendum to pull it off… or do they?

Well, you see, after the spring elections they modified the proposal to require a non-binding referrendum before they enact the RTA’s.  Non-binding, but hey, the folks in the county here have promised they’ll listen to it.  So that’s not so bad, is it?

Here’s where the title comes into play.  They did that after the spring elections… when they saw that it wouldn’t matter.  Dane County had a county-wide election this spring, for the county supervisor.  One candidate was supported overwhelmingly outside of Madison.

But the incumbent was supported inside of Madison, and that meant she won the whole thing.  Madison (like a Certain School in my hometown) has enough of a population that they can swing the entire election in the larger district.  Madison is the city that (theoretically) will benefit most from the RTA being put in place.

So, how do you think the referrendum’s going to turn out?

This is *why* we have the electoral college, broken though it is.  If we did a straight-up popular vote election, California and Texas would be the states that traded off deciding who the president was.  An electoral system gives each region an equal say in things (or, at least, a more equal say in things – Rhode Island and Texas are a *lot* more even in an electoral system than they would be under a popular vote.)  This is why we elect city council members instead of having a straight-up vote on all major issues in town.

So the next time you’re screaming for a popular vote… ask yourself if you want the major population centers being the only people with any say in things. Because odds are, if you don’t live in one, it’s because you didn’t like how things were being run there.

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For God’s sake….

July 7, 2009 at 7:32 am (Politics) (, , , )

Okay folks, think about this for a moment. She sent her kids to the mall alone. Not the mall in a ‘big’ city like Milwaukee or Madison or Chicago, with rampant gang activity and high murder rates, but in a ‘big’ city like Bozeman, Montana, where apparently it qualifies as being a dangerous community because there was one murder there last year.

Folks?  My home town of under 30,000 has a higher murder rate than that.  Largely because we too had a murder here last year, and I *think* Bozeman has more than 30,000 people.

Now, I’ve heard from a lot of folks on this type of subject talking about how they weren’t raised in a bubble like that.  And I’ve heard a lot of other people counter that, usually with a snarl, that the world’s become a more dangerous place since then.

Well, I was growing up in the 80’s and 90’s.  And I wasn’t raised in a bubble like that!  I’ve never been molested, abused, or murdered!  Yes, believe it or not, I am not one of the living dead, typing from the grave, DESPITE the fact that my mother routinely would let my brother and I  go to the playground with nothing more than the supervision of young teenagers!  I’ve even played outside with friends with no adult supervision… and I’m still one of the (seemingly rare, to listen to the media) people out there who hasn’t been sexually assaulted!

Let’s look at the facts for a moment.  You’re more likely to be molested or murdered by your FAMILY than you are by a stranger – simple fact.  Every police officer knows that.  It’s been that way for centuries.  It’s 99% of the reason that people are still convinced the Ramseys murdered JonBenet.  Why?  Well, for one thing, family’s got more opportunities.  For another, they’re the ones who spend years living with you – you rarely develop enough dislike for somebody to murder them over the course of a chance meeting.

By statistics, you’re doing more to endanger children by making their parents spend time with them than you are by letting them go out on their own.  Think about that one for a minute, I’m serious.  If you wanted to do the best thing to keep children from being molested or killed before they can defend themselves, you would take them away from their parents and have them raised by a constantly shifting group of random, background-checked  strangers, none of whom are allowed to be with the children unsupervised, or for more than 10 minutes.  That would probably reduce the abuse rates far more than keeping children from going off on their own.

It would also result in raising a generation of non-socialized introverts who have no concept of how to deal with actual relationships, but hey!  Won’t somebody think of the children?

As I said, I wasn’t raised in a bubble (though I came closer to it than many of my peers).  I went outside on my own.  I played with my friends without adults hovering over us in case some scary monster came out of nowhere and made off with one of us.  I was left alone for a whole day at a time with non-related individuals who were charged with taking care of me.

I suffered more abuse in school while being supervised by adults than I ever did outside of it while I wasn’t (what can I say?  There are bullies, normal people, and victims of bullies, I was the third.)

We’re raising a generation of paranoid neurotics, folks.  People who have been raised to view the world as a dark and scary place, filled with individuals who want nothing more than to hurt them in the most heinous methods possible.  And who have been raised to view themselves as incapable of taking care of themselves.  That’s a very, very dangerous combination – you take somebody who’s paranoid and neurotic  and who feels they *can’t* defend themselves, and often as not they decide that they *have* to defend themselves.  When you read the profiles, a lot of people who do very, very bad things do so because they feel it necessary in order to create some sort of order in a world they couldn’t control.  In order to protect their insecure selves, they create security by creating corpses.  After all, they might reason, the dead can’t hurt them.

Even if they don’t go spree killer, what sort of life is it, constantly walking around in the fear that you’re going to be attacked and can’t do anything about it?  I can tell you that one.  It’s the same exact life I led while I was being bullied.  I would rush home from school, fearing being set upon by older kids.  I would hide during recess sometimes, because I knew that if I didn’t I’d end up being the victim of a beating that nobody *would* do anything about unless they saw it happen (and then they’d just stop it, or punish both of us, since ‘it takes two to fight.’)

How did I get past it?

I learned to protect myself.  I learned to take care of myself.  And that’s how I learned to live without being afraid.  Sure, I sometimes walk with a stick.  I do so as much for self-defense as I do for style and/or support.  But I do so confident in my ability to protect myself.

If you take away people’s confidence in that ability, you take away their ability to *live*.  And that’s not worth any measure of additional safety.

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Take a peek – Jekyll and Hyde

July 5, 2009 at 9:45 am (Particle Physics) (, , , )

I’ve just finished and posted a rather lengthy discussion of Jekyll and Hyde to my other blog at the Wolfemann’s Den. If you wouldn’t mind, go take a look – I’ll try to have a more legitimate post up here some time in the next week or so.

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