Taking a Break from writing….and being stretched…..

Yes, who knew that studying collections of solid tori (bagles 🙂 ) in 3 space could be so tricky? Oh wait…I did. But I’ve made some progress and hope to make more this afternoon.

But here is my break thoughts:

Marc Randazza is famous for pushing the edge. He writes:

In Ireland, County Kerry Councillor Danny Healy-Rae proposed changing the law to allow drunk driving permits to rural inhabitants. (source)

Crazier still, it PASSED!

Mind you, I don’t really think it is crazy. In fact, I think that Mr. Healy-Rae is brilliant. I don’t know much about Ireland’s drunk driving laws, but I know that ours are a constitutional abomination. Lawrence Taylor’s The DUI Exception to the Constitution is a must read.

I think that we should follow Healy-Rae’s move here, in the United States. We should restore sanity to the drunk driving laws.

So what is Randazza talking about here? Well, his main points appear to be:
1. Public safety laws ought to, well, actually make us safer rather than just comfort us (and a segment of the population)
2. The relation between blood alcohol content and an individual’s actual ability to drive is not constant across the human spectrum; one person might be impaired at, say .05 (as measured by performance on say, a traffic obstacle course) whereas another might not become impaired until, say, .12.
3. There are other ways of being impaired other than being drunk (e. g., being extremely sleep deprived).

Now, I have to admit that I disagree with Randazza here. Yes, I completely agree with point 1 and as far as point 2: no somewhat objective standard will be perfect. If, say, .08 really were determined by science and say, X percent of the population were impaired at that level, then I am ok with it. And yes, point 3 is correct, but it is impossible to legislate everything into some sort of flowchart.

Now as far as the “drunk driving permits”: talk about adding government unnecessarily! But I recommend reading his proposal; it is thought provoking (seriously; it will force you to critique the wisdom of the drunk driving laws).

Randazza’s posts sure makes you think “why is X a good idea” or even “IS X a good idea”, and I love people who do that!

Religion Jerry Coyne takes on yet another “hey atheists, you haven’t rebutted “sophisticatedly conceived deities” and “religion is good for some people; so what do you atheists have to offer” arguments.

As to the second question: I admit that I am not that interested in that question. If religious practices make you feel better (e. g., yoga can help a achy back; meditation and prayer can calm the mind, and being challenged to live a better life can help), well, do those practices. None of this has any bearing on how the universe was developed or the truth of how things work. Just make sure that you don’t interfere with the teaching of science, get your vaccinations, and take your loved ones to a doctor when they get sick (instead of to quacks), ok?

As to the first question? Seriously I am not interested in speculating on “word salad gods”. I keep returning to what Mano Singham said:

What atheists like me say to religious believers is simply the following: If the existence of your god has empirical consequences, then provide empirical evidence that supports your contention. If it has no empirical consequences whatsoever, then say so and we will not interfere with your theological and philosophical ruminations because we do not really care to speculate on the properties of what we consider to be a mythical entity.

Either show me candidates for your deity’s signature in world events, or go away. 🙂 On an emotional level, I have a hard time that this billion plus galaxy universe was made with us in mind, but I suppose that is theoretically possible, even if it makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Politics and Economics
Praise doesn’t come easily from Paul Krugman, so it is encouraging that he too liked President Obama’s inauguration speech. He also has a sense of humour about how he is viewed by some “Very Serious People”:

Mark Thoma is puzzled: if Larry Summers is going to write a piece about how we’re obsessing too much about the deficit, why begin with two paragraphs about how the deficit is a big problem?

But there’s no mystery: that’s the INK disclaimer — I’m Not Krugman. It’s supposed to establish Larry’s bona fides as a Serious Person, appeasing the deficit scolds so that he can get on with the substance of his argument.

I wish him luck, but don’t think he’ll get far. For the deficit scolds are unappeasable.

Note: Krugman does NOT say that the large public debt isn’t a problem; he merely points out that this is NOT the most pressing problem at this time. Think of it this way: say you have a knee that needs surgery and you have a bad heart problem. The knee IS important, but if one has to choose (say, your heart isn’t strong enough to withstand surgery), then the heart comes first. That doesn’t mean that your knee isn’t important.

It is the same way with the economy: pay down the debt during boom times; during bust times we need to work on employment and demand first.

Krugman also points out how very different this current is from the way it was a relatively shot time ago; he shows this by presenting a graph that charts the number: “do you approve of marriage between different races”:

In his speech, Obama invoked the history of struggles for equality with a remarkable triptych: Seneca (women’s rights), Selma (black rights), and Stonewall (gay rights). And there has been remarkably little blowback — a sign of how much the country has changed.

What many people may not realize is how recent those changes are. Gay rights may be relatively obvious — it’s just 8 years since opposition to gay marriage arguably played a significant role in Bush’s victory. But the big changes on the racial front are also more recent than widely imagined (obligatory disclaimer — yes, there’s a lot of racism remaining, and it can be truly ugly; we’re just talking about relative changes). […]

Republicans pine for the glory days of Ronald Reagan — but that was a different country, a county with a lot more raw racism, a country in which only a minority of Americans found interracial marriage acceptable.

Note: as an example: Alabama voted in 2000 to remove its interracial marriage ban from the books, but 40 percent voted to keep it on the books! So while Krugman is right: this IS a different country, it isn’t THAT different in certain parts of the country. Hence our political divisions are stark, and I have no interest in meeting such people “half way”.


January 22, 2013 - Posted by | civil liberties, economy, politics, politics/social, religion, social/political, Uncategorized | , ,


  1. [ ATTENTION: completely off-topic alert! ]

    It’s obvious that you need a different perspective to proceed!

    If studying collections of solid tori (bagles) in 3 space is too tricky try it with doughnuts.

    Comment by gswi | January 23, 2013 | Reply

    • You are oh-so-helpful. 🙂

      Comment by blueollie | January 24, 2013 | Reply

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