How many Roads Must a Man Pay For?

I just read that a joyriding truck driver crashed a gas tanker in the SF bay area. The burning gas caused a section of road to collapse, which is disrupting the traffic flow for the area. As amusing as that is, the funny part is that governor Ah-nold declared a state of emergency and applied for Federal Disaster Relief aid to fix a road. since when do all the taxpayers in the country need to foot the bill for some stupid California road? It's supposed to cost tens of millions of dollars. Am I to understand that the richest, most-populous state in the country can't fix a road?

One more reason I wish Lex Luthor had succeeded with that whole earthquake thing.

So what's the deal with totalitarian governments trying to pass themselves off as peaceful and democratic? Every communist or pseudo-socialist government seems to have freedom-implying words in its title. Think about it: Union of Soviet Socialist Republic. People's Republic of China. Union of Myanmar (with its State Peace and Development Council which commits genocide). The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Is anybody anywhere ever fooled by these names? They would probably be taken more seriously on the international stage if they had names like "Murderous Genocidal Xenophiobic Terrorist State of _____." I'd be more intimidated by a country employing those words than a so-called "democratic republic."

Musings of a Fatigued Mind

My most interesting thoughts seem to come to me in that couple of minutes between the time my alarm goes off and I get in the shower. The thoughts also seem to be more bizarre the more tired I am. This morning I was wondering what it would be like if there were a holy war between those with "innie" belly buttons vs. those with "outie" belly buttons. Those who don't really have either would try to be neutral but would be impressed into service as slaves for one side or the other. I predict it would lead to the end of humanity.

I just looked it up, and apparently only 10% of people have outies. So maybe it wouln't be a fair war after all.

Choose the right(s)

So I was thinking about the idea of "Choose the Right." In the song it even says "There's the right and the wrong to every question." There are, however, usually more than two possible courses of action. So there is usually more than one right and more than one wrong way to proceed. I could have worn a black or a grey tie today. Neither decision is likely to be incorrect (although in certain circumstances it is forseeable). On the other hand, I could dress up as a monkey or a dung beetle, and both decisions would be wrong. So the trick is to figure out which of the many alternatives is the best good. Fortunately, there is partial credit available.

Opposites Detract

I was thinking about the supposed principle that opposites attract, and I realized that the principle must have its limits. Otherwise we'd be seeing supermodels dating homeless men with dubious personal hygiene.

Instead, it seems to me more like people date people with complementary personalities. In a successful relationship, for example, one person typically takes the dominant role. When you get two dominant people together you end up with daily fights. And two non-dominant people don't ever get together because nobody will take the initiative.

You also tend to get a listener and a talker. If two talkers get together they can't communicate because the marriage proposal would never be heard over the recipient's own chatter. Two listeners might get together, but they would never really get to know each other and would eventually drift apart.

Presidential reform

Obviously the two-party system has some serious problems. No wonder it's been boiling down to a "lesser of two evils" mentality when it comes time to vote. Political parties are just a convenient way of keeping ourselves from having to think or actually study the issues.

So here's my idea of how the preidential campaign would be conducted. Anyone is allowed to run and is given a certain allotment of money with which to campaign. They must detail every penny of the money that they spend and will be subject to audits. If anyone is found guilty of misappropriation, they will be disqualified and subject to prosecution.

Following preliminary campaigning for a set period of time, maybe 6 months or so, an independently-conducted poll (whose members must remain unknown to the candidates) will determine the top 5 candidates, who are then given an additional sum of money and subjected again to the same restrictions.

Current technology is sufficient to allow electronic voting and tallying; thus the voice of the people could truly be heard, and the votes of citizens of Wyoming would be as valuable as the citizens of california.

Siphoned at the pump

Today, while putting gas in my car, I noticed that the fuel contains a "multi-functional additive." I'm guessing that the primary function is to save a little cash for the oil company by watering down the gas with it.

Stop the madness

Driving to and from work everyday gives me time to think. specifically, it gives me time to think about how stupid we all are. Most people know of the so-called "two-car rule," which is the common belief that if you are turning left and the light goes red, two cars get to turn before traffic starts in the other direction. I attended traffic school last year (no, not for that) and the police officer was very careful to point out that if you are not in the intersection before the light turns red you are breaking the law. So I try not to turn left on the red unless I've already entered the intersection. I would rather get to my destination two minutes later than potentially get a ticket or killed.

The thought occurs to me that civilization is 5 seconde behind where it should be because of this. Think about it. Cars at the cross street have to wait as long as five seconds to go because of everybosy running the light. Then they do it when their light goes red, and the process begins again. In the end it all evens out, so why do we anger each other and risk death and higher insurance premiums to get somewhere two minutes earlier, when if we all decided to forgo this practice it would all work out the same anyway? Lives would actually be spared.

That's why I say we should leave home two minutes earlier and stop the madness.

Police Frugality

While driving home for lunch I was behind a police car. The car in front of the police car was of course carefully following the speed limit, which I also do if a police officer is behind me. Do we really think they are fooled by that? Police officers know that the moment they turn off, the other car will try to make up for the 7 seconds they are now behind by going 20 miles an hour over the speed limit instead of the normal ten. If I were a police officer, I think I would get tired of not being able to get anywhere at my chosen speed. It's funny how they see the extremes of behavior regarding the law.

The Smoking Gun

I recently joined an online community (helium.com) which allows the members to submit articles on various subjects. It is possible to earn small (and I mean small) amounts of money based on the site sharing a portion of advertising dollars. The more people read my postings, the more money I get, at least in theory. Here is an article I just submitted about smoking, duplicated here for your reading enjoyment. The article title is "The Smoking Debate: Free Choice or Not." If you go to the site and search for that title you can see all the submitted articles. If you do a search for "Joel Hiller," you will see some of my articles (I'm not sure why they don't all appear; it may simply take several days).

In theory, we have the right to choose what we will do to our bodies, whether it be piercing, smoking, or growing a mullet. Tobacco companies also have the right to make whatever products they want, provided they do not attempt to sell them to young people, whose decision-making capabilities have not yet fully formed.

In practice, however, people who smoke invariably infringe on the freedom of others by exposing them to the smoke. Setting aside health issues for a moment, non-smokers have the right to not be affected by what smokers decide to do to their bodies. Therefore, regulations have been introduced in many areas of the United States regarding smoking in public places.

It is still, of course, permitted for people to smoke within the privacy of their own homes. Again, this is right in theory. Others who live within the home, however, are inevitably affected, to a more serious degree even that those exposed to smoke in public places. Children and other non-smokers have a right to breathe clean air within their own homes. Add to this that there is absolutely zero positive benefit even to the smoker beyond temporarily enjoyable physiological effects, and there is no logical argument to permit smoking at all.

We are all exposed to tobacco smoke at least occasionally, which violates the rights of non-smokers to breathe air unaffected by the choices of others. The argument might be made that we are all exposed to indecent language and pollution. Commercial pollution is regulated (it is necessary to provide commercial goods), and language is of course much more difficult to regulate and presents a host of arguments regarding constitutionality. The freedom to smoke is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights (neither is the right to breathe, but that is covered by the word “life,” which the Declaration of Independence guarantees us, which actually reinforces the right to not inhale cigarette smoke).

Logically, smoking, while theoretically a matter of individual choice, cannot exist without violating the rights of others.

It begins...

As most people in the world apparently now have their own blog, I decided I'd better expose my innermost thoughts to the intense scrutiny of the general public and potential employers. Then I thought better of it and decided to post relatively inocuous, if occasionally insightful, musings instead.