Monday, May 14, 2012

You Listening, E.J.?

E. J. Dionne, whose father had the same name, had a column in today’s (5.14.12) paper about why he’s not quitting the Catholic Church. E. J. doesn’t give us an email address to respond to his comments, so I’ve had to resort to the bully pulpit here at Ape Shit. I’m sorry you made me do this, E. J., I wish we could have kept it quite, but no, you’re in lock-down mode and I’ve had to resort to this messy public forum.

You listening, E. J.?

You were complaining about being badgered by folks from an outfit called the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). They—if I have this right—accused you of being an enabler of the evils the Church is and has been involved with over the years. You, on the other hand, held up the Mother Terresa defense: “But look at all the wonderful things people have done within the Church.”
I think, E. J., that is precisely what they are saying. It does take a leap of cognition to understand how buying into the “good” argument enables the bad, but it does. Mostly it demonstrates a fuzzy understanding of the traditional role of religion in society. A role, I might add, that has been on the wane since the Enlightenment; and thank God for that.

Since time immemorial, society has been under the control of two elements of state apparatus: the government and the church. Any church, any government. Those two machines work together to control the populace. The government, essentially, controls the direction of society (at this point in time) while the religion supplies the motivation. Furthermore, traditionally, government has controlled the engines of coercion and restraint, whereas religion has been left with education, charity, and social causes. Together they define the parameters; religion has the sales job and government the enforcing job.
What that means is that the church (or Church) does good because that’s it’s job. Hospitals save lives because it’s their job. Likewise, people who want to do good will gravitate towards those jobs which will allow them to do good. The Church did not create Mother Terresa; Mother Terresa used the Church to attain her goals. If the Church had not existed, she would have found another way to accomplish her goals. The credit goes, not to the Church, but to Mother Terry.

The Church, the Catholic Church, exists not to do good—people will do good regardless—but rather as an instrument of control: they would like the good to be done in their name.
The great glory of the Enlightenment was the realization that we didn’t need that instrument of control. If fact, it realized that, in the long run, having that kind of control over people was not a good idea; and ever since then, religion has slowly been losing ground to the rationalists. There’s nothing religion can do about it, it’s strictly evolutionary. There’s no turning back the tide. Slowly religion turns into folklore.

Yes, by buying into the Mother Terresa defense you’re slowing down the process of evolution. Yes, you’re an enabler. But not to worry, it makes no difference. You can prop up a dying belief all you want, but once it’s dead, it’s dead. Tell it to Zeus. I’m in the FFRF camp in that I wish you guys would brighten up a bit more quickly, but I’ve always had that problem with society. I’ve learned to accept that progress is inevitable but slow.
The Pope's shoes
The real question is, what are we going to do with all those old churches? How many performance halls do we need? Posh restaurants? Museums? Not to mention all those great priests’ robes. Don’t you think they’ll look good in the gay and lesbian parades? I do. Think they’ll look good.

Stick to your guns, E. J.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I’m just saying…

It took me years to get to appreciate the taste of marijuana. The smoke alone nearly killed me. I still don’t like it a whole lot, except that I’ve developed a pavlovian response to it.

In my experience, that’s unique. All those other popular drugs—coffee, alcohol, tobacco, chocolate—all depend, to a large extent, on taste. Think of alcohol alone. The varieties of flavored alcohols must be in the hundreds of thousands: beers, wines, booze, aperitifs, sakes, kumisses. Still, a drunk is a drunk; doesn’t matter which kind of rotgut he (or she) swills, the effect is the same. Alcohol is alcohol. There are claims that some alcohols, like, say, absinthe or champagne, produce highs of differing qualities; but, for the most part, how drunk one gets depends on how much alcohol one consumes. The source is immaterial; a bottle of Oregon pinot noir will get you as snockered as a bottle of Ripple.
The same is true of tobacco. The flavors and strength vary considerably, but the ultimate effect, stupefaction, is the same.

For all I know, that’s true of heroin and cocaine and oxycodone and whatever: how high you get depends on how much you consume.

Not so with marijuana. Indeed, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of varieties of marijuana on the market, and none is quite the same as the other; not just in taste, but in the nature of the high they produce. It’s not simply a matter of quantity. It’s not that each variety of marijuana has X amount of THC and that if you smoke the same amount of THC, regardless of brand, you’ll get the same high. Not so. Each brand, each variety, has its own unique experience.

What you can’t do is smoke a large amount of inferior marijuana to get as high as smoking any amount of a quality marijuana. It just doesn’t work that way. If you want to get high, you have to smoke good reefer; smoking twice as much bad reefer won’t do it. Smoking four times as much won’t do it. Smoke till it’s all gone and it won’t do it. Quantity doesn’t count with marijuana, it’s quality all the way. There is no substitute. Trust me, there are marijuanas out there that I wouldn’t let my dog walk home.

It’s interesting to listen to wine aficionados versus eavesdropping on knowledgeable marijuana smokers. They both use glowing floral, intimate phrases in caressing their passions, but one camp is entirely devoted to the experience of the palate while the other concentrates solely on effects. To be sure, marijuana smokers softly sniff their product and note its its bouquet, and that’s part of the overall experience, but the ultimate test of a marijuana comes, not in the consumption, but in the few seconds afterwards when the combination of resins sneaks into your brain. It’s what marijuana does to you that really matters, not its taste.
Because, truth to tell, tastes can be deceiving. There are marijuanas out there that smell exquisite and burn like heaven but leave you flat as a flitter. Likewise, there are marijuanas out there that smell as dead as a button but have you crawling on your hands and knees looking for the chocolate factory. (“I know I left it here somewhere, God damn it.”)
What we’re seeing in the market now, is a trailer for what’s coming. The rush to legalization through the channel of medical marijuana has already created sea changes in the marijuana business. Not only are prices falling, but quality is stabilizing. Competition in evidenced in the market for the first time on a broad scale. Most marijuana now comes with a name. I’m told that in the clinics the THC percentage is listed (though heed the warning above about THC being only a part of the total package). Expect the push to quality to continue.
Expect that there will be two levels to the legal market: mass and boutique. Expect that it will be regulated like beer: yes, you can grow your own; but if you want to sell it, you’ll have to have a license, pay tax, etc. Expect that the price will fall into a range that won’t make it worthwhile for most people to grow their own dope anymore than to brew their own beer; most people won’t. Expect quality local brands. Expect decent regional/national brands.
God, it would be nice to see this happen before I die. (Hey, don’t laugh!)

Cannabis rex.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Was I Wrong or What?

Can't remember where I put this box.
The Big Oh did run my op-ed piece on legalizing pot. You can see it here.

Gee, thanks, guys. Reading the comments has been entertaining. The question always was, how many fish would I catch?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hunting For an Answer

While prowling the Net recently I came across the site of a fellow from Eugene, OR who has devoted himself to debunking The Aquatic Ape Theory (AAT). We corresponded a couple times until he quit responding.

Now, it’s curious enough to devote yourself to being against something rather than for something, but why AAT? What did it ever do to him to cause him such determination?
Well, that aside, I wrote him my usual question of “when did humans take to living at the water’s edge”? And cited our inordinate amount of water consumption as an anomaly that needed explaining. As is usual with savannistas, they can’t bring themselves to use the word “demographics.” I try to get them to say it out loud: “dem-oh-graficks.” No luck.

Jim dismissed human water consumption, saying it was the same as other mammals and then cited our industrial, agricultural, and transportation uses for pumping up our apparent consumption. When I cried foul on his arguments, he stopped writing.

I’ve had other savannistas allege human water consumption to be the same as other mammals, which I find exceedingly difficult to understand. Not that statement, I understand what they’re saying; but how could they possibly make such a statement and then expect us to stick around for the rest of the argument? Mammals? Let’s see, we’ve got whales and kangaroo mice and wolves and door mice and howler monkeys and bears and otters and beavers and zebras and elephants and hippos… Whew, can I stop now? They all have the same water requirements? Did anybody look? Did they think about it?
So, either they thought about it or they didn’t. If they didn’t think about it, they should have; and they have no business being in the business if they haven’t thought about it. Or they thought about it and came to a completely erroneous conclusion, only means they shouldn’t be in the business if they can’t think any better than that.

Did I make myself clear?

Likewise, it felt silly pointing out to Jim that I was talking about personal water consumption, not industrial/agricultural uses. Could he have figured that out from context? Well, if you think all mammals drink the same amount of water (per pound of animal, of course), you might have trouble with the rest of it. Jim has a religious focus on debunking AAT that I was unable to shake.
As you know, I’m not an advocate of AAT, but I do advocate that the problems raised by AAT be addressed.

I have come recently to an understanding about my argument with the savannistas. Perhaps part of the problem is semantics, how we’re using language. The savannistas claim that early man, when he descended from the trees, moved onto the savannas. My problem has always been, when did we then move to the waterhole? That’s where my discussions with paleoanthropologists breaks down; they are unable to conceive of humans in demographic terms. They don’t know what it means when I ask that question.
I think part of the problem lies in what we mean when we say “to live.” And perhaps that comes from comparing us with our cousins, the chimps, etc. It’s my understanding that the other great apes do not have regular camps, but move around as a group within their prescribed territory. Resting places may vary from night to night. Babies born are carried along with the tribe.

This, of course, is very different from most predators (all?). Predators have dens, lairs, where their young are born and raised until ready to join the hunt. The same den will be used for years off and on. The den will be as close to the hunting ground as possible yet be out of harm’s way. When I ask, where does that predator live? I’m asking where does it make its home?
What I’ve ignored in my arguments was the difference between nest site and hunting territory. Or at least I haven’t made this distinction clear. I’m full well ready to concede that, once we came down from the trees, we were hunters; that’s why we came down. But once we we down, we were no longer omnivores, we were becoming carnivores. We were adopting the manner of predators: one doesn’t take ones young on the hunt; one brings food back.

My contention is that place to where the food was brought back was by the waterhole. Ergo, we live there today and drink a hell of a lot of water.

In the end, that argument is dismissed but never rebutted. It’s going to be long after my death when someone in the field has a eureka moment and shouts, “I got it; we’ve always lived where we live, ever since we came down from the trees. How simple. Why did no one think of this before?”
Sorry I’m going to miss it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We Can’t Afford to Legalize Pot

I wrote this in response to an op-ed piece in The Oregonian. Knowing that they'll never publish it, I thought I'd best save the world this way.
Lauren Wiener’s Sunday opinion column in The Big O on legalizing marijuana was well reasoned and sensible. She adequately revealed the limitations of the medical marijuana program. She made a compelling argument for legalization.
Unfortunately, it was beside the point. The war against marijuana was never a public health or safety issue. It isn’t even a moral issue. It is a cultural issue. Marijuana is the drug of choice of the great unwashed bottom-dwellers who drag down society with their devil-may-care, scofflaw attitudes. Artists, musicians, actors, and no end of fringe creative types spend their nights sucking down vast clouds of marijuana smoke while planning the destruction of the American way of life. That’s why we have to prohibit marijuana, it creates disdain for the American political and economic system.
But the real reason to not legalize pot is that we can’t afford it. Anti-pot legislation and enforcement are the cornerstone of our whole incarceration system, which is the largest in the world. Legalizing pot would immediately throw millions of Americans out of work: judges, lawyers, prosecutors, policemen, security guards, bail bondsmen, court reporters, prison guards, parole officers, prison construction personnel, prison commissary operators, media people, not to mention farmers, harvesters, marketers, and transportation folk (should we talk about where all those people shop, buy homes, take vacations, etc?).
Legalizing marijuana would not only suddenly throw those millions of people out of work, it would also immediately throw millions of criminals onto the streets looking for employment. This would put a serious wrench into the economy from which it might take years to recover.
It could also provide a serious crunch in the international arms trade, another business in which we are the world’s largest player. Much of the world’s terrorist arms are purchased with money acquired through drug trade profits maintained artificially high by the drugs’ illegality. Legalizing drugs would tear the pocket book out of those organizations and provide a crimp in arms purchasing which would directly affect the American economy. Much of our foreign aid is determined by keeping those regional conflicts alive. Likewise, the great majority of guns used by the Mexican cartels are made in America. What would happen if they could no longer buy those guns? It’s our industries which would take the hit.
Sure, legalizing pot might get the hippies off our back, but the dismantling of the industries built around criminalization could send the country into a tailspin that would hark back to the 30s. Don’t forget, if America were to legalize pot, the rest of the world would follow suit, only exacerbating the problems. It could plunge the entire world into economic chaos.
The bottom line: we simply can’t afford to legalize marijuana. It’s a pipe dream.
Wish I could credit this excellent photo. Whose ever it is, it's yours.