Dangerous Drive-Thrus and Laws Justifying Laws

Yesterday I got a comment on my story, The Sacred Rules of the Drive-Thru, disagreeing with my idea that banning bicycles and pedestrians at drive-thrus is counter-productive to safety and that there are moral issues with the fact that they are promoting drunk driving. After reading it, I realized that I’d forgotten to add a link to the blog post I made about it, which kind of addresses a couple of her points. Anyway, I felt her thoughts did a good job of illustrating how many people perceive law and order and how it relates to our moral values. I know it’s kind of a mundane subject and nothing to get upset about, but I felt it was a great opportunity to show the difference in my own anarchistic way of thinking with a topic that’s not too offensive for either perspective. So here’s her comment:

i’m sorry but i disagree. It is dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists to be in the drivethru, and it isn’t the restaurant’s problem if the person is drunk or doesn’t have a car, they are a business and so it is in their best interests to obey their insurance rules….much more important than a drunk’s measly ten dollars and need to eat. I don’t have a car but i dont go screaming discriminatiom when i can’t have a big mac at 2am….i either make sure i have food in the house or go without.

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Okay, first you say that it is dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists to be in a drive-thru. I did a Google search and couldn’t find a single instance of someone being hurt in a drive-thru, but did find a number of instances of drive-thrus allowing pedestrians and bicyclists. I’ve been through hundreds of drive-thrus and never seen so much a dented bumper. What is your “drive-thrus are dangerous” theory based on? Have you seen statistics about this, or witnessed accidents?

What I think is that in cases like this people are likely to believe something is dangerous based on the laws surrounding it, rather than on actual statistics or things they’ve seen. It doesn’t make logical sense that something would be banned if it wasn’t problematic, so we assume that it is, and the idea is just kind of drilled into our minds. (We see the same thing, of course, with marijuana. The vast majority of people who are opposed to marijuana know little to nothing about it and are just running under the assumption that our laws know what they’re doing.)

People get injured doing just about anything and I doubt that a pedestrian in a drive-thru would be much more dangerous than a pedestrian crossing an intersection, and certainly not as dangerous as a bicyclist riding through the city. Countless other things in our society are more dangerous than a pedestrian in a drive-thru. That doesn’t give us the right to ban them unless they’re putting someone else at risk.

Then you’ve got the argument that these slight dangers could be mitigated with policies, warning signs or a number of other things. The only time the foot-customer would need to be in the line would be when ordering and picking up. He could stand to the side the rest of the time.

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Then you state, “it isn’t the restaurant’s problem if the person is drunk”. Well, this is true from a legal standpoint, but I’m an anarchist and I think and write about stuff from a moral perspective, not a legal one. If you have a friend who is totally drunk and decides to go drive, it’s certainly not your legal responsibility to stop him, but is it the moral thing to do? It’s not illegal to ask him to drive to get more beer, but is it the right thing to do? Doesn’t it seem like you should do the right thing, even though it’s not legally required of you? By this same token, shouldn’t businesses do the right thing and do their small part to prevent drunk driving? Why are businesses exempt from this sense of moral obligation? It seems like in our society, all expectations of a moral code are out the window as soon as you’re doing something that makes you or your investors money. Suddenly the only thing that matters is law. This, I believe illuminates one of the fundamental flaws in capitalism, or at the very least, the way we currently run capitalism.

Next you wrote, “they are a business and so it is in their best interests to obey their insurance rules.” This is certainly true, and admittedly if I owned a drive-thru there is a chance that I would be a hypocrite to everything I’m saying for my own financial best interests. I’m not faulting the restaurant owners for this. I’m faulting the fundamental ways that our laws and capitalism function. This is the overall point I was trying to make. These rules are based on insurance policies and fear of getting sued, not on actual safety. They tell us it’s for our safety to keep people like me from getting pissed off, but in reality, they just don’t want to get sued. The fact they don’t refuse service to drunk drivers is pretty good evidence they’re not concerned about safety directly.

So this is basically a law justifying another law. The rules of the insurance company dictate the rules the customers must follow at the drive-thru, and those insurance company rules were dictated by even bigger rules about who can sue who over what, which in turn were dictated by the rules of capitalism and exchange of money. Rules based on rules based on rules in a self-perpetuating cascade until we’ve lost touch with our moral values and the reasons why we even had rules in the first place.

The laws of our society should be dictated by our lifestyles, situations, and moral values; not the other way around.

Why Does Pro-Life not Apply to Miscarriages?

The other day I was watching a Ted Talk about parenting taboos and the things that parents hide and lie about to the public because of the social convention that you can’t ever say anything bad about having kids. (Watch it at the bottom of this post.) Very interesting video and somewhat eye-opening for a non-parent, but what caught my attention had nothing to do with their actual subject theme.

A few random facts they had about miscarriages: 15%-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and that 74% of women say that miscarriage was “partly their fault”.

Now, I know probably a hundred or more women who have had babies, but can only think of one who has ever had a miscarriage. For comparison I know several who have had abortions. So this leads me to believe, that if their statistic is correct (and I checked other sources that say the same thing), then there truly is this deep taboo against talking about miscarriages. Granted, I’m not exactly the kind of person that a woman is going to come to to talk about that kind of thing, but still, it seems extreme.

Another thing they mentioned was how there’s no social traditions surrounding a miscarriage. There’s  no funeral or standard church service or obituary or even any real acknowledgement beyond the mother and father that this was a person that was just lost from the world.

So I wonder how pro-lifers think about miscarriages and those fetuses. Do they matter as much as an aborted fetus? Now, I’ve heard the argument that it’s different because a miscarriage is not a choice, it’s an act of God, but I don’t see how that changes the actual value of the human being that is lost or why pro-lifers feel the need to fight vehemently for one, while virtually ignoring the other. At the end of the day, an accidental death causes just as much loss of life as a murder.

Now, apparantly 74% of women who have had miscarriages believe it was partly their fault. Now you can look at this scientifically and say the majority of them are simply having an emotional reaction because the medical consensus seems to be that most miscarriages are not preventable. However, I’m not talking about people of science here, I’m talking about pro-life individuals, most of whom believe God has a powerful pull over our lives, our thoughts and our feelings. So if God is the one choosing which fetuses live and which die, how do we know those mothers aren’t accurate in their feelings? How do we know they didn’t do something (or maybe the father did something) to cause God to decide they weren’t ready for a child? Is this why we don’t talk about miscarriage, because we’re afraid of that thought and don’t want anyone to think God might be punishing us?

Or is it because we don’t want to remind people that God is murdering insane numbers of babies? It kind of distracts people from the whole “God is good, God is great” thing.

Then you add the fact that a miscarriage is far more painful to the mother than an abortion, because it was something they didn’t want and I wonder even more why it is not given more attention.

Then what about that percentage of miscarriages that really are, from a scientific perspective, preventable? Do pro-lifers ever wonder what we could do to help women prevent them? What kind of things could help with that? Perhaps better maternity leave benefits so that women don’t need to be all stressed out while they’re pregnant, but which end of the political spectrum is most opposed to that?

I’m no doctor, but my first thought to prevent miscarriages is more medical attention and education for pregnant women. …and who does stuff like that? Well, Planned Parenthood for one, the very organization that the supposed baby-rescuers are most opposed to.

So basically, pro-lifers are fighting tooth and nail to save aborted babies, but aren’t bothering to give even a thought to all the miscarriages in the world.

This indicates that the pro-life position has nothing to do with protecting human life.

What does it have to do with? Well, two things. One, of course, is God. Pro-lifer’s see this issue as a chance to show their faith to God. They refuse to listen to any of the arguments about womens rights, children’s rights, overflowing orphanages, child abuse or neglect and a dangerously overpopulated planet. Instead they simply put all their faith in God so they can feel like they’re a good person in His eyes, ultimately, in hopes they will get into heaven. Numerous religious individuals admit to having no moral values beyond their desire to get into heaven every time they claim we can’t have a moral society without the concept of heaven. This blind desire to get into heaven has a massive affect on their political opinions, trumping science, logic and compassion.

The other reason to be pro-life is because it’s an inspiring, passionate position that brings out powerful emotions from everyone involved. It’s a fight for life, and it’s a fun fight. It offers the chance to see true evil, the kind from the movies, and the opportunity to get out there and scream “Baby Killer!” and have a true enemy that you love to hate. It’s a hatred that can be shared with like-minded people, to give that sense of teamwork within a crusade against the evils of the world, but without requiring anyone to do any real work to help people. In other words, it’s the love of the fight that ultimately drives the pro-life perspective.

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This is the Ted Talk that got me thinking about all this. It’s interesting and worth watching, but really has nothing to do with anything I just wrote.

New Friday True Story: Intro to Capitalism

Today I posted another Friday true story called My Intro to Capitalism.

First I should say that this is one of those stories that is so crazy and happened so long ago, that I have to shake my head and wonder if it actually happened, particularly since I’ve never talked about it with anyone until today. It’s something that profoundly affected my whole life, but I don’t know if I exaggerated things in my head. Either way, what I wrote is how I remember it.

I wonder if people are going tell me that the title isn’t fair, that the story is about feelings of ownership, and since there’s no exchange of money, it’s not really about capitalism. This is true, but I decided to give it this title, because that’s how I think about it. I believe this may be the first incident that caused me to start thinking about how we distribute possessions and wealth in our modern society, which for us, is capitalism.

Now, selfishness is one thing. You can argue selfishness would still be around without capitalism or law, and you’re certainly correct, but without capitalism it wouldn’t have the open-ended right to flourish. We also wouldn’t go to the extremes as we do in our society, where we feel the rules of capitalism are more important than human feelings and interactions. Laws and rules become an obsession sometimes, like a religion, and as you see in this story, our sense of humanity and common decency can be lost as a result. The concept of capitalism is just an extension of the idea of property ownership, placing a dollar value and deed of ownership on everything while ignoring the real-world human value and  usefulness of the objects in our world.

Now in this story, I was technically the bad guy. I was the one committing a crime, and there’s no way for me to argue against that. But did I really do anything wrong?

Last Week’s story, Amtrak Weed

I haven’t been posting much this week because I’ve been working on my short story called Pioneers, about a bunch of children colonizing a planet. I probably shouldn’t talk too much about it since you’re supposed to have to figure out that they’re children as you’re reading :) and because if all goes well, I won’t be posting it on this site. I’m actually gonna make an attempt at getting published again.

Anyhoo – last Friday, as promised, I posted another true short story called Amtrak Weed, and didn’t bother writing an entry about it until now.

So this story’s overall theme–other than the drunken humor–is about how easy it is to diffuse tense situations if you simply come at it from the right perspective. So spoiler: in this story I’m on the Amtrak and I somehow get between this guy with a knife and the dude he was threatening. Huge, screaming, possibly dangerous fight seems eminent. Long story short, I ask if they want to smoke some weed, crack a few jokes, and I laugh off the little knife-threatening incident like it’s just a childish fight. This all catches the knife-dude off guard, and his emotions and perspective suddenly shifts, as often happens with drinkers, and suddenly everyone’s friends again.

However, law-enforcement types would have come into the situation with force, never stopping to understand where the guy was coming from or what was really going on. They would see that knife and see him as nothing more than an enemy, and not as a person. Knife-dude never would have had the perspective shift. He never would have shaken hands with or apologized to his victim, and ultimately everyone would have been more traumatized by the whole situation.

This is one of the core reasons I am an anarchist, because I believe there are far better ways to address scary situations than war or police force.

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Tomorrow comes another true story that has influenced my anarchism called My Intro to Capitalism

When Atheism and Anarchism Coincide (Post List Test)

Today I released the new version 3.0 of Post List, my WordPress plugin that allows you to build presets that you can then refer to by shortcode in your posts, or add to your theme with a PHP snippet. Also, new in version 3.0 is a widget. I’ve added one called “recent posts” to my left sidebar, though I’m not sure if I’m gonna keep it. I’ve also added a bunch of cool features to Kalin’s Post List, like a shortcode to call a custom PHP function, post comments, tags, cats, and parent shortcodes, and a preview feature so you don’t need to make a test post to see what your list will look like.

One other feature I’ve added is the ability to require that all your selected tags or categories be included in every post, as opposed to the default behavior which only requires each post to have one of the selected tags or categories. This makes it so you can make lists of overlapping things, so just as a test to show you, I thought I’d give you a dynamically generated list of my blog posts that fall under both the atheism and anarchism categories.

Thou Shalt Not Lie - 02-23-2014
Faith • Equality • Family - 11-05-2012
Glass Houses Can be a Great Strategy - 10-12-2012
How do I Kill the Negativity? - 04-03-2012
Republican Dominated Florida Legislature Passes Bill Allowing Prayer In School | Addicting Info - 03-03-2012
Why is Breast Cancer not Scary? - 10-06-2010
Crime is not Logical - 09-07-2010
Thoughts on Dual Perspectives and the Hoarders TV Show - 08-08-2010
True Story About Isaac Zamora: Middle Finger Vengeance - 08-02-2010
20 Logical Fallacies - 07-26-2010
Why Most Americans Support Terrorism - 05-23-2010
Everything is OK series - 05-22-2010

Injecting Custom PHP Functions into Kalin’s Post List

In version 3.0 of Kalin’s post List WordPress Plugin, I added a new feature that adds even more customizability, the [php_function] shortcode which you can use to call any user-defined PHP function you have created. In version 3.1 of the plugin, I changed it slightly.

Here’s how to use it.

First, add this line into your wp-config.php file:

define("KALINS_ALLOW_PHP", true);

It will need to go above the line that says “That’s all, stop editing! Happy blogging.” This is for security, just to be on the safe side. I don’t believe there are any major security issues with this, but if I’m wrong, this ensures that no blog will be put at risk without permission.

Next, create your function. I put mine in my wp-config.php file, but you could probably put it in other locations. You can name your function whatever you want, as long as it’s unique. Your function may have one or two parameters. The first one (new in version 3.1) will always be the $post object for the current post in the list. If you can’t get all the necessary information from the $post object, the second parameter will be your optional custom param. If you require more than one custom parameter, you will need to pass it in as a delimited list or JSON string. The parameter will be a string, so if you need numbers or booleans, you will need to run a conversion on them.

Now that your function is ready, you can call it with the shortcode [php_function name=”function_name” param=””]. Replace the ‘name’ parameter with the name of the function. Replace the ‘param’ parameter with the function parameter(s).

As of version 3.1, this function no longer runs in a pseudo wordpress loop, so you cannot use the global $post object, but you now use the first parameter of your function, which should be the correct $post object.

The other option for getting post info is to actually pass it in through the ‘param’ parameter by use of a shortcode within the shortcode. For example, if you wanted a function called ‘myFunction’ to receive the post’s author as its parameter, you would use the shortcode: [php_function name=”myFunction” param=”[post_author]”]. The internal shortcode can even have its own parameters if you want. A shortcode with parameters inside a shortcode parameter that all runs inside a shortcode. :)

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So here is an example of something simple you can do with this feature. If you copy this code into your wp-config.php, it will output an edit link only if the currently logged in user is the author of the post. You can then refer to this function in your post list with the shortcode: [php_function name=”postListEditLink”].

define("KALINS_ALLOW_PHP", true);
function postListEditLink($post){
	$user = wp_get_current_user();
	$wpurl = get_blogInfo("wpurl");
	if($post->post_author == $user->ID){
		return '<a href="' .$wpurl .'/wp-admin/post.php?post=' .$post->ID .'&action=edit" >edit</a>';
	}else{
		return "";
	}
}

Space Station Full of Unsupervised Children

Pioneers.

So let’s say you want to colonize a planet, but that planet is going to take you a couple hundred years to get there. What do you do? You don’t have the resources to keep humans alive for that long on an interstellar voyage, even if they were frozen.

The only thing you can do is send an intricate and fully automated system that will, once it arrives, start harvesting oxygen and water from the ice of an asteroid or something, then fire up an artificial womb, and start making human babies. Five or ten years later, you’ll have a ship in orbit around a distant planet that is filled with somewhat unsupervised children. The young ones were raised by other children and the older ones were raised by robots. None of them have ever seen an adult, except in cartoons, sitcoms and educational films.

It seems possible that systems like this could be our only option for bringing life to worlds outside our solar system.

Colonizing a planet is not easy, of course, especially when it’s such a distant planet that we know little about, and the number of things that could go wrong is staggering. These children would be in a situation where their survival is highly questionable, and they would have a ton of work to do just to gain a foothold on the planet. However, they would grow up knowing they were the beginning of a new world, representing the future of the human race. No doubt they would have interesting childhoods.

This is the premise of the short story I am currently writing, called Pioneers. Here’s a clip from what I have so far:

“Lucky me.” Sophia glanced down the hallway and let her head fall back to return to staring at the ceiling. “Have you ever seen the old protests against us?”

“The people who didn’t want us to exist?” Greg asked. “They all died a thousand years ago, so who got the last laugh there? I’ve only seen enough of them that Mom made me see.”

“But the times when they would talk to them–sometimes they had interesting stuff to say about what our lives would be like here, and how we never got a choice in any of this. I mean, what gave them the right to decide this life for us? They sent us out here to struggle for our lives by ourselves, cut off from the rest of everything, and never gave us any choice.”

“How could they ask us a thousand years before we were born?”

“Don’t you wonder what it would be like? I see all those TV shows and wonder what all those things might be like.”

“I don’t even understand what they’re saying half the time I watch TV. Besides, everything we see is from a thousand years ago.”

“Yeah. Exactly. Don’t you ever wonder? None of us have ever walked on dirt or grass. Never seen a tree–I mean, I’d settle for a bush taller than my arm. I’ve never worn shoes–”

“Not true,” Greg interrupted. “Slippers are kind of like a shoe, and space-boots count.”

“Never had chocolate or candy, or a toy that wasn’t made of soy stems and strawberry leaves.”

“Don’t forget broken engine parts and paneling segments.”

“Never eaten meat–”

“Gross.”

“–or seen a lake or pond. Never seen an animal.”

“Never gotten sick or seen a war,” Greg added.

“Never walked in normal gravity. Never written on paper. Never been swimming. Never had a family.”

“You’ve got thirty-six brothers and sisters!” Greg sat up to look at her.

“Never had a mom or dad.”

“Come on, give me a break. I was raised by robots and I turned out just fine.”

“Says you,” she replied. “But don’t you ever feel like you’re not really human? You don’t wonder what these things would be like?”

“Of course I wonder, but I don’t really care. I know I’m all human.”

“But we’re not really human. We’re not born from humans. We’re born from incubators and bottles of nutrient goop.”

“So? It’s the DNA that matters.”

“We’re not even from human DNA. We came from digital copies of DNA.”

“It’s not the machine that matters, it’s the code that runs it,” Greg replied as he lay back down. “We’re human just fine.”

“Yeah.” Sophia fell silent.

“Geez, you’re really pissed off about something. Are you sure you don’t want to hear my back-farts?”

“No, I don’t.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry if I’m bringing everyone down,” Sophia said. “It’s really nothing. I’m just stressed about the dropship on Thursday. Everyone’s relying on me and expecting me to pilot that thing down and I just don’t feel ready yet, but I never had any choice. Never a choice in the day, never a choice in my job. Sometimes I just wish I’d been born on Earth, to a human family, and didn’t have any of this insanity to deal with.”

“Yeah…” Greg paused a long moment. “You know what I think, when I watch sitcoms and stuff and I look at what life is like on Earth, I just think its pathetic. Kids are like, all excited because their parents allowed them to go to a party or gave them a piece of candy. Then they grow up and the adults get all excited because someone wants to marry them or because they get to make a baby or they get more money-thingys at their job. Sure they got way more stuff than we do, but their lives are pathetic. Then I hear Mom telling me that sitcoms are blown out of proportion, that lives on Earth aren’t really that exciting, and all I can think of is how bored they all must be. Yeah, we only get like ten different foods out here and only get what we really need to survive. Sure we might die in two days, but you know what? At least we’re not pathetic.”

On re-reading this, I still like it, but it’s all like, serious and adult-sounding and stuff, which only represents half the mood of this story.

The Scientologist Job

Over the past year I’ve sort of built up a collection of short true stories to post on this site. I started posting one every Friday which will go through March, April and possibly to the end of May. Last Friday I posted Just a Coincidence, a story about the time I had what other people would claim was a psychic occurance when everything in my life broke down at the same moment.

Anyway, some of the true short stories I wrote were so short that they didn’t justify their own page, so I’ll make simple blog entries and post them randomly to supplement the bigger true stories I post on Fridays. Here’s one tiny little true story about Scientologists:

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Around 2007 I got an email from the church of Scientology. They had been searching for a Flash developer with UI coding experience, and found my portfolio at www.kalinflash.com. They also noticed that I liked to write science fiction.

The email didn’t specifically mention an interview process, and the wording seemed to suggest they already knew they wanted to hire me. They were offering competitive wages, though they didn’t mention the specific rate. I would need to move to California, but they offered several thousand dollars in moving expenses.
The creepiest part of the offer, which they seemed to see as one of the most attractive features, was that my salary would include room and board.
I did not reply to the email.