Abe Lincoln on Prohibition

Prohibition … goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. … A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.

Rutland Herald (March 02,2016)

When discussing and debating marijuana legalization in Vermont or its continued prohibition, consider the words of Abraham Lincoln:



Marijuana “Experts” Disappoint

A Vermont Scorecard

We are concerned by the marijuana misinformation in circulation – and in particular by the number of “expert” sources ignoring relevant scientific data. These include organizations such as the Vermont Medical Society, the Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, the Vermont Psychiatric Association, the Vermont Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Vermont Chapter of the American College of Physicians, the Vermont Public Health Association, Vermont Department of Liquor Control, the Vermont Department of Health, and individuals such as Dr. Paul Parker of Richmond. Why are so many experts repeating half-truths and outright falsehoods? This is especially disturbing because we Vermonters look to these medical and scientific bodies to inform our marijuana policy discussion. Further, when young people learn the real science, or gain experience of their own, they develop a legitimate cynicism that undermines their trust in our institutions. Hence, we write to promote greater integrity on the information-based side of our marijuana policy discussion.

Myth: Marijuana Makes People Lazy

Dr. Parker’s commentary (“Don’t make pot problem worse,” Feb. 4 in the Herald and Jan. 20 in the Times Argus) is typical. He claims that science proves cannabis consumers develop “amotivational syndrome” – used here as a scientific-sounding way to say “lazy pothead.” This overgeneralization persists due to ignorance, so it warrants comment: Indica-heavy varieties of cannabis are known by science to promote relaxation of body and mind, while sativa-heavy cannabis is energizing, uplifting, and cerebral. Marijuana does not make people lazy. Ignorance can, though. Just as the differences between beer, wine, and liquor are covered in the first lessons in alcohol education, a world in which marijuana is legal would be one in which such basic information would facilitate smarter cannabis use while eroding unhelpful stereotypes.

Myth: Marijuana Makes People Dangerous

Dr. Parker tells Vermonters that “science has shown … [m]arijuana … will lead to even more motor vehicle accidents and deaths.” An alliance of six physicians’ organizations which appears to be led by the Vermont Medical Society likewise asserts “a doubling of the risk of motor vehicle accidents” (“Six Vermont Physician Groups Caution Legislature About the Dangers of Legalized Marijuana,” Vermont Medical Society website). The Vermont Department of Health echoes this claim, too, in an 84-page document it provided the Legislature, “Marijuana Regulation in Vermont,” in which it purports to referee relevant data so that we will know which policies are supported with “scientific rigor.” The report concedes a lack of proof that marijuana causes fatalities (p. 35); but as Josh O’Gorman reported, it claimed “very strong evidence to indicate marijuana use leads to more motor vehicle crashes” (“Vt. report examines pot’s health impact,” Jan. 16, 2016). When we checked the source of the “very strong evidence,” we were startled: It comes from the 2014 report of a well-known anti-drug task force, the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA), whose output has long been seen as politically motivated and scientifically suspect. Its report has been criticized for obscuring the fact that what it refers to as “marijuana-related traffic deaths” do not necessarily have anything to do with marijuana. It groups together all fatalities from accidents in which a driver “tested positive for marijuana,” while it ignores (a) that inactive metabolites cause people who are not high to test positive; (b) that the upward trend in adult marijuana use made an increase in false-positive tests likely; and (c) that the tripling of cannabinoid screens by law enforcement agencies between 2009 and 2014 itself guarantees a bump in the numbers. These are serious omissions. Why would the Department of Health pass this on to Vermonters as “very strong evidence”? As for Dr. Parker’s evidence, he provides none; nor does the alliance of physicians’ organizations.

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, traffic fatalities actually went down in 2014, according to data released by the Colorado Department of Transportation, continuing a 12-year downward trend. In Washington State, which also legalized marijuana in 2012, the number of traffic fatalities remained stable in the first year that adult possession was legalized. But we are especially disappointed that our experts ignored one of the most important recent sources on the issue at hand, a February 2015 drug and alcohol crash risk study from the Department of Transportation which found that, when adjusted for age, gender, and alcohol use, there was no significant increase in the level of crash risk associated with marijuana. Vermonters deserve to know these facts, because they bear directly on our legitimate questions about traffic safety.

Myth: Marijuana Kills IQ

The Vermont Department of Liquor Control offers its publication, “Making the Right Decisions,” as a guidebook for teens sorting out “myths and facts.” It claims, “Heavy marijuana use is associated with cognitive decline in about 5% of teens, which suggests that the heaviest users could lose 8 IQ points.” That claim contradicts a lot of science, including the brand new study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers comparing long-term marijuana use in teen twins found no IQ differences traceable to using or not using marijuana over 10 years. (The study is covered in lay terms in last month’s issue of Science.) In fact, cannabis can be an IQ-saver: In Israel, which leads the world in medicinal marijuana research, doctors inject marijuana’s main psychoactive component into brains “to prevent long-term cognitive damage after brain injury” (Jerusalem Post, May 27, 2013).

Myth: Marijuana Is Bad For Your Health

The Department of Health’s report relies again on the partisan RMHIDTA for claims about increased school suspensions and marijuana-related emergency room visits. Their numbers lump together as marijuana-related emergencies all ER patients who mentioned using marijuana at some point. This, too, is highly misleading. Dr. Randolph Knight of Weathersfield, who works at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, N.H., told members of the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee that in his 20 years of practice as an emergency room doctor – with close to 50,000 patients – he had yet to see an overdose from marijuana (“ER doctor urges pot legalization,” Jan. 20, 2016). But it is worth addressing what many of us think of as the main potential concern, children becoming stoned by accidental ingestion of edible marijuana. As with so many things children eat accidentally, this ought to be addressed by education, not prohibition. For perspective, consider that more than 17,000 children under 6 years old were injured due to ingestion of the candy-colored detergent packets between 2012 and 2013. No one thinks prohibition is the measured response to this “danger,” although better warnings make sense.

Dr. Parker admits that while it is “not yet… shown to be the case,” he is “confident that smoking marijuana will eventually be shown to be a cause of lung disease, including cancer, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” The Department of Liquor Control, like Parker, warns of cancer (“Making the Right Decisions”). It’s a commonsense guess; but we expect more than that from experts. Check the American Lung Association page on marijuana, and you’ll find the words “cancer,” “emphysema,” and “pulmonary disease” are absent. Check the annals of the International Journal of Cancer for the most recent study looking for the link to cancer, and you’ll find the investigators conclude, “Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers.” There are many such significant studies, including one based on measurements of over 5,000 tokers’ pulmonary function over 20 years (Journal of the American Medical Association, 2012), and others showing that cannabis even retards tumor growth. (To the credit of the Department of Health, its report lists the effect of marijuana on respiratory cancer as “unclear” (p. 3). Still, we believe a more positive assessment is justifiable, especially factoring in the options for consuming cannabis without smoking it.)

Dr. Parker claims that marijuana “has been shown to be associated with the development of mental health illness including depression, anxiety and paranoia.” In “Making the Right Decisions,” Liquor Control likewise claims that studies show “an association between heavy marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal thought and schizophrenia.” The alliance of physicians’ organizations, too, claims marijuana causes “increased future mental health problems, including a 40-percent increase in the rate of psychosis, and development of later anxiety disorders” (“Six Vermont Physician Groups Caution Legislature About the Dangers of Legalized Marijuana,” Vermont Medical Society website). These were certainly common views in the medical community during the 1960s and 70s. But what does today’s science say? This month’s Journal of the American Medical Association reports new research based 34,000 American adults finding that marijuana does not pose a risk of mood or anxiety disorders for the general populace. Cannabis can even be used to treat depression and anxiety effectively; moreover, there are strains of marijuana with elevated levels of the non-psychoactive component used medicinally to mitigate the effects of schizophrenia. On the other hand, cannabis may trigger or exacerbate schizophrenia in those genetically predisposed. The largest ever study of acute response to cannabis, published in this month’s Translational Psychiatry, identifies a variation in the ATK1 gene that predicts acute psychotic response. The authors note that this affects “only a very small minority of individuals” (a fraction of the 1% of the population classifiable as schizophrenic). To quantify this concern, one study assessing risk factors concluded that in order to prevent one case of schizophrenia from emerging, we would have to stop more than 3,000 teens from using cannabis. Legal prohibition is surely a cumbersome, ineffective way to address this health problem, especially given that science is already sorting out who this concern affects, and who it doesn’t. (Again, to the credit of the Department of Health, its report acknowledges the genetic factor, and notes that “schizophrenia is a rare disorder, whether marijuana is an exacerbating risk factor or not” (p. 36).)

So is marijuana dangerous? As Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, puts it, “Marijuana is not only non-toxic—but remarkably non-toxic.” “Despite its use by millions of people over thousands of years, cannabis has never caused an overdose death.” Its record as a medicine extends back more than 4,500 years, at least to the father of Chinese medicine, Emperor Shen Nung. It runs through the 19th century Irish doctor William O’Shaughnessy (whose insights led to the development of IV therapy); his use of cannabis from India to successfully treat a range of ailments (from the pain of rheumatism to convulsions and muscle spasms) made it popular in England. It continues on to modern hero of medicine, Rafael Mechoulam (Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Hebrew University in Israel, where medical marijuana has kosher status). Marijuana’s natural ingredients are used to counter seizures (e.g., in epilepsy), and treat basal-cell carcinoma and many other cancers, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, AIDS, glaucoma, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, insomnia, lack of appetite – and to replace or reduce use of synthetic painkillers. Crohn’s patients are foregoing steroids and surgery. According to a study in the American Journal of Medicine, consuming marijuana (even smoking it) is associated with a decrease in the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. For the majority of the human population, cannabis is less dangerous than most medicines, including common pain relievers like aspirin, which the American Nutrition Association reports cause between 7,600 – 20,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Myth: Marijuana as a “Gateway”

Dr. Parker also plays the well-worn “gateway drug” card, asking, “Why would we legalize something that has the potential to promote even more drug abuse?” It is disturbing that Dr. Parker ignores the data most relevant to people concerned about youth: Not only did incidence of drug use not increase among teens after legalization in Colorado, it actually dipped: for teens, marijuana use went down after legalization, notwithstanding a slight uptick in use generally. Use in Colorado increased from 10.7% in 2009 to 11.16% in 2013, after legalization. This rise is neither alarming nor concerning: Is anyone surprised that a fairly small fraction of Colorado’s citizens who chose not to use marijuana when it was illegal now feel comfortable using it?

“Where do legalization proponents stop?,” Dr. Parker asks. “Do we move on to legalizing heroin? Cocaine? Methamphetamine?” He claims, “Legalization would result in more use of each of these substances.” These candidates for legalization are interesting because it is pharmaceutical versions of drugs like these that are in fact among the most prominent gateway drugs in our communities. They feature labels signalling the establishment’s approval, and are prescribed by our medical doctors at a startling rate: for pain, there are opioids under names like OxyContin and Vicodin (which, as Dr. Parker knows, are heroin-like, chemically), not to mention SSRIs like Prozac for depression, and, for ADHD, Adderall (an amphetamine) or Ritalin (methylphenidate), and even Desoxyn (methamphetamine). Who can forget the Prozac suicide scare of the 2000s? Studies on children linking it to suicidal thought and behavior prompted not prohibition, but a warning from the FDA. Despite the marijuana death count holding at zero, fervent prohibitionists bemoan the “risks.” All the while, the pharmaceutico-medical complex cranks out fatal prescriptions with impunity.

Dr. Parker warns that if we are not careful, we will see a marijuana crisis that parallels the opioid epidemic – which in turn he believes is caused by the availability of opioids in homes: If it’s available, it will be abused. Parker’s claim here, too, conflicts with the science. A Brandeis/Johns Hopkins study published in the Annual Review of Public Health clarifies that it is addiction created while on prescription that fuels the heroin epidemic and accounts for overdoses, not recreational use. We know the story: In the 1990s, pharmaceutical companies prevailed upon doctors to dramatically increase opioid prescriptions. For perspective on where we are, the CDC recently reported that we Vermonters have 67 painkiller prescriptions per 100 residents.

Now compare addiction- and death-rates in marijuana and opioid use. At worst, marijuana “addiction” affects a very small segment of the population who are predisposed to dependency, and is a problem better addressed by counseling than by law. But Laural Ruggles, who works on marijuana policy for the Vermont Public Health Association, claims an alarming number of teens are addicted: “Marijuana use already represents over 60% of adolescent abuse treatment admissions” (“Marijuana: The right questions,” Jan. 24). Ruggles provides no evidence, so one is left to wonder what these statistics mean. Do they represent those predisposed, either genetically or psychologically, to dependency on marijuana? Or are they rather those who were caught with pot in school and assigned to treatment on the bogus principle that “use = abuse” – in other words, teens caught consuming cannabis, even for the first time, are classified as abusers in need of treatment. Similarly, in many American colleges, students caught illegally consuming alcohol or marijuana are likely to be sent to a substance abuse education program … or else! Opioid addiction indices, by contrast, are much clearer: The number of Americans seeking treatment for painkiller addiction increased 900% since 1997.

Turning to death-rates, the number of people who died from opioid overdose quadrupled between 1999 and 2007, and there were close to 15,000 deaths in 2008 alone (the CDC says we’re at about 46 opioid deaths per day in America). Deaths from marijuana use during the same periods: Zero. And according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, access to cannabis is associated with lower opioid overdose mortality rates; marijuana even reduces the severity of symptoms of opiate withdrawal. Marijuana is good news for those wishing to drop opioids, because it is much safer than the standard withdrawal medications approved by the pharmaceutico-medical establishment, which often create physical dependence themselves.

From the standpoint of public health, it is safer for many Vermonters to purchase their dealers’ marijuana illegally than it is to accept their doctors’ prescriptions for legal OxyContin, Desoxyn, or Adderall. The most common gateway to heroin is the pharmaceutico-medical complex, not marijuana. As long as marijuana prohibition lasts, the law actually helps set-up an additional gateway to more dangerous drugs: Drug dealers also pushing heroin will continue to reach youth only seeking access to the marijuana economy. Kimberly B. Cheney is right: “Marijuana prohibition is [a] true gateway to other drugs, not marijuana itself” (“Taking pot out of the shadows,“ Feb. 14). Legalization will help close that secondary gate.

Vermonters Be Wary

If you are willing to sift through a mix of facts and reefer-mad misinformation, then tune in to Dr. Parker, the Department of Liquor Control, these physicians’ organizations, and the less-misleading but still disappointing Department of Health. Their attention to the evidence is highly selective, and certainly does not provide an adequate informational basis for Vermonters thinking about marijuana policy.

Dr. Parker – who chastised legislators for “not listening to the scientists and experts on scientific topics” – writes that anyone who opposes his warnings about “the deleterious mental, physical and cognitive effects of marijuana” “is in serious denial, or ignorant.” Such self-righteous authorities who pose as experts, but who turn a blind eye to the science, bring us back to our other main concern, the crisis of confidence among the youth. 68% of Millennials (currently between the ages of 18 and 34) support the legalization of marijuana. Remember that they have access to science via the internet, and also have the testimony of brilliant proponents of marijuana from within the scientific community (e.g., true medical experts like Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Dr. Grinspoon, as well as prominent names from across the sciences, such as Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman in physics, Stephen Jay Gould in paleontology, Kary Mullis in chemistry, etc. – some of whom are Nobel Prize winners). Robert Gershon is right (“Aligning law with good sense,” Feb. 12): Authorities who defend hypocrisy-laden marijuana policy demonstrate their untrustworthiness to teens – which is dangerous, given that authorities’ warning are, in some important cases, fact-based. How are youth to know when they’re being told the truth? This is why we believe it is essential that real, honest experts run the “drug education” programs to be funded by revenues collected from marijuana sales.

Let’s make marijuana legal, and let’s start telling ourselves and our children the truth about it.

Brendan Lalor, Ph.D. is a resident of Rutland.
Philip Lamy, Ph. D. is a resident of Castleton.

Reefer Madness 2.0


Rutland Herald (February 11, 2016 )

Recently, I attended a public showing of the documentary “The Other Side of Cannabis: Negative Effects of Marijuana on Our Youth.” The film has been traveling across the state, sponsored by local drug awareness groups to stimulate public discussion of potential marijuana legalization in Vermont. The film might more accurately be subtitled “Reefer Madness 2.0” — one-sided, highly exaggerated, spouting the same old, long discredited “facts” about marijuana use. It was so reeking in fear and paranoia that I thought I had been whisked back to 1936 when “Reefer Madness” first hit the movie screens and America’s first “drug czar,” Harry Anslinger, claimed that marijuana produces in its user “insanity, criminality and death.” That was pretty much the story line here, along with several other standard myths tossed in, including “marijuana is a gateway drug,” “marijuana leads to psychosis,” “marijuana will ruin your life,” and my favorite, “marijuana induces amotivational syndrome” — the new scientifically sounding way to say “lazy pothead.”

These myths were advanced as the reasons the eight or nine individuals profiled in the film had such negative experiences with marijuana. Their experiences and their pain were real, and it’s important to understand why some people are susceptible to negative effects with many substances. But this tiny, selected sample does not represent the larger population of marijuana consumers in the U.S. (Forty-nine percent of Americans have tried marijuana, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.) They represent a very small segment of the population who are predisposed, either genetically or psychologically, to dependency or “addiction” to marijuana. It is important to know that some within the larger population have a predisposition to alcoholism, diabetes, obesity or food allergies. This, however, does not justify prohibition for the majority.

I give the film a “thumbs down” for — among other things — the use of fear-mongering to eclipse reason.

See also

For the Sake of the Children, Outlaw it!


Rutland Herald (first week of February)

Thanks to Ms. Slaton’s Letter, we awoke from our slumber, recognizing in her words a call for an about-face from our current focus on marijuana in Vermont. She asks, “What are we teaching [our children] if we legalize a substance that is known to be harmful to their development and their ability to learn?”

Bingo. She’s right.

If our children learn by paying attention to messages implicit in the law as Ms. Slaton suggests they do, then we are in big trouble, and we have already brought down immense harm on them by introducing them to alcohol. The alleged negative effects of marijuana are in dispute; but there is no dispute about alcohol’s negative effects on learning, health, family stability, and its role in violence and death, which are extremely well documented.

What message does this send our children?

Ms. Slaton is right, Vermonters: We’ve needed to take the protection of our children to the next level for some time now. For the sake of the children, it’s high time we outlawed alcohol. So let’s stop trying to hold back legalization of marijuana, and focus on the real harms. For the sake of the children.

Brendan Lalor resides in Rutland.
Philip Lamy resides in Castleton.

Rutland Herald (January 29,2016 )

Consider pot law carefully

We have been paying close attention to discussions around the legalization of marijuana in Vermont. We attended the public hearing recently held in Springfield by the Judiciary Committee. We are trying to keep an open mind and educate ourselves as to the facts. Like so many issues, there are many questions and concerns that have yet to be addressed.

The greatest concern is for our children, our future. Children learn from our actions more than from our words. What are we teaching them if we legalize a substance that is known to be harmful to their development and their ability to learn? As responsible adults do we just look the other way, as we do with so many things? We cannot take that route. We wish to speak up for the children whose voices won’t be part of this conversation.

We have a responsibility to do whatever is possible to see that our children have a safe healthy environment to grow and thrive in. We do not believe that legalizing marijuana will contribute to that goal.

Just this past week an expert panel from the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse traveled around Nova Scotia to dispel the many myths about the use of marijuana and the impact on the developing brain. There is science that supports the negative impact of marijuana usage on the developing brain. We know second-hand tobacco smoke puts children at risk. There is evidence that the same is true with second-hand marijuana smoke.

Is life so difficult that we need to make it easier and easier to escape through mood-altering drugs? Do we not have enough drug-dependent people in our communities? Do we not have enough drug problems in our cities and towns that we need to foster an environment to create more?

Have we resigned ourselves as a society to the idea that living life without drugs as a crutch is just not possible? This is not the message we want to send to the children of our state.

Some other things to think about (there are many more):

  • Who are the individuals who stand to benefit most financially from selling this drug?
  • How many billions of dollars will they reap in the windfall of profit beyond the tax dollars?
  • What are the social and financial costs in treating an entire new wave of addicted people; of managing the wave of additional behavioral problems in our schools; and in overloading the police departments with problems involving drugged drivers?
  • In a state that prides itself on being environmentally responsible, what is the impact on our power grid and green house gas emissions?
  • Let us also remember that this is not your grandfather’s pot. Currently available marijuana is much more potent and harmful.

Please let us be responsible adults and dothe right thing for our children.
Their lives and well-being matter. Please do not legalize marijuana in Vermont.


See also

Flimsy ‘facts’ on pot

Rutland Herald (December 30, 2015)

Arthur Peterson’s letter, “Pot legalization will hurt Vermont” (Dec. 24), is full of misinformation aimed at manipulating Vermont voters into taking action against legalization. We write to correct the key falsities on which he rests his case.

Mr. Peterson lists as facts several negative consequences pertaining to marijuana’s potential legalization in Vermont, most of which are dubious. For example, he writes, “Contrary to popular opinion, marijuana is an addictive drug. Up to one in six adolescents and one in 10 adults become addicted to pot.”

The facts of marijuana addiction remain in doubt. Whether or not regular marijuana use even qualifies as an addiction has been debated for decades. Are all addictions the same? Are we talking about physical or psychological addiction? Is marijuana addiction on par with heroin, opiates, alcohol and prescription drugs? Or addiction to shopping, television or smart phone use?

Most experts on the long-term effects of marijuana consumption agree that if dependency or “addiction” occurs with marijuana, it is far less serious than opiates, tobacco and alcohol (Scientific American, March 2012) and probably less dangerous health-wise than the sugar, salt and fat in America’s diet. Research on dependency places marijuana on par with caffeine (Drugwarfacts.org). Note to all you daily coffee drinkers — you might be caffeine addicts.

In short, marijuana is far safer than most drugs and rather than being an additional “vice,” as its opponents claim, it is a far safer and more responsible alternative to these more dangerous drugs. Why are legalization opponents so bothered by the notion of an adult using marijuana responsibly in the privacy of his or her home? It’s grossly unfair to punish adults who make the rational decision to consume marijuana, say, rather than alcohol. Continue reading “Flimsy ‘facts’ on pot”

The Perfect Moral Storm: Philosophers Respond to the Impending Anthropogenic Apocalypse

by Ava Kofman (Vice, May 31, 2015)

For at least the next 200 years, weather forecasts predict shitstorms, with global temperatures now set to remain elevated for hundreds of years to come. The latest
IPCC report explains that our emissions are nearing the point of no return. Even if industrialized nations switched to solar power overnight, it is now too late to fully reverse the planet’s course.

Geologists have officially termed this new epoch, where the human species has irreparably shaped earth’s geological history, the
Anthropocene. Policymakers no longer have the luxury to decide how we might “stop” global warming. Instead, we have to figure out how we’ll manage amidst climate instability.

With a dark future ahead comes a new set of existential questions. What do present generations owe those in the future? Should we value only what affects us as humans? Is there value to nature, or a culture, in its own right? Since Western economies were responsible for the rise in temperature to date, should they bear more of the burden for stopping it in the future?

Underlying the technical answers of scientists, economists, and politicians are some of the deepest moral dilemmas—problems that philosophers have been grappling with for centuries. “These issues of justice are brought into bold relief by climate change, but they are still traditional ethical questions,” Lawerence Torcello, a philosopher who researches the moral implications of climate denial at the Rochester Institute of Technology, explained in an interview with VICE. “How should we live? That’s as pressing now as ever. How are we going to live in the Anthropocene?”

Unlike other paradigmatic moral problems, there is no single individual intentionally harming another in the case of climate change. As the philosopher
Dale Jamieson and others have written, our moral judgments are more likely to fail in precisely these situations: where the connections between our bad behavior and the harm it causes are indirectly linked. In the case of invisibly emitting greenhouse gas, there is no single moment of pulling a trigger, nor is there a single smoking gun. The problem’s global scale, complicated causality over space and time, and long-term effects is what the philosopher Stephen Gardiner has in mind when he refers to climate change as “a perfect moral storm.” Continue reading “The Perfect Moral Storm: Philosophers Respond to the Impending Anthropogenic Apocalypse”

The Birthday Dirge

Ilya Yefimovich Repin's painting, Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-73).
Ilya Yefimovich Repin’s painting, Barge Haulers on the Volga (1870-73).

What is “The Birthday Dirge”?

“The Birthday Dirge” is sung to the tune of “The Volga Boatmen”. If you don’t know the tune by name, you know it by sound. It’s the depressing sounding Russian folk tune that nearly everyone has heard at one time or another. The resounding thud that follows each “Happy Birthday!” is traditionally accompanied by a “HUHN”-like grunt. The sort of groaning grunt that workers lifting heavy loads might find natural.

What are the lyrics?

The Dirge is known in various circles as “The Barbarian Birthday Song”, “The Viking Birthday Sang,” “The SCA Birthday Dirge,” etc. Those lyrics most common are listed first. Variations and additional lyrics follow. Feel free to pick and choose those verses that best suit the group you are with and the person being serenaded. Continue reading “The Birthday Dirge”