Weather Report

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The weather historians have revised their story. Baltimore's blizzard, previously declared the city's worst since 1922, is now officially "the worst winter storm to hit the Baltimore region since record-keeping began in 1871." Outside my home people are still digging, uncovering sidewalks, streets, and automobiles. Their efforts—our efforts—are very necessary, given that even now, several days after the storm, the city plows have yet to enter our neighborhood. It's fun to watch the social mores that suddenly take hold under these circumstances, including the spontaneous emergence of property rights, represented by the use of chairs and other objects to mark a parking place that one has de-snowed.

There have been sadder stories, too. Two young men, for example, died while smoking marijuana in a car: The exhaust pipe was blocked by snow, and their pot fumes mixed with poisonous carbon monoxide.

Political litmus test: The moral to this story is

(a) marijuana kills.
(b) cars kill.
(c) pay attention to what you're doing, dammit.

NEXT: Crackpot Realists

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  1. You didn’t provide a link for the “Killer Weed” story Jesse. Sounds like Urban myth to me.

  2. sounds like suicide by stupid to me.

  3. It’s in the same article that says the storm is our worst since 1871, Warren. Click on the word “now” to get there.

  4. I’m with Steve. Sounds like a couple of solid Darwin Award competitors to me.

  5. That would be option #3 in the test.

  6. Given pot’s effect on situational awareness, there ought to be a choice d) a and c.

    I’m all for legalization, but let’s not pretend there are no adverse effects to pot.

  7. Stupid people smoke pot, get even more stupid, kill themselves via their own stupidity. It seems like stupidity would be the root cause, and pot smoking the precipitating cause.

    One could not, certainly, both smoke pot and not be stupid. So, in a way, pot could never be said to be the root cause of such an incident.

  8. i think i speak for everyone when i say “huh?”

  9. They presumably lit up AFTER getting into the car without checking the exhaust pipe, and AFTER starting the engine. So the precipitating cause would be the car, not the pot.

  10. Here’s a “which website do I work for” quiz:

    When analyzing world events the first question I ask is:

    a) How does this affect individual liberty?
    b) How does this affect US national security?
    c) How does this affect the world revolution?
    d) How does this affect my ability to get my hands on ganja?

  11. I hope PLC is making an attempt at irony here, but in case he/she isn’t…

    “Stupid people smoke pot”–True; so do intelligent, well-educated, and productive people. What’s your point? Stupid people also attend church, drive cars, sell clothes, and make internet posts.

    “get even more stupid”–As you point out, stupidity is the root problem. Again, what is your point?

    “One could not, certainly, both smoke pot and not be stupid.”–You must either believe that you’ve constructed a syllogism that leads to this conclusion (you haven’t), or you have empirical evidence to this effect (i.e., everyone you’ve encountered that smokes pot is stupid.) If the former is the case, I suggest you review the fundementals of logic. If the latter is the case, you should really consider enlarging your sample size. I suggest making friends with graduate students in the biological sciences, who are notorious for “experimenting” on themselves.

    I’d love to write more, but I’m really high right now…

  12. Brian,
    Are these the same biological sciences grad students responsible for the global warming boondoggle?

  13. Brian – I think they’d be different ones. My sister majored in Biology and it seems you have to specialize a lot in that feild.

  14. I neither claim to have constructed a syllogism nor to have empirical evidence. Rather, I base my knowledge upon purely rational evidence – smoking pot is a stupid thing to do, so if you smoke pot you have committed a stupid act. Does it not follow that stupid people are those who commit stupid acts? Or do you have an alternative definition of personal stupidity?

  15. My suggestion of biological sciences grad students stems from personal experience…my own sample population of intelligent, educated, hard-working people, quite a few of whom also happen to use pot…and yes, they (we) specialize quite a bit. I was being general for reason. Lighten up, guys.

    Please also note that I made no statement in the style of “one cannot, certainly, be both a biology grad student and not be intelligent, educated, and hard working.” Some do, for example, believe in global warming. Others smoke pot and read Reason.

  16. Bear in mind that when PLC talks about stupidity, he’s clearly making an argument from introspection.

  17. JJ – perhaps your comment was intended to be an insult, but instead you have merely echoed the essense of my prior post. Thank you for your support.

  18. To JJ–

    Clearly.

    To PLC–

    Your conviction that smoking pot is a stupid thing to do does not constitute “rational evidence”, whatever that is. It is your conviction, nothing more. Thus, I don’t disagree with your definition of stupidity at all, but rather your premise regarding whether smoking pot (in and of itself) is a stupid act or not. Unlike you, I base my opinion on something other than my own introspection.

  19. Brian,
    I would’ve thought you would have just answered my question yes. You’d have to be high to come up with a con like global warming and a genius to pull it off.

  20. James–

    Well played.

  21. If you don’t know what rational evidence it, how would you know that my claim does not constitute such evidence?

    Furthermore, I never intended to imply that my claim is evidence in-itself, but rather that my claim stems from rational evidence. That much should be clear.

    Here’s the difference between rational and empirical evidence, in case you are still confused. To discover whether or not being stabbed in the heart leads to death, one could gather empirical evidence by surveying those who have been stabbed in the heart, or one could use rational evidence by studying the mechanism of the heart and it’s reactions to being stabbed, without any survey being necessary.

    Likewise, I do not have to question every pothead or even a representative sample of all potheads to know that they are morons. A simple examination of the ill-effects of pot smoking will make it abundantly clear that those who chose to smoke pot are stupid. Or, I guess masochistic or perhaps just ignorant.

    Yes, I suppose a pothead could simply be profoundly ignorant.

  22. To me, the issue with smoking pot is not the stupidity / non-stupidity of doing it. The issue is whether or not it should be legal. After all, just because something is stupid doesn’t mean that there should be a law against it. For example, most people would agree that it is stupid to wear shorts outside in a blizzard, but there is no law against it. So, one could reasonably argue that smoking pot might be stupid but it should nevertheless be legal.

  23. Brad S – I agree completely.

  24. From the American Heritage dictionary:

    Stupid –
    1. Slow to learn or understand; obtuse.
    2. Tending to make poor decisions or careless mistakes.
    3. Marked by a lack of intelligence or care; foolish or careless: a stupid mistake.
    4. Dazed, stunned, or stupefied.
    5. Pointless; worthless: a stupid job.

    Which of these does not apply to pot smoking?

  25. Does anyone no if Saddam Hussein allows Iraqis to toke up? If not, there might be a way to get the Reason.com writers to say something about the most important political issue of our lives, rather than simply cranking out pro-drug propaganda.

  26. I’m smokin’ for Johnny Paycheck tonight. Don’t care if it’s stupid or not.

  27. Lefty – I don’t like Johnny PayCheck because he’s a murderer, but I do like his stance on paying taxes to the IRS.

  28. Yeah! When is Reason going to publish anything about Iraq? Not counting all that war-related reporting and pro- and anti-war commentary in the magazine and on the website and in Hit & Run, I mean.

  29. James: I find it hard to believe that you honestly think we have nothing to say about Iraq. But if you’re serious, you can find a lot of articles about the issue here:

    https://www.reason.com/terror.shtml

    As for “pro-drug propaganda,” I plead guilty. My comments above about “snow” are clearly code for something far more sinister.

  30. I was being somewhat hyperbolic.

    I was thinking more that the implication that choice a and c in your quiz are separate parts of the politcal spectrum. Were you not implying that the correct choice was c? And by extension that a was not a reaonable choice as well?

    By “the most important political issue of our lives,” I meant the issue of whether or not the US should start invading countries which pose a possible future threat. I was unclear there.

    By “say something” I mean “say something meaningful.” Other than Ronald Bailey last month, no one has.

  31. Yes, James, my choice is (c). I think the dead men were killed by their own bad decision, and not by the objects that were ancillary to it. I also think that if one were to derive a moral from the story, it would have to do with attentiveness and responsibility — choice (c) — and not with the innate properties of marijuana or cars.

    Incidentally, I was worried that it was a caricature to toss in “marijuana kills” as a choice, given that it was the car exhaust that poisoned those two people, not the pot fumes. There have been several other cases around town these last couple of days of people dying of carbon monoxide poisoning because their exhaust pipes were blocked; not one of those other incidents involved pot. So while I wouldn’t agree with a zealous environmentalist who claimed that this story proves automobiles are evil, I would at least grant that the auto was the instrument of their death. Pot was merely the reason they got into the car to begin with. If they’d died warming up the vehicle to drive to the post office, I don’t think anyone would claim that “mail kills.”

    So, like I said, I thought choice (a) might be an unfair caricature. But it turns out that there are indeed people willing to take that position. Fancy that.

  32. Here’s another thought:

    Why were they smoking in the car? It’s likely that they were in there, with the motor running, in order to stay warm while toking.

    So why weren’t they able to smoke someplace else?

    Was the car the only available place, due to the legal stigma against smoking pot? They likely wouldn’t have died had they been able to smoke at a cafe.

    Thus, perhaps what really killed them was government regulation.

  33. Perhaps DLC should list some other behaviors that he thinks are stupid, so we know where he’s coming from. For all anyone knows, he thinks anyone who isn’t a breatharian is stupid, or that ingesting anything but soy-based products is stupid.

    Or, more realistically, that drinking and cigarette smoking are also stupid.

    Hm?

  34. You’ve made my point.

    Regardless of the circumstances of any other CO deaths, it is not unreasonable to think that the marijuana was partly responsible for their death, given that it affects judgement, and therefore choices. Is it more likely for one to realize that they are starting to lose consciousness when they are sober or drunk? Straight or high?

    By including a) as representative of a political outlook incompatible with c) you’ve confirmed that you think it is unreasonable, in fact representative of a “caricature.” It is inconceivable to you that it would be possible to
    draw a conclusion about the nature of marijuana. Your message is implicitly pro-drug by presupposing the absurdity of any anti-drug position.

  35. Just how quickly does carbon monoxide kill? I mean, didn’t those two guys even have time to think “gee, it smells like exhaust fumes in here and I’m getting a headache and getting kinda sleepy maybe we should get out of this death-trap”?
    Then again, I’ve found that pot–the few times I’ve tried it–gave me a really stupid imagination. Frinstance; “hey, a “red light distrct” is a pretty risque place, and smut is largely made available through pornography, that’s why there are red lights in this photographic dark room! I’ve figured it out! I’m in a higher state of consciousness!” It can make a clever person really paranoid.

  36. Wow…this really took off.

    Regarding stupidity…I placve the world into two camps. Those of us (about 90%) who do stupid things from time to time and those who are “stupid for a livin'”. You all know who they are. The local chapter shows up at Wal-Mart on Friday night.

  37. Jon H – drinking and smoking cigarettes are indeed both stupid choices. As would be the excess consumption of soy-based tofu which has been shown to be detrimental to brain health. If I were to engage in these arguments with the intention of changing anyone’s mind, that also would be stupid. Of these, perhaps only smoking cigarettes is AS STUPID as smoking the reefer….

  38. Steve:

    I’d have to say that I agree with your point, albeit with one caveat – most everyone does something stupid from time to time, but not everyone does extremely stupid things and not everyone is unwilling to admit that they were being stupid. I guess it stems from the power of cognitive dissonance.

  39. With all due respect, James, are you high?

  40. i think reason should put up some javascript game that allows you to guess which forum posters were slow stroking to the fountainhead at 14. 🙂

    but seriously, there’s been a lot of iraq coverage. tends to be a lot less jerkin’ at the chain, which i appreciate.

  41. PLC: Thanks for clearing it up.

    Personally, I think the stupidity of pot use depends highly on frequency of use. If it’s used like fondue – rarely, at social gatherings – it’s not so bad.

    When you get to the point of smoking alone while watching reruns of “Manimal”, then you’re in deep trouble.

  42. Jesse,

    There were literally an infinite number of comments you could have chosen to make. Or you could have chosen to make none at all. What you chose to do was to point out that you believed that someone who thought the moral of the story was “choice a” was of a politcal philosphy categorically different from one who would choose choice c. As you further clarified, in your mind, reasonable people choose c, only caricatures could choose a.

    I understand that this is a blog post, and not a serious thought piece about the nature of the drugs and political philosophy, but it does point out your reflexive “anti-anti-drug” bias. I did not say this means you are for drugs in every case all the time. Whatever that might mean.

    By “presupposing the absurdity of any anti-drug position,” I mean any anti-drug position in regard to this particular news story.

    Your bias is shown in your choice of topic, the fact that you chose to call the difference between a and c a “politcal litmus test,” and your further defense of your position.

    It is clear to me that a reasonable person of any political philosophy could conclude that pot smoking was partly responsible for these kids’ deaths, that, sometimes, pot kills. It is not clear to you because of a bias that can reasonably be called pro-drug.

    Again, I am not saying that your impromptu test has to stand up to strict analysis, not saying it should have been more carefully considered and constructed, etc. I am merely saying that your construction of it shows your bias.

  43. PLC – Thanks…

    Though, come to think of it, sitting home by yourself with a fondue pot, watching “Manimal” – that’d be pretty sad too.

  44. Jeff is right: 52 comments is quite a lot, especially for a post as frivolous as this one. I will make one last effort to make myself understood, then retire from the conversation:

    1. You’re taking the litmus-test joke way too literally, James. I do not believe that each choice represents an entire “political philosophy,” and I never said that it’s impossible to give more than one response. Give as many responses as you want. Make up your own answers. Go wild.

    2. I did not say that “only caricatures could choose a.” I said that I thought choice (a) was a caricature when I wrote it, but then discovered, in this comments thread, that people were willing to espouse it after all. In other words, I discovered that it was not a caricature. (I can’t imagine how you got from that to saying I called people caricatures.)

    Now if you’ll all excuse me, I have to go teach a pig to sing.

  45. I’ve done a few stupid things in the past… probably will again in the future. As far as I can tell my previous experiences smoking pot are not on the list. Wasting my time at work reading all these posts (and responding to them, no less) might make the list though…

  46. Tuning Spork, I’m not sure they would have smelled anything. Carbon monoxide is, I believe, odorless.

  47. 1. I never said that you would not change your opinion upon further reflection, only that your original formulation reflected bias. I will point out that “the moral” is singular.

    2. It is not unreasonable to call a person who holds a caricatured opinion a caricature himself. I did not claim you had done that directly. Also, you never said that option a seemed reasonable after reading the posts. You only mentioned that you found out that people would take it. The “fancy that” indicated to me that it was not the most sincere retraction. In any case, the fact that you admitted it occured to you that option a was a caricature in the first place shows the nature of your thought process.

    You’ll have to excuse me as well, I need to demonstrate to some journalists that their personal biases show in their writing.

  48. I’ve enjoyed the comments. I think the debate is so bitter because the stakes are so small.

    Here are my thoughts, if anyone cars:

    How does the car run when snow blocks the exhaust pipe? I always thought an internal combustion engine sputters out pretty soon if cannot exhaust the smoke and fumes created by the combustion in the cylinders. (see Beverly Hills Cop: “We ain’t gonna fall for no banana in the tailpipe”) Unless the cars have leaks somewhere in the exhaust system (e.g., bad gasket or crack in the exhaust manifold) I don’t know how the cars run long enough for the fumes to kill the occupants. [how long does it take for CO2 to kill you?]

    And then, even if the clogged-exhaust-pipe cars can run long enough for the fumes to kill the car’s occupants, how do the fumes get into the passenger area in the first place? Again, perhaps there is a leak, and the real culprit is poorly maintained vehicles.

    Also, unless it’s a freakish amount of snow (possible given the recent storms), exhaust fumes get hot quick and would melt the snow blocking the exhaust pipe. Also, how did the snow get so packed that the fumes couldn’t escape through them?

    I read the story at “sunspot.net”, and it’s still not clear to me exactly how the deaths occurred.

    Even though CO2 is odorless, car exhaust is not. The CO2 component of the car exhaust might not add an odor, but the car exhaust contains lots of other stuff that stinks. Perhaps a sober person would detect this better than someone high. Or, just the presence of the marijuana smoke — with the smell and smokiness — obscured what was going on. But, if the car had exhaust system leaks, then it might always have a whiff of exhaust smell, so there was really nothing to alert the occupants.

    I’m done.

  49. Personal biases? In an OPINION magazine?

  50. Frankly, I’d have to be high to understand what the fuck you all are actually debating. Stupidity is wasting my time even bothering. As far as I can tell from the story, CO killed those guys; it’s odorless and kills quickly. Period. Using a tragedy to spout self-righteous holier-than-thou anti-pot blah blah blah is disgusting. But Lordy, a pretty sad way to go.

  51. Jon H. –

    I didn’t see anyone else answer this one, so:
    According to the Fox 45 in Baltimore newscast from tuesday night, the two guys were smoking in the car because the one kids father told them they couldn’t smoke in his house. The same father was the one who found them dead later. You’re probably right that the legal stigmata was a contributing factor, as dad didn’t want his house smelling like reefer. Or maybe he just didn’t want his kid smoking pot. That motivation wasn’t discussed.

  52. wells,

    The only one who has done any holier than-thou-moralizing is you, just now, and Jesse, who is so pro-drug that anti-drug positions make someone a mere caricature.

    The debates have been about whether or not not smoking pot is objectively stupid, and whether or not this blog post is pro-drug, rather than just pro-legalization. I also took a couple of swipes at Reason.com’s Iraq coverage, which has been very disappointing to me considering the intelligence of some of their analysis. None of it has been moralizing.

    Notice that I am not claiming to divine your political philosophy based on the fact that your opinion about the cause of the deaths would fit under choice b. No one could.

  53. “Likewise, I do not have to question every pothead or even a representative sample of all potheads to know that they are morons. A simple examination of the ill-effects of pot smoking will make it abundantly clear that those who chose to smoke pot are stupid.”

    Yeah, that Carl Sagan was sure a real dunce. And don’t even get me started on that well-known drooling hydrocephalic, Dr. Francis Crick.

  54. James says there’s a debate here over whether my post was “pro-legalization” or “pro-drug.”

    Well, I’m all for legalization. Drugs, meanwhile, are a pretty big category, and I’d hate to think my thoughts on the matter could be reduced to being “for” or “against” them. I’m not even “for” or “against” pot, despite James’ bizarro claim that I’m “presupposing the absurdity of any anti-drug position.” (Apparently, if I think it’s silly to say that marijuana kills, I must also believe that all other possible criticisms of drug use are equally silly.)

    But that’s me. The post itself was neither pro-legalization nor pro-drug. It was mostly about snow removal.

  55. Jon H – now that was funny!

  56. 52 comments, Thank you all for a great laugh! Thats what I like about this site. There really are no intellectual deficients here. Therefore a healthy debate over even the most rediculous topics is both entertaining and educational. 52 comments! That the most I’ve seen so far. Thanks Again

    Jeff

  57. My grandfather said (probably stole it) ” The big difference between genius and stupidity is that genius takes breaks and does stupid things from time to time.”

  58. AbuHamza: Yes, car exhaust stinks. But if you are smoking – pot or tobacco, doesn’t matter – you can’t smell it. The stench of the smoke you are inhaling will cover almost anything.

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