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Drug policy counterexample

Common Sense for Drug Policy has published the following letter by Norm Kent, former Hofstra University roommate of Norm Coleman:

My friend Norman:

Years ago, in a lifetime far away, you did not oppose the legalization of marijuana... Sure, we had to tape the doors shut, burn incense and open the windows...yet we grew up okay, without the help of the Office of National Drug Control Policy's advice.

We grew up to become lawyers. Our other friends, as you go down the list, are doctors, professors, parents, political consultants and professionals. No one ever got cancer from smoking pot or diabetes from using a joint.

You never said then that pot was dangerous. What was scary then, and is frightening now, is when national leaders become voices of hypocrisy, harbingers of the status quo, and protect their own position instead of the public good.

In your public life, as an attorney general, mayor and United States senator, you have been in the forefront of speaking out against abuses which are harmful. You have been a noble and honorable public servant... How about admitting that if the Rockefeller drug laws were applied to Norman Bruce Coleman on Long Island in 1968, or to me, or to our friends, and fellow students, you, I and others we knew and loved might just be getting out of jail now?

How about standing up and saying: "I, Norm Coleman, smoked pot in 1969." That "I am not a gang member, a drug addict or a criminal." How about saying: "I was able to responsibly integrate my prior pot use into my life, and still succeed on my own merits."

How about standing up not only for who you are, but who you were?

Norm Kent

Picture of letter here. Link via Radley Balko.

While the tactic of outing former drug users seems a little invasive, once a guy gets in a position of power and uses it to continue the war against drug users it seems to me like he's fair game. I wish more old college roommates would do this.

Before I get anyone trying to argue that point, let me state that one of the pillars on which drug policy is based is that all use is abuse; it is simply not possible to use drugs responsibly. Clearly it didn't harm Norm Coleman that much, nor a large number of his old friends.

See: Cake, having and eating

I just caught Bono and Al Gore on a panel at the World Economic Forum on C-SPAN.  Bono said we need to help with third world development, and Al Gore said we need strong action against carbon dioxide emissions.  They acted as if the two of them presented a unified front; the crowd cheered for both.

The inconvenient truth is that third world economic development will involve more CO2 emissions from third world countries.  Maybe this can be offset by reduced emissions in developed countries—indeed, we expect that there is a "pollution peak" in a country's development after which pollution decreases.  But what if developed countries don't leave enough slack?  Which side of the line do you stand on?

NKVD tactics right here at home

Nothing gets your own worries out of your mind for a spell like hearing about someone else who's getting royally screwed. In this case, Radley Balko gives us an update on a recent case in Chesapeake, Virginia, where a gang of armed men stormed into a sleeping man's house. The homeowner shot and killed one of the intruders before they revealed to him that they were policemen. Not only were the circumstances of the raid fishy, but the justification seems to be a little flimsy too. Head over to The Agitator to gets some background.

More recent fishiness:

Here’s another scary thought: Frederick says one reason he was
frightened was that three days prior to the shooting, someone had broken into his house, rummaged through his belongings, but didn’t take anything. The search warrant says that the confidential informant was in Frederick’s home within 72 hours of the raid. Could it be that the informant was the one who broke into Frederick’s
house? Might be worth asking Frederick who was in his home in the previous week.

The brighter future of Saudi Arabia

Via Matt Welch comes a good story that portends much great news: Saudi Arabia is lifting its ban on women drivers. Yeah, yeah, fill in the joke here [______] but let's get serious now. The article says:

Saudi Arabia is to lift its ban on women drivers in an attempt to stem a rising suffragette-style movement in the deeply conservative state.

Government officials have confirmed the landmark decision and plan to issue a decree by the end of the year.

The move is designed to forestall campaigns for greater freedom by women, which have recently included protesters driving cars through the Islamic state in defiance of a threat of detention and loss of livelihoods.

Many movements come and go (which is mostly a good thing), but can you imagine something like this happening in the historical suffragette movements in Western countries? Would it have stopped them? Should it have stopped them?

Critics believe allowing women to drive would be the first step towards a gradual erosion of the kingdom's modesty laws. A woman would have to remove the traditional abaya robe to get a clear view behind the wheel.

"Allowing women to drive will only bring sin," a letter to Al-Watan newspaper declared last year. "The evils it would bring - mixing between the genders, temptations, and tarnishing the reputation of devout Muslim women - outweigh the benefits." 

[emphasis mine]

The critics are right to believe that it is another signal of the impending end of their moral system. The problem is that they think it's a bad thing.

Roe v. Wade, 35 years later

Rad Geek has a great post up for the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It's worth reading just for the story (previously unknown to me) of a group of women in Chicago who took the radical anti-state route. He comments:

The repeal of the abortion laws in the United States wasn’t a gift handed down out of benevolence by a gang of old men in robes. It was struggled for, and won, by women in our own times. It didn’t take ballot boxes; it didn’t take political parties; it didn’t take clever legal briefs. It took radical women who stood up for themselves, who challenged the authority of self-appointed male experts and law-makers, who spoke truth to power, who took things into their own hands and helped their sisters, in defiance of the law, because they knew that they had a right to do it, and to hell with any law and any government that said otherwise.

Men's room organization

Ladies, you don't have to deal with this, and it isn't really a big deal anyway, but all men are familiar with the men's room problem: there will be three urinals in a row without dividers, and when you go in some schmuck is standing in the middle.* No matter which way you go, you're almost rubbing elbows while you pee. There's a variant: there are three in a row, but on one of the ends is the lower urinal. Once a guy thinks about avoiding the low one he'll often go all the way to the other side, leaving you, the second guy to enter, to choose between having somebody right next to you or going in the kids' urinal.

I don't know why I've never seen the solution to this that I saw today: there were three urinals in a row, but the one in the middle was lowered. If you walk into men's room and it's empty, you still take a side.

*To be fair, if you have reason to believe that no one else is going to come in it's nice to have the room, and sometimes you calculate wrong.

Technical appendix

The order of preference—which only holds when choices are available—is:

  1. having wide open space on either side of you, and having a grown-up urinal (only-man-in-room scenario)
  2. having one side wide open (other side wall) with grown-up urinal
  3. it depends on the person: kid-size urinal, one side open, one side wall OR grown-up urinal, guy on one side, open space on the other
  4. the option not chosen in 3

Grown-up urinal is always preferable to kid-size urinal in the same position, and if there's only one open you just take it. Some guys will head for a stall if they can, but we're ignoring that here.  You'll notice there's no option for two sides open, kid-size urinal, because it almost never happens. As I said, today was the first time I've seen that option. As I said above, most men would take a side.

Killing the world to save it, but without the saving it

John McCain supports the ruthless treatment of the Cuban populace while claiming to help them.  This is really an exercise in insanity:

"I'm proud to have fought for and defended freedom for the people of
Cuba, consistently calling for continuing the embargo until there are
free elections, human right organizations and a free and independent
media," he said. "Then and only then will the United States of America
extend the aid and assistance because we don't want American tax
dollars to go to a corrupt government headed either by Fidel or Raul
Castro or anyone else who has denied freedom from the Cuban people."

Who the hell is asking about government aid?  No American may spend his private money in Cuba without permission because the U.S. government insists on sticking to a strategy that has allowed Fidel Castro to outlast every president since Kennedy–that's Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and almost Bush II.  Does that sound like it helps Cubans?

John McCain really is one of the scariest politicians in America.  As far as I can tell he's never opposed any proposed deployment of troops since he got to Washington in 1983.  He believes that the scope of the federal government's powers extends even into silly shit like baseball.  And he can say something intellectually offensive like the quotation above and really believe himself.  A slimy politician can be bought; a guy like McCain is firmly convinced that in doing evil he's doing good, and he won't stop until he's out of office.

Being consistently nonviolent

Lest the state and its media lackeys fully coopt the legacy of a man they once considered a dangerous enemy, let's hear from the man:

My third reason...grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years--especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action; for they ask and write me, "So what about Vietnam?" They ask if our nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence I cannot be silent.

Been a lot of applauding over the last few years. They applauded our total movement; they've applauded me. America and most of its newspapers applauded me in Montgomery. And I stood before thousands of Negroes getting ready to riot when my home was bombed and said, "We can't do it this way." They applauded us in the sit-in movement--we nonviolently decided to sit in at lunch counters. The applauded us on the Freedom Rides when we accepted blows without retaliation. They praised us in Albany and Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Oh, the press was so noble in its applause, and so noble in its praise when I was saying, "Be nonviolent toward Bull Connor"; when I was saying, "Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark." There's something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, "Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark," but will curse and damn you when you say, "Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children."

Hat tip to Jesse Walker. Previous musings about MLK's legacy.

Crazy chess champion treated like criminal

As you've no doubt heard by now, Bobby Fischer is dead. Other sources have obituaries (here and here, for example), but I would be remiss in my duty not to focus on the ridiculousness of his being on the run from the U.S. government since 1992...for playing chess in Yugoslavia in violation of a U.N. embargo.

He was already on the brink of insanity, so is it any wonder that in his later years he praised the 9/11 attacks?

God's immoral minions

Over at Hit and Run, Jacob Sullum writes a nice reminder about the reality of "traditional" Judeo-Christian morality:

If "the Bible was not written to be amended," what's the New Testament
all about? And if Huckabee wants to stick with the biblical definition
of marriage, why does he imply that a marriage consisting of "a man and
three women" is some newfangled challenge to the family arrangements
endorsed by God?

Antiforeign Bias

I just started reading Bryan Caplan's The Myth of the Rational Voter, and so far it's a good read.  There are many passages I could quote here, but this one in particular backs up a point I've been making, though Caplan himself doesn't hammer it home.

It is misleading, however, to think about "foreignness" as either/or.  From the viewpoint of the typical American, Canadians are less foreign than the British, who are in turn less foreign than the Japanese.  During 1983-87, 28% of Americans in the General Social Survey admitted they disliked Japan, but only 8% disliked England, and a scant 3% disliked Canada.  It is not surprising, then, that the degree of antiforeign bias varies by country.  Objective measures like the volume of trade or the trade deficit are often secondary to physical, linguistic, and cultural similarity.  Trade with Canada or Great Britain generates only mild alarm compared to trade with Mexico or Japan.  U.S. imports from, and trade deficits with, Canada exceeded those with Mexico every year from 1985 to 2004.  During the anti-Japan hysteria of the eighties, British foreign direct investment in the United States always exceeded that of the Japanese by at least 50%.  Foreigners who look like us and speak English are hardly foreign at all.

I smell a UFO conspiracy

Dennis Kucinich does not go the Ron Paul route when he gets excluded from debates: he sues.

Mr. Kucinich’s complaint argued that, without the inclusion of all “credible candidates,” the telecast would be “effectively an endorsement of the candidates selected by NBC” instead of an actual debate. He cited the public interest provisions of the Federal Communications Act of 1934.

I'm glad Ron Paul doesn't do that.


The science of morality

Steven Pinker is hands-down my favorite living public intellectual.  His New York Times Magazine article The Moral Instinct is a good piece to read if you're not familiar with his work.

Let the investigation begin

In all the stink about the stuff The New Republic reported on recently from the Ron Paul newsletter, there are (and should be) quite a few hard questions asked about the guilty parties. However, the Rough Ol' Boy has a pretty good defense of Ron Paul that I recommend you read.

Here's the meat:

Finally, Ron Paul has never been afraid to take unpopular positions, so if he believed any of this stuff, why hasn’t he ever said it, especially back when he first ran for Congress in 1976 in Texas–a time and place when it was still at least semi-acceptable to take such abhorrent positions? Hell, a lot of the stuff about gays would still fly in a number of conservative circles. Given that Paul has never shown a willingness to compromise his politics to win an election, it stands to reason that if he were a bigot, he’d be an unabashed bigot.

The Hit and Run blog has a few interesting connections in one of its comments threads, but I expect this will be investigated a lot more in libertarian circles, and soon.

Wait until they get around to Jesus Christ

While watching the news about the turmoil in Pakistan, waiting to see how it develops, I couldn't help noticing some crazy news from Russia:
Russia prohibits denial of Santa.

The Russian government has banned a television advertisement for denying the existence of Father Christmas.

The ad for Eto electrical stores stated Father Frost, Russia's version of Father Christmas, did not exist.

The Federal anti-Monopoly Service said the ad had broken rules for advertisers not to discredit parents and teachers.

It said that declaring that Father Frost did not exist
implied that parents were not telling the truth, so undermining
childrens' trust in them.

The ad "induces negative relations between children and
parents", Andrei Kashevarov, the service's deputy director, told
Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

This shouldn't surprise me as much as it does: obedience to authority through right and (mostly) wrong has been a feature of Russian government for...a very long time.