Archive for the 'Government' Category

Drug Policies So Bad They Make Me Defend Potheads

Lord knows that the world doesn’t need any more drunks or potheads, and I support neither. But it doesn’t need a justice system that is highly incentivized to target and prosecute these folks either-that only seems to compound these woes. I have never written a letter to the editor before but I was mildly annoyed that as the legislature of my state of Maryland debates the first real proposed changes to marijuana prohibition in decades, all of the articles in my local paper were from quite respected members of local law enforcement who were highly critical of even the smallest changes/experiments. What none of those articles mentioned is how completely dependent police budgets are on the current drug-war status quo, and how this “drug dependency” (if you will) might distort the lens of their viewpoint. Anyway here is the article I angrily emailed off to the editor one morning after reading a front page of the local paper filled with such articles… 

It Is Time to Identify the Real Drug Addict

Like an addict worried where he will get his next fix or a pusher worried about losing his best customer, Maryland police organizations are absolutely apoplectic at the prospect of any real experiments with marijuana decimalization. Much like the police, I’m concerned with substance abuse and the prospect that an abuser might drive. But then again, all of the secondary concerns brought up by police, such as impaired driving and child neglect, are already crimes and will remain so even after marijuana decimalization. I am likewise concerned that youth with try any harmful substance including alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana, but it is simply being realistic to acknowledge that most will try these are some point in their youth. However, what concerns me far more are the waste, damage, and discrimination done by current prohibition policies: young lives ruined by criminal convictions, African-Americans prosecuted at much higher rates, high-level drug dealers who are further empowered and enriched, and many similar unintended yet worse consequences of the marijuana war. Much the same as we learned with Alcohol Prohibition, current marijuana laws have done little but waste police resources, hurt the potential of our youth, and benefit dealers. After 40 or more years with the current, misguided policies, common sense tells us that it is time to experiment with change.  Don’t let police continue to use our youth as easy targets and a revenue stream. Let’s break law enforcement’s addiction to marijuana convictions.

Cool Guy Greg on Taxes

Productive Citizen Cool Guy Greg on Taxes

Fighting for the Redneck Vote

As if the Obama campaign have not received enough free advertising from the quarterly mailing of 401K and 529 statements (credit to George F. Will for this point), the Obama campaign is getting yet more free publicity from the folks who are showing up to Palin (whose name fittingly enough in Ancient Greek means “backward,” “repeating,” and “again”) rallies.  

Just a few samples from a single rally in Johnstown, PA:
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4515218n http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHrExRHZnm0

Which made it to one of the top stories this week in Digg:
http://digg.com/2008_us_elections/The_Obama_monkey_video_that_CBS_didn_t_show(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKUovpF9LWU)

As I’m sure George McGovern can attest, statistically speaking you are going to have at least a few idiots show up to any public gathering and one has no control over this.  What is controllable however, is whether the campaigns encourage and mimic their tone.  But so far, Palin hasn’t acted much better than the drunken Joe-Sixpack idiot fringe she champions.

Current Generation HK’s on Display at the Air & Space Museum

Hunter-Killer(HK) UAV Aircraft

Hunter-Killer(HK) UAV Aircraft

Looking up from the ground floor of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, it is a bit creepy to see the southwest wing’s display of mostly armed UAV Aircraft (UAV = Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).  One cannot help but feel like he or she is suddenly transported to the year 2029 and is accompanying Reese from the movie The Terminator as he tries to evade the autonomous Hunter-Killers (HKs). 

It is interesting that in 1949 George Orwell envisioned a future 35 years in the future (1984) where world-wide totalitarian regimes enslaved their people (using mostly intimidation and propaganda).  Yet, when the year 1984 eventually rolled around, the movie The Terminator envisioned an even grimmer future (this time 45 years in the future) where machines enslave and try to annihilate the entire human race. 

If Darwinism is indeed correct, that may yet come to pass.  But nifty machines like these first crude UAVs may serve an intermediate step and bridge the gap between both of these dystopic visions.  A future in which totalitarian regimes can manufacture an entire robot army to subjugate humans at will (propaganda no longer required). 

Today’s generation still sees these machines as mostly non-threatening and neat.  But who knows? HKs may soon be coming to a neighborhood near you – and this time they may be a little more threatening than a Roomba?

HK Tank

Cindy Sheehan is Lydia Puckett

Pro Patria Mori

Pro Patria Mori

Cindy Sheehan is one of those controversial, polarizing, and annoying public figures that you are either “for ’em or again’ ’em.” 

I certainly fall into the latter category.  I could forgive her many wacky misstatements, using her son’s death in order to become a media darling, and her false claims to retire from public life and then running for congress after just 1 month of missing the media spotlight. 

But the one act I consider unforgivable is the act of claiming to speak for the dead, war dead in particular.  I just think these dead have already paid the ultimate sacrifice and deserve to be left in peace and no longer used as pawns in someone else’s ideological battles.   

In Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, Lydia Puckett does this for Knowlt Hoheimer.  She falsely claims a spot for herself, no matter how far removed, in history.  When in fact she is nothing, she made no sacrifice, and certainly has absolutely no right to speak for the war dead:

Lydia Puckett

KNOWLT HOHEIMER ran away to the war
The day before Curl Trenary
Swore out a warrant through Justice Arnett
For stealing hogs.
But that’s not the reason he turned a soldier.
He caught me running with Lucius Atherton.
We quarreled and I told him never again
To cross my path.
Then he stole the hogs and went to the war-
Back of every soldier is a woman.

Given the chance to speak for himself, Knowlt Hoheimer makes one of the most powerful statements in all of literature about war:

Knowlt Hoheimer

I WAS the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge.
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had staid at home and gone to jail
For stealing the hogs of Curl Trenary,
Instead of running away and joining the army.
Rather a thousand times the country jail
Than to lie under this marble figure with wings,
And this granite pedestal
Bearing the words, “Pro Patria.”
What do they mean, anyway?

So leave Knowlt Hoheimer and Casey Sheehan alone.  Let their courageous acts and supreme sacrifices speak for themselves – and for goodness sakes, Lydia Puckett and Cindy Sheehan, please shut up!

Getting the Intel on Social Networking

The task of any Military Intelligence (MI) gathering operation is essentially to first observe and document relationships and then to describe and build models of these relationships with network graphs.  So Military Intelligence organizations often create networks of equipment and assets, organizational hierarchies, and, perhaps just a little more insidiously, interpersonal relationships.

With all of the intense media buzz lately about Facebook and other social networking sites, I couldn’t help but see the similarity of the tasks and objectives of these sites with Military Intelligence gathering operations.   One is labeled “Market Research” while the other is called “Military Intelligence Gathering (hopefully-but not always-against an adversary),” but in most ways they are indistinguishable*.   

While I find this more than just a little disturbing, I’m not quite ready to take on the breadth of this subject matter yet.  But I do want to answer the first questions: Who are these sites?  Which are most popular?  What are their primary categories and audiences?

Preliminary Findings:

Social Networking and (Micro)Blogging:
Dodgeball.com
Facebook
MySpace (Fox Interactive Media)
orkut (Google)
Tribe.net
Twitter
Windows Live Spaces (Microsoft)
Xanga

Business Relationship Management:
JigSaw
LinkedIn
Spoke.com
ZoomInfo

Multimedia (Photos, Video, Music):
Flickr
Last.fm
PhotoBucket
YouTube
Zooomr

Blogging:
LiveJournal
BlogSpot
WordPress

Social News:
del.icio.us
Digg
reddit
Slashdot
StumbleUpon

School/Organizational Networking:
Classmates.com
Graduates.com
Reunion.com

______________________________

* This line has blurred to the point where, as reported in the FRONTLINE program “Spying on the Home Front,” the US Intelligence Community actually uses aggregated marketing and credit card databases to perform data mining.

Smoking Bans and other “Feel Good” Legislation yet Government just can’t Quit the Smoking Habit

Legislative smoking bans and the general outright social disdain for smoking seems to have had some interesting consequences that I wonder if their proponents ever foresaw:

  • A dramatic increase in the number of smoke shops (exempt from smoking bans) where people smoke far more dangerous things than cigarettes such as cigars and even hookahs
  • An increase in the use of smokeless tobacco – even new kinds of smokeless tobacco are being developed and marketed, such as Snus, and are immensely popular (smokeless tobacco use is increasing something like 10% a year – well in excess of the increase of the redneck population)
  • Smoking ends up being as rebellious and anti-establishment as it ever was

Legal smoking alternative?You see, the issue is simply this: for any “low-grade” vice you can think of, there is a certain percentage of the population who is going to engage in that vice – often regardless  of the consequences.  Legislative solutions to these classes of problems have consistently been shown not to work.

Governments’ half hearted attempts to limit drinking and smoking are particularly disingenuous and cynical when they use the tax revenues generated to support budget shortfalls and normal operating costs.  Remember that big umpty bazillion dollar State Tobacco Settlement that was supposed to go toward (1) funding government health care for smokers and (2) smoking cessation efforts?  It didn’t – it went into state coffers to be squandered on completely unrelated state budget items.

When it comes to complex social ills such as vices, you can be sure of only one thing: that simple, “feel good” solutions won’t work and will probably make the problem far worse.  Can they be solved?  Sure – we were able to get the Romans to stop feeding Christians to lions for entertainment, weren’t we?  But it takes a genuine commitment beyond the simple, superficial, “feel good” type. 

And above all you have to be honest and consistent in your message.  If you say something is evil and deadly, you then don’t take this “blood money” and use it to fund your state budgets.  Governments are the first ones who need to quit the smoking habit – perhaps then others will follow their example.  
 

The First Anti-Smoking Nazis – Literally

Because Hitler and the Nazis make such great archetypal villains, something like a freaky Bat Man nemesis like the Joker or the Penguin, dropping a “you’re a Nazi” bomb in an argument is now fairly standard practice.  This seems to mainly be a shortcut for the mentally lazy.  And sometimes beyond laziness, it is often a sign of all-out mental confusion – as when someone who actually opposes things like Racial Preferences is called a “Nazi” – when I think the Nazis were actually pretty big into the whole racial preference thing.

The problem with making the Nazis these cartoon characters to be pulled out in failing arguments is that people too easily forget the small incremental steps that actually led a nation to do some pretty horrendous things.  One major contributing factor to the viciousness of the Nazi Regime was the way in which the unopposed government grew to control nearly every aspect of its citizens lives.

I’m thinking about the Nazis this week because on February 1, 2008, my home state of Maryland will impose an all-out indoor smoking ban, including bars and restaurants.  Now, probably like most people, I am personally happy about the ban.  It is going to be great to take my kids out to dinner at bars/restaurants and not have to worry about smoke.  It is also going to be great to leave a bar without having to immediately put my smoke laden clothes in the laundry.  Not to mention that it is just going to be great just to be able to breath in a bar (especially without worrying about obnoxious cigar smokers).

Anti Smoking NazisBut at the same time, I fear that this is just the sort of incremental government intrusion into personal liberties that can lead to far worse policies.  Once a government can dictate what is healthy for you, they pretty much have free reign to stomp out anything they don’t like.  It seems to be the same concept as censorship but working on the other 3 senses – instead of censoring what you see and hear, it is what you taste, smell, and feel.  Is there any aspect of a person’s life that can not be linked back to some public health aspect?  And how long before we have a regiment of “Physical Jerks” as mandated by the government in 1984.

Oh and another thing, “you’re a Nazi” if you support smoking bans.  You see the Nazis were one of the first governments to attempt to ban smoking – read all about it here.  Call me lazy, but its true.