Monday, May 02, 2005

May Day 

Everyone please go read this anthology my friends at Catallarchy have put together in rememberance of the casualties of political power.
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Monday, January 24, 2005

Will the AMA Vote Against Self-Interest If I Become A Member? 

In an article I wrote last year about the War on Drugs, I quoted the AMA’s stance on the government’s policy...[continue reading]
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Blog Rounds 

Glen Whitman and Radley Balko respond to Matthew Yglesias and David Adesnik's call for universal college education...[continue reading]
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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Drug War Blog 

Earlier this year I wrote that the media was failing at their main function - spreading information to limit government abuse - and that this as best exemplified by...[continue reading]
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A Good Program 

Yglesias is blogging up a storm lately about how there is no such thing as a Social Security crisis...[continue reading]
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Natural Rights and Consequences 

Glen Whitman discusses natural rights vs. consequetialism in his own always unique and enlightening way...[continue reading]
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Breaking News: All Medicines Have Risks… 

…and to make matters worse, we don’t know what all of them are. I am reminded of this now that...[continue reading]
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Friday, December 17, 2004

A Doctor In Pain 

Jacob Sullum has the scoop on Virginia pain doctor William Hurwitz and his recent conviction for drug trafficking...[continue reading]
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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

New Blog 

Check out Trapper Michael's new isemmelweis.
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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Fun With Microbes 

Radley Balko points to the CDC’s disease trading cards.

That’s fun, but I’ll do The Agitator one better: here’s a link to stuffed Giant Microbes. My favorites include Black Death...[continue reading]

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Many Lives Are At Stake 

Via Medpundit, it seems there’s a new drug to worry about...[continue reading]
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Monday, November 15, 2004

The DTC Debate 

Kevin, M.D. links to a story regarding Pfizer's study that shows internet adds are equally effective as TV and radio adds in conveying "a distinctive and memorable message and influence viewers." Kevin...[continue reading]
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I'm Moving...Again 

I have been invited to join the guys at Catallarchy. It's an honor to be asked to join such a wonderful collection of young libertarian minds. I'm sure the next Hayek, Friedman, and Landsburg are among them somewhere, and I'm just happy to be along for the ride. You can read my debut here.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post-Election Thoughts 

  • All the commentary seems to say the same thing: the GOP won this election on "moral" and cultural issues. Which is good. Because we need the Dems to continue supporting bad economic policies and reach across and try to capture the bigot vote. It's a good day to be a libertarian. Woo hoo.
  • I heard a theory a while back that a Bush victory was more likely to bring a quick end to Iraq then a Kery victory. The thought was that Kerry had no motivtion to hurry up because it was seen as a "Bush mistake." Seems like wishful thinking but I hope it's right.
  • I voted for the guy with the shirt.
  • Well, my prediction was wrong. I made that prediction before Kerry even got nominated, and I stuck with it. I probably should have reconsidered when they picked a guy with "loser" literally tatooed on is forehead. Lesson learned, I guess.
  • Best quote: this is an old one that I saw again today, but it sums up the libertarian feeling about today. Nick Gillespie: "To say Bush spends like a drunken sailor is an insult to drunken sailors."
  • CNN just blamed bloggers for getting the Kerry hopes up. I pretty much have completely quit watching the news and reading the papers (kinda like Jim Bunning), but if I gotta watch them blame blogs for everything, I'll just have to quit altogether.

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Tuesday, November 02, 2004


I couldn't care less who wins, but I care supremely about being right. My prediction: I said it before and I'm saying it now - John Kerry wins.

Why Bush deserves to lose: He has presided over the most anti-libertarian governing in my short lifetime.

Why Kerry deserves to lose: He was handed someone like George Bush and he made me not care.

Update: Jesse Walker illustrates my point:
Tomorrow, barring another recount mess, we will have a president-elect. I can't tell you his name, but I can tell you a few things about him. He wanted George Bush to have the authority to launch a war in Iraq, and he probably would have invaded whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction there. He thinks the Federal Election Commission should strictly regulate political speech, and he thinks the Federal Communications Commission should strictly regulate non-political speech. He supported the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, and he will not be parsimonious with the public purse. He's a child of privilege who acquired great wealth without earning it in the marketplace. And I didn't vote for him.

Update II: CNN reports that exit polling shows that among Kerry reporters, 81% do not support the war in Iraq. So all those people who state they are against the war, and many of whom rate it as the most important issue, voted for a man who voted in favor of giving the president the authority to go to war, and who promises to stay the course. In other news, Bush voters poll "moral values" as their most important issue. Presidents have less control on the country's moral values than they do on the economy (where they have little). Ain't democracy grand.

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Friday, October 29, 2004

Let's Try This Again 

Back in April, I tried to calculate the amount of socialization of the US health care system by adding implicit costs of regulation to explicit costs of public funds:
If I had to make a wild guess, our health care system will be paid for by explicit or implicit public funds at a rate of 65-70%. My question is this: if we have a nationalized health care system now, and that system is by your estimation broken, is more nationalization the way to go? Especially when every other sector or industry in this country is privately funded and avoids this problem. Except, that is, for education and the military. Oh, yeah, they're publically funded, too.
Today, Arnold Kling points to a study that tries to be more precise. Christopher Conover's conclusion:
A far more accurate "bottom-up" approach suggests that the total cost of health services regulation exceeds $339.2 billion. This figure takes into account regulation of health facilities, health professionals, health insurance, drugs and medical devices, and the medical tort system, including the costs of defensive medicine. Moreover, this approach allows for a calculation of some important tangible benefits of regulation. Yet even after subtracting $170.1 billion in benefits, considerable, amounting to $169.1 billion annually. In other words, the costs of health services regulation outweigh benefits by two-to-one and cost the average household over $1,500 per year.
Kling adds:
More specific papers are linked to here. Looking at those papers, my guess is that the authors have under-estimated the cost of regulation. For example, I do not think that the work on professional accreditation and licensure captures the rigidities in the system imposed by regulation (prohibiting substitution), or the cost of rent-seeking as professional associations lobby for special favors.
So I should update my post. The $339.2 billion is approximately 28% of the $1.4 trillion in health care expenditures. Add that to the 44% of health care that is totally funded by the public yields 72%. I was close.

But maybe it's fair to only add the costs that are in excess of the benenfits. That brings the total down to 56%, which is a little under my estimation. However, tack on the $500+ billion Medicare drug benefit and the underestimations Arnold points out, you get back to about 65%. Nearly two thirds of every health care dollar is paid for or mandated by all forms of government.

So I'll ask the question again: When are we going to get that free-market health care everyone's been complaining about?

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This Rant Deserves To Be Heard 

I'll take this time to re-recommend Peter Guither's Drug War Rants. It's a good time to do so because Peter finds himself in the middle of an interesting story.

Peter writes his blog because he strongly believes that the drug war causes more harm than it prevents, violates rights at every turn, and is an immoral and illegal action taken by government agents. One of the features of his blog is a state-by-state voting guide based solely on issues of the drug war. In Peter's home state of llinois, he picks Democratic Congressional candidate Tari Renner over Republican Jerry Weller, and he has even donated to the campaign. Weller has taken to hammering Renner specifically because of this single endorsement. Weller has likened this to an endorsement from the Ku Klux Klan and has stated that Peter's site has direction on how to inject heroin (patently false). The kicker? Renner returned Peter's check. This all is to illustrate the sad state of the debate over drug policy in this country.

WindyPudit sums it up:
Guither's article just made me despair a little. If the Ku Klux Klan gives your campaign money, you give it back. If an Al-Qaeda-linked "charity" gives you money, you give it back. Do these politicians really put drug legalization into the same category as racism and terrorism? Do these people actually see Pete Guither's views, Pete Guither's values, my values, as so abhorrent that they don't even want our money? That they slander and libel us?
Read Peter's story here and here.

Go back and read why I argue that the medical community should lead the revolt against the War on Drugs.

To close, I'll quote the top of Peter's page: "If you support prohibition, you are part of the drug problem.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What I Learned In School Today 

Two patients walk into an ER. Both are 45-year-old women with acute onset of chest "pressure," both of whose pain radiates into the left arm. Patient A has a totally benign past medical history. Patient B is a smoking diabetic with high cholesterol. Which patient has the greatest chance of having had an acute MI after slapping an EKG on them and drawing serial cardiac enzymes?

The surprising answer: For all intents and purposes, they have an equal probability of having had an MI. According to a study by Jayes, et al. in 1992 published in The Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, the major risk factors for cardiac disease have no value in predicting acute MI in patients with chest pain. They predict who's more likely to walk into the ER with chest pain, but once inside the walls of the ER, they can't predict whether a chest-pain-patient has actually had an MI.

I'm sure our licensed brethren knew that already, but it is strange that it had taken 3.5 years of medical training for someone to spell out that fairly simple and important concept to me.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004


As the medical blogosphere's competitive advantage is in correcting the "conventional wisdom" of health facts, I think this needs to see a lot of light:
The annual median number of deaths is 1137, of which 85% are over 65, and 2% are 15 or younger. About 10 infants a year die from influenza, which is probably comparable to the death rate among infants from lightning strikes. Also worth noting is that in the most at-risk population, those 85+, deaths from influenza account for 2.2 per 100,000 of population.
Needs verification, of course; but, since I put in my 10 seconds of work in linking to this, I'll let someone else pick it up.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Blogosphere Just Got A Little Better 

I am pleased to announce that my personal intellectual hero, Steven Landsburg, will be guest-blogging this week at Marginal Revolution. I remember staying up until 4 AM reading Fair Play, because I refused to put it down. And I will be excited everyday to read MR. Now that you know, you have no excuse!
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The Favored Class 

We forgot to add one group to the "at-risk" list who should obtain flu vaccinations: federal legislators and their minions:
While many Americans search in vain for flu shots, members and employees of Congress are able to obtain them quickly and at no charge from the Capitol's attending physician, who has urged all 535 lawmakers to get the vaccines even if they are young and healthy.
You can bet that Kerry and Bush got their shots, even after lecturing us about our responsibility to society to let high risk groups have them. When everything is a political issue, the politically powerful get preference.

Here's something that actually makes a little sense:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), a heart surgeon, sent letters urging his 99 colleagues to get the shots because they mingle and shake hands with so many people, his spokeswoman, Amy Call, said. She said she did not know how many senators have taken his advice.

Eisold "is a big believer that members of Congress are at high risk, because they shake hands with a lot of people" and then visit veterans centers and other concentrations of susceptible people, his spokesman said. Because lawmakers can be both victims and spreaders of flu, he said, Eisold urged all 535 to get the shots.
It may be more important to get the vaccine to super-spreaders, like health care personnel. And politicians who shake a lot of hands. However, while no one would argue that health workers stop working, shouldn't someone raise the possibility that these polticians stop shaking so many hands? Because every time a politician's hand shakes, someone gets f%@#ed out of their money (kind of a It's a Wonderful Life meets Mr. Smith Goes To Washington).

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FDA Lifts Ban On Artificial Hearts For Those Awaiting Transplant 

I'm taking the cue from Alex Tabarrok on the headline there. It is certaily apt.

The FDA stands in the way of life-saving and life-improving drugs and devices all the time. That is what they do, their purpose. Only when there is clear and overwhelming evidence that they have done enough harm will they lift their bans.

Of course, there are those who have recently been heard calling for tighter regulation. With more money going to the FDA. So we can wait longer for our artificial hearts.

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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Gouged Yet Again 

Back when hurricanes where bludgeoning the Florida peninsula on a weekly basis, I wrote multiple times regarding the short-sighted, wrong-headed calls against "price gouging." It's a pretty open-and-shut case that anti-price-gouging (is that the record for most hyphens in a single paragraph? I feel like Carlos Beltran.) laws are harmful to the very people they are supposed to "protect."

Well, it's reared its ugly head again, this time with respect to the very unnatural disaster that is the flu vaccine shortage. And being that fundamental economic principles and the world we live in haven't changed in the, oh, four weeks since the hurricane seasom ended, the same arguments apply. But this hasn't stopped some otherwise reasonable people to say unreasonable things. Here's Medpundit:
The news that some medical supply wholesalers are price gouging the flu vaccine probably shouldn't come as a surprise, human nature being what it is. But I doubt the practice is as widespread as the media reports are making it sound. I, for one, haven't received a single fax offering flu vaccine. And the offices and drug stores in our area who have the vaccine seem to be acting responsibly by only giving it to those who are at high risk. At the original price.
And the Public Health Press:
He also could have denounced the price gouging of flu shots which is going on in some parts of the country, but knowledge about the true costs of things to the typical American may be too much to expect from the Boy in the Bubble.
And the CDC:
Shame on the people who are price gouging," said Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "There's no room for this kind of behavior in an environment where we need to pull together as a country to protect our vulnerable populations.
(I should point out here the irony of a government causing a shortage through its various policies, and then trying to outlaw the natural response to such a shortage, thus worsening the effects of the shortage. Rinse. Repeat.)

OK, it seems that it takes a monthly reminder to get the message through; but don't take it from me. There are people whose job it is to understand these things so we don't have to. Economist Don Boudreaux:
But lectures like these, asking us to pull together or do the right thing, work best in small close communities or families. In a large nation, high prices do the lecturing more effectively. It's not perfect. Some poor people will also get discouraged from buying and we might want public or voluntary measures to help them out. But when we hold prices down artificially or by social pressure or by threat of government prosecution for price gouging, there are costs born today and tomorrow. By not allowing people to profit from setting some supply aside for a crisis, we discourage people from taking such risks in the future.

...Every time we hold prices down, we make such shortages more likely in the future.
I'm sure this will generate the same tired replies. And we will do the dance one more time.

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Saturday, October 09, 2004

Market Failure or Government Failure? 

A question for the medical blogosphere - is the recent announcement of the impending shrotage in flu vaccine supply an example of a market failure or a government failure?

My vote? Let's see - while I'm sure many of our liberty-hostile frineds wuld try to argue that the free market has failed us, it seems t me this is obviously an example of government failure. Vaccine production is highly-regulated and the major purchasers are government agencies. For those of you who have faith in such things - when this doesn't ensure that most people can get a vaccine, what do you do next? Regulate it more? Impose an explicit price control?

Truck and Barter has more:
Hold the phone! You mean to say that government purchasing of vaccines at a forced discount has something to do with this? Could these be the mysterious "business reasons" that cause some companies to underproduce vaccines?

I'm shocked. Shocked, I say.

I suppose to anyone who was paying attention when this measure went into place and had a bit of economic sense about them, this is old news. And frankly, the point has been made before. I just think it's worth bringing up again. And again and again until people start to see the connection between government driven health care and undersupply of goods.

Imagine, now, that the government were to do the same thing for x-ray machines, painkillers, MRIs, nurses, obstetricians, and just about everything else. Government need not be the "provider" of health care to make lives worse. It need only be the majority purchaser, dictating prices to companies and potential doctors. Even with a second-tier in the system for those people who want to shell out money themselves for better care (though I have problems with people paying twice and getting one service), imagine the disparity in health care treatment between those who can pay and have access to the advanced care, and those who have to wait in lines hoping their heart murmer isn't something serious. How many doctors are going to choose to participate in the socialized system?

These shortages, that extend well beyond flu shots into treatments for preventable diseases in children are directly caused by government action.

Maybe regulation not only causes crime, it makes people sick, too.

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What's In A Name? Maybe A Violation of the Law 

As an extreme libertarian, I occasionally encounter ridicule over my paranoia of government intrusion. But it would be hard for the most ardent statist to go to bat for this one:
People expecting children can choose a pre-approved name from a government list of 7,000 mostly Western European and English names - 3,000 for boys, 4,000 for girls. A few ethnic names, like Ali and Hassan, have recently been added. But those wishing to deviate from the official list must seek permission at their local parish church, where all newborns' names are registered. A request for an unapproved name triggers a review at Copenhagen University's Names Investigation Department and at the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, which has the ultimate authority. The law only applies if one of the parents is Danish.

Many parents do not realize how difficult it can be to get a name approved by the government. About 1,100 names are reviewed every year, and 15 percent to 20 percent are rejected, mostly for odd spellings. Compound surnames, like Tan-Farnsden, also pose a problem.

Parents who try to be creative by naming their child Jakobp or Bebop or Ashleiy (three recent applications) are typically stunned when they are rejected. In some cases, a baby may go without an officially approved name for weeks, even months, making for irate, already sleep-deprived, parents.
That's from a New York Times story about Denmark. It's not from The Onion in case you were wondering.

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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Show Me A Drug With No Risks, And I'll Show You A Drug That Doesn't Work. 

And show me a drug with "too much" risk and I'll show you someone who should mind his own damn business.

Don Boudreaux weighs in onthe Vioxx controvery with this question:
The arthritis drug Vioxx was pulled from the market today, by its maker Merck & Co., because of recently discovered high risks to users of heart attack and stroke... A report I heard on WTOP news radio in Washington, DC, featured a physician who complained that Merck took too long to remove Vioxx from the market. The news report went on to mention critics of the Food and Drug Administration -- all of whom apparently believe that the FDA's procedures result in too many drug approvals.

Nowhere in this story or in any account that I've (so far) read does anyone propose that each arthritis sufferer be given the freedom to choose which level of risk he or she endures. The unquestioned presumption is that that there is one proper level of risk and that it is up to national-government bureaucrats to discover and enforce it.
Vioxx was pulled from the market voluntarily, but it is still a valid question. The risk of the side effects of Vioxx is somewhere between 0 and 100%. The efficacy of Vioxx for arthritis pain is somewhere between 0 and 100%. Where you think the two balance out is a personal question. Of course, in the real world, the government and trial lawyers answer these questions for us. And their answers will always undercut many people's risk-reward ratio.

I can't seems to find the actual study (didn't look really hard), but I think I remember reading that Vioxx approximately tripled the risk of heart attack or stroke over 18 months in all comers (is this right?). But I haven't seen one quote for the absoute risk. Can somebody tell me? To take a wild stab, without the appropriate info, I would presume that it's fairly small, and that a reasonable individual would undertake the risk to make his arthritis pain go away (especially, say, if other drugs have failed). But they can't because Merck has sunk Vioxx because they rightly fear government or legal action.

Would I take Vioxx if it could help me? Maybe. Would I prescribe it? Probably not. Would I approve it if I was a government regulator? Certainly not. But in only one of those instances should I get the final say.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

It's Good To Still Be Here 

Just experienced a rather harrowing event. As I was grilling a chicken breast, or, more precisely, starting my grill, a collection of gas in my patio ignited and my head was momentarily engulfed in a flame (while not, thankfully, on fire). For those of you who enjoy seeking thrills, I gotta say pass on this one, unless you're the sort of person who enjoys having your own eyebrows singed. Phew.

As a publc service, I think this calls for a post from The Good Surgeon about the medical care of burns. Or maybe just a review of Stop! Drop! and Roll!

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A Good Question 

Glen Whitman poses something I have privately pondered before:
When it comes to marriage, what’s an atheist libertarian to do? What kind of ceremony is appropriate, and who ought to officiate? For an atheist, the obvious choice might appear to be a judge or justice-of-the-peace. But for a libertarian atheist, state idolatry is as objectionable as spiritual idolatry. Sure, libertarians recognize the existence of the state (while atheists do not recognize the existence of a god), but why go inviting the state into what is ultimately a personal commitment? And while many people, including libertarians, might choose to invoke the state’s contract-enforcement apparatus, that act is conceptually distinct from the act of wedding another person (as I argued here).

I was once briefly married. Since my wife-to-be was also an atheist (or agnostic), we opted for the justice-of-the-peace default. But I doubt I’d do that again. As we discovered during our first and only year of joint tax-filing, there are few if any benefits of legal marriage for couples without children. Indeed, we ended up paying a marriage penalty amounting to about $300 of our paltry incomes (yes, I filled out the “dummy” tax forms to find out what we would have paid if we’d been single). If I ever went down that path again, I’d be inclined to postpone the legal marriage unless and until children made it worthwhile. But without ministers or judges, what’s left? Ship captains?
My first thought: While the institution of marriage is a good thing for society, it may be pointless to a given individual. How about just finding someone I love and trust, and promising her I will spend the rest of my life with her. I don't thnk I've ever needed an enforceable contract to hold my promises to the people I love.

If one wishes to celebrate such promise in the presence of friends and family, by all means throw a huge party - there's no reason to get the law of a diety involved. There's always a good a excuse for a big bash and an open bar.

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A Storm of Stupidity 

I'm a little late to the game, but Marginal Revolution and Cafe Hayek have properly pissed on this article from USA Today that claims that the endless parade of hurricanes in Florida is actually good for the economy there:
Although natural disasters spread destruction and economic pain to a wide variety of businesses, for some, it can mean a burst in activity and revenue.

For that reason, economists tallying the numbers expect the hurricanes will be neutral in their effect on the U.S. economy, or may even give it a slight boost, particularly because of an expected reconstruction boom in the already red-hot construction industry.
Any economist who thinks this is so deserves to have their degree revoked immediately, permanently, and after criminal proceedings for fraud. Any layperson who beieved this nonsense deserves to have all their worldy possessions pummeled to smithereens by the first passerby.

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I've Been Published 

Unfortunately, it wasn't the study that proves the efficacy for my miracle cure for aging (that one's still being peer reviewed).

Baylen Linnekin has posted my first two "Paternalism in Medicine" installments over at the Drug Policy Alliance blog, D'Alliance. Gives me a good excuse to link to them. Read the first about physicians and prescription drugs here, and physicians and illicit drugs here (you know you've hit the big time when you're published in PDF format).

And go check out the DPA and Baylen's blog. They do good work over there - particularly, I would point to DPA director Ethan Nadelmann's recent debate in the pages of The National Review with drug czar John Walters. Read Nadelmann's original article, Walter's reply, and Nadelmann's rebuttal.

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Thank God I'm Going Into Pathology 

Just came off my first night on call as an acting intern. As Roy Basch would say, they can't hurt me anymore.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Wonders Of Special Interest 

Apparently Chicago mayor Richard Daley is pushing for marijuana decriminalization:
Daley emphasized that most charges involving small amounts of pot are thrown out in the state court system in Chicago.

"If 99 percent of the cases are all thrown out and you have a police officer going, why? Why do we arrest the individual, seize the marijuana, [go] to court and they're all thrown out? It costs you a lot of money for police officers to go to court.

"It's decriminalized now," the mayor added. "Sometimes a fine is worse than being thrown out of court."
All well and good even if I don't totally trust yhese guys. But you have to love this objection to the policy:
Fraternal Order of Police president Mark Donahue acknowledged too many cases involving small quantities of marijuana are "pitched at the initial hearing." But FOP members stand to lose thousands of dollars in court overtime if the city starts ticketing marijuana users instead of jailing them, he said.

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Common Sense 

Medrants beat me to it, but today in California the Governator signed a bill that opens the door to allowing syringes and needles to be sold over-the-counter:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday signed into law what some advocates describe as one of the state's most important public health policies in two decades - a five-year experiment to reduce the spread of AIDS and other diseases among intravenous drug users by making needles and syringes available without a prescription.
The legislation leaves it to local governments across the state to decide whether to take part in the pilot project. Beginning next year, in cities and counties that embrace the concept, pharmacists will be permitted to sell adults up to 10 sterile needles and syringes at a time. The measure also decriminalizes possession of needles without a prescription.
Jacob Sullum points out that this strategy is much more preferable to the comonly advocated needle-exchange:
Philosophical objections aside, the latter have always struck me as the wrong approach strategically, seemingly confirming the canard that what critics of the war on drugs really want is subsidized addiction (a charge that drug czar John Walters hauled out in his recent National Review exchange with the DPA's Ethan Nadelmann). In this case, by contrast, the government is removing a legal barrier to sanitary injection practices by allowing over-the-counter sales of needles and decriminalizing their possession without a prescription.
Slowly, but surely, reason will win these battle.

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Do You Trust Them, Redux 

Last week I posted this from the anniversary of 9/11, an article whose point was we should not put our faith so blindly in government actors to protect us from terrorism. The same day I tried to illustrate this by pointing out that we couldn't even trust them to respect our oen liberties, i.e. the War on Drugs. How would they instill a government in Iraq that respects liberty? Is the connection I was trying to make a stretch? I don't think so, and I offer this from Radley Balko:
We all know now about the Bush administration's pre-9/11 $43 million gift to the Taliban -- in thanks for the regime's prohibition on opium. Still, this Robert Scheer column written in May of 2001 is simply chilling:
Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.

That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.

Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998...

...Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.

The war on drugs has become our own fanatics' obsession and easily trumps all other concerns. How else could we come to reward the Taliban, who has subjected the female half of the Afghan population to a continual reign of terror in a country once considered enlightened in its treatment of women?

...The Taliban may suddenly be the dream regime of our own war drug war zealots, but in the end this alliance will prove a costly failure. Our long sad history of signing up dictators in the war on drugs demonstrates the futility of building a foreign policy on a domestic obsession.

The sad irony here is that the same government that signed checks to the Taliban in the name of the drug war just months before September 11 to this day accuses drug users of supporting terrorism (a charge that doesn't stick, by the way).

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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Would You Trust Them? 

To expand on the post below (regarding trusting our government abroad), read this article in The New York Times about a 25-year-old man who will be sentenced to at least 55 years in prison for selling marijuana (first offense) on multiple occasions and carrying (but neither showing nor using) a gun during the deal. Note that the 55 years is the mandatory minimum sentence for this non-violent offense. His life is effectively over:
"It would appear effectively to be a life sentence," the judge, Paul G. Cassell of Federal District Court there, wrote in a request to the prosecution and the defense for advice about whether he has any choice but to send the man to prison forever.

Judge Cassell, a brainy, conservative former law professor, surveyed the maximum sentences for other federal crimes. Hijacking an airplane: 25 years. Terrorist bombing intending to kill a bystander: 20 years. Second-degree murder: 14 years. Kidnapping: 13 years. Rape of a 10-year-old: 11 years.

He noted that Mr. Angelos would face a far shorter sentence in the courts of any state. In Utah, prosecutors estimate that he would receive five to seven years.
The federal government, of course, doesn't see the injustice.
The Justice Department supports mandatory minimums, said Monica Goodling, a spokeswoman.

"Tough but fair mandatory minimum sentences take habitual lawbreakers off the streets, lock up the most dangerous criminals and help ensure the safety of law-abiding Americans," Ms. Goodling said. "Since these common-sense policies were created, we've seen crime plummet to a 30-year low. The public, the Congress and presidents of both parties have supported mandatory minimums for a simple reason - they work."
There is no doubt if you set a mandatory minmum of a death sentence for each and every crime and infraction, crime would plummet. But one would be hard-pressed to call such a system of law just. Only someone who has totally failed to examine or question the very basis for their power would think that a life sentence for a non-violent "crime" is fair or just.
In court papers, prosecutors said Mr. Angelos "trafficked in hundreds of pounds of high-grade marijuana," "distributed cocaine and synthetic narcotics" and "affiliated himself with a violent street gang." These assertions, however, were not proved to a jury.

Last year, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court told the American Bar Association that "in too many cases, mandatory minimum sentences are unwise and unjust." The association appointed a commission, which recently issued a report urging the abolition of such sentencing.

"There are real economic and human costs," said Douglas A. Berman, an Ohio State University expert on sentencing law, "to putting everyone away for as long as humanly possible."

Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for Paul M. Warner, the United States attorney in Salt Lake City, said his office had no comment on the Angelos case. In general, Ms. Rydalch said, "we will continue to enforce mandatory minimums so long as Congress tells us to."
Again, faced with what seems to be a case of injustice, this government official passes the buck. And this is most cetainly not an isolated case.

The government of the United States is the least oppressive and guarantees the most freedoms of any in the world. And still, it never ceases to perpetrate injustice and tyrrany here within our borders. How can it possibly be trusted to usher in justice and freedom in another nation?

This is cross-posted at Galen's Log.

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Wait 'Til Next Year 

Good friend, softball extraordinaire, and fellow Cub fan Scott Lange, for one day, experiences what it's like too be a Cub:
We get pounded on all game, and eventually this garbage team we are playing is leading 23-8 going to the bottom of the last inning, and talking trash to boot. We plate a couple runs, make a couple outs, and I come up as the potential last out of the game. Now understand, for the year I have solid numbers. However, as the potential last out of the game, I am like 1-8. Its uncanny. However, I am not going to let it happen again. Although the game is way out of reach, I am determined to not make the last out for once. I grit my teeth and bear down. I take the first pitch high for a ball. The second pitch is to my liking, and I turn my hips, turn my wrists, and snap a line drive base hit to center! Its the small victories that count.

Oh, and then seven straight batters reach safely and I come up again to line out and end the game with the tying run on deck. Boo ya.
Make that 2 for 10. Hey, Scott, what's that OPS?

This is cross-posted at Galen's Log.

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The Anniversary 

Roderick Long points to his essay written at the second anniverary of 9/11:
For me, the chief lesson of 9/11 is the simultaneous power and impotence of government.

9/11 vividly demonstrated how powerless government is to protect us and make us safe. The United States government is the most powerful organisation that has ever existed in human history. It possesses untold wealth, unmatched military might, and a globe-spanning spy network.

And in a few short hours, a handful of murderous fanatics armed with nothing more impressive than boxcutters were able to inflict a series of devastating attacks against which this almighty government was helpless.

Our rulers talk blithely about preventing future attacks, but the truth is they haven’t got a clue how to do it. If some nut wants to inflict a lot of damage and is willing to sacrifice his life to do it, there’s very little that the government can do about it. The 9/11 attacks exposed the protective nation-state as the fraud it is.

But if the government lacks much power to protect, 9/11 also showed how much power it does possess to do harm:

To pursue the arrogant foreign policy that invited the attacks in the first place.

To ensure that no one on board the hijacked planes was carrying weapons that could have been used against the hijackers.

To respond to the attacks by stepping up the assault on civil liberties at home.

To respond to the attacks by raining down death and destruction on innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, thus ensuring that even more American citizens will be targets for retaliation for the next fifty years.

A form of social organization whose power to do evil is enormous while its power to do good is minuscule is a form of social organization that needs to be mothballed.
Regardless of whether one thinks the struggle of the United States in Iraq is justified, I find it obvious that our government, regardless of who leads it starting in November, will prove incompetent in a) securing our safety from terrorism, b) instilling a free, democratic government in Iraq, or c) diffusing the bomb of poverty, tyrrany, and fanatacism that creates terrorism. Indeed, I think it will have a negative impact on all three counts.

This is cross-posted at Galen's Log.

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