Monday, October 17

"SOMETIMES PEOPLE in law enforcement will hear it whispered that I'm a former cop who favors decriminalization of marijuana laws, and they'll approach me the way they might a traitor or snitch. So let me set the record straight.
Yes, I was a cop for 34 years, the last six of which I spent as chief of Seattle's police department.
But no, I don't favor decriminalization. I favor legalization, and not just of pot but of all drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth, psychotropics, mushrooms and LSD." From LATimes.

Thursday, October 13

"Poetry is difficult.... The idea that all it takes is to be encouraged - that, I'm afraid, is a barefaced lie. It takes talent and criticism and judgement to create great poetry, just as Keats knew when he first looked into Chapman's Homer."

Tuesday, September 20

Fom the Washington Post:

Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director."
"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Monday, September 19

Energy cops, and really, all kinds of cops, it seems, abound in England. Nobody's Business has a list of crazy laws across the pond that make me scratch my head in wonder... though maybe I only wonder how long it will take before we have such tyranny of pettiness in the US...
Go ahead and share your "favorite" petty laws in the comments section, so we know you're out there.

Thursday, September 15

I have been into the Frekonomics blog lately, and I dig their self-experimenting guest blogger of late, Seth Roberts.

Saturday, September 10

Patrick Doherty on rebuilding New Orleans: Instead of reinforcing our failing 50-year experiment with the low-density suburb, the reconstruction of metropolitan New Orleans should be seen as an opportunity to correct the problems that not only caused the human poverty and physical vulnerability of this city, but to lead the way forward for all American metropolitan areas. ... This will entail integrating three concepts into a metropolitan redevelopment plan negotiated with the residents of New Orleans. The first is smart growth. The second is transit-oriented development. The third is distributed power generation.

Friday, September 9

"It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth ... It is not surprising that Guevara’s contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth—except the young Argentines who have come up with an expression that rhymes perfectly in Spanish: 'Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,' or 'I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.'

Tuesday, September 6

From Meet the Press, Jefferson Parish President Andre Broussard blaming FEMA, the federal agency in charge of disaster relief:

[State and local officials like me were told] every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.

Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.

(thanks to Hit&Run)

Saturday, September 3

Leon Wynter's commentary yesterday on All Things Considered was one of the most insightful takes I've yet heard on the Katrina disaster (and by disaster I mean the socio-economic-racial disaster, not just the physical one).

Tuesday, August 30

Two chilling posts on the federal gov't's war on doctors. One here, and the second here. More links thru the links.

Friday, August 26

Christopher Hitchens applies the first examples I've seen of reasoned response and critical thought to the Cindy Sheehan "situation" - first here, then here.

Thursday, August 25

"Government spending under the GOP's reign has soared to historic highs, any way you want to measure it. And in stark contrast to President Reagan — or even the president's own father—President Bush refuses to rein in spending. He hasn’t used his veto a single time since taking office — the longest such streak in U.S. history."
A tough attack on the Republicans from... - find good critiques where you can.

Wednesday, August 24

Radley Balko shares some well reasoned thoughts - and a good link inside to more research - on the anti-obesity lunacy, and why we DON'T need a war on obesity.
The simplest argument against a government war on obesity? The results of the war on drugs and the war on poverty, to name the two biggest "war on ... " failures I can think of.

Friday, August 12

The name alone would make it worthy of note, but the content is simply mouth-watering:

Thursday, August 11

"One of the defects of democracy is that we usually have quite ordinary persons as our leaders. Sometimes this doesn't matter; their particular defects don't bear upon public affairs, or the times are sufficiently placid that it just doesn't matter that they drink, or play too much poker, or cultivate friends of doubtful character, or whatever.

These are not such times. The President's ignorance of science might have remained a private matter, but he chose to speak on the subject of evolution and "intelligent design." This is a great pity.

Science -- from the loftiest of theorizing (like that of Einstein or, oh, Darwin) through the conducting of painstakingly difficult experiments to the application of new knowledge to the improvement of human life -- science, I say, is the chief engine of our society."

Tuesday, August 9

Via The Agitator...
The ACLU sues over a law on alcohol tests of pedestrians. The law says breathalyzers can be required from minors without a warrant - refusal means $100 fine.
Pedestrians. No vehichle, no danger to nobody. Yep. America.

Thursday, August 4

Newsweek (like most news sources) likes the hype rather than the meat of a story, so it goes with their new cover story on methamphetamine. Meanwhile, Slate has some straight dope about the meth "epidemic."
More on why the hype is bad - undercover cops bust immigrant clerks who don't understand that the cops are pretending to be meth makers. Law enforcement going the extra mile to bust the innocent.... (nytimes login: opensewer, password:iswatching)

Wednesday, August 3

Wanna help a poor worker in a developing country? Buy some sweatshop-made goods! It's better for them! An excerpt:
The apparel industry, which is often accused of unsafe working conditions and poor wages, actually pays its foreign workers well enough for them to rise above the poverty in their countries. While more than half of the population in most of the countries we studied lived on less than $2 per day, in 90 percent of the countries, working a 10-hour day in the apparel industry would lift a worker above - often far above - that standard. For example, in Honduras, the site of the infamous Kathy Lee Gifford sweatshop scandal, the average apparel worker earns $13.10 per day, yet 44 percent of the country's population lives on less than $2 per day.
Shocking, no? Read more here.

Friday, July 29

In the interest of squashing any wild rumors and urban legends before they grow immortal, an open letter from drug treatment doctors and specialists disspelling some of the myths about meth.

Thursday, July 28

Who is this guy on all those kids' t-shirts and those Rage Against the Machine posters, anyway? Go to his store to find out! It's Che-Mart!

Tuesday, July 26

Across the pond, "One in four Muslims sympathises with motives of terrorists." From a British poll of Muslims in the UK.
More here.
Makes me wonder a bit... makes me wonder what the percentages of sympathetic Muslims might be here in the U.S.... makes me wonder how many non-Muslims might also sympathize, which we don't get numbers for.
Thanks to

Tuesday, July 19

John Tierney in the Ny Times (login:opensewer; password:iswatching) on the persecution and prosecution of doctors and patients dealing with the challenges of chronic pain.
Still yet more on obesity... Radley Balko talking a little about the definitions of obesity and the flawed studies about weight and health.
Check your own BMI (body mass index) here, and be sure to remember that the BMI does NOT distinguish weight of fat from weight of muscle.

Friday, July 15

For the next time you want to read an article at a registration required site but don't have and don't want to register: BugMeNot!
Following up on my post from 7/8: Jacob Sullum has a short piece on obesity, Krugman, and the Fat Polic/Nanny State.
Here is Sullum's earlier piece on the Center for Science in the Public Interest, scaremongers of the obesity plague.

Wednesday, July 13

Julian Sanchez on Parentalism - the urge to regulate ourselves, that urge to be free from the responsibility of our own choices.

Monday, July 11

"If we believe we have a right to a free press, we do not seek a rational book policy or reading policy; on the contrary, we would call such a policy "censorship" and a denial of our First Amendment rights.
If we believe we have a right to freedom of religion, we do not seek a rational belief policy or religion policy; on the contrary, we would call such a policy "religious persecution" and a denial of the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state.

So long as we do not believe in freedom of, and responsibility for, drug use, we cannot mount an effective opposition against medical-statist drug controls. In a free society, the duty of the government is to protect individuals from others who might harm them; it is not the government's business to protect individuals from harming themselves. " - Thomaz Szasz.
I've seen the name Thomas Szasz show up here and there before, but this time I will thank Tom Cruise (yep!) for his recent tirade against the psychiatry industry, which brough Szasz's name back to my attention. You can find a lot about Szasz here. I am finding it a decent collection of his thoughts and writings, which I am currently enjoying. (Link to the article from which the quote was taken is here.)

Friday, July 8

David Stove once observed, “As an item on the intellectual agenda, Marxism is scarcely even a joke… . Marxism is a fearful social—and police—problem, but so is the drug trade. It is a fearsome political problem, but so is Islamic fundamentalism. But an intellectual problem Marxism is not, any more than the drug trade or Islamic fundamentalism.”
Tell that to the UK folks voting in the online poll of world's greatest philosopher . Here's a quote from the leader in the poll at publish date:
It’s possible that I shall make an ass of myself. But in that case one can always get out of it with a little dialectic. I have, of course, so worded my proposition as to be right either way. —Marx to Engels, 1857 That quote from this article on Leszek Kolakowski.
Uh-oh. Normally sober-minded economist and NYTimes (login:opensewer; password:iswatching) columnist Paul Krugman is getting on the obesity / "let's regulate eating and food" bandwagon. Specifically, he is making the case that your own diet and your "bad" eating habbits are the government's problems. It's a weak argument he's presenting, but it's an argument for "doing something," which usually gets politicians and activists excited. The problem is, what can we do? Increase health education? OK. But will that be considered enough? I doubt it will be for the activists, and the politicians the activists will pressure. Any taxes on food itself will fail to distinguish between those who eat "bad" food in healthy moderation from those who become obese from simply eating too much food (which may have been healthy in smaller amounts).
The strongest argument in favor of government intervention I have heard is that the rising costs of obesity create costs that our entire nation has to deal with through the health care system. However, the idea that this systemic connection might be re-evaluated is usually not considered; what is considered more readily is intervention and control over the production and eating liberties we enjoy currently.
Krugman also references and advances an argument that "at least some food consumption is almost certainly not rational." So what, Paul? The same might be said of drinking whiskey, sports, social pursuits, and even religion. Don't we reserve to adults the right to make choices that appear irrational to others?

Wednesday, July 6

We've posted here about America and the bad habits of Americans before. Morgan Spurlock made a movie and some considerable money and fame from the subject with Supersize Me, the McDonald's diet in its worst possible form. Now he has a new book out: Don't Eat This Book, but maybe it should be called don't buy this crap.

It appears Spurlock doesn't let facts get in the way of his demonizing mission. Aren't attention to detail and reliance on factual evidence the cornerstones of investigative journalism? Sadly, not in this case. In fact, his book is so loose with facts that writer Radley Balko has decided to dedicate a blog just to exposing his errors. Ugh.

This is a fine example of lazy, deceptive journalism that will receive a lot of press and likely become popular. Such work defrauds the public and does not contribute to public debate.

Friday, June 24

First Raich, then Kelo. Two major Supreme Court decisions in a row in which I side with Justice Thomas, not something I'd expected. I mean, how many med-marijuana supporters would have expected to be siding with Thomas back when his name was always attached to Anita Hill's?
Props to Thomas and the other dissenters in Kelo who respect your right to own your own home without it being under constant threat of being taken by the state so someone can put their private business there.
You want links? Too bad. Blogger's control board doesn't come up on Mac's Safari browser, and my art school is a Mac place. And I ain't getting paid to write html. Try or Reason for some court case analysis.

Wednesday, June 22

If you haven't yet seen Guruphiliac, you really need to take a peek.

Thursday, June 2

The other week I was nearly lucky enough to meet the highly talented French author Michel Houellebecq at the event mentioned in this article. He was promoting the new translation of his older work: H.P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life (published by Believer Books). His novels include Whatever, The Elementary Particles, and Platform (English titles).

Thursday, May 26

Keith Thompson is Leaving the left because he can "no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity."
Here's a part from his piece that explains why I have similar sympathies: "A certain misplaced loyalty kept me from grasping that a view of individuals as morally capable of and responsible for making the principle decisions that shape their lives is decisively at odds with the contemporary left's entrance-level view of people as passive and helpless victims of powerful external forces, hence political wards who require the continuous shepherding of caretaker elites. "

Thursday, May 19

Oh, this is insane here, we are talking madatory snitching now... I can't believe it would pass the Supreme Court, but here's the word (long excerpt from but there are other places to read about this):
Sensenbrenner, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman, has introduced legislation that would essentially draft every American into the war on drugs. H.R. 1528, cynically named "Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act," would compel people to spy on their family members and neighbors, and even go undercover and wear a wire if needed. If a person resisted, he or she would face mandatory incarceration.

Here's how the "spy" section of the legislation works:
If you "witness" certain drug offenses taking place or "learn" about them, you must report the offenses to law enforcement within 24 hours and provide "full assistance in the investigation, apprehension and prosecution" of the people involved. Failure to do so would be a crime punishable by a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence, and a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Here are some examples of offenses you would have to report to police within 24 hours:
You find out that your brother, who has children, recently bought a small amount of marijuana to share with his wife;
You discover that your son gave his college roommate a marijuana joint;
You learn that your daughter asked her boyfriend to find her some drugs, even though they're both in treatment.

In each of these cases you would have to report the relative to the police within 24 hours. Taking time to talk to your relative about treatment instead of calling the police immediately could land you in jail.

End excerpt. Yes, it's true. Don't like it? Wanna fight it? Fight here (just one place)!

Saturday, May 7

The Tour de Sol is a Monte Carlo-style road rally where participants must achieve over 100 miles per gallon in their vehicles to have a chance at winning. The rally is surrounded by a number of other events promoting smart transportation energy use.

Friday, April 8

The lifestyle center is a bizarre outgrowth of the suburban mentality: People want public space, even if making that space private is the only way to get it.

Monday, April 4

"Creationism comes from within"
The two articles linked below note the liberal origins of of the anti-science climate that has allowed the recent rise of religious based "science."
This article in the New Humanist describes the "Vedic-science" claims in India that sound a lot like American "faith-based science" to me.
Over at Spiked-online, liberal relativism is implicated in facilitating the rise of American creationism more directly.
Being in grad school myself these days, I often see the "cultural-relativist" approach taken to science. I hear teachers talk about science as an "ideology," and generally display their misunderstanding of basic accepted truths of modern science (like evolution) in the classroom without any protest or debate (because facts just get in the way of cultural theory).
It's not just in the rarefied climes of The Nation that this sense of liberal unreality surfaces. Barely three weeks after the election the trendy, the motor force of the so-called "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party," rallied its adherents coast-to-coast in a round of 1,600 house meetings. The assembled liberal activists -- some 18,000 -- polled themselves and then published their top six political priorities. The results, in order, tell you all you need to know about the current state of progressive detachment and denial. Election reform and media reform came in first and second. The war in Iraq was third, followed by the environment, the Supreme Court, and civil liberties. In short, the biggest problems liberals face are those damned voting machines and Fox News. Glaringly absent from this activist wish list is anything vaguely resembling an aggressive populist agenda. The MoveOn plan provides no answers to those sweaty plebes out there who are "stoked" by kulturkampf rhetoric as well as all-too-real fears about their jobs, wages, health insurance, and school tuition.
A review of George Lakoff's book "Don't Think of an Elephant."

Saturday, April 2

I’ve always had a problem paying for bottled water, especially when the standards for tap water in the United States are so high (and the benefits of bottled water, other than its portability, are truly questionable). So the other day while doing a little asset inspection in Florida (i.e., walking roofs), one of the real estate brokers assisting us stops by with some bottled water. Dasani, manufactured by Coca Cola, to be specific.

So I’m drinking the water, fine, no problem, I’m thirsty, it’s doing the job…and then I notice a little blurb on the side of the bottle:

DASANI is filtered for purity, using state of the art treatment by reverse osmosis, and enhanced with minerals for a pure, fresh taste. DASANI is water – pure and essential.

Now I guess I’m just slow, but this is the first time I’d realized that some of this expensive* bottled water doesn’t actually come from springs. It’s treated tap water! On top of this, they add minerals to flavor it – to artificially make it taste more like real mineral water. Then, to make matters worse, they add SALT! Leave it to Coke to turn something as pure as water into what is essentially a “soft drink”. It’s no wonder that they feel the need to reassure you of the “water-ness” of their product: “DASANI is water – pure and essential.”

Combine all of these concerns with the added externality that one creates as a consumer of this product – waste plastic. Hopefully most of these bottles get recycled. My guess is that a significant number of them end up in landfills.

Ah, the commoditization of the gifts of the earth – thank you Coke, and the rest of the bottled water industry for taking something natural and adding a layer of marketing (and plastic) to it.

(* NOTE: I say expensive because most people already pay for tap water from their municipality…so all bottled water is expensive because you’re paying again for something you already have.)

Tuesday, March 15

Go check out (or buy) the new issue of The Believer (always a good magazine), which features Opensewer associate Jana Prikryl's essay "ABU GHRAIB: A Gobal Family Portait."
"Good writing comes from good reading. All literary criticism should be accessible to the general reader. Criticism at its best is re-creative, not spirit-killing. Technical analysis of a poem is like breaking down a car engine, which has to be reassembled to run again. Theorists childishly smash up their subjects and leave the disjecta membra like litter." Camille Paglia is talking about poetry (but I feel her right now because I am dealing with this crap in art school these days).
Because our government(s) can't be trusted to examine the efficacy of their own policies and programs, others do it for us(them)... Marijuana prohibition fails to produce intended results. Total US marijuana arrests increased 165% during the 1990s, from 287,850 in 1991 to 755,000 in 2003. However, these increased arrest rates have not been associated with a reduction in marijuana use, reduced marijuana availability, a reduction in the number of new marijuana users, reduced treatment admissions, reduced emergency room mentions of marijuana, any reduction in marijuana potency, or any increases in the price of marijuana. From NORML's new report on US Marijuana Prohibtion. (I'm blogging more b/c I'm on spring break!)

Monday, March 14

"Let’s put aside all of the procedural problems with enacting it. Forget about the fact that there was no debate. Forget about the fact that most members of Congress didn’t even have an opportunity to read it. It is a direct assault on at least three amendments to the Constitution: the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment. The PATRIOT Act legitimates the notion that if we give up certain freedoms, the government will keep us safer. I reject that notion from a moral and legal point of view. I also reject it from a practical point of view. It doesn’t work. The government doesn’t need our freedoms to keep us safer. No one—no lawyer, judge, or historian—can point to a single incident in American history where national security was impaired because someone insisted on their right to free speech or their right to privacy or their right to due process." Nick Gillespie interviews Judge Andrew Napolitano. Would you have guessed from that quote that Napolitano has a job on Fox News?

Wednesday, March 2

One argument for the "fat" tax on food is that it is cheaper for people to eat unhealthy junk than it is for them to eat well. So how much would it cost to reach the 2,000 calorie goal and follow the official USA's dietary guidlines? About five bucks a day. (more from me in the comments section)

Tuesday, February 22

On the death of the good doctor Hunter S. Thompson... That you sought fit to take your leave now could only mean that you felt it truly was time for you to check out. However your judgment in the past has strayed from even the most generous definition of reasonable, of your own charter and fortune we cannot question your command. Because you gave so much you will be missed. Because you gave so much you will not be forgotten. So drive off into the night, good doctor, and godspeed.