OBEY YOUR MASTER. MASTER!

Posted in Rants on July 14th, 2011 by Ed

The most recent developments in the debt ceiling "negotiations" are the best example yet of why Barack Obama is either A) not good at the concept of bargaining, or B) secretly brilliant, and still not good at the concept of bargaining.

When John Boehner and The Lipless Tortiose, Mitch McConnell, individually signaled their willingness to consider tax increases – mind you they didn't agree to any, but merely offered what may well have been a false impression that they would discuss the matter – many commentators hailed it as some sort of breakthrough or surprising development. It might qualify as a surprise if one takes the GOP rhetoric at face value, but anyone who reads above a fifth grade level would have realized months ago, well before this subject was even on the public radar, that Barack Obama was and is in a position to get absolutely anything he wants out of Congress here. If only someone had told him.

Of course the GOP is signaling concession on tax cuts. Congressional Republicans are the biggest whores for the banking and finance industry on the planet, trailed closely by Congressional Democrats and the legion of actual whores who service the banking and finance industry. Does anyone think for one second that the GOP would actually risk default when default would hurt their corporate and financial masters far more than it would hurt you and I? And bear in mind that it would hurt you and I a lot. A default on Treasury obligations would wipe out the GOP's paymasters almost overnight. Did anyone expect that this "crisis" would not be resolved by the titans of Wall Street and the Fortune 500 calling Eric Cantor and John Boehner on the carpet and letting them know that, OK, this has been cute and all, but playtime is over?

This reality casts two elements of this Kabuki theater tragicomedy in high relief. First, Barack Obama could have dug in his heels at whatever point he chose on this issue…and won. There are no circumstances under which Congress, in a system in which elections are raffled off to the highest bidder and representation is purchased rather than secured by right, would be allowed by the real powers that be to default on the debt. So optimistically we could say that Obama accepted some big spending cuts to signal that he's the bigger man, that he's bipartisan, and that he can speak to the moderate tendencies of the electorate. Conversely we could say he's a fool who gave away a bunch of things in negotiation when he didn't have to give away a damn thing.

Second, the problem with running on a "throw the bums out!" platform is that the morning after the election, you become The Bums. Having wedded themselves to an absolutely insane, dogmatic, irrational, and litmus-test-crazy Teabagger ideology, the GOP has put itself in a position from which any concession will be a lethal self-inflicted wound. Even if the tax increases are token and symbolic (which is likely – something like "rolling back tax breaks for corporate jets" that sounds populist but is effectively meaningless) can you imagine what the Teabaggers are going to do to the GOP leadership? The reason Eric Cantor is trying to play Mr. Tough Guy now is not so much that he is a fanatical believer in Grover Norquistism but that he is thinking to himself "Oh my god I am so fucked" as he realizes that Obama and the GOP's Wall Street masters may combine to force him to accept tax increases of some kind.

The remaining Republican resistance to considering even token tax hikes is not a matter of ideological stridency. It is a matter of intense fear and self-preservation at this point. They're realizing that they may not have a choice in the matter and they can only look forward in horror to what the idiot rabble that elected them are going to do when it happens. Their only hope at this point is that Obama is dumb enough to save them.

CLOSET'S GETTING FULL

Posted in Election 2012 on July 13th, 2011 by Ed

It pains me to acknowledge Michele Bachmann's existence twice in a fortnight but this is too amusing to ignore.

Thanks to an enterprising "undercover" amateur journalist has exposed the "Pray away the gay" clinic Bachmann operates in Minnesota, which I am stunned to learn is a state that allows people to practice counseling/therapy/etc. without a license. That works out well for "Dr." Bachmann, whose credentials include a Ph.D., the dissertation for which cannot be located (in contrast to the dissertations of people who attend real schools, which are available at libraries) from an online school called Union College. The most obvious hypocrisy is that Dr. Bachmann's "practice" received over $150,000 in Medicaid payments last year alone, although as Ag Subsidy Michele can tell you the Bachmann family is no stranger to railing against the federal dole while cashing as many checks from Uncle Sam as possible.

Marcus is but one of many practitioners in the "reparative therapy" industry, which has all the medical credibility and supporting evidence of phrenology. Speaking of hypocrisy, I began to wonder why he has such a strong interest in making ex-gays out of young gay men. Then I learned a little more about Marcus Bachmann. Watch this clip from MSNBC, including both the radio comments from Bachmann and video of he and his "wife" dancing around on stage:

OK.

Look. The on-air folks at MSNBC were forced to tiptoe around this for what I can only assume are both legal and ethical reasons. I am not similarly constrained. So, if I may be blunt: if Marcus Bachmann was any more of a queen, he would be on British money. That guy could not be any gayer if he shot rainbows out of his open palms like some kind of Spider Man. I have seen Mardi Gras parades that were not as gay as he is. He contains more DNA samples than the average crime lab.

This election season is going to be fun after all. I wait with bated breath for the cops, the media, or the average person with a smartphone to catch Marcus behind Gay 90s (if I remember my Twin Cities gay bars correctly) with his pants around his ankles while two "confused" teen runaways give him the business. It was nice of him to set up that clinic, though. He must really love Jesus to willingly spend so much time around a constant, ever-changing parade of emotionally fragile young gay men. Praise Him.

RFNPR: WELL DONE, UNIVERSE.

Posted in Quick Hits, Random Facts on July 12th, 2011 by Ed

1. I have to keep it short today, as I spent the evening at a big-screen viewing of Starship Troopers. Holy balls, I forgot how much I love Starship Troopers. To this day I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that there are people in the world who do not understand that this film (and director Paul Verhoeven's other big-budget splatterfest, Robocop, for that matter) is satire. Seriously, there are people who say things like "My god, it's so violent!" or "What's wrong with you? That movie is, like, fascist!" Come on. It might not be "A Modest Proposal" but I don't think it's that hard to figure out.

2. Speaking of fascists, here's your Random Fact of No Particular Relevance: Unity Mitford, the British aristocrat and fascist who became part of Hitler's inner circle before and throughout the Second World War – by the way, her sister Diana was married to British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley; nice people, those Mitfords – was born in Swastika, Ontario.

I could not make this shit up if I tried. And believe me, I do.

OBJECTIVELY SPEAKING

Posted in Election 2012 on July 11th, 2011 by Ed

So Michele Bachmann, proud Christadictorian of her class at Regent University, apparently thought it was a good idea to sign on to some no-name Christian right group's anti-gay marriage manifesto. The Iowa-based organization, Family Leader, wants candidates to pledge to be faithful to their spouses, "vigorously defend" opposite marriage, and oppose a grab bag of other things (porn, the imposition of Sharia law in Iowa) just to remind everyone that they are nuttier than my shit after a day at the cashew farm.

Dozens of news networks, newspapers, and blogs have run this story; the link I provide above is from the ABC News website, a generic mainstream source of news if ever one was. It's very interesting that the ABC News item, like nearly every mainstream news report on this story, omits mention of the following part of the Family Leader manifesto:

Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA's first African-American President.

I…see.

I've been expecting the Normalization of Deviance process to begin with Bachmann and it appears that her much-praised performance at the first GOP primary debate (inasmuch as "Wow, she doesn't sound nearly as bonkers as she is!" is praise) lit the fuse. Beaten into terrified submission by Fox News ratings and forty years of right wing pant-shitting over That Librul Media, the mainstream news industry treats Republican lunatics with kid gloves once it becomes clear that he or she is a "serious" – defined in this instance as financially and politically viable – candidate. If Michele Bachmann is a legit contender for the nomination then it's imperative to give her Fair, Balanced treatment, which is conservative for going out of their way to take her seriously and make her look respectable. Whatever needs to be overlooked in that process is acceptable collateral damage to reality.

It will be interesting to see going forward how often the Sunday Bobblehead crowd presses her on all of the truly, magnificently insane shit she has said and supported over the years. The Bachmann team is in overdrive trying to backtrack some of her previous statements and positions but in the internet age no candidate can effectively soften the kind of statements she has put out for public consumption…unless of course the Beltway media simply decide not to bring it up, instead letting her set the agenda out of desperate fear of being accused of Librul Bias. Or perhaps they honestly believe that any individual who can contend for a major party nomination is to be taken seriously by definition, which creates an environment wherein whatever brand of Crazy happens to have the GOP in its thrall at any given moment becomes the new normal.

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NPF: ACCOMPLISHMENT

Posted in No Politics Friday on July 8th, 2011 by Ed

Note that I did not give this the "skip this if you hate sports" tag. Because this is something everyone can enjoy.

If you enjoy sports – or maybe even if you don't – there are moments in which you realize that you've seen perfection. I'm talking about things you see and immediately know you'll never see anything like it again. Tiger Woods winning the Masters by 12 strokes. Nadia Comaneci in Montreal. Bob Beamon's long jump. Jordan scoring 63 over 4 Hall of Famers in the Boston Garden. Vince Young in the Rose Bowl. Usain Bolt leaving a vapor trail. McEnroe vs. Connors at Wimbledon. Kerry Wood's 20 K's. Lemieux scores 5 goals in a game…5 different ways. Some feats are so amazing that they become legends as soon as they happen.

Records are made to be broken. But I know one feat that will never be repeated, and it stands as the single most impressive thing ever accomplished on an athletic field: Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing a no-hitter whacked out of his mind on acid. Some versions of this story are bowdlerized to suggest that he was "hung over" but make no mistake, the man was tripping balls. Check out this award-winning animated short (seriously, it made the film festival rounds) depicting the event while a recording of an interview with Ellis (who passed away a few years ago) as narration:

Click through to watch in HD.

Baseball aficionados use the phrase "effectively wild" to describe a pitching performance where the batters are baffled because the pitcher himself doesn't have much of an idea where the ball is going. Ellis threw one of the strangest no-hitters ever, walking eight batters, hitting two, and throwing over 150 pitches. I imagine the batters were less concerned with hitting and more concerned with defending themselves from the rocket-armed, bedraggled wildman with unfocused pupils hurling a rock hard object at them at 99 mph.

Salut, Dock Ellis. If they gave out gold medals for being the best possible kind of crazy, they might have to name it after you.

NULL POLICY

Posted in Rants on July 7th, 2011 by Ed

This Salon piece on "The final nail in the supply side coffin" is making the rounds, which is great inasmuch as anything pointing out that corporate profits are quite robust during our wageless, jobless, pointless Recovery is a good thing. That said, I have a bone to pick. As ready and eager as I am to mock the ridiculous sorcery that is Supply Side Economics, I am even more eager to object when people use such phrases as slogans rather than to refer to a specific set of ideas. While cutting corporate taxes is a supply side idea – and since no one has to pay them anyway it doesn't much matter what the rates are on paper – cutting the individual income tax isn't. And that has been our primary, if not only, economic policy preference since the 1970s.

Cutting the income tax is a demand-side solution. And that – far moreso than actual supply side ideas – has proven useless in spectacular fashion as a driver of economic growth. The theory is to give wage-earners more money to spend, which is great except that A) most wage-earners are already paying so little in Federal income tax that the cuts have little substantive impact, B) cuts are always lavished on a small population of high earners who are more likely to save than spend, and C) the civil religion of debt repayment, coupled with staggering levels of household debt, ensure that income tax cuts are just a way to funnel some money to banks and mortgage lenders.

We could talk all day about the pluses and minuses of various economic policy prescriptions. Instead, the debt ceiling nonsense brings up a much more interesting issue: the Obama administration, perhaps even more than any previous one, casts in high relief the fact that the United States does not have bad macroeconomic policy. It has no coherent economic policy at all.

Let's say you have a restaurant. It's an Indian takeout joint. Business isn't going well, so you try lowering your prices. Then you try increasing them. Then you try adding a frozen yogurt bar in the front lobby. Then you change the entire concept from Indian takeout to neo-American bistro cuisine. Then you change back to all Indian food but you change the name to P.J. Pickleshitter's BBQ Pit and Family Restaurant. To say that you would have a bad business plan would be inaccurate because you have no business plan at all. You're just drunkenly careening from one idea to another, none of them related or building upon previous steps you've taken, blindly hoping that something will work.

In the span of two years we've gone from Obama the Keynesian (although he showed his true colors early on by caving and making the bulk of the stimulus useless tax cuts) to Obama the Spending Cutter. Think about that. He came into office with an $800 billion spending package and now he's agreeing to an even larger amount – rumored to be over $1 trillion – in spending cuts. Regardless of how you feel about either of those individually, it's pretty clear that they make absolutely no sense together. None.

When Nixon said "We're all Keynesians now" it wasn't his ringing endorsement of Keynesianism but an acknowledgment of the consistent, dominant idea guiding US economic policy since the 1930s. What are we now? Neither party has anything that resembles an economic policy, with the Democrats a limp combination of neoliberalism and whichever way the wind is blowing that day and the Republicans pretty much devoted to low taxes as an end rather than a means. Thus we end up with Reich/Clinton DLC horseshit or Frankenstein's monsters like Paul Ryan's "roadmap" combining sharp reductions in government revenues with plenty of big government (military, handouts to key constituent industries like agricultural subsidies, etc.)

Is it any wonder that nothing changes, let alone improves? We can't commit to one economic policy for more than 18 months. Arguably we haven't committed to any policy at all in forty-plus years but instead have approached economic policy buffet style, choosing all the cakes and pies while leaving the nasty green vegetables behind.

YOUR BEST INTERESTS

Posted in Rants on July 6th, 2011 by Ed

Twenty three years ago today a massive offshore oil platform near the Shetland Islands called Piper Alpha – responsible for more than a tenth of all oil and gas production in the North Sea – exploded and burned, killing 168 men and leaving 61 survivors in various states of injury.

The disaster was initiated by an innocent enough mistake coupled with bad luck. The day crew shut down a gas pump, which provided electricity for the platform, for maintenance and left a written notice for the night shift that the pump should not be restarted under any circumstances. Unfortunately the night crew did not find the warning, and when the backup pump malfunctioned they attempted to restart the first pump to keep the platform's power supply functioning. The subsequent explosion triggered a chain of events that resulted in the massive fire you see in the video.

The initial explosion was not large enough to destroy the platform, and nearly all of the crew could have escaped with their lives if the disaster ended there. But it didn't. Two other connected nearby platforms, Tartan and Claymore, pumped all of their own gas/oil to Piper Alpha, which in turn pumped it to an onshore refinery. After the initial explosion on Alpha, the other two platforms continued to pump gas (which burns, FYI) because the owners, Occidental Petroleum, was concerned about the costs of shutting down all three platforms. Apparently when oil/gas production is shut down and pumping ceases, it takes many days and a lot of effort to get the process started again. This was despite the fact that two years prior the company conducted a study and concluded that a fire fed by the massive inter-platform pipes connecting Alpha, Tartan, and Claymore could not be extinguished and would result in total destruction.

So the crew supervisors on Tartan and Claymore – clearly able see Alpha burning furiously just a mile away – continued pumping gas to it because their bosses on the phone told them to. Shockingly, a second and even larger explosion followed. Rescue of the Alpha crew became impossible at that point. Most jumped 100 feet into the North Sea, choosing drowning over burning. After the second explosion, the crews on the adjoining platforms finally (and far too late) shut down. A third, massive explosion occurred anyway, killing two men on a boat attempting to rescue the drowning crew.

Thankfully most of us don't have to work on anything as unavoidably dangerous as an offshore oil platform. That said, this has been your friendly daily reminder: Your employer has your best interests at heart. The free market, not regulation, will protect you. Do not think; always do as you're told. Remember those three unassailable truths and I don't see what could go wrong.

BILL BENNETT ROLLS THE DICE, WINS AN FJM TREATMENT

Posted in Rants on July 5th, 2011 by Ed

It seemed like a good idea to get the requisite Bill Bennett Gambling Addiction joke out of the way up front.

Imagine the year is 1840 and you are the world's foremost expert on phrenology. You have devoted your entire life to its study and promotion. You have defended it well against its many critics. In just a few years it will be rejected once and for all by the medical and scientific establishment, exposing it as the quackery it is. What do you do? You've spent half a century on something that turned out to be meaningless, ineffectual pseudoscience. So you do the only thing anyone can do in this situation: you double down and continue to defend it with a dated laundry list of ludicrous, discredited arguments. Might as well go down swinging. Admitting that phrenology isn't real is to admit that your entire life has been a complete waste of time. And who wants to do that?

So on a completely unrelated note, here's former 1980s Drug Czar and legendary War on Drugs evangelist Bill Bennett on the Frank-Paul federal marijuana legalization legislation! More specifically, "Why Barney Frank and Ron Paul Are Wrong on Drug Legalization." Call the babysitter and get out the camera, because you are about to see some really good arguments. Ready?

From certain precincts on the left, notably Barney Frank, to certain precincts on the right, notably the editorial page of National Review, we are witnessing a new push to end the so-called war on drugs and legalize drug use, starting with marijuana.

Well we almost made it one sentence without factual misstatements. The proposed legislation eliminates federal penalties for marijuana use, meaning that states would have discretion over whether marijuana would be legal within its borders. This is similar to other issues like gambling (to pick a random example) that are legal or illegal on a state-by-state basis.

Indeed, Ron Paul, Barney Frank's co-sponsor in the latest legislative effort, said recently he would go so far as to legalize heroin.

That's libertarian ideologues for you. That's also called a red herring, as Rep. Paul's opinion on heroin is irrelevant to this legislation.

It's a bad idea. My friends at National Review begin their case by stating the illegalization of drugs has "curtailed personal freedom, created a violent black market and filled our prisons."

My God, that's the most intelligent thing I've seen in the National Review since I cut a bunch of articles out of The Baffler and pasted them in a dog-eared copy of the National Review.

But the legalization of drugs, including marijuana, would exacerbate each of these problems.

Let's read this literally. I can't wait to learn how legalizing marijuana will create a bigger black market (Guh?) and put even more people in prison (Buh?)

Starting with the basics, keeping drugs illegal is one of the best ways to keep drugs out of the hands — and brains — of children.

Oh good, the Appeal to The Children fallacy.

Obscenity, another vice that has inspired jihads from many deeply closeted moral guardians, used to be judged by the legal standard of its potential to "deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall" i.e., children. This derives from Regina v. Hicklin (1868) in British common law and was adapted by the US Supreme Court, until that body rejected it as an unreasonable standard in Roth v. US (1957). That was 54 years ago, Bill. The Supreme Court said, 54 years ago, that "It might hurt children" is a stupid and overly broad argument.

We know three things here: First, children who don't use drugs continually tell us one of the reasons they don't is precisely because they are illegal. For example, since at least 1975, report after report has found that "perceptions of the risk and social disapproval of drug use correlate very closely with drug taking behavior." When those in the drug prevention community ask teens who don't use drugs why they don't, time and again, the answer comes back "because it's illegal."

In what world does "Kids don't use it because it's illegal" a supporting argument for keeping it illegal? Lots of people would stop using anything if it was criminalized. If there is a good argument to be made here, this ain't it.

This, of course, explains why a greater percentage of teens abuse legal substances like tobacco and alcohol over illegal drugs such as marijuana — even when they say marijuana is easily accessible.

Bill, it's a phenomenally bad idea for anyone spouting Nancy Reagan Just Say No arguments about weed to mention alcohol in the same article…especially to point out that while the War on Drugs continues apace, kids are getting shitcanned on Four Loko and smoking themselves to a lung cancer death at 51. Do I need to explain why you don't want to bring this up when preaching the evils of Reefer Madness?

Second, keeping drugs out of the hands of children is the best way to prevent drug addiction generally, as study after study has confirmed that if we keep a child drug free until age 21, the chances of use in adulthood are next to zero.

McGruff the Crime Dog is apparently under the impression that – ignoring self-selection and selection bias – if we could prevent everyone from using drugs before 21 then no one would ever use drugs. Bill, sit down for a moment: the evidence you cite does not mean that. It does not mean that at all.

Third, we don't need to guess at hypothetical legalization schemes. Our experience with legally prescribed narcotics has already proven it, and we now have an epidemic. This, despite doing everything the theorists have asked, from oversight to regulation to prescription requirements.

Wow, who would have thought that opiates would be addictive, especially if doctors prescribe them like lollipops.

Normalizing, de-stigmatizing, and legalizing illegal drugs lowers their price and increases their use. As a recent RAND study on California found, legalization of marijuana there would cut the price by as much as 80% and increase use from as little as 50% to as much as 100%. Just what California, just what our society, needs.

The RAND study in question states that, "researchers cannot rule out consumption increases of 50 percent to 100 percent." I question Bill's interpretation of that, especially given that the study also states that, "there is considerable uncertainty about the impact of legalizing marijuana in California on public budgets and consumption, with even minor changes in assumptions leading to major differences in outcomes." In other words, you can essentially produce whatever estimates you want by playing the Assumptions Game.

As for the current drug policies curtailing personal freedom, the question is: "Whose freedom?" The drug dealers', sure — the drug consumers, no.

It's going to be cool to see how he makes legalization a negative influence on individual freedom…

As any parent with a child addicted to drugs will explain, as any visit to a drug rehab center will convey, those caught in the web of addiction are anything but free.

Oh for fuck's sake.

I'm not going to deal with the substance of this Appeal to Emotion. Instead I want to talk about one of the most wonderful, happiest places on Earth: the alcohol rehab center! Everyone there is truly free. They are happy as pigs in slop. There are ponies. The ponies fart glitter.

And it is not because of their incarceration or rehabilitation, it is because of the vicious cycle of dependency, waste and brain damage addiction and abuse cause.

Still waiting to hear why this is different than alcohol. Come to think of it, how is it different to ANYTHING addictive? Bill, I'm huffing Scotchgard as we speak and let me tell you, I am in a vicious cycle of dependency and brain damage. The cause of said damage, be it the Scotchgard or your column, is unclear.

Let us make no mistake about this, either: Marijuana is much more potent and causes much more damage than we used to know. Today's marijuana tests on average at more than 10% THC (the psychoactive ingredient). We are even seeing samples of more than 30% THC. This is compared to the relatively lower levels of THC most legalizing proponents were more familiar with in generations past (under 4% in the early 1980s, even lower in the 1960s).

OK. I don't even smoke weed and I know that this is beyond wrong. It makes no sense whatsoever. The argument is that marijuana is like alcohol and THC is like "proof", i.e., 80 proof is twice as strong as 40 proof. But 10% THC is not "twice as strong" as 5%. It might get you high faster (as stronger alcohol in equal amounts would) but it can't get you higher. Past a certain level of THC in the body, additional THC will have no effect. Besides, if people knew what they were smoking (Say, because it has a label on it measuring potency) they might adjust their behavior accordingly.

As for the high incarceration rates for simple marijuana use and possession, it is a myth. As government documentation actually shows, over 97% of sentencing on federal marijuana-related charges is for trafficking, less than 2% is for simple possession. Indeed, the only National Review authority with federal prosecutorial experience that I know of backs this point up: "Actual enforcement is targeted at big distributors. People who merely possess drugs for personal use well know they are substantially safe no matter what the statutes say."

Oh good. As long as the people we're stuffing prisons with are dealers rather than users, then it's all good. If only there was some way to eliminate black market dealers of marijuana other than incarcerating them at ass-breaking expense.

We have had a fair amount of experience with legalization and decriminalization schemes.

Don't forget prohibition schemes! We tried the hell out of that. It worked, right?

Oh.

Citizens are trying to put the genie back in the bottle, from Northern California (where residents have complained that medical marijuana has "spawned crime, drug cartels and teenage pot use")

This is a quote from a single individual with no data provided to support it. Most of the linked article is devoted to people speaking in favor of continued legalization.

to the Netherlands (where drug tourism, use by minors, and border trafficking has increased)

Oh no, not tourism! By the way, which country has a higher rate of recreational drug use and drug-related crimes, Bill?

to England (where apologies have been made for endorsing decriminalization in light of the subsequent growth of teen drug treatment needs)

That's what a conservative takeover will net you. Why not mention Portugal, Spain, Sweden, or any one of a dozen other countries where partial legalization schemes (especially for weed) have been a rousing success?

to Colorado (where easy access has increased demand, "made a mockery" of the legal system, and is increasingly endangering public safety)

In the linked article, the person who gave the "made a mockery" quote is a physician, and the full story says: "She said she would probably favor true legalization but in the meantime is pushing to oust existing pot shops because they're making a mockery of the legal system." Way to misrepresent, Bill. Here's a good knee-slapper from that article, btdubs: "Local law-enforcement authorities are also pushing for a ban, warning that increased marijuana use endangers public safety. Steamboat Springs police arrested 17 drivers suspected of being high on cannabis last year, up from 9 in 2009." Wow, 17! And how many alcohol DUIs? Those local law-enforcement authorities are definitely to whom we should be turning for objective analysis. I mean, what do they have to lose if the War on Drugs disappears?

We have an illegal drug abuse epidemic in this country and it has not been given enough attention. But the cultural messages, as much as the law, matter. When we unified on this, as we once did, drug use went down. When we let up, as we now have, use increases.

Nothing decreased. Not according to the CDC. This is just stupid.

The libertarian experiment promoted as a novel theory by some will only make things worse. More legalization equals more damage, waste, crime and abuse. Not less. That is why it is no time to surrender.

Bill, everyone else surrendered twenty years ago. Reaganite tossers embedded in positions of influence are the only ones yet to get the message.

Let's mention a few things Bill omits in terms of effects of legalization:

1. The lawless narco-state that is Mexico would immediately become 80% less of a war zone, as the bulk of cartel activity centers around that most popular of drugs in the U.S. But, you know, think of the children, man!

2. Legalization would make drug use safer in the U.S. through regulation of its contents, the elimination of violence during the purchase, and the absence of the threat of arrest.

3. Biggest cash crop on the planet short of heroin or the elusive Moon Rock Tree of Mongolia.

4. Apply the Bill Hicks test to the horrors of marijuana usage: if you're at a (concert, ballgame, bar, club, festival) and some bozo is loud, violent, aggressive, and an irritant or even a threat to the people around him, is he A) drunk or B) high on marijuana?

Thanks for playing, Bill. Looks like you're having a great time there in 1986.

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NPF: WHY WE FIGHT

Posted in No Politics Friday on July 1st, 2011 by Ed

Earlier this week a friend-of-friend very nearly died. My ex-bandmate Rob was playing with his new band Waxeater at a venue in Austin, TX when his bandmate Elliott was electrocuted on stage, presumably due to an ungrounded electrical supply. Fortunately a nurse in the audience was able to re-start his heart and after a week in an induced coma, it looks like he is going to be OK.

To the average person that would seem like a terrible way to go – not merely the electrocution part, which I think we can all agree is undesirable, but to die while playing in a dive bar with bands that few people will ever hear of or care about for what I can only assume was very little if any money. That's the crux of what an excellent writer and friend (who previously brought us the Ballad of Johnny D) argues in his thoughts about the incident. In short, he asks what possesses grown-ups to devote so much time to a creative pursuit like being in a band. Is it worth the strain touring puts on relationships? The inability to hold down a normal job? The constant financial hardships? The risk of being electrocuted in some dive bar or punk shithouse? To most of us it isn't apparent why anyone would put up with the relentless grind of going on the road for the privilege of…well, playing in front of a handful of drunks at a bar in Topeka, KS while the local cadre of scumbags plots a way to steal all of your equipment when you fall asleep at 7 AM on the puke-stained carpet of someone you barely know. It isn't glamorous.

DJ ultimately concludes that people do this to find a community of like-minded people; you'll only win a few hearts wherever you play, but they'll be worth it. They'll have your back. They'll hold benefits and fund-raisers when your uninsured ass ends up with a potentially fatal illness. They'll let you borrow when your shit breaks or gets stolen. They'll feed you and give you a place to sleep. They'll help you out when you're unemployed and the last dollar is gone. All of this is true in my experience (which admittedly is not as extensive as that of people like DJ or Rob).

That said, I have a different take on it. Since I'm no longer actively in a band, I'll use blogging and comedy as examples here. From a rational perspective I shouldn't do either. It could get me fired. It could give people who want to make my life difficult all the ammunition they'd ever need. It diverts time I could spend advancing my career (in theory) or enhancing relationships. The last thing that is going to help me with the necessities of life is to get on a stage or the interwebs and express myself voluminously and without a filter.

So why do I do it? Yes, both have introduced me to some interesting people. But I do it primarily for another reason. Academia is incredibly destructive to self-esteem. It is a continuous and near endless process of accepting rejection and hearing people tell you how much you suck. I've applied for 130 jobs over the last three years and been rejected from all of them. Journals have rejection rates exceeding 90% in most cases. It is very important for me to do something that does not result in complete failure and rejection. When I hear people laugh or see a post cross 50,000 hits it's a subtle reminder that not everything I do results in rejection.

Wilde said that most of us live lives of quiet desperation. It's a good observation, and in my opinion it's the best reason to do whatever it is we choose to do with our lives. You spend so much time on the job you hate, listening to the boss who treats you like shit, and wondering why you bother to get out of bed anymore. So if you want to spend your time writing the great American novel, building birdhouses, attending Star Trek conventions in animal-themed S&M gear, or touring the country in a van with a band no one has ever heard of to play before tiny audiences, so be it. There are always risks, ranging from simple embarrassment to bodily harm depending on the nature of your pursuits. Hell, having any pursuits at all is a risk. Why not get a second job or work harder at your first one instead of wasting your time telling jokes at the Comedy Pouch in Possum Ridge, AR or playing math rock at the 4th Street Vomit Bucket in the worst neighborhood in Newark? Well, not only are some things more important than being practical, but what could be more practical than doing whatever is necessary to make yourself feel like your life is worthwhile? It's OK to remind yourself that you're not quite as worthless as the world makes you feel, even if there are considerable risks and opportunity costs involved.