Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Economist comes out for the legalization of all drugs:

Nowadays the UN Office on Drugs and Crime no longer talks about a drug-free world. Its boast is that the drug market has “stabilised”, meaning that more than 200m people, or almost 5% of the world’s adult population, still take illegal drugs—roughly the same proportion as a decade ago. (Like most purported drug facts, this one is just an educated guess: evidential rigour is another casualty of illegality.) The production of cocaine and opium is probably about the same as it was a decade ago; that of cannabis is higher. Consumption of cocaine has declined gradually in the United States from its peak in the early 1980s, but the path is uneven (it remains higher than in the mid-1990s), and it is rising in many places, including Europe.

This is not for want of effort. The United States alone spends some $40 billion each year on trying to eliminate the supply of drugs. It arrests 1.5m of its citizens each year for drug offences, locking up half a million of them; tougher drug laws are the main reason why one in five black American men spend some time behind bars. In the developing world blood is being shed at an astonishing rate. In Mexico more than 800 policemen and soldiers have been killed since December 2006 (and the annual overall death toll is running at over 6,000). This week yet another leader of a troubled drug-ridden country—Guinea Bissau—was assassinated.

Yet prohibition itself vitiates the efforts of the drug warriors. The price of an illegal substance is determined more by the cost of distribution than of production. Take cocaine: the mark-up between coca field and consumer is more than a hundredfold. Even if dumping weedkiller on the crops of peasant farmers quadruples the local price of coca leaves, this tends to have little impact on the street price, which is set mainly by the risk of getting cocaine into Europe or the United States.

Nowadays the drug warriors claim to seize close to half of all the cocaine that is produced. The street price in the United States does seem to have risen, and the purity seems to have fallen, over the past year. But it is not clear that drug demand drops when prices rise. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the drug business quickly adapts to market disruption. At best, effective repression merely forces it to shift production sites. Thus opium has moved from Turkey and Thailand to Myanmar and southern Afghanistan, where it undermines the West’s efforts to defeat the Taliban.


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As anyone who has spent any substantial amount of time on the Virginia side of the DC metro area can attest, getting around the city can be a royal pain in the ass.  If you live in DC proper, you can get to most places using the metro system alone.  In fact, considering the ways people drive in DC, taking a car often seems like a death wish.  If you live on the other side of the river, you can generally get by without a car as long as you spend most of your time in the Ballston-Rosslyn corridor.  If you need to go to Shirlington, Tyson’s Corner, or anything on 66, things become difficult.  If you have a car, driving to and from work will almost guaranteed lead you to spend a considerable amount of time sitting in traffic.  And as everyone in the area knows, getting to Dulles Airport can be quite frustrating.

The primary source for the considerable congestion is Virginia politics.  Funding for transportation for the state is controlled by the Virginia Legislature, which is still dominated by representatives hailing from areas south of Northern Virginia (the Virginia side of the DC metro area).  These politicians from “real Virginia” continue to withhold money for transportation projects in Northern Virginia for decades, even though Northern Virginians provide substantially more tax revenue per capita than the rest of the state.  The result is stagnant road and rail maintenance and construction in Northern Virginia, which has seen an absolute population explosion in the last decade or so.  The result is unbearable congestion.

The other problem with expanding the DC metro system is that it exists in a peculiar legal space. The Washington Metro Authority was created with a “compact,” between the states of Virginia and Maryland and the Federal Government.  It is not a state law, but at the same time not a treaty, because it is between the federal government and U.S. states, not foreign sovereign nations.  This construction means that it is difficult to raise adequate funding, because Virginia, Maryland, and Congress have agreed to provide funds for the system.  This has led to chronic arguing and bickering between the three entities, because running a subway system is expensive, and they all believe that the other two entities are not pulling their weight.

The good news is that the fabled “silver line,” which has been in incubation for years, if not decades, has just begun construction.  The line extends from the orange line, which ends in Vienna, and will make it possible to take the metro rail from Dulles all the way to the capitol (estimated ride time: 55 minutes).  The project had been in dire straights as recently as last year, but federal regulators recently approved funding to begin the project, which is expected to clock in at a staggering $5.2 billion for the entire project.  The project won’t be finished until 2013 (let’s hope), but the fact that construction has started is encouraging news.  A map of the project:


Tyson’s corner is expected to receive 4 stations on the line as well, which is critically important for the region.  Tyson’s has 120,000 jobs but only 17,000 residents (according to the Washington Post).  Commuter traffic to and from Tyson’s has reached horrific proportions, so if the silver line can do anything to alleviate the burden, we will see a marked improvement in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Virginians.  Residents and Visitors to the DC area will also benefit from the option of taking a metro rail from Dulles all the way to the center of the city.  A map of the Tyson’s Corner is below:


As a car-less citizen of Northen Virginia (who has to take the metro and transfer to a bus to get to work in Tyson’s every day), the news of the silver line becoming a reality makes me very happy.  Anything that reduces the dependency of cars in American should be considered a welcome development.

More information available at dullesmetro.com.

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The End of Whiteness

Fresh from the Atlantic is an article about the end of whiteness in America, and ultimately the world.  It’s a good read and a nice summary of the cultural implications of increased multiculturalism in this country.  In the meantime, 2043 cannot come soon enough.  No one is going to mourn the end of de facto white supremacy.

Article here.


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The Law versus Common Sense

The Economist has a very compelling article on the law as it is practiced today in the United States.  This country has always been a nation of laws (except for arguably the last 8 years) and in general, the system works fairly well:

The rule of law is a wonderful thing, as anyone who has visited countries ruled by the whims of the powerful can attest. But you can have too much of a wonderful thing. And America has far too much law, argues Mr Howard in a new book, “Life without Lawyers”. For nearly every problem, lawmakers and bureaucrats imagine that more detailed rules are the answer. But people need to exercise their common sense, too. Alas, the proliferation of rules is making that harder.

At a school in Florida, for example, a five-year-old girl decided to throw everyone’s books and pencils on the floor. Sent to the head teacher’s office, she continued to wreak havoc. Her teachers dared not restrain her physically. Instead, they summoned the police, who led her away in handcuffs, howling. The teachers acted as they did for fear of being sued. A teacher at a different school was sued for $20m for putting a hand on a rowdy child’s back to guide him out of the classroom. The school ended up settling for $90,000. Understandably, many schools ban teachers from touching pupils under any circumstances. In New York City, where more than 60 bureaucratic steps are required to suspend a pupil for more than five days, teachers are so frightened of violating pupils’ rights that they cannot keep order.

A correctly functioning legal system should (ideally, of course) provide provide justice to those who deserve it in criminal cases, and to compensate who have been unjustly injured by another party in civil ones.  Of course, any sufficiently complex system designed by humans that deals with lots of money will begin behaving in strange and unpredictable ways:

The direct costs of lawsuits are only one of the drawbacks of an over-legalistic society. Too many rules squeeze the joy out of life. Doctors who inflict dozens of unnecessary tests on patients to fend off lawsuits take less pride in their work. And although the legal system is supposed to be neutral, the scales are tilted in favour of whoever is in the wrong. Because the process is so expensive and juries are so unpredictable, blameless people often settle baseless claims to make them go away. The law is supposed to protect individuals from the state, but it often allows selfish individuals to harness the state’s power to settle private scores.

The Economist ends on a hopeful note, heaping praise on President Obama’s appointee to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein.  Let’s hope that Mr. Sunstein can make some positive changes in the way that civil litigation is handled in this country.  In the meantime, the lawyers (and future lawyers like me) are going to keep raking in the money.

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What Do Men Want?


Breastaurants!  Move over Hooters.  Bring on the new chesticular culinary destinations!

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What Do Women Want?

I don’t fucking know. Some guy from the liberal “New York Times” thinks he does, though. That is, he’s written an article on the subject that’s readable, if not fascinating. Have a look and share some comments.

What Do Women Want?

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japanese got game?

To ask the blunt completely inconsiderate and juvenile question: are 12 non-working hours just not enough time to get laid? Really?

TOKYO, Japan (CNN) — Even before one reaches the front door of Canon’s headquarters in Tokyo, one can sense the virtual stampede of employees pouring out of the building exactly at 5:30 p.m.

Japan’s birth rate of 1.34 is below the level needed to maintain the country’s population.

In a country where 12-hour workdays are common, the electronics giant has taken to letting its employees leave early twice a week for a rather unusual reason: to encourage them to have more babies.

“Canon has a very strong birth planning program,” says the company’s spokesman Hiroshi Yoshinaga. “Sending workers home early to be with their families is a part of it.”

Japan in the midst of an unprecedented recession, so corporations are being asked to work toward fixing another major problem: the country’s low birthrate.

At 1.34, the birthrate is well below the 2.0 needed to maintain Japan’s population, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Keidanren, Japan’s largest business group, with 1,300 major international corporations as members, has issued a plea to its members to let workers go home early to spend time with their families and help Japan with its pressing social problem.

One reason for the low birth rate is the 12-hour workday. But there are several other factors compounding the problem — among them, the high cost of living, and social rigidity toward women and parenting.

In addition, Japan’s population is aging at a faster pace than any other country in the world.

Analysts say the world’s second-largest economy faces its greatest threat from its own social problems, rather than outside forces. And the country desperately needs to make some fixes to its current social and work structures, sociologists say.

Canon says its 5:30 p.m. lights-out program is one simple step toward helping address the population problem. It also has an added benefit: Amid the global economic downturn the company can slash overtime across the board twice a week.

“It’s great that we can go home early and not feel ashamed,” said employee Miwa Iwasaki.

Story on CNN here.

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