18 November 2011

Around the world in 10000 words

I've been busy lately.

But so has the world.

So... Occupy Wall Street has been invaded and closed down. I'd have to agree that the police crackdown that finally came was probably better for this movement than letting winter and boredom cull the herd so to speak. Indeed, one could make a case that it is the very actions of police that started the attention on it in the first place; the brutal pepper spray video and scenes of mass arrests at its outset. All that said, I still don't think I have a clear handle on what, if any, agenda was involved in cohering the protests. I think the closest is the "this is what democracy looks like" chant with the idea of a horizontal non-authoritarian power structure. And I'd have to second Mr. Sanchez's deconstruction of that as a woefully utopian view that can only exist if you are surrounded by a few hundred people who generally share the views and outlooks on politics that you do. It dies the moment you encounter irreconcilable differences in cultural outlook (eg, social conservativism vs social liberalism) and have to resort to more than chants to shout down your opponents. Or even, shudder, have to listen to them instead of pretending that they just don't understand you (which they almost certainly have a deformed opinion, but as do you of them).

I'd also agree the "we are the 99%" troupe was silly and useless. Yes it highlights wealth inequality but it offers, by itself, no discernible paths to resolving that inequality.

There's been a fuss over e-cigarettes finally. I'm not a smoker. I find the habit disgusting. That said, I've also opposed state-enforced bans on smoking in restaurants, bars, most public spaces, etc. I find it more or less concentrates smoking in a handful of places that carve out legal exceptions ("private clubs" for instance) and that the places that are actually effectively banned were probably on their way out for permitting smoking anyway and didn't need the architecture of the state to control for it (most restaurants for instance). Plus I think that lacking the social enforcement desirable in most restaurants, such a ban is legally unenforceable anyway. With this said, I also find that if people are going to smoke, or otherwise attempt to ingest nicotine, then we should aim for the safest, healthiest ways for them to do so with the least possible harms to others. Secondhand smoke looks to me like more of a nuisance than a public danger, but if we can eliminate it entirely, as e-cigarettes do, then I won't complain. I'm a little confused as to why it is that the usually harm reductive liberals are the ones campaigning most vigorously to oppose these things and (maintain the) ban e-cigarettes. Evidently there's some obsession concerning cigarettes and/or nicotine that doesn't arrive concerning cocaine... except that nicotine patches and gum are perfectly acceptable. Maybe it's just the social phenomenon of watching people light up and blow on something (as evidenced by the changes in movie ratings relating to smoking?). Again, I don't quite understand this. It would seem to me that a society should aim for allowing people to do marginally dangerous things to their own bodies by choice (tattoos, consuming alcohol/tobacco/narcotics), provided that these things aren't hazardous to others (eg, pollution). Why get worked up about some people puffing out water vapor from fake cigarettes? Especially when the alternative is these same people puffing out secondhand smoke from real cigarettes? It sounds like a "for the children!" problem relating to the old gateway drug theory. But again, these are purported harm reduction liberals. Gateway drugs isn't exactly a fashionable theory among such people. Or really anyone who understands drugs.

My best guess would be that there's a crazy alliance between tobacco farmers and companies, the FDA/DEA types who just want to ban everything, and some overzealous anti-smoking campaigners.

Concurrent to that. Apparently all the smart kids are druggies. Or something. Actually that's not quite right, but essentially, if you have a smart kid, expect them to be more experimental. So to speak. And don't expect them to listen to the usual bullshit lines concerning drugs, sex, etc. Speak to them like an adult and trust them to make sensible decisions based on reliable information. Speak to them like a child and they are going to ignore you. My own pet theory on why there's such a disparity between drug use among regular people and the smart ones is that smart people are much more likely to be part of any counter-cultural "radical" behavior. We make up the core of atheists. Of libertarians. Of anarchists. Of socialists. And so on. It's a lot easier for intelligent people to consume complex arguments and construct sensible ones of their own concerning such radical "anti-social" behavior. It's also a lot easier for smart kids to "get in trouble" and then get away with it. They'll think it through more. This encourages a little bit of playing with the boundaries.

This result has some immediate policy implications. For instance, to those idiotic notions of drug-testing welfare recipients. This flies in the face of the argument that only pathetic losers are using drugs (intelligence also correlates with relative success people in the workplace and academia as a means toward self-advancement also). There are related studies suggesting that it's largely white-middle class people out there buying and consuming narcotics, and then a much smaller collection of browner addicts who get busted for it. Combined with the actual results of such initiatives as Florida's (that is, that 98% of tests come back negative and the state must now pay for the drug testing as well as welfare benefits), it suggests that a) most drug users don't need welfare in the first place, b) most drug users who would aren't going to apply for welfare anyway (they have other problems). As a second problem, it helps explain why those stupid DARE programmes don't work. Showing intelligent children drugs isn't likely to garner their cooperation in turning in their parents (the real purpose of such programmes) and isn't likely to turn them aside from their use. Because now instead of scary words and chemical names, they just look like powder and leaves.
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