- Costco run and dinner with Mary and Paul yesterday. They
mentioned that they were also watching Big Love,
so I asked them what they thought about polygamy. As I expected, their
attitude was similar to Barbara's and my own: as long as it's voluntary
and only adults are marrying each other, it's no one's business but the
people involved. Unfortunately, we had that discussion in the parking
lot of Harbor Freight. We should have saved it for dinner so that we
could have made our waitress's eyes bug out, as frequently happens. My
favorite was the time we were talking about how to poison someone while
avoiding being detected by the various forensics toxicology tests. For
that one, we actually had several waitresses hanging out near our table
to follow the conversation.
We're still making little progress on house-training Colin. It's bad
enough that when he actually defecates outside, which has now happened
only twice in the last six weeks, Barbara calls it an accident.
Fortunately, he almost always goes to the hall bathroom, which has a
ceramic tile floor. We keep a mop and a bucket of Lysol in there.
a bit concerned because for the last few days Colin hasn't been eating
much. We keep food down for him constantly (no, that's not an issue for
house-training because he's completely unpredictable anyway) and he had
been eating the normal amount for his age and weight, about 4 cups a
day. The last three days, he's averaging only one cup or so per day,
but he's not showing any distress and seems as happy and energetic as
ever. I wonder if he's on a short growth break and doesn't need as much
food. He doesn't eat unless he's hungry.
He's also changed his
sleeping habits. Ordinarily, he'd jump up on the bed when Barbara and I
went back to put on our pajamas, and then follow me out to the den,
where I'd read for a while. We'd do a last time out and then go back to
bed, where he'd jump up and chew one of his toys for a few minutes
before jumping down and settling in for the night on his dog bed on the
floor next to my side of the bed. The last couple of nights he's slept
up on the bed all night, curled up against Barbara's legs.
This week, I'm starting to promote the kits by sending unsolicited
commercial email. Spam, you say? Not really. I'm not doing
indiscriminate bulk email. I'm sending individual messages to a mailing
list of about 1,300 addresses, all of which are published contact
addresses for various homeschool groups and co-ops, homeschool magazine
reviewers, small private schools, and so on. I don't object to such
targeted emails sent to me, and I suspect few if any of the recipients
will object to what I send them.
I've no interest in beauty pageants, but this year's Miss USA was
apparently notable for the "difficult" questions asked of the
contestants. One of those was: "Should evolution be taught in public
schools?" Now, it seems to me that that's about as difficult a question
as asking if reading or mathematics should be taught in public schools,
but apparently the contest organizers considered the question
"difficult" because it would force contestants to straddle a fine line
between rational people and religious nutters.
I didn't watch the program, so I'm depending on a video clip
But apparently, of the 51 contestants, 45 were cowardly twinkies. Only
six of them, including the eventual winner, responded affirmatively.
That video starts out with some of the cowardly twinkies; the eventual
winner, who describes herself as "a huge science geek", is at about
1:56 in, and she's followed by the others who spoke in favor of
What interested me was how these young women
came across. Ignoring whether they spoke in favor of or against
teaching evolution, the ones earlier in the video come across as
brainless twits, while just from their manner those from 1:56 on come
across as thoughtful, intelligent young women.
I got a call the other night from my three best friends from my former
life in Pennsylvania. I hadn't talked to them in probably 15 years.
That's Fred Shields on the left and David Silvis in the middle, both
of whom were close friends from elementary school through
and beyond. Although Bruce Allshouse, on the right, lived only four
blocks from me, he was outside the city limits and so went to the
Neshannock Township schools rather than the city schools. We didn't
meet until we were in college, where we became regular duplicate bridge
was going to say that I'd never have guessed how we'd all turn out, but
that's not true. In fact, I could have guessed and probably not been
far wrong. Fred is a registered nurse, David is an emergency room
physician, Bruce is a CPA, and I write science books.
said it would be only fair to post images of ourselves as well. I
mentioned that I planned to Photoshop my head onto Arnold
Schwarzenegger's body, but Barbara said then I'd have to Photoshop her
head onto Callista Flockhart's body. All that Photoshopping seemed like
work, so I decided just to post recent images of both of us. So here we
are at the baseball game we went to a couple weeks ago, which is the
only recent image I have of myself.
Oh, wait. I forgot that Barbara took this one a few days ago at Maker
Faire North Carolina.
For mid-June, it's a pretty nasty day. It's currently 95 °F (35 °C) and
about 60% relative humidity. I just had Colin out in the front yard,
trying to keep him in the shade, when the mail truck arrived at the
house across the street. I shouted to the mailman to ask him if he
needed ice or water.
During summers in college, I worked
for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. And, despite all the
jokes about guys standing around leaning on shovels, we worked our
My first day, they told me I was to be the flagman, the guy who holds
the big Stop-Slow sign to control traffic. I was quietly suspicious.
would they give the FNG what seemed to be the easiest job? I soon found
Flagging is both the hardest and the most dangerous job on
a road crew. It's easy to be run down by drivers who aren't paying
attention, and that's not counting the ones who actually come after you
on purpose. I once had a car actually follow me across the
shoulder and several meters of wild grass and almost up into the trees
along the road before the driver desisted. Twice, I ended up on
someone's hood, and one of those times I nearly had to attempt a
somersault over the roof of the car.
But overall, flagging is
harder than it is dangerous. For one thing, you're often working when
it's near body temperature in the shade, and there's usually very
little shade. Our foremen carried a 5-gallon water cooler on the backs
of their pickup trucks, and a crew of five guys very often went through
three or four coolers a day. The sweat just runs off of you, and you
have to drink water by the gallon and take salt tablets or you'll pass
out or worse.
But the worst part is having to move to keep up
with a moving crew. By the nature of the work, drivers always see the
flagman standing still. The next time you're stopped by a flagman,
after he passes your group of traffic, try looking in your rear-view
mirror. Quite often, you'll see the flagman running towards you. The
worst job is working with a paver.
Not those little tail-gaters
that are hung off the back of a ten-ton dump and dragged along behind
to repave small parts of the road. I'm talking about a paving machine,
which is self-propelled and requires a fleet of dump trucks to keep it
fed. Depending on how far away the source of the hotmix is, it can
require 10 or more dump trucks to keep the paver from running out of
hotmix. The thing only moves a couple of miles per hour, but that means
the flagmen have to run at a Marathon or faster average pace to keep
up. But you don't run at the average pace. You stand still for a long
time and then sprint. You assume a position immediately behind the
paver and stop traffic. After several groups of cars have been passed
both directions, the paver is far enough in front of you that you have
to run like hell to catch up to it and assume a new flagging position.
That gets old the first time. Doing it all day long is torturous. Some
days, I ran 20 miles or more.
The first time I got stuck with
that job and understood the implications, I told the other guys it'd be
no problem. They no doubt thought it was show of bravado. But at the
time I was playing tennis seriously, and frequently played best of
seven set matches in the summer sun and heat. As it turned out, the
running wasn't the real problem, at least for me. What I didn't count
on was what a pain in the ass it was to carry that damned 10-foot tall
sign as I ran.
Which brings me to the beautiful girl part. Late
one afternoon, I was almost done in. As I stood there with the Stop
side of my sign displayed, a car pulled up with two pretty college-age
girls in it. They'd apparently just made a stop at McDonalds. The girl
in the passenger seat called me over, handed me her Coke, and said,
"Here. You need this more than I do."
I fell in love with that
girl instantly. Alas, I never saw her again or even learned her name.
But I often think about her, and I hope that life has been good to her.
nowadays, I've made sure that all our delivery people know that I'm
almost always home and that they're always welcome to stop if they need
a cold drink or a hot drink or to warm up or to cool down or to take
shelter from a storm. And the truth is that I'd probably not have ever
thought to do that had it not been for that girl so many years ago.
We're taking orders for and shipping the homeschool chemistry kits, so
other than keeping an eye on inventory and reordering I can put the
chemistry kits on autopilot and turn my attention back to the home
biology lab book and kits, with the forensics lab book and kits in the
Sometimes I feel like the ducks in a shooting
gallery, with things constantly coming at me no matter how many I've
dealt with. Oh, well. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Venus Williams was nearly beaten at Wimbledon
yesterday by a 40-year-old Japanese player, the second-oldest player to
make it past the first round in Open history. (The oldest was Martina
Navritilova, who was in a class by herself.) Venus described how she
was almost beaten.
runs down every ball," Williams said. "She hits every ball basically on
the baseline, hard and flat. If you get it anywhere near the midcourt,
she hits for the corners and comes to the net.
In other words, her opponent played proper tennis, especially for a fast surface.
don't know when or how it happened, but most professional tennis
players no longer keep their groundstrokes deep in the opponent's
court. When I started playing at around age 14, our high school tennis
coach frequently showed up to watch me play and to offer suggestions.
One thing I'll never forget is how he kept harping on keeping the ball
deep in the opponent's court. Doing that keeps constant pressure on the
opponent and greatly reduces his options. Mr. Orlando would yell at me
any time one of my groundstrokes landed more than 18 inches (50 cm)
inside the baseline. And he was absolutely right.
Later on, when
I developed a lot more power and started to hit nearly all my
groundstrokes dead-flat, that was no longer an issue. A hard-hit flat
groundstroke simply can't fall much more than 50 cm inside the baseline; if
it was low enough to do that, it would have hit the net. But even when
I (rarely, and usually under pressure) hit topspin groundstrokes, I made sure to keep them deep in the
If you watch tennis matches from the 70's or
earlier, you'll see that was the common practice back then. Sure,
there'd be an occasional short ball, but a player lucky enough to get
one of those was usually all over it on his way to the net. Recently,
with few exceptions--most of them top-notch players like Sampras-- it's
become almost the norm for groundstrokes to hit just long of the
service line, or even shorter. When I was playing, that would have been
a fast way to lose the point, especially on grass or another fast
surface, but even on clay. Giving an opponent a short ball lets him
punish you with pace on his return, and it also opens up the angles.
And yet, almost none of the pro players get any depth on their
groundstrokes. When a player comes along who does, he usually ends up
winning a lot of matches.
Colin very nearly got a squirrel yesterday.
had forgotten just how fast young Border Collies are. Even at just
barely four months old, Colin's top speed is close to that of an adult
BC in its prime. I guess that's because in the wild, a puppy soon must
be able to keep up with the rest of its pack. And his acceleration is
incredible; from zero to top speed in about one full step.
stalked the squirrel, who didn't seem to be paying him much attention.
When he was about 20 feet (6 meters) from the squirrel, Colin floored
the accelerator. By the time the squirrel could react, Colin had nearly
overrun it. With no time to run, the squirrel did the only thing it
could; it sprang straight up and made a frantic grab for the tree limb
above it. Fortunately for the squirrel, its claws held.
not really. If Colin had caught the squirrel I doubt he'd have hurt it.
Border Collies have all the kill instinct bred out of them. I'll never
forget the time Duncan caught a squirrel. He started from a goodly
distance and the squirrel was too far from a tree to do anything but
run for it. Duncan overhauled the squirrel in nothing flat, and knocked
it rolling. An instant later, there were Duncan and the squirrel, nose
to nose, with the squirrel sitting up on its haunches.
realizing that Duncan wouldn't hurt it, the squirrel made a fatal
mistake. It bit Duncan in the nose. Too fast for the eye to follow,
Duncan grabbed the squirrel and shook it once to break its neck. No
Hmmm. It seems that if the Greek government wants any more money from
other European banks and governments, they're going to have to hold a
fire sale. Everything must go. Roads, bridges, airports, just about
anything that isn't nailed down. Oh, wait. Those are nailed down.
the governments and banks are requiring Greece to sell off more than
$70 billion of its assets before they can get any more loans. I can't
imagine that anyone will be interested in buying Greek roads, bridges,
or airports, which are, after all, in Greece. However, I do plan to bid
if Greece puts the Parthenon up on eBay. If I win the bid, I'll
disassemble the Parthenon and ship it to the US, where it can be
reassembled in a suitable location.
Of course, the Parthenon
can't be expected to produce much revenue for Greece. It's a
fixer-upper, and would require a huge investment to return it to its
original glory. But then the same could be said for most of Greece's
assets, such as they are. Which makes raising $70+ billion via asset
sales somewhere further from extremely unlikely and closer to
impossible. Would you want to own real estate in Greece? I sure
But it's not the asset sales that are going to produce
more rioting in Greece. It's their national sense of entitlement to
live beyond their means at the expense of others, which they have been
doing for many years. The so-called cuts that Greece has already made
in pubic-sector employment, pensions, and so on are at best a sick
joke. The fact that Greek protesters are rioting and throwing Molotov
cocktails in response to such trivial spending cuts doesn't bode well
for what will happen when the real cuts arrive, as they inevitably
Ordinary Greek citizens are demoralized, and for good
reason. They're going to have to get used to, not just a lower standard
of living, but to being dirt poor. Because that in reality is what they
have been for years, what they now are, and what they will
remain for the foreseeable future. All the Molotov cocktails in the
world aren't going to change that. Greece consumes much more than it
produces, and that's simply unsustainable.
Greece in particular
and Europe in general is a sinking ship. Those who can are taking to
the lifeboats. I read a brief interview recently of a Greek college
student who's studying architecture. She's considering giving up
pursuing that degree because, as she says, what's the point of being an
architect when nothing that requires an architect is going to be built
in Greece for a long, long time? Multiply her dilemma by those of all
the thousands of other Greek students who are abandoning studying
useful disciplines, and the disaster is obvious. Greece isn't eating
its seed corn; it finished doing that years ago. It's hard to pull
yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have any bootstraps.
is even more painful than watching the proverbial train wreck. We don't
know exactly when the whole thing will come crashing down, but we know
that, inevitably, crash it must. So, the world watches events
carefully, knowing that it's just a question of time. If additional
loans are not approved by the end of this month, and it's by no means
certain that they will be, the fall of Greece will soon occur. If the
loans are approved, that buys Greece a few more months, but does
nothing to change the eventual outcome.
Poor Greece. The Cradle
of Civilization is about to become the Graveyard of the Euro. Let's
just hope the row of tumbling dominoes stops before it gets across the
Barbara left this morning on a bus tour to Chattanooga or somewhere
like that. She'll be back Sunday. Meanwhile, it'll be wild women and
parties for Colin and me. (I just caught him browsing a puppy porn web
In other news, scientists have discovered at least two
species of pathogenic fungi that are commonly present in dishwashers
worldwide. These fungi are extremophiles, which means they thrive in
conditions that would quickly kill non-extremophile fungi--or just
about anything else--such as very hot water, strongly acidic or basic
solutions, disinfectants, and so on.
Our friend Mary Chervenak
used to be a research chemist in the Dow Chemical biocides division.
(Incidentally, "biocide" has always struck me as a very strange
construction. "Bio" means "life" and "cide" means kill. By definition,
something has to be alive before it can be killed. So why not just call
it the "cides" division?) I remember asking Mary one time if a quart
(946 mL) of 5.25% sodium hypochorite bleach diluted with three parts
water to a gallon would reliably kill on contact any microorganism
other than spore-formers. Her response was something like, "Geez! If
anything survives that, flee screaming from it."
unlikely that even extremophile fungi would survive that treatment, but
just in case I think I'll periodically spray the inside of our
dishwasher with undiluted bleach. Either that, or 30% hydrogen peroxide.
Baichtal posted an article about the home chemistry kit on the MAKE
blog Wednesday (as well as on Geek Dad; Thanks, John!) The description
of the kit mentions that it's suitable for use with a secular
curriculum or a religious curriculum. One of the commenters took issue
with that, wondering what possible difference there could be between
kits designed to support a secular chemistry curriculum and those
designed to support a religious chemistry curriculum.
right, of course. There's no such thing as Christian chemistry or
Jewish biology or Atheist physics. There's just chemistry, biology, and
physics. Religion has nothing to do with science, period. I posted the
following response (well, actually, John posted it for me because the
MAKE blog wouldn't let me log in.)
home schoolers are often concerned that a secular science kit, such as
this one, may include explicit or implicit criticisms of or hostility
toward their religious beliefs. Although our company (and we) are
secular, we wanted religious homeschoolers to know that nothing in our
chemistry kit should be offensive to their religious beliefs.
another commenter noted, this situation is particularly common with
geology (and biology) materials that might contradict the religious
beliefs of fundamentalist Christians, particularly Young Earth
Creationists. We have many science kits planned for future release.
Some of those, such as forensics and physics, are unlikely to offend
anyone regardless of their religious beliefs.
Other kits, such
as earth science and biology, will be secular and may indeed offend the
sensibilities of some (not all) religious homeschoolers. We will flag
those kits prominently to warn anyone who is concerned about their
content that these kits may not be suitable for some religious
Because I'm not particularly sympathetic
toward religion, particularly fundamentalist religions, I'm sure some
people wonder why I care if fundamentalist religious people buy our
kit. Or perhaps they just assume that I've sold out my principles in
order to sell more kits. If you think that explanation is possible, you
don't know me.
The real reason I'm marketing kits to both
secular and religious home schoolers is straightforward: I want all
kids, regardless of their or their parents' religious beliefs or lack
thereof, to be exposed to real, hands-on science.
teaching science presents a real conundrum for fundamentalist home
schoolers. The world of science is inherently secular, so these parents
have two choices, neither of them good from their point of view. First,
they can teach what I'll call simulacrum science using curriculum
materials from Bob Jones, A Beka, or other religious publishers. The
problem with that method is that it teaches their kids fake science,
and those kids go out into the world poorly prepared to deal with
reality, not to mention college science courses. The alternative is to
teach their kids real science. The problem with that method is that it
teaches their kids to think critically, and once kids learn to think
critically, they are going to start thinking critically about things
that their parents would really rather they didn't think critically
I can't begin to count the number of emails I've gotten
from young people who were raised in fundamentalist Christian
homes and tell me that learning real science opened their eyes. Some of
them have remained in their churches, but no longer believe what those
churches teach. Others have joined mainstream churches that do not deny
scientific truths such as evolution and the age of the planet. Many
have become explicitly agnostic or atheist.
So what's a
fundamentalist Christian parent homeschooler to do? The usual solution
is to teach their kids "religious science" and hope for the best. Some
send their kids to religious colleges like Bob Jones University or
Liberty University, which actually do a reasonably good job of
educating their children, with one major exception. Where reality
conflicts with scripture, which it does frequently, those colleges
teach the scripture and ignore the reality, which does their students
the latest author to begin self-publishing is ... J. K. Rowling. Yep,
Harry Potter's mom will self-publish the Potter canon. She claims she
still doesn't plan to write any additional Potter novels, but she does
say she'll be adding newly-written material.
And when I say Rowling will self-publish, I mean she's really
going to self-publish. She has her own website, obviously, but she'll
be selling her ebooks exclusively through that site. Amazon and B&N
don't get a cut. If you want to buy the ebook, you have to buy it
directly from Rowling.
Rowling's ebooks will be DRM-free,
although she does plan to watermark them. I'm not sure why. That horse
has already bolted. Anyone who wants to can find all the Potter novels
for free download with about five seconds of searching. Rowling is also
format-agnostic, so you'll be able to read her ebooks on any ereader.
although Rowling has cut Amazon and B&N out of the picture, she is
going to give her publishers world-wide a percentage. Presumably
a very small percentage, since it's very likely they're legally
entitled to nothing at all. Rowling was smart enough to keep her ebook
One would think this announcement would have created a
shockwave in the traditional publishing world. After all, Rowling is
just the first of the small group of true superstars, most or all of
whom will be abandoning traditional publishing over the coming months
and years. Traditional publishers have to realize that Rowling's
actions doom them, and sooner rather than later. And yet, when I read
the announcement yesterday and immediately checked trad publishing
trade journal websites, there wasn't a word. Dead silence. Of course, I
guess there's really not much to say. The fat lady has already sung.
you think I exaggerate, consider this: although it varies slightly from
publisher to publisher and genre to genre, publishers generally lose
money on about 80% of the titles they publish. In other words, if they
publish 100 titles, they're likely to lose money on about 80 of
those. Of the remaining 20, they might make pocket change on 15. Of
the remaining five, they might make a reasonable to good profit on
four, but not nearly enough to cover their losses on the bottom 90
titles. What earns the traditional publishers real money, what allows
them to keep their doors open and their lights on and their rent and
salaries paid, is that remaining one title, the
blockbuster title. That 1% of their overall catalog--actually, it's
usually more like 0.1%--is far more important to them
financially than all of the other titles combined. And it's that 0.1%
that is about to disappear, along with many of the
titles by authors from the tier immediately below the superstars.
should come as no surprise to the traditional publishers. After all,
why should authors like Rowling continue to, in effect, subsidize those
publishers and less popular authors? No doubt, those publishers have
offered Rowling and her few peers much better royalty rates than they
pay lesser earners, but the publishers simply can't afford to offer
them royalty rates anywhere near what those authors can earn by
self-publishing. In short, those authors who can sell in huge numbers
have no reason whatsoever to do anything other than go it alone.
time: later this year or early next, Dan Brown will announce that he's
going to self-publish. When that happens, the traditional publishers
will no longer be able to hide their heads in the sand. It's already
obvious to nearly anyone who follows what's going on that trad
publishers are doomed and cannot survive no matter what they do, but
the publishers themselves are in industrial-strength denial. When Dan
Brown jumps ship, he won't be the only one jumping. Meyer, Patterson, and many other big-name
authors will jump into self-publishing, and the trad publishers will be
jumping out of their office windows.
- Colin and I both miss Barbara. We wander around the house whining.
downgraded our Netfix account yesterday to the one-disc-at-a-time plan.
Given what cable TV charges for 157-channels-and-nothing-on, I think
Netflix underprices their streaming service. I could have downgraded to
the $8/month unlimited streaming plan, but there's still some stuff we
want to watch that's not available streaming, so I chose the $10/month
plan that gives us one disc at a time. With more and more stuff
becoming available for streaming every day, that should hold us.
shipping another batch of kits today. Frankly, given that early summer
is the slowest time of year for science kit purchases and that such a
kit is not an impulse purchase for most people, I expected pretty much
dead silence after we made the announcement. Instead, the kits are
selling steadily, which is encouraging. Busy time should hit around
mid-August, with people buying kits to start the autumn semester.
I still have no idea what "busy" will mean in terms of units. It could
be three orders per day, or it could be 30. If it's the former, we'll
have no problem keeping up with orders; if it's the latter, we'll be
busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger. And, of course,
component lead time is an issue. We don't want to have the kits
backordered, but on the other hand we don't want to be covered up in
unused components. Fortunately, most of our wholesalers ship pretty
quickly, but they too can have backorder situations.
Ah, well. I'm not one for counting chickens, so we'll just do the best we can and learn what we can.
Hmmmm. Digging through the freezer in search of something to defrost
for dinner tonight, I came across a forgotten package of DNA
restriction enzymes*. It occurred to me that that would be an excellent
question for one of those "Are You a True Geek?" tests. Having DNA
restriction enzymes in one's personal freezer should score a lot of
Fortunately, Barbara has a sense of humor about these
things, although she does draw the line at culturing anything more than
BSL-1 pathogens in her house.
* DNA restriction enzymes are used to cleave DNA at specific
nucleotide sequences. When you see one of those DNA gels on TV with
lots and lots of bands, restriction enzymes were used to break the DNA
into numerous fragments, which were then run on a DNA gel
electrophoresis apparatus. Larger fragments move more slowly through
the gel, so those bands are actually a graphic representation of the
number of base pairs in each fragment produced by the restriction
enzyme. Because the target nucleotide sequences occur at different
positions in different people's DNA, the number, spacing, and intensity
of the bands provides a "fingerprint" of that particular DNA specimen.
Aren't scientists clever?
Hurray! New York is the latest state to legalize same-sex marriages.
This is particularly significant because it's the first time a state
with a Republican-majority legislature has done so. At least some of
the Republicans voted their consciences rather than toeing the party
line. We can hope that Republican legislators in other states will do
usual hate groups, led by the state's Roman Catholic bishops, have
threatened consequences. I wonder by what rationale they have anything
at all to say about marriage, given that they've voluntarily given up
their own right to marry. Of course, they do have plenty of choirboys
- Barbara gets home this evening. Colin and I will do our happy dance.
finally got around to reading the details of that pharmacy shooting,
and what struck me was that here we have four more deaths attributable
to the government's futile "war on drugs". An elderly man who'd stopped
in the pharmacy to fill a prescription for his ill wife. A young mother
of two working behind the counter. A middle-aged pharmacist who was
filling in for a colleague on Fathers' Day. And, perhaps most poignant
of all, an 18-year-old girl who was about to graduate from high school.
more deaths that can be laid at the government's door, among thousands
of such deaths every year. And all in a futile attempt to prevent
people from taking drugs that the government deems unacceptable. These
deaths are notable only because of how they occurred. Thousands of
other deaths go unnoticed because they're not newsworthy, but you can
blame the government for those deaths as well. Drive-by shootings, drug
deals gone wrong, junkies dying from an overdose or contaminated drugs,
meth houses exploding and burning down. Every one of these is a direct
result of the government's ridiculous and futile attempt to control
The so-called war on drugs has been going on for decades.
We've spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the effort, built and
staffed otherwise-unneeded prisons, and done what may be irreparable
damage to the Constitution. And drugs are as readily available now as
they ever were. But the government has succeeded in one respect:
they've made something that should be cheap very expensive. Expensive
enough to be worth killing for.
I was stunned the other day to
learn that the street price of oxycodone is $1 per milligram. I am not
making this up. An 80 mg oxycodone tablet sells on the street for $80.
Is it any wonder that the body count keeps rising? If the free market
were operating, that $80 oxycodone tablet might cost about $0.25. With
no money to be made in drugs, drug cartels and drug dealers see their
business models disappear overnight. And the high level of corruption
among legislators, police, and judges would also take a major hit. When the
flood of money disappears, most other drug-related problems disappear in
At least one politician recognizes the problem and is
taking action to roll back this ridiculous war on drugs. That
politician, of course, is Ron Paul. He's attempting to get a bill
through Congress that would eliminate federal laws against marijuana. A
small start, but a start nonetheless. Paul rightly argues that this is
a states' rights matter, which should make it very difficult for the
Republicans and Tea Partiers to do anything other than support the
bill. They won't, of course.
But we can hope the bill passes,
somehow. Eventually, all federal controls on drugs should be removed,
both for street drugs and prescription drugs other than antibiotics.
Doing that would eliminate most or all of the drug problem. And, lest
anyone argue that legalizing marijuana and cocaine and heroin would
result in a huge increase in the number of users of such drugs, be
aware that the converse is much more likely to occur. We saw that with
the end of Prohibition. The number of people who drank declined, as did
the average consumption among people who still drank. The same will
almost certainly happen if all drugs are legalized.
past time to recognize the futility and the ridiculous costs--financial
and otherwise--of government attempts to control drugs. Let's declare
this war lost and move on.