How to Really Help the Economy: Tax Drugs

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A Harvard senior lecturer in economics wrote an article on legalizing drugs that I found pretty interesting.

The fact that alcohol prohibition was legalized during the great depression is an important lesson. But there’s a huge difference between drinking a few beers and shooting up heroine.

However, it’s fair to say that legalizing drugs has not been tried. There is a slew of questions surrounding the practicality of such a drastic change in policy, but I wholeheartedly agree that our drug policy in the united states is puritanical and draconian.

Questions I’d have:

  • What would be the deterministic health consequences? Would the toll on the psyche and well-being of society be too much if we trusted people to control themselves?
  • How can you weigh the benefits of reducing the power of drug cartels with the increase in DUI deaths and personal losses for people who will battle addiction?
  • Would this even increase the amount of abusers? People who gamble find ways to gamble, people who do drugs already find ways to do it — is it a myth that everyone would suddenly rush to do drugs?

I think the argument against legalization is based largely on precedent and less on metrics — since a lot of it is just speculation. I don’t have many doubts that we’d be able to save money and increase revenue drastically at the same time — and we could channel a small percentage of funds to education, support and rehab instead of spending so much on enforcement and incarceration.

Think about it.

Energy Consumption and Assholes

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I’ve read a lot about how to cope with assholes, what the telltale signs of assholes are and how to be aware of when you are an asshole to other people. I even met an expert on the subject.

One of the things missing from The No Asshole Rule was how to estimate a positive worker’s contributions.

On top of operational performance there’s a fuzzy area you’d like to be able to measure, and that’s how someone’s attitude impacts the office. Do they generally piss people off? Do they encourage others and nurture growth?

This can be measured in terms of energy. I recall vaguely that a professor was experimenting with evaluations of workers by conducting surveys that measured energy expense towards an individual. For example, if talking to Mike at work is very draining and leaves you tired or frustrated, he has a negative impact on your work environment. On the other hand, if Mike is fun to work with and lifts you up, makes you a little happier every time you talk to him, that’s a plus.

And what do most people know about dealing with assholes? It’s very draining.

Sure, it’s healthy to understand and identify assholes, but it’s also worth thinking about your energy and its tangible effect on others. So next time you’re pissed off or irritated in a meeting, think — am I draining energy from this meeting or supplying it? Will the people I’m dealing with feel drained after this?

Granted, we’re not going to always be bouncy and huge balls of positive energy in the workplace. But over time, the sum of your interactions creates a net positive or negative flow of energy between you and the people you work with. I think we should strive to give more than we take.

Maybe it’s karma, but it’s definitely there, whatever it is. If we paid more attention to our energy consumption it’d make work a better place.

MLK

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I wrote this post a few years ago about Martin Luther King. The man had some great common-sense ideas, and if you don’t know much about him, you should.

Old Guy in a Seersucker Shirt

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“Boy aren’t you pretty? I’m falling in love already,” he says. The waitress looks uncomfortable and doesn’t make eye contact.

“What can I get for you? We have our happy hour menu here,” she replies quietly. I wince from the next table.

Sitting here in a restaurant at the airport, I’m not too impressed with old guy’s charm. Thanks to him, my airport rants may be turning into a series and I’m publicly turning into a full-blown curmudgeon.

While I don’t automatically hate this guy (even though I hate his shirt and how he yells at his phone like the guy from trigger happy tv), he made me think about old school vs. new school and the fine line between the socially acceptable and head-shaking statements that we walk these days.

Remember the face Lee Trevino had in Happy Gilmore? Yeah.

People are pretty quick to shut down any sort of complimentary gaffe an old guy makes at a young lady these days. And I’m not totally sold on this. On one hand, he’s offering her a compliment, and who doesn’t like compliments. If an old lady said that to me, I’d feel a little weird but probably wouldn’t be offended.

Granted, I wouldn’t go up to someone at work and say that kind of cheesy shit. “You look nice today,” or something is appropriate if you really have to walk the line. But is the old guy officially a creep for saying what he said? Nah.

Though I initially rolled my eyes and didn’t like the guy, I think he’s just old. So yeah, he sounds like a douchebag but I think it’s a stretch to say he’s objectifying women and a chauvinist. Maybe if he said, “hey, nice tits! get me a beer, wench!” But he just said she was pretty, and was probably right.

Tune in next week, where I bitch about how people wait for their bags at the baggage claim and other nuggets of airport etiquette.

Reclining Airplaine Seats and Your Addiction to Nothingness

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The woman in front of me has her seat all the way back, but I don’t believe the extra 5 degrees is doing her much good.

It does succeed, however, at giving her the illusion of being more comfortable at the expense of cramping my shit. As an added bonus, everytime she moves around, it slams the top of my laptop a little closer. As it is, I can barely read what I’m typing because my screen is tilted towards me an extra 5 degrees to match her seat back.

There are a lot of pointless comforts in life. Sitting here in this cramped plane, I can start off by pointing out that this reclining seat business it bullshit. I obviously have selfish motives but the lady in front of me doesn’t need the extra space, she just thinks she does. And she uses it because it is there.

So how many things in your life fit that mold? What in your life do you mindlessly rely on or indulge in that fits these criteria:

  • You’ve always done it
  • You use it because it’s there
  • It doesn’t really make that big of a difference
  • It has some sort of residual cost to your environment

So I meandered. We are in a society based on consumption and infinite growth. Agent Smith was right on that whole virus analogy, I’m afraid. Small comforts make us waste even more but we don’t usually think about things like environmental costs, cost of ownership or how it affects others or oursevles long-term.

So what comforts fit that category? I’ll take a shot:

  • Bottled water – using a reusable container is just as easy, but if I have a case of this stuff I’m likely to grab a new bottle every time just because it’s there.
  • Fast food – it’s yummy but it’s not really that yummy, it’s just a habit and it ends up costing considerably more given the gas used, packaging disposed of and calories ingested.
  • Cars with more than 300 horsepower – great, you can get to the red light faster, and you feel better about your mangina. But when you’re not showing off how quickly you can accelerate from 0 to 35 when you see a hot chick in the lane next to you, you’re getting shitty fuel economy and a bumpier ride with less legroom for your friends. Is it worth it?
  • Trucks that are more than twice the size of a normal car and can’t fit into a parking garage – yeah, you could potentially tow your entire house or your boat, but for the other 90% of the time you’re wasting gas, can’t find parking and if you rear-ended someone you’d probably ramp off of their car onto another car because your lifted tires are taller than most Asian people. You shine your headlights into the back of my car and drive too fast when the roads are icy even though having a big truck doesn’t do shit for traction. You are ridiculous and won’t admit it, truck man.
  • Costco – I love Costco, don’t get me wrong. But do you ever find yourself wanting to buy 8 of something just because it seems like a good deal? You buy that 2000 pack of AA batteries, the 1 gallon of soy sauce, the 1.5L olive oil. What the hell? You could have grabbed that stuff at a fraction of the cost at Safeway. You know you have mounds of Costco shit in your cupboards that you’ll probably throw away some day. You bought it because it seemed like a good deal, now you have the cost of owning so much of somethign that it takes up a crapload of space in your house for a couple years. Was it worth it?
  • Shopping online – this is a tough one, because I love shopping online. But a lot of the things I buy online I could buy locally for about the same price once you consider shipping. By ordering online you agree to wait, pay shipping and you generate more waste and have a bigger carbon footprint. Do you have a pile of boxes and packing material in your house from all the shit you ordered online? If you do, try shopping around locally a bit — there’s stuff on craig’s list, coupons in the Sunday paper. Then again, did you even need all that shit in the first place? Do you even use it every day? Think about it.
  • Alcohol – I love beer and whiskey. But I don’t need it. If it’s in the fridge or around the house I’ll just drink it like soda, but water does the job just fine. It’s expensive and usually comes in disposable containers that fill up the recycling bin. I am thinking it might be worth home brewing, drinking less and learning how to deal with stress in other ways besides popping open a cold one (all this probably won’t happen, we have our vices).
  • TV – holy shit do people watch a lot of TV. Read a book, assholes! Go volunteer somewhere! Write poetry! You pay probably $50 a month for cable or more and couple it with your internet and don’t even think about it. What if you didn’t have TV? What is the opportunity cost of having HD heaven at your fingertips? I watch a lot of basketball. I could go to a bar with my friends and watch it there, go to a Blazers game instead of sitting at home and watching it or just go join a leage and play it myself (which is more fun in a lot of ways).
  • Video games – I play them, and am aware of how addictive these can be. But for the same amount of time you could volunteer, pick up a consulting job, or just work at burger king. All are more productive alternatives. The kicker is that you’re paying for stuff like WoW. WTF? Last time I payed money to spend that much time doing something was college. If you’re spending more than 20 hours a week on this bullshit, put down the mouse/xbox controller/wii remote and go outside. Adventures await you in real life! You can improve your real life stats and experience! You can increase your own hit points!
  • Designer shit – I’m not sure what compels people to spend $800 on a purse or $10,000 on a watch. But if you have that much extra income, you could probably spend that money more wisely. I’ve found that as I’ve made more money in life I’ve found ways to spend it. Think of how you lived when you made less money and compare it to how you live now. You go out to eat more, buy more pointless electronics, buy nicer things — but you don’t need all of it and could do without.

You don’t benefit much from the extra 5 degrees. And even if you do have some small happiness from your luxuries, they come at a direct or indirect cost. So often we don’t consider the true cost of things. We are the lady sitting in front of me pounding the back of my laptop display.

Don’t be that lady all the time. She annoys the crap out of me and makes it hard to see what I’m typing. Sometimes you have to smack the back of the chair in front of you a few times.

I probably won’t do that right now, even though it’d be hilarious to healthily disrupt her 5 degree bliss. But hey, it’s just a metaphor and I don’t want to be a dick.

Marriage should fall under the First Amendment

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A core principle for our government is the separation of church and state. Tuesday many states showed that the American people believe that it is acceptable to single out a group of people and deny them equal rights. They are wrong.

The ballot measures passed this Tuesday make the election bittersweet. The right person was elected president, and America showed their distrust and disgust with the way things have gone in Washington.

Why, then, such a backwards-facing and hateful election in the state arena? Keep in mind that 50% of the United States was voting for McCain. This after terrorist accusations, false socialism fear mongering, blatant hypocrisy and political scandal all at the forefront of their campaign. For me, in hindsight, the question isn’t why Obama won, but why wasn’t this race a landslide in the popular vote?

Racism? Ignorance? Intolerance? Fear? Discrimination? Fox News?!

They are alive and well in America. Americans everywhere made it clear that they don’t understand the difference between a Muslim and a terrorist. They made it clear that honesty is low on their list of priorities when it comes to choosing a presidential candidate. We learned that the content of someone’s character still competes with the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. And we learned that 50% of this nation is pretty easy to mislead if you say the right lies.

Yet we claim to be ready for change. Yeah, right. Maybe when it’s convenient for us.

We still have a lot of work to do. We have a lot to answer for and a lot to live up to. The conservative movement has damaged us, and tricked this country into abandoning two key values in many areas – separation of church and state and equality.

How can we claim to be REAL Americans when we try to create laws that impose religious beliefs on others? The constitution doesn’t say all are created equal with an asterisk. You aren’t exempt for your rights as an American if you’re Muslim or gay. You don’t make exceptions to these ideals when it suits your homophobia or religious intolerance.

Even in the highest court of our land, Larry Flynt was defended for freedom of speech. Even a pig has rights. And he said something very important that we should remember: “Majority rule only works if you’re also considering individual rights. Because you can’t have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper.”

States should not have the power to trample individual rights. States with homogenized demographics and little or no minority representation should not have the power to amend their constitutions to deprive people of their right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

So with this marriage thing — what is considered by most to be a religious institution should not be influenced by laws. State and federal rights for married couples should be completely blind to religion or value systems. In fact, in many countries such as Germany this is a clear and obvious line that has to be drawn.

What if someone belonged to a religion where it was common practice to support gay marriage, and it was a part of the beliefs of that church? Would it still be okay to prevent members of that religion from getting married?

The laws passed in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida and California are not really American at all. They subscribe to the same old beliefs that our ancestors ran from when they escaped religious persecution in England. They perpetuate the same hate and discrimination found at the center of our last civil war. These laws tear the fabric of freedom and what our country was founded on.

No matter which way you cut it, those ballot measures are being used to divide us and take rights away from a group of people who should be considered equal.

It’s bullshit.