Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Dan Savage is blogging for Andrew Sullivan. This made me laugh and laugh. I don't think it's exclusive to Irish Catholics.
"Making dark comments about the likelihood of an unhappy outcome is the way we Irish Catholics deal with anxiety, dread, and uncertainty. It’s our special pact with God: If we expect the worst, obsess about it, worry about it, drink about it, indulge in black humor, and honestly convince ourselves that something awful is going to happen, then God will step in and prevent said awful thing from happening just to mess with our heads. But you have to sincerely expect the worst, not just go through the motions. It’s when you expect good things to happen or keep happening—when you presume upon God—that bad things happen. Remember what happened when the Irish presumed upon all those potatoes?
So by working myself up into a “they’re all going to die!” frenzy yesterday, I single-handedly saved the lives of everyone on board the Space Shuttle. You don’t have a thank me."
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Damn I'm good. This was in the NY Times today.
America has a serious drug problem, but it's not the "meth epidemic" getting so much publicity. It's the problem identified by William Bennett, the former national drug czar and gambler.(Link added by me.) Change is in the wind.
"Using drugs," he wrote, "is wrong not simply because drugs create medical problems; it is wrong because drugs destroy one's moral sense. People addicted to drugs neglect their duties."
This problem afflicts a small minority of the people who have tried methamphetamines, but most of the law-enforcement officials and politicians who lead the war against drugs. They're so consumed with drugs that they've lost sight of their duties.
Like addicts desperate for a high, they've declared meth the new crack, which was once called the new heroin (that title now belongs to OxyContin). With the help of the press, they're once again frightening the public with tales of a drug so seductive it instantly turns masses of upstanding citizens into addicts who ruin their health, their lives and their families.
Amphetamines can certainly do harm and are a fad in some places. But there's little evidence of a new national epidemic from patterns of drug arrests or drug use. The percentage of high school seniors using amphetamines has remained fairly constant in the past decade, and actually declined slightly the past two years.
Nor is meth diabolically addictive. If an addict is someone who has used a drug in the previous month (a commonly used, if overly broad, definition), then only 5 percent of Americans who have sampled meth would be called addicts, according to the federal government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
That figure is slightly higher than the addiction rate for people who have sampled heroin (3 percent), but it's lower than for crack (8 percent), painkillers (10 percent), marijuana (15 percent) or cigarettes (37 percent). Among people who have sampled alcohol, 60 percent had a drink the previous month, and 27 percent went on a binge (defined as five drinks on one occasion) during the month.
Drug warriors point to the dangers of home-cooked meth labs, which start fires and create toxic waste. But those labs and the burn victims are a result of the drug war itself.
Amphetamine pills were easily available, sold over the counter until the 1950's, then routinely prescribed by doctors to patients who wanted to lose weight or stay awake. It was only after the authorities cracked down in the 1970's that many people turned to home labs, criminal gangs and more dangerous ways of ingesting the drug.
It's the same pattern observed during Prohibition, when illicit stills would blow up, and there was a rise in deaths from alcohol poisoning. Far from instilling virtue in Americans, Prohibition caused them to switch from beer and wine to hard liquor. Overall consumption of alcohol might even have increased.
Today we tolerate alcohol, even though it causes far more harm than illegal drugs, because we realize a ban would be futile, create more problems than it cured and deprive too many people of something they value.
Amphetamines have benefits, too, which is why Air Force pilots are given them. "Most people took amphetamines responsibly when they were freely available," said Jacob Sullum, the author of "Saying Yes," a book debunking drug scares. "Like most drugs, their benefits outweigh the costs for most people. I'd rather be driving next to a truck driver on speed than a truck driver who's falling sleep."
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Case in point. There seems to be a confluence of stories lately, keeping this issue from fading away. From a cancer patient choking to death on his own puke after being ordered not to smoke medicial marijuana or face prison. To the Supreme Court Raich case, ruling that the government can regulate and prosecute whatever they feel like if they call it interstate commerce, (regardless of whether it crosses state borders or money changes hands.) People are much less likely to squawk at their reps over this issue, but don't be surprised to see opinion polls swing pretty dramatically, followed by fiscal arguments. This kind of bullshit is nonsense and it should send chills down your spine. What will they be looking for next?
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