RSSCategory: law and order

Studies show that texting while driving is dangerous

August 30, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Studies show that texting while driving is dangerous

According to the NYT, studies have shown that texting while driving is dangerous because those who text take their eyes off the road for extended periods while reading or sending a text.

Hmmm. Why did it take a study to come to this conclusion? Why not simply follow this logic:

A) You need to take your eyes off the road to read or send texts.
B) This is dangerous.

We certainly don’t need studies to say equally obvious things, such that it is dangerous to drive while

A)watching Youtubes on your smartphone,
B) eating corn on the cob;
C) reading novels on your Kindle; or
D) playing the trumpet.

An easy test for me is to ask whether you would mind riding on a public bus on which the bus driver was both texting and driving. I’m fully in agreement that no one should be texting while driving–I’m glad that the issue is getting some attention.

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Police officers have epiphany: time to legalize and regulate street drugs

August 17, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More
Police officers have epiphany: time to legalize and regulate street drugs

In the Washington Post, two police officers make the case that it’s time to legalize and regulate street drugs. Why? To quit squandering tax dollars, to quit filling prisons with people who don’t belong there and to protect neighborhoods and police officers.

Only after years of witnessing the ineffectiveness of drug policies — and the disproportionate impact the drug war has on young black men — have we and other police officers begun to question the system . . . Drug manufacturing and distribution is too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals. Drug distribution needs to be the combined responsibility of doctors, the government, and a legal and regulated free market. This simple step would quickly eliminate the greatest threat of violence: street-corner drug dealing.

Here’s the “money” quote:

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that ending the drug war would save $44 billion annually, with taxes bringing in an additional $33 billion.

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Heck of a job, CIA psychologists!

August 12, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
Heck of a job, CIA psychologists!

Who were the psychologists who created and oversaw the U.S. torture of its prisoners? Consistent with much else that occurred during the Bush Administration, it turns out that even though they were psychologists, Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen were shockingly unqualified, according to the NYT:

They had never carried out a real interrogation, only mock sessions in the military training they had overseen. They had no relevant scholarship; their Ph.D. dissertations were on high blood pressure and family therapy. They had no language skills and no expertise on Al Qaeda.

According to the NYT article, Mitchell and Jessen now face a possible criminal inquiry.

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Bicycling and finding balance in the rules of the road

July 26, 2009 | By | 5 Replies More
Bicycling and finding balance in the rules of the road

Via Daily Dish, here is a well written post from Steamboats are Ruining Everything regarding:

My principle became, roughly speaking, bike in such a way that even relatively inattentive drivers can be expected to see you and know what you’re going to do next. Also: don’t be annoying to pedestrians. I began halting at red lights and stop signs. (Later I relaxed this somewhat, almost to Idaho rules.) I made sure to bike in the bike lane, if there was one (or on the outer edge of it, if biking inside it was going to put me within swinging distance of the opening doors of parked cars). I stayed off sidewalks. And I never, ever biked the wrong way down a one-way street.

Since having this epiphany, “Steamboats” has loosened up a bit, including his approval of the “stop as yield” law used in Idaho.

I admit that I rarely stop at stopsigns such that my feet both come to the ground. At 1 am, I don’t sit there waiting for the light to change. On a particularly dangerous overpass, I ride on a sidewalk for a quarter-mile. On the other hand, I am aggravated by the bicycle riding behavior of many riders because it is so often dangerous, not because it’s a violation of a law. So often, when you see a cyclist violating a law, he or she is simultaneously breaking five laws. The person I have in mind is the wrong-way rider who violates a stoplight in the dark without any bicycle light, while not wearing a helmet, while failing to signal.

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Our insane drug war, revisited

July 20, 2009 | By | 3 Replies More
Our insane drug war, revisited

Mother Jones has hammered our drug war with undeniable facts . . . well, undeniable unless you are a government official in charge of the “drug war.” In fact, as authors Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery advise us, the entire history of the U.S. “war on drugs” is actually a governmental war on truth.

[T]he drug war has never been about facts—about, dare we say, soberly weighing which policies might alleviate suffering, save taxpayers money, rob the cartels of revenue. Instead, we’ve been stuck in a cycle of prohibition, failure, and counterfactual claims of success. (To wit: Since 1998, the ONDCP has spent $1.4 billion on youth anti-pot ads. It also spent $43 million to study their effectiveness. When the study found that kids who’ve seen the ads are more likely to smoke pot, the ONDCP buried the evidence, choosing to spend hundreds of millions more on the counterproductive ads.) What would a fact-based drug policy look like? It would put considerably more money into treatment, the method proven to best reduce use. It would likely leave in place the prohibition on “hard” drugs, but make enforcement fair . . . And it would likely decriminalize but tightly regulate marijuana, which study after study shows is less dangerous or addictive than cigarettes or alcohol, has undeniable medicinal properties, and isn’t a gateway drug to anything harder than Doritos.

If you want to see a bunch of demoralized people wasting time, park yourself at your local drug court and watch a judge slapping faux sentences on marijuana users and small-time peddlers. Everyone involved knows that the system is a joke–a money sucking time-wasting absurd joke that ruins lives, because every so often someone gets ripped from his or her family, thrown into prison for years. The crime (just to remind you) is that these users wanted to feel pleasure. And sometimes its more absurd: the criminal wanted to escape stress or anxiety and he didn’t have a fancy health insurance policy that would allow a doctor to hand him legal pills that do the same thing. And maybe he didn’t want to legally rot out his liver with alcohol, which is the other way of getting a similar high.

As I’ve made clear many times, I am not promoting drug use of any kind. I just had serious surgery and I could have loaded up on narcotics that were made available to me, but I didn’t because I don’t want that or need that. I’m a lucky person in that regard. I am not interested in altering my mind through chemicals. I am trying to convince my daughters that they should strive for clean drug-free living. But I am aware that many people want or need relief from stressful lives (or from their own misfiring brains) or maybe they want the option to simply chill out. I certainly don’t want to stand in their way any more than I would tell a patient to not take those pills prescribed by her doctor.

It’s time to stop spending billions of tax dollars on a drug war that doesn’t stop drug use and only ramps up violence, destabilizes governments and steals critical services from taxpayers. The drug war is highly immoral, but we won’t be able to fix the situation until we have the courage to have an honest conversation.

Related posts:

The most harmful thing about marijuana is jail (reporting on the opinion of a conservative judge).

The Economist’s argument to stop the war on drugs. (includes the mind-scrambling statistic that the U.S. spend $40 B each year trying to stop the use of illegal drugs).

Johann Hari’s argument that It’s time to stop the drug war. (more shocking statistics)

It isn’t dangerous to use marijuana. (Really, no more dangerous than Doritos)

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Hard work and drugs in America

June 29, 2009 | By | Reply More
Hard work and drugs in America

Ryan Grim has just published This is Your Country on Drugs, and he has presented some of his main ideas at Huffpo.

[O]ur nation diverges sharply from the rest of the world in a few crucial ways. Americans work hard: 135 hours a year more than the average Briton, 240 hours more than the typical French worker, and 370 hours–that’s nine weeks–more than the average German. We also play hard. A global survey released in 2008 found that Americans are more than twice as likely to smoke pot as Europeans. Forty-two percent of Americans had puffed at one point; percentages for citizens of various European nations were all under 20. We’re also four times as likely to have done coke as Spaniards and roughly ten times more likely than the rest of Europe.

What is driving law enforcement regarding drug use. Grim’s answer focuses on our ambivalence toward pleasure:

When pleasure is suspected, American drug use gets tricky, particularly when that high might do some real good, as in the case of medical marijuana.

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Federal Bill introduced to decriminalize marijuana

June 22, 2009 | By | Reply More
Federal Bill introduced to decriminalize marijuana

Citing John Stuart Mill, Barney Frank has introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and use of marijuana in public:

Frank has filed a bill that would eliminate federal penalties for personal possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. It would also make the penalty for using marijuana in public just $100.

This bill would make sense for many reasons including these. Or listen to the reasons of this conservative judge. Or consider these reasons.

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U.S. Supreme Court: no federal right to review DNA evidence

June 20, 2009 | By | Reply More
U.S. Supreme Court: no federal right to review DNA evidence

Here’s the context: 240 convicted felons have now been proven to be totally innocent thanks to analysis of DNA evidence. Many states have enacted laws giving prisoners the opportunity to obtain DNA analysis of critical evidence used at their trials in years past. The U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled, however, that there is no federal constitutional right to DNA evidence that could exculpate a convict.

The Supreme Court said Thursday that a convicted rapist has no constitutional right to test biological evidence used at his trial in Alaska years earlier, leaving it to the states to decide when prisoners get access to genetic evidence that might prove their innocence . . .

Dissenting liberal justices and advocates for prisoners who seek genetic testing complained that the court is penalizing a small group of inmates who lack access to a simple test that would conclusively show their innocence, or reaffirm their guilt.

Here is the full opinion, District Attorney’s Office v. Osborne. Justice John Roberts (supported by the Court’s conservatives) wrote the majority opinion, concluding both of the following:

A) “DNA testing has an unparalleled ability both to exonerate the wrongly convicted and to identify the guilty.” and

B) If you were convicted in one of the handful of states that aren’t willing to analyze the DNA evidence of your case, you’re screwed. Case over. Too bad for you. Why? Because it would mean more work for the federal judiciary.

Way to go, Justice Roberts. You are compiling quite a track record of refusing to look out for the oppressed and powerless. And see here and here.

For more information, visit Project Innocent.

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Steal this anti-addiction drug!

June 15, 2009 | By | Reply More
Steal this anti-addiction drug!

The April 10, 2009 edition of Science (available online only to subscribers) reports that Naltrexone (a drug used for treating addictions) has been dramatically successful in treating compulsive shoplifting. The relevant study was published in the April 2009 edition of Biological Psychiatry.

Sounds like yet more evidence that doing what’s “right” is not simply a matter of morality? God, meet Naltrexone . . . This is not to excuse all shop-lifters, but it should make the law-and-order crowd stop to think more seriously about their simplistic views of how to deal with “criminals.” Makes me wonder how many other sorts of “criminals” are normal folks struggling with low-level biological issues . . .

Here are more examples of low-level processes that drive behavior. At TED, cognitive researcher Nancy Etcoff spells out (starting about 14:00 mark) three lower level systems that underlie reproduction: Lust (sex hormone driven), romantic attraction (dopamine driven) and attachment (oxytocin driven). Etcoff also cites psychologist John Gottman for a good strategy for a happy marriage: make sure that the spouses say at least five positive things for each negative thing. That’s how powerful and socially dysfunctional it is to utter negative things.

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