Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Wacked Out War on Drugs

For many years I have been fighting to persuade people to agree with my perspective on the government’s “war on drugs”. Basically, I believe that all drugs should be legalized, with some restrictions. This belief arises not just from an urge to experience different states of mind myself but also economic and safety reasons as well.

In the US, marijuana is the largest cash crop, meaning it makes more money (~$25 billion per year) than any other plant grown and sold, including wheat (~$19 billion), tobacco, cotton, and corn. Why don’t we tax this huge pot of money, control its distribution, and save a whole hell of a lot of money spent on prisons, law enforcement (coast guard, boarder patrol, and police)?

Doctors have been using the dissociative drug Ketamine for a long time now to anesthetize patients. It has also been used as party drug because at slightly lower doses Ketamine can produce hallucinations and out of body experiences. Recently researchers have also found that at lower doses than those used at parties, Ketamine actually works incredibly well as an anti-depressant.

If other psychoactive drugs, such as LSD, Mescaline, or MDMA can also have such positive results should the government reschedule them as Schedule II drugs so that physicians and researchers can more easily purchase them for use in medical research? LSD and Mescaline have both been shown to help treat schizophrenia, alcoholism, and several other diseases and they are not addictive or cause any physical toxic effects.

What about the drugs that do cause addiction in some people and can be very damaging to their health and life? Well one thing that legalizing the drugs would do is put the drugs in the hands of people who know what they are doing with them. Pharmacists, if they were going to sell the drug, could be legally forced to maintain an online list of people who have purchased the drug and the date that it was purchased on, that way they would know not to sell to anyone who had purchased a dose of Heroine within the last week, or whatever arbitrary time is needed for the brain to recuperate from a dose of Heroine, from any pharmacist connected to the network. Pharmacists would also have to give sterile needles. The addictive nature of Heroine does not manifest itself until after multiple successive uses of it that cause a tolerance to build in the person using the drug. The tolerance is an indicator that the brain chemistry has been altered and there is now a dependence on the drug to maintain a normal state of mind and sensation, this is called addiction. If enough time is separated between each use then a tolerance never builds and the damaging effects on the brain are greatly reduced, if not altogether eliminated.

So in conclusion, the US could make billions of dollars by taxing drug sales, reducing the number of people in prisons, and by no longer wasting money trying to prevent the import of the drugs. Control on who used the drugs would be far greater, and therefore usage would be far safer, and new therapies for difficult to treat diseases and disorders could be researched. The is no good reason to make drugs illegal as far as I can see. Making drugs legal would make them easier to get but would also make them less dangerous and better information surrounding their use could be disseminated (D.A.R.E. would have to stop lying about the negative effects of use of marijuana, and other drugs).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Civil Unions

I think this is one of the most divisive issues facing the people of this country today. Gay marriage has been outlawed in 32 states, including Hawaii, where the denial of a marriage license to gay couples was ruled as unconstitutional in 1993. That state passed gay marriage legislation in 1998. Massachusetts is currently the only state to allow gay marriages, and their Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that this would only apply to residents. Vermont is the only state that allows Civil Unions, and Arizona recently rejected a same sex marriage measure. The only states that have not addressed the issue with any sort of statute or amendment to their constitutions are: Arizona, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Massachussetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Federal government enacted the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 (signed into law by President Clinton), which bars any same sex couple from the receipt of federal benefits. With an issue as volatile as same sex marriage, it is understandable that few solutions have been proposed.

It is with this wave of legislation, and in discussion with conservatives, that I believe I have an understanding of the real issue. The question I have been asking is whether or not the issue is purely religious, or is it out of a genuine desire to deny same sex couples equal benefits. The resounding answer has been that the only problem conservatives really have with gay marriage, is a religous one. Being an atheist, this is obviously hard for me to understand. What I have been trying to do, rather than stay the course (couldn't help myslef), is to find real solutions for the problems we are facing today. I think that if more people tried to do that, then we might actually start seeing change, and people could start to have faith in something more than their god, they could start having faith in their government.

With the same ferocity that religious groups fight the idea of gay marriage, homosexuals understandably reject the idea of civil unions. The thought that any American is denied a right is repugnant, but marriage isn't a civil right. If it were me, anything less than what another is offered, is unacceptable and discriminatory. This is what makes it so hard to understand how so many people in this country approve of bans on same sex marriage. How could anyone deny something as personal as marriage to another, after all, isn't what happens in the bedroom off limits to legislation? But what I've come to understand is that the right doesn't see marriage as something that CAN be offered to homosexuals. Their faith doesn't allow it, and so they can't understand the idea either.

If it truly is a religious issue, then I believe I can offer a solution. Marriage is a religious instituion. It was founded within organized religion, and is mired with its rituals and rules. At some point along the way, the institution became one recognized as a secular one. It offers us tax incentives, and has an entire court devoted to it. The concept of family itself is only granted by someone holding a license, who is married someone else with a license. I can certainly understand why incentives are offered to families. The median household income in the United States hovers around $50,000. The keyword being household. If families are to ever make it, and if children are going to get the opportunities they deserve in order to become useful, productive members of our society, then we owe it to them to help in any way we can. However, the presence of children is not what defines a family, just as Marriage doesn't. So I offer this. Remove government from marriage altogether. If it is a religious institution, then let it be. No more licenses, no more state sanctioned marriage. Let the church marry who they believe can be, or should be, and everyone else can obtain a civil union, whether it is a man and a woman, a man and a man, etc. If benefits are not an issue, then extend them to everyone, whether that is a product of a marriage or a civil union. If the Church chooses not to marry homosexuals, then maybe that should be a clue as to what they should believe, but they would be on equal ground with everyone else who obtains a civil union. No person should feel like they are less than another in this country, and it's unfortunate that their are institutions like organized religion that preach this everyday. I'm hopeful that one day I will live in a country where no person is discriminated against by this government.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why rush legislation?

So the Democrats took Congress. As expected, the lame duck, Republican-controlled 109th Congress is scrambling to get in last-minute judge appointments and legislation. Pelosi has the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress planned out. The rush is on to dazzle voters with fresh ideas and fast action. So, what is it we want to see moving forward? Do we want an end to corruption, as many voters indicated in exit polls? Do we want to see a lot of legislation passed as quickly as possible, catering to every whim on the national radar? I think what we can all agree on is that we need compromise. I’d rather see Congressional leadership take the time to develop majority legislation – something that can bring people together. Sadly, politics has turned to picking battles to fight versus finding solutions and reaching compromise. The Bush administration will most likely sign legislation increasing the minimum wage. Will the same be said for stem cell research. Is that the battle that will be fought? We must put an end to steamrolling legislation through Congress simply because we have a slim majority and begin to develop relationships with those on the other side of the aisle. Voters want to see progress. Voters want to see improvement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Welcom Ian

Ian is the newest admin to help work on This Life and Time so pay close attention to see how his posts are sure to add another level interest and open the doors to relevant discussion. We now have three intelligent and intriguing editors for this blog and I am extremely excited to see where this will lead and how new discussions will develop.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Electoral College is neither Educated or Elected

I have been intrigued by the Electoral College, mostly because of the result of the 2000 election, one of four instances whereby a President was elected in the United States, without receiving a majority of the popular vote. Even as I sat in disbelief, watching the elections unfold, I could not bring myself to understand this system. As I’ve researched it, I’ve found out the underlying reason why I would have hesitated to spend the time and effort figuring this baffling system out. It doesn’t make any sense, and that’s why nobody knows how it works!

The idea that we are a nation who elects their leader is engrained in every American’s psyche. It is something we present to the world as a system to live by, and countless have died for it. It is an idea so entangled within our social fabric, that it is a complete mystery as to how 300 million Americans could all not know that it is a complete illusion. Even more astounding, is the incorrect assumption that each person’s vote is equal. Consider this, if only one person in California voted in the 2008 election, then whomever that person voted for, would receive 55 of the 270 electoral votes necessary for a majority. That means one person’s vote could in theory count for 20% of that majority. Granted this is an extreme case, but it reveals the potential flaws in the system. A more practical approach is to look at the more populous States vs. the great void that is the interior of this country. Consider this; Alaska, Deleware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia, carry the same number of Electoral Votes as Florida, but only have 1/3 of the population combined. Therefore, a resident of Florida counts for only 1/3 of that of one of these States.

Below is some more information about the Electoral College. I was interested to know that when you vote for President, your vote actually is going towards an Elector, who is chosen by the parties. 85 times in our Country’s history, an elector has refused to vote as was determined by the populace. These “Faithless Electors” further show just how ridiculous this system is. The idea of Democracy is something I myself hold dear, and I’m disappointed to find out it is nothing more than just that, an idea, that has yet to be practiced in the United States. Any system that has 3 Amendments defining it, and still can’t accomplish the goal, needs to be eliminated.

How many electoral votes does each state have?
AL: 9AK: 3AZ: 8AR: 6CA: 54CO: 8CT: 8DE: 3DC: 3FL: 25
GA: 13HI: 4ID: 4IL: 22IN: 12IA: 7KS: 6KY: 8LA: 9ME: 4
MD: 10MA: 12MI: 18MN: 10MS: 7MO: 11MT: 3NE: 5NV: 4NH: 4
NJ: 15NM: 5NY: 33NC: 14ND: 3OH: 21OK: 8OR: 7PA: 23RI: 4
SC: 8SD: 3TN: 11TX: 32UT: 5VT: 3VA: 13WA: 11WV: 5WI: 11
WY: 3

TOTAL: 538

The Electoral College Today
* Each state is allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Representatives plus its two senators (in CA the total electoral votes is 54).
* The political parties of each state submit a list of individuals pledged to their candidates for president that is equal in number to the number of electoral votes for the state to the State’s chief election official (in CA it is the Secretary of State). Each party determines its own way of choosing its electors.
* Members of the Congress or employees of the Federal government are prohibited from serving as Electors.
* After the parties hold their caucuses and the states hold their primaries, the major parties nominate their candidate for the Office of President. The names are then submitted to the state’s chief election official (in CA, the Secretary of State) as they will appear on the general election ballot.
* On the Tuesday following the first Monday of the month of November, registered voters in each state cast their ballots for the Office of President and Vice President.
* Whichever presidential candidate gets the most popular votes in a State wins all of the Electors for that state except for the states of Maine and Nebraska which award electoral votes proportionately.
* On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December, each state’s electors meet in their respective state and cast their electoral votes (one for President and one for Vice President).
* Each Elector must cast at least one of their two votes (see above) for a person outside of their state in order to prevent the election of a president and vice president from the same state (however, the presidential and vice presidential candidates choose each other as running-mates and are on the same ticket in the popular vote).
* The electoral votes are sealed and sent to the President of the U.S. Senate and are read aloud to both Houses of Congress on January 6.
* The candidate with the most electoral votes, provided there is an absolute majority (over one half of the total vote) is declared president.
* If no one candidate receives an absolute majority of electoral votes the U.S. House of Representatives selects the President from the top three vote-getters.
* On January 20, at noon, the elected president and vice president are sworn into office.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Million Dollar Ideas

I'm tired of getting up at 8am to go to work. I want to be able to do whatever I want whenever I want, but in order to do that I need a lot of money and in order to get a lot of money I have to work. So I've been trying to come up with some ideas on how to limit the amount of work and maximize the amount of money I make. Here is a short list of some, potential, million dollar ideas I have:

1. Sell t-shirts with 3D stereograms printed on them, like Magic Eye posters, where if you cross your eyes and stare at it long enough a 3D image of breasts pops out. Each shirt: $15. Only need to sell 66,666 of them to make a million bucks, and I'm sure there would be a demand much larger than that for such a sweet shirt. Okay, this one might not make me a millionaire but I would love to see that shirt on a girl some day.

2. Culturing autologous keratinocyte stem cells isolated from plucked hairs of the temporal region to be injected back into the scalp to regrow hair for alopecia and burn victims. The cells can also be used for skin grafts. This is a person by person procedure, similar to plastic surgery only non-invasive and no surgical procedures would need to be done only plucking hairs and small intradermal injections of cells. Price per person: $5000. So 200 people would need to be treated before $1,000,000 was made. To cover the cost of setting up a lab to culture the cells and an office to perform the injections about 220 people would need to be treated. Seems easy enough. That would be 1 person per day so in less than one year I could have $1,000,000. There are roughly 6 billion people in the world, 3 billion are men, 2.25 billion men go bald by age 80, 1.5 billion by age 40, 750 million by age 30. A large fraction of women begin to lose hair later in life also. So lets say I was able to treat two people per day working 200 days per year I could have $10 million in 5 years. Not bad. The down side: I would have to hire an MD and the the FDA would have to okay the procedure which takes years and plenty of clinical trials, and requires money. I could, however, do this from my garage easily, black market style, and charge $7000 instead.

3. Create a comedy cartoon where the characters are derived from images of funny graffiti and drawings found while walking the streets of the greater Boston area. There is already Snowman and Freddy and I'm sure in the days to come I will find a lot more.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Welcome Jeremy

I just recently added Jeremy (aka Jerems) as another admin for This Life And Time. Hopefully with his addition and the soon to be addition of Ian we will have more consistent posts, and a larger readership (anything more than one person per month will be an improvement). As always I hope anyone that reads this site will comment on their posts so that we can get good discussions going...plus it makes a writer feel to good to know that they have readers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Pictures


From top left to bottom right:
1. Ben, Jeremy, me, and Ari; Gangster, Carl (from Aqua Teen Hunger Force), Che Guevara, Hermione (Harry Potter).
2. Ari, Paula, Heather, Jeremy, Ian, Lisa, Ben; Paula was a witch, Ian was a Vietnam vet, and Lisa was Snow White.
3. Andrew Rossa, Beatrice aka Bea. I don't remember what they were.
4. Ben, Paula.
5. Ian.
6. Heather.
7. Jeremy.
8. Hui fai, Jeremy, Danny; Hui Fai was Princess Toadstool and Danny was Mario.

Thanks Jeremy for the first and last picture.