Neo-Hippie Ramblings - I'm a Non-Conformist Just Like All My Friends: March 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Consider this before you buy a banner ad on a news site... never know where your ad is going to pop up.

From the electronic version of our local newspaper,


Monday, March 28, 2005

Left Turn Ahead

That last post was a real bummer. Smart, articulate and right on the money, even if it's author does dip into new age sappiness. But a resonant piece nonetheless.

I forwarded this on to my family and a few other people. The response I got back from my sister was "Happy Easter to you, too."

Fair enough.

That really got me thinking. Like a lot of people I've talked with lately, I have been feeling really angry and depressed by the direction things have taken in this country. The whole Schiavo debacle is the most shameful example of political grandstanding I've seen by the Bushites to date, with the possible exception of the 9/11 widow they were using to shill for Bush in the last few weeks prior to November's election.

If this attempt to distract the media from Tom DeLay's Ethics Committee misconduct and the Social Security privatization fiasco backfires on them (not that it hasn't been a total success so far), I'll give you 5 to 1 odds that Dubya will be mentioning the name "Bin Laden" in a press conference within the next few weeks.

As sad and obscene as this little circus is, it may actually represent a turning point, in that additional elements of the political right are beginning to openly question whether the Bush administration has overstepped its bounds. (Ya THINK, guys???)

And it's not just dissent about this current push for the intrusion of the Federal government into the 'right to die' arena. It's also vocal criticism over the erosion of personal privacy and the circumvention of checks and balances in our political system in general. And with that said, let me point you to the...

Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances

And just for the record, here's a rhetorical question: If the Federal government is given jurisdiction to define the circumstances in which a terminally or critically ill patient may be removed from life support, doesn't that create a legal precedent by which a federal involuntary euthanasia program could eventually be instituted?

I'm not making the slippery-slope argument that such a thing would happen, I'm only saying that passing such legislation creates the legal framework by which it could happen. That would be a textbook definition of irony, now wouldn't it?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A New Dark Age

From SF Gate:

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Friday, March 25, 2005

Then come those times when you read about a 16-year-old girl slashing the throat of a 75-year-old woman for no apparent reason, a woman who was merely walking with her husband near a Berkeley public garden and it's right next to the one about the 16-year-old kid smiling and waving and donning a bulletproof vest before shooting nine people and himself to death in a remote, poverty-stricken region of Minnesota and you can feel the numbness like a wave.

And alongside that is the morbid and insipid case of poor Terri Schiavo and the equally insipid Bush evangelicals who trumpet the backward morality of maintaining her vegetative brain-dead state and the sad, tormented parents who can't face reality and the insidious GOP that has zero shame in using her decrepit body as a political football and that kowtows to its pseudo-religious contingency by making humiliating and rather illegal congressional maneuvers to try and keep a feeding tube in place and you just go, oh my God just stop already.

And it all seems to line up with one of those weird phases when everyone in your own life seems to be getting hit by something tragic or sad or somehow ridiculously painful -- a sister with a neck trauma, a best friend going through major depression, a parent struck by illness, certainly almost everyone on the progressive Left feeling sucker-punched and morally eviscerated -- friends and family and loved ones all seeming to suffer in ways you don't want to imagine and it's all against a backdrop of more war dead and more violence and the most bleak and Bush-ravaged era in recent American history and you say to yourself, what the hell is going on?

Because something in you knows. Something in you senses there is more at play right now in the world than mere depressing coincidence, that all the war and disease and brutality has more surrounding it than mere chance or fluke. Do you think? Do you feel it?

Proof? All you have to do is spend five minutes with any true healer or energy worker or divinely connected spiritual teacher in the world right now and they all say the same thing: This is not a good time. This is not the lightest, not the brightest, not the best period to be a human being. In fact, it's one of the darkest. Fiercest. Meanest.

It is, in other words, a low period in human, and especially American, history. And it's only getting lower.

We are in dark times. Five years of economic bloodshed and three of brutal warmongering and the worst environmental president in American history and you simply cannot deny that as the ruthless American agenda goes, so goes the populace, so goes the collective attitude, the shared vibration, the health of the planet and the feeling that this particular karmic sinkhole has no known bottom.

In other words, it is all connected. It is all of a piece. There is a direct correlation between the violent and heartless tone and attitude of our country and the mental and spiritual health of its people and by way of comparison just look at the Clinton era, which brought eight years of unprecedented prosperity and peace and a nearly balanced budget and high economic flush.

It's true. There was, we forget, a decided lack of sexual anxiety and uptight moral rigidity in the nation, minimal pseudo-religious puling from the uptight Right and much moderate lawmaking and I don't care a whit for what you say about the man's personal moral compass -- under Clinton, America had deeply supportive allies, intelligent foreign policy, more genuine concern for the planet and the health of our forests and oceans and air, and we had a president who was incredibly articulate and deeply intelligent and greatly beloved the world over and the nation enjoyed one of its most prosperous and nondivisive and peaceful periods in its history.

And now, the exact opposite. Everywhere you look, the culture is fractured and divisive and mean. Everywhere you look it's war and pollution and more toxins, red versus blue, good versus evil, more garbage and less concern where to shove it, fewer restrictions on industrial polluters and fewer controls on corporate abuse and an administration that has so shamelessly leveraged the worst tragedy in American history to further its brutal and hawkish right-wing agenda it would embarrass Mussolini.

The sad fact is, there are a great many among us who believe we have entered into a new Dark Age, that it will be a long and brutal slog indeed and BushCo is merely the precursor, the devil's handmaiden, and that we have a long way to go into the bleak and the bloody and the environmentally devastating before the pendulum begins its slow swing back toward the light.

Just look around. No one anywhere, not priests, not nuns, not healers or mystics, not Christians, not pagans, not Repubs or Demos or Libertarians, no one anywhere in this country is saying, hey, doesn't it feel like we're entering into a new era of health and healing and positivism and spiritual rebirth? Aren't our schools just teeming anew with eager students who seem to be getting smarter and more articulate? Isn't the air getting cleaner and aren't we proud of our government for protecting the health of future generations by pushing for more natural foods and signing on to the Kyoto Treaty and advocating antitoxin regulations and by protecting our forests and improving school textbooks and revolutionizing the hideous national health care system?

Doesn't that tone of enthusiasm and hope sound just completely silly, wrong, out of place, like so much Prozac-grade bulls--? Damn right it does.

There's a reason for that. We are not headed for light. Not yet, anyway. The coming years are not going to be about friendship and repaired foreign relations and a sense of our shared humanity, about equality and sexual freedom and a renewed sense of human rights. To believe this is to believe in fairy tales almost as insidious and hopeless as evangelical Christians who are right now stuffing themselves with Cheez-Its and pink wine and praying for Armageddon.

So, you do what you have to do. You focus inward and work on the self and radiate as much love and open-hearted support as possible, grit your karmic teeth and hope you survive this dark house of mirrors without cancers or tumors or bloodshed or getting stabbed in the garden by a vicious teenage girl as you ignore the fact that in all of North America, from Mexico to Canada's Prince Edward Island, there exists only one state, province or territory that does not yet have a McDonald's. (Nunavut, in northern Canada, inhabited by the Inuits at a density of one person per 3,300 square miles). Small solace, indeed.

So you pray your ass off to a forgiving and ambisexual and dogma-free pantheistic feminine god and you digest the increasingly nasty headlines as best you can, ever seeking that pinpoint, that tiny speck of light way, way down, at the end of this rank and desperate tunnel. Do you see it? Is it even there? It's one of those things you just have to believe.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Diner Finds Finger in Chili


You don't even want to know what he found in the sour cream on his baked potato...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Spongebob Flasherpants

So now it turns out that not only is Spongebob gay, but he's also been exposing himself to minors! When will this insanity end???

Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Yes. And yes.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Why Drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge is a Good Thing

  • Hunters won't club oil-covered seal pups to death for their pelts, so oil spills will help to protect them.
  • Indirectly funding bloodthirsty American zealots makes better economic sense than indirectly funding bloodthirsty Arabic zealots.
  • A thick covering of crude oil will effectively block any harmful UV radiation exposure caused by ozone depletion.
  • With oil prices the way they are right now, the government will earn enough to add third and fourth fronts to the War on Terror.
  • Alaska is dark six months out of the year, so nobody will even notice the environmental damage half the time.
  • George Bush Jr. supports it, so it's obviously what Jesus would want you to do.

Free Speech Prohibited Outside A 20 Foot Public Area

Reposted from alt.drugs.pot:

From: <>Sent: Sunday March 13, 2005 2:42 PMSubject: [MedPot-discuss] FREE SPEECH PROHIBITED OUTSIDE A 20 FOOT PUBLIC AREA

My name is Henry Koch and I am the President of Midlands NORML, the Columbia, SC chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Last year we were forced to bring suit against the city of Columbia and theThree Rivers Music Festival Association, through the ACLU, in US District Court. Three Rivers was creating barriers and arguably attempting to completely exclude us from participating in an annual three day publicly funded music and arts festival which is held on public property because they don't like our literature. The lawsuit is centered around first amendment violations.

The day the festival started, Judge Cameron Currie set aside our case since we could no longer prove damage. The festival attorney promised the court that NORML would not be removed from the festival, nor harmed in any way should we leave our booth to distribute literature to festival attendees. Judge Currie continued the case - she didn't rule nor dismiss in the event there might be a need to continue the case the following year.

Festival organizers threatened to remove us from the festival if we left our100 sq. ft (10x10) space to pass out literature or speak to anyone who didn't approach us first and specifically request information. This conditional free speech policy that the festival organizers attempted to enforce violates free speech as outlined in the US Constitution.

In previous years non-profit organizations (NPO's) paid a nominal fee to attend the festival - $250 compared to over $1000 for merchandise and food vendors.

This year, in their continued efforts to exclude Midlands NORML or significantly suppress our ability to get our message out to as many people as possible, they have removed the NPO status and increased the fee to $1060.00. All organizations, including university sanctioned student groups, must pay the same fees for-profit merchandise vendors pay.

An article in The State newspaper by John Drake stated this policy change was made because of NORML. Mr. Drake told me that he received that information in an email from Virginia Bedford, President of the Three Rivers Music Festival.

This year the free speech zone has been extended to 1,100 Sq. Ft. within which we will be permitted to exercise our constitutional rights to freedom of speech up to 20 feet from our tent. Evidently, beyond that 20 foot barrier, the Three Rivers organizers have declared that the United States Constitution does not apply and free speech is strictly prohibited.

Ms. Bedford told me, that if someone not affiliated with NORML hands out our literature outside the authorized free speech zone, we will be removed from the festival. She then went on to state that if I want to sue her after the festival is over that is okay with her.

Ms. Bedford is knowingly planning on breaking laws and violating the United States Constitution. She knows she will be culpable for these violations, yet feels this tactic is justified to suppress our message.

Ms. Bedford told me that all vendors will be watched closely for violations of the twenty foot limit and that Midlands NORML would be watched closest of all since we broke the rules last year by violating the festival's limited free speech policy.

I suspect that someone working with the festival organizers might sabotage us. They could employ a number of tactics, including the distribution of drug law reform literature away from our space and then remove us from the festival for breaking the rules, despite that their rules violate the Constitutionally protected right of expression and speech.

Our message is not to advocate the use of marijuana or breaking any laws regarding use or possession. Rather, it is teaching the truth about the most beneficial plant on the planet, cannabis sativa, and exposing the lies the US Government has been perpetuating for almost 70 years in their attempt to eradicate this plant from the planet.

We teach the benefits of industrial hemp and how hemp can save the planet. We teach about the medical benefits of cannabis for many ailments. We teach about the damage prohibition has caused and is causing in our society. We show how gangs exist and children have easy access to illegal drugs because of prohibition. We advocate for a change in laws to stop arresting adults for the responsible use of marijuana.

If you feel the policy of the festival organizers is wrong you might want to contact Virginia Bedford and let her know how you feel. She can be reached at any of the following which are in the public domain:

Virginia Bedford
Three Rivers Music Festival
1511 Taylor St.
Columbia, SC 29201

Fax 803-401-8992
Email -
Yahoo newsgroup, not-moderated:

Home address:
Virginia Bedford
2926 Clark St.
Columbia, SC 29201
fax 803-254-9568

In order to ensure she gets your message you may wish to use every means available to contact her. She arguably ignores mail that she doesn't like.

I would appreciate you forwarding this plea for help to everyone you know who supports free speech.

Live free or die!

Henry Koch
Midlands NORML

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Spamalot - Finally Some Quality Entertainment on Broadway

One can only hope for a sort of Spanish Inquisition...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

New Strategy Game: BUSH - The World Conquest Game

Coming soon from NEOCON, the gaming company who brought you Naked Detainee Twister®...

BUSH - the World Conquest Game®

It's you against the world! (Or it will be by the time you're done...)

In this challenging simulation, you play the part of Karl Rove, master ventriloquist. It's your job to keep Dubya in line and minimize the damage caused by unscripted questions from an unruly press, ballooning economic woes, embarassing allegations from Dubya's frat boy past and ongoing diplomatic fiascos all over the world.

Your power-ups and special secret moves include: The Holy Roller Right Hook, The Knee-Jerk Gay Bash, The Civil Rights Stomp, The Haliburton Pork Chop, The State Secret Cloak of Invisibility, The Propagandist Clip, The Gitmo Shuffle, and the invincible Bin Laden Boogeyman.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Gay Spongebob Video

Apparently, the controversy over this gay Spongebob video thing is escalating. I checked it out, and I don't see what the problem is...

Friday, March 11, 2005

Dubya Explains Social Security Privatization

Michael Jackson Shows Up Late for Court in Pajamas

From the account of today's trial proceedings on CNN:

Thursday's trial proceedings got off to a late start when Jackson failed to arrive on time for the scheduled 8:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) start.

Defense lawyer Thomas Mesereau Jr. told Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney S. Melville that his client was at a hospital for treatment of a "serious back problem."

[So he called up the doctor and the doctor said, no more young boys jumping on the bed.]

But Melville, who last month had to delay jury selection by a week after Jackson was briefly hospitalized with the flu, refused to accept the excuse. The judge threatened to revoke Jackson's $3 million bail and jail him for the remainder of the trial if he didn't show up within an hour.

[Stall him, I can't find my nose...]

Jackson missed Melville's deadline by three minutes. Appearing disheveled and wearing pajama bottoms and sandals, Jackson walked slowly into the courthouse. A bodyguard and Jackson's father supported the singer at his elbows.

[I suspect that Jackson later regretted the decision to arrive to court wearing pajama bottoms, especially as his alleged victim recounted Jackson giving him handjobs. It's awfully hard to hide a stiffie in pajama bottoms, and I have no doubt that the Uberfreak had one at the time. Sick fucker.]

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Fun with Visio 2000 - Alternate Work Flow Diagram Stencil

My employer's IT group uses Visio 2000 quite a bit. If you're familiar at all with the package, you've probably seen the 'Work Flow Diagram Shapes' stencil, which includes little stick people performing various tasks, such as 'Customer Service', 'Packaging', yada yada yada....

Now, that's nice, but it's kind of artificial and after you've seen a few hundred of those little stick people in project documents you come to hate them immensely. At least I have. So, what if there were a Visio stencil that described the people you really work with and the kind of bullshit that really goes on in your office? Well, now there is.

I present to you (drumroll, please) Visio Work Flow Objects for YOUR Office. this includes standard roles like "Office Lush", "Computer Illiterate", "Cubicle Gophers" and "Grammar Queen", not to mention invaluable communication icons like "Fuck You and the Horse You Rode in On" and "Bite my Tit".

In Diagram Form (right-click and 'Save as' to copy)
In Stencil Form (right-click and 'Save as' to copy)
In JPEG Form (see smaller version below)

Go forth and wreak havoc, my friends.

One quick note: You cannot receive an e-mailed Visio stencil file (.vss) through Outlook without either having modified the file extension on the sending side (good luck explaining that procedure to your mommy-saving, hunt-and-peck buddies) or having patched your copy of Outlook to permit the receipt of 'unsafe' file types on the receiving side (good luck explaining that to your humorless computer security administrator). So send a link instead.

Rumsfeld, Bush and Rove dabble in Middle Eastern politics

I didn't even bother pasting Rove's head in since he looks so much like Toht anyway...


Friday, March 04, 2005

The 'Steal this Election' thing

I really do intend to finish it soon. I just haven't had the energy to tackle it.

Did I mention that P. is pregnant? We were keeping it quiet for a while just to enjoy a secret to ourselves, but started telling people outside our family and closest circle of friends a few weeks ago. Anyway, she's about 15 weeks along, but had a placental abruption a few weeks back. We have no idea why it happened (no injury, illness or drug use) and it was very scary at the time -- a lot of hemmoraging that just wouldn't stop. She had some spotting with both prior pregnancies, but nothing close to this.

She's doing fine, but home from work (bored to death) and on doctor's orders of bedrest for at least 2 more weeks. In the meantime, I have to be primarily responsible for most things. (P. ends up doing probably more than she should, all things considered, but it's almost impossible to stay in bed 24/7 when the kids are wound up, fighting, hungry, needing attention,begging someone to go up the stairs to the potty in the dark or whatever. Gets very tough for both of us.

Anyway, I am going to finish the 'Steal this Election' thing. But not tonight. In the meantime, Space Cadet Ren is signing out. Exhausted, but somehow not sleepy. Time for a shot of Jagermeister...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What Most People Don't Know About Bread

What Most People Don't Know About Bread
Original Source Unknown

  1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread users.

  2. Fully half all children who grow up in bread-consuming household score below average on standardized tests.

  3. In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations.

  4. More than 90 percent of violent crimes are committed within 24 hours of eating bread.

  5. Bread is made from a substance called "dough". It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!

  6. Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low incidence of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and osteoporosis.

  7. Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days.

  8. Bread is often a "gateway" food item, leading the user to "harder"items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter and even cold cuts.

  9. Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90 percent water, it follows that eating bread could lead to your body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread-pudding person.

  10. Newborn babies can choke on bread.

  11. Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.

  12. Most American bread eaters are utterly unable to distinguish between significant scientific fact and meaningless statistical babbling.

In light of these frightening statistics, we propose the following bread restrictions:

  1. No sale of bread to minors.

  2. A nationwide "Just Say No to Toast" campaign, complete with celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers.

  3. The establishment of "Bread-free" zones around schools.

A New Kind of Drug War

A NEW KIND OF DRUG WAR - Christopher Farrell
Source: Business Week

The Conventional One Has Been Highly Costly, With Little Return. Making Narcotics Legal -- And Very Expensive -- Can Reduce Addiction And Crime

Starting with Richard Nixon, every U.S. President has declared war on drugs. The FBI, CIA, DEA, military, and countless prosecutors have devoted enormous resources to combating narcotics over the past several decades. According to an estimate by Boston University economist Jeffrey A. Miron, federal, state, and local governments have put some $33 billion in resources toward prosecuting the war on drugs in recent years.

How is the return on that investment? Abysmal. The demand for such illegal drugs as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin remains strong. Drug lords and their cartels terrorize nations and local communities. Crime and corruption derived from the illegal drug trade flourish. U.S. prisons are crowded with drug-law offenders -- more than 54% of federal prisoners sentenced in 2004 were sent away for breaking drug laws.

REMEMBER PROHIBITION. Here's how Harvard University economist and BusinessWeek commentator Robert J. Barro summed up the record of the war on drugs in his paper Getting It Right: Markets and Choices in a Free Society: "The experience with drug enforcement shows that prohibitions of recreational drugs drive up prices, stimulate illegal activity, have only a moderate negative effect on consumption, and impose unacceptable costs in terms of high crime, expansion of prison populations, and deterioration of relations with the foreign countries that supply the outlawed products."

It's time to consider a dramatic shift in policy. Instead of the battle cry "war on drugs," let's try the mantra "legalization, regulation, and taxation." We should regulate narcotics just as we do cigarettes and alcohol, restricting sales to minors and imposing steep excise taxes.

Indeed, the model for dealing with alcohol is instructive. Banning alcohol outright in the U.S. was a public policy disaster. Ending Prohibition quickly cleaned up the liquor industry. Gangsters were denied a lucrative source of income, and violent crime associated with the business fell.

FEAR FOR KIDS. Similarly, legalizing drugs would eliminate much of the profit, corruption, and violence from the trade. The risk of death or impairment from contaminated drugs would decrease. And the shift in focus would free up scarce government resources at a time when the twin demands of an aging population and the war on terror are putting stress on the fiscal purse.
The notion of legalizing drugs isn't new. Milton Friedman, the dean of conservative economists, argued as long ago as 1972 that "legalizing drugs would simultaneously reduce the amount of crime and raise the quality of law enforcement." Yet the idea never garnered much support beyond a hard core of conservative economists, libertarian idealists, and the occasional hard-pressed mayor and discouraged drug warrior.

The reason: Fear that the post-legalization drop in drug prices would cause the ranks of addicted citizens to soar. For instance, it's estimated that cocaine sells for 10 to 40 times its free market price. So, even though many practitioners of the dismal science believed the benefits of legalization would far outweigh the cost, many middle-class voters looked at their kids and decided that the risks weren't worth taking.

PRICE MATTERS. Yet recent research suggests that legislators and voters should take a close look at legalization. A recent paper by Nobel laureate and University of Chicago economist Gary S. Becker, his faculty peer Kevin M. Murphy, and City University of New York economist Michael Grossman persuasively argues that fighting a war on drugs through legalizing and heavily taxing them could be more effective in curbing consumption than prohibition and prosecution.

Their highly theoretical paper, "The Economic Theory of Illegal Goods: The Case of Drugs," builds on years of empirical work into the economics of illegal drugs. A key insight of the literature is that price matters -- even with addictive substances. Just as lower prices for drugs encourage consumption, higher prices discourage it.

In another research paper, Grossman delved into the impact of price on the consumption of cigarettes, beer, and marijuana from 1975 to 2003. His results are intriguing. He found that the 70% increase in the real price of cigarettes since 1997 ( thanks to the tobacco settlement with state attorneys general ) explains almost the entire 12% reduction in the cigarette smoking participation rate since then. The 7% increase in the real price of beer from 1990 to 1992 accounts for almost 90% of the 4 percentage point reduction in binge drinking through 2003.

SHOCKING SUM. Similarly, the increase in the real price of marijuana from 1975 to 1992 accounts for 70% of the usage reduction during that time period. Falling prices contributed some 60% of the increase in substance abuse from 1992 to 1997, and another wild upswing in price powered 60% of the decline in toking during the remaining years under study.

To be sure, addictive drugs are hard to quit. Many people who manage to stop snorting or shooting up spend the rest of their lives fighting the urge to get high. Still, one can't ignore that price matters even in this market.

Grossman's results remind me of my bunk mate on the rust-bucket oil tanker we worked on in the late 1970s. He was a grizzled old-timer carrying the scars of years of union organizing. Those times were long gone, as was his habit of smoking several packs a day. One night, between sips of coffee, he told me that he once calculated how much he was spending a year on cigarettes. The sum -- a couple of thousand dollars even back then -- shocked him, and he quit.

NO PANACEAS. The Becker, Murphy, and Grossman analysis suggests that with the addition of a steep excise tax -- several hundred percentage points above the cost of wholesale production, for example -- the price of cocaine could be greater than the price the fruitless war on drugs supports. It's possible that consumption would be lower in a high-tax regime than it is in today's law-enforcement environment.

A high price would give some producers an incentive to go underground as well. But law enforcement could focus its efforts on a much smaller illegal economy. And the tax revenue could go toward funding treatment programs.

Let's be clear: There are no panaceas and no easy choices here. As a parent, I find the notion of making heroin or cocaine legally available at the corner liquor store frightening. Yet -- with the benefit of several decades' worth of hindsight -- legalization, taxation, and regulation appear superior to the current strategy of prohibition and prosecution. There's just too much human devastation, violent crime, corruption, disease, and wasted time and money embedded in the old approach.

I know that the cost of drug abuse and addiction -- including nicotine and alcohol -- is already substantial, especially measured by increased health-care expenditures and lower worker productivity. And I have no wish to see the numbers of addicts increase. But there's the hope that with a carefully crafted new paradigm of legalization, there could be fewer users. That's positive. There's nothing positive to be derived from staying with the status quo.

Farrell is contributing economics editor for BusinessWeek. You can also hear him on Minnesota Public Radio's nationally syndicated finance program, Sound Money, as well as on public radio's business program Marketplace. Follow his Sound Money column, only on BusinessWeek Online.