April 25, 2012

The War on Drugs: “For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong”

Filed under: Economics, Health, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:59

The Wall Street Journal looks at the drug war and considers alternatives:

Our current drug policies do far more harm than they need to do and far less good than they might, largely because they ignore some basic facts. Treating all “drug abusers” as a single group flies in the face of what is known as Pareto’s Law: that for any given activity, 20% of the participants typically account for 80% of the action.

Most users of addictive drugs are not addicts, but a few consume very heavily, and they account for most of the traffic and revenue and most of the drug-related violence and other collateral social damage. If subjected to the right kinds of pressure, however, even most heavy users can and do stop using drugs.

Frustration with the drug-policy status quo — the horrific levels of trafficking-related violence in Mexico and Central America and the fiscal, personal and social costs of imprisoning half a million drug dealers in the U.S. — has led to calls for some form of legalization. Just last week, at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, President Barack Obama got an earful from his Latin American counterparts about the need to reverse current U.S. drug policy.

In brief, American (and to a lesser extent, Canadian) drug policies follow this pattern: 1) identify a problem, 2) pass laws against it, 3) discover that the laws haven’t solved the problem, 4) double-down and ratchet up enforcement and penalties. In other words, if it’s not working, then derp it again.

The quote in the headline is, of course, from the writings of H.L. Mencken.

Identifying the potential profits from asteroid mining

Filed under: Economics, Space — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:06

In his Forbes column, Tim Worstall spins a tale that is worthy of Dr. Evil or other movie bad guy multi-billionaires:

We’ve now had the announcement of the business plans of Planetary Resources. Enough to excite everyone who read Heinlein or Jerry Pournelle as a teenager. But the big problem is how might they actually turn a proft? To which the answer is manipulation of the futures markets.

[. . .]

So, imagine that they have reached one of the nickel iron asteroids, it is high in the platinum group metals, they can mine it and they can deliver those pgms to Earth. The moment everyone knows that there is some hundreds of tonnes of these metals on the way down the price will collapse. The answer? Sell the metals in advance, through the futures markets. Get today’s price for delivery in the future.

In fact, sell many more futures than the amount of metal which is to be delivered: go short. As an example, say platinum is $2,000 an ounce (not far off the real price, $62 million a tonne). Planetary Resources is going to deliver 100 tonnes. But instead of selling $6 billion’s worth of platinum for delivery in three months, sell 10 times as much: $60 billion’s worth*. When that 100 tonnes splashes down, in fact when the market knows that the 100 tonnes is likely to splash down, then the market price will fall. Substantially but for illustration we’ll say to $200 an ounce.

The company then delivers that 100 tonnes for which it is paid the $6 billion agreed on those futures deliveries. It still owes the market another 900 tonnes but it can now cover its short at $200 an ounce having sold the futures at $2,000 an ounce. Use the $6 billion that’s going to be incoming to do so and what do we have at the end?

The company has $60 billion incoming from having sold futures. It has delivered 100 tonnes at $6 billion and covered the short for that $6 billion. Net profit $54 billion minus the cost of the space program. Which is pretty good really.

But it gets better … and more Bond-villainous.

Complaint submitted to CRA over the David Suzuki Foundation’s charitable status and partisan political activity

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:56

It’s been an open secret for years that some organizations with charitable status under the Canada Revenue Agency’s rules are stepping over the line with regard to partisan political activities. A complaint has been lodged with the CRA over the David Suzuki Foundation on these grounds:

The David Suzuki Foundation on Tuesday became the target of a complaint to the Canada Revenue Agency, just days after its namesake co-founder stepped down amid heightened tensions between environmental charities and the Conservative government.

EthicalOil.org, a non-profit organization that promotes oil from Canada and other democracies, sent a letter to the agency asking it to investigate whether the David Suzuki Foundation is breaking rules that pertain to political activity. Registered charities are allowed to devote only a small fraction of their resources to political activity, although they can never be partisan.

“If you find the Suzuki Foundation is in contravention of the CRA rules, then we request that you consider whether the Suzuki Foundation should have its charitable status revoked or otherwise be sanctioned,” EthicalOil.org said in its 44-page letter, which was drafted by Calgary-based JSS Barristers and obtained by the National Post.

Why fly?

Filed under: Government, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:06

Amy Alkon on yet another blatant attempt by the TSA to lord it over passengers, especially the young, weak, and vulnerable:

Chris Morran on Consumerist excerpts a Facebook post from a Montana mom, Michelle Brademeyer, who was flying home from Kansas with her two young children and their grandmother. Grandma apparently triggered some alarm at the checkpoint, and was forced to have a seat and wait to be groped by an agent. That’s when the 4-year-old ran over to give Granny a hug. Sweet — until the TSA went all police state on them. The mother writes:

[. . .]

First, a TSO began yelling at my child, and demanded she too must sit down and await a full body pat-down. I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way. My daughter, who was dressed in tight leggings, a short sleeve shirt and mary jane shoes, had no pockets, no jacket and nothing in her hands. The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm. It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.

My child, who was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on, and the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain it to her. When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. She screamed, “No! I don’t want to!” then did what any frightened young child might, she ran the opposite direction.

That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter a “high-security-threat”.

[. . .]

The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying “The suspect is not cooperating.” The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist…

A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport. They claimed they could not safely check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper.

Finally, a manager intervened. He determined that my child could, in fact, be cleared through security while crying. I was permitted to hold her while the TSO checked her body. When they found nothing hidden on my daughter, they were forced to let us go, but not until after they had examined my ID and boarding passes for a lengthy amount of time. When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.

Terrorize ’em young and they stay terrorized, pliable, and afraid to confront authority. It won’t be long before the TSA is Tasing ’em before they can run away (if they don’t already have that power).

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