Saturday, October 07, 2006

News of the Day 10-06-06

At some point some genius is going to write the definitive satire of all human history on how Americans had alcohol legal and marijuana illegal. After all the other stories about the helpful medicinal qualities of marijuana, here comes one indicating that pot smoking may be a defense against Alzheimer's. And before you accuse me of being for drug anything, know that, even though I grew up in the 60s, first-hand smoke of no kind has ever passed my lips (and not because I didn't inhale). I don't even take Tylenol until the veins are visibly throbbling on my forehead. But, my wife has lost both her mother and grandmother to Alzheimer's, with obvious implications, so if this study proves true, you anti-pot people just might have someone in the opposite corner, after all. Our hypocrisy on this truly is the stuff of satirists. . . . Now, for a drug that seems to serve no useful purpose, we always have meth. I mentioned the other day the secondary benefits of shifting the production of meth to other countries, no matter how selfish and cynical that made me sound. But here's a feature at on the new danger being posed to people who may unknowingly buy a house where meth was cooked by local entrepreneurs. These places are health and environmental hellholes, but if there's a profit to be made . . . caveat emptor? Now that's selfish and cynical. . . . Squeezing the toothpaste tube, and not in a good way. As states like CA and CO that can't discipline themselves personally or fiscally ship more and more of their failures off to private prisons in other states, the receiving states' own prisons may be put in binds financially and spacewise. Econ 101 on supply and demand. . . . Finally, for those of you interested in technocorrections and/or just the eternally simple questions of human justice, scientists may have discovered a tiny piece in the front of the brain that regulates people's ability to repress selfishness in unjust situations, including punishing others at their own expense, which is in many ways a description of criminal justice. This is one of those ways that application of economics principles or other "cost/benefit" approaches just fails in criminal justice. Robert Frank (one of the economists with a lifeline to reality) a long ago in Passions Within Reason noted that truly rational offenders and victims would create a very unjust world because the offenders would always be able to victimize people up to the penny before the victims doing anything about it would be worth it to them. If it costs you $1000 to protect yourself, you're going to be victimized $999.99 unless you're willing to be "irrational." This also explains why what I call the "justice premium," social willingness to spend $25,000 a year to put a guy in prison for stealing $150 a dozen times a year, makes no sense to people expecting folks to accept cost-benefit policy determinations. If nothing else, it should make us skeptical of any economists' claims that "economic man" has a basis in biology. The researchers say that they are going to look into questions of whether the same area of brain tissue is different in offenders or those young people in "Laguna Beach" than in others. The potential here, for good and bad, for traditional criminology as well as economics, for technocorrections, should be obvious. We'll keep watch for you.

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