Wednesday, 16 June 2004

Drug war nonsense

I went to the downtown Walgreens today to purchase some Wal-phed (Walgreens’ generic version of Sudafed). I walked back to the aisle where it is normally kept, and there were lots of little yellow signs, telling me that tall products that contain pseudoephedrine are now kept behind the pharmacy counter.

I went back to the pharmacy counter to buy some, and while I was there, asked the salesperson (I don’t know whether he was an actual “pharmacist” or not) about the change. “They make methamphetamine out of it.” Yes, I know. But they can’t make it from the liquid caps that also contain guaifenesin. (Which is what I was purchasing.) Was this a government requirement or was this just a new Walgreens policy? “It’s not a government requirement. We’ve got to do something bout it.” Yeah, I said. Legalize it.

We can’t stop people from making it and selling it, so there’s no reason to make it inconvenient for me to buy decongestants.

Campaign Finance and the Balk Rule

Steven Taylor:

Can we say “matching funds are dead”? I bet we can. There can be no doubt that after Bush in 2000 (and ‘04) and Kerry and Dean this time, that the presidential primary matching-fund process created by the FECA is essentially dead. At best it is campaign welfare for medium-to-low wattage candidates.

While we spend a while hashing out what we’re going to do about this travesty, Congress and the Federal Election Commission might do well to heed the words of baseball guru Bill James, on a completely unrelated topic, the balk rule:

Q: Can you elaborate on how/why the balk rule doesn’t work? Thanks

Bill James: The rule manifestly fails to achieve its goals. It’s one of those rules that, when it didn’t work, they tried to fix it. When that didn’t work, they fixed it again, and they fixed it again, and they fixed it again.

At some point they should have stopped and tried something else, but they didn’t, so they stuck history with a rule which (a) is almost totally unintelligible, and (b) is arbitrary in its enforcement.

In principle, trying to prevent one player from decoying another is a dumb idea. The balk rule is like a rule in basketball that says (a rule that would say… theoretical example) that if you fake a shot, you have to take the shot; otherwise it is travelling. That would be a dumb rule. The balk rule is basically the same thing, only applied to baseball. [emphasis mine]

I think the bolded passage pretty much sums up the state of campaign finance law in the United States in 2004.

Tortured reading

Mark A.R. Kleiman:

So now we have a choice, as voters: Are we going to ratify the decision to make torture (described in various weaselly ways) part of the policy of the United States, or are we going to reject it by replacing those responsible?

Great idea, but what’s our guarantee that a Kerry administration wouldn’t engage in the exact same behavior, if not worse? Where are Kerry’s condemnations of Gitmo? (Everyone’s condemned Abu Gharib, so that doesn’t count.) Mrs. Kerry (the ex-Republican) seems rather more forceful than Sen. Kerry. And, if Kerry is going to try to outflank Bush on terror, is it plausible that he can simultaneously promise to get tougher on al-Qaeda while renouncing the current means by which the U.S. is getting tough on terror?

Throwing the bums out is a great idea… so long as we’re not bringing in new bums that are equally bad, if not worse.


Collin May has a capsule review of tonight’s English-language debate among the major party leaders in Canada; by all accounts, nobody really stood out or got bloodied.

Meanwhile, I’d like to channel my inner anti-American leftist in order to complain that I don’t get to vote in this election even though whether Steven Harper or Paul Martin becomes prime minister will have a profound effect on my day-to-day life down here in this satellite-state of Canada.