Thursday, November 08, 2012

So There Was Like An Election And Stuff

I had to wait in line for like 20 minutes. What is this, communist Russia?!?

So that one guy who wants to bomb his way through the Middle East, block the prosecution of the financial elites who crashed our entire economy, and be allowed to kill any American citizen without judicial review so long as he, and he alone, labels them a threat beat the other guy who also wants to do those things but isn't very charming about it all.

But really, whether you think there's a huge difference between Obama and Romney, think there's enough difference to matter, or think there's really no difference, I would argue the president alone is rarely responsible for much, so it largely doesn't matter. There's a long line of literature detailing the much more central role of social movements, corporate lobbying, organized labor pressure, etc. in creating social policy (here's where citations would go if I were energetic enough to give a fuck right now).

And since this election had long been a forgone conclusion to anyone who followed the science instead of the bullshit horse race news, it was rendered even less exciting than usual. But as always, there are good ol' state ballot initiative to keeps us entertained!

Here in Minnesota, we successfully defeated both a constitutional amendment defining marriage as only for good, nice Christians who own more than 3 guns (something like that) AND an initiative to force voter ID on us. Both of those initiatives were stupid for reasons too numerous to count and which have already been well explained elsewhere.

So I'll just say "hey, way to not be a bunch of giant fucking assholes, people of Minnesota."

But truly the most interesting initiatives to pass were those legalizing marijuana in both Washington and Colorado. I mean, it's not every day states pass laws in direct opposition to long-standing federal law on the subject. Plus, you know, duuuuuuuuuuuuuude legal pot n' shit. Munchies, bad movies, and one more thing.

Sorry. If I understand everything I've read about it so far, it's legally required to make an incredibly tired joke about stoners every time you mention this.

Again, the reasons in favor of legalization should be pretty obvious regardless of whether you approve of its use or not. And since this is yet another subject countless other people have written about far better than I, I'll just hit the probably highlights of legalization:

--Billions saved in criminal justice expenditures
--A dramatic reduction in the racial disparities in our prison system
--It's largely a harmless drug, meaning the government has no legitimate reason to ban it
--It's at least far less dangerous to public health than alcohol and cigarettes
--The millions (or billions, depending on which projections you believe) in tax revenue
--The loss of a major funding stream for violent drug cartels operating near our Southern border
--So many other obvious logical reason I'm too tired to list right now

As always, the usual disclaimer that I in no way endorse pot use. It's just that I also don't endorse absurd laws that cost us billions of dollars and ruin millions of lives for no particular purpose.

But of course, this is most interesting to me as a criminologist. This raises all sorts of criminal justice issues, the most interesting of which will be how federal authorities react to something which is now legal by state law but still very much illegal by federal law. Especially in Washington, where one current proposal of how to regulate marijuana would be to restrict its sale to liquor stores. But the liquor stores there are state run, meaning state employees and a large variety of state operations would be committing felonies every day.

And while Obama has claimed he would tell the DEA to ignore medical marijuana, there have been several raids on dispensaries during his presidency, so he's not exactly pro-ganja (a tad hypocritical, considering his previous stance on the issue). And besides, medical weed is one thing; I have a feeling the feds may not look as kindly on states more or less thumbing their noses at them.

Yet in one aspect of this that we can all agree on: legalization drove a panicked Fox news anchor to ask "What's to keep somebody from getting all potted up on weed and getting behind the wheel?"

What we can agree on is that "getting all potted up" may be the funniest thing said in the entire election cycle, as well as a phrase that needs to enter the national lexicon post haste.

Sometimes it's the most controversial decisions that bring us all together...

Friday, November 02, 2012

All Quiet on the Blog Front

Sorry about the extreme lack of posts lately. I've finally hit the time where I need to actually finish my degree and get the hell outta Dodge, so I've been busy with actual work and stuff. Which leaves little time for frivolities like blogging. Or socializing. Or basic hygiene.

But hey, that's what I signed up for, right?

Anyway, while procrastinating a bit this morning, I came across this interesting article arguing why the renewed emphasis on getting more college students into the STEM fields is misguided.

There's a lot of interesting stuff to the argument, but what was most interesting was how the author shows that one of the most misguided aspects behind this push to increase STEM (science, tech, engineering, and mathematics, for those following along at home) majors is that they are more necessary to our economy (debatable) and that they themselves are the more financially sound option (empirically not true).

It turns out that mid-career, someone who majored in biology can expect to make around 13 grand less a year than their counterparts who majored in political science. Hell, they can expect to make around 4 grand less a year than film major. Film majors!

Granted, the main argument is that liberal arts education provides a great deal of the harder to quantify skills (interpersonal communication, critical thinking, analytical reasoning) that are increasingly in demand in our brave new economy and all sorts of deep insights.

But I cannot get over the wage disparity. The trope of broke-ass liberal arts major who is flipping burgers with their useless degree is so old and hoary to have blown past simple cliche decades ago. And yet, like so many widely-held cultural beliefs, it just ain't true.

Anyway, interesting food for thought. But now I have to get back to work. Those crazy palatial liberal arts mansions don't just buy themselves, you know...