Monday, January 14, 2013

New Week, New Soapbox

The catalyst for this week's soapbox is this article ( that I saw on If you don't feel like reading it, it is an opinion piece suggesting that the FBI, instead of mandating that all new software applications be out-fitted with "wire-tap" capabilities, they should be hiring forensic computer hackers. It's a 'fight fire with fire' argument that makes sense when you consider it. That said - it was a couple of sentences in this article that got me thinking:

"Whether we like them or not, wiretaps — legally authorized ones only, of course — are an important law enforcement tool. But mandatory wiretap backdoors in internet services would invite at least as much new crime as it could help solve."

Legislation is expected to be authored later this year that will require all new internet applications and software programs be out-fitted with a "backdoor" so that if the need arises, the FBI can tap into it. This is not new news - all of that is covered in greater detail by the article. What got me thinking was this notion of government regulation as a means of ENSURING that crime continues -- and thus validating a NEED for government oversight. Lest I be thought a conspiracy theorist (which I am not), let me further explain.

What's another hot-button topic these days? Gun Control. Understandably so right? The knee-jerk reaction of our country to the numerous school-shootings over the past 10 years has been to demand more gun control. What will gun control do? Will it stop criminals from possessing or using weapons? No. Will it stop crazy people from accessing guns and committing crimes? No. In-short, will it stop school shootings? I feel that if you're being intellectually honest with yourself, the answer is no. So, what then, will more gun laws do? One thing it is sure to do is extend the reach of government. More regulation means more surveillance on the part of the State into your affairs. More regulation means more justification for the Government to spend your tax dollars -- and not only that, but also to ask for, and justify, ADDITIONAL tax revenue.

If that example isn't good enough for you - how about the "War of Drugs." Have drug laws stopped the manufacture and distribution of drugs in this country? No, they are still available in every city in America. Has it curbed drug-use in this country by limiting the availability of drugs? Maybe a tiny little bit? Maybe? Has the U.S. Government been successful on ANY front of the "War on Drugs"? If you read/watch the news and read anything about it, the unequivocal answer is "No". What has the war on drugs done? One thing it has done is justify an entire sub-branch of the U.S. Government (namely the DEA, and to an extent the ATF) and thus has justified the expenditure of LIMITLESS U.S. tax dollars. Put another way, it has justified the waste of countless tax dollars without any accountability for results. Let me be clear, a drug bust here and there or the break-up of a drug-ring here and there are not results...results consist of the actual accomplishment of your objectives which, in the "War on Drugs" would be the curtailing of manufacture and sale of drugs in this country. Am I suggesting that we legalize everything? No. But what I am suggesting is that we start being honest with ourselves and the failure of this war -- afterall, our government is ACCOUNTABLE to WE THE PEOPLE.

As a corollary - the War on Drugs has also allowed the government to justify a number of other things. Because drugs are illegal they are bought and sold on a black-market...mostly by gangs. Fights over "turf" explode into violence on our streets (22 murders so far in Chicago in 2013) and then justify the need to more law enforcement in the form of police officers and over government enforcement (FBI, DEA, ATF, etc). This ultimately costs more tax money...but the government can turn around and say, "hey, we have a huge problem here and the citizens NEED us." States have begun to decriminalize marijuana and shockingly (sarcasm) there haven't been vast increases in crime. Not only that, these states are going to start bringing in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana and will actually being making a profit on the industry, rather than spending vast amounts of tax dollars to curb marijuana use.

This might as well be a short dissertation on why I am a Conservative...a Conservative bordering on being a Libertarian. I will never feel like the Government does a better job at regulating my day-to-day life and choices better than I do. I believe that you and me do an astronomically better job at over-seeing our day-to-day lives than the Government ever has or will. The Government has a place, of this there is no-doubt, but that place is not in creating a need for itself. By making laws that extend the reach of government for the sake of "catching criminals" - the government is pulling the wool over the proverbial eyes of Americans as to what it's true objectives are.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Soapbox Post: We Know Next to Nothing

Just an up-front warning: this post has nothing to do with running. Well, not much anyway. The catalyst for this post is a book I've recently been reading in conjunction with several articles I've come across lately. The book is "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" written by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It's a long book, but it's very well written and it takes you through the evolution of medical thought with regard to cancer itself as well as the evolution of cancer treatment. Among the many fascinating parts of the book is this sense of just how far our understanding of cancer has come in the past 50-60 years...AND how much there still is that we don't know.

In the 1940s the treatment for cancer, if there even was one for the particular type that you had, basically consisted of a surgeon trying cut it out of you. For breast cancer, the treatment ideas at the time were particularly horrendous and involved major surgery that a fair amount of patients didn't even survive. A new invention around that time was chemotherapy which, in it's infancy, was a terrible ordeal to have to go through and involved months of retching, weight/hair loss and extreme fatigue...for only possibly a few months of "remission." Most of these treatments back then only retarded the advance of cancer and for most patients, the cancer would return and eventually cause death. Today the treatment methods are quite a bit more nuanced and effective, but cancer is still a serious disease and some forms of it, like pancreatic cancer, have extremely high mortality rates.

So, what's my point? My point is this: in today's world, it's easy to think, "wow, look how technologically advanced our society is, I mean, we have smart phones, fighter jets, and starbucks on every corner - what else is there to discover?" The fact is, there is A TON we don't know about. I would even go so far as to say that there is more we don't know, way more, than things we do know about. For example, here is an article I saw today ( For all of our advancements in telescopic technology and in our understanding of space, it's likely that if there were an asteroid out there that could obliterate earth, we wouldn't even see it coming. As NASA puts it, "“With so many of even the larger NEOs [near Earth objects] remaining undiscovered, the most likely warning today would be zero,” We would see nothing at all until suddenly, just as the impact occurred, we noticed a “flash of light and the shaking of the ground as it hit.”" And yet our society is "so advanced."

Basically I've come to the conclusion that we know and understand next to nothing very little about our world. It seems like we know a lot and no doubt there have been huge strides forward in our knowledge and understanding in a lot of different areas over the past 100 years, but there is a LONG way to go. There are numerous examples throughout science and medicine. There are real-world examples RIGHT NOW. For example - why are there all these school-shootings happening in the U.S.? Is it the availability of guns? Is it the prevalence of violence on television and in video games? Is it our cultural attitudes towards mental illness? Is it a lack of real-parenting on the part of a lot of parents in the U.S.? Is it the decline of personal responsibility and morals in our country? Suffice to say, it's probably more than one of those things and perhaps there are additional factors than those that come into play.

Like I said before, it's easy to think we live in the 'age of enlightenment' and sure, compared to past eras and civilizations, we are "enlightened" I suppose, but there is still a lot of be discovered. I keep going back to the verse in the Bible, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9, NIV) I imagine we are quite amusing to God at times -- the created says, "I've figured this out!!" and God looks down and says, "Ha, just you wait and see." It's an incredible thought really. Another verse that comes to mind is God saying to Job, "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand." (Job 38:4, NIV)

Anyway, those are my thoughts today - like I said, not related to running much. I suppose they could be related to running. There have advancements over the past 30 years in shoe technology, compression technology, physiological understanding, training philosophy and the like, but if all other disciplines are any indication there's still a lot more to learn about our bodies and about the sport of running. I'm looking forward to seeing more advancements and gaining further understanding, no matter the field.