Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Laptop Thoughts

Recently Published

A report a couple of weeks ago showed that when men sit with laptops in their laps, their sperm count lowers as a result of the increased temperatures in that area. Needless to say, males that have a penchant for blogging with their laptop while drinking Mountain Dew and scarfing down yellow M&M's aren't going to be procreating anytime soon.

I love science. The most wonderful way to live our lives is apparently to rejoice over technology that makes living oh-so-much easier and then panic when we realize that it gives us cancer or kills our potential babies. NOT THE POTENTIAL BABIES!!

As ridiculous as any report that discussed the impact of laptops or Yellow 5 on sperm might be (You know what lowers sperm counts? A swift kick in the junk), there is something serious at work behind the scenes. Unfortunately, that something serious is not our government with our best interests in mind.

No, what is working behind the scenes is a wizened old man behind a curtain, frantically keeping up a charade of knowledge and power in order to hide his true identity; that of a fraud that fortuitously stumbled on something good and decided to keep it for himself. It's not George Bush, or someone in Hollywood, or P Diddy.

We all have a decripit old bastard in our heads (not to be confused with Old Dirty Bastard, RIP - it would be worse if he were in our heads). He's in all of us, telling us that we know what we're doing, that the government is made of people like us (that know exactly what they're doing) and that as long as we keep plodding forward, no little dog is going to wander behind the curtain and reveal our dirty secret. It's not even that dirty once you get down to it.

The secret (shh!) is just that we're all human, and not some mystical know-it-all that can provide miracles upon request (No, that power is reserved for Miracle Max. Maybe Andre the Giant with a Holocaust Cloak), and that instead of demanding so much from our industries that regulation is thrown to the winds, we should take a little more care to learn about what we are ingesting and what we are driving.

The FDA is just wonderful. Little scandals are popping up right and left, and instead of discussing legislation that might extend the testing period of potentially dangerous (and even not potentially dangerous) drugs, for instance making a mandatory ten year test cycle for SSUI (selective seratonin uptake inhibitor) drugs followed by a ten year monitoring period of test subjects, the drug company stocks take a dip, the drugs are pulled, some people stop taking them, and everyone moves on.

The hardworking people at the FDA approve drugs without significant testing thanks to a drug lobby that is as powerful as the gun lobby or the tobacco lobby, and then five years later, reports come out that prove the drug unsafe, perhaps as unsafe as glass in your cigarette, or a AK-57 clone and some copkiller bullets in the hands of a high schooler. (for whom, perhaps, the miracle drugs are having little of their promised effect; does he think the fault is with the drug, or is the fault within him?)

What is the government to do? Point a finger at a lobbyist and say "He bought me off with lunch, a nice watch and Helga the masseuse?" Well if everyone wasn't so demanding, with their cries of "we can't raise our children!" or "I can't keep going to work" or "I don't want to deal with aging", maybe we could be a little slower and patient with the development of drugs. These aren't drugs that cure terminal illnesses, unless you're one of those morbid ones that consider adolescence and your forties terminal illnesses.

One day you're allowed to take one drug that helps arthritis and another that lowers your cholesterol and then the next day the drugs are being pulled off the market because they might make you grow an extra eye in the center of your forehead. Then there's the antidepressants that make life so HAPPY one day but then are decried the world over because just as they make some people HAPPY, the also make others kill themselves.

It's amazing how much we take for granted is dangerous, that could be much safer with a little more effort, even if that effort comes at a slight economic hitch. Our "meds" are one thing. Then there's transportation.

Driving is wonderful; it gets us to work, it takes us on vacation, to the local drugstore, to the mall, and if you're Hugh Grant or Denny Neagle, it gets you a blow job for between 40 and 100 dollars. And yet we go up to 85 miles per hour (or if you're like some people I know, 105) feeling safe, while they're really just flimsy pieces of sheet metal that will offer as little protection as a piece of tissue paper against a rifle if we get into a serious accident. People do get into a lot of serious accidents. Kills more than most major diseases combined, if I'm not mistaken.

There could be so much done to help cars be safer.

For one, kids can wait to drive. I didn't drive until I was seventeen, and to tell the truth, I probably could have waited until I was eighteen. No driving, no problem if your kid gets drunk at a friends house and suddenly panics about their curfew. You can't really control whether your child drinks at a friends house. But you can control how he or she get to that friend's house and how they get home. If it means you, the parent, have to stay up until midnight and be responsible, so be it.

With cell-phones, who needs a car? If you can't call a parent, call a cab. Ten, fifteen bucks, gets you home, no questions about the beer on your breath. Besides, a little more public transportation makes the environment safer.

Alternatively, when kids take driver's ed classes, they can be mandatory in school (no driver's ed, no high school diploma - that way, drop outs can't drive) and can be serious classes instead of some fat fifty year old with a hacking cough that lectures you in a dim classroom before taking you out onto the road for some real heart-wrenching adventure. Is your education district dropping music and art? Fine, but only if you offer driver's ed as a mandatory class junior year instead.

Second, laws are wonderful when it comes to DUI/DWI and other accidents. Suspension, 6 months? Take a refresher course that costs you a few hundred bucks? No way. Drunk driving should carry an automatic revoking of a person's license, no freebies, for two to three years. If they hit anything or anybody, not misdemeanor assault. Assault with intent to do bodily injury / Willfully destroying public or private property. Automatic jail time or heavy fines and community service. Actually I'm not familiar with all the state statutes and I'm pretty sure some states penalize much heavier and faster than others.

Of course, we could also pay a little money, or rather, the auto industry could pay a little money, and make the cars safer. If all cars had side-impact beams like Volvos, people might not get hurt as bad. I'm not saying that we need to make people roll in bubble wrap before entering a car if that's what makes them safer, but there's no way the body structure of most cars are designed for maximum safety. I'd rather give up a couple of miles to the gallon to make my car safer than a couple of miles to the gallon so I can drive something that rivals small buildings and looks good in black with rims. Then again, if I'm driving my Honda sedan and I get broadsided by a soccer mom in an Escalade, side-impact beams won't help me - heck, Gandalf probably couldn't help me.

I've blogged something like this before, a few weeks ago, on technology and regulations, and in some ways, I'm arguing the exact opposite today. Then, I wrote something to the effect of "technology fast, regulation slow, but it happens". Now, I'm not so sure. That was about the internet, I believe, and decency online.

We get into such a comfort zone with what we have sometimes that we're not willing to change our situation. For instance, if Americans suddenly had to give up their cars for a week so their vehicles could get fitted with side-impact suspension beams or ejection seats or whatever else, most people wouldn't do it; they would complain about needing to take the kids to school or needing to get groceries. Or just needing their car because even if they don't drive, they like to know it's there if they want to go out. On a more realistic level, we're not willing to take the time to learn how to drive safely, especially after that first time.

While chemical dependancy is a harder issue to break down, I'm pretty sure that a large number, possibly a majority, of American parents that are confronted with the possibility of placing their children on anti-depressants either don't know the potential side effects, or worse, don't care. I know that some kids need anti-depressants. I know that some kids need acne medication. But in our culture, what we need and what we want are as different as Bilbo and Gollum; that is to say, conceptually intertwined, but two distinct entities.

A large majority of us don't need Ritalin, or a Hummer 2, or anti-aging miracle drug. But we all want it because we're not willing to be human, suffer a little, and live our lives when technology advances safely around us. Instead, we let that little man behind the curtain hoodwink us into believing that the superstructure of our society is founded on solid principles of intellectualism, science and public safety when it's all a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

I'm not advocating a return to collective agricultural systems or anything like that. Beaureaucracy is there for a reason. If I'm going to deal with red tape, and I know I'll have to deal with red tape, I want to know that it's going towards making my life safer and not getting some Senator some valuable stock options under the table. And if I know a drug is going to be safer when it comes out, I have no problem with waiting longer for it.

One day, a cute little dog will peel that curtain back a show us that little man inside. It won't be Michael Moore; he's not cute at all. It will be something a little more insidious and sneaky, something that will happen on an individual basis. We'll realize that certain parts of our life are so unstable that even though we've lived that way, well, it seems like forever, we can't do it anymore. Just because it's a law or it's tradition doesn't mean that it's what's best for us.

Mmmm, the sweet smell of Diatribe


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