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Thursday, December 13, 2007

The New Opium Wars

The French daily, Le Monde, reports today on the narco-State of Afghanistan. The most significant observation reported is that farmers in Afghanistan produce 93% of the world's supply of opium. This amounts to a stunning 8,200 tons!

Fighting hard and giving their lives to support the world's heroin addicts are the military forces of Europe, Australia, and the United States. This effort is costing the people in these developed nations billions of euros annually. Billions of euros spent to support and grow the population of heroin addicts in major metropolitan regions everywhere!

There is no evidence to support the claims of some ISAF commanders that "they are doing everything possible to eradicate drug production." Opium production is expected to increase nearly 50% in 2007! To support this noble cause, U.S. Congress just approved billions of additional euros of spending for the War in Afghanistan. There was no mention of any expenses towards drug eradication and farmer education programs.

ENCOURAGE OTHER CROPS?
Queenstown New Zealand 0035
Of course there are some efforts being made by the government of Afghanistan to persuade farmers to grow something other than the beautiful opium poppy. Some farmers have actually switched to growing cannabis in order to manufacture more hashish!

In other ways the U.S. and other wealthy countries are doing everything they can to convince Afghan farmers to grow even more opium. Farm subsidies given to EU and U.S. farmers make it impossible for farmers in poor nations to sell wheat, corn, or rice to the rich nations. So the poor farmers grow the crops that rich nations like to import. These are the most valuable cash crops in the world, they are: cocaine, cannabis, and opium.

REDUCING DEMAND FOR DRUGS?

Compared to war spending, the present government in the U.S. spends very little on drug rehabilitation. The big pharmaceutical firms like Merck, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson certainly profit from outdated, ineffective drug laws. There is no immediate profit in drug-law reform, no Blackwater or Halliburton to donate to political campaigns. It is true that governments spend huge amounts of money locking up drug dealers in prison. The recent change in the way judges issue prison terms is unlikely to achieve much besides increase the number of crack dealers. This makes the voters think that something is being done about the drug problem but in reality there is always another young person ready to make easy money selling on the street corner.

Directing money into programs that would create real jobs for inner-city youth would make sense. The promise of a job at Wal-Mart or Kentucky Fried Chicken seems unlikely to convince a crack or heroin dealer to switch professions.

Spending more money on primary and secondary education would certainly help. But schools are of little concern to politicians that prefer instead to torture and bomb people. School spending, like spending on public transportation, appears to buy few votes for the mostly corrupt political leaders in rich nations.

THE RESULT?

The result of all this war spending and torture is likely to be more widespread violence, growing drug addiction, including heroin addiction, and widespread poverty all over the world. The next time you hear about the elected officials in Brussels and Washington voting to give more subsidies to farmers and less money for schools remember this. In the end we get exactly what we deserve from every euro we spend.

Sources:

BBC News

New York Times

BBC News

Le Monde

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why No Health Insurance?

I recently asked a number of friends, strangers, and associates if they had health insurance. More than half of them said they do not. I then asked them why they do not have health insurance. The responses other than a simple "I cannot afford it" are worth noting here:

Note: Most of the respondents are hourly wage earners
The Jolly Flatboatmen 19774

1. My employer does not offer health insurance.

2. My employer only offers a limited health insurance plan. I cannot afford the deduction from my small weekly paycheck.

3. One out of five people in the U.S. smoke cigarettes. I do not. Why should I subsidize people who deliberately want to commit slow suicide?

4. The plans offered to me at my work cover almost nothing and have a $5,000 deductible.

5. Health insurance executives are some of the highest-paid people in the U.S.. They are nothing but pirates running huge pirate ships.

6. Why bother? I can always go to the emergency room and write "Indigent" on the forms and "no fixed address" in the other blanks. They get angry but they still treat me.

7. If I get really badly hurt I will end up bankrupt even if I had health insurance.

8. Hospitals and doctors are just pushing pills for the drug firms. The side-effects of many medications will ruin your life or kill you faster than the sickness. Most hospitals are so full of germs and disease I would rather die at home than risk going there.

9. I go to teaching hospitals. My charges for services there have never been close to the annual cost of health insurance.

10. The most likely place where I will get hurt is in a car accident. I carry extra medical coverage on my auto insurance policy.

11. I am not a legal U.S. citizen, I cannot get health insurance for myself or my family. When we need doctors we just go to the emergency room like the police tell us.

12. Doctors, hospitals, and the entire U.S. health care industry are a pack of thieves.

13. We go home to India/Mexico when we need expensive surgery. Otherwise we pay out of our own pockets when we need health care.

14. When a particular member of the family gets really ill we do sign them up for health insurance and lie about pre-existing conditions. We have not been caught yet.

15. The government is about to offer Universal Health Care. We are healthy enough to wait until then.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Finding Alan Watts

I was reading Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action last night before sleep. All night I heard Alan Watts' voice reading passages from The Way of Zen and Nature, Man, and Women. Mind you, I have never heard Mr. Watts voice before in my life. I was mystified as to why I heard him reading with a British accent. Furthermore, I had not read Mr. Watt's works since the 1980's, when I read perhaps 10 of his books, each several times. Korzybski must have led my subconscious from Hayakawa to Watts. Imagine my surprise to learn from Wikipedia that Mr. Watts was born near London, England. I always considered him a U.S. native. Then I found this site and Mr. Watts himself, sounding just the same as in my dreams. Bird 15408

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Reluctant Prophet

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead & rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing. - Benjamin Franklin

I recently searched for references to my blog entries and found many, in other blogs and even newspaper articles. Quite frankly, I did not expect to find so many references. Was I ever wrong!

Admittedly, my search required the use of web-based translation tools and a variety of search engines. I only invested a few hours of weekend time on the task so there could certainly be many other people reading what I write and passing it on to others.

Here is one of the more stunning revelations:
Monk, Bihar, India 002
In China and Italy I am called a "prophet", whoa! It seems my revelations about human behavior, politics, and especially technology, are so far ahead of everyday conversation that they deserve special mention. Many writers used one or more quotations from my work to initiate long treatises on the future. One Chinese newspaper columnist declared that I must be a worker in one of the most secret U.S. military labs. An Italian blogger suggested outright that I am a prophet with access to information that is not available from any other sources.

For the record, I have never been an employee of any government. I have consulted for many of the three-letter agencies in the U.S. government. Oh, I taught some secretaries in the Haitian government how to use WordPerfect, again as a consultant only.

These discoveries jogged my memory of days long past. In the 1980s I travelled regularly throughout rural and urban India speaking about the coming Internet Age. Some speeches were attended by hundreds of people eager to learn about this new global network. Other talks attracted only 4 or 5 curious listeners. In every case, the Indian people that attended my talks quickly understood that new fast data connections to the West could be a real source of income for India. I strongly urged many Sikh and Jain businessmen to connect to new VSL phone lines as quickly as they could. Teleconferencing, customer support, and computer program writing could be accomplished anywhere the connection was fast enough, I insisted.

I kept in touch with many participants from India long after returning to my project in Haiti. E-mail made this easy and affordable, at least at my end of the connection. (I had my first business e-mail account in 1982. I received my first Internet e-mail in 1983 when my employer connected their network to a global business network.) My e-mail correspondents went on to form some of the largest outsourcing firms in South Asia. This remains an important accomplishment in my career despite how some people in the U.S. feel about outsourcing.

The idea of being branded a "prophet" in this day and age strikes me as both interesting and troublesome. Prophesy is a rather dubious description for a person like me that simply researches the most advanced technologies available and shares that information freely. There are too many religious connotations to the word "prophet" for me to ever be comfortable wearing such a moniker. I understand how the idea arises but I do not like the places it takes some thinkers.

I do understand a great deal about where today's technologies will take society. In some cases what I have learned disturbs me so much that I refuse to share my discoveries anywhere expect my private journals. In other cases I have dropped a revelation, oops, an insight or two here in this blog. For example, my series Will Google Become God? led readers down a strange path strewn with all kinds of future uses of massive computing power. In other cases, for example my system of integrating all forms of battlefield surveillance into a single real-time solution for military use, is deliberately being left on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, the Pentagon is working on a program called "AngelFire" that incorporates two or three of the ten sources and concepts my OverSight system would incorporate. I remain a silent prophet in that case.

Information is a powerful tool. In the right hands it can help feed millions and permit free speech in places where dissidents are routinely executed. In other cases though, certain information can be used to empower corrupt leaders currently using torture, kidnapping, and disinformation to transform entire nations into submissive flocks of sheep. In those cases you can rest assured this "prophet" will remain silent until long after the despots go back to their lairs to lick their wounds in private.