Slowing down…

November and December are officially noted as the “festive” season here in much of the western world. Now, I like the holidays well enough, but I don’t spend weeks or months preparing for them. I don’t try to drag them out to the point where Christmas becomes a holiday that consumes three weeks before the 25th of December and another week after it. Maybe I’m not in the minority there, but it seems that way based on the increasing number of people who are out, about, and meandering slowly through neighborhood shopping venues.

My response of choice in this scenario is to avoid those places as much as possible. It’s got the unintended side effect of having dramatically slowed down my pillaging of thrift shops and used book stores, In fact I’ve brought nothing into the inventory for the last three weeks and will probably go another five weeks before resuming the chase. Since most of the places I frequent share strip mall space with other stores, the volume of people is mostly enough to leave me uninterested… unless I know someone is hiding something uniquely interesting, in which case I’d likely make an exception.

The last months of the year are when I can make a little progress on churning through some of what I’ve already put into the holding pen. That feels good. Having lived with myself for so long, though, I also know the arrival of the holidays is also a bit of a warning sign… because it means ’round about New Years, I’ll be chomping at the bit to get back after it and have a budget line I haven’t touched in two months with which to indulge my favorite minor obsession.

There are worse things to do with your time and money, I suppose. Someday a bookcase may collapse and kill me, but hey, at least it’s not heroin.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Junkies. A 17 year old addict stabbed a woman in the neck at one the county’s fine retail establishments Tuesday morning. By Tuesday night local social media pages were filled with calls to pity the poor addict. Far fewer mentioned his victim. Addiction may well be a disease but at some point little Johnny Eightball made a decision to give it a try. All the “he was raised rights” and “he is usually such a nice young mans” in the world doesn’t change the fact that his original sin was a decision not an immaculate victimhood. If Jeff were king for a day the prescription for what ails twatwaffles like young Johnny Eightball wouldn’t be zen meditation, three hots and a cot, or sympathetic understanding that’s for goddamned sure.

2. LED bulbs that “pause” before lighting up. As the 64 watt can lights in the kitchen burn out, I’m replacing them with comparable LED bulbs. Other than the living room reading lamp, these are probably the bulbs in the house that get the most daily use because I like excessive light when fiddling around in the kitchen. Mostly it’s been a happy transition to LED… except for this last one. Where all the other bulbs exactly replicate the feel of “old fashioned” filament bulbs, this latest one has a noticeable, and increasingly annoying “waiting period” before it comes on after I flip the switch. Yes, I know, it’s a minor first world problem, but seeing that I live in the first world, that’s to be expected… so now I’ll go off to Lowe’s and buy another $12 bulb in the hopes that I just got a bum the last time around.

3. Deceiving looks. There’s a tree still lying across the sidewalk and partially into the road just a few dozen yards from my driveway. To anyone driving past it would look for all intents and purposes as if I were the irresponsible homeowner who was leaving it lay there. Of course being the anal retentive jerk I am, I had a full survey done when I bought Fortress Jeff and know exactly where my responsibilities begin and end. The tree in question is without a doubt something that is squarely within the bailiwick of my neighbor to the northeast. Looks are deceiving… and just now the deception is making me look like an asshat.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Mostly they’ve annoyed me in their misguided majority opinion that the most popular style of rifle currently purchased in the United States for sport shooting and home defense is, in their opinion, “most useful in military service.” That would be a fine point of contention, I suppose, if anyone, anywhere actually employed the AR-15 in actual military service… which in my mind is a pretty good indication that military service is, in fact, not where it is most useful.

2. Sympathy for heroin users. My ancestral homeland in far western Maryland and my current home at the norther edge of the Eastern Shore have a lot in common. Both have a small urban center largely surrounded by very small towns and lots of rural land. The other thing they have in common is heroin. Where there’s heroin, from our big cities to our small towns there are apologists for people who use it. They’re sick. They have disease. It’s society’s fault.It’s no different than you and your high blood pressure from the red meat and carbs. Except it’s completely different, of course. Even allowing that addiction is a disease, there are pretty substantial differences. Newspapers aren’t filled with reports of violent crime and property theft because folks with high blood pressure because they couldn’t scrape up the funds for a dose of their medication. I might take a stroke and die, but I’m not apt to sell off the neighbor’s family silver or hold up the nearest liquor store in the process. Our friends the heroin users, though, they’re up to all manner of debauchery to “get their medicine.” You want to kill yourself, have at it. You want to whore yourself out to get a quick score, help yourself. When the bodies that start falling belong to other people or you start thieving, well, my level of sympathy for your plight falls to damned near zero.

3. Mexico. Apparently the Mexican government is upset that we’re going to return to them the unlawful immigrants who they allowed to cross through their country. “But they’re not Mexican nationals,” the foreign minister cries. I suppose that’s one of those things they might should have thought of before letting them cross the entire length of Mexico with a wink and a promise that they were just passing through. Actions, like elections, have consequences.

Darwin’s price…

My news feed has been flooded for the last couple of weeks with the “news” that a heroin epidemic has broken out. Well, I don’t suppose that’s news really. HBO built a pretty popular television franchise by telling the story of heroin almost a decade and a half ago. It’s not exactly a new problem, even if it has taken on new faces and occupied new territories – territories that were once largely the traditional province of prescription drugs and methamphetamine.

A local county here in Maryland reported twenty heroin overdoses in the first two weeks of February this year. Now hang on to your hats, because what I’m about to say will probably annoy a large number of people and might even cost me a few friends. Still, though, I think it needs saying – if only because the currently popular discussion of mass treatment versus mass incarceration seems to continually miss the target.

Maybe it’s time to just accept that there are a certain subset of people who have accepted death as a risk of what they’re doing. If people want help, by all means give it to them, but if their actions demonstrate clearly that they’ve resolved to die in a ditch no matter how much help is available to them, well, it seems like the problem will sort itself out fairly quickly. At what point is it just stupid to save someone who’ll be on the street knocking over a liquor store or stealing from their former friends and neighbors to fund their next fix as soon as they’re out of the hospital or jail. It might be a kindness to allow Darwin to extract his price sooner rather than later.

Now before someone comes screaming at me that addiction is just like any other treatable disease, let’s remember that even though I’m diabetic I may be killing myself slowly with my dinner options, but I’m not breaking into anyone’s house to steal pie and I’m not out working the corner to raise cash for my next Snickers. It’s not just a difference of semantics.

I know there isn’t a chance in hell of my shell of a plan ever being adopted. For the most part people are entirely too softhearted to allow natural consequence to take its course. The point is, what we’ve been trying clearly isn’t getting the job done, so what’s next?

More of the same…

The White House announced a new Heroin Response Strategy today. This new initiative will roll up initiatives already underway in five separate hot spots, including Maryland’s beloved Baltimore. Our elected officials were quick to trumpet this new program, which isn’t surprising considering how badly handled the war on drugs in this country has been in general – and let’s be perfectly realistic here for a minute – how shockingly incompetent it’s been at crushing the heroin trade in particular.

I’ve always been of the school of thought that says the moment you ban something, you make it more attractive to a certain subset of the population. You also make the banned substance more expensive. Criminal enterprises spring up to fill the newly created market niche… and then federal and state money pours into fix a problem that they created in the first place. Still, the nature and efficacy of prohibition isn’t really the point here.

My point is it’s damned near impossible to legislate yourself out of moral or medical “problems.” The 18th Amendment raised up men like Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. I’m not sure why we thought alcohol was a special case. The war on drugs features a different substance, but the same approach, and has garnered much the same result. I would never dare march under the banner of outright legalization of any and all comers, but expecting the new Heroin Response Strategy to do any better than the “more of the same” that has come before it is futile at best.

Perhaps it’s time to focus on the criminal acts rather than the substances themselves. Does society care if you get high as a kite and drop dead in your bathroom with a needle in your arm? Maybe a little, but not enough to do much about it. Now if you get high and then proceed to rape, rob, or steal, well then society has a problem. We can’t have the addicts running around bothering the mostly nice, mostly law-abiding civilians. If we can’t manage to address the root cause of addiction, perhaps we can at least mitigate the symptoms society has determined are most unpleasant… because if I’m bluntly honest, I don’t much care if Jane Junky ruins her life right up to the point where my television, a laptop, and the window she broke to get in the house become collateral damage to her addiction.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. There’s no law banning heart disease (although there are some laws encouraging more healthful behaviors). If beating a heart attack were as simple as passing a law criminalizing it, well Congress would be full of heroes – and prisons would be full of middle age men who had one too many cheeseburgers. Instead of criminalizing heart attacks, we’ve build an entire medical establishment around saving people from the consequence of a high fat, high cholesterol diet.

Surely our friend Big Pharma would love to find itself with another readymade customer base. It would be good for the taxpayer, good for shareholders, and dare I say it, good to Jane Junky too. Even if that’s not true on all counts, it could hardly be worse than what we’ve been trying for the last fifty years.

Distinctions…

I saw a Facebook post this morning that mentioned a “lethal mix of heroin” making it’s way around some part of the country. Now I’m a simple guy and try not to use 20 words when ten would do, so it strikes me that saying lethal mix of heroin economizes words about as much as saying toxic nuclear waste. Regardless of how you phrase it, what you’re trying to say is “if you ingest this shit, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up dead.” Easy peasy, no?

The second thing that occurred to me, is basically so what? I’m not sure why I care that some locality is inundated with this “lethal mix of heroin.” I’ve always sort of figured that if you’re loading something into your bloodstream that you bought in an alley, you’re reasonably well aware of the potential risks you’re facing. Knowing the average heroin user has a higher propensity to drop dead versus the average Joe Sixpack goes with the territory. You make your decisions and you take your risks. If every now and then a bad batch makes its way through to distribution, that’s in the nature of the business.

Addiction is a hell of a thing and while I feel bad for those who are impacted by it, that sympathy doesn’t extend far enough to make a distinction between a good dose and a bad one. Personally, I’d rather see the police rolling up the distribution channels than running “no questions asked” turn ins in an effort to get the Really Really Bad version off the street in favor of the Really Bad variety. It feels a little disingenuous to try making that type of distinction.