While reading slashdot.org, I ran across this interesting story about an 88 year old inventor who, some 30 years ago, came up with a very useful water purification tool, and has been quietly manufacturing it and selling it out of his garage ever since. Recently, alas, he has been hassled and had his business shut down by the DEA. Why? Well, because ..his water purification device uses pure Iodine crystals, which, are a component in the manufacture of high-grade meth.. Now, as the comments by the DEA in the story indicate, the DEA’s attitude is vacuous and self-serving and rather paternalistic . They say he is just "collateral damage" in the war on drugs, and that shutting him down is the result of selfish actions of criminals. Well, one of the folks commenting on the story posted a remark using non sequiturs to sling mud at Mr. Wallace (the inventor). That annoyed me enough that I ranted on for a bit in a comment to the story itself. I thought that it was an interesting enough topic, though, that I would include a post here, and perhaps expand on the subject also. However, it is worth the time to read the article, and, perhaps, skim the comments. In any case, what follows is an updated and expanded copy of my post in reply to this opinionated quisling who did his best to prove that Mr. Wallace was a desperate criminal.
Mr Anthony’s two posts (copied here as fair use to make what I am saying more clear are as follows:
"Unfortunately there is someone that has a dad that lives in Monte Sereno / Los Gatos, and an attorney brother that lives in Los Gatos, that does use methamphetamine. That same guy also is an ee, and is involved with myredbook.com prostitution site. The ee that uses meth that is involved with myredbook, has a very good friend that was charged with child molestation that runs at the same track as this guy. Probability is that the ee involved with myredbook is using this guys product
Oh yeah, the guy charged with child molestation that runs at the same track as this guy, is something like 76 now"
Mark Anthony – You must be a politician. I say that because you are addressing the issue with statements that have NOTHING to do with the question at hand, and are saying it with such sincerity that you appear to believe you are adding to the dialogue. You are not, by the by. You are, though, trying to say that, because Mr Wallace happens to spend time running on the same piece of ground that an alleged child molester runs on, that he is obviously a criminal and only producing his purifying equipment to supply meth labs. Let us just take the first comment about two old guys running laps on a public track. Do you have any information that shows that Mr. Wallace had any contact with this mythical molester? Were they even on the track at the same TIME? Let us say, though, for the sake of argument that Mr Wallace and the mythical molester both started their day by running a mile at 7:30 in the morning, and that at some point, they might have exchanged a couple of sentences about their runs and general health. My question to you is this: So What? How would his proximity, or even casual interaction with this mythical molester indicate that Mr. Wallace was involved in the sort of criminal activity the DEA claims? Frankly, if proximity or casual contact does that, I would say that, if you, sir, have ever sat down in a Mall food court for a bite to eat, or have exchanged some casual conversation with a stranger that circumstance had put you together with, then, you should immediately have your life torn apart by the authorities looking for your obvious connection to the criminal community. Not only is there a 100% chance that child molesters have been within 5 feet of your location as you sit in the food court and that you have walked exactly where they have walked, there is a pretty good chance that you are sitting at the favorite table of one of them, and, beyond that, there are likely two or three (at least) sitting in the food court WITH you. It is an obvious connection by your standards. Also, why in the world do you make such a point about their ages? Would it be different if the molester was 25 years old? That smacks of a deep seated agism prejudice to me.
The anecdotal chain of connections you proceed to quote is quite inventive, but, again, unsupported by evidence, and, with every step along that chain one moves further away from Mr. Wallace having any connection to criminals and his water purification tool being a reagent source for meth cookers. Again, I ask: So What? With this unsupported chain of abuse, allI see that you have shown is that you perceive that there is a huge population of meth addicts in America, and, that you believe that it is likely that if one moves out three or four layers of friends, there is a very good chance that one or more of the folks in the list will either be a meth addict or a cooker. I will give you at least half a point there, in that drug use in America is quite widespread, and, it causes a lot of problems that really should be addressed in a positive fashion. But, from my point of view, if the government really wanted to fix the drug abuse problem in America, they would change their approach to it considerably. Now we simply throw the addicts into prison, where they get NO help, so, when they get out they still have that addiction monkey on their backs. While in prison they have gotten far more criminal knowledge and attitudes than they had when they went in. So, once released, they will not only go right back to their old, self-abusive habits, but, thanks to their time in prison, are quite likely to escalate the violence they are willing to use to get that fix. Perhaps it would be better if the Feds would use those trillions of dollars wasted on the "war on drugs" to set up recovery centers, where the convicted addicts would go, get cleaned up, work to track down the base cause of their self destructive behavior, and, be a part of a support system that will help them deal with society and themselves in a less dysfunctional way. I suspect that, with proper treatment, a great many addicts could get to the point where they control their addiction, instead of it controlling them, and so could rejoin society as productive citizens, and better people. While I have not dealt with EVERY addict in the world in my life, I have ended up talking to a fair number of folks caught in that trap. One common thread I see from my discussions with these folks is that they were abused – sexually, physically, or emotionally during their formative years. That abuse has left them with a terrible burden of self-hate, hidden in the dark corners of their minds. Very often, their drug use started out as they were trying to self-medicate the pain away. Alone, they are unwilling or unable to spend the time delving into those dark corners of their minds rooting the demons out, because that is a scary and difficult task indeed. However, with the proper help and support many addicts have a better chance of taking control back and, at the very least, getting started down the road of healing. At some point, as addicts get control of their lives again, and can avoid getting sucked in by the drugs, the demand for the hard drugs would dry up, and, the cookers making meth would move on to something else. However, alas, I believe we are never going to see that plan of attack happen. There are too many organizations, ranging from governmental law enforcement to the private companies that run so many "for profit" prisons in America, that are making WAY too much money off the "war on drugs" and so, like every other addict are going to fight to keep from having to give it up. Remember that money, to a politician or a greedy man. is like meth to an addict – they WILL sell their baby sister and grandmother into prostitution to get the next hit.
Finally, this foolish attitude that too many Americans have bought into – that if ONE person abuses something, then, it must be banned for everyone annoys me no end. Ranging from the "zero tolerance" rules for pocket knives that create unreasonable searches far too often, to the security theatre at airports that does little to protect anyone from danger, but has succeeded in changing flying from a really fun treat to be anticipated with joy into a tedious, unpleasant and humiliating experience that we can only grit our teeth and endure, this sort of mindset is teaching all Americans that they are mewling infants who can never handle responsibility, so they should let the benevolent parent of the government take care of them from cradle to grave. Beyond that there is a basic lack of understanding as about probabilities of injury or of a given event happening. Let us take a quick look again at Mr. Wallace’s product. According to THIS source: http://www.justice.gov/ndic/pubs1/1467/index.htm (which one would think would be reasonably accurate), it takes up to 2 pounds of iodine crystals to produce 1 pound of meth. Mr. Wallace’s purification system has (as a rough guess) maybe 1/10 oz of iodine crystals in each bottle (about a teaspoon according to his site). I will leave it to others to do the math and figure out how many bottles of Polar Pure would need to be purchased to get 2 pounds of Iodine. It is not quite the worst way to get iodine crystals, but, it is pretty close, since there are a number of other sources that are much less work and expense. It gets back to that probabilities of danger/harm I mentioned before. This weakness of mind and spirit in too many citizens that I have given examples of is exactly the sort of rot that brought down many great civilizations in the past, and, I fear will bring America down too.
Now, while I like a good rant as much as the next person, I also like to present some alternatives that might work better. For example, as for the case of Iodine crystals…I would suggest that the way to deal with this problem is not to shut down am 88 year old, retired guy who is providing a great service for those folks who are miles away from any water treatment facility, and are just trying to get a drink of water that will not kill them. Rather I would suggest it would be more productive to work on the treatment option for addicts, and, for the LEOs to do their bloody jobs, track down the meth labs and shut them down. The fact of the matter is that there is enough surveillance footage around to keep track of pretty much anyone so it should be even easier to find the labs and make them go away. Beyond that, knowing one’s beat and the people on it and building a positive relationship with them is invaluable at helping get intelligence about where the crimes are going down. Now part of this latter problem stems from the cut back in police forces, so instead of two officers walking a multi-block area, you have one officer cruising around in a vehicle all shift, listening to calls on the radio and glancing out the windows occasionally. If we are lucky, they do not have a cell phone plastered to their ear most of the time, distracting them from their jobs… The cop on the beat who interacts with the citizens on a daily basis is going to be far more approachable and far more likely to get information than the officer isolated inside their little, glass bubble, who stares suspiciously out an considers everyone who is not a cop to be a perp. In addition, the politicians on all levels of government should create laws that are specific enough that they actually target criminal acts, rather than casting such a broad net that innocent citizens are caught up. One of the more important controlling factors of these laws should be the probability of a given event happening….The law should not be nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to a flood of fear egged on by the unending coverage of crimes by the 24 hour a day news channels. To digress slightly, with a personal example….I happen to like growing blueberries, but the soil around here is too alkaline for them. So, I used to buy a big (50 lb) bag of ammonium nitrate every year or two, to work in to the ground and make the blueberries happier and healthier. Thanks to various factors including friends who refused to see the warning signs, and, sloppy work on the part of law enforcement, it is not possible for me to buy a big bag of the stuff any more (and yes, I DO know it can be a pretty great explosive), so I am forced to purchase a couple of small bags every few months to treat the bushes. Not only is this a bloody big hassle, because many of the farm supply stores in the area do not even carry it any more, but, it is about 10x more expensive to get the smaller bags. Good for the store I suppose, but, bad for me. Why did this happen? Because one or two flakes (who had, by the by, made it really clear to the people around them that they were going to attack the government with explosives), bought enough of the stuff to make a big boom and kill a bunch of people. The sad thing is that making sure that folks like me, who use it for its proper purpose can no longer purchase it in quantity did little or nothing to remove the threat. Mining companies still use tons of the explosive made from it to break out rocks in tunnels and quarries and other excavations. So, if a potential terrorist wanted a bunch of 55 gallon drums of the stuff, all they would have to do is stage a raid on a quarry, or, even better, hijack the truck delivering the drums TO the quarry. Not only could they get large quantities quickly that way, the cost of a few clips of bullets is a lot less than the cost of a truckload of 55 gallon drums filled with it ,
Americans need to remember that life is not safe and it can never BE totally safe. However, the probability that any one of us will be injured or killed in a terrorist attack, or the crashing of a hijacked airplane, or from toxic agents introduced into the water , air, or food supply is essentially zero. We have orders of magnitude more of a chance of being injured or killed on our drive to or from work. As a security person said one time " We have to be perfect all the time. The bad guys only have to get lucky once". We also need to turn away from the foolish idea that the government is the only protection we have. it is an inconvenient truth that in almost all cases of disaster the government is rarely able to cut down on the casualties. The best they can do is come in afterwards and clean up the mess. If the person who is determined to attack you is 100 feet behind you on the street, even if you are next to a cruiser, you had better expect to defend yourself, because the police are NOT going to be hopping out of the car and pulling guns out to protect you. They will, though, return fire when fired upon, and with luck will get emergency crews there before you bleed to death. The fact is that to live as safe a life as we can, we have to continually evaluate the risks in our lives, separate ourselves from the things that are TOO risky, and for the rest, understand that while disaster can happen, it is less likely if we are careful to take precautions. Life is too short to live in fear, yet, that is the mindset that is flooding America now, and seems to be getting more and more prevalent as the 21st century rolls past us.
Bee Man Dave