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Government-built Google mashup sends a mixed message

Attempts by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to make a point about California-legal medical-marijuana dispensaries went horribly wrong earlier this month, when the office’s official “Pushing Back” blog published a Google Maps mash-up supplying the public with a map of downtown San Francisco’s marijuana dispensaries.

The mash-up was originally built to make a point -- San Francisco is so saturated by medical-marijuana dispensaries that they exceed the number of Starbucks coffee shops in the city’s downtown area.

Both San Francisco city officials and the San Francisco Chronicle are questioning the federal governments sources, however. One city official told City Insider that the data presented was “extremely incorrect.”

“I don’t know how they got that,” he added.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, there are only 24 dispensaries in San Francisco in possession of the necessary permits, or trying to apply for them.

Even the ONDCP’s assessment of Starbucks locations is incorrect, said Starbucks spokeswoman Vivian Doan. The map should have listed 71 locations, when it instead listed 66.

In a follow-up post, the ONDCP implies that it gathered its data from publicly-available search engine listings. “It's hard to be exact,” reads the post, “but based on publicly available info on search engines, we believe that there are more listings for pot dispensaries in SF than there are Starbucks.”

The post, authored by ONDCP spokesman Rafeal Lamaitre, then acknowledges statistics from the SF Department of Public Health, before noting that the number of “registered pot clubs” in San Francisco still exceeds the number of Taco Bells (18), Middle Schools (14), and district police stations (14).

“Simple Google searches will find far more pot establishments in the San Francisco area. Some of these even offer delivery services,” the post reads, including a link to one such service.

The original version of the mashup listed a total of 98 dispensaries. When questioned about the source of its data, the ONDCP provided a list of 74 dispensaries and revised its map to show 71. Officials say the removed entries consisted of “alternative-medicine-type” shops whose marijuana offerings could not be confirmed.

Wired’s Threat Level notes that ONDCP was previously caught producing fake news broadcasts in 2005.



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RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By Aarnando on 11/21/2008 1:24:43 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
As far as gay marriage, its been between a man and a women since time began.


A gay marriage...between a man and a woman...

Anyway, I know what you meant, so I'll quit harrasing you on that point. However, I think you have some facts wrong. Marriage has not been around since time began. Marriage is a concept invented by humans, and represents little more than a business deal no matter how much flowery language, fancy clothes, and delightful foods you throw into the mix. In the sense of a business deal, why should anyone care if it's the combination of a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman?

I think what you're mistaking marriage with is procreation. Where humans are involved, procreation does irrefutably require a man and a woman. But no one is trying to redefine the laws of procreation, so what exactly is the problem?


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 (blog) on 11/21/2008 3:05:59 PM , Rating: 4
> "In the sense of a business deal, why should anyone care if it's the combination of a man and a woman, a man and a man, or a woman and a woman?"

Because a traditional marriage formalizes a union where both partners are capable not only of procreation, but of raising their biological offspring in a two-parent household, an arrangement that has substantial benefits for society. The conception and rearing of children has been the basis not just of marriage, but of society itself since the earliest days of protohistory. For the same reason we (in most states, at least) make marriage easy, but divorce difficult-- social stability.

And before you say it-- yes, I'm aware of a few "studies" which purport to suggest that a gay couple can raise children as well as a traditional one. I think we all realize such studies are utter nonsense, designed only to prove a foregone conclusion. The issue has nothing to do with "gayness", but the simple fact that the optimum environment for children is when they have a biological connection to both parents. In other words, the situation for which millions of years of evolution has shaped us.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By Aarnando on 11/21/2008 5:55:30 PM , Rating: 3
I can wholeheartedly agree that traditional marriage does have benefits to society in the forms you state, but, if that is your reasoning as to why gay marriage should remain illegal, then what you are proposing is a form of punishment for gay couples who wish to be married. Since they won't create and rear children, they aren't allowed to marry.

Rather than punish citizens, I'd prefer to grant them a right which would possibly create a beneficial union between two people. Unless you want to argue that a satisfied citizen free from discrimination is not beneficial to society?


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 (blog) on 11/21/2008 8:55:18 PM , Rating: 2
> "as to why gay marriage should remain illegal..."

First allow me to correct you. Gay marriage is not "illegal". No gay couples are being jailed or subject to any criminal penalties. They're allowed to have a union, but the State simply refuses to recognize it. A subtle, but critical distinction.

> "Since they won't create and rear children, they aren't allowed to marry"

If I refuse to have children, I am denied the writeoff of a dependent. If I refuse to buy a hybrid car, I am denied the tax credit for such. No difference in either case. The State chooses to reward certain behaviors. Gay couples are not being punished in any way -- they're simply not receiving the reward that a traditional couple does.

Given recent demographic statistics, I believe such a benefit doesn't go nearly far enough to rewarding child rearing. Within 30 years or so, we're going to be forced to issue far larger bonsues to those couples who both choose to have children, and to bring up them properly. The hardworking, well-educated segment of society is not having nearly enough offspring to even maintain their own numbers, much less enlarge them.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By Aarnando on 11/21/2008 10:13:02 PM , Rating: 3
You got me on the illegal bit. I mispoke. Touche!

quote:
If I refuse to have children, I am denied the writeoff of a dependent. If I refuse to buy a hybrid car, I am denied the tax credit for such. No difference in either case. The State chooses to reward certain behaviors. Gay couples are not being punished in any way -- they're simply not receiving the reward that a traditional couple does.

You're veering from the topic of marriage, to the topic of dependents. You are not required to have a dependent to be married, nor are you required to be married to claim a dependent (child or otherwise). So it really isn't here or there concerning why a gay coupled isn't allowed to be a legally recognized married couple.

I'm also curious to your stance on heterosexual couples who get married or are already married, but for whatever reason are unable to conceive a child. In this regard, how do they differ from a homosexual couple in your definition of marriage as...

quote:
a traditional marriage formalizes a union where both partners are capable not only of procreation, but of raising their biological offspring in a two-parent household


Heterosexual couples unable to conceive are not barred from being legally recognized as married, yet they don't meet the same portion of your criteria as a gay couple. I'm not trying to trick you with this one, but would honestly like to understand how you can justify allowing marriage in one instance yet bar it in the other simply on the basis of heterosexual versus homosexual if it's mainly, as you stated, about child rearing.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 (blog) on 11/21/2008 11:06:49 PM , Rating: 1
> "You're veering from the topic of marriage"

Veering? No, I'm demonstrating a parallel case, with relevance to the point at hand.

> "You are not required to have a dependent to be married"

It's nearly impossible to write a law to perfectly compel the desired behavior. The home ownership writeoff is given to encourage equity building-- yet a homeowner who destroys their equity through bad choices still receives the credit.
The hybrid auto tax credit is given to reduce gas consumption-- yet a person who buys a hybrid but burns even more gas than they did before, still receives it.

A married couple in one household has lower expenses than two people living apart-- yet they pay less taxes, not more. Why? If one discounts the encouragement of child rearing, granting a tax benefit from marriage is utterly ludicrous. So why should a gay couple be rewarded for what is, from a procreational perspective, counterproductive behaviour?

Now one can certainly argue that a couple without children shouldn't receive the benefit either. However, statistics tells us that most couples presently without children will eventually have them. Even should they be sterile, future medical advances may well change that.

I believe the tax laws will ultimately have to be rewritten to do just what you suggest -- reward only those who have children, rather than those who simply get married. In that case, this entire debate itself becomes moot.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By Aarnando on 11/21/2008 11:31:48 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Now one can certainly argue that a couple without children shouldn't receive the benefit either. However, statistics tells us that most couples presently without children will eventually have them. Even should they be sterile, future medical advances may well change that.


By that same logic, I guess we can also hypothetically predict that future medical advancements may allow homosexual couples to conceive. Now I realize how ridiculous that sounds, but I use it to show that both avenues of hypothesis are flawed. It is ridiculous to base current marriage laws around possible future medical advancements which may allow conception where it is impossible now.

Even when accepting your theory of medical advancements, we're still left with a loophole which doesn't account for heterosexual couples who marry and simply choose to not conceive.

Furthermore, I don't believe the real issue over gay marriage is whether a gay couple can conceive or not. I believe for most opposition is based on bigotry. I'm not accusing you of this. If your stance is based on the inability of a gay couple to conceive, well I can't argue whether or not it is possible (obviously it isn't), but I am inclined to disagree that it is a reasonable basis for what constitutes a marriage. Especially when compared to benefits granted to heterosexual couples who either cannot now, or do not ever want to conceive

It's been interesting debating this with you, but obviosuly we both have our own opinions and will not be swayed. Rather than continue the back and forth, I'll simply hold my opinion until the issue arises in my state.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 (blog) on 11/22/2008 1:16:07 AM , Rating: 2
> "is ridiculous to base current marriage laws around possible future medical advancements "

Now you're just being silly. Current law is based around the fact that the vast majority of married couples eventually have children. Every single one? No, but 95% or more do.

What percentage of gay couples currently conceive and rear their children? Zero. Zip. Zilch. None whatsoever.

> "I believe for most opposition is based on bigotry"

Could be. It's also entirely irrelevant. Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation not to free slaves at all, but simply impair the South's ability to wage war, and to belp the North win. Does that magically make the law itself wrong?


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By Aarnando on 11/22/2008 2:19:27 AM , Rating: 2
Alright. You've lured me back for one more go round...

quote:
Now you're just being silly. Current law is based around the fact that the vast majority of married couples eventually have children. Every single one? No, but 95% or more do.

No, I'm not being silly. You countered my question of married couples who are unable to conceive by stating that they will probably be able to conceive in the future due to medical advancements. I countered by stating that basing a current law on possible advancements in the future is ridiculous. I stand by that claim. If you want to rescind your previous statement and begin discussing the present as basis for law, as you've done, I welcome that as it is more rational. However, your change in argument does not render my rebuttal silly.

quote:
What percentage of gay couples currently conceive and rear their children? Zero. Zip. Zilch. None whatsoever.

This is true. I admitted as much in my last post. Please refer to that post if you're curious as to how I feel this should or should not relate to marriage laws.

quote:
Could be. It's also entirely irrelevant. Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation not to free slaves at all, but simply impair the South's ability to wage war, and to belp the North win. Does that magically make the law itself wrong?

I don't know enough about that period in history, or the machinations behind Lincoln's descision to pass this law, to agree or disagree with your claim. Luckily for me, I'm not arguing for or against the Emancipation Proclamation.

I will, however, disagree that opposition to gay marriage based on bigotry is irrelevent. Anyone is allowed to harbor prejudice on a personal level. It's the right of any free person. When that bigotry leads to decisions which effect the rights and priveleges of a segment of the population on a state or national level, then I have a problem. If a bigotted mindset is the driving force which leads to the granting or rescinding of rights, then yes, I would say it is wrong.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By Aarnando on 11/21/2008 6:16:35 PM , Rating: 2
The more I think about it, the more outrageous the child rearing line of reasoning seems to me. What if a heterosexual couple cannot conceive (do to age, health problems, etc.)? Should they not be allowed a marriage license, or should they have theirs revoked if already married?

The fact is we let such couples marry indiscriminately because it is acceptable. Despite the fact that their marriage will not bring about the benefits to society you described. Certainly such a couple could adopt, but, as they do not have a biological link to the adopted child, it is not the optimum situation you described.


RE: Does this surprise anyone?
By masher2 (blog) on 11/22/2008 5:56:27 PM , Rating: 2
> "The more I think about it, the more outrageous the child rearing line of reasoning seems to me. "

With all due respect, I fear you lack the historical perspective to properly appreciate this aspect. Our laws and historical traditions of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and even criminal codes of law exist for the sole reason of creating a stable, self-perpetuating society. That means the conception, protection, and raising of children. Everything, from our ancient customs of chastity to the notion of "women and children first" from a sinking ship derives from this one, all-encompassing goal. Nothing matters more about the children.

Any society at all, no matter how rich, powerful, and well-educated will vanish in the blink of a historical eye, should it forget this one important fact. Fail to have and raise two or more children, and you've lost the genetic lottery.

Why are couples who cannot conceive allowed to marry? Quite simply, because the laws date from a period in which we couldn't possibly know a person was sterile until **after** they were married and spent years attempting to have children. QED. End of proof.

Should we update those laws, so that only couples who actually conceive children receive a tax benefit? Based on current demographic statistics, I believe we'll be forced to drastically, radically increase the benefits of parenthood within the next half-century or so, or face our own extinction.


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