The NYTimes wants to legalize weed, but still drug tests it’s employees. Why?

The New York Times editorial department caused a big splash on Sunday, declaring that:

It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

Good for them for taking such a strong stance on what should really be a no-brainer policy change now. But Gawker noted – confirmed swiftly by the Huff Po – that the New York Times still tests it’s employees for drugs and has been clear they’re not about to change that policy:

“Our corporate policy on this issue reflects current law,” the spokeswoman said. “We aren’t going to get into details beyond that.”

It is of course illegal to, in the words of George Carlin, “drop, shoot, snort or rub into your belly,” anything more fun than alcohol. But what “current law” requires drug tests? What statute so hems in the New York Times drug policy?

Well, none exactly. But the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 requires that companies must drug test employees if they’re to receive any money from the Federal Government in the form of grants or loans or if they are to become contractors. So no, you don’t have to test your employees. You just can’t have any of that sweet, sweet government pie.

It seems unlikely that the New York Times is a federal contractor (snide comments aside). They do however have a rather large and expensive building in downtown New York, so who knows what grants or loans they’ve applied for?

But the law that seems most applicable to the New York Times drug policy would be New York’s own Worker’s Compensation laws, which allow companies to receive breaks on the cost of Worker’s Comp insurance in exchange for setting up drug testing policies. Money talks, especially in New York, and the State is giving out free cash for companies that want to invade their employees’ privacy.

What does New York State plan to do about these laws, now that they’ve made medical marijuana legal? What, for example, might the policy be for the 30-90 days required to get marijuana out of one’s system? Are employees required to open their medical records to the state, now that we need to make extra sure you’re allowed to have that weed?

As we move towards what I suspect is a fairly inevitable conclusion of this part of the Drug War, it’s important to remember that there are dozens of laws just like this on the Federal and State levels. Because of course, you can’t actually make a drug illegal: you can only prohibit it’s sale through countless little statutes. Statutes that will now need to be unwound if we’re to climb down from the high peak we find ourselves on.

Don’t hold your breath, is what I’m saying.

SECURITY Technology

Twitter and the NYT: what is DNS?

On Tuesday of this week, Twitter, the New York Times, Huffington Post and a raft of other websites suddenly found their traffic getting rerouted to servers Russia and Syria. The rerouting was due to a successful hack by a group calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, a name that brings to mind proto-Goth synth bands of the 80’s. Service was restored to most sites quickly enough, but you may be wondering: what the hell even happened?

I’ve covered the ins-and-outs of DNS in the past in the context of a particularly-vicious malware attack a little over a year ago. But now seems like as good a time as any to recap, since after all, most of the media is too busy primping and preening over the importance or lack thereof in the New York Times to inform you.

DNS stands for Domain Name Service, and in short, it’s sort of an address book for the Internet. The pretty alphanumeric domain names we all know and love, like, or, are not the addresses computers recognize. Computers navigate the web by using large numbers assigned to each other computer, often notated by four numbers separated by dots, like

Someone, somewhere needs to map all those domain names to their numbers, and that’s where DNS comes in.

What happened in the case of Twitter, and so forth is that the SEA hacked into the Australian company that carries the official registration of those domain names. By changing the number associated with the domain name, they ensured that anyone looking up those addresses would get the wrong information.

Most people probably never saw any disruption at all. That’s because most ISPs carry their own copies of DNS records, refreshing that data only periodically. In the short term, this was always a pretty low-level threat. But the point was probably more to cause disruption and panic than to do any real damage.

Economy Media

The NYT: Where, oh Where Has Our Little Bubble Gone?

You’ve really got to hand it to the New York Times this time: this is the most clueless headline ever:

Builders of New Homes Seeing No Sign of Recovery

Ok, let me refresh your memory: the thing that got us into this mess in the first place was loosely-given credit that allowed a glut of new home purchases over the course of a decade and a half. That includes an artificially-inflated demand for new home construction, as anyone who has ever driven through Mendon can tell you. We currently sit on a huge unsold stock level in the housing market and even existing home sales are down by 28 percent, per the same article.

I can appreciate the fact that new home construction is an industry like any other, with lots of individual tradesmen and professionals relying on that industry for employment. But the tone of the article suggests that, without a consonant recovery of pre-recession home building, there is no recovery. My suggestion to anyone relying on *new* home construction would be to find another niche within which to ply your trade, because we cannot sustain another “recovery” such as that.

Economy Media Technology

#NYT Paywall, Three Weeks In: How’s it Doing?

The big news out in the tech world (apart from Amazon‘s entry into the tablet race and the Microsoft / Nokia deal) is that the New York Times’ paywall subscription service has garnered 100,000 subscribers in the first two months three weeks:

New York Times Sells 100,000+ Digital Subscriptions in First 3 Weeks.

That’s a pretty impressive start, though as the article notes, the introductory offer was for $.99 a month, whereas the actual subscription service is more like $15 to $35. That’s a big jump that may be hard to sustain come next month.

What will be required is for the New York Times to sell its readers on the necessity of their paywalled service, a feat which as I’ve noted in the past, the current model works directly against.