File this under screwy uses for your hard-earned tax dollars. Working under the theory that positive reinforcement is more effective than punishment, the state has decided to reward store clerks who don’t sell cigarettes to minors (foregoing the traditional approach of locking the bastards up when they break the law).

Here’s how it works: A volunteer adult and a minor walk into a convenience store. While the adult discretely lurks behind that perpetual hot dog machine, the minor sidles up to the counter and asks for a jelly donut, some Big League Chew and a pack of Newports. If the clerk responds with, “Dude, no friggin’ way you’re getting a pack of smokes from me, you’re, like, 15,” the adult dives in to congratulate the clerk and give him a friendly thank-you card allowing him to participate in a drawing for a $100 gift certificate. If, on the other hand, the clerk slides the minor the smokes, the adult hands over a card telling the clerk that he could have been fined a whopping $25 for selling tobacco to a minor.

Yeah, that’s right, the anti-sting. No jail time is doled out, no fine is imposed, not even a slap on the wrist. Just a dinky-ass card that says they could have been fined.

And maybe it’ll work. Apparently Montana needs it to—we’re ranked 44th in the country for stores that don’t enforce the law, with a compliance rate of about 80 percent. But maybe it won’t work. Maybe the guilty store clerk will say a prayer and count his blessings and the minor—as soon as he’s ditched the chaperone—will report back to all the budding emphysematics at school with the location of the last best place to buy smokes without getting busted.

•••

Any fool will tell you that America’s armed forces are hip. I mean, it’s sooo obvious.

Exhibit A: Those Army National Guard ads that are indistinguishable from Mountain Dew commercials. The ones that go something like this: “If you think scaling rock, bustin’ past the speed of sound in an F-16 and earning money for college are extreme, then go Guard.”

Exhibit B: Those Marines ads that are indistinguishable from most Play Station 2 games. The ones that try to convince you to join the Marines during half-time by tricking you into thinking that all Marines do is fight mythical, fiery demons (a la the Balrog in Lord of the Rings) on tiny bridges (a la the tiny bridge in Lord of the Rings) with magical swords (a la Gandalf in Lord of the Rings).

Now those armed forces hipsters are about to unleash the coup de grace. As if Stars and Stripes wasn’t cool enough, the folks that brought you the armed services daily newspaper are launching an “alternative” weekly catering to “younger, active, single service members,” according to a Stars and Stripes announcement.

Unlike its fuddy-duddy forefather, Pulse will be high-octane, in-your-face, extreme news. Set to begin publication on March 5, the debut feature will be on the topic of “tricked out” cars. “When our readers want news, they pick up Stars and Stripes. When they want to know what’s happening, they’ll check out Pulse,” announced publisher Tom Kelsch. As if the Indy doesn’t have enough competition battling the local not-very-alternative daily alternative, now we’ve got to go to war with a savvy, youthful military weekly. (And yes, in case you were wondering, the whole world has gone irrevocably insane.)

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