Friday, June 03, 2011
Thursday, June 02, 2011
The Global Commission on Drug Policy report calls for the legalisation of some drugs and an end to the criminalisation of drug users.
The panel includes former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and the entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
The US and Mexican governments have rejected the findings as misguided.
The Global Commission's 24-page report argues that anti-drug policy has failed by fuelling organised crime, costing taxpayers millions of dollars and causing thousands of deaths.
It cites UN estimates that opiate use increased 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.
No doubts the jump in usage is coincident to the increase in worldwide wealth gained from American companies outsourcing American jobs to countries that pay less than American wages, thus bringing to those countries the uniquely American problem of work-related stress disorders.
I'm very much on the fence about this. Some drugs, opiates in particular, have a track record that is, well, less than ideal for introduction into society legally. Most are on prescription as having medical uses, and it seems to me that this might be the way to go for these classes of drugs: expand the prescriptive framework. Allow doctors to prescribe them more often for uses that people are already abusing them for, but with strict monitoring and follow up. Hell, we administer Prozac and Ritalin as if they were candy to any yahoo who can persuade a psychologist that his boredom or sheer idiocy is symptomatic of some disorder that sees sixteen squirrels running around his brain.
To coin a scenario.
Yes, there will be blindspots and oversights and people will slip thru the cracks but it almost certainly has to be better than having near-100% illegality. The current situation is untenable. Too, it creates shortages of medications that people actually need (try getting a box of Sudafed someday.)
On the other hand lie drugs that are clearly over-protected, that have a more benign history, that rightly could and maybe should take their places alongside such mood-altering substances as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and sugar.
Indeed, that last may be triggering an awful lot of excuses people have for medicating. Overmedicating with sugar leads to obesity, depression, and sleep disorders, among other effects.
If all these are going to be basically un- and at least under-regulated, then other substances like marijuana deserve "a day in court": serious study for legalization, and if not, then full decriminalization.
Too, from an economic standpoint, lifting the war on drugs would improve Third World economies enormously, not least from simply avoiding destruction of valuable farmland and the price that crime and criminals take out of a native population. Imagine Mexican farmers growing pot without worrying which drug cartel is in charge and what happens if another muscles in. Or perhaps the price of marijuana will drop enough that they plant a food crop instead.
It sure as hell would make our borders more secure, too.
Wars on nebulosities, like poverty or drugs or terrorism, inevitably butt up against a simple truth: where is the finish line?
In the case of poverty, the finish line was arbitrarily drawn by the haters at five years, and you'd better have your act together by then. That maybe the only war that we can control, because people in poverty don't want to be in poverty and will work with us to beat their own poverty back if given the opportunity.
People who supply drugs or terror are antithetical to the goals of those "wars": they want the war to lose. And if they can make us spend the energy and resources to beat them, even if we succeed, another crop will rise up to take its place. It is neverending war, by definition.
In the case of terror, the answer is simple. As Peter Gabriel once famously observed, you only achieve true security and peace by respecting the rights of others. There will still be terror attacks, true. For a while. Until the strength of a peaceful nation shows not in retaliation but in resilience. Once terrorists realize they can't do enough harm to topple us, they'll leave it be.
The case of the war on drugs, I think, is best won by admitting there really wasn't a war to begin with, that it was a marketing plan cooked up by people who were shocked that other people were having fun. Once we get over that hurdle and start to look into the causes of the use of drugs, we will have taken a large step in the direction of civilization.
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
I admire Congressman Paul Ryan's honest attempt to save Medicare. Those who disagree with his approach incur a moral responsibility to propose reforms that would ensure Medicare's ability to meet its responsibilities to retirees without imposing an unaffordable tax burden on future generations of Americans.
OK, you've laid the gauntlet down. Here's my solution. It will guarantee the solvency of Medicare in perpetuity and will actually lower medical costs for everyone.
I'll go slowly, so even a yahoo like yourself can keep up with me, K?
Expand. It. To. Cover. E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y!
You like apples? How do you like those apples?
Seriously, these half-hearted efforts to reform health insurance are both ludicrous and leave us the laughingstock of the civilized world. Let's get to single-payer insurance, lift the ban on Medicare's ability to negotiate costs, and make the insurance companies compete in a free market.
That's all, John. You may resume your demagoguery.
"This is not a campaign bus," she [Sarah Palin] said on Fox News. "This is a bus to express to American how much we appreciate our foundation and to invite more people to be interested about all that is good about America." It all sounds like a wonderful commitment to American values and American history, but it's nothing of the kind. In fact, the whole thing could be in breach of a federal law because the United States Flag Code establishes important rules for the use and display of the stars and stripes, the flag of the United States. Under standards of respect and etiquette, it's made clear that the flag of the United States should never be used for any advertising purpose whatsoever. Yet that's precisely what Sarah Palin is doing. She's using the flag of the United States for her own financial purposes. She drapes herself in the stars and stripes and makes millions of dollars in the process. This has got nothing to do with the presidency and everything to do with filling her pockets. And by raising her profile, she raises her income. It is as simple as that.
From the Indians who welcomed the pilgramsto the buffalo who once ruled the plains;
like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds
looking for the rain/looking for the rain.From the cities that stagger on the coast lines
in a nation that just can't take much more/
like the forest buried beneath the highwaysnever had a chance to grow/never had a chance
to grow.It's winter, winter in america
and all of the healers have been killed or forced
It's winter, winter in america
and ain't nobody fighting 'cause nobody knows
what to save.
The con-stitution was a noble piece of paper;
with Free Society they struggled but they died in
and now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
hoping that it rains/hoping that it rains.And I've seen the robins perched in barren
watching last ditch racists marching across the
and like the peace signs that melted in our
never had a chance to grow/never had a
chance to grow.
It's winter, winter in america
and all of the healers done been killed or put in
it's winter, winter in america
and ain't nobody fighting 'cause nobody knows
what to save.
The total value of derivatives in the world exceeds total global gross domestic product, creating volatility and crisis in stock markets, Mobius told reporters in Tokyo today.
"Are the bank bigger than they were before? They're bigger," Mobius said. "Are the derivatives regulated? No. Are you still getting growth in derivatives? Yes."
The global financial crisis three years ago was caused in part by the proliferation of derivative products tied to U.S. subprime loans and contributed to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008
House Republicans will head to the White House Wednesday for their first conference meeting with President Barack Obama, as Congress gears up for a battle over raising the nation’s borrowing limit.
The meeting, which will take place in the White House’s East Room Tuesday morning, will be the president’s first full introduction to the House Republican Conference.
In advance of the meeting, Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) staff released a statement signed by 150 economists arguing that Congress should offset the debt ceiling hike with spending cuts. Boehner himself took that position in a speech last month to the Economic Club of New York. The statement is expected to come up at the meeting with Obama.
“An increase in the national debt limit that is not accompanied by significant spending cuts and budget reforms to address our government’s spending addiction will harm private-sector job creation in America,” the statement read. “It is critical that any debt limit legislation enacted by Congress include spending cuts and reforms that are greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority being granted to the president.”
First, I'm curious to know what Obama's retort will be. I can think of about 200 economists who would, correctly, argue that cutting spending when jobs are needed is a horrible idea.
TRANSLATION: those GOP economists are fucking loons.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to. The successful young adult is beginning to make sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and calling — yet mostly hears about freedom and autonomy.
Today’s graduates are also told to find their passion and then pursue their dreams. The implication is that they should find themselves first and then go off and live their quest. But, of course, very few people at age 22 or 24 can take an inward journey and come out having discovered a developed self.
Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life. A relative suffers from Alzheimer’s and a young woman feels called to help cure that disease. A young man works under a miserable boss and must develop management skills so his department can function. Another young woman finds herself confronted by an opportunity she never thought of in a job category she never imagined. This wasn’t in her plans, but this is where she can make her contribution.
Two observations immediately spring to mind. First, the ten most popular college majors seem to indicate that Brooks' concerns are ill-advised. You need to get down to number nine on the list, psychology, before you hit a soft, non-material target. College students today get it, David. The world requires money, it demands a genuflection to authority (note where criminal justice lands on the list), it inspires...conformity.
Second, as should be obvious from that list of popular college majors, students have taken that inner journey and decided that a good salary is the most important plan for their lives.
(An aside: number three on that list, communications, concerned me at first, until I realized they are also lumping in media like web-design, advertising and even marketing into the mix. But I digress...)
But soft, what is Brooks' issue with asking our young people to aspire to greatness? Life is about limitless possibilities, and while the vast majority of us will work forty, fifty, maybe sixty years making someone else richer, what's the problem with reminding people that there are alternatives? Or reinforcing in the minds of the small minority that they should have the courage to strike out on their own?
"Ah, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, else what's a heaven for?"
Even if you do end up working as an office drone, a cubicle gopher, a desk jockey...and there will always be jobs for people willing to spend eternity in front of a computer screen monitoring someone else's wealth...what's wrong with applying that same advice to the rest of your life? What's wrong with running that extra mile, or painting a landscape, or collecting that stamp that you've always wanted to own? Is life our job? Is our job our life?
Brooks, being the quasifascistic little capitalist drone that he is, by his very nature has denied the existence of a morale value to life that cannot be measured in dollar terms. He hacks away at a keyboard, then presuambly goes off to cocktails and whatever pathetic little existence he squanders his precious time on planet earth with.
No one lives to work, except for those idiots who somehow believe that, with hard work and perserverance at a job, they can themselves become fabulously wealthy and make other people drone for them. To those who still believe THAT fantasy, buy lottery tickets because your odds are better. You might make a comfortable living, but you will never get that rich slowly, and you will never have a life.
Adults make compromises with life, even as they've decided that there are no compromises to be had. Ask any artist who has made it big on the back of their own work, and they will tell you of the countless friendships they've lost, the money they've forgone working in an office, the opportunities they've missed. In choice, there is always a compromise to be had. Sacrifices are made by both sides.
"Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, 'All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline.' "
Brooks would rather that this small percentage of American adults, this 20% of college age Americans who actually graduate each year (scary thought, that), should be like the rest of us, as if giving them the tools to build the wings to fly their own lives as high as they want is a bad thing, that they might crash and burn. No, they should be like the vast majority of us, and hunker down for our next paycheck and live life as though we will always have a safety net under us, as pathetic as that net may be.
If the past thirty years in America have taught us anything it's that the social contract between a company and its employees is not sacred. My job can go away in the blink of an eye, through no fault of my own. So can yours. So can hers.
If that's so and if the contract with citizens and corporations is nulled, then perhaps counseling our graduates to caution is a bad idea. We should encourage them to exceed their expectations. We should demand that they take five years off and walk the world. (I've always had this fantasy of a draft for the Peace Corps, sorry.) We should tell them that it doesn't get any better than they have it right now, and they ought to enjoy it because most of them will fail and they will end up in the corporatocracy. But they should try first, so that when the alarm clock rings on the cold winter mornings that sees them get dressed and jump on a commuter train, bleary eyed, they can smile back on the effort and know they gave it their best shot and can move on now.
As opposed to people of Brooks' age who never even tried and now try to rationalize their failures by warning people behind them how scary the world is. I'm Brooks' age. I know of where I speak. For it is only now, as I turn the corner of my middle years and face the yawning descent that I see how much time I must make up and how little energy I have left to do it in.