Friday, August 31, 2007

Maybe there is hope for the Liberals yet

Maybe there is hope for the Liberals yet. Liberal pollster Michael Marzolini gives the party some sensible advice.

1) Some Liberals have been touting recent economic turbulence as a potential opportunity to remind voters of their record as the party that tamed the national deficit and presided over almost 10 years of uninterrupted economic prosperity.

But Marzolini said the Tory economic record is viewed favourably as well. And House Leader Ralph Goodale said deficit busting "was for the era of the last 10 or 15 years and what's really important is what's going to happen in the next 10 or 15 years."

http://www.thestar.com/News/article/251775

I said the same awhile back.


The Liberal Party is not going to get back into power promising to be same old good economic managers minus the corruption associated with the sponsorship program. Indeed, the economy is not tanking. So the solid Economic stewardship card does not even have superficial appeal.

http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2007/07/new-liberal-liberals-need-to-break-with.html

2) He told them Canadians want fresh faces and creative, new ideas from the Liberals, not a rehash of past triumphs from former ministers left over from the Jean Chr├ętien and Paul Martin eras.

http://www.thestar.com/News/article/251775

I have made the same point.


The Liberal brass seeks continuity with the past. Only in Canada would a supposedly liberal party stress tradition as much as this one. What the Liberals should be looking to do is to break with their past (their most recent past anyway) and not embrace it.

http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2007/07/new-liberal-liberals-need-to-break-with.html

3) The Party must rebrand itself

The Liberals meanwhile, have yet to create an impression in opposition

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070830.wlibs0830/BNStory/National/home
I have made this point repeatedly.


It desperately needs to rebrand itself. The sponsorship scandal and years of political compromise have stained the once bright gloss. “What is does mean to be a Liberal?” has become as intractable as “what does it mean to be a Canadian?”.


http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2007/07/i-am-not-convinced-it-is-in-best.html

4) However, Mr. Marzolini also told the Liberals that two of their key attack points, Afghanistan and the environment, are less effective because their stand is not clear.

MPs said Mr. Marzolini told them that Canada's role in Afghanistan has the potential to move voters, especially in Quebec, but the Liberal position is vague in the minds of most voters – who also see the Conservatives as being for the mission, and the NDP against.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070830.wlibs0830/BNStory/National/home
I have made this point too.

Dion says Canada, having committed ourselves to the mission, should sit there and take our lumps until 2009; anything less would be “dishonourable”. Nobody has thought to expose the shallowness of Dion’s position by asking him this: If the Conservatives were to extend the mission to 2011, say, would removing Canadian troops in 2010, say, also be “dishonourable”? The Liberal party’s position can not be dictated by what the governing Conservatives stupidly commit Canada to as part of their three M foreign policy, viz., moronic, moralistic and macho. Dion can not afford to continue hiding the sins of the father; Liberal Afghan policy must flow from what the party’s assessment of the mission’s merits.

http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2007/04/electioneering-afghanistan-kyoto-and.html

Rather than blasting ahead with the pull out option, some of the initial criticism got to Layton and he started back tracking before finding his backbone again. I commented on this.

After showing signs original thinking on Afghanistan, Layton’s inner child lost confidence in his own views and has subsequently backtracked; the NDP’s Afghan policy is becoming more muddled by the day and in the process more and more Liberal.

http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2007/01/ndp-need-to-be-punished.html

5) Among other things, he said, the Liberals need to offer fresh faces and a fresh agenda to Canadians and start laying out policy alternatives easily understood by voters.


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070830.wlibcaucus0830/BNStory/Front

Yep I have been harping on this for years.

the Liberals need to introduce policies that will get people talking. This means fist of all proposing policies that the public has the facility to talk about,

I have also offered some suggestions


1)Propose scrapping the monarchy

2)Propose mandating 4 weeks vacation a year

3)Propose free dental care

4)Propose Legalizing euthanasia

5)Propose Legalizing marijuana

6)Propose abolishing the senate

7) Again propose banning hand guns

8) Mandatory voting.

http://themaplethree.blogspot.com/2007/07/new-liberal-liberals-need-to-break-with.html

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wente Part 2

Wente is at it again. http://www.rbcinvest.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/LAC/20070823/COWENT23/Columnists/columnists/columnistsNational/2/2/3/
So I fried off another letter.

>>>>>> I know a guy who does a lot of weed. It's not a happy story. He started smoking dope in high school. After university, his friends began working hard and building their careers. He smoked dope instead. His friends got married and had kids. So did he. But he couldn't ever keep a job for long. He had lengthy spells of unemployment. His family was always broke, because he inhaled every cent they had. Eventually his fed-up wife threw him out. Today, well into middle age, he's scraping by somewhere, living in some basement.

So don't tell me marijuana is harmless. Don't tell me marijuana doesn't destroy people and their families. It does.

Antidotes are supposed to make the abstract come alive and in so doing drive home a larger point. This does nothing of the sort. A guy smokes dope. His wife left him. He was unemployed for longs stretches. He lives in a basement. So what? If you think that this somehow brings home the destructive power of pot, you are dreaming. You have not even established a causal relationship. All that you established is that smoking pot did not stop him from presumably graduating from university. Many people, whose world come has come crashing down, or for whom life as not lived to their expectations, turn to drugs and or alcohol to numb the pain. It makes things worse, but it does not mean caused the problem in the first place.

Let me give you an example of how an antidote should work. Unlike marijuana, crack is physically addictive and that is the reason why there are crack whores but not marijuana whores. Anyway, I delay. The following crystallizes, as it were, just how addictive crack can be. When the city salts the roads I have heard of crack addicts inspecting each crystal of salt just on the off hand chance that they might find one to be crack.

>>>>>> The adults can't decide whether pot should be barely illegal, decriminalized, legalized or what. According to many progressive, liberal-minded adults, there's nothing really wrong with pot and the authorities should, like, chill out. Kids hear this message not just from the reefer lobby, but from leading lawyers, academics and newspaper editorial boards. You can scarcely blame them for believing that marijuana is less harmful than obesity, trans fats or lawn spray. As for booze - it's certainly less harmful than booze. Isn't it?

Question: is there a heroin or cocaine or meth lobby too? Look the fact that so many people from a wide swath of society are questioning the status quo should tell you something. Oh and by the way, of course marijuana is less dangerous to than booze. Remember the Senate report. "Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue” http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2002/09/04/pot_senate020904.html How could leave the Liberal senate off the list? What kind of Conservative are you?

>>>>>Well, maybe not. Today's pot is to the stuff I used to inhale as whisky is to beer.

Oh yes potent pot as a generational wide expression of bad faith. I am glad to see you finally accepting the alcohol analogy though. Question: should all alcohol be banned because whisky has a higher alcohol content than beer? Of course not. Just whisky should be banned and beer kept legal and by analogy potent pot should remain illegal but your dad’s marijuana should be legalized.

Anyway, boomers also drank and they no more want their kids drinking than they do smoking pot. So I purpose that potent pot argument be extended to cover alcohol as well. It will now sound something like this. “The beer and pot we drank and smoked is qualitatively different from the “chemically supercharged” booze and pot on the streets today.”


>>>>And if that message is too righteous for you, please recall that cannabis is the lifeblood of your friendly street or biker gang. You know, the ones with guns. Have a nice day.

You are so right. ILLEGAL “cannabis is the lifeblood of your friendly street or biker gang.” I say we change that by legalizing marijuana.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Margaret Wente

I wrote a letter to Margaret Wente because of this. http://www.rbcinvest.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/LAC/20070626/COWENTE26/Headlines/headdex/headdexHealth/6/6/14/%3Cbr/%3E

Potent pot is more is more Drug Czar myth than reality. http://www.slate.com/id/2074151 Only the Independent bought in and the Guardian took care of them. http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/Story/0,,2041749,00.html

However, even if one assumes that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 “chemically supercharged” joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of “dad’s joints” would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School concurs, so does Mitch Earleywine of the University of Southern California and so does UCLA’s Mark Kleiman.


Comparing marijuana strength through the years is "absurd," according to Lester Grinspoon, an emeritus professor at Harvard Medical School , who consults patients, many of them elderly, on using marijuana to relieve pain and nausea. "The whole issue on potency is a red herring," he said. "The more potent the pot, the less you use."Grinspoon said that studies have shown -- and his patients' experiences confirm -- that marijuana users smoke until they feel high -- or, as he prefers to say, "achieve symptom relief," -- and then stop, whether it took two hits or an entire joint. In this regard, today's higher-potency pot is no more "dangerous" than the bunk weed of yesteryear, he said.

http://forums.cannabisculture.com/forums/printthread.php?Board=wwwpottv&main=374623&type=post


unlike the speculative claims of increased danger, peer-reviewed scientific data show that higher potency marijuana reduces health risks. Just as with alcohol, people who smoke marijuana generally consume until they reach the desired effect, then stop. So people who smoke more potent marijuana smoke less – the same way most drinkers consume a smaller amount of vodka than they would of beer – and incur less chance of smoking-related damage to their lungs.

http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/19416/


The original ONDCP "Facts" correspond with estimates from UCLA professor Mark Kleiman that marijuana has roughly tripled in potency. Kleiman also notes that there is no evidence at all that marijuana is getting kids more stoned than it used to. Writing on his own blog, Kleiman cites the respected annual University of Michigan study that asks respondents about levels of intoxication. Writes Kleiman: "The line for marijuana is flat as a pancake. Kids who get stoned today aren't getting any more stoned than their parents were. That ought to be the end of the argument." Kleiman points out that the average joint is now half its former size, so even if kids are smoking more powerful pot, they are smoking less of it. " 'Not your father's pot' is a great way to convince [boomer parents] to ignore their own experience, personal or
vicarious, and believe what they are told to believe."

http://www.slate.com/?id=2074151

All that being said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. As Martha Hall Findlay has noted, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

By the way, I have question for you. If today’s marijuana is truly different in kind from “dads marijuana”, would it be ok to legalize “dad’s marijuana”, i.e., low potency pot?

While you are pondering just how to answer you can listen to helpless Barry MacKnight, chair of the Drug Abuse Committee for the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs duke it out over potent pot with the aforementioned Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist and Professor Emeritus at the Harvard Medical School.

http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2007/200707/20070712.html


Now, I really wanted to make this short, but you have made so many errors I really must continue.


Wente "It causes paranoia, aggressiveness and psychosis, and it sharply elevates the risk of schizophrenia."

Good god where to start? I think I will start with a US Department of Justice Study.


Marijuana and opiates temporarily inhibit violent behavior, but withdrawal from opiate addiction tends to exaggerate both aggressive and defensive responses to provocations.”

By point of contrast, this is what the same study said about alcohol, which is legal, and violence.


For at least the last several decades, alcohol drinking – by the perpetrator of a crime, the victim, both – has immediately preceded at least half of all violent events, including murders, in the sample studied by researchers.”

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/GOVPUBS/psycviol.htm

As for the purported link between marijuana and schizophrenia, I will let Maia Szalavitz at Stats at George Mason University put into context.

As for the purported link between marijuana and schizophrenia, I will let Maia Szalavitz at Stats at George Mason University put into context.

“A 40% increase in risk sounds scary, and this was the risk linked to trying marijuana once, not to heavy use. To epidemiologists a 40% increase is not especially noteworthy-- they usually don’t find risk factors worth worrying about until the number hits at least 200% and some major journals won’t publish studies unless the risk is 300 or even 400%. The marijuana paper did find that heavy use increased risk by 200-300%, but that’s hardly as sexy as try marijuana once, increase your risk of schizophrenia by nearly half!

By contrast, one study found that alcohol has been found to increase the risk of psychosis by 800% for men and 300% for women. Although this study was not a meta-analysis (which looks at multiple studies, as the marijuana research did), it certainly is worth citing to help readers get a sense of the magnitude of the risk in comparison with other drugs linked to psychosis.”

Next I will let her point out the elephant living room of those arguing for a causal link between marijuana and schizophrenia.

if marijuana produces what seems like such a large jump in risk for schizophrenia, have schizophrenia rates increased in line with marijuana use rates? A quick search of Medline shows that this is not the case-- in fact, as I noted here earlier, some experts think they may actually have fallen. Around the world, roughly 1% of the population has schizophrenia (and another 2% or so have other psychotic disorders), and this proportion doesn’t seem to change much. It is not correlated with population use rates of marijuana.

Since marijuana use rates have skyrocketed since the 1940’s and 50’s, going from single digit percentages of the population trying it to a peak of some 60% of high school seniors trying it in 1979 (stabilizing thereafter at roughly 50% of each high school class), we would expect to see this trend have some visible effect on the prevalence of schizophrenia and other psychoses.

When cigarette smoking barreled through the population, lung cancer rose in parallel; when smoking rates fell, lung cancer rates fell. This is not the case with marijuana and psychotic disorders; if it were, we’d be seeing an epidemic of psychosis.

http://www.stats.org/stories/2007/will_one_joint_schizoid_july30_07.htm

By the why, how is Gordan Brown’s reefer war going. Has he convinced people such as Dr Iddon, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse?

Dr Iddon, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse, said the study did not convince him it was time to return cannabis to class B. "I don't think the causal link has been proved. I think cannabis might - possibly for genetic reasons - trigger psychosis at an earlier age." The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed.
"If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,2136479,00.html

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"It is not your father's” beer.



"It is not your father's” beer. It is “chemically supercharged” beer, every bit the equal of cocaine or heroin.

Will the Conservatives attack “activist judges” over marijuana possession?

Ontario’s marijuana possession laws have been struck down by Judge Borenstein. Now, be rest assured the Borenstein decision will not be the only one of its kind. For example, there is good chance BC’s possession laws will also be struck down soon enough. Senator Claude Nolin, of the 2002 senate report of marijuana fame, testified for the defense in that case. It is going to be 2003 all over again.

The Conservatives know this and, emboldened with what has happened in Britain , will time the launch of their new “anti-drug campaign” just as these decisions are taking effect. So you can also be rest assured that in addition to anti-drug campaign they going to launch a new campaign against “activist judges”.

Where does this leave the Liberals? It leaves them in a rather bad way. The Liberals have been talking out of both sides of their mouth on this issue for years. On the one hand the Liberals have long maintained that Canadians should not be saddled with a criminal record for consuming something that is, after all, less harmful than alcohol. It is this light that Chr├ętien famously joked about having a joint in one hand and the money to pay for the fine of having it in the other. “I will have my money for my fine and a joint in my other hand.” On the other hand just as they are downplaying the affects of smoking marijuana they have stressed the importance of stiff penalties for trafficking. The Conservatives will argue that Liberal mixed messaging has real consequences and will repeatedly reference the recent UN report on marijuana use.

"We are very concerned about the damage and pain that drugs cause families and we intend to reverse the trend toward vague, ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the recent past," Clement said.

According to the United Nations office of Drugs and Crime, Clement said 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 smoke marijuana.

He said that's the highest rate of any country in the world and the figure is almost equal to the number of tobacco smokers in Canada.

http://www.thestar.com/News/article/248080

However, not only do the Liberals face the prospect of having their own words force fed them again and again, the Liberal policy of decriminalization is inherently incoherent; it is political position; it is an attempt to appeal to both sides of the political divide at the same time. One can not argue for tougher penalties for trafficking, which will inevitably lead one to reference the evils of marijuana, while at the same time arguing for the elimination of possession which will inevitably lead one to reference who harmless marijuana is in the greater scheme of things. Add to mix an acknowledgment that marijuana can serve a medical purpose and you have a conceptual train wreck as a policy.

The only good thing to be said about Liberal’s decriminalization policy politically or otherwise is that it could serve as a Trojan horse. Indeed, robbed of the ability to charge traffickers with the lesser charge of possession, police may not be able to keep up with the huge number of growers coming onto the market and the whole rotten prohibition edifice may come crashing down. Marc Emery may get his wish. The producers might over grow the system. All that being said, this hardly helps the Liberals.

Should Conservatives launch such a two front campaign, strategically the only thing that will make sense for the Liberals will be to abandon decriminalization and argue in favor of legalization. Should the Liberals take this bold step there is absolutely no way the Conservatives would win the public debate. The talking points available to the Conservatives are pathetically weak and will be wiped away by the avalanche of criticism they will receive, both here and abroad. The size and scope of the SSM debate will pale in comparison. Conservatism in Canada will be ripped in half. With respect to no other issue is the fissure between social conservatives and conservative libertarians greater than with respect to marijuana. Just image the National Post and Fraser Institute and sizable chucks of the Sun media chain siding with the Liberals!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Conservatives Promise a War on Drugs: Is Dion with us or against us?



It looks like Conservatives are going to open up a third front in the war on marijuana, Britain, and the US being the other two.

During his speech, Clement also told the meeting of doctors his government is preparing to roll out an anti-drug campaign for young people. "Canada has not run a serious or significant anti-drug campaign for almost 20 years and the messages young people have been receiving during the past several years have been confusing and conflicting, to say the least," he said. "We are very concerned about the damage and pain that drugs cause families and we intend to reverse the trend toward vague, ambiguous messaging that has characterized Canadian attitudes in the recent past," Clement said.

According to the United Nations office of Drugs and Crime, Clement said 16.8 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 64 smoke marijuana.

He said that's the highest rate of any country in the world [which is false] and the figure is almost equal to the number of tobacco smokers in Canada. http://www.thestar.com/News/article/248080


Conservatives have promised a propaganda campaign aimed at “our young people” that will no doubt coincide, with a yet unannounced, promise to crack down on marijuana.

That begs the question. How will the Liberals react? This is how I think things will play out.

They will echo the Tories on trafficking, but will stick to their guns when it comes to possession. They will argue that dealers should be locked away for long durations for trying to poison “our young people”, but “our young people” should not be saddled with a record for consuming something that while poisonous is nevertheless less harmful than alcohol. In so doing, they will prove once again just how stogy, passive, unimaginative, timid, unprincipled, tied to polling for policy and temperamentally conservative Canada’s so called Liberal Party truly is.
Decriminalization is not a coherent position; it is an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too. It is an attempt to appeal to both sides of the political divide at the same time. It is also politically disingenuous. Middle of the road, offend no one, please no one, interest no one, policies that are utterly incoherent at their core because they are designed to appeal to both sides of any political divide are only good if one is ahead in the polls. They make no sense whatsoever when one is behind in the polls and in opposition. Indeed, what made such policies so appealing when the Liberals were in power, viz., the lack of attention such policies garnered, is what makes them so unappealing now.
At best, decriminalization is a strategic Trojan horse and there in lies its only appeal. Indeed, robbed off the ability to charge traffickers with the lesser charge of possession, police may not be able to keep up with the huge number of growers coming onto the market and the whole rotten prohibition edifice may come crashing down. Marc Emery may get his wish. The producers might over grow the system.

So what arguments will the Conservatives trout out? Conservative Rob, reefer mad, Nicholson gave us a preview back in July.
"[Marijauna is] much stronger than it was years ago and, in some cases, marijuana may be laced with more dangerous chemicals,"

Potent pot is more is more Drug Czar myth than reality. http://www.slate.com/id/2074151 Only the Independent bought in and the Guardian took care of them. http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/Story/0,,2041749,00.html

Furthermore, even if one assumes that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 “chemically supercharged” joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of “dad’s joints” would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. All that being said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. As Martha Hall Findlay has noted, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

As for marijuana being laced with “more dangerous chemicals”, I presume Nicholson means harder drugs and the only of preventing this is to legalize marijuana and regulate it.


"There is also evidence it may lead to experimentation with other drugs. It's not something we want to encourage."


Sigh. There was a reason why gateway theory as reason for keeping marijuana illegal fell out of favor in the first place. There is no coherent explanation for why marijuana’s intrinsic properties would lead people to experiment with other drugs; the theory fell down for lack of an intelligible mechanism. Without this explanation doubt was cast on assertion that the relationship marijuana and other drug use was more than mere correlation.
The marijuana as gateway drug argument is not dead though. In recent years researchers have breathed new life into the theory, albeit with a sociological twist. According to the new version, it is not marijuana’s pharmacological properties that serve as a gateway, but rather marijuana’s illegal status. Specifically in the process of illegally procuring marijuana, users are introduced to the criminal elements with access to other illicit drugs and hence it is the forged black market relationship between dealer and buyer that serves as gateway. Ironically the gateway drug theory has been turned on its head and used as reason for legalizing the drug. The Canadian Senate employed the new and improved version of the gateway argument as a reason for legalizing the drug.

Needless to say, both are arguments are easy pickings, but are the Liberals going to touch them? Not on your life. The Liberals would rather the media, i.e., if the media even takes up the fight, get the credit.

The Conservatives also look poised to shut down the Vancouver’s safe injection site. To his credit Dion has shown a willingness to fight this. The Conservative position is, of course, completely without substance.
About 24 studies in top international journals, including the Lancet and the British Medical Journal, have suggested the safe-injection site reduces the chance of people contracting blood-borne infections such as HIV because people are given clean needles to get their fix. "We've said that we want to make sure that the research has been comprehensive," Clement said Monday. He said that since he extended the exemption to keep the clinic open until the end of the year, more research has been conducted. "Some of it has been questioning of the research that has already taken place and questioning the methodology of those associated with Insite and the research that they've done," he said. [What questions? and Who has been leveling them. Be specific, you lying sack of shit] Clement said the public and academic debate surrounding the safe-injection site is a good thing and will provide input for the government's final decision on the facility. Safe-injection sites also exist in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Australia, Spain, Norway and Luxembourg.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Giuliani's Foreign Affairs essay; how it is being received

“And after having read the piece, I can safely say that Giuliani is as nutty as a fruitcake. His approach to foreign policy is spectacularly dangerous, irresponsible, and stupid. Imagine Dick Cheney with a loaded gun in one hand, and an empty bottle of antidepressants in the other, and you can start to get the idea.” http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/12550.html


Essentially, he wants to massively increase a defense budget that already spends more than the rest of the countries on the planet combined so as to buy more submarines and anti-missile systems to protect us against a land-based guerrilla movement. We’re then going to use that military to go in, apparently, to topple every regime we don’t like and to wipe out every instance of non-democratic badness and spend decades occupying those countries. All, of course, while winning friends and influencing people.
http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/2007/08/rudy_giulianis_dangerously_stupid_foreign_policy_vision/
Sweet Jesus, the Giuliani essay is badly written.
http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/003445.html


The world is a dangerous place. We cannot afford to indulge any illusions about the enemies we face. The Terrorists' War on Us was encouraged by unrealistic and inconsistent actions taken in response to terrorist attacks in the past. A realistic peace can only be achieved through strength.

Was this written by a nine-year-old? Jeebus.
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2007_08/011874.php


Rudy Giuliani's essay in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, laying out his ideas for a new U.S. foreign policy, is one of the shallowest articles of its kind I've ever read. Had it been written for a freshman course on international relations, it would deserve at best a C-minus (with a concerned note to come see the professor as soon as possible). That it was written by a man who wants to be president—and who recently said that he understands the terrorist threat "better than anyone else running"—is either the stuff of high satire or cause to consider moving to, or out of, the country.
http://www.slate.com/id/2172285/


this man is batshit insane
http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/08/get_this_man_a_styleguide.php


I would write a review, but alas I have been beaten to the punch.

Is Canada "Back"?; Are the Liberals Back?


A month ago Stephen Harper said this. “The news is spreading throughout the world: Canada’s back”. http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2007/07/01/4305265-cp.html Where did we go and when did we leave? I am not quite sure how to answer either, but it has something to do with the US and a general unwillingness on are part. This kind of rhetoric from Harper is not new. For example, Harper said this is 2003, “We've just become increasingly irrelevant to a country [U.S.] that has a lot of priorities…” (CBC Newsworld, July 11, 2003).


Now, in so far, as the US is increasingly desperate to hang onto whatever military allies it has left, Canada is indeed “back”. However, pace Stephen Harper a country’s standing is not in proportion to its willingness to absorb causalities in futile and expensive foreign adventures that serve only to increase the likelihood that the country will be attacked by terrorists. "It's certainly raising Canada's leadership role, once again, in the United Nations and in the world community where we used to have an important leadership role.” “I can tell you its certainly engaged our military. It's made them a better military, not withstanding and maybe because of the casualties.” http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/09/19/harper-afghanistan.html No, Canada is a middling country and our standing in the international community will rise in fall in proportion to our willingness to pass legislation that can serve as a model for other countries.
SSM is a great example. On no issue has Canada gotten more press and positive foreign press than on the issue of SSM. Canada was an important reference point for legislators and judges in Spain, South Africa, Massachusetts. Moreover, Canada’s unprecedented decision to allow foreign same sex couples to marry promises to push the issue in countries across the globe. In an effort to have their marriages recognized, foreign same sex couples are opening up legal challenges in their countries of origin. Others need not even bother. Several US states, most notably New York, recognize the validity of such marriages, even though these states do not officially allow same sex couples to marry there.

This brings me to another point. Geographically, culturally, economically and linguistically Canada is uniquely positioned to mount an ideological challenge to US conservatism. At no time was this more apparent then in the lead up and immediate aftermath of George Bush’s 2004 re-election. Ann Coutlier threatened to have us “crushed”, O’ Reilly has threatened us with nuclear winter and the Western Standard’s Goldberg
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_22_54/ai_94960947 has said we should be “bombed” and his colleague Matt Labash http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/349tpijp.asp?pg=1 seconded him. Thankfully all are only arm chair Lemays.


By far the most popular form of reproach, though, was to echo Harper and call us irrelevant. Tucker Carlson, for example, likened Canada without the US to Honduras “but colder and much less interesting”. http://mediamatters.org/items/200412010011 The problem with such a train of thought is that it involves them in a kind of performative contradiction. In repeatedly talking about us and calling us irrelevant they helped entrench us as part of the public debate south of the border and so made us increasing relevant.

On the flip side of things, the New Yorker proclaimed as a “Northern light” http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2003/07/07/030707ta_talk_hertzberg and the San Jose Mercury asked if there was room for another province. http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v03/n1051/a10.html

Both sides agreed that with Bill O’Reilly assessment. A “brave new progressive world is a possibility. That's what happened in Canada.” http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,140742,00.html
At a time when Karl Rove was making gay marriage a campaign issue, Canada was legalizing it. At a time when the Neo Cons were trumpeting the Iraq invasion as the beginnings of New American Century, Canada was beginning to realize just how lucky it was that we stayed out. At a time when the Bush administration was stepping up the war on drugs, Canada was glibly promising to decriminalize marijuana or even better legalize it. This explains why true blue Democrats where wanting to move to Canada and not, say, Germany following Bush’s re election. http://slate.com/id/2109300/ We were, if only by accident, the anti Bush.

Martin never realized what a god sent Bush was until to it was too late and he never did realize that words mean little. Only action counts. As a result, rather than pushing ahead with further socially liberal legislation, he rested on his laurels and stopped with SSM. Dion shares these same faults. The rhetoric is there. "I think the prime minister we have thinks he is a president and Mr. Bush is his American Idol”. http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=582d8348-979a-4e36-856f-8fa4465ec3d0 However, Dion has continually failed to demonstrate a willingness challenge what conservative America holds near and dear. So long as that continues, the Liberals will remain “irrelevant to a country [U.S.] that has a lot of priorities” and by extension unable to tap into an important part of Canadian nationalism, viz., a pride in our ability to affect what is happening outside our borders, particularly south of border.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"When in Rome": A Joke


A guy goes on vacation to a place he has not visited before nor knows little about. The first thing he does after departing the airport is to rent a car. He must drive across country to reach his final destination. After an hour or so he comes across a man fucking a cow just off the highway. Naturally he is startled, but says to himself “hey there are nuts in every country” and after a short while the pastoral beauty of the countryside pushes the memory out of consciousness. However, a mere half hour later he sees not one guy but two guys fucking cows just off the highway. This time nothing was going to spare him from the memories of seeing three guys fucking cows. He began to beret himself. “How could I be so stupid as to spend my hard earned money on a vacation to the cow fucking capital of world?” And then it hit him. He had not gotten lucky in quite some time and “hey when in Rome.” So he pulled over the shoulder of the road and looked for secluded spot. Not that it seem to bother the locals, but there is fucking a cow and then there is fucking a cow in full view of people motoring down a busy highway. He wandered over to the first cow he saw, blurted out “hey baby”, played with a nipple and then got down to business. Mid act he was startled by a laugh. He looked up and noticed he was being watched. Several locals, including the first guy he had seen fucking a cow, were laughing at him. (The face of a guy you see fucking a cow tends to imprint in your memory.) He zipped up and angrily confronted these hypocrites. “What are you laughing at?” he yelled. Pointing to the cow fucker, “I saw him doing the same earlier today”. They continued to laugh. “What could possibly be so funny? From what I have seen men around here would just as soon fuck a cow as milk one.” The crowd fell quiet for a second and one man began talk, half stammering half speaking. “Your cow your cow She is ugly.” The assembled multitude burst out laughing again.
How does this relate to politics? It doesn’t, but there is history of political cow jokes in Canada.

For example, Gordan Gibson explained Trudeau’s reaction the the Le Dain Commission thus: “The report was released as we were touring a bull-semen facility in Guelph, Ont. (I am not making this up.) The press cared not at all about productive agriculture and totally about weed. At an end-of-tour press conference, the prime minister was asked if he favoured decriminalization. We were in the semen facility's boardroom and it had a blackboard with a permanent picture of Elsie the cow painted on, perhaps in recognition of the customer base. Mr. Trudeau was very quick. Saying not a word, he went to the blackboard, took the chalk and drew a cartoonist's balloon out of the cow's mouth. Inside he slowly wrote, "I like grass!" The room dissolved in laughter.” http://www.cannabisculture.com/forums/printthread.php?Board=current&main=1130356&type=post

Finally, Tommy Douglas famously likened Canada to a cow. “Canada is like an old cow. The West feeds it. Ontario and Quebec milk it. And you can well imagine what it's doing in the Maritimes.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bountiful, SSM and Polygamy

Social conservatives like to say that same sex marriage will lead to polygamy and point to the BC government’s unwillingness with the situation with Bountiful as some kind of proof. In so arguing, they demonstrate not only their ignorance of the now voluminous literature on polygamy, but also their ignorance of the long history of BC government’s dealings with the people of Bountiful. Pace what the local wing nut may have told you, the reluctance of the BC government to deal with community long predates the great debates about SSM. For example, The BC attorney general thought about pressing ahead with charges in 1992, but declined because of “charter considerations”. What were those charter considerations? They most certainly do not have to do with concerns about the legal prohibition against polygamy being struck down. They are partly evidential and are partly due to concerns about freedom of religion.

In a strict legal sense there is no polygamy in Canada and no one is arguing that there should be a change to the law. Indeed, far from arguing for the legalization of polygamy, Blackwell et al’s out has always been to claim that never mind what people say about these religious marriages. Check the books; no one in Bountiful has more than one legal wife. This is what makes the social conservatives warnings so fucking ridiculous.

The issue at hand is and will remain whether a religious ceremony (i.e., a “marriage”) with no force of law constitutes a violation of Canada’s laws against polygamy. Seeing as how social conservatives are so found of lumping same sex marriage in with polygamy, I will give them such an analogy. Many churches conducted same sex “marriages” long before June 2003 even though these “marriages” meant nothing in the eyes of the law. Going after the people of Bountiful for “marrying” more than one person would be somewhat
analogous to the police having gone after those churches for "marrying" same sex couples prior to 2003.

Margaret Somerville, SSM and Polygamy

Margaret Somerville asks in the Globe and Mail “If same-sex marriage, why not polygamy.”

http://www.rbcinvest.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/LAC/20070811/COPOLY11/Headlines/headdex/headdexComment/10/10/18/

Somerville, the great social conservative hope, argued that by allowing people of the same sex to marry each other, marriage would go from being a child centered institution to something based on love and that change would have unarticulated negative societal repercussions. I will not go into the reasons here why the Conservative opposition to Bill 38 was intellectually, morally and legally bankrupt. Suffice it to say, it was. What I want to point out is that when it comes to the nature of marriage Somerville got things hopelessly ass backwardness. SSM did not open the door to marriage being based on romantic love. On contrary, it is because marriage is an institution based on romantic love that opened the door to same sex marriage.

She is making the same mistake again. Believing that SSM is transformative change and not an outflow from what marriage has evolved into being, she mistaking believes that there is a straight line from SSM to polygamy. As she sees it, if marriage is based on romantic love, as she thinks was established with the passage of C 38, there is nothing to say why one person, at least in principle, can not be married two or more people at the same time. What matters is that they love each other. The problem with such an argument is not only is it historically wrong, it skips over virtually all current debate about polygamy. Namely, does the institution of polygamy breed a whole host of social evils? Most people in the West think it does. Somerville thinks she can just make the entire debate go away in just a few short sentences. To wit: “
Also, we need to be careful to distinguish under-age sex, forced marriage, spousal abuse and child abuse from polygamy, itself. These horrible crimes do occur in polygamous marriages - and monogamous ones - and must be dealt with severely.”
She is wrong.

As for Somerville herself, perhaps it is because I am a consequentialist and so do not have the time of day for “natural law”, but I think the press is far too deferential and I think she is a very average thinker.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Letter to Livescience.com


http://www.livescience.com/health/070731_bad_pot.html

The media coverage of the Lancet study has been deplorable. Causation and correlation have been confused. Errors of fact of been made. Context is lacking and dissenting opinion, of which there is much, is missing. However bad the MSM’s coverage though, Christopher Wanjek’s “Marijuana’s New Reality: More Potent, More Risky” is of a magnitude worse.
Wanjek follows the main stream press’s lead and begins thus. Wanjek:
“The research team, based in England, found that weed smokers have on average a 41 percent increased risk of developing psychotic disorders later in life. The heaviest users doubled their risk; yet even infrequent smokers had a modest increased risk.”
Maia Szalavitz at Stats at George Mason University pointed out why such lead in is specious.
“A 40% increase in risk sounds scary, and this was the risk linked to trying marijuana once, not to heavy use. To epidemiologists a 40% increase is not especially noteworthy-- they usually don’t find risk factors worth worrying about until the number hits at least 200% and some major journals won’t publish studies unless the risk is 300 or even 400%. The marijuana paper did find that heavy use increased risk by 200-300%, but that’s hardly as sexy as try marijuana once, increase your risk of schizophrenia by nearly half! By contrast, one study found that alcohol has been found to increase the risk of psychosis by 800% for men and 300% for women.”
http://www.stats.org/stories/2007/will_one_joint_schizoid_july30_07.htm
Shortly thereafter Wanjek followed Britain’s Daily Mirror in making this claim.
“Zammit's group, led by Dr. Glyn Lewis of the University of Bristol, analyzed 35 published cannabis studies and controlled for confounding effects, such as personality traits that might be more of a determinant of psychosis than pot.”
As the Guardian pointed out though, this is simply wrong.
“In fact they identified 175 studies which might have been relevant, but on reading them, it turned out that there were just 11 relevant papers, describing seven actual datasets.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/jul/28/drugs.drugsandalcohol It should be noted that despite Wanjek’s deferential treatment of Zammit, many of the studies looked at have been heavily and rightly criticized as being beset by methodological problems and Zammit et al either did not address these concerns or could not address them. Summarizing the findings of these studies does not make these methodological shortcomings go away.
Wanjek makes other factual errors and in this respect he goes far beyond most of the main stream media. Indeed, he makes this rather startling claim.
“Today most of what's smoked in the United States is grown domestically or in Canada”.
Never mind that US domestic production dwarfs what is coming in from Canada, only around 2% of marijuana seized at US borders is from Canada. http://publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/le/bs/uscabdta-en.asp Mexico remains the largest foreign source of marijuana in the US. US DEA:
“Overall marijuana production in Mexico--the principal source of foreign-produced marijuana to U.S. drug markets appears to be increasing.”
Yet another problem Wanjek’s coverage shares with most media outlets is that no room was provided for dissenting voices. In particular, Wanjek did not address the biggest obstacle facing those claiming that marijuana can cause schizophrenia, viz., how to explain why schizophrenia levels have been stable for more than 50 years even as marijuana use levels have gone through the roof. A few news agencies did not ignore this elephant in the living room, but they were few and far between. It was mentioned in a Globe Mail article and the following quote by Oxford’s Leslie Iverson was recorded by the BBC and the Times of London “
Despite a thorough review the authors admit that there is no conclusive evidence that cannabis use causes psychotic illness. Their prediction that 14 per cent of psychotic outcomes in young adults in the UK may be due to cannabis use is not supported by the fact that the incidence of schizophrenia has not shown any significant change in the past 30 years.”
Finally with regard to the alleged schizophrenia marijuana link, Wanjek did not point out that the study was funded by the British government as part of an effort by Gordon Brown to have marijuana reclassified. Hence, it was not mentioned that neither the study nor Gordon Brown’s efforts generally have been particularly well received. To wit:
“Dr Iddon, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse, said the study did not convince him it was time to return cannabis to class B. "I don't think the causal link has been proved. I think cannabis might - possibly for genetic reasons - trigger psychosis at an earlier age." The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed. "If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.
Of course, Wanjek did not limit his coverage to alleged link between schizophrenia and marijuana, he also felt compelled to pass along the Drug Czar’s latest musings about “potent pot”.
“According to NIDA, marijuana seized in drug arrests during the late 1990s was twice as potent as that seized in the late 1980s and nearly four times as potent as that seized in the 1970s. The active ingredient in pot is THC. On average, the pot on the streets 30 years ago was about 1 percent THC; today the average is about 4 percent.”
The problem with this is that no one outside the Britain’s Independent takes the Drug Czar seriously on this matter. See the following from the Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/Story/0,,2041749,00.html and the following from Slate http://www.slate.com/?id=2074151 For starters, trying to get stoned on pot with a THC content of 1 is akin to trying to get drunk on non alcoholic beer. I suppose it is theoretically possible, but all one is likely to get out of doing so is a headache. Hemp has a THC content of 1% or below.
However suppose “potent pot” is a reality is it anything to be concerned about? Of course not. Saying that potent pot is reason for effectively criminalizing marijuana possession is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 “chemically supercharged” joint, as various US attorneys like to say, versus x number of your “dad’s joints” would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high. This same point was made to Wanjek a number of years back.
“Comparing marijuana strength through the years is ‘absurd,’ according to Lester Grinspoon, an emeritus professor at Harvard Medical School, who consults patients, many of them elderly, on using marijuana to relieve pain and nausea. ‘The whole issue on potency is a red herring,’ he said. ‘The more potent the pot, the less you use.’Grinspoon said that studies have shown -- and his patients' experiences confirm -- that marijuana users smoke until they feel high -- or, as he prefers to say, ‘achieve symptom relief,’ -- and then stop, whether it took two hits or an entire joint. In this regard, today's higher-potency pot is no more ‘dangerous’ than the bunk weed of yesteryear, he said.”
All that being said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. The only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.