AN UGLY FUTURE

22 12 2009

This is the most succinct description I’ve seen yet of the dangers presented by global warming:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/21/copenhagen-failure-us-senate-vested-interests

Of course, you can find a way to dismiss all that.

Maybe you believe that the consensus among climate scientists that global warming is here and is getting worse is just a big plot…to do/get/steal…WHAT?

Do you think they all those scientist got together and decided to lie in order to become big shots?

Or did they make up the whole thing because they plan to make big money out of this concerted lie (HOW, exactly? Please tell me. I’m having trouble imagining where all that dough is going to come to them from.)

Or are they simply the most abnormal cabal of scientist every known to history? Though many scientists have always worked to be remembered and honored by posterity—just like top writers, composers, conquerors of the world, etc.—, do you imagine that thousands of today’s top climate scientists, many of whom would dearly love to be favorably remembered IN THE FUTURE as the people who discovered global warming and warned the world about it, would lie about it now, merely for a status bump of a few decades, even though the inevitable long-term result would be that later generations of scientists would discover their lie and revile them for it?

Or are they self-deluded? Are those thousands of scientists all joining together in kidding themselves–an example of the madness of crowds? Of course, they are trained in the scientific method, which calls at least for reiterative testing and retesting of hypotheses by new and different scientists; and, again, if they turn out to have been this foolish their memories will be reviled, but still…maybe?

Or are they just a bunch of evil European liberals who concocted this in order to ruin your American lifestyle?

Pick one please, oh global warming skeptic reader. I want to hear you defend it.





Time to Wind Down the War on Drugs II

20 12 2009

I’ve wondered ever since I was young, back in the 1960s, why governments in the USA always seem to be “cracking down” on something or other — usually recreational drug use.

I think the fundamental answer is simple. This was never, PRIMARILY, “the land of the free”. It was really the land of “work hard and keep your nose clean.” And when it started to stop being that back in the 1960s a lot of people became very nervous and very angry.

We’ve  had two great streams of sentiment working together for almost 400 years in the USA. Those streams were puritanism and “the American Dream”, aka greed. They both seem now to be fundamental to the American psyche. Which is not surprising, since they were the two main reasons that our forefathers went to the considerable trouble of coming here in the first place — either to set up a community where everyone “did right”, or to get rich, or both.

Those two great purposes reinforced each other throughout most of the history of the USA. They both put a premium on self control and self-denial in pursuit of long-term goals, and one of them added to the mix that the bonus feature of a dire threat of horrible, eternal punishment if one disobeyed.

The country — or rather, its capital owners — got rich as a result.

In fact, for us it went just about  the way things are starting to go in China now, and for the same reason: The population is naturally oriented toward striving and work.

But in the USA the machine started to look like it was going off the rails about 40 years ago. The 1950s was a period of great prosperity for the USA. It was followed in the 1960s by a great explosion of young people coming of age at about the same time. After growing up during that 1950s prosperity, millions of those young people now had every reason to feel safe in following youth’s natural hedonism.

Those kids went wild! And The Owners of this society (and, through employment, of most of its people!) have been cracking down to bring the society into line ever since. It’s just that simple folks*.

Still don’t understand what I’m getting at? Ask yourself this: What would the Chinese government do if drug use and liberal thought started to become widespread there? I guess you can picture a scenario unfolding there that would mirror what’s gone on here since the 1960s, only better organized.

The principle here is one that everyone intuitively knows, but just doesn’t think about much. To make most ordinary people work to the max you need both a carrot AND a stick. Greed and fear aid each other. It’s a natural balance. And during those times when the carrot grows less appetizing because the donkey is focusing on today’s pleasures, you have to wield that stick harder to restore the balance.

But why does the donkey have to work so hard in the first place? After all, in Europe (my Shangri-La) they hit a balance for a while there that was a lot more in favor of hedonism than here, and yet those countries prospered. Why does everyone in the USA and China, by contrast, have to work super-hard, seemingly forever?

Well, the Chinese government is looking to stay in power, so it’s trying to placate the population by fulfilling their greed. And in the USA federal and local governments are doing about the same thing, only the main people they have to placate are The Owners of Capital (and givers of campaign contributions), for whom greed is a way of life.

Luckily for our Owners and the Chinese rulers, the competition between the two countries is now strongly motivating folks in both countries to work harder. In the USA the world market is now providing all the stick any donkey driver could need.

Look for our laws on drugs, etc., to get a bit laxer soon. No artificial terrorizing is now necessary.

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*Well, not really. This is a rhetorical statement. Obviously many other factors, such as worry about the safety and health of our children, have motivated this generation-long crackdown on all forms of drug taking. What I’m doing here is looking for THE most fundamental motivation for the crackdown. Without such a universal motivation that is very powerful and functions at the wellsprings of our culture, people in government wouldn’t  have been willing to go on with the crackdown for so long, though it has done so much harm to so many people, particularly users and sellers of the innocuous drug marijuana.





SELLING YOURSELF WITHOUT SELLING OUT

13 12 2009

The YouTube star Magibon is well on her way to doing that successfully. See her new blog:

http://ameblo.jp/magibon

And check out her YouTube channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/MRirian

See also my earlier post on why Magibon is so popular:

https://nightman1.wordpress.com/2008/08/06/what-is-magibon/

What a story! A shy girl from a small town in the USA has made it as a media personality, first on YouTube, and now in the Japanese media. She loved Japan and its culture, conceived the dream of immigrating there, sat alone in her room and made a bunch of cute videos of her cute self directed at Japanese audiences, and now, because of those videos, is living in Japan and well on the way to realizing the rest of her dream.

Magibon did all this quite demurely, within the protected and censored walls of YouTube. Others venture out into the wilderness of the larger Internet and sell an opportunity for a more frank appreciation of the way they look:

http://undressjess.com/

Jess is very attractive and very smart, if her posts on Twitter are any indication.

http://twitter.com/UndressJess

She has explained in a YouTube video that her first naked-me site was controlled by a webmaster, but eventually she managed to buy it from him.

Jess now runs her site completely on her own (as far as I can see), and spends many hours a day putting together sexy videos of herself. She is reasonably successful, and, if she is a shy person as I suspect she may be, she is fabulously so. At twenty-something she has found a way to work without a boss and entirely at home — two longed-for situations that I, at 61, still haven’t managed!

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Such is the the power of female beauty!

But those who have had that power in the past have usually failed to profit by it. Like every kind of power, beauty has to be applied where and how it is most effective. The Internet, and especially YouTube, constitute a brand new conduit for it.

Today, for perhaps the first time in history, a smart beautiful woman can try her power without first having to convince some man to let her in front of the camera. And, if she’s lucky, she can go on to achieve the joy of being longed for and collect all of the profits of same, without ever being abused or commodified.





THE COEN BROTHERS: PRELIMINARY IMPRESSIONS

8 12 2009

Being a compulsive homebody, I missed decades of movies. Now, thanks to Netflix, I’m catching up.

The best directors so far have been the Coen brothers. I’ve now seen several movies by these guys. I haven’t seen “No Country for Old Men” yet, but I’ve enjoyed almost every other Coen Brothers movie I’ve seen, particularly “Miller’s Crossing”, but emphatically excluding “The Hudsucker Proxy”, which I thought was about a world that the brothers either don’t know much about or couldn’t find a way to make as dramatic as they usually prefer.

They seem somehow to know all about the world of dumb rednecks and their ilk, though. The proof of that is “Blood Simple”. And of course the sublime second example of that is “The Big Lebowski”. (You know — the movie whose main character always refers to himself as “The Dude”.) Turns out that that last film is a cult film. I’m not sure why. It’s not THAT great.

The Coen brothers seem to be at their best when they make movies about people who make very, very serious errors! “Fargo” is the primo example of that. “Miller’s Crossing”, on the other hand, when I saw it years ago, seemed to have a protagonist who actually was smart and on top of things. Anyway, that’s the way I remember it. Quite unusual for them.

Whatever else may be true of the Coen brothers’ movies, their plotting is always complex yet believable. What a pleasure to sit back and be told a story by these smart, smart guys!





Time to Wind Down the War on Drugs

3 12 2009

by Gene Healy

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and the author of The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power.

Added to cato.org on December 1, 2009

This article appeared in the DC Examiner on December 1, 2009.

It’s hard out here for a libertarian in the Age of Obama. From bailout mania to the drive to nationalize health care, those of who want less federal involvement in American life have plenty to be depressed about.

Is there any area in which it’s not too audacious to hope for less intrusive government?

Yes, thankfully: Today, more and more Americans are open to winding down our destructive war on drugs.

In October, Gallup recorded its highest-ever level of public support for marijuana legalization, with 44 percent of Americans in favor. There’s “a generational rift” on the issue, Gallup reports: A majority of voters under 50 back legalization.

Our prohibitionist policies have filled America’s jails to bursting, and made our streets less safe by funneling some $40 billion a year to organized crime.

This Election Day, Maine joined a growing number of states that have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries. Meanwhile, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a “robust debate” on the issue, and activists are on pace to put a marijuana decriminalization initiative in front of the state’s voters.

In Congress, unlikely allies Ron Paul, R-Texas, and Barney Frank, D-Mass., recently introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Most encouraging, Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., has called attention to the scandalous fact that the United States has more people in jail per capita than any other nation in the world, in large part because of the drug war.

At the state level, nearly 60 percent of those serving time for drugs have “no history of violence or significant selling activity,” Webb notes.

The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, and nearly a quarter of the worlds prisoners — more per capita than authoritarian regimes like Iran, China and Russia. We probably shouldn’t take official Chinese prison stats at face value, but is there really good reason for the United States to imprison people at six times the rate Canada does?

As Webb puts it, “Either we are home to the most evil people on Earth,” or we’re doing something wrong.

Webb’s National Criminal Justice Commission Act would set up a bipartisan commission to, among other things, “restructure the approach to criminalization of, and incarceration as a result of the possession or use of illegal drugs.”

“Distrust of government’s interference in people’s lives” is supposed to be a key GOP principle, according to the 2008 party platform. But too many Republicans abandon it when it comes to the drug war.

After Webb introduced his bill, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, pushed an amendment that would prohibit the commission from recommending or even studying drug decriminalization. “I filed this amendment in an effort to start a debate on this important issue,” Grassley later explained. If you say so, senator.

And when Obama’s Justice Department announced it would no longer prosecute medical marijuana users in states that have legalized the practice, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, complained that the administration was “tacitly condoning the use of marijuana in the United States.”

Maybe so. But so what?

Pot is less harmful than alcohol, as shown by government-commissioned studies, including a 1999 report by the Institute for Medicine and the 1972 Shafer Commission, set up by the Nixon administration, which ignored its recommendation that marijuana be decriminalized.

Any number of prominent pols have inhaled, including our last three presidents, and conservatives Newt Gingrich, Clarence Thomas, and presidential hopeful Sarah Palin. (Isn’t pot supposed to squelch ambition?) Yet we still arrest more than 700,000 people a year for marijuana possession.

Our prohibitionist policies have filled America’s jails to bursting, and made our streets less safe by funneling some $40 billion a year to organized crime. Drug warriors fear that decriminalization would make these problems worse. But recent evidence from Portugal refutes them.

In 2001, Portugal became the first — and so far, only — Western democracy to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all drugs, including cocaine and heroin. The results of that experiment are now in.

In a recent study for the Cato Institute, Glenn Greenwald reports that decriminalization has “had no adverse effect on drug usage rates in Portugal,” drug-related pathologies “have decreased dramatically,” and there’s little public support for recriminalization.

It may be some years yet before American public opinion is ready to follow Portugal’s lead, but the prospects for reform are better than they’ve been in decades.

Cato Institute • 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. • Washington D.C. 20001-5403
Phone (202) 842-0200 • Fax (202) 842-3490

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It’s not often that I agree with the Cato Institute, but this is one of those times. Outside the economic sphere, liberalism and libertarianism have much in common.

— Nightman1