Monthly Archives: July 2007

fnord Marijuana fnord

Every time a scary article about pot comes out, I figure the thing to do is wait a day and see two things: (1) if it’s real, and (2) if the purported risk, put in context, is irregular compared to, say, booze.

This recent 40% schizophrenia fnord earns a negative on both counts (HuffPo) :

(1) There is no correlation in the general population:

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.

(2) The risk is, as usual, lower than alochol.

Furthermore, very little of the coverage put the risk in context. A 40% increase in risk sounds scary, and this was the risk linked to trying marijuana once, not to heavy use. To epidemiologists, however, 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.

It is fascinating to watch these studies. It’s not so much that the scientists keep trying, but that they keep getting funding, and that the results reach into the front pages of newspapers, while article after article after article decries the hazards of more lethal drugs, including the perfectly legal alcohol.

Make no mistake. Alcohol is legal for the same reasons smoking used to be allowed everywhere: it’s social standing. Pot, on the other hand, is illegal because of its social atmospherics, not for any legitimate medical reason.

Iraq Wins Asian Cup

If the United States’s hockey victory in 1980 was a tonic for the “malaise” of the time, stemming from inflation, high oil prices, and a military setback or two (except for the core inflation, sounds familiar. . .) you can imagine how Iraqis must feel about their country’s first-ever Asian Cup title.

Now, for those of you uninitiated to the many wonders of international soccer, this means Iraq will play in the Confederations Cup in 2009, along with North American champion US, South American champion Brazil, World Cup champion Italy, and the eventual Oceania (my guess that’s New Zealand), Africa, and European champions… plus the host, South Africa.

And what did the team captain say?

“I want America to go out,” he said. “Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, but out. I wish the American people didn’t invade Iraq and, hopefully, it will be over soon.”

Mahmoud also said he will not return to Iraq to celebrate.

“I don’t want the Iraqi people to be angry with me,” he said. “If I go back with the team, anybody could kill me or try to hurt me.”

Well, General Petraeus–how many more Friedman Units do you need to fix that?

Impeach Gonzo

OK, fair enough, removing the President is a big deal, and there’s an election in a 15 months. And he was elected.

Not so for the AG. There are not 34 senators who will put their name down as being this guy’s escape. Go for it.

What Green Tags are For

It was a New York Times article on bourgeois suburban SUVites using carbon offsets to salve their guilt that started it. Now the Conservatron conventional wisdom is that such offsets are the silly currency of preening moneybag moralists, and the Enviro conventional wisdom is that they are a facile delay to real action on global warming.

Although Green Tags are different from Carbon Offsets in nuanced but important ways, the idea behind them is generally the same; therefore, they are framed in the same way. This is a shame because Green Tags are a far more dynamic and interesting tool than either ideology bothers to acknowledge.

Carbon Offsets generally promise to balance carbon emissions via a future equal and opposite reaction. Green Tags, which to the best of my knowledge predate offsets, are an attempt to create value for “green” energy that was already produced – a value that is not reflected in the price of “green” energy.

Say a home or business establishes a solar array. For every megawatt of “green” energy produced by the array a corresponding megawatt was not produced by whatever mix of resources the local utility uses to provide energy to the building, resulting in a certain amount of greenhouse gases that were not emitted.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation, the creator of this program, pays the owner of the array for each megawatt of power they produced, establishing a price for the green house gases that were not created by use of their array. These are the Green Tags. They are then sold, for a profit, to entities or individuals as a means to be carbon neutral. This helps to correct the market error of having no penalty for polluting the commons, and therefore, ascribing no additional value to energy sources that do not pollute the commons. This also makes small scale “green” power more profitable for the owner, increasing the incentive to invest in such products.

Companies purchasing Green Tags include some obvious suspects such as the crunchy potato chip manufacture Kettle Foods, but also surprises like mining concerns and other heavy industries. These groups probably bought them to prepare for a future where carbon is taxed.

Green Tags are about the best that can be done about global warming through the voluntary methods that the Conservatrons used to push. They will not solve Global warming on their own, but they are much more than a tool for yuppies to buy their way into environmental heaven.

Some wisdom from 20 years ago.

Bodies fill the fields I see, hungry heroes end
No one to play soldier now, no one to pretend
Running blind through killing fields, bred to kill them all
Victim of what said should be
A servant `til I fall

Soldier boy, made of clay
Now an empty shell
Twenty one, only son
but he served us well
Bred to kill, not to care
Do just as we say
Finished here, Greeting Death
He’s yours to take away

Back to the front
You will do what I say, when I say
Back to the front
You will die when I say, you must die
Back to the front
You coward
You servant
You blind man

Barking of machine gun fire, does nothing to me now
Sounding of the clock that ticks, get used to it somehow
More a man, more stripes you wear, glory seeker trends
Bodies fill the fields I see
The slaughter never ends

Why, Am I dying?
Kill, having no fear
Lie, live off lying
Hell, Hell is here

I was born for dying

Life planned out before my birth, nothing could I say
had no chance to see myself, molded day by day
Looking back I realize, nothing have I done
left to die with only friend
Alone I clench my gun

Back to the front!


Halls of Justice Painted Green
Money Talking
Power Wolves Beset Your Door
Hear Them Stalking
Soon You’ll Please Their Appetite
They Devour
Hammer of Justice Crushes You
Overpower

The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can’t Believe the Things You Say
I Can’t Believe
I Can’t Believe the Price You Pay
Nothing Can Save You

Justice Is Lost
Justice Is Raped
Justice Is Gone
Pulling Your Strings
Justice Is Done
Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Apathy Their Stepping Stone
So Unfeeling
Hidden Deep Animosity
So Deceiving
Through Your Eyes Their Light Burns
Hoping to Find
Inquisition Sinking You
With Prying Minds

The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can’t Believe the Things You Say
I Can’t Believe
I Can’t Believe the Price You Pay
Nothing Can Save You

Justice Is Lost
Justice Is Raped
Justice Is Gone
Pulling Your Strings
Justice Is Done
Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Lady Justice Has Been Raped
Truth Assassin
Rolls of Red Tape Seal Your Lips
Now You’re Done in
Their Money Tips Her Scales Again
Make Your Deal
Just What Is Truth? I Cannot Tell
Cannot Feel

The Ultimate in Vanity
Exploiting Their Supremacy
I Can’t Believe the Things You Say
I Can’t Believe
I Can’t Believe the Price We Pay
Nothing Can Save Us

Justice Is Lost
Justice Is Raped
Justice Is Gone
Pulling Your Strings
Justice Is Done
Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

Seeking No Truth
Winning Is All
Find it So Grim
So True
So Real

The Bush Junta versus The Polyphonic Spree

All alpha-hominids allow their group the space within and without to be themselves with brio. Generalissimo Bush may be one of the worst people on the planet, but he has created the space that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the Conservatron Parade of the Horribles have practiced their dark masterpiece. The ends are a disaster, but no one can say that Team Bush hasn’t been productive.

Bush meets his pack-leader equal and opposite in the person of fellow Texan Tim DeLaughter, the leader of the symphonic pop group the Polyphonic Spree. DeLaughter’s exuberance is half Jim Morrison and half Brian Wilson. To view DeLaughter in the “Making Of” video of the Spree’s latest album is to see him coax the precise semi-improvisational sound out of each section of the Spree (the band consists of a standard rock quartet, plus string, choral, percussion, and brass sections – and a Theremin!) by sensing the music rather than hearing it. He contorts his body to direct the notes, hopping about like a caffeinated golden retriever while floating and waving his arms like a stoned octopus. This is matched with the brainy attention to detail of Wilson who, legend says, used to “play” the studio is if it was an instrument.

Occasionally, all of the hamming stops and DeLaughter’s eyes pierce the camera with a jaded boredom that seems to say this is my vision and I can just as easily stop seeing and exuding whenever I want to. His narration of the video sounds like it was preceded by eighteen bong hits. For all the couplets about oneness replete with every manner of “we,” “the,” “it,” and “everyone” DeLaughter seems to know that he is the alpha that makes the space; that creates the confidence that allows twenty plus people to participate in the production surrounding purple words like “On our way today / Day after day / We try hard / We cry hard” with a straight face.

A similar imperial impishness is what the people who were smart enough to see through Generalissimo Bush from the start loathe about him most. Because all that he stands for has always been so obviously venal, stupid and counter-productive Bush’s continuing bravado is aggravating and increasingly sociopathic.

Conversely, The Spree’s happy lyrics — penned by DeLaughter and his wife and fellow Spreer Julie Doyle — have been criticized for their inchoate sentimentality. “We called them out / We said lets shout / Some day the world will be one”. Well, asked one reasonable reviewer, one what? SJT cleverly pointed out that there is a “Raffi on acid” quality to the tunes (“The trees want to grow / The trees want to grow / Grow grow grow!”), although she said that this sensation disappeared when we saw the Spree live. Indeed, reading the Spree’s lyrics is like eyeing a screenplay instead of watching the movie. Having twenty plus musicians play the notes and sing the words with utmost care and passion decrees a level of sincerity on CD that is expanded exponentially live.

The music gives you no choice but to be happy, one I-Tune reviewer wrote. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that trip?

So, in so much that happiness and sincerity are the sensation that is opposite to the Bush Junta’s flabby lyrics; and in so much that the “you” in the song “Fragile Army” is “that knucklehead that’s screwing up our country;” and in so much that the mental meanderings of Texan shroom heads seem to be the endemic antidote to Texan Bushites; and in so much that the Bush era is creepily hallucinogenic in its own moldy way; and, therefore, in so much that the view of a Third Eye on the wall surfing primordial truths while looking over Generalissimo Bush’s shoulder is most telling; and in so much that the Spree coined the phrase “it’s the feel good time of day” I think a bit of their screenplay deserves to be heard here:

Design a black note
You type on your keyboard
You swallow
The very words you called you own
You tighten your back up
Ooh you’re so psychic
We all want to know
Did you marry the witch you’ve come to know?
You lie on your back now
You’re totally found out
We follow
The scary words you learned to grow
So slow us down now
Prepare for the count down
We all want to know
Did we bury the ones we love the most?
The ticking, the talking, the losing
How shocking!
The world wants to know
If we’re ready
To put you on the floor

Paving the road to dictatorship

Ever since Bush was re-elected in 2004, I began wondering what the encore would be. Would this bunch simply pillage the federal government for 8 years and call it good? How overt will they get?

You can agree with the tinfoil hat crowd, or you can be in denial. Whether or not you believe these events are intended to overthrow the constitution, they make it more and more possible every day.

Harry Potter

I thought the first Harry Potter movie was pretty cool to look at, and I guess anything that gets kids to read is a good thing. I’ve also used a spanish edition to work on my spanish, but I don’t think Harry Potter is the kind of thing people will be studying in universities in 100 years.

Maybe I’m just a touch too old for it, but I found the characters transparent, the plot predictable, and the entire universe of the novel to be a sort of mass produced McDonaldsish collection of literary generica.

It stands in the same relation to, say, The Lord of the Rings that The Da Vinci code does to Foucault’s Pendulum.

Media

Dear Blogosphere:

I know this will happen inevitably, but isn’t it time that every other post isn’t the latest outrage on cable news? Just ignore it. It’s really not worth it. I broke my cable news addiction four years ago, and have been much happier since.

Seriously, you are never going to awaken the proles, so to speak. Forget about what pulp products those channels are feeding people and figure out a way to beat them at their own game.

In the meantime, quit acting surprised that those retards are doing what they’re doing.

SiCKO

One of the policy areas I know the least about is health care. This might even be a good thing for clarity’s sake. But here’s what I do know.

Employers being responsible for health care is insane. Having 45m uninsured is a health hazard and is more costly than finding a way to cover them. The rest of the modern world has figured this out.

Given that, I don’t see why we can’t have a baseline universal system that covers everyone in a public service kind of way, while in a very American way allowing the wealthy to do it different, just like schools. Sure, schools aren’t great everywhere, but there is no where in America where they aren’t available. Even the broken down Jaime Escalante type of school is an improvement over none, which is the situation in health care. Some twisted future where the Cato Institute wants to give poor black people vouchers for private hospitals is an improvement over the current course.

Employers of the 21st century may be outsourcing jobs just because Americans are too unhealthy. Think about that.

"Sicko" Critics Miss the Point

Do I detect a wee bit of avarice in the criticism of Mr. Moore’s latest film from supposedly left-of-center critics? The meta-critcism here is not that Mr. Moore’s skewering of the HMO system is false, but that his love affair with single-payer universal health coverage is too facile.

Of course, had these supposed muckrakers been doing actual substantive reporting on America’s health care mess, and had they explored why we are the only industrailized nation sans universal health coverage, instead of proffering “he said / she said” hooey through meaningless frames, then “Sicko” would not have been necessary or fresh. Methinks that is where the jealousy comes in. As with the Bush Junta’s goof city exploitation of 9/11 in Farenheit 9/11, Mr. Moore is free to state the self-evident that the MSM cannot.

The Green Monsters totally miss the point here. All that Mr. Moore is demonstrating is that foreigners akin to the uninsured — or uncovered for what is necessary by their insurance — in America are somehow able to get necessary health care without going broke. That this is largely accomplished through a single payer system is a well accepted fact. I have no doubt that this system is not always perfect, but that’s beside the point: Necessary health care is either given or it isn’t. In America, as everyone agrees and Mr. Moore so ably demonstrates, it isn’t.

Also, greatly enjoyed the closing “fuck you” of Mr. Moore paying for the important surgery of his Internet antagonist. Well played; well played, indeed.

Live Earth – More Simplistic Non-Solutions

Most environmental politics descend into absolutism faster than a rainbow sorbet cone melts on an ozone alert day in August, so I had better defend the title of this post quickly.

I am referring specifically to a brief think piece grafted in between the music in 7/7/07′s mega-concert. This interlude featured a line worker at a coal mine asserting that the world needs less coal and more wind energy.

I agree, but the implication here is that wind energy can easily replace coal, or natural gas, or nuclear energy if only we would build enough turbines to do so.

At best wind farms will generate energy approximately one-third of the time. To “firm” that energy for regular use some other form of energy has to be there the other two-thirds of the time. Here is an elemental explanation: A utility has 100 MWs of wind energy in its portfolio. Predictive models indicate that the wind farm will not produce any electricity for hour 0800; therefore, the utility needs to garner that energy in some other way which will be either peakable thermal (coal, nuclear, gas) or hydro. For hour 0900 the 100 MWs of wind will be on line, so 100 MWs of thermal energy will not be necessary.

In other words, wind does not replace thermal energy, it displaces it. While this is worthwhile, it also means that wind energy is reliant (outside of the Northwest) on thermal energy. Most utilities have the thermal capacity to integrate some wind but as demand increases and the MWs of wind in its portfolio increases it will be necessary to actually build additional thermal power plants to keep the wind online. Yes, at a certain point more wind = more thermal energy.

This dichotomy is especially important on peak energy days in the summer. Heat and humidity, the languid still air that leads to high energy demand is, unfortunately, exactly the weather that does not lead to the wind blowing — that is one of the reasons it feels so damn hot. Since the most polluting of resources will be mecessary to meet this highest of peak energy demands this situation does offer a very direct and slogan-ready way for a concrned citizen to aid the environment: Turn Off Your Air Conditioner on the Hottest Day of the Year!

Revolution, not Impeachment.

The pro-impeachment factions on the left have heated up again with the Libby pardon and a recent poll showing 46% want Bush impeached (and 54% want Cheney impeached). What’s the endgame but revenge for Clinton? Pelosi as president? For how long? A couple of months.

Useless.

You see, for some reason, the left has been seduced by the idea that who the president is matters in every single way. Granted, Bush has been a disaster—but isn’t he more of a symptom? A symptom of corporate control of government and a poisonous conservative ideology run amok? These same forces never stopped attacking Clinton and were successful enough to capture Congress and stop the real progress Clinton could have made.

No, the real change has to be a revolution in the minds of Americans. We have to start accepting as part of our national self-image that even the least among us have worth and that the fact that other countries do things is not reason enough not to do it.

If this is what Ralph Nader meant, he was right that there is no difference between the parties. A Democratic victory in 2008 will result in doing all the same things in a slightly different way, and maybe one major policy initiative, and perhaps a few minor ones.

At least, that victory won’t cause such a change. Only if it is reflective of such a change will it mean anything, and the deep cynicism most people have towards politics makes it even more unlikely that any politician could cause such a change without perhaps leading a Rooseveltian charge against major catastrophe.