mm173: Legalize all drugs!

October 19, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Earlier this week, the failed U.S. war on drugs was discussed in this space.

Turns out that a high ranking provincial law enforcement officer in Britain believes that the UK’s version is just as pointless as its U.S. cousin’s.

theindependent

By Jonathan Brown and David Langton

Published: 15 October 2007

One of Britain’s most senior police officers is to call for all drugs – including heroin and cocaine – to be legalised and urges the Government to declare an end to the “failed” war on illegal narcotics.

Richard Brunstrom, the Chief Constable of North Wales, advocates an end to UK drug policy based on “prohibition”. His comments come as the Home Office this week ends the process of gathering expert advice looking at the next 10 years of strategy.

In his radical analysis, which he will present to the North Wales Police Authority today, Mr Brunstrom points out that illegal drugs are now cheaper and more plentiful than ever before.

The number of users has soared while drug-related crime is rising with narcotics now supporting a worldwide business empire second only in value to oil. “If policy on drugs is in future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma, then the current prohibitionist stance will have to be swept away as both unworkable and immoral, to be replaced with an evidence-based unified system (specifically including tobacco and alcohol) aimed at minimisation of harms to society,” he will say.

The war on drugs benefits the prison-industrial complex, but not society.

Statistics are useful in this context. In Scotland, for example,

… he notes that figures from the Chief Medical Officer have found that, in Scotland, 13,000 people died from tobacco-related use in 2004 while 2,052 died as a result of alcohol. Illegal drugs, meanwhile, accounted for 356 deaths. The maximum penalty for possessing a class A drug is 14 years in prison while supplying it carries a life term.

The main way that illegal drugs kill is due to the crimes committed in dealing them, or supporting the habit. Decriminalize drugs, and the profit and crime will go away.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Legalise all drugs: chief constable demands end to ‘immoral laws’ – Independent Online Edition > UK Politics

So here’s a sensible man, neck deep in the problem but still able to see further than most, who says,

* Mr Brunstrom says: “If policy on drugs is in the future to be pragmatic not moralistic, driven by ethics not dogma, then the current prohibitionist stance will have to be swept away as both unworkable and immoral. Such a strategy leads inevitably to the legalisation and regulation of all drugs.”

“Not moralistic” is the key phrase. The U.S. does moralistic all too well, and it buys us nothing but unwinnable wars and the growing disapprobation of a growing percentage of the thinking world.

So, risking repetition, let me invoke our previous judgement. Here’s MUDGE‘s prescription for our drug problem, as endorsed, I would like to think, by the mayor of San Francisco as well as the Chief Constable of North Wales.

Set a price for heroin and cocaine and the like that includes a tax to fund drug abuse treatment programs — I’m guessing the “street” price will still, tax and all, come in at far less than the price available from the Colombian-supplied junkie down that alley.

But, keep a few law enforcement agents around, to throw the book at the creeps who persist in selling to children.

Make medical marijuana freely available at a fair price by prescription, again at the state stores where legal identification can be assured.

Just as organized crime found new things to do in 1933, if you take criminality out of the drug supply industry, drug related crime will dry up just as promptly. Fear not for the poor farmers in Bolivia, Peru and Afghanistan with their poppy fields. They will remain in business, paid though by the U.S. government rather than by criminal cartels.

Of course, there’s always a down side. This program would leave thousands of judges, bailiffs, court clerks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, sheriffs’ deputies, wardens and guards out of work.

Probably an acceptable price for the reduction, even elimination, of the casually violent drive-by shootings that kill innocent 10 year olds.

Use some of that obsolete war on drugs budget to retrain the judges, bailiffs, clerks, lawyers, deputies, and guards.

Teach them web page development and Java. Create something useful.

Maybe we can once again compete with Bengaluru.

Another pointless war we can end. Why not now?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


WcW009: A Marathon for the Tsar

October 18, 2007

wcw1

Web Conferencing Week

Despite MUDGE‘s status as Tsar of All the Electronic Meetings, sometimes he has to work his royal butt off.

Today was such a day. Let’s take a look at the after-action report provided to his team:

The executive VP of HR (reports directly to the CEO of HCA [Heart of Corporate America, MUDGE‘s employer and thus not its real name]) conducted the third of his global all HR staff videoconferences (the first two were Ireland,  October 2006, and Argentina last March) from Singapore.

These ambitious meetings included videoconference feeds to major sites, and Sametime web conferences for sites where video was unavailable, and even for those sites where video was available outside the largest venues, Sametime furnished the presentations, which were never placed on camera.

The first of two sessions, the live one, was conducted from conference space in Singapore by the VP HR and some regional colleagues, and began at 4:00pm local time. Tech call was 3:00pm, which translated to 2:00am this morning for your Sametime moderator.

Since the video feed didn’t have slides to cue from, and we were in our home office, we arranged with the event producer to have her on the phone cuing us with a signal for the next slide. We had been furnished a now obsolete script, which apparently had been much modified since last Friday when she emailed it to us just before stepping onto a plane to wing her and the crew 22 hours to Singapore.

We were simultaneously monitoring the audio conference, to be sure that the Sametime audience could hear the speakers and this extra step proved important, as the telephone conference people needed to be told to use the feed from the video conferencing bridge (somewhere in the U.S., I believe); getting this straight delayed the beginning of the conference by a few minutes.

So we spent the meeting with one headset (connected to my home land line) listening to the speakers from half a world away in the audio conference, and my Blackberry’s Bluetooth headset in the other ear getting next slide cues from the producer, and later, relaying some questions received from the remote audience via Sametime’s Public Chat to the representative of HR Public Affairs who was coordinating in Singapore and who read out the questions to the speakers.

The only disappointment to an otherwise successful meeting (and it was completely successful as far as the client is concerned) was due to the heavily graphic-intensive nature of the latter part of the presentation, which consisted of about 34 high resolution picture postcards of Singapore, as a backdrop to an interview between an HR executive and a local client. Because of those graphics, and the fact that the connections were in Europe and especially many sites in Asia, response to Next Page signals was delayed by up to two minutes, instead of the 23 seconds allocated. Because these were generic photographs, not much was missed when so many slides needed to be skipped due to the delays.

Among the 38 Sametime connections were participants in the UK, Taiwan, the Philippines, a couple of sites in Japan, Egypt, China, Germany, Hong Kong, Seoul, our home county, Norway, Ireland, Madrid, Hungary, Bangkok, India, Italy, France, and the Netherlands, among others. Some of these were large videoconference and ordinary non-video conference rooms with many participants, watching the video and/or the slides via our web conferencing feed.

There was serious talk earlier this year (I even had an itinerary sent me by Corporate Travel) of sending me with the crew to Singapore, as it was believed that the technical challenges required a Sametime expert on site. I admit that I was intrigued by the possibility of seeing an exotic locale on HR’s dime, but also was affronted: Sametime is a tool meant to reduce travel expenses — what kind of example would be set if they sent the Tsar himself across 13 time zones and put him up for five, five-star hotel nights for two 1-1/4 hour meetings?

The fact that cooler heads prevailed, and kept me in the U.S. turned out for the best, as the first communication from the event producer at about 2amCDT (yes, 2am — a very groggy Tsar indeed took her call) was to let me know that she could not get a consistent Internet connection from the meeting room, and was never able to connect to Sametime from there. Imagine the frustration if the person tasked with moderating the Sametime meeting couldn’t get a connection!

The 10amCDT meeting, for which your correspondent was in place for a technical check by 7:30am, was a rebroadcast of the earlier meeting for the U.S., Canada and Latin America. It was also a complex meeting, as it consisted of the recorded videoconference that had ended less than 6 hours earlier packaged and sent electronically to the video conference bridge, for forwarding, plus a live video feed from the meeting center in Singapore for questions from that second meeting.

The recorded and live video was received in AP6D Cafeteria, and several other sites in the U.S. (California and Ohio) and again Sametime provided the slides for the video (outside the main venue) and for people connecting from their desks or conference rooms without video. the video conference bridge also fed the Sametime audio conference.

Although this meeting was technically complex, again with the event producer (now the shoe was on the other foot, with this second meeting beginning at 11pm in Singapore) cuing the slides for the main venue to a graphics technician, and yours truly controlling Sametime to follow those visual cues, it all went quite smoothly, and the heavily graphic slides had no difficulty advancing on time, apparently due to the more robust network connections in the Western Hemisphere.

Great credit goes to the very able technical people on site here: Larry the enterprise videoconference expert; Steve , working the presentations; and especially the highly competent and extraordinarily calm (in the face of today’s countless last minute bombshells) audio technician, Eric. Thanks guys!

There were 79 connections to this second meeting, from Colombia, Mexico City, Venezuela, several sites in California, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Puerto Rico, Peru, Ecuador, Massachusetts, Quebec and Ontario in Canada, and New Jersey, among others.

Fascinating what’s happening to the heart of corporate America. It’s globalizing with a speed that might cause whiplash. Look at the above lists of meeting participation for both sessions.

Indeed, saw a quote in Business Week at lunch today (sorry, too tired to root it out guys) where the CEO of Intel wondered whether his company could really be called an American one any more. Wow!

The really good news: this meeting wouldn’t have worked at all without Sametime providing the presentation slides, which it did for every video conference room except the originator in Singapore (for the first meeting) and the local meeting venue (for the second). And the presentation, with its heavy graphics, wouldn’t have been successful without using the Sametime Whiteboard, although for the earlier Asia/Europe meeting I believe that network connectivity in Asian sites limited performance.

A wise developer from IBM Lotus, Sametime’s vendor, once characterized his product as the world’s best network sniffer. In other words, if there’s even one narrow bandwidth connection in one’s meeting, Sametime will react in an attention-getting fashion, as it waits (and waits and waits) for handshake signals from each node in the call, as it sends out its graphic content.

But, all in all, the day’s two high profile meetings (sort of career limiting to disappoint the top executive in HR!) went well; the web conferencing infrastructure, so ably maintained by MUDGE‘s overtaxed coworkers, behaved itself. Sigh of relief!

Later the same day (this day! It will be shortly before 9pm when this gets posted, on this day that began for MUDGE with a cell phone alarm beeping at 1:40am) we spent considerable time writing the above report to the team, and then met a commitment to teach a 90-minute class on web conferencing.

The class had been scheduled several months in advance, in the expectation that the Singapore adventure would occur next week; a corporate bigwig changed his mind — what a shock! — but I didn’t feel I could reschedule a class that people had been registered for for many weeks.

The class, one of three taught this week (average is 8-10 per month) was conducted for five students (via a web conference, of course) two of whom were connecting from home offices in Washington state and Florida. Ah, the power of collaborative tools!

A marathon for the Tsar, indeed. But even a curmudgeon can earn himself a smile, if not other royal trappings, for jobs well done.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm172: Diabetes: Not so Simple, Simon! (And stay away from that pie!)

October 17, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Continuing our medical mini-series, this story was among the NYTimes’ most emailed yesterday.

Type II, adult onset diabetes is the focus of the piece, delving in great detail into recent research that is raising more questions than answers.

It’s a lengthy article, but well written, and well worth your time.

nytimes

By AMANDA SCHAFFER

An explosion of new research is vastly changing scientists’ understanding of diabetes and giving new clues about how to attack it.

The fifth leading killer of Americans, with 73,000 deaths a year, diabetes is a disease in which the body’s failure to regulate glucose, or blood sugar, can lead to serious and even fatal complications. Until very recently, the regulation of glucose — how much sugar is present in a person’s blood, how much is taken up by cells for fuel, and how much is released from energy stores — was regarded as a conversation between a few key players: the pancreas, the liver, muscle and fat.

Now, however, the party is proving to be much louder and more complex than anyone had shown before.

So, the usual suspects, pancreas, liver, muscle and fat have been joined by new candidates: a hormone produced by bone, osteocalcin; inflammation in the immune system; the brain; and the gut.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

In Diabetes, a Complex of Causes – New York Times

We rail in this country against the high cost of health care. We are outraged by the prices we pay for pharmaceuticals.

But people, there’s wonderful work being done to discover how the human system works, and how to repair it when it is impaired. This diabetes research is a perfect example.

Of course it’s partially financed by the big drug manufacturers. Be glad it is — where else would the big money come from? The government? A useful source of research funding, but always constrained.

You’ve heard this before. These days, the cost of bringing a drug to market is measured in $100s of millions (probably a cool $billion by now), and bunches of years (as many as 15!).

When that 1:10,000 long shot hits, drug companies have a very short patent life to receive top dollar for their intellectual property, which by the way is alleviating pain, curing disease, improving life for patients around the world, while providing the wherewithal for research and testing of the next great breakthrough.

When viewed that way, the high cost of medicine in this country doesn’t seem so extreme.

Yes, the insurance driven system at the patient level is broken, a subject for another day.

But, as a person who has been living with Type II diabetes for over a decade, and whose sister’s partner’s juvenile diabetes is rapidly killing her, MUDGE has a personal stake in successful diabetes research, and by extension, all the useful medical research in this country, however it’s funded.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm171: Maintain your brain!

October 16, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

An interesting week for medical news here at L-HC.

And by the way, it’s not an accident that health-related news dominates our attention.

“Our attention” being that of the ubiquitous Boomers, the oldest of whom are fast approaching age 62!

And we weren’t to trust anyone over 30!

The pharmaceutical companies are aware of demographics big time, as they prepare for the largest individual age-group ever, in the wealthiest nation ever, to treat their assorted and accumulating ailments with the finest chemicals a PPO can buy.

And, as a group we Boomers are as self-absorbed, especially regarding our health issues, as our parents, the so-called Greatest Generation, was self-sacrificing.

So, health related news dominates.

This story by Associated Press by way of Wired magazine concentrates on aging’s effects on the brain.

wired

By LAURAN NEERGAARD
AP Medical Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — When aging hampers memory, some people’s brains compensate to stay sharp. Now scientists want to know how those brains make do – in hopes of developing treatments to help everyone else keep up.

This is not Alzheimer’s disease, but the wear-and-tear of so-called normal aging. New research is making clear that memory and other brain functions decline to varying degrees even in otherwise healthy people as they age, as anyone who habitually loses car keys probably suspected.

The medical establishment is turning its attention to aging’s effects on the brain, and the brain’s effect on aging.

“We need to understand how to defer normal cognitive aging … the way we’ve invested in fighting heart disease and cancer.”

Amen. The prospect of a decayed brain in a reasonably healthy body is just as foreboding as its opposite. Take a look at the rest of the article:

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Wired News – AP News

So, while the medical wizards research, what’s a guy or gal on the cusp of old age to do?

Staying at intellectually demanding jobs, even crossword puzzles might be an answer. Use it or lose it, indeed.

Drugs. For our generation, definitely the easiest of all.

Finally, exercise. In fact, I can think of an exercise that might be especially appropriate in so many ways, as picked up in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© earlier: sex.

And, to turn an old saying on its tail: I guess now I aspire to remaining bright eyed and bushy brained.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm170: Technology and Education — A Debate!

October 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Left-Handed Complement didn’t start as an education weblog, although we reserve the right to comment on any subject any time.

In retrospect, no special expectation for education topics was probably unrealistic on my part.

While under-credentialed, MUDGE has done more than his share of instruction in corporate environments over the past bunch of years, and indeed, earns a living doing a lot of training.

Under-credentialed. Highly successful. Go figure.

So it’s probably not an accident that education, especially as enhanced by technology, has been featured multiple times in this space over the past more than five months of its active existence.

For example, an entire brochure could be developed around our posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission

And the topic of education in general has not been ignored.

mm067.1: Why I love…
mm106: Are we failing.. geniuses?
mm110: Grading mayoral control…
mm160: UC Berkeley first to post..

All this is prelude to the point of this post: The Economist, the best magazine on the planet, is sponsoring a debate this week on their website, www.economist.com/debate:

economist

Technology and Education — This house believes that the introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education.

Now, an Economist debate is not your League of Women Voters or CNN haphazardly posturing beauty contest.

Traditional Oxford-style debate

Oxford-style debate is most famously practised by the Oxford Union, the debating society of Oxford University. The Oxford Union’s invigorating debating chamber has yielded generations of British parliamentarians, lawyers, journalists and other accomplished advocates.

The Oxford style of debate is characterised by its formality and structure. Debates are hosted by a moderator and take place between two teams, the “proposition” and the “opposition”.

It began Monday October 15th (today for MUDGE as this is written, yesterday in the UK) with erudite opening statements from the highly credentialed proponent and his equally qualified opposition. Readers can register to vote (and change their vote as the debate progresses — how cool is that?) during the course of the eight days of the debate.

My instincts are that technology can only help education.

But, I’ve always believed this, where education (and almost any other field of human endeavor) is concerned.

After all, at heart, I am a technologist, fascinated even by the history of technology.

A personal story comes to mind, bubbling up after nearly 30 years.

It’s the late ’70s, and your future correspondent / education expert is, of course, under-credentialed but always creative (at least in his own mind).

His two (at the time) children are just beginning elementary school, and through the Parent Teachers Association, future-MUDGE is invited to a curriculum review session held for interested parents under the auspices of the school district administration.

This was (and is) a community that took (takes) immense pride in its efforts to provide high quality education to its students. How successful the effort is, is a matter of constant controversy, which seems, sorry to say for a community prideful of its integration record, to line up on racial boundaries.

Digression aside, this discussion is arithmetic and mathematics for the early grades. Remember it’s the late ’70s, portable calculators are coming down in price every moment, but still seem exotic, especially in a school environment.

I suggest, “How about issuing every child a calculator? This way, their understanding of higher order math problems won’t get hung up by concern over errors of simple arithmetic.”

The answer: Interesting idea. Of course we have no budget for calculators. It’s all we can do to make sure we have sufficient books for our students.

Here’s the gold-plated (for 1978) suggestion:

Talk to a text book publisher (and this is a town influential with publishers):

Suggest that they bind a calculator (they’re coming down in price every day!) into the arithmetic/mathematics text book.

This way, the district would be purchasing books, satisfying all statutory requirements, and our children could learn math without tripping over rote arithmetic.

Of course the over-credentialed functionaries never took the suggestion seriously. After all, what did future-MUDGE, a mere civilian, know about EDUCATION?

So one wonders what use is actually gotten out of computers in today’s thirty years on elementary school classrooms.

A curmudgeon might guess: not very much.

Read the Proposition in the Economist debate, and the statistics seem to favor that depressing observation.

Oddly, for MUDGE, I remain optimistic about the application of technology to education, and a fervent supporter of One Laptop Per Child.

Just the way the cellular telephone leapfrogged more than 100 years of ferociously expensive and painfully achieved infrastructure development to provide cheap and instant communications to even the remotest developing world village, so in the same paradigm shifting way can OLPC do the same for that village’s schoolhouse, and all this planet’s schoolhouses.

But, follow that debate this week in The Economist (and isn’t this a useful and most timely discussion for them to sponsor?). Go over to www.economist.com/debate and check it out.

You could even tell them MUDGE sent you (not that they’d ask, or care!).

And remember, as the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm169: It’s a Gore-y story

October 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Have to congratulate Al Gore.

One gets the impression that, like many such awards, the Nobel Prizes are subject to public relations campaigns and politicking…

It was inevitable that the Nobel Peace Prize would go to Gore. Historically, the prize has had very little to do with rewarding genuine peacemakers. In 1939, nominees for the prize included such distinguished fighters for peace as Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler. The prize has always been influenced by the exigencies of realpolitik. So, over the years individuals like Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter and Willy Brandt received the Nobel. [–Spiked (see below)]

… so it wasn’t exactly out of the blue that Gore was awarded the Peace prize for his work on behalf of environmental awareness.

So, a couple of weeks ago, Gore’s “campaign” to win the Nobel was widely enough known that we picked up on it even in this out of the way nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

What was speculation (the Prize) is now fact. And so many other observers are taking a closer look at Gore’s presidential opportunity.

So, two of L-HC’s usual suspects, Salon and Slate weigh in.

salon

What are the odds that Al Gore enters the presidential race?

We put that question this morning to Karen Skelton, who served as Gore’s political director while he was vice president. Her response: “He will not run. Negative odds. He’s got all he needs. He’s a Nobel Prize winner, which means he’s being rewarded for following his passion successfully in a way that’s changed the world. His passion was never politics for the fight, it was for the cause.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

War Room: Political News, Politics News – Salon

slate

Will Al Gore now run for the White House?

By John Dickerson
Posted Friday, Oct. 12, 2007, at 10:43 AM ET

Al Gore. Click image to expand.Al Gore

Al Gore is a winner. Al Gore was right. One of the best things for Al Gore about winning the Nobel Peace Prize is that the sound bites are finally all on his side. For decades the two-term vice president has been championing environmental causes and until recently often received public scorn and derision. Now he’s been rewarded with one of the most coveted prizes on the planet.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

What does the Nobel Peace Prize mean for Gore 2008? – By John Dickerson – Slate Magazine

With the help of an interesting publication out of the UK, Spiked let’s put this prize into some context.

spiked

On Monday, spiked will publish a series of articles on Al Gore, the Nobel and the climate change debate. As a preview, here is Frank Furedi explaining why Gore is a fitting winner of the ‘Nobel Fear Prize’.

When I heard commentators this morning praising Al Gore as a ‘charismatic figure’, I waited around for the punchline. But they weren’t joking.

Somehow, this dull provincial politician suffering from a charisma-bypass has been transformed into a hi-tech twenty-first century prophet – and now he has won the Nobel Peace Prize to boot.

It is hard to tell if the reinvention of Gore is a testimony to the persuasive powers of PowerPoint, or to the collapse of the cultural and political imagination in the West. Probably, Gore’s emergence as a modern-day icon is a result of his ability to personify our culture of fear. He is the ideal spokesman for an era in which virtually every human experience comes with a health warning attached. Now, with his Nobel award, he joins a pantheon of cultural saints, including fellow Nobel recipient Mother Teresa.

A bracing point of view. And welcome.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

And the Nobel Fear Prize goes to… | spiked

And now for some perspective on Gore as a past presidential candidate, from an opinion columnist for the NYTimes.

nytimes

Yesterday began with the gratifying news that Al Gore, derided by George H.W. Bush as the “Ozone Man,” had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The first thing media types wanted to know was whether this would prompt Mr. Gore to elbow his way into the presidential campaign. That’s like asking someone who’s recovered from a heart attack if he plans to resume smoking.

Mr. Gore, who won an Academy Award for his documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and an Emmy for his cable TV network, Current, knows better than anyone else how toxic and downright idiotic presidential politics has become.

He may be one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, talented men in America and remarkably well-equipped to lead the nation, but it’s Mr. Bush’s less-than-curious, less-than-distinguished son, George W., who is president.

There are all kinds of ironies wrapped up in the title of Mr. Gore’s latest book, “The Assault on Reason.”

Especially useful is the comparison with (the even more hypocritical than most of his fellow hypocritical candidates in his hypocritical party) Rudy Giuliani.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Trivial Pursuit – New York Times

And another comparison with Gore’s “successful” opponent in 2000 from the Washington Post…

washingtonpost

By Peter Baker, Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 13, 2007; A09

MIAMI, Oct. 12 — Somehow, it seemed only fitting that at the moment of Al Gore‘s triumph, George W. Bush would spend the day in Florida, scene of the fateful clash that propelled one to the presidency and the other to the Nobel Prize.

What a difference seven years makes. The winner of that struggle went on to capture the White House and to become a wartime leader now heading toward the final year of a struggling presidency. The loser went on to reinvent himself from cautious politician to hero of the activist left now honored as a man of peace.

For the Gore camp, it was a day of resurrection, a day to salve the wounds of history and to write another narrative that they hope will be as enduring as Florida. “We finally have their respective legacies,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and a veteran of the Clinton-Gore White House. “Bush earned the Iraq war, and Al Gore earned the Nobel Prize. Who knew Al Gore would one day thank the Supreme Court for their judgment?”

The White House stuck to polite, if restrained, congratulations. “Obviously, it’s an important recognition, and we’re sure the vice president is thrilled,” spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters aboard Air Force One heading here Friday. Another senior official, commenting on the condition of anonymity to speak less diplomatically, said the Nobel Prize is nice, but the presidency is still better. “We’re happy for him,” the aide said, “but suspect he’d trade places before we would.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Feats Divide Pair Linked by Election

A similar perspective from an opinion column in the the LATimes:

latimes

Jonathan Chait

No wonder conservatives are apoplectic – Gore’s fortunes rise as the president’s plummets.

October 13, 2007

When Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, conservatives reacted with apoplexy. Talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, conservative bloggers and other Republican faithful denounced the prize as a fraud….

The defensiveness of Gore’s critics comes because he is the ultimate rebuke to Bush. Gore, obviously, is the great historic counter-factual, the man who would have been president if Florida had a functioning ballot system. More than that, he is the anti-Bush. He is intellectual and introverted, while Bush is simplistic and backslapping.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Al Gore: the anti-Bush – Los Angeles Times

Finally, James Woudhuysen, again from Spiked, takes a most incisive look at the environmental movement itself, in the light of this latest event and symbol of its ascendency into the mainstream of political thought.

spiked

Environmental activists and commentators frequently argue that climate change is the most pressing problem facing humanity, and that if we don’t do something about it the planet will burn up. Yet when planet-sized technological solutions to global warming – also known as ‘geo-engineering solutions’ – are put forward, environmentalists are the first to balk. ‘It will never work’, they say. Why are those who are most concerned about climate change also the most hostile to doing something serious to tackle it?

It isn’t just because such solutions would be ambitious, costly and distant in time; nor is it only because these solutions would carry risks. Rather, environmentalists tend to dismiss geo-engineering because, at root, they are not interested in halting climate change. For many today, both green activists and leading politicians, climate change is a moral and political issue rather than simply a practical problem. They see the ‘issue of climate change’ as a means to changing people’s behaviour and expectations, rather than simply as a byproduct of industrialisation that ought to be tackled by technological know-how. They are resistant to geo-engineering solutions because putting an end to climate change would rob them of their raison d’être.

Here’s a particularly telling point:

Yet it is not particular technologies that environmentalists hate, so much as the whole idea of human ingenuity – the conscious, designing, problem-solving capabilities that distinguish mankind from naturally occurring species. If, as environmentalists claim, mankind means waste and the reckless destruction of finite natural resources, then artificial constructions can only deserve varying degrees of ridicule – partly for the damage they will bring in tow, but mainly for their creators’ outrageous arrogance.

How soft-headed can the Greens get? Keep reading.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Why greens don’t want to ‘solve’ climate change | spiked

So, a refreshing change here for L-HC.

It’s not been our experience in this space to date to have had the occasion to expose the practitioners of political correctness.

PC comes from those drug-addled survivors of the ’60s that now set policy in so many institutions of higher education and non-governmental organizations.

We are reminded, courtesy of Spiked, that the jerks of the right have no monopoly on wrong-headed moral certitude.

But Al Gore, child of those same times, is not a jerk.

And if he restrains himself from the temptations that his stellar year has exposed to him, he’ll remain one of the good guys. Either way, he deserves our congratulations.

Al, direct your energies toward persuading your friends the Greens that technological solutions to our environmental challenges are perfectly appropriate.

Then, perhaps they’ll retire the Peace prize with your name on it.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm168: We’re fighting more than one pointless war!

October 12, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

The U.S. has always been this very strange dichotomy: a Puritanical streak a mile wide, uneasily coexisting with gaudy decadence.

We prohibited alcohol consumption by Constitutional amendment in 1920. The result: organized crime in this country became an ingrained institution, and every solid citizen knew a bootlegger. The Great Experiment ended with repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Oddly, organized crime is still with us, having survived to evolve toward other more lucrative (i.e., still illegal) venues. Such as gambling, sex, even tobacco.

And drugs.

Gambling had always been an underground phenomenon, save for a couple of pockets (Nevada and Atlantic City). Then, 35 years ago, state sponsored lotteries began to appear on the scene, leading to the next step, the oddly constrained riverboat and tribal casinos that now populate so many parts of the nation.

Gambling, always a pernicious and destructive habit, is now state sanctioned, making it possible for working stiffs and stiffettes who couldn’t raise busfare to an Indian casino to blow half their weekly pay on a one in 12million shot at obscene wealth at their corner mini-mart.

Commercial sex, fully consummated in the form of legal brothels only in several counties of Nevada, has long been available in teaser form (“look but don’t touch — and would you like to buy a ‘private dance’ in the back?”) in nearly every city, of whatever size.

Many of these strip clubs, “gentlemen’s clubs” and the like are run by, you guessed it, organized crime, also still a force in the pornography field, although the liberating effect of the internet has democratized both supply and demand of that particular form of entertainment.

Tobacco is a late addition to the list of proscribed vices, as more municipalities and states (who have long since attempted to control tobacco sales to minors with spotty success) have begun to restrict the ability of citizens to indulge in smoking in public spaces, and have often raised taxes on cigarette purchases so outlandishly that organized crime has been pleased to step into tobacco sales, providing low-priced supplies using stolen or imported stock.

So the U.S. goes both ways: Puritanical (sex, tobacco) and decadence (alcohol, gambling).

And then there are drugs. The Puritans have a firm grasp on this issue, and the law and order establishment has made the enforcement of drug prohibition a very big business indeed.

As rusty manufacturers blow away (to China, mostly), and agribusiness mechanizes and hires cheap immigrant labor for the parts that resist mechanization, rural, mainly white, America has seen the building and staffing of prisons as economic manna.

And what crimes have made prisons such a growth industry? Drug crimes.

MUDGE is prepared argue that there are two classes of drug related crime. The organized crime variety, the one with Glocks and AK47s — those criminals belong in prison — throw away the key.

The other class of “criminals” are the consumers of “recreational chemicals,” whose presence in the criminal justice system has bloated it out of all proportion.

The war on drugs has been the tooth of the drug enforcement tiger, attracting big dollars, big legal establishments and big prison systems, and finds very little distinction between supplier, dealer, and user. The war on drugs’ motto: Put them all away!

Let’s hear what San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom had to say about this issue last week:

cbs5

(CBS 5 / KCBS) SAN FRANCISCO San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed the nation’s war on drugs a total failure and insisted the crime rate would go down if the government spent money on treatment as opposed to jailing people with drug problems.

“If you want to get serious, if you want to reduce crime by 70% in this country overnight, end this war on drugs,” he told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. “You want to get serious, seriously serious about crime and violence end this war on drugs.”

The mayor maintained local jails are overcrowded with people incarcerated for drug offenses, taking up room that could be used to hold more violent criminal offenders. He said violent criminals with lengthy felony records are being turned loose, too often.

Unlike alcohol use, unlike even commercial sex, tolerated in all but nine-counties-of-Nevada-form in most localities, we’ve let the Puritans continue to set the agenda on drugs.

The result: flourishing organized crime, brutal and deadly; burgeoning courts with backed up dockets; prisons often overcrowded despite the building boom; and users who rather than getting treatment for their addictive behavior are instead matriculated in crime school — jail.

The war on drugs makes no distinction between “recreational chemicals” and the increasing scientifically documented uses for marijuana for medical purposes.

Of course, Puritans (read: Republicans) don’t have a lot of use for science, unless it’s ridiculous pseudo-science like so-called “creation science.”

And so cancer patients and their doctors have also become criminals. What a waste!

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

cbs5.com – SF Mayor Gavin Newsom: War On Drugs Is A Failure

Now, MUDGE is not recommending total legalization. After all, alcohol was legalized 74 years ago, and while the impact on criminals was dramatic, the impact on addictive individuals, their families, and those unlucky enough to share the highways with them has remained dire. An impact, however, that, except for DUIs, the medical establishment has been deemed most appropriate to handle.

But, when Prohibition ended, so also did the lucrative line of business for criminals.

Several states, mainly in the East, still to this day restrict alcohol sales to state run facilities.

Okay, that sounds like a useful template. Open up state controlled substance stores. Demand six forms of identification if necessary to keep children far away.

Thus, let’s see what happens to drug crimes when to use drugs doesn’t require one to be a criminal.

Prohibition turned an entire nation into criminals, and changed the face of criminal activity in this country. Prohibition finally became unsustainable because the nation came to its senses realizing that even otherwise exemplary citizens had to behave like criminals and break the law to enjoy a drink.

Set a price for heroin and cocaine and the like that includes a tax to fund drug abuse treatment programs — I’m guessing the “street” price will still, tax and all, come in at far less than the price available from the Colombian-supplied junkie down that alley.

But, keep a few law enforcement agents around, to throw the book at the creeps who persist in selling to children.

Make medical marijuana freely available at a fair price by prescription, again at the state stores where legal identification can be assured.

Just as organized crime found new things to do in 1933, if you take criminality out of the drug supply industry, drug related crime will dry up just as promptly. Fear not for the poor farmers in Bolivia, Peru and Afghanistan with their poppy fields. They will remain in business, paid though by the U.S. government rather than by criminal cartels.

Of course, there’s always a down side. This program would leave thousands of judges, bailiffs, court clerks, prosecutors, defense attorneys, sheriffs’ deputies, wardens and guards out of work.

Probably an acceptable price for the reduction, even elimination, of the casually violent drive-by shootings that kill innocent 10 year olds.

Use some of that obsolete war on drugs budget to retrain the judges, bailiffs, clerks, lawyers, deputies, and guards.

Teach them web page development and Java. Create something useful.

Maybe we can once again compete with Bengaluru.

Another pointless war we can end. Why not now?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm167: Writer’s Diarrhea

October 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

… is the opposite of writer’s block, right?

So another blog about blogging. Why bother? Take two Imodium and call me in the morning.

There’s never a lack of news and features to write about. Although, today…

There are frequently referenced topics in this space that could stand another post, MUDGE: web conferencing, our latest profession.

Or, the odd current interest (some of you must feel) in UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles or, robot aircraft.

Or, politics: impeachment (first Cheney, then Bush); Michael Bloomberg; this horribly mismanaged war.

Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column — talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).

Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.

But not today.

Spent spare time today reading about blogs and blogging. As I evaluate my efforts according to some of the experts, I give myself a grade of B+. Ignoring the experts, who probably would hold their noses and call L-HC a D+.

Because, of course, there are so few readers. And of course, there’s no monetization going on (just as well, since there are so few readers). So, why bother?

It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that the millions of bloggers out there are primarily, with some gaudy exceptions, keeping personal journals. A custom, and habit, recently revived from the eighteenth and 19th centuries.

The difference is that what used to be kept locked up in a desk or closet is now published to the world in a technological tour de force unprecedented in history. And no quill pens, ink wells and blotters required.

Quantitatively, even with billions of potential readers out there, most of the millions of blogs and bloggers will go unnoticed.

Qualitatively, most of us deserve the lack of notice.

But, this newly awakened urge to write, for most of us, is probably not about notice. It’s about expression.

After scores of years passively accepting written and broadcast news and entertainment, we’re once again entertaining ourselves, by writing.

And our diaries, no longer locked away in desk drawers, hang out as strings of electronic plankton just waiting for an admiring public to suck them in through the baleen called Firefox.

For most of us a few people pop in occasionally, and once in a while a small fraction of those take the trouble to comment about what they’ve read.

Thanks for noticing!

And, thanks, also, to the experts, whose blogs about blogging make for interesting reading.

A few who made an impression (in no particular sequence), a couple of whom have today earned a spot in the L-HC blogroll blogroll2 :

Any of these are worthy of some time and attention, should you be interested in improving your game, or joining this phenomenon of the Naughts: the electronic diary.

And yes, I’m an easy grader. The B+ is because I enjoy reading what I write.

A hobby that gives one pleasure (and prevents one’s brains leaking out due to any exposure to “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”) seems like a worthy end in itself, regardless of its infinitesimal interest outside this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

And if this hobby fills a few moments of a few intrepid readers’ spare time, sparing them from “CSI Omaha,” how bad can it be?

Not bad at all. B+ for sure.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm166: Economic Miscellanea

October 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention_thumb2_thumb2

Short attention span blogging: Item 1:

Three totally different, but intriguing takes on financial and economics news found over the past few days caught our interest.

The first from an interesting business blog long since added to our blogroll, The Cenek Report.

cenekreport

A Modern Parable

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 08:16PM
Robert Cenek

A Japanese company ( Toyota ) and an American company (General Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River.  Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.  On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat.  A management team composed of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion:  The Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

The lesson is short, but telling, and I dare not quote more of it than I have, so please read it for yourself.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Cenek Report – Journal

MUDGE wants to support the U.S. automobile industry. Instead, for many years, his family has supported U.S. automobile workers, as well as Japanese automobile workers, as he and his loved ones haven’t found a suitable Big 3 product for more than 20 years, yet we certainly haven’t stopped buying cars. Just Big 3 cars.

The ongoing arguments in the MUDGE family aren’t Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge, it’s Honda vs. Toyota, and throughout the MUDGE and MUDGElet families, a pretty even split between the two maintains.

Short attention span blogging: Item 2:

From Slate, the always approachable and most readable Daniel Gross writes about an increasingly pervasive trend:

slate

How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb.

By Daniel Gross
Posted Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007, at 6:53 AM ET

Light bulb. Click image to expand.Is the incandescent light bulb on its way out?

Compact fluorescent bulbs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs. But according to the U.S. Department of Energy, they last up to 10 times longer, use about one-fourth the energy, and produce 90 percent less heat. Over its life span of four and a half years, a CFL more than repays its higher cost in energy savings: $62.95 per light bulb. Oh, and they’re good for the planet, since they produce fewer emissions. But while they’ve grown in popularity, CFLs have yet to emerge as a household staple, in part because consumers can’t see beyond the shock of the sticker price to the long-term savings. “When you buy a compact fluorescent bulb at the cash register, you experience the higher cost vividly and all at once,” says Robert Frank, a Cornell economist and author of The Economic Naturalist. “But when your electric bill goes down as a result, the savings are not as evident.” Consumers routinely make such short-term economically irrational decisions.

As it aims to vanquish Thomas Edison’s filament bulb—and save the Earth—the CFL is running into the brick wall of human nature. But the CFL is getting a lift from two of the globe’s most powerful forces: image-conscious Western governments and Wal-Mart.

MUDGE remembers the days, now long past, and in the same classification of even earlier cultural artifacts as twice daily (and once on Sunday!) home postal deliveries (it’s true, but not since the ’50s in Chicago), when light bulbs were free, provided by your friendly electric company (“Little Bill”).

You went to some unlikely place (our local bank I think I remember) and traded a copy of that month’s electric bill for 10 bulbs. One only purchased bulbs, at the ma and pa hardware store or maybe an Ace or True Value store, when something unusual was necessary, like a 4-foot long fluorescent tube for a kitchen or garage.

So the first displacement occurred when everyday bulbs needed to be purchased, as the electric monopoly’s free bulb policy went the way of 29¢/gallon ethyl.

And now, the newest displacement, when instead of the familiar globular bulbs, the odd, curly CFLs, so much more  expensive, and still not providing quite white illumination, seem to be the purchase of choice when replacing lighting.

OF course, bleeding edge as always (ha!), we’ve been replacing incandescents with CFLs here in MUDGEland for many years.

We will never go vegan (don’t get me started!); we recycle but haven’t graduated to reusable grocery bags*; and sorry, the economics of hybrid cars just don’t compute for this family. But compact fluorescent lighting — we’re there (but never, ever to be purchased at Wal-Mart!).

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

How Wal-Mart and the government are killing the incandescent light bulb. – By Daniel Gross – Slate Magazine

And did you catch the WIWICWLT moment?

It takes more than one market force to change a light bulb.

Short attention span blogging: Item 3:

Finally this, from Paul Krugman of the NYTimes, unshackled from the newly abandoned pay per view policy, and whose blog has also recently joined the L-HC blogroll.

Here, he illuminates yet another instance of the distorting spin that the perfidious administration of George III has used when announcing economic statistics.

nytimes

Pathetic — Paul Krugman — The Conscience of a Liberal

The new White House “fact sheet” on the economy declares that job growth since August 2003 is the “longest continuous months of job growth on record.”

That’s literally true – the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the great jobs boom of the 1990s do show a couple of scattered months of job decline, although these are probably statistical blips. But by any reasonable standard, job growth in the Bush years has fallen way short of growth in the Clinton years.

All the data are available at the BLS web site.

Over the whole of the Clinton administration, the economy added 22.7 million jobs – 237,000 per month.

Over the whole of the Bush administration to date, the economy added only 5.8 million jobs – 72,000 per month.

Pathetic – Paul Krugman – Op-Ed Columnist – New York Times Blog

One no longer is surprised, or even disappointed. Just incrementally more angry.

January 20, 2009

Bush’s last day

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

*Non-commercial Note!: the link to greensak.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.


mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13 — Take heart

October 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Welcome to one of the newest members of the Left-Handed Complement blogroll, Junkfood Science.

Sandy Szwarc seems to have the credentials, and she has a point of view.

Points of view are not lacking in the blogosphere (although credentials may be!), but I was attracted to hers immediately.

Anyone glancing at the rendition of Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt that graces the top of the sidebar of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© can probably tell that one might charitably describe MUDGE as horizontally challenged.

Fat.

Obese even.

A war fought over all but six decades. Oh, a battle won here or there, but the trend is lousy. And, the implicit message has always been: get skinny or die early.

Well, heredity and Snickers bars have long impaired my ability to do the former.

And over the past decade, the promised life-shortening chronic diseases have appeared as threatened: diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, all controlled as well as can be expected through (to some extent diet, but mainly) the wonders of the pharmaceutical arts, which is pretty well indeed.

This past summer, a promising exercise program that played to the only exercise MUDGE can comfortably handle (other than blogging!), walking, turned into Achilles tendinosis, and the pounds lost so arduously over the past four years are packing on again, as the recreational and therapeutic walking halted while various medical professionals in MUDGE‘s life attempt to figure out how to end the annoying ankle pain.

Then, the other day, thanks I believe to reddit.com, I encountered Sandy Szwarc.

For the first time in MUDGE‘s time in the ‘Sphere was I tempted to write: “WTF!” But I won’t.

Take a look:

junkfoodscience

What is most amazing is how long it has been known that body fat doesn’t cause heart disease or premature death, yet how vehemently people hold onto this belief. “The notion that body fat is a toxic substance is now firmly a part of folk wisdom: many people perversely consider eating to be a suicidal act,” wrote Dr. William Bennett, M.D., former editor of The Harvard Medical School Health Letter and author of The Dieter’s Dilemma. “Indeed, the modern belief that body fat is a mortal threat to its owner is mainly due to the fact that, for many decades, the insurance companies had the sole evidence, and if it was wrong they would presumably have had to close their doors.” That can still be said today, although the obesity interests have since grown considerably larger.

But the evidence that fatness is not especially harmful has been shown from research that dates back to the 1950s — more than a half a century ago. While many remain incredulous, the soundest body of evidence has shown, and continues to show, that being fat is not a risk factor for heart disease or a cause of premature death, even controlling for the effects of smoking or cancer.

The people of the U.S. are simultaneously getting fatter, and living longer.

Well, knock me over with a feather (not too likely in practical terms; you probably would be more successful doing so with a 3,000-pound bale of feathers).

Quoted is Dr. William Bennett, former editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter:

“Detailed epidemiological studies, too, show no impressive connection between obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The occasion for Szwarc‘s article is another new, very underreported study, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Medicine, led by cardiologist Dr. Seth Uretsky, M.D., at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, showing the same counterintuitive findings: fat people survive cardiac episodes better than thin ones!.

Take a look at the full story:

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13 — Take heart

Is it really possible that I’m supposed to be losing this lifetime battle against obesity?

And if so, why have I been lied to– er, misled all of these years?

Bears researching further I’m thinking, and Sandy Szwarc‘s Junkfood Science blogroll2 blog will now become a regular read.

Because, funny thing: Except for this pesky ankle, I feel pretty good.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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