A further note on cannabis use
One of the common arguments on the pro-cannabis side, when considering metastudies such as the one that has got the UK media's panties all knotted, is that they ignore reverse causation. The reason for this is that many studies show that co-occurrence of substance abuse and schizophrenia is common, which suggests that the same factors might impel both or that mental illness causes substance abuse in some way (I do not mean that you have to be mental to take drugs but that the outcomes of mental illness may well lead to substance abuse). This paper
on alcohol use disorder and schizophrenia is interesting. I note the following particularly:
People with schizophrenia and AUD often report that they use alcohol and
other drugs to alleviate the general dysphoria of mental illness, poverty, limited opportunities, and boredom; they also report that substance use facilitates
the development of an identity and a social network (Dixon et al. 1990).
An entire generation of adults with schizophrenia in the United States has
grown up during the era of deinstitutionalization (Lamb and Bachrach
2001). Although residing predominantly in the community rather than in hospitals, these people still have had limited vocational, recreational, and social
opportunities (caused by factors such as illness, stigma, and segregation).
Further, they have experienced downward social drift into poor urban living
settings, where they are regularly exposed to substance abuse and substance-
abusing social networks (Lamb and Bachrach 2001).
Studies into correlation of cannabis use and mental illness do not allow metaconsiderations. This is a problem for any scientific study: it will be looking at the particular without having the means to investigate the more general context. So I think that it's reasonable to conclude that there is a correlation between cannabis use and mental illness, just as there is between abuse of alcohol and mental illness, but premature to conclude why.
Clearly, any discussion of substance abuse is coloured by the model that you use to explain it. Science explains substance abuse by the addiction model, largely because it's very easy to test in mice. You can give mice a ton of heroin and they'll all get hooked. Mice do not live on sink estates, so you can't test the hypothesis that poor social conditions are causative of substance abuse (Rat Park notwithstanding). The higher incidence of substance abuse in lower socioeconomic groups is indicative though. But this model leads policymakers to the conclusion that the drug itself is the problem to be managed, not the individual's conditions. This model has, I believe, become entrenched because it supports the moral case for prohibition: drugs are bad
in and of themselves (which is a different thing from saying that they can have bad outcomes).
Should vulnerable people be protected from bad outcomes of their choices? Well, maybe they should. There would be a variety of means to do that, and in mental illness, as this paper notes, managing outcomes in an integrated way, treating the person as the agent not the drug, works.
Should people who might be
vulnerable also be protected? That's a more difficult question. If a study shows that children who watch violent movies show increased aggression, should all children be banned from watching violent movies, even if we feel that causation is an open question, and on the whole, we feel that the increased aggression is only seen in children otherwise predisposed to it? Is it better to protect more widely or to target protection (I do not accept that we should not extend protection at all, and libertarians who do are not respectable in my view)? It's possible to argue that if one cannot be sure who the correct targets are, too broad protection is better than failing to cover those who need it.
In other words, even if only some kids become aggressive when watching violent movies and others are not affected, if we are not sure which will be affected or why, but wish to protect those who are, we must extend prohibition to all children. In discussing this, I should point out that I consider protecting children and other vulnerable groups from the outcomes of their own choices by prohibition to be a poor choice on the whole, but something I support where alternative methods of protection are too difficult or costly to use, or simply would not work. In the case of skunk -- we will agree for argument's sake that it is dangerous for some children to smoke high-THC marijuana -- it would be a costly, and likely futile, undertaking to teach children to recognise and reject it in favour of lower-THC weed or to abstain. The same consideration does not apply to adults in my view.
I will not answer comments that are not related to the content of this post. Bitter ranting about ignoring the evidence will just be, erm, ignored. I'm well aware of the evidence on both sides (and I read about the study that showed greater lung damage from smoking cannabis than tobacco -- nothing new, and should not be a consideration for public policy). If you cannot take a sophisticated view of this -- and by that I do not mean you have to agree -- you will be pissing in the wind if you comment.
Realism and hope
I am in most things a realist, and I suppose I'm a little intolerant of those who aren't. It's almost a dirty word, realism, because people associate it with cynicism and a lack of passion.
It manifests itself in all sorts of ways. I am an agnostic because I am a realist. I would say I'm an atheist, but the element of "anti-ism" in that doesn't appeal to me. I do not despise your god, as a Dawkins or Hitchens does, I just know he doesn't exist. I know this because he does not impinge in any way on our world. No seeing, no believing; this is the core of realism, after all.
I am a political realist. I do not dream that the lions will lie down with the lambs. I dream that the lambs will find ways to prevent the lions from feasting on them. I'm also realist enough to know that that's an uphill struggle. Realism prevents me from having much enthusiasm for communism. It would be great that the proletariat should rule the world if the proletariat weren't such fucking idiots. They are reactionaries in the main; not necessarily by natural inclination, but they are easily swayed into ideologies that do not serve them, but work to empower others.
When I dream, my dreams are realistic. I never dreamed of playing centre-forward for Leeds. I am not good enough at football and never will be. I dream of winning the Booker Prize. Whether that's realistic is something you could argue, but it's within the realms of possibility in a way flying to the moon isn't.
I am realistic about myself. I am not an ideal man, and I'm not likely to become one. I think people tear themselves apart because they do not accept that; either that or they make the ideal a mirror of themselves. Were you a saint, this would probably be fine. But few of us are, and improving ourselves is generally a good thing, to our own and others' benefit.
I understand the lure of idealism: it seems to the idealist that they are reaching for a very high target. I say they are reaching for the moon. The realist knows they need a rocket for that. The idealist thinks, well, if I just stretch a little more.
So my ambition is not to make a mint as a commodities trader, or a killing in the foreign exchange game. I don't have the resources for either, and I know it. Could I make good picks? Yes, I think I could. I'll tell you right now that the US dollar will continue to fall but it may rally when the Chinese get behind it again.
No, my ambition is to make a modest living at poker. Not even to win the World Series, or to play the Big Game. Just to make $50 an hour.
Realism accepts limits and imperfections. Because I am a realist, I can love you even though you have faults. I do not find the lack of perfection overwhelming because I do not expect you or anyone else to be perfect.
It can be a struggle to deal with idealists. Mrs Zen is one, in some regards. For instance, she believes that there can be an ideal relationship, that everyone has someone, a partner who will love them and care for them in the way they want.
She says "I just want a normal marriage" and I'm like, yeah? Like your
sister C's (divorced) or like your friend M's (her husband goes to
prossies because she withholds to punish him) or your friend D's
(desperately unhappy with a useless husband) or your mum's (her
husband would not "allow" her to have a job, leaving her with an
unsatisfying life as a mother, which she did very very badly) or my
mum's (nearly divorced and has ended up sublimating herself to a cunt)
or WHOSE FUCKING NORMAL MARRIAGE ARE WE EVEN TALKING ABOUT?
What she means to say is that she wants her ideal. In my view, it's an outcome of her immaturity, that her growth stopped at 14. Because when I was 14, I believed the same, but I grew out of it.
She's not alone in the view that there is someone for her. I know other people feel the same (including the person who I wrote the passage above to in an email, and I hope she'll forgive me for lifting it to use here). S did, for instance. I think her unhappiness in this life stems almost entirely from her idealism: life for people like her is a constant disappointment because it cannot match her ideals; for people like me it's a disappointment because we don't hope for it to stop being shitty.
If I look at myself from Mrs Zen's, or S's, or anyone's who is thinking of me in that way, I see someone who has a lot to offer. For Mrs Z, I'm probably the best deal she could hope for. I truly believe that. I have my faults -- I freely confess that I have a bucketful -- but I am good for her, or could be. But I don't match her ideal, in some respects in very specific ways. But I won't ever! And nor will anyone else! That's the thing, right there. A realist knows that the world, and the people in it, are what they are. They won't change for wishing it. They might change because they are pushed, but only within the limits that they operate within.
Realism is, more than anything, about understanding the bounds of the world.
I am not claiming it is a good way to be. I was a dreamer as a kid, and I preferred it, I suppose. But it is how I am. It does lead me to things I regret, of course. With S, I had options that a dreamer, an idealist, would unhesitatingly have taken. But I couldn't. I had to see how they would fit into my life as it is, within the bounds of what is. S read that as reluctance, but that's not how I felt about it.
It drags you down, sometimes. I want to go home to England, but I don't picture it or even really hope for it, because it is so difficult to see how I could do it. If you are thinking, you could just go and it would all work out, you are clearly an idealist! The bounds of life, remember. I fixate on what is possible and know that I can't reach beyond that.
It is not synonymous with pessimism: although I don't indulge in vain hopes, I do have hopes. I imagine how to expand the possible. I have plans (which often fail). I do not imagine the future will be bleak necessarily, because it is an abnegation of realism to believe that it must be bad, just the same as it is to believe that it must be good. The future is not constrained by anything but the bounds of possibility. I might see them rather clearly, or think I do, but I do not only see their bottom end. So I do hope to reconcile with Mrs Zen, return to England and be happy. I hope my book will be published, my poker career will become fruitful, my sister's child will be beautiful, my friendship with S will be resurrected, Leeds will rise again and one day win the league, England will regain the Ashes, the Iraqis will reach a political settlement once America leaves it alone, Al Gore will be elected president and be permitted to do the job this time and will go some way to healing America, and so on. None of the things I hope for is extreme. They probably don't excite anyone to read them. But I do not live without hope, except for in the ultimate sense.
I do though accept that it is equally realistic that I leave Mrs Zen, I never return to England, I am never happy, I never have a published book, I become sick of poker, my sister has a miscarriage, S remains hostile to me, Leeds get relegated again and finally go out of business, the Aussies keep us in our place, Iraq descends even further into hell, the Yanks are dumb enough to elect Giuliani and enter a dark age of authoritarianism, and so on. But I am not a pessimist, and do not consider those outcomes inevitable, or even likely. Hope and realism are not always great bedfellows -- Camus would suggest they are incompatible, but he discussed hope in a rather narrower sense than I am doing -- but they are not strangers.
In a bitterly cynical world, let's be inspired by the Iraqi football team, champions of Asia. Where Australia, the most talented team on paper, whined and sulked through the tournament, played awful football and were profoundly uninspiring, the Iraqis played artful, attacking football, rose above their limits and triumphed. Sadly, as Younis Mahmoud, brilliant throughout the tournament, pointed out, the triumph will not unite the nation (despite the team's ethnic mix) and the hearts of Iraqis will not be lifted by seeing their champions come home:
Mahmoud, who was named best player of the tournament, said one of the tragedies of the war was that the team would not even be able to return to Iraq with the trophy.
'I wish we could go, but you just don't know who will kill you,' he said.
Response to the Janitor
Because you are so, so far from right, this will probably do us, but you're welcome to comment, of course. I'm making it a post because it stretches the comment format to answer that way.Well, if point-by-point response is what this has devolved to, then so be it.
It's how I do my answers, dude. IYDLIYWTFO."I like parrots."
What's bad is you don't stand for much else.
I stand for all sorts. I haven't suggested you shouldn't disagree."Conflating ideas is the mark of a master writer. Getting confused about ideas is the mark of a poor reader."
This is absurd. You and your "marks" of greatness. You have put together multiple ideas that do not belong together and abused them.
Luckily for my sanity, I've done no such thing. These ideas are central to how I look at politics, and I have thought a lot about them.[snip]
""Your very example demonstrates it. ""
I'm sorry? What is the question?
"You what?" is English for "what the fuck are you even talking about, you clown?""""You claim the left tends to be statists, yet in the case of "reefer madness" it is traditionally the right seeking state intervention in the name of the common good."
"No, in the name of the morality they personally ascribe to. The right does not care about 'the common good' and often agitates for legislation that is not in the common good but serves narrow interests."
Eeh. This is another abuse of sticking two ideas together that don't belong.
It doesn't become truer for simple repetition, dude.Are we speaking about ideologies or the people that espouse them? And amongst those that espouse them
Ideologies don't actually have an existence outside the people who espouse them.I imagine that we'd see both those seeking narrow interests and those that seek broader ones.
Both what? Really struggling to see what you're actually talking about here.No matter how wrongly the "Right" so often goes, I don't doubt for a second that there are many convinced that they act in a way to establish a greater social order.
This does not answer to my point at all. Besides, it is only correct in that the rightist equates "a greater social order" with "a social order that coincides with my personal tastes". Which is precisely my point, right there.""The crux of the matter is that both the "right" and the "left" seek "protection by authority" for their particular causes (the one, gun control, environmental protection, consumer rights--the other, sexual taboos, reefer, abortion)."
"This is a very poor analysis of how politics actually is. It sounds a lot like the Beltway journos' take on the political debate."
It's certainly a slip-shod analysis, I don't claim otherwise, but it is not a hair worse than yours!
You're going to have to do a bit more showing and a bit less telling.What I'm cautioning you against is making such broad generalizations about what you clearly don't know. Even such a fool as I am can see through it.
Well, that's telling me. "Think for a minute before answering. Gun control, environmental protection, consumer rights: these are all issues that affect the common people. The left takes positions that favour the common people.
"Abortion, sexual taboos, reefer: these are all issues of personal or religious morality, which the left generally prefers to leave to the individual."
WTF? So we are contrasting "the left tak[ing] positions that favor the common people" with the right taking up issues of common morality?
No. I absolutely did not say that. I quite purposefully used the phrase "personal morality". That rightists believe that their personal morality coincides with "common morality" does not mean it actually does.These are not mutually exclusive!
No, indeed I did not suggest that they necessarily are.Not that this even matters for my point to hold--the condition needed is actually far weaker--they only need not be mutually exclusive by the point of view of one of the ideologies in question.
This is nonsense though. When analysing an ideology, it doesn't make sense to allow its claims about itself. "The only reason you can consider gun control to be an outlier is that you see it as a freedom issue"
No. Others see it as a freedom issue. I'm pro-control. But don't you see? That's the point. It hardly matters what I see as being the issue when what is being discussed is how an ideology comes down on the issue of statism (or, yet again, the issue of the common will). It is their rationale that matters for *that* question, no matter how fucking demented it is. Be a little clearer what it is you are addressing, eh?
I was only addressing why you think it is an outlier. Statism and the common will are not germane to this point, although the right generally opposes statism, as I noted, when it is a question of protecting the many from the few. And this is true *even if they deny it*."...a matter of choice (no one outside America in the West would see it this way, maybe you're not aware). The left sees it as a matter of protecting the many from the few, which is the business of the state."
And is the (albeit ridiculous) debate in America on gay marriage not the Right's attempt at protecting the many from the few, via the state?
Absolutely not. It is about the right imposing their morality on others. They believe that they are protecting something *dear to them*, under attack from others who do not hold it dear. This is precisely what I say that the right do."Dude, think. Stopping you from smoking reefer has the aim of preventing you from doing something I personally disapprove of but harms no one but yourself. Stopping you from having a gun has the aim of preventing you from harming others."
You are so on the wrong track. The correctness of the viewpoint isn't at issue. It is amazing that you seem unable to allow for the briefest moment that someone even *possesses* a differing viewpoint.
Well, maybe asking you to think was just too much. I am not discussing the correctness of their viewpoint. I am saying that it is motivated by the reasons I set out.[snip]
"It's ridiculous to claim that both sides simply push personal issues with no underlying ideological theme."
I've done no such thing.
Except that you did.
"The crux of the matter is that both the "right" and the "left" seek "protection by authority" for their particular causes (the one, gun control, environmental protection, consumer rights--the other, sexual taboos, reefer, abortion)."
I am at this point hoping you've been drinking or smoking the weed, because not only are you not coherent, you don't seem able to remember anything
that either of us has said. You keep claiming I am wrong without ever showing that I am, or coming close to it. I suggest a liedown.
Or thinking. When you're capable of it again.I've simple said that the *particular* theme that you've identified doesn't fall nicely along the right/left allegiances at the present time.
But you are yet to show *in any way* that it does not.
Gun control is your best shot. I demolished that easily though.
Gay marriage isn't even close. It's a clear example of pushing individual morality onto others, and, as I said, not believing that others should be permitted to choose (or in this case even define the choice).[snip]
"I do not confuse libertarianism with liberalism, because for me, libertarians are simply rightists who hate authority and liberals are what intelligent, thinking people inevitably turn into."
This is a point that I can generally agree with.
Well, I'm glad there's one.""answering the question of statism one way for a particular issue, and the converse for others.""
"Dude, this simply isn't true, and perhaps shows a lack of understanding of what statism is.
If you were arguing that authoritarian systems are more statist than social democracies, then yes, that's true. Statism is a feature of the left, not its exclusive preserve. But rightists are more generally opposed to state intervention than for it, and generally only favour it in terms of imposing their personal morality on others."
Nice hand waving.
FFS. I can't win.
If I don't say that rightists can be statist, you will say blah blah fascism.
If I do, you claim I am "handwaving".
Dude, I claimed the theme of the common vs the individual differentiated left and right, not that rightists could not support statism. As I have carefully explained, but you have ignored, they can reach similar positions from a different ideological basis.
What you are doing is yelling that the positions are the same, so the road to them must be the same. I am trying calmly to explain that yes, some of the positions are superficially similar, but on deeper analysis they are quite clearly different.
Statism is a very good point.
A fascist dictatorship is statism run wild, is it not? But it is not "for the common good". Fascism completely subsumes the common good into the good of the state, which exists solely to enrich those who control the levers of power. The notion of a strongman clearly fits the theme we're discussing. It fits both themes, in fact (authoritarianism vs communalism and personal vs general will).
In my view, a leftist should never
support a dictator, and if they do, they will shortly be shown by history to have been mistaken to do so. I have huge qualms about Chavez, whom I mostly admire, for this reason. A populist who deploys the will of the people for the good of the people is admirable; a man who believes his will is superior to that of the people is dangerous.The right "generally only favour it in terms of imposing their personal morality on others." That's a trick I need to learn. You dismiss that imposing one's personal morality on others can be an exhibition of statism
No, I don't. I said that statism on the left is an outcome of the Rousseauian theme we discussed. And you are again mistaking "statism" to be a simple synonym for "state intervention". It is not.
My original point was that the right does believe in state intervention. Just for other reasons than the left does.while simultaneously denying the possibility that the right's idea of morality can in any way connect with their idea of the good of society.
They do not believe in society! That's the fucking point, man. But of course I am not denying that the rightist believes that what is good for him is good for society. That is precisely the fucking point I am making in the first place!
The rightist believes in the imposition of their personal morality on people they do not trust to choose.What's key is that you've forced "personal" where (in the mind of a rightist) it doesn't belong.
The rightist would use language such as "it is just right". I mean, FFS, dude.""Furthermore, what exactly you mean "clearly conflicts with the Rousseauian theme", I don't have a clue."
"Well, that's not my problem. Perhaps you should go and read Rousseau and it will become clear."
I have read Rousseau, thank you very much. As much as you like to protest otherwise, your writing isn't always immediately clear. What exactly you meant to be the precendents for all the damn "it"s was a bit of a problem.
Man. You must be drunk.
"It's a theme..." the difference I pointed to is a theme
"and it's..." the "and" should give you a clue. I'm still talking about the difference I pointed to. "It" also refers to "a theme", naturally.""As it reads, one would think that either it's being a "theme, not a law" does or "the theme" does"
This theme conflicts with the other, as that clearly says in English."
"It's a theme, not a law, dude, and it clearly conflicts with the Rousseauian theme that the communal will is superior to the individual will, which leads leftists to be statists and rightists to be fuckyoujackI'mallrightists."
Does not clearly state anything, not even in dickese.
It (the difference I am pointing to) is a theme, not a law, and it (same referent) clearly conflicts with the Rousseauian theme (to give you a clue, I even gave another theme that it conflicts with, so the two conflicting things have the same quality)...
Any other reading is perverse.Problem 1) is your use of "it". What you meant as a theme, what you meant conflicts.
The last sentence of your comment. Read it:
"The generalization is nonetheless hasty."
It (the generalisation, the difference I pointed out) is...
FFS, man. Your line of argument is plain demented here. It's absolutely clear what "it" refers to.(It could indeed have meant "it's a theme, not a law" that conflicts.
What? That hurts my head, it's such nonsense.Generally, such ambiguities can be resolved as usually one alternative tends to make more sense. Sense here, however, is all around lacking; rendering that quite impossible).
We are discussing what you described as "a generalisation". So I use "it" to refer to the "generalisation", which in answer to your comment, I say is a theme not a law.
Then I conjoin another clause with "and" and use the same pronoun "it" to refer to the exact same thing.
Had I meant to refer to something else, I would have written something else.
You are not just splitting hairs. You do not even have a hair.Problem 2) is "Which", which could mean any number of things (the Rousseauian theme, the conflict, god knows?)
Dude, it's a rule of English, although sadly not one that you're acquainted with, that "which" refers to the closest available referent, which in this case is "the Rousseauian theme that the communal will is superior to the individual will". Again, if I had meant to refer to something else, I would have written something else, maybe "which conflict leads".""which again "the theme" is at best there being an "eternal difference..." (funny how eternal difference is watered to "theme", isn't it"
"They are not antonymous, dude. It is an eternal difference generally speaking -- thematically, IOW -- but it does not hold in every instance."
this is disingenuous.
I don't understand why you would think that. Even you know there is a difference in their intensity.
Sigh. They are different in kind, dude.Oh, and, being watered down and being antonymous are not synonymous, dude.
No, but I'm saying that "theme" is not a watering down of "law". They are different in kind.
As I go on to explain:"In science, one would say x tends to y, not that x is always y. But that x always and everywhere tends to y can be true without having to say that x is always y."
Science, dude, is far more precise than this. "Tends to" would have a measure.
You are being silly. You understand the difference perfectly well.""--but, hey I suppose it's all for rhetorical effect, anyways, so why the hell should I expect you to mean what you say?"
"Dude, it's the big difference between left and right. That doesn't say that on every single issue they will split on these lines, but that generally they do.
Because you tried to argue that I had said that it would always be the case that they differed in this way, which of course I had not, I explained that it was a theme, not a law. I'm mystified that you struggle to understand what I meant by that."
I'm mystified that you fail to understand that my point goes much further (regardless of what you did in fact initially say). The only theme is the one you imposed.
I have illustrated it more than once. You have not given even one instance that refutes it."A theme is something recurrent, something that occurs over and over, and more generally speaking, something that characterises a thing. It's what a thing is about.
But of course ideologies, or political standpoints, are too complex to be included entirely in unitary themes. There are going to be outliers, particularly when one considers that whether a position fits the theme is sometimes a matter of interpretation."
Jesus Christ. Outliers. They are only outliers because *you* have marginalized them and ignored the rest. The theme you have chosen is a particularly bad fit, and you should realize that.
Did you even read what I wrote? I said that whether a position fits the theme can be a matter of interpretation. You interpreted gun control as an outlier, not me. I believe it is motivated by the very theme I'm outlining. Try to keep up."This is rather like Don's saying "I'm not a rightist because I think pot should be legalised". I would answer him in the same way. He thinks he's disproving a law, but I have identified a theme, not a law. Ideologies do not come with checklists."
Do not come with checklists? Who is the one attempting to identify a measure that the right/left follows? I am surely not!
It is the theme that underlies their ideology, dude. I don't even know what a measure that they follow would mean, or what it would be.""But how the existence of the eternal difference "conflicts" with anything I can't gather."
"The theme is that the left trusts individuals to make choices. This clearly conflicts with the idea that the general will is superior to the individual will. If you can't see why, I'm not sure that I can help you, because it's elementary."
Taking this paragraph on it's own, it is clear what you mean.
It was clear in the first place.Unfortunately, it directly contradicts with your assertion that the left "tends to be statists". Please explain to me, however elementary it might be, however low your almighty must stoop to do so, how statists trust the indivuals to make choices.
You must be drunk. I said it conflicts!
But in fact there is no contradiction. Leftists are statists because they believe that the common good supersedes individual good, and the common will is superior to individual will. However, they also believe that the state should not intervene in the personal if the common good is not affected.
So the two themes conflict, but they are readily resolved.
Really man, you're barking up the wrong tree here.It would be much appreciated, because, I tell you, I'm not seeing it.
""Sure, it's probably not what you mean, but whatever you mean you sure as hell haven't said it."
"You mean you didn't hear it. That's different."
No, I mean that you haven't said it. Whether or not it was there to be heard is a quite different question that what I meant. This is a distinction you consistently have failed to recognize.
The two themes conflict but they are readily resolved. Actually, Rousseau resolved them. I'm surprised, given that you say you've read him, that you don't recognise this discussion from him. ""I'd like to be a little more polite when on your blog, bud, but you sure do make it difficult."
"I don't care about politeness. Feel free to be as rude as you like. I'd suggest not being so witless though, because that's not going to bring the rewards you hope for."
You know, you probably don't care about politeness. I doubt you'd care if I called you a cunt as long as I said you were right. Well, you, your gracious, are dead wrong.
I do not much care for being told I'm right. I know I am already, so it doesn't bother me one way or the other. I don't know why you think I like it. Maybe because I'm willing to disagree with someone who says I'm wrong. That is not a way of seeking assent, dude. You are free to disagree. You've done a stunningly bad job of it though. If you had done a good job, I'd be applauding you for it. Who knows, maybe you would change my mind on this subject.
Address the point. Do not waffle around it. Show that the theme I suggest does not apply. Do not try to sidetrack the discussion into complaining that you can't understand my writing. That's your problem, not mine. I was clear enough for anyone sober.
We could actually have an interesting discussion about the difference between leftist statism and rightist authoritarianism, their merits and otherwise and how they can end badly. Instead, you're simply being passive-aggressive, endlessly yelling that I'm wrong but not showing it. Show it, or fold your tent.
Cannabis and schizophrenia
As a courtesy to those who have succumbed to the reefer madness moral panic (which scientists could probably study as a phenomenon in itself), I am linking to this letter
, which is a cogent discussion of the issue of overinterpreting studies linking cannabis use and schizophrenia. It's not far from my own position, which is much more sceptical than the screeching, bad journalism that the recent Lancet study has occasioned.
The key issue McLeod et al raise is that the increase in risk identified by metastudies is small, which should lead to caution in attributing it to cannabis, particularly when performing a metastudy of studies with very different methodologies. As I've noted, no study has ever shown a causal link between cannabis smoking and schizophrenia, nor is one ever likely to. The reason should be obvious: we have very little idea what schizophrenia is or how it is caused. It often has its onset in late teens/early twenties, so of course teen dopesmoking is often going to precede its onset. Schizophrenics -- and those with mental disorders as a whole -- are more prone to risky behaviour of all kinds. For instance, they use drugs of all kinds
, including alcohol, at a higher rate than the general population. This fact alone should give reefer panickers some pause. Studies of heroin use that used the methodology of some of the studies of cannabis use would conclude that heroin use causes schizophrenia too, because the risk of schizophrenia would be higher in teens that use heroin.
The outcome of the moral panic will be to have cannabis classified as a class B drug. The health argument has simply been coopted to a political end, because those who hate drugs generally do so for political reasons (hating liberalness, in the main, because it is surely my own business if I poison myself) and not for any reasonable concerns about health. Were the health concerns real, the same campaigners would be urging the classification of the dangerous drug ethanol in class B too.
As a statist of sorts, I have no problem at all with regulation of drugs. While I would like to see all drugs legalised, that is not to say I would like them fed to children 24/7. I think the risk to children from legal cannabis -- should the link between it and schizophrenia ever be proven -- is similar to the risk to them of legal ethanol. We do not punish adults for drinking just because that makes booze available to kids.
As in most areas, education is far superior to prohibition. But this will eternally be the difference between the left and the right: the former believes that an informed population can be trusted to make the right choices; the latter that people are inherently childish and must be protected by authority. Strange that we, champions of participation, should be painted as haters of freedom, when we ultimately wish it and encourage it while they try to restrict it.
So we are left with the question, is clean Tour possible?
Each time a rider pulls out something magnificent, we are left asking, will the test catch him? And yet again, the brilliant ride by Rasmussen yesterday is clouded with suspicion. Rasmussen has not failed a test during this Tour, but he's clearly been up to something shadowy.
The temptation is obvious: the Tour is so gruelling, so difficult, takes a man so close to his physical edge (and in some cases, well over it) that the difference between winning and coming second is tiny. That tiny gap is bridgeable with drugs and other methods of cheating.
Now that the testing regime has made it hard to get away with doping, riders are coming up with new ways to cheat. Vinokourov hid from the testers by wearing a black outfit; Rasmussen just couldn't be found and couldn't explain why.
Hat-tip to Rabobank though. How painful to have to can your team leader when he's got the Tour in the bag, but what balls they showed.
So every year, Zenella is saying, we add another year on to the time since the dinosaurs disappeared. If it was 65 million years last year, it's 65 million and one this year.
Yes, I say, I suppose there was a year when there were no more dinosaurs, or the last of them evolved into something else.
Although you could argue that they didn't, because birds are a sort of dinosaur, they say. But maybe a dinosaur only in the same way I am a marmoset.
Sixty-five million years! How to explain to a child who has no concept that her life has a span that that is a million lives? It's impossible to conceptualise. You cannot picture the lives one after the other. Even picturing the faces of your ancestors (imagining them, I mean) is an enormous task. (And what do you picture? Are you seeing lords when you reach three figures or are you seeing rough men and women in clothes little more structured than coal sacks? I find it interesting that when people trace back their family, they always find some distant cousin who was somebody. Go back far enough and we're all cousins: all Europeans descended from something like seven men, and all of them probably descended from the same monkey.)
If you step outside a spaceship, Zenella is saying, what happens?
You have to be tied on with a lifeline, I say, and I explain what that is.
If you fell off, she is saying, you have to hope you are near a planet and land on it.
But you would be set on fire by entering its atmosphere, I say.
Why? she is saying, and I explain that too, although I'm not sure whether if a planet has a very thin atmosphere it would be enough to set you on fire. You might just splish on the surface.
Her tennis coach says, Yeah, if there's gravity.
All planets have gravity, I say.
He is confused because the moon has less gravity than the Earth, and those high-bounding spacemen have made him think that it has none at all.
I tried to explain to Mrs Zen the other night that she too had gravity. I stumbled when trying to explain what mass is. It's difficult to explain without using the word "weight". Eventually, I said that an object's mass is the amount of smash when it hits something else, which is true enough.
I wanted to talk to her about Bayes' theorem. I've been studying it, and have a faint understanding of it. But she didn't want to know.
(On the offchance that someone reading this wants to know, Bayes' theorem helps you determine the importance of new pieces of evidence. It's important in thinking about poker. Say someone raises preflop, and you want to know whether he has a high pair. Bayes' theorem tells us:
The probability that he has a high pair given that he raised is equal to the probability that he will raise given a high pair times the probability that he has a high pair, divided by the same plus the probability that he will raise without a high pair times the probability that he doesn't have a high pair
or p(A|B) = p(B|A)p(A)/p(B|A)p(A)+p(B|~A)p(~A)
where A is having a high pair, B is raising.
It's one of those things that looks hard to understand until you understand it!
Let's say he is dealt a high pair 10% of the time and will raise with it 80% of the time and will raise with other stuff 10% of the time.
The chances a raise means a high pair are: .8x.1/.8x.1 + .1x.9 = .08/.17, or 47%. If he raises 20% of his other stuff, the chances that he has a high pair become a bit less than 30%. How much a piece of evidence can lead you to draw a particular conclusion depends on how much that piece of evidence could mean a different conclusion.)
Mrs Zen could do with learning Bayes' theorem because she tends simply to add pieces of evidence together and draw conclusions, instead of weighting her evidence by considering what other things it could be evidence of. She has a confirmation bias. Whenever she has evidence of evildoing on my part, she assumes I've done evil. However, some of the time, that evidence of evildoing is an outcome of perfectly innocent behaviour.
But Mrs Zen assumes that the probability of my doing evil is 100% anyway.
It is no wonder creationists cannot stand geological time. How is it possible that their god can think them special if three million generations have passed since the end of the dinosaurs? How can he have wanted them personally to exist?
Zenella is keeping a chart of the phases of the moon. The crescent is in the wrong place here. My dad noticed it. It's at the bottom of the moon, rather than at one side.
Zenella asks me what stars are made of. I explain but I think she is struggling to grasp how a colourless gas can be so bright. She does not understand that our sun is small.
But it's hard to believe it's small when it's so much bigger than anything else in our lives.
This is excruciating to read.
But you must read it.This is your indictment.
If you voted for these people, if you support them, if you "support the troops", you have earned this hatred.
I have a tattoo, two tattoos, because they mark me out as me. If I am found on a lonely beach one day, I'll be distinguishable because no one else has my markings. I am not alone in this idea.
Stop telling lies to yourself American. We know that your racist brutal murdering war criminal troops came from your society and reflect its values. we know that because we see how they behave and have to bury their victims. If you are stupid enough to think we feel anything but hatred and contrempt for your soldiers and the country that sent them to make war on my people then you are a fool.
As to Saddam bad though he was your country is far worse.
We need to leave and stop killing and being killed. We should never have been there in the first place but now we simply have to leave. There is nothing more to discuss about it. It's ridiculous to claim we have a responsibility for the aftermath that should keep us there. This is
the aftermath. The only hope for Iraq is that the violence lessens when one of its main targets is gone, and that the people are able to thrash out agreements that all can live with. But how can they ever even begin that process when the hated invaders remain, killing and being killed?
Maddie McCann's dad is suddenly an expert on child protection?
I'd suggest that the first step in protecting your child is not to leave them unattended when you fuck off to indulge yourself in a nice dinner.
Mr McCann said in a statement: "We hope our efforts will help make the world a little bit safer for all children.
Step one: pay for a babysitter, you cheap bastard.
When we are discussing mental illness in children, something like this
needs to be taken into account.
There are two explanations for an increase in diagnoses of mental disorders in children. The first is that for some reason mental disorders are more common today than they were, say, 20 years ago. If this is true, we would need to look at reasons for it. The obvious suspect would be increased exposure to TV and video games, but other reasons might spring to mind.
However, I doubt that there is any huge increase in mental illness, and the truth is probably that the second reason applies: doctors are diagnosing more disorders than they used to. The diagnostic criteria for many disorders have changed, although not so much that you would expect huge leaps in numbers diagnosed. But mental illness has become more salient in public discourse, so it is perfectly possible that whereas a doctor would prescribe just getting the fuck over it to a teen a few years back, now they will take the teen's complaint more seriously and treat them for depression.
Probably, the teen should
just get the fuck over it. Life has its ups and downs, and the more you live it, the clearer you are on that. It's particularly tough on adolescents, who have to adjust to a change in status, and are approaching the time when they must leave the nest. It shouldn't be underestimated how painful it can be for a cosseted kid to have to leave the home in which they are comfortable.
Mental illness is a thorny area. Diagnosis is necessarily subjective. We don't have an organic test for depression, and a doctor must interpret what the patient is telling them. Patients are notoriously bad at describing their symptoms. It goes without saying that teens are prone to exaggerate their mental states: we all wrote awful poetry when we were 16 that quite likely portrayed our lives as three degrees worse than they really were. Making and losing friends, for instance, are emotional minefields for kids; when you're older, you've been there, done that.
The lack of understanding of the organic basis for mental disorder prevents us from being clear on whether kids are being correctly diagnosed as disordered, or whether they are just having the same ups and downs that everyone goes through, but not coping too well. It's particularly a concern that throwing heavy-duty psychoactives at a child's brain might not be helping, but rather might be making things worse. We simply do not know enough about the organic basis of mental illness.
This should be borne in mind when reading that mental illness has risen in children, and particularly when linking that to a cause. The temptation for interpreters of scientific studies is to make two and two equal four. Rat studies might show that THC damages x receptors; studies of kids might show that heavy skunk smoking damages x receptors; more kids have mental illness. But the rats will have been given proportionately more THC than you'd smoke in a lifetime; the damage to the kids' receptors will be marginal; and we have no idea that that marginal damage translates into mental illness because we have no model for how the two are connected, if they're connected.
Could an environmental factor such as smoking weed increase mental illness? Of course it could. It would certainly be good public health policy to educate kids on the potential dangers of it (although it should be clear from what I've said that it is very difficult to give honest
education to kids when we don't know that there is any danger, what level is dangerous or how one thing is linked to the other, if it is). It is a good idea to steer kids away from heavily abusing anything
: alcohol, tobacco, food, weed, E. And antidepressants. Weed is vaguely correlated with increased mental disorder in children, but Prozac is proven to cause it! Yet there is no outcry to ban Prozac.
Well, it's not very enjoyable. This remains the basis of the moral panic over cannabis: the fear that kids are enjoying themselves. Weed does have its downside: the slow starts in the mornings are the worst of it for me. But I have a slow start if I drink too much too. And the bottom line is that the wowsers do not want others to enjoy something they don't: it's the same reason they hate gayness, smoking, anything that they are afraid of for themselves.
Not everything lost is gone forever. A few years ago, someone stole all my LPs. I went away travelling and left them with someone, but forgot whom. When I returned, no one would admit to having them. It may be that I left them in someone's attic, and they genuinely forgot.
So in time I have bought many of the albums on CD. Luckily, I liked music back then much more than I like music now (I don't mean I like music any less, but that there's less new that I like now). That's not because I have lost my enthusiasm for new music, but because, I think, the indie scene has died, and "indie" music is now whatever Sony says it is.
Among the records I lost were what was then Lowlife's whole recorded output. There's no reason for you to know Lowlife, unless you a/ were a goth of some sort or b/ are a fan of the Cocteau Twins (their first bassist joined Lowlife on leaving them). I thought I would never hear any of it again, because it had never been released on CD.
But now it has, and I am the proverbial pig in shit. I will eternally be a sucker for deep, mournful voices, and if they are wrapped round a decent tune, all the better.
Of course, even if the CDs had not come out, I would have memories. Some never fade, and I find songs stay fresh for me if I have listened to them often enough. Along with Lowlife's CDs, I bought Play Dead's second CD. Looking at the song titles, I can hear the songs in my head, as though I had a nostalgipod in my brain. And actually listening to the songs is like coming home on a wet, cold day and putting your icy feet into warm slippers.
Yeah right. Don't panic: I'm getting old but I don't actually have slippers. (I do have a pipe but that's another story.)
I have on the whole a poor memory. I remember a lot of stuff without remembering how I know it, which confuses people. I'll say something about something and they'll say "how do you know that?" and I have no idea. I do not remember what I did with people, or what things were like. I have little postcards from my past: vignettes, faces, actions, small times.
I do not remember kissing E but I remember her trainers as she lay next to me in bed. I do not remember what S's mum looked like, although I spent some time at her house, but I remember the corset she wore when I fucked her in the woods -- which woods also I don't recall. I remember she had buck teeth and I remember the timbre of her voice. I remember her uncle had a natural leer. He is a TV writer well enough known that you might recognise his name, but I do not remember one word of the conversation I had with him.
I do not remember what A looked like, but I remember a single drop of moisture coming from her pussy on a hillside near Newent. I remember how pink her labia were.
Of course I remember how much I loved her too.
I remember Er's sister, what she looked like, but I cannot remember Er, except that he had shorter hair that grew longer, and he was my friend when it was short, but more distant when it was long.
I do not remember what you said to me last week or what I said. Some people find it frustrating because they think I must have an excellent memory and must be lying about what I do and don't recall. But I forget much more often than I lie.
I remember feelings though. I do not remember why you are my friend, but I remember that you are. I do not become confused, and I do not allow the singular incident to wipe out the bigger feeling. I am upset when people do, but maybe they work the other way round.
Because I know that I do not remember, or think about, things I do not care about, I surmise that I care more about feelings, impressions than I do about actions or events. I don't know why that would be but, of course, I think I have it right and others are wrong. They destroy big good things for small reasons, the small bad things that have ticked them off. I let them pass, don't hold grudges and remember that I love you even if you pissed me off last time we talked.
Dirty useless bastids. Leave the Asian Cup to teams that play football rather than wrestling.
Quartet with strings attached
Speaking in Lisbon, Condi Rice said that Israel would need to recognise that Hamas was the democratically elected representative of the Palestinian people. would have to renounce violence and respect the agreements it has made, including to institute a Palestinian state and remove its settlements.
Well no, of course she fucking didn't. We're not even pretending any more.
Of course, Abbas will crawl to Blair. He's in a tight spot: the people do not like him and have not given him a mandate, and he heads only a small faction in Fatah. He's widely and correctly seen as an Israeli puppet.
But if we do not talk to Hamas, there can never be peace. But see, that's the point. No one, except the people living in squalor in camps, wants it.
For a measured statement of Hamas's position, read this
Why should any Palestinian "recognize" the monstrous crime carried out by Israel's founders and continued by its deformed modern apartheid state, while he or she lives 10 to a room in a cinderblock, tin-roof United Nations hut? These are not abstract questions, and it is not rejectionist simply because we have refused to abandon the victims of 1948 and their descendants.
Israelis say they should be permitted a Jewish state because it is just. They have long been persecuted and need a place to be safe. They do not favour a single state because they are not well treated in other Islamic nations. As I've noted, much as a I hate the racist basis of Israel as a state, I see merit in that argument. But justice cuts both ways. Are the Jews the only people who deserve it?
Killing cabbies and scaring old ladies. This
is what the Republican filibuster is buying. Sean Smith's brilliant documentary should be essential viewing for the idiots who still support and prolong this horror.
Specialist Michael Vassell, says, "I challenge anybody in Congress to do my rotation… Because we have people up there in Congress with the brain of a two-year-old who don't know what they're doing… I challenge the president to ride along with me for 15 months. I'll do another 15 months if he comes out her and rides along with me…They won't even have to pay me!" (H/T to Dave Lindorf
for the transcript.)
Iraq is not going to get better any time soon. It's not being helped any by the Americans, who, as I've said many times, are not aiding progress, but are acting as just another militia in a broad, vicious civil war. The Americans are not fighting terrorists. They are lashing out at whoever gets in their way.
I feel sorry for the soldiers in Smith's video. They didn't sign up for this. Yeah, I deplore those who sign up for killing, but still I feel pity for them. They are doing tremendous evil because their moral compasses have been smashed by a conflict they cannot understand, by fear they cannot control. I feel no empathy at all with the people who sent them, the evil bastards who profit from their being there. God may have mercy on Iraq but he surely won't on them.
Spark up Smiffy!
Politicians have no shame. Well, that's not news. The press in the UK have created a moral panic over cannabis. A couple of studies showed a correlation between heavy cannabis use in teens and increased mental disorder. The effect is small and arguably confined to high-risk adolescents. Home secretary Jacqui Smith said she smoked cannabis as a student and it was wrong
But oh so right, eh Jacks?
Smith says that we have to crack down on the evil reefer because we have made progress in cutting the use of cannabis and the "sort of crime related to wider drug use".
One presumes Smith is not referring to the many crimes committed by those under the influence of the drug ethanol.
No, it's the same old dreary shit. Reefer madness and gateways to smack. Ya-hawn!
Drugscope, a charity, pointed out that another reclassification would confuse young people. But they are not confused. They know Smith and her kind are bullshitting. They don't believe for an instant that cannabis is harmful. They've never known anyone to be harmed by it, and they've seen plenty of harm caused by booze. They just think the wowsers want to spoil their party. And they're right. Proscriptions on drugs are based in people's belief that their own morality should apply to others, the same reason that Americans insist on voting to prevent gays from getting married.
The police are reported by the Guardian to be cautious. Well, the police are often pragmatic. They wanted pot downgraded in the first place because it was such a waste of time to nick people for possession, and they are well aware of what society's ills can be ascribed to.
You know, if we gave a shit about people's health, we'd ban booze and fags. Luckily we don't. Unluckily we'll pretend we do to stop the kids from enjoying a joint.
So Mrs Zen says to me, the car has a problem, it needs to go to the workshop.
And I am saying, yes, I know, you told me last week, and I told you that I couldn't spare the money until I have another project.
Yes, but there was some smoke, she says.
And I am saying, so fucking fix it.
Because I don't understand why an adult, my partner, needs to come to me like I'm her daddy and ask for money to fix the car. I say, so often that I get sick of hearing myself say it, that she can work out for herself how much money we have. I do not keep our finances secret. I have spreadsheets because I had to get organised when I became a freelance, but they are not complicated or difficult to understand. She is a bookkeeper too, so she should be able to understand the household budget.
Do not ask me why when Mrs Zen is a professional bookkeeper, I look after our money.
I am sick of it. This morning, Mrs Zen says to me you'll have to give Zenella tuck again (tuck means buy her lunch from the school foodery), there's nothing in the house. But there's nothing in the house because Mrs Zen will not go the supermarket and buy stuff. I do the groceries once a week and that's it. I have no idea that stuff has run out and she does, but will not make up for it. No, that's also my responsibility. On Tuesday, she spent half the day mooching around a shopping mall. The twins were in daycare. But did she buy food for Zenella's lunch? Nope.
I do not have a great relationship with my boss at the place that gives me most of my work. I used to have a fantastic one with her predecessor. She never let you feel on the outer. If I asked her for more work, she would say yes or no, but would not leave me hanging. She would find me stuff if it had been thin. The current woman simply doesn't answer the email. She just ignores it.
That makes it very tough with money. If I have another project upcoming, I have tons of money; if I don't, I have to be cautious. Mrs Zen always thinks there is something wrong with the car. But the car's a piece of shit. It has never run well. I don't think there's anything wrong with it besides that. Yeah, bits and pieces, the irritating sort of stuff that won't stop it running but should be fixed some time. But nothing major enough that a person who has to watch the pennies a bit really has to deal with.
And I had been trying to tell Mrs Zen how disappointed I had been with my results at poker. Because I am hoping that I will become good enough to earn a modest living at poker, but it hasn't been going well enough for me to be confident that I can make that goal. She doesn't want to know. I know it's boring to listen to, but it's what I think about. I want to change my life. I've been trying. But it's not working out.
So she's like fuck that boring stuff, here's my big deal about the car. And I'm thinking, yes, but just deal with it, why don't you? I am so sick of worrying about money that I no longer have the tolerance for discussing the ins and outs of it with a woman whose only interest in it is how much she can have to spend on herself.
So I lost my temper, and it would have been better if she had just left me alone. But she doesn't. She keeps banging away about what an arsehole I am for losing my temper.
Trust me, if you are faced with someone you have upset, telling them they're an arsehole for being upset with you is probably not going to be oil on troubled waters.
I have not been coping very well with this shit because I am overwhelmed by melancholy. I feel so sad all the time that I cannot adjust myself emotionally, mentally to everyday bullshit. It seems so trivial and stupid that it really upsets me to have to cope with it.
I realise that this is not a good state to be in. Excuse me, I can't deal with your bullshit because I am on the verge of tears all the time is not what people who want you to take responsibility for their lives want to hear.
Sigh. What I want is so small, I sometimes feel I should just say to Mrs Zen, to everyone that uses me just as a means to their own ends, I should say, but what I want is so small, why is it so impossible to have? But the smaller you cut what you want, the less people think you value having it.
is a disturbing and unpleasant article.
Part of the disturbance is caused by not wishing to consider the disabled to be less
than the able.
But aren't human beings meant to see?
It's a difficult question. It could
lead to aren't human beings meant to have children/be straight, even to aren't human beings meant to be white? It's a dark alley you walk into when you start suggesting there is something humans should
Still, I find it tough to think that being blind is like being black.
And I found the article profoundly unpleasant because the woman has a disease, and asking whether she wants to be cured is a lot like saying if I had cancer, would I want that fixed? Well, of course I would. Having cancer does not make me differently abled, it makes me sick. Having retinitis of the kind this woman has makes her sick too. She should take the cure and be glad for it. Yeah, her "disabled brethren" might snub her, but them's the breaks. She'll just have to get by without the thing that makes her interesting.
I just hit it, didn't I? That's the point here. The blind from birth guy doesn't want to see because his identity is wrapped up in being blind. It sets him apart. And it sets Atkinson apart too. She now has a "blind life". People treat her differently (better maybe?). Fully sighted, she'll just have to be one of us.
Anyway, I've always taken a rather pragmatic view of differences. Take gayness. I don't have a problem with it, but I'm obviously aware that many, many people do. I don't really think it's anything to celebrate. It's not a plus
. Gays are not more interesting than straights, not more fascinating for being different. They just are what they are. Of course, sometimes people play what if your kid was gay? I have no problem with any of my kids' being gay, but I don't wish it for them.
Part of the reason I don't wish it for them is because it tends to be defining of a person (and arguably -- more than arguably in my view -- should not be). A gay person becomes gay before they are anything else. People talk about them as "my gay friend", "my gay sister-in-law", and so on. Let's not bicker over whether they ought to; they simply do.
So now I ask myself: is there a clear line? If I think gayness is a minus (I do not mean in and of itself; I mean in a social sense, because the baggage of it is not so positive) and blindness is a minus, does that mean I want all minuses cleared away, and for gayness to be "cured" (were it possible), just as I would urge Atkinson to have her blindness cured?
I think this is a tougher question than most liberals allow themselves to think.
Is there though a sliding scale of "minuses", which one should take care to calibrate correctly? Is gayness more like having bad taste in music than blindness? Is it closer to being ugly? (I think being ugly is much more clearly part of who you are
than having bad taste in music, and probably even more than becoming blind because of a condition -- I am finding it a much more convoluted path than I had first thought! Because if Atkinson's condition is genetic -- I do not know whether it is -- then it is as much part of who she is as gayness or ugliness.)
How do we decide what should be fixed? It's clearly an outcome of how we decide what is broken, but how do we decide that?
I watched Gattaca the other night. If you've seen it, you'll realise why I think that it has a bearing on this issue. (A spoiler follows if you plan to watch it.)
In Gattaca, Vincent is broken. Clearly, his brokenness is a function of the society he lives in as well as his genetic fate. Perhaps the film would have been stronger if he did not have a serious condition, and was just imperfect in the way most of us are. But he overcomes his brokenness in a most astonishing way. It's a moving and brilliant film in a small way.
Vincent overcomes his brokenness with willpower. It is revelatory when he explains to his brother how he has done it: "I never saved anything for the swim back".
But the message that his brokenness is something to overcome is a bit difficult to accept, particularly when the other broken character, Jerome, does not overcome it. It's as though the director is saying just buck the fuck up, loser. I find the lack of sympathy for Jerome disturbing, because it is a counterpoint to the sympathy we are clearly meant to feel for Vincent. Neither is a particularly appealing man; Vincent appeals almost entirely because of his audacity and success.
Gattaca is clearly a film from the right. No leftist would consider that "get over your victimhood and aim for the stars, boy" would be an acceptable message, because we are so convinced that victimhood is not something to disparage; rather, it is something to assuage, to fix, to put right. As with most things, the right path is probably somewhere in between: we should help ourselves while being helped. But I suppose Vincent is stuck in a world that simply does not give a shit. I wonder whether we don't all degenerate into rightists in a world like that, or drown.
Maybe drowning is better though, if that allows you to feel good about yourself. The problem with becoming a rat when all around you are rats is that being a rat is a hard life ethically, so those with heart and conscience might find it unliveable. After all, I consider being gay something of a minus because of the way the world is, not because I think it is inherently bad, and I do not feel I should join the world in its hating just because I could get further if I did. But Gattaca poses interesting questions, because Vincent gives his life meaning that it would not otherwise have if he simply accepted his fate.
I've never been able to resolve that question. If you know how the game is played, and playing it brings rewards that you desire, should you play it even if you know it's a bad game? I've always answered "no" for myself but how do I advise my kids? And was I right in any case to answer "no"?
Is allowing your belief in what's right to hamstring you the same as allowing your having become blind to stand? How can you judge? You would need to be able to stand outside yourself, apart from yourself, to be able to judge.
It's easy for me to say Atkinson is wrong. But how much harder to say that I am wrong myself!
Invited to a peace conference
, the Israelis say that they will not discuss borders, refugees or Jerusalem.
They will though discuss the chances of Australia in the Asian Cup, whether stripes make you look thinner and the new Mutya Buena single.
Bill Kristol is so out there he makes "Nutty Norman" Podhoretz sound like a voice of reason. His article in the Neocon Post
, claiming that Bush is a giant among preznits has brought him a lot of acclaim. Let's look at it.
I suppose I'll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's presidency will probably be a successful one.
Bill, meet harmless ridicule. I think you're going to be firm friends.
Let's step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration.
So when deciding whether he's been a fuckup, let's ignore his fuckups.
Let's look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see?
First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil
Bill's forgotten the anthrax thing and the sniper guy.
Let's remind Bill that terrorist attacks were not actually common
before 9/11, and those that happened were mostly directed at American interests overseas.
Anyone remember Beirut? Big bombing of marines? USS Cole?
Why attack them? Well, terrorists tend to aim at military targets because the military is the expression of power they most despise. And once you have created outrage with a spectacle, your day-to-day terrorism is going to be mostly against the hated military.
And where is the hated military? Iraq. Is there much terrorism there then?
-- not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a strong economy -- also something that wasn't inevitable.
I wouldn't get into a discussion on the economy with a rightard. It's likely to hurt your head. But describing America's economy as "strong" displays a remarkable ignorance of what a strong economy consists of. Kristol thinks that growth is everything. Ho hum.
I'll quickly show why it isn't.
Take my finances (no, really, take them). I make x amount of money, and spend x - 1 each year (I am a follower of the Micawber school of home finance), which makes me happy. If I spend x + 1, I am pretty much in trouble, because x doesn't grow much.
Let's say I go to my friendly neighbourhood bank and borrow as much as they'll give me. Actually, I'll go to every possible source of credit and borrow. I could probably get another x.
I would then have tons of money to spend on consumer goods. My household economy would BOOM.
You've probably figured out what the problem is. Once the money's spent, I am left with the repayments, which will depress my household economy. Not by as much as it expanded, true, but sufficiently to hurt. And if I didn't use the money wisely, oh dear, it's all negative.
That's a simple lesson in economics, but far more than anyone on the right seems to grasp. Or if they grasp it, they lie about it.
And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where -- despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless "benchmark" report last week -- we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome.
The mind boggles when considering how the outcomes that are possible in Iraq can be considered successes, unless our aim was to create a complete fucking mess out of the place. Which it might well have been.
The economy first: After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we've had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery. Did this just happen? No.
No, it's almost entirely fuelled by debt. See the lesson above for why this is not a good thing.
Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001
Not the cause of growth.
and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth.
Which they did not. They actually did the opposite, and the Fed had to step in by slashing interest rates, fuelling a debt-powered pseudoboom.
His opponents predicted dire consequences.
Watch this space.
But the president was overwhelmingly right.
Not even close. All his tax cuts did was transfer money to the wealthy. Who do not create growth. Unless you are a purveyor of yachts.
Even the budget deficit, the most universally criticized consequence of the tax cuts, is coming down and is lower than it was when the 2003 supply-side tax cuts were passed.
It would fucking want to be!
Note the words he has slipped in: "supply side". These are the Holy Grail of rightard economics. The idea is that if you give rich people tax cuts, they will all go and build factories, which will increase production, which will automagically increase demand, and we'll all live happily ever after. The supplysiders' deadly enemies, sane peop^H^H^^HKeynesians believe this is bullshit, and that rich people will just squander the money on yachts and football clubs, if they spend it at all.
Supply-side economics is just the latest excuse for making the rich richer. It doesn't make economic sense. I don't have the time or inclination to debunk this utter bullshit here, but interested readers can google Paul Krugman, and take it from there.
Bush has also (on the whole) resisted domestic protectionist pressures (remember the Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 complaining about outsourcing?), thereby helping sustain global economic growth.
I'll bet you're glad about that when your job goes to India.
The year 2003 also featured a close congressional vote on Bush's other major first-term initiative, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Liberals denounced it as doing nothing for the elderly; conservatives worried that it would bust the budget. Experts of all stripes foresaw great challenges in its implementation. In fact, it has all gone surprisingly smoothly, providing broad and welcome coverage for seniors and coming in under projected costs.
Actually, the liberals were right.
So on the two biggest pieces of domestic legislation the president has gotten passed, he has been vindicated. And with respect to the two second-term proposals that failed -- private Social Security accounts and immigration -- I suspect that something similar to what Bush proposed will end up as law over the next several years.
Not a fucking chance on Social Security. No Democrat preznit will ever pass what he proposed. His immigration proposal was reasonably sane, and yes, something similar but perhaps more humane is probably inevitable. Unless Americans are fucking idiotic enough to vote in Fred Thompson.
Meanwhile, 2005-06 saw the confirmation of two Supreme Court nominees, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Your judgment of these two appointments will depend on your general view of
fascists. If you like fascists, you'll like them. If you don't, you won't. Don't let's pretend they are anything else. They are bought-and-paid-for corporatists, and so far out on the right, they had to extend the wing specially for them. They are disasters for America, and yes, they will be Bush's legacy: an ultraconservative Supreme Court that will chisel away at individual rights. They've already attacked a woman's right to a late termination and desegregation, and they're barely even warmed up.
the courts and the Constitution. But even if you're a judicial progressive, you have to admit that Roberts and Alito are impressive judges (well, you don't have to admit it -- but deep down, you know it).
How would I know it? Their judgements are only loosely based in law, rather products of ideology. I don't think anyone, not even Roberts and Alito themselves, thinks they are really very good legal minds.
And if you're a conservative constitutionalist, putting Roberts and Alito on the court constitutes a huge accomplishment.
Conservative constitutionalists? Roberts and Alito fucking hate the constitution. They were appointed because the fascists who have control of power in America need to water down the constitution so that they can project power as they wish.
What about terrorism? Apart from Iraq
There is no "apart from Iraq". It's like your wife and kids are gunned down in the street. Only the wife survives. Bill cheerily breaks the news to you: "Apart from the kids, they're all fine."
there has been less of it
Nope. Try to remember that you were going from a low base, Bill.
What fucking planet is this guy living on? I'm living on the one in which a bomb went off in Pakistan yesterday, shortly after the government stormed a mosque. Just the latest in a very long line of terrorist incidents.
than many experts predicted on Sept. 12, 2001.
For values of "expert" approaching "idiot".
Any "expert" who predicted increased terrorism after 9/11 has been proved right. What many did not realise was that Iraq would become an enormous focus of militancy.
So Bush and Vice President Cheney probably are doing some important things right.
They have managed to radicalise thousands of young men in the Muslim world. Well done, W and Dick.
They have made no net impact on AQ. Well done, guys.
They have not ended the threat from Islamic militants, not even close.
The war in Afghanistan has gone reasonably well.
One suspects that if Bill came to your door, and you punched him several times in the face, he'd claim that you were "reasonably friendly".
Western Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf's deals with the Taliban are apparently creating something like havens for terrorists, is an increasing problem. That's why our intelligence agencies are worried about a resurgent al-Qaeda -- because al-Qaeda may once again have a place where it can plan, organize and train.
B-b-but Musharraf is our ally. Want to bet I can't find some Bill Kristol "why we must support Musharraf" bullshit?
These Waziristan havens may well have to be dealt with in the near future.
Oh dear. Because we've done such a bangup job of "dealing with" Afghanistan and Iraq.
I assume Bush will deal with them, using some combination of air strikes and special operations.
Yes, I expect he will. He'll probably be delighted to bomb yet another Muslim nation.
As for foreign policy in general, it has mostly been the usual mixed bag.
Which is a polite way of saying "a fucking disaster". Clinton's foreign policy had its flaws, but it was by contrast mostly a success.
We've deepened our friendships with Japan and India
and ruined our friendships with most of Europe, all of the Muslim world and most of Latin America. The Chinese aren't keen on us either.
we've had better outcomes than expected in the two largest Latin American countries, Mexico and Brazil
and we've gotten friendlier governments than expected in France and Germany.
A roundabout way of saying France voted in a cryptofascist, and Germany is suffering from a Thatcherite. Who doesn't like Bush much.
China is stable. There has been slippage in Russia. The situation with North Korea is bad but containable.
These are words that really don't have any meaning. What does China's being "stable" mean? What is "slippage" in this context? Russia fucking hates the US and is taking it on over missile defences, resources and the third world. It opposes US policy in nearly every sphere. There's no "slippage" because it always has. The rightards convinced themselves that because Putin is a nasty rightard himself, all would be fine.
But wait, wait, wait: What about Iraq? It's Iraq, stupid -- you (and 65 percent of your fellow Americans) say -- that makes Bush an unsuccessful president.
You got it, Bill. Improving relationships with Brazil and India are not cutting it when put next to the elephant in the lounge room.
Not necessarily. You have completely fucked another country, completely
fucked it, so that it is now an unliveable hellhole, in which your soldiers get murdered daily, and murder the locals daily in return, with no end in sight, and no idea of what the end even looks like. That is "not necessarily" bad?
First of all, we would have to compare the situation in Iraq now, with all its difficulties and all the administration's mistakes, with what it would be if we hadn't gone in.
Before: we had electricity, water, an oppressive government that rarely bothered us and cousin Ahmed still had legs.
After: cousin Ahmed does not consider it an improvement.
Saddam Hussein would be alive and in power and, I dare say, victorious, with the United States (and the United Nations) by now having backed off sanctions and the no-fly zone.
Why? We kept it up for many years. Why would we have given in?
He might well have restarted his nuclear program
He might well have converted to Christianity, repented his sins, and paved the streets of Baghdad with flowers.
and his connections with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would be intact or revived and even strengthened.
See? These fuckers will just lie. If the facts don't work, which they rarely do, they just lie and lie and lie, and hope that repetition will trump veracity. These people have no shame. No one has ever produced a scrap of evidence for links between Saddam and AQ. And they never will. Because you have to be demented
to think that there were any.
Still, that's speculative, and the losses and costs of the war are real.
Well yeah. Let's put everything in the balance.
In one pan of the scales we have a mean strongman, who had created a stable, reasonably prosperous and functioning nation at some human cost. Left in place, he might have... erm... created some ridiculous propaganda and whacked a few Shiites.
In the other we have a blasted wasteland, in which about 1500 different armed groups vie to whack each other, American soldiers and the general populace. And half a million corpses.
Bush is a war president
Only because he started a war.
and war presidents are judged by whether they win or lose their war.
No, actually. They are also judged by whether they should have started one in the first place.
So to be a successful president, Bush has to win in Iraq.
Well, that's your thesis fucked then.
Which I now think we can. Indeed, I think we will.
Bill also believes in fairies.
In late 2006, I didn't think we would win, as Bush stuck with the failed Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey strategy of "standing down" as the Iraqis were able to "stand up," based on the mistaken theory that if we had a "small footprint" in Iraq, we'd be more successful.
Like most thinkers on Iraq, I too believe America would be more successful with a very small footprint there. I'd say no footprint at all would be about the right size.
With the new counterinsurgency strategy announced on Jan. 10, backed up by the troop "surge," I think the odds are finally better than 50-50 that we will prevail.
Bill needs to enlarge his vocabulary. The word he's looking for is not "think" but "fantasise".
We are routing al-Qaeda in Iraq
A tiny militia group.
we are beginning to curb the Iranian-backed sectarian Shiite militias
Who run most of the country and are backed by the Iraqi government.
and we are increasingly able to protect more of the Iraqi population.
This is too ludicrous to comment on. Tell that to the people of Kirkuk who got smeared across one of its markets the other day.
If we sustain the surge for a year and continue to train Iraqi troops effectively, we can probably begin to draw down in mid- to late 2008. The fact is that military progress on the ground in Iraq in the past few months has been greater than even surge proponents like me expected, and political progress is beginning to follow.
What teh fuck?
Most "surge proponents" accept that teh surge has been a dismal failure, with no prospect at all of "success". Petraeus -- Lord Surge himself -- thinks the US will be committed to surging for decades
Iran is a problem, and we will have to do more to curb Tehran's meddling
Damned Iranians! Meddling in the business of their neighbours and coreligionists. How dare they!
-- but we can.
Oh dear. I hope Iranians are not making long-term plans.
So if we keep our nerve here at home, we have a good shot at achieving a real, though messy, victory in Iraq.
Note that Bill does not outline what a victory would actually look like. This is because the rightards plan to call it a win no matter what.
But can Bush maintain adequate support at home? Yes.
He's doing a fine job of it so far.
It would help if the administration would make its case more effectively and less apologetically. It would help if Bush had more aides who believed in his policy, who understood that the war is winnable and who didn't desperately want to get back in (or stay in) the good graces of the foreign policy establishment.
It would help if it wasn't a total fucking disaster, which even the dimmest are beginning to realise.
But Bush has the good fortune of having finally found his Ulysses S. Grant, or his Creighton Abrams, in Gen. David H. Petraeus.
I found a love, of my very own.
Petraeus!! Modern genius of warfare!!
Look, Alexander the fucking Great could not "win" in Iraq, and he'd be willing to murder just about everybody in the place if needs be.
If the president stands with Petraeus and progress continues on the ground, Bush will be able to prevent a sellout in Washington.
Trans: If Bush stands firm, we'll be able to claim a win when the Dems cut and run as soon as they get the chance, then we'll whine for the next 20 years about how we woulda coulda shoulda won it, just like we did about Vietnam, our last really big fuckup.
And then he could leave office with the nation on course to a successful (though painful and difficult) outcome in Iraq. With that, the rest of the Middle East, where so much hangs in the balance, could start to tip in the direction of our friends and away from the jihadists, the mullahs and the dictators.
Not a fucking hope. Not even in your wildest dreams, and Bill, if I may say so, your dreams are pretty fucking wild.
Following through to secure the victory in Iraq and to extend its benefits to neighboring countries will be the task of the next president.
Bush broke it and now you have to fix it, buddy.
And that brings us to Bush's final test.
I think St Peter will be administering that one, dude, but do tell...
The truly successful American presidents tend to find vindication in, and guarantee an extension of their policies through, the election of a successor from their own party. Can Bush hand the presidency off to a Republican who will (broadly) continue along the path of his post-9/11 foreign policy, nominate judges who solidify a Roberts-Alito court, make his tax cuts permanent and the like?
Let's fucking hope so!
Let's face it though, your best chance is a military coup. I mean, Americans are fucking idiots, yes (they almost voted in Bush twice), but they are not completely retarded
. If the GOP candidate looks anything like another Bush, the Dems will probably sweep the board.
Sure. Even at Bush's current low point in popularity, the leading GOP presidential candidates are competitive in the polls with Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
Because Clinton and Obama are both horrible
That and because America is deeply polarised.
Furthermore, one great advantage of the current partisan squabbling in Washington is that while it hurts Bush, it also damages the popularity of the Democratic Congress-- where both Clinton and Obama serve.
Congress is unpopular because it is not antagonistic enough. Typical though of a rightard to describe the attempts of Congress to pursue its role in overseeing the executive and Bush's attempts to avoid oversight altogether as "partisan squabbling". By framing it in this way, the right hopes to influence the press, and consequently Americans' views, so that the latter don't start thinking that it could actually be a good thing that their leaders are held accountable.
A little mutual assured destruction between the Bush administration and Congress could leave the Republican nominee, who will most likely have no affiliation with either, in decent shape.
Trans: Vote Thompson. He hasn't been a senator for years.
And what happens when voters realize in November 2008 that, if they choose a Democrat for president, they'll also get a Democratic Congress and therefore liberal Supreme Court justices? Many Americans will recoil from the prospect of being governed by an unchecked triumvirate of Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
They didn't mind it when Congress was a rubber stamp for the Bushistas.
So the chances of a Republican winning the presidency in 2008 aren't bad.
My chances of fucking Angelina Jolie aren't bad either, by that measure.
What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president.
If you click your heels three times, you will be back in Kansas.
I like the odds.
He doesn't, you know. He knows as well as we all do that Bush will be viewed as one of the worst presidents America has ever suffered. Petraeus won't succeed in Iraq unless we admit we were trying to create an absolute fucking shambles and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done. If a Repug wins in '08, it can only be in spite of Bush, not because of him. Yeah okay, it's possible. There are plenty of Americans who hate people, because America is one fucked-up place. The candidates are in utter disarray right now, but sure, the GOP could get behind someone like Thompson and try for the Reagan effect -- you know he's fucking useless but at least whoever's pulling his strings hates people as much as you do.
And if the Dems win, and Iraq is declared to be a terrible defeat? Well, Bill will have forgotten the bet he took here, and will be writing about how, really, Iraq was a tremendous success and Bush a tremendous president, because ultimately, reality is not a challenge for guys like Bill. They just totally ignore it because it doesn't ever intrude into the Washington bubble.