Quickies 21

Legal at last!

the quickies archive.

August 2008
Saturday 2
Atheist Advertising on Buses: "There's Probably no God. Now stop worrying and get on with your life.
The Netherlands, with its permissive marijuana laws, may be known as the cannabis capital of the world. But a survey published this month in PLoS Medicine, a journal of the Public Library of Science, suggests that the Dutch don't actually experiment with pot as much as one would expect. Despite tougher drug policies in this country, Americans were twice as likely to have tried marijuana than the Dutch, according to the survey. In fact, Americans were more likely to have tried marijuana or cocaine than people in any of the 16 other countries, including France, Spain, South Africa, Mexico and Colombia, that the survey covered.

Researchers found that 42% of people surveyed in the United States had tried marijuana at least once, and 16% had tried cocaine. About 20% of residents surveyed in the Netherlands, by contrast, reported having tried pot; in Asian countries, such as Japan and China, marijuana use was virtually "non-existent," the study found. New Zealand was the only other country to claim roughly the same percentage of pot smokers as the U.S., but no other nation came close to the proportion of Americans who reported trying cocaine.

Why the high numbers? Jim Anthony, the chair of the department of epidemiology at Michigan State University and an author of the study, says U.S. drug habits have to do, in part, with the country's affluence — many Americans can afford to spend income on recreational drugs. Another factor may be an increasing awareness that marijuana may be less toxic than other drugs, such as tobacco or alcohol...

-Time

"The Real McCain" parody popular.
According to the Cremation Assn. of North America, about one-third of all Americans opt for the flame. We are, after all, a restless lot. Cremation allows the deceased loved one to be easily moved: ash and carry.

But there's a problem. Placing a body in an oven at 1,800 degrees for two hours spews vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, as well as heavy metals and mercury (vaporized from the amalgam in people's teeth). . . .

A whole market is springing up to satisfy the last wishes of the carbon-conscious. Take alkaline hydrolysis, which uses lye, heat and pressure to reduce the remains to an ashy pulp. Commonly used in veterinary schools, the process stirred controversy this year when a New Hampshire funeral director--hoping to pitch it to the eco-minded--applied for a variance to use it under the state's cremation laws. The problem is the oily, coffee-colored slurry of fluids that goes down the drain. It tends to freak people out. . .

But the mortuary option most in keeping with our times is thermal depolymerization. Theoretically, at least, it is possible, using steam and pressure, to "crack" organic solids such as human remains and, by manipulating pressure and temperature, assemble useful hydrocarbon chains. Translation: You can cook people into a pile of chemicals and a few quarts of oil. One day it may be possible to drive to grandma's funeral with the dear old gal in the tank.

-Undernews

Why more drilling in Alaska will only make things worse-The sorted history of Alyeska.
Must Reads from Sam's Site:

HOW SUBPRIME POLITICIANS, LOBBYISTS AND BANKERS CAUSED CRISIS
THE AUDACITY OF IRONY
THE POST POLITICAL AGE

YouTube Catch of the Day: Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash play Memphis Blues
Experimental fiction is the art of telling a story in which certain aspects of reality have been exaggerated or distorted in such a way as to put the reader off the story and make him go watch a television show. Another aspect of the experimental story is the innovative use of language. Here is an example of non-innovative use of language: "As Bill arrived at the store to buy milk, it started to rain." What a snore! Anyone can write that! That is not innovative. That does not open our eyes to the hypocrisy of our society. Try this: "Went buy to arrived as he rain started it Bill Bill Bill the milk, Bill the milk!" Or, in the tradition of Kafka, the writer might turn Bill into a giant bug, who can't buy milk because he can't reach the counter, and when Bill gets home his wife has also turned into a bug who, with her tentacles, signals, "Hey Bill, where's the milk?" That's when Bill realises all meaning is subjective and sprays his wife with a can of insecticide that he happened to buy at the store, because that store keeps the insecticide on the floor.
Incidentally, the way they execute bugs? Murdering bugs like Bill, who used to be human? A big foot comes crashing down.

-"Experimental Story", by George Saunders

July 2008
Sunday 13
The Hurricane's current team had their 5th Anniversary yesturday. It was a lot of fun.
Pixar's Wall-E pisses off rightwingers for its "leftist propaganda" which includes such things as taking care of the environment.
Jesse Helms, a true pillar of the conservative party.
Here's a great quote from Mark Thurman when asked, "What do you think about when you meditate?":
Usually, some form of trying to excavate any kind of negative thing cycling in the mind and turn it toward the positive. For example, when I am annoyed with Dick Cheney, I meditate on how Dick Cheney was my mother in a previous life and nursed me at his breast.
Here's a reason to vote for Obama: "Stephen Baldwin threatens to move to Canada if Obama wins."
A cool chess set.
The real reason we are getting screwed at the gas pump-banker's making up for losses from the housing bubble.
"Who's Actually Winning in Iraq?", By PATRICK COCKBURN
"WHO'S WON THE WAR ON DRUGS?"
What will happen if we invade Iran?
How can poor people survive in America today? It's getting bad.
How flying might really suck in the future.
Gail Dines went on Penn and Teller's Showtime series, Bullshit! and fell victum to their typical antics of editing to their favor and masking the whole of the issue to advance their own opinions. I've seen quite a few of their shows and their libertarian bias is pretty obvious and it renders the show unwatchable at times. The show can be fun when they choose easy targets, but they fail miserably whenever the topic has even the slightest bit of depth. I'm not sure if this is unintentional irony that a show dedicated to calling "bullshit" on various things only covers it in their own brand of bovine pasture pastries or if it's as deliberate as "fair and balanced" Fox News.

If you do enjoy their magic act, then avoid Bullshit! at all cost. It will turns you off from them forever as it did to me.

Friday 4 Hoorah for subversive rebels of corrupt and over-controlling government! We may need you again
Truthout: The Real McCain, The Return of the Neocons, The Fall of Conservatism, It Was Oil, All Along
Interview with Alan Moore: Part 1, Part 2. (Moore comics online)
Progressive Review: THE MEDIA: ENABLING POLITICAL PATHOLOGY & HOW TO AVOID IT, ONE OF OBAMA'S CHICAGO CONSTITUENTS TELLS HOW TO DEAL WITH HIM, NORTH POLE ICE MAY DISAPPEAR THIS SUMMER, SWAMPOODLE REPORT: THE PATRIOTISM GAME
China's recent plastic bag ban has been immediately accepted by consumers. In a country where billions of plastic bags are used each day, the government's top-down policy move will likely benefit the country's environment and energy security well before market forces or consumer-led efforts are able to achieve similar impact.

The ban prohibits shops, supermarkets, and sales outlets from handing out free plastic bags and bans the production, sale, and use of ultra-thin plastic bags under 0.025 millimeters thick. It took effect nationwide on June 1....

China's central government dealt this heavy blow to plastic bags out of concern for the environment and a desire for greater energy savings. People in China use up to 3 billion plastic bags daily and dispose of more than 3 million tons of them annually. Most of the carriers end up in unofficial dumping sites, landfills, or the environment. Urban dumping centers and open fields alongside railways and expressways are littered with the discarded bags, mostly whitish ultra-thin varieties. Such scenes have generated a special term in China: "the white pollution."

Plastic bags consume a huge quantity of oil, an energy source that in recent months has hovered at more than $100 per barrel on international markets. Experts estimate that China refines nearly 5 million tons (37 million barrels) of crude oil each year, or one-third of its imported oil, to make plastics used for packaging.

-ENN

I'm Martin Hellman, a professor at Stanford University. When I started this project, I tried to find studies which estimated the risk of our current approach to nuclear weapons. I also asked prominent authorities on nuclear weapons, national security, and risk analysis if they knew of any such studies. I found nothing.

So I did a preliminary analysis of the risk we face and found that it was equivalent to having your home surrounded by thousands of nuclear power plants. I published that analysis in a paper (PDF download) which urgently calls for more detailed studies to either confirm or correct that startling conclusion.

Informed, subjective estimates support the need for in-depth studies. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry puts the odds of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next ten years at 50-50. Indiana Republican Senator Richard Lugar's survey of 85 national security experts reached a similarly alarming conclusion. -Nuclear Risk

>
“I think it is poor law enforcement to keep on the books legislation that establishes as a crime something which in fact society does not seriously wish to prosecute. In my view, having federal law enforcement agents engaged in the prosecution of people who are personally using marijuana is a waste of scarce resources better used for serious crimes. In fact, this type of prosecution often meets with public disapproval. The most frequent recent examples have been federal prosecutions of individuals using marijuana for medical purposes in states that have voted – usually by public referenda – to allow such use. Because current federal law has been interpreted as superseding state law in this area, most states that have made medical use of marijuana legal have been unable to actually implement their laws.

"When doctors recommend the use of marijuana for their patients and states are willing to permit it, I think it’s wrong for the federal government to subject either the doctors or the patients to criminal prosecution. More broadly speaking, the norm in America is for the states to decide whether particular behaviors should be made criminal. To make the smoking of marijuana, whether for medical purposes or not, one of those extremely rare instances of federal crime – literally, to make a ‘federal case’ out of it – is wholly disproportionate to the activity involved. We do not have federal criminal prohibitions against drinking alcoholic beverages, and there are generally no criminal penalties for the use of tobacco at the state and federal levels for adults. There is no rational argument for treating marijuana so differently from these other substances.”

“To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree. But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged. In a free society, there must be a very considerable zone of activity between those two poles in which people are allowed to make their own choices as long as they are not impinging on the rights, freedom, or property of others. I believe it is important with regard to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, among other things, that we strictly regulate the age at which people may use these substances. And, enforcement of age restrictions should be firm. But, criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society...”

-Barney Frank introducing bill HR 5843 to reduce federal penalties for marijuana

Some Proof that Marijuana is a Powerful Medicine

The Man who plays with Lions
Mr. Twain Offers a Lesson on Patriotism
June 2008
Sunday 15
No Child Left Behind, another facet of the loser legacy of GWB is the focus to start today.

Margaret Spellings, the secretary of education, has been travelng the country to try and shore up the largely negative feelings towards NCLB. She is facing a nigh impossible battle because many feel that the law is nothing more than a way to undermine public schools in order to push through privatization in much the same manner that low numbers of troops were sent to Iraq in order to use mercenaries. This is why the administration pursued a hard line towards a "no-waiver policy" for schools facing more difficult challenges to catch up.

Educators trying to reach the goal of No Child Left Behind educational program – “by 2014, every child will be at or above grade level” – are doomed to failure...

The problem, [Dr. James A. Tucker, holder of the McKee Chair of Excellence in Learn at UTC] said, is that in order to achieve two of those goals, the third must be adjusted.

Quality of education cannot be sacrified, he said. For example, children need to learn all 26 letters of the alphabet, not just a portion of them.

Likewise, all children must be educated, not just some of them, so quantity is fixed.

The factor that can be adjusted, he said, is time.

“If one kid in the class is way behind, what does he need more than anything?” he asked rhetorically. “Time.”

It is perfectly normal for children who are the same age to achieve at different levels on standardized tests, he said. The normal range of achievement for 68 percent of nine-year-old fourth graders, for example, ranges from grade one level to grade seven level.

Therefore, demanding that 100 percent of those students achieve on at least a grade four level is unrealistic.

-The Chattanoogan.com

Worse still, the emphasis on reading and math reduces the time for other subjects, robing students of a well-rounded education. It is also causing more gift students a reduced chance to reach their potential. This may be intentional.
"All this forces one to wonder. Could NCLB as presently written be part of the long range plan of the Administration to undermine public education? If the law's harsh provisions result in more schools being branded 'failures,' could that lead to an exodus from the public schools in to the proliferating charter schools or religious or other private academies?"

"And could the law generate such frustration with the federal government's clumsy attempt to influence education policy, that it causes a 'backlash' movement opposing any federal role?"

Of course, high standards and accountability are worthy ideals but the public appears to be growing weary of this over-reliance on testing. A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll in June found that 52 percent of public school parents felt there's too much testing -- up from 32 percent in 2002. And, 75 percent of public school parents said the focus on testing was forcing teachers to teach to the test, not the subject matter.

- AlterNet

Considering that Bush isn't even up to fully funding NCLB it seems odd that they are now trying to blame teachers for poor student performance. The people benefiting most of all from NCLB are the five companies that create the tests and offer tutoring and prep. to the tune of 2.3 billion dollars a year.

Whatever the future is for NCLB, it doesn't seem likely that we'll know until 2010

FUD is still the prefered method of government toward pot.

"A Grandfather Looks Back on 40 Years of Happy Pot Smoking", by George Rohrbacher

For a fact-filled fun time watch Totally Baked: A Potumentary, which has the added bonus of featuring Rich Hardesty's music. He'll be appearing at The Hurricane here in Marathon on August 21st.

The only guy with guts, Dennis Kucinich, reads 35 articles of impeachment for GWB. This is why he's the only one I would vote for.
Meanwhile, our buddy John McCain continues to find truth an elusive subject. The subject of Iraq is particularly hard for him.
Sunday 8
I have to admit that I never heard of him until he died recently, but I do feel we've lost a great man. RIP Utah Phillips. Be sure to check the many entries on youtube, especially "Moose Turd Pie"
Daniel Burd - [a] 16-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario, as part of a science fair project, figured out a way to break down the polymers in plastic bags-compounds that can last for over 1,000 years-in about three months. Essentially, Burd hypothesized that since the bags eventually do degrade, it must be possible to isolate and augment the degrading agents. . .

-Mother Jones, via Undernews

Fine-tuning controls on the nation's traffic signals would cut U.S. road congestion by as much as 10 percent, transportation experts estimate. It would also reduce air pollution from vehicles by as much as a fifth, cut accidents at intersections and save about five tanks of gas annually per household, according to the National Transportation Operations Coalition, an alliance of federal, state and local traffic departments and equipment-makers.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the average local traffic department earned an overall grade of D on the alliance's latest report card. Streamlining intersections is happening in only some cities and states, even though it's eminently doable. . .

-MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, via Undernews

"The Pentagon's 'irregular warfare' against civilian foreign policy", by Sam Smith
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) presents Immune Attack™, an educational video game that introduces basic concepts of human immunology to high school and entry-level college students. Designed as a supplemental learning tool, Immune Attack aims to excite students about the subject, while

-Federation of American Scientists

Bill [O'Reilly] is not a journalist. He's a pugilist

-Bill Moyers

Some picks on the environment from ScienceDaily and "Admiring Celebrities Can Help Improve Self-esteem" for the fun of it.
"Does Time Run Backward in Other Universes?", by Sean M. Carroll
May 2008
Sunday 25
As the first entry of 08', (whoops, bit of a late start, I know) I like to begin with the lighter, stuff before sinking into the doom and gloom portion.
The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer.

-The Washington Post


Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Or...Burn some incense and get happy!
A 13 year old from Texas who stole his Dad's credit card and ordered two hookers from an escort agency, has today been convicted of fraud and given a three year community order.
Ralph Hardy, a 13 year old from Newark, Texas confessed to ordering an extra credit card from his father's existing credit card company, and took his friends on a $30,000 spending spree, culminating in playing "Halo" on an Xbox with a couple of hookers in a Texas motel....
Asked why he ordered two escorts, Ralph said he thought it was the thing to do when you win a "World of Warcraft" tournament. They told the suspicious working girls they were people of restricted growth working with a traveling circus, and as State law does not allow those with disabilities to be discriminated against they had no right to refuse them.
The $1,000 a night girls sensing something up played "Halo" on the Xbox with the kids, instead of selling their sexual services.
Ralph's ambition is to one day become a politician.

-Money.co.uk

I give you The Telectroscope, a "window" between London and New York
150-year-old Monkey Puzzle tree at risk because a British city council is afraid of ligation if children hurt themselves on the sharp needles.
Monkey Puzzle tree
If you really want to help kids, teach them correctly. It works. What doesn't work is teaching them that Intelligent Design Theory is a legitimate critique of Evolution.

There are few things that irritate me more than those that attack the small bit of real knowledge that we have worked so hard to put together and have made our lives immeasurably better. The latest salvo of stupidity, which failed miserably in theaters, is from Ben Stein.

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

-Ben Stein


Ah Ben. You desperate fool. This might fly with the congregation of the willfully ignorant, but the facts shall remain long after the bullshit had turned to dirt-something we need more of these days.

Worse yet, point your finger falsely and you risk losing more than you ever thought. When the "faithful" resort to falsehood and slander they not only discredit themselves, but put a dark taint to to the religion they struggle to save. Ben's not alone, of course. He has folks like Rev. Rod Parsley and Pastor John Hagee fostering fantasy and fear for fame and fortune.
The real kicker comes when the very book that's the basis of their faith is a questionable source of morality for those that actually take the time to read it (Only parts I care for are Ecclesiastes and Job). But people read the Bible everyday and never seem to get tripped up by the parts that stand to counter all the good. It's as if the investment is too great to get distracted by some flaws and perhaps because the feeling of faith is too good to lose. That's fine. It just becomes a problem when you ignore verifiable facts, attack those with different views, and put others in harm's way to usher in some Rapture fantasy.

A heart-breaking case of military unjustice.
Wulfgar gives a volcabulary lesson involving John McCain
"The Pentagon's 'irregular warfare' against civilian foreign policy", by Sam Smith

"How business culture dragged America down with it", by Sam Smith (I think Nader agrees)