Archive for the 'drugs' Category

Waldron on Armstrong’s Fall

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Travis Waldron sums up some of the ambivalence I’ve been wrestling with myself in the wake of the doping chickens coming home to roost: The Complicated Tragedy Of Lance Armstrong.

So is Lance Armstrong a fraud, a cheat, and a villain, the worst example of how the quest to win at all costs can distort our priorities? Or is Lance Armstrong a friend, an inspiration, and a hero, the best example of how success can be used to change the world around us. Can’t he be both?

I think it’s wrong to focus just on Armstrong. He was arguably a victim here too. But not in the responsibility-free way that one might think I’m saying.

Sigh. It’s complicated.

It is a bad sign…

Friday, October 8th, 2010

When the opening line of your first Senate campaign ad is: I’m not a witch!
And then ends with a paean to hobbyist wiretapper Linda Tripp: I’m you.

That’s funny, because there is video tape of you saying you dabbled in witchcraft. Not to mention your crusade against masturbation. And the spending campaign money on things like gas, food, rent and bowling.

Of course, the parodies are at least as hilarious.
Don’t forget your 3d goggles for this one. Same link here (hat tip to knarly that my original link went dead) Podcast 30: Inaudible Man

Saturday, July 4th, 2009 Podcast 30 is about the election, Prop 8, Harvey Milk, Lynndie England, Dan Savage, and lots of Russell Brand. It’s also about Obama, but he doesn’t actually say anything in the episode (hence the title), except for a little bit at the end, and he really doesn’t say anything then either. Mostly, it’s about how something I’ve imagined for such a long time can seem so different when it finally arrives.

Enjoy, and feel free to let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks.

Notes and sources follow…

part one: celebrity endorsements

part two: election day

part three: harvey’s big feet

part four: lynndie

Giordano on Obama’s Transition on Marijuana Law Reform

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

From The Field’s Al Giordano: Re-Do It, Mr. President-elect: “Open for Questions” Gets an F. So, here’s the top question from Obama’s experiment with participatory democracy, in which citizens could write in with their questions, and vote them up or down — along with the Obama’s transition team’s response:

Q: “Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?” S. Man, Denton

A: President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

Giordano continues:

The five other drug policy questions among the top 20 were totally ignored, yet they were closer to the line of scrimmage on Obama’s own stated campaign positions. Here’s a summary of those questions:

– Will the federal government stop raiding and prosecuting medical marijuana users and their doctors?

– If not legalization, what about decriminalization?

(After all, on November 4, voters in Michigan and Massachusetts voted for exactly that; the context of the issue – and “conventional wisdom” about public opinion on it – has shifted somewhat since Election Day.)

– What about prioritizing treatment over incarceration for drug offenders?

– How do we fix the prison system?

– And what about the Food and Drug Administration’s cozy relationship – the freedom from liability and the protective legislation previously given – with the pharmaceutical industry?

Those were the more interesting top drug policy questions that deserved a sincere and transparent response. Instead, they were ignored in favor of picking the question to which he could give a typical politician’s “blow off” response.

It’s still too early to peg Obama as all talk and no action (though people with screwed-up epistemology have been making that case for at least a year now). And I’m pretty sure Giordano is not saying Obama should have come out hard for legalization. What Giordano is saying, though, is that in the first round of responses on the “open for questions” site, Obama had a chance to demonstrate the candor and responsiveness that he campaigned on. And so far, he has pretty thoroughly muffed it.

Hm. “Muffed it” is a baseball expression, isn’t it? I think we need to go with basketball metaphors for Obama. So say this instead: In the initial round of responses to the “open for questions” site, Obama shot an airball.

The Portland Prom Prank

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Apologies, I have been neglectful lately. To tide things over until I can obsess properly, I bring you: Portland Prom Prank Probed.

As the parent of an almost-17-year-old, I can’t condone the sentiment. But as a former wiseass, I appreciate the concept and execution.

Sir! Charlie Company Reports Being Extremely Baked, Sir!

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

Brings new meaning to the phrase “war on drugs”: Troops battle 10-foot marijuana plants.

“We tried burning them with white phosphorous — it didn’t work. We tried burning them with diesel — it didn’t work. The plants are so full of water right now … that we simply couldn’t burn them,” [Canadian Army General Rick Hillier] said.

Even successful incineration had its drawbacks.

“A couple of brown plants on the edges of some of those (forests) did catch on fire. But a section of soldiers that was downwind from that had some ill effects and decided that was probably not the right course of action,” Hillier said dryly.

One soldier told him later: “Sir, three years ago before I joined the army, I never thought I’d say ‘That damn marijuana’.”

Fun Flash Games

Friday, July 15th, 2005

I’m not sure how to categorize this, but I guess I’d call it a cross between sports and drugs. Anyway, it’s Good experience games, a site listing lots of fun little flash games.

Bush Lets Another One Get Away

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

For all his talk about going after evil-doers, Bush sure can be a wimp when it comes to standing up for the public interest in the face of big campaign contributors. I thought that when he let Bill Gates off with a wrist-slap after Microsoft’s antitrust conviction, and now he’s done it again: Tobacco escapes huge penalty.

After eight months of courtroom argument, Justice Department lawyers abruptly upset a landmark civil racketeering case against the tobacco industry yesterday by asking for less than 8 percent of the expected penalty.

What a wuss.

Thinking Without a Brain

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

I could while away the hours
Conferrin’ with the flowers
Consultin’ with the rain
And my head, I’d be scratchin’
While my thoughts were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain.

I’ve just finished reading Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, and it’s had me thinking about the non-neurological component of intelligence.

Dawkins’ book is a journey backwards through our ancestors, cast as a pilgrimage to the “Canterbury” of the remotest common ancestor shared by all life on earth. It’s an interesting journey, in part because of the way it emphasizes the literal truth of the notion that all life is related. Reading the book puts you in the position of imagining what it was actually like to be a pre-human hominid, a shrew-like early mammal, a proto-vertebrate, a worm, an amoeba, a bacterium.

In the ‘later’ (that is to say, earlier) stages of that journey, you’re inhabiting a body that doesn’t have much in the way of a brain. And yet, despite their lack of big cerebral cortexes and the resulting large vocabularies that would let them do things like post rambling conceptual pieces on their weblogs, “simpler” organisms seem to have some pretty interesting abilities that are analogous to what we like to think of as the characteristically “human” manifestation of intelligence.

I also just finished reading Jeremy Narby’s Intelligence in Nature. Narby writes in his book about Martin Giurfa of the Centre of Animal Cognition Research in France, who, along with four co-authors, published The concept of ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ in an insect. In Giurfa’s experiment, bees were trained to enter a simple Y-shaped maze that had been marked at the entrance with a particular color. Inside the maze was a branching point where the bee was required to choose between two paths. One path, which led to the food reward, was marked with the same color that had been used at the entrance to the maze, while the other was marked with a different color. Bees learned to choose the correct path, and continued to do so when a different kind of marker (black and white stripes oriented in various directions) was substituted for the colored markers. When the experimental conditions were reversed, rewarding bees for choosing the inner passage marked with a symbol that was different than the entrance symbol, the bees again learned to choose the correct path. “Thus,” write Giurfa et al., “not only can bees learn specific objects and their physical parameters, but they can also master abstract inter-relationships, such as sameness and difference.”

Narby also talks about slime molds, which in part of their life cycle resemble huge colonial assemblages of one-celled individuals who have fused their cytoplasm into a single enormous (well, by unicellular standards) cell containing thousand of nuclei. Narby visited Japanese scientist Toshiyuki Nakagaki, whose studies have shown that slime molds can “solve” a simple maze, arranging their bodies to lie along the shortest path between two food items placed in opposite corners (see Slime mould solves maze puzzle).

Plants, too, manifest something that could arguably be called intelligence. We hyperactive denizens of kingdom Animalia aren’t really wired to notice it, but on longer time scales plants adapt and respond to their environment, and research has shown that they actually respond surprisingly quickly (albeit in ways not easily visible) to outside stimuli of various kinds — all without benefit of brains, or even individual nerve cells.

Narby visits with Scottish scientist Tony Trewavas, who has been making waves in recent years by publishing studies describing what he refers to as “plant intelligence”. (See Root and branch intelligence and Aspects of plant intelligence.) For example, Trewavas talks about earlier research by CK Kelly showing that dodder, a parasitic plant that takes the form of bright orange twining tendrils (and which I happened to be checking out a couple of days ago while taking a hike in the Caprinteria salt marsh with my son), can quickly discriminate between a “good” host and a poor one, “choosing” in a matter of an hour or two how much of its resources to devote to a particular new host plant.

All of which brings me to the item I actually wanted to talk about when I started this posting: Scientists experiment with ‘trust’ hormone. It’s an article describing recent research into how the hormone oxytocin, which I’m mainly familiar with from its medical use in stimulating contractions during childbirth, can render people more trusting.

Oxytocin is secreted in brain tissue and synthesized by the hypothalamus. This small, but crucial feature located deep in the brain controls biological reactions like hunger, thirst and body temperature, as well as visceral fight-or-flight reactions associated with powerful, basic emotions like fear and anger.

For years oxytocin was considered to be a straightforward reproductive hormone found in both sexes. In both humans and animals, this chemical messenger stimulates uterine contractions in labor and induces milk production. In both women and men, oxytocin is released during sex, too.

Then, elevated concentrations of the hormone also were found in cerebrospinal fluid during and after birth, and experiments showed it was involved in the biochemistry of attachment. It’s a sensible conclusion, given that babies require years of care and the body needs to motivate mothers for the demanding task of childrearing.

In recent years, scientists have wondered whether oxytocin also is generally involved with other aspects of bonding behavior – and specifically whether it stimulates trust.

The article goes on to describe how researchers dosed experimental subjects with oxytocin, then had them play a simple investment game that revealed the level of trust they were willing to extend to a randomly assigned trading partner. Those who got the hormone were dramatically more trusting.

Researchers said they are performing a new round of experiments using brain imaging. “Now that we know that oxytocin has behavioral effects,” Fehr said, “we want to know the brain circuits behind these effects.”

I’m sure there’s more to learn about how the brain is involved in all this, but I wouldn’t be so quick to assume that it necessarily plays the most important role. Brains are a relatively recent innovation. For most of our collective history of living on the planet we haven’t had them — yet we’ve been intelligently negotiating our environment the whole time, presumably through the same sorts of complex chemical interactions that underlie the “intelligent” behavior of our distant relatives, the slime molds and dodder plants.

Okay. Done rambling for now.

‘A Scanner Darkly’ Trailer Available

Friday, February 25th, 2005

I know that valued reader Sven, at least, will be interested in this: QuickTime trailer for A Scanner Darkly.

Some more about the movie from Philip K. Dick’s children: Philip K. Dick – A Scanner Darkly film adaptation.

Barlow’s December 16 Hearing

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

You may recall hearing about John Perry Barlow’s ongoing battle to get some misdemeanor drug possession charges against him thrown out on Fourth Amendment grounds. (Barlow was arrested after a Transportation Safety Authority baggage screener found a small quantity of marijuana, some mushrooms, and some ketamine in an ibuprofen bottle in his checked luggage before an airplane flight.)

If you haven’t heard about it, it’s time you did. That’s the sound of your Constitutional freedoms fluttering away…

Anyway, there was a hearing this past Wednesday on the matter. Seth David Schoen has an interesting (if maddening) write-up of it: In the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo. You can also check out Barlow’s pre-hearing description of the original incident: A taste of the system, and if you’re feeling really masochistic, you can read some of the relevant court documents: “The Man” vs. John Perry Barlow.

Doherty on Barlow in Reason

Friday, August 13th, 2004

I got tired of the Kevin Kelly/Wired magazine-style of breathless technological optimism pretty early on. “The future’s here, and it’s amazing!” To a certain extent I’ve let my disdain for the stylistic approach those folks use spill over into a generalized dislike of the whole Bay Area techno-libertarian scene. But having put my wank-o-meter in neutral long enough to read this John Perry Barlow interview by Brian Doherty, I found that it’s actually pretty interesting.

I especially like the discussion of his fight against a misdemeanor drug bust. (He had a small amount of marijuana in his checked luggage while flying; it was found during a Department of Homeland Security search and they pulled him off the plane before departure and arrested him. He’s fighting to exclude the evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds.) I also like his take on John Kerry; it matches up almost exactly with my own.

Anyway, from the latest issue of Reason magazine: John Perry Barlow 2.0: The Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace reinvents his body — and his politics.

The White House’s Pro-Family Value: Lie to Your Kids About Drugs

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

The thing about lying is, it has a way of taking over your life. It’s the old slippery-slope thing. You tell a little white lie because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, and you find out hey, that was actually pretty easy. And then you tell another one to save yourself embarrassment. And another because you just really, really want the shiny happy outcome that telling it will help you achieve. And another one because you were too lazy to tell the complex, messy truth when a simple lie would work just as well.

And then you start telling them automatically, just because.

My wife and I are dealing with this issue with our daughter these days. She isn’t so much lying as just being dishonest with herself about whether or not she really looked for the shirt before complaining that it wasn’t in her drawer, or had time to pick up the dog poop before going to see her friend, or really is (or isn’t) willing to make the commitment to continue with her piano lessons. And then, having lied to herself, she tells us what she now honestly believes (for certain values of the term) to be the truth. I mean, if it was good enough to get past her own bullshit detector, shouldn’t it be good enough for ours?

Well, actually, no.

An interesting case that kind of goes the other way is this one, in which the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy presumes to tell parents how they should talk to their kids about marijuana: Your government wants you to lie to your kids.

As the debunking by AlterNet’s Bruce Mirken amply demonstrates, many of the things the White House drug czar wants you to tell your kids are blatant falsehoods. But I think parents willing to take the current administration’s assertions on pretty much anything at face value, and then pass it on to their kids, are guilty of the same kind of failure as my daughter is when she lies to herself, and then expects her parents to believe her.

Yeah, well, good luck with that.

Tommy Chong Released from Prison

Saturday, July 10th, 2004

Tommy Chong has been released from prison after serving nine months for selling bongs over the Internet, huzzah. He apparently was on the Tonight Show last night, which I might accidentally have instructed my Tivo to record; I’ll check on that as soon as I can reclaim the box from my son, currently rotting his brain with a Spongebob rerun. If I did record it, I’ll watch it and update y’all. In the meantime: Actor Tommy Chong makes 1st post-prison TV appearance on the Tonight Show, Friday July 9.

Open Letter to the Crackhead Who Stole the Tops Off Matt’s Motorcycle’s Sparkplugs

Thursday, April 29th, 2004

This is really pretty sweet. From, via some weblogger whose identity I foolishly misplaced: Hey crackhead.

Artists on Acid

Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

ymatt threw this my way. I’m not sure where he found it, but it’s kinda interesting: Acid trip 1.

The Man Versus “Man”

Saturday, December 6th, 2003

From the LA Weekly’s Steven Mikulan comes this update on the plight of Tommy Chong: Chong family values.

Bill Maher on Rush Limbaugh

Tuesday, October 14th, 2003

Bill Maher rules. In particular, in his latest weblog entry: Rush Limbaugh. Makes a nice counterpoint to the David Frum blather I was mocking earlier.

Defending Rush Limbaugh

Tuesday, October 14th, 2003

Proving once again the benefits of carefully crafting headlines to maximize one’s Googlerank, my previous entry, Rush Limbaugh: Addict is currently #1 on a search for that phrase, and the profusion of comments on the page is the result.

Most of the comments are predictable serves-him-right snark. But looking afield for other comments, I noticed the following from David Frum: Rush and Us, II (you have to scroll down a bit past the actually somewhat apt commentary on liberal hypocrisy during Monicagate). Here’s an excerpt:

To these gloatings, there are two things that should immediately be said.

First, if the only people allowed to argue in favor of moral standards are people without moral imperfections, then there will be nobody to do the job at all. Every one of us on the conservative side of the great moral and cultural divisions of the day is riddled with faults, flaws, and failings.

Second, on the drug issue in particular – who knows better than the drug addict how seductive and deadly drugs can be? In light of Rush’s own dependency, his attacks on drug use and drug legalization resound more powerfully than ever. This is not hypocrisy: It is conviction grounded in painfully acquired personal experience.

I can appreciate, on a certain level, the artistry that goes into crafting an up-is-down assertion that does a good job at maintaining internal self-consistency. And given the overwhelming power of human belief, there doubtless are fans of Frum’s who read that passage (in its original home, at the National Review Online, at least, if not here) nodding their heads in sober agreement.


Rush got caught in flagrant hypocrisy. You either recognize that, or you’re deluding yourself. I’d wager pretty much any amount that Frum falls into the former category, rather than the latter, so I lump him in with the rest of those willing to knowingly deceive others in pursuit of their larger aims.

Smoke Free Movies

Sunday, October 12th, 2003

SmokeFreeMovies recently came to my attention when my girlfriend told me about a lecture (PPT) she’d just attended by Stan Glantz. Dr. Glantz is somewhat of an eccentric in the Public Health community and started the project on a lark, knowing that Big Tobaco has a history of working with major movie studios — but then he discovered that smoking in movies does significantly stimulate smoking in kids.

Personally, I thought the idea was a little goofy, but he presents some pretty interesting statistics (like: characters in movies smoke 300% as much as people in real life) and their goals are very modest, and seem completely reasonable to me. In particular, they’d like to see smoking given the same consideration as profanity and alcohol in determining if a movie should get an R Rating.

If nothing else, it’s interesting to see some of the Ads the organization has run in industry publications to promote their cause within the Hollywood system. (They are listed in reverse chronological order, so I suggested starting at the bottom and reading up). Of particular interest to me was the Ad they made after finding out about the letter writting campaign of a group of High School kids in New York who wrote 202,000 letters to various Hollywood big shots and got only two replies: one refusing delivery, and one from Julia Roberts’s people threatening legal action if they sent any more letters.