Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gateway Drug? Not really.

Gateway to Nowhere? The evidence that pot doesn't lead to heroin.

I never saw much of a connection -- other than risk-taking -- between the two myself. One is a cigarette type thing, eminently familiar, the other, a Big Scary Honking Needle, And You Don't Know Where It's Been.

The federal government's last National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted in 2004, counted about 97 million Americans who have tried marijuana, compared to 3 million who have tried heroin (166,000 had used it in the previous month). That's not much of a rush through the gateway. And a number of studies have demonstrated that your chances of becoming an addict are higher if addiction runs in your family, or if heroin is readily available in your community, or if you're a risk-taker. These factors can account for the total number of heroin addicts, which could make the gateway theory superfluous.


Prehistoric humans roamed the world's largest desert for some 5,000 years, archaeologists have revealed.

...far from the inhospitable climate of today, the area was once semi-humid.

Between about 14,000 and 13,000 years ago, the area was very dry. But a drastic switch in environmental conditions some 10,500 years ago brought rain and monsoon-like conditions.

Nomadic human settlers moved in from the south, taking up residence beside rivers and lakes. They were hunter-gatherers at first, living off plants and wild game.

Eventually they became more settled, domesticating cattle for the first time, and making intricate pottery.


Humid conditions prevailed until about 6,000 years ago, when the Sahara abruptly dried out. There was then a gradual exodus of people to the Nile Valley and other parts of the African continent.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Gender Difference? Try "Discrimination".

Transgender Experience Led Stanford Scientist To Critique Gender Difference

I agree with Dr. Barres about the optimism thing. The scientific method is supposed to be objective and unbiased, so of course scientists tend to believe we're pure-intellect merit-based untouched-by-emotional-biases, etc., because we're educated to believe that's the way we're supposed to be in the field, and we want to believe in ourselves as having achieved that behavior. We're just blind to our faults, as humans tend to be.

Responsibility, Accountability, Democracy -- I'd love some, please

Bad Legal Advice For Bush

Now that Congress has been forced by the Supreme Court to partake in the separation of powers on the issues that Mr. Yoo cites — and others arising from this decision — I wonder (though may never find out) how the president feels about how his place in history has been marred by the advice of Messrs. Yoo, Addington, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Bybee, Flanigan and Haynes — these names should be remembered. Mr. Bush, clearly and deeply committed to protecting national security, has been crucially misled by his advisers, as have many other Americans.

I have two remarks to make:

1. The Bush Administration is headed by a fratboy incapable of taking responsibility for any action. Hell, when he falls off his mountain bike, he probably kicks it and says "stupid bicycle" under his breath. This attitude has permeated the Executive Branch.

2. This blame-the-counsellors approach is a very interesting one, and one quite evocative of a different ruler: a king. I had the good fortune to take a history class this past spring semester, on the development of human rights law. I found it quite eye-opening. One of the first things we read was the following:

Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom;

By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament; [Emphasis added.]

That's the English Bill of Rights, from 1689. I had it pointed out to me by my professor at the time that this was/is par for the course in such documents' treatment of a monarch. Hands-off blaming the king directly, blame the counsellors instead.

And so, I think to myself, when George Washington became President of these United States, and settled on the simple, non-monarchical, "Mr. President" as the appropriate honorific for his position, one that refused to emulate the ways of European courts, oh, how things have changed, subtly and otherwise, from those days to today. Today we can read articles that both treat George Bush as though he were king, blaming the failings of his Administration on the advice of "evil counsellors, judges and ministers", and from a more modern perspective, perpetuating the Culture of Buck-Passing in constantly seeking excuses for those failings of the Bush Administration. They are, it seems, always Somebody Else's Fault.

Monday, July 17, 2006

This isn't about partisanship

This is about the fundamental structure of American government.

The Real Agenda NY Times. Worth registering to read.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Once, we were the city on the hill. Now, this:

When Torture Isn't Good Enough

This is what America stands for in the 21st Century: the torture of innocent children to make their fathers confess.