Archive for September 2010
In looking at it purely as an educational experience, it is exhilaratingly effective: I know the overall succession of the English rulers (only through the Restoration, darn it—I certainly hope Series 3 will soon become available) in a “solid” way: able to move through it backward and forward, some feeling for the personalities and issues, and so on: the knowledge has emotional overtones and memories of scenes, persons, and music. I feel as though I will not only remember the knowledge thus gained, it also gives me a framework for further knowledge acquisition. Indeed, I am now eager to read some English history since as I read whatever it is, I’ll have a sense of context and more or less know where I am, historically. And now I can get on with the Shakespeare Project by beginning with the Histories, some of which are now luminous with possibility.
And how do they accomplish this? They use costume, actors, action, and music to tune in the emotional part of the learning experience and get it involved—this provides the oomph to drive it into long-term memory, in scientific terms. Then, as you watch the scenes and action, Dr. David Starkey’s stentorian tones are driving the facts deep into the prepared brain: when you remember the scene, you remember the facts he was reciting—you don’t quite hear the voice, but clearly that was the basis for the remembered facts, but which (in the process of our brain and its mechanisms) have now acquired the “roundness” of a solid connection via multiple pathways, including emotion and sense-memory.
a. Make sure that all students get to see this early and often—maybe watching it every couple of years?
b. Speak up to demand similar “overview” series that give the viewer a basic framework of knowledge in other areas: science, for example, or mathematics, or painting…
Check out the series yourself to see what I mean.
UPDATE: BTW, I didn’t notice the depth of recall of the material I enjoyed until I started to explain why Queen Mary was called “Bloody Mary” and that whole story, beginning with Henry VIII’s will assigning the successive heirs… oops, I’m off again. But once you learn it this way, it all hangs together, rather than being disjoint facts.
UPDATE 2: Also, after viewing the series so far, I have a much better grasp of the appeal of a constitutional monarchy.
Once again the DA is able to get a conviction only by ensuring that the jury didn’t have the full story. What ever happened to "the truth, THE WHOLE TRUTH, and nothing but the truth"? Phillip Smith reports:
The second time was the charm for anti-medical marijuana San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. Last year, she failed to convict San Diego medical marijuana dispensary operator Jovan Jackson on distribution charges. But on Tuesday, after Dumanis convinced the trial judge to not allow Jackson to mention medical marijuana in his defense, a state court jury found him guilty of three counts of marijuana possession and distribution.
Jackson’s attorney announced Wednesday that he will appeal the decision. It is about time for a state appellate court to clear up some of the confusion around the state’s medical marijuana Compassionate Use Act, said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML.
"The verdict doesn’t surprise me since they rigged the trial," said Gieringer. "It will be appealed, and it’s probably a good appellate case. I think it’s time for an appellate court decision on all this, or a new law to clarify the legality of marijuana distribution. Until we change the law, we have to rely on the courts."
"By refusing him a defense, the district attorney and the court have railroaded Jackson and ensured his conviction," said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) chief counsel Joe Elford, who submitted an amicus brief in support of Jackson prior to his trial. "Jackson was denied a fair trial," Elford continued. "His conviction and the basis on which the court relied in refusing him a defense — that sales are illegal under state law — should absolutely be appealed."
Jackson was the operator of the Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, a San Diego medical marijuana dispensary. He was arrested in 2008 in one of Dumanis’ anti-medical marijuana raids, but was acquitted last December. He was arrested again during a series of raids in September 2009, and this time, Dumanis was able to convince Judge Howard Shore to not allow Jackson to mention medical marijuana in his defense.
"After the embarrassment of losing the first trial against Jovan Jackson, District Attorney Dumanis was desperate for a conviction," said Eugene Davidovich, head of the San Diego ASA chapter, and another dispensary operator whom Dumanis prosecuted but failed to convict. "Jackson should not have been denied a defense and should not be used as a scapegoat for the district attorney’s misguided position that medical marijuana sales are illegal."
"We believe the basis on which the judge refused to allow the medical marijuana defense is flawed," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "It had to do with an interpretation of the medical marijuana program act that is based on the collective and cooperative cultivation statute only allowing distribution, not sales. If anyone had half a brain, they would see that it exempts collectives and co-ops from prosecution for a variety of charges, including sales. That was the basis of our amicus brief filed before the trial, but apparently never considered by Judge Shore."
"The DA down there is on a crusade to somehow convict people of medical marijuana," said Gieringer. "She’s hoping she can score a victory in court on this. The law is certainly vague, and that has given her lots of opportunities, but until now, she had struck out on her jury trials, although she did get a bunch of defendants to plead guilty on minor charges."
"To be fair, as aggressive and mean-spirited as Dumanis has been, she is part of a culture in San Diego that has a sordid history of hostility around these issues," said Hermes.
The pattern of hostility can be seen in the county Board of Supervisors’ failed 2006 lawsuit to avoid having to implement the state medical marijuana ID card program, and in continued aggressive action against dispensaries in the area. In 2007 and 2008, during the Bush administration, there were more than 50 raids against dispensaries. Most recently, Dumanis worked with the Obama administration to conduct 20 raids on dispensaries in San Diego on September 9, 2009, which resulted in the failed prosecution of Davidovich and the successful second prosecution of Jackson.
But as hostile as San Diego has been to medical marijuana, things are changing. Both the San Diego City Council and the county Board of Supervisors are now developing medical marijuana distribution ordinances that would regulate the very activity for which Jackson was convicted. In June, a San Diego grand jury issued recommendations calling on local governments to implement the state medical marijuana law. In particular, the grand jury called for the city and county to develop a "program for the licensing, regulation and periodic inspection of authorized collectives and cooperatives distributing medical marijuana."
The second time may have been the charm for Dumanis in the Jovan Jackson case, but if local governments act to implement the state’s medical marijuana law, it may well be the last hurrah for her anti-medical marijuana crusade.
In a blistering op-ed last Wednesday in Spain’s most important newspaper, El País, the country’s former drug czar, Araceli Manjón-Cabeza, called for an end to drug prohibition. Manjòn-Cabeza’s call for legalization comes just a week after former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González also called for drug legalization.
Manjón-Cabeza is the former director general of Spain’s National Drug Plan, a former judge in the criminal chamber of the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s equivalent of the Supreme Court, and is currently professor of criminal law at Complutense University in Madrid.
"Prohibitionism, installed in the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century, and imposed by that country on the rest of the planet, has failed," Manjòn-Cabeza wrote. "There are multiple law enforcement and public health reasons that recommend legalization."
Citing a list of pro-legalization luminaries ranging from economist Milton Friedman to novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, author Paulo Coehlo, and Latin American ex-presidents Henrique Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo, and Cesar Gaviria, and the 17,000 people who have signed the Vienna Declaration calling for science- and evidence-based drug policies, Manjón-Cabeza argues that the bloodshed in Mexico as "the clearest proof" of the futility of drug prohibition.
"Mexico provides the clearest, but not the only, proof of the failure and unbearable costs of continuing [drug prohibition]," she wrote. "Since 2006, President Calderon’s war on drugs has provoked two wars — one unleashed among the drug traffickers and one by the state against organized crime — and 30,000 dead (900 were minors under age 17)."
While drug use might go up temporarily under legalization, that must be weighed against other "beneficial effects," she wrote: "Quality control for the substances, which would prevent the ills associated with consumption of illegal poisons that exist today; reductions in price, which would drastically reduce the indices of drug-induced delinquency; delivering consumers from especially unhealthy and dangerous markets, in order to lead them to a legal and controlled market."
But there is more, Manjón-Cabeza wrote: "It would deprive organized crime of its favorite and most profitable activity, deprive it of part of its ability to corrupt public and private wills and infiltrate the licit economy, it would dispense with the legal exceptionality demanded by the persecution and repression of the drug trade, which, at times, brings us to the limit of what the state of law is able to support; it would make vanish the pretext of the United States that an effective struggle against the drug trade justifies its intervention in the affairs of other countries punished by that whip."
Many so-called "drug problems" are really the "children of prohibition," Manjón-Cabeza wrote. The US’s prohibitionist crusade beginning a century ago was not inspired by public health concerns, but by "racist motives… economic motives… political motives," including "finding one of the pretexts — others have been communism and Islamic terrorism — to legitimize the intervention of a great power in the evolution of other countries."
She ends her op-ed, "Launching whatever legalizing option inspires vertigo, overthrowing prohibition won’t be easy, but maintaining global drug prohibition is madness."
One more voice in the growing anti-prohibitionist chorus. And a highly respected one at that.
Ending drug prohibition would be a net plus to taxpayers of roughly $88 billion a year, according to a new report from Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron and coauthor Katherine Waldock. That’s the conclusion of The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition, released Monday by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute.
The savings come in two forms: reduced criminal justice expenditures and increased tax revenues from the sale of legalized drugs.
According to Miron, drug legalization would save about $41.3 billion a year in enforcement costs. About $15.6 billion in savings would accrue to the federal government, while the states would see a savings of about $25.7 million.
Legalizing marijuana alone would net $8.7 billion a year in reduced law enforcement spending and increased taxes. Legalizing other currently illicit drugs would net another $32.6 billion.
Miron and Waldock estimate that drug legalization would generate about $46.7 billion in taxes, assuming that legal drugs were taxed at rates similar to those of alcohol and tobacco. Marijuana taxes would generate $8.7 billion in revenue annually, while taxing drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine would generate $38.0 billion a year.
The report contains data on all 50 states, as well as the federal level. That makes it useful not only as an analytical tool, but also gives it the possibility of being picked up by local media around the country since media outlets everywhere can take the local angle.
In an era when Washington is drowning in debt and politicians in state houses around the country are struggling to balance budgets, this report couldn’t be more timely.
There is lots in the queue about different observations of Islam in different parts of the world, about America from afar, and all the rest.
For the moment, a notable speech yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly from Najib Tun Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, about the need for members and leaders of the world’s major faiths to censure and reject their own extremists and jointly support a "movement of moderates." … E.g.:
>>The real issue is not between Muslims and non-Muslims but between the moderates and extremists of all religions, be it Islam, Christianity or Judaism. Across all religions we have inadvertently allowed the ugly voices of the periphery to drown out the many voices of reason and common sense. I therefore urge us to embark on building a "Global Movement of the Moderates" from all faiths who are committed to work together to combat and marginalize extremists who have held the world hostage with their bigotry and bias. We must, and I repeat, we must urgently reclaim the centre and the moral high ground that has been usurped from us. We must choose moderation over extremism. We must choose negotiations over confrontation. We must choose to work together and not against each other. And we must give this effort utmost priority for time is not on our side.<<
And this conclusion to the speech:
>>It is time for moderates of all countries, of all religions to take back the centre, to reclaim the agenda for peace and pragmatism, and to marginalise the extremists. This "Global Movement of the Moderates" will save us from sinking into the abyss of despair and depravation. This is an opportunity for us to provide the much needed leadership to bring hope and restore dignity for all. With greater will and collective determination, we will build a more peaceful, secure and equitable world.<<
OK, it’s just another UN speech; talk is cheap; and so on. The significant point is: Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country. Over the decades, PM Najib’s predecessors would sometimes have crafted such a speech to emphasize the Zionist menace or Western hegemonism as trumping all other threats. This prime minister took a different approach. The next time someone asks, Why is there no Muslim voice of moderation? you can say: Well, here’s one.
After the jump, an additional quote, and some Malaysia-specific info. Congrats to the Malaysian leadership…
Good post from Dan Colman at Open Culture:
Although he died when he was only 53 years old, Philip K. Dick published 44 novels and 121 short stories during his lifetime and solidified his position as arguably the most literary of science fiction writers. His novel Ubik appears on TIME magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels, and Dick is the only science fiction writer to get honored in the prestigious Library of America series, a kind of pantheon of American literature. If you’re not intimately familiar with his novels, then you assuredly know major films based on Dick’s work – Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report. Today, we bring you “A Day In The Afterlife,” a 1994 BBC documentary that revisits Dick’s life (troubled at times) and his sprawling body of literary work. The doc runs an excellent 57 minutes, and I should mention that three Philip K. Dick works appear in our collection of Free Audio Books, all thanks to Librivox.
Forget about bifocals, progressives, trifocals: how about adjusting the lens for the distance you’re looking at so the entire field is in focus?
Michael Totty reports for the Wall Street Journal:
For many people past the age of 40, focusing on close objects—restaurant menus, for instance—just gets harder and harder.
Most people with this condition, called presbyopia, eventually give in and get reading glasses, bifocals or glasses with progressive lenses.
But what if there were another alternative that didn’t require people to carry an extra set of glasses or have only part of their field of vision in focus at any one time?
Zoom Focus Eyewear LLC, of Van Nuys, Calif., has just such an option, and with it won this year’s Silver Innovation Award. The solution: eyeglasses, called TruFocals, that the wearer can manually adjust to give clear, undistorted vision whether reading a book, working on a computer or looking into the distance.
The judges praised the potential large-scale benefit of TruFocals. Richard S. Lang, one of the judges and a physician at the Cleveland Clinic, called the technology a paradigm shift in the way it addresses a problem “that has been handled the same way for many years.”
For more than 100 years, researchers have tried to come up with adjustable eyeglasses; a Baltimore inventor filed a patent on the idea in 1866. But a workable product that’s easy to adjust, thin, lightweight and accurate proved elusive.
For the Wall Street Journal‘s 10th annual Tech Innovation Awards, Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute received the Gold award for its technology to make paper-thin computer screens with a twist. The company beat out nearly 600 entries for its top ranking, along with Silver-award-winner Zoom Focus and Bronze-winner Counsyl of Silicon Valley.
Stephen Kurtin, a California inventor who previously devised one of the first word-processing programs, turned to the problem in the early 1990s. His solution, TruFocal eyeglasses, mimic the way that the lens of the human eye stretches and contracts to adjust focus.
Each TruFocal lens is actually…
You’re going to want to be sitting down for this one. And don’t drink anything while reading it or you’ll ruin your monitor and keyboard. This is the terminally ridiculous Bill Donohue of the Catholic League taking his self-delusions out for a stroll:
No institution, religious or secular, has less of a problem with the issue of sexual abuse today than the Catholic Church.
Done laughing yet? He continues:
Indeed, if Lopez wants to be cutting edge, he would do a skit on all the molesters in the public schools who are protected by state law from just punishment.
What the hell is he talking about? I have no doubt that there are public school teachers and coaches who are molesting children; any job where one is a position of authority over children is going to attract pedophiles and ephebophiles.
But in a public school setting, the law is quite explicit — anyone in any position of authority, from teachers to administrators to counselors, who has reason to believe that a child is being molested is legally obligated to report that information to the police. I don’t know of a single example of a school superintendent finding out that a teacher or coach is molesting a child and then moving that person to another school where they can find fresh victims rather than reporting them to the police. If there is such a case, they are violating the law and would be put in prison if they’re caught.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has covered up for hundreds of child molesters for decades, moving them from parish to parish so they can victimize more children. The current pope explicitly ordered the church leaders not to turn molesting priests over to the police and ordered them to handle the matter internally. The bishops and cardinals who covered all this up are still in positions of authority in the church, not one of them having been held responsible for being an accessory to child rape.
Donohue is living in a fantasy world.
The problem is that businesses are willing to pay for favorable legislation while citizens generally are not (and don’t have the money, either). So as Congress becomes steadily more corrupt and money-oriented, I suspect there will be more and more legislation to favor businesses and the wealthy/powerful. Matthew Lasar at Ars Technica:
Everybody is waiting for House Commerce Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) to release his legislative proposal for new open Internet rules, but the press has been all over the issue, and the leaked version (as per the Tech Daily Dose) goes as follows:
- ISPs will be forbidden to "unjustly or unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful traffic over a consumer’s wireline broadband Internet access service."
- The Federal Communications Commission will been given no new rulemaking authorities regarding ISPs, but will be able to enforce this language on a "case-by-case" basis.
- Violators of the provision could face penalties as high as $2 million per judgment.
- The legislation, as the language above suggests, will not apply to wireless broadband.
- The FCC will be forbidden to classify ISPs as common carriers.
- The Commission will have until the last day of this year to issue a report to Congress regarding more powers the agency might need to protect Internet consumers.
Does this language sound familiar? It should. It bears a very strong resemblance to the Google/Verizon "compromise" net neutrality proposal released to great dismay and/or acclaim in early August. The "case-by-case," two million bucks, and no further authority provisions are right out of that playbook.
We asked the FCC whether the agency’s latest net neutrality proposal, which would subject ISPs to some common carrier provisions, is still in the game.
"All options remain on the table," came the official reply. The problem is that "the table" is starting to shrink when it comes to open Internet enforcement—something along the lines of a small TV dinner tray, if that. And whatever entrees still sit upon on its surface at this point won’t be taken up at the FCC’s next Open Commission meeting, scheduled for Thursday October 14.
This is my last post here at Washington Babylon and I’ll be leaving my position as Harper’s Washington Editor (I will remain as a contributing editor to the magazine). I’ve received a fellowship at the Open Society Institute and will also be leading special investigations at Global Witness, which has offices in London and in Washington. My work for both will focus on long-term international investigations.
I moved to Washington in 1993, when a young, new Democratic president replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress and with public opinion squarely in his corner, he had the opportunity to shake things up and change American politics. Instead, he and his party squandered their chance through timidity, weak leadership, a lack of any original ideas and their refusal to confront special interest groups.
Here we are seventeen years later and there’s a young, new Democratic president who replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress….
Well, by now you can probably guess where this is heading.
A while back I posted about computer flashcards, and this morning I learned of a new app in that line, very simple and very clean: ComputerFlashcards.com. The author, Robert Meyer, notes:
If you do make a set of flashcards, I would really appreciate your comments about the user interface. I’m the only one building and maintaining the site, but I plan to incorporate user feedback to make it this the easiest website for making flashcards.
So that’s your challenge: make a set of flashcards and give Robert some feedback on how you like the process and the site.
Just in time for rainy weekends this fall! From Dan Colman at Open Culture:
Give Jim Henson 15 minutes of your time, and the father of the Muppets will teach you how to make your own puppets, using nothing other than household items – socks, potatoes, tacks, tennis balls, rubber bands, wooden spoons, and the rest. This primer originally aired on Iowa Public Television back in 1969, not long before Henson joined a fledgling TV production, Sesame Street, where he helped create the most famous puppets of our generation: Oscar, Ernie, Kermit, Bert, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and the rest. Though recorded 40+ years ago, the advice is simple and timeless. The man knows whereof he speaks…
An old-timey shave. I now know the exact year (well, two-year span: 1946-47) of my Gillette Aristocrat, thanks to this fascinating post that provides a brief history of the Aristocrat line of razors. My razor has end guards and an unnotched center bar, which determine the date range, and it shaves perfectly (for me, that is—different shavers might find it doesn’t work for them: the weirdness of individual differences). This is the very razor shown on the cover of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving.
And Yardley of London shaving soap, no longer made, was a supreme brand during my childhood. This bowl still produces a rich, fine lather, today with the Plisson HMW 12. The Aristocrat did its usual superb job, today with a used but still sharp Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge. Finally, a splash of Pinaud Clubman, another old-time favorite, finishes the shave and leaves me smelling like a cleaned-up grandpa.