Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 2010

Education: Example

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I just finished watching the BBC miniseries Monarchy (Series 1 and Series 2), available on Netflix Watch Instantly and highly recommended.

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.

So:

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.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Education

Legal Medical Marijuana Distributor Convicted of… Marijuana Distribution?!?

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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.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 12:07 pm

Little-acknowledged risks of traditional wetshaving

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Check out this conversation between a traditional wetshaver and his significant other. (Videos they’re discussing are here.)

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Video

Former Spanish Drug Czar Says Legalize Drugs

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Phillip Smith reports:

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.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 11:46 am

End Drug Prohibition, Save $88 Billion a Year, Report Says

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Phillip Smith reports:

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.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 11:43 am

A "Global Movement of Moderates": Speech of a Muslim Prime Minister

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James Fallows, blogging at The Atlantic:

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…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 11:39 am

Good Greenwald columns

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2010 at 10:58 am

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