Archive for June 1st, 2007
A letter from the Marijuana Policy Projects:
Yesterday, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas (R) let MPP’s medical marijuana improvement bill become law without his signature. The new law will take effect on July 1. You can read news coverage here.
Vermont’s existing law — which MPP was responsible for enacting in 2004 — is the most restrictive of the medical marijuana laws in 12 states, because only patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, or multiple sclerosis have been able to qualify to use medical marijuana. Under the new law, however, patients suffering from nausea, wasting, chronic pain, or seizures will be permitted to use medical marijuana.
The new Vermont law will also increase the number of plants patients and caregivers are allowed to grow. Currently, patients in Vermont can grow only three plants; the new law allows patients to grow nine plants.
Additionally, the new law reduces the annual application fee for patients from $100 to $50. And it will also allow doctors in New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire to recommend medical marijuana for their Vermont patients.
In sum, Vermont’s medical marijuana law will now be in line with the medical marijuana laws in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington.
This year’s lobbying campaign in Vermont cost MPP less than $30,000 and will protect nearly 1,000 Vermont patients from arrest over the next couple of years. Please donate to MPP today to help pay for our success.
From a political perspective, the big news here is that the expansion of Vermont’s law was not big news in Vermont. Three years ago, when we enacted the original medical marijuana law, we had to spend nearly $500,000 over the course of three years to enact that law, we had to strong-arm certain House committee members in order to push the legislation onto the House floor, there were impassioned pleas from both sides of the debate on the House and Senate floors, news coverage about our legislation was ubiquitous, and we even had to run TV ads to pressure the governor not to veto the bill.
This time around, the Vermont House and Senate passed the bill by simple voice votes, and the bill didn’t produce controversial columns in Vermont newspapers or impassioned speeches by state legislators. In fact, when we tried to generate news coverage, several reporters told us they wouldn’t be writing stories because — in their judgment — the success of our legislation wasn’t even newsworthy!
I regard this as good “news.”
There are still quite a few state legislatures in session, so I hope you’ll consider giving to MPP today to support our efforts to change additional state laws — through both epic battles and quiet successes. Thank you for your support.
That’s the title of a good article, and it’s also a good question. Aristotle said that all men by nature desire to know, but I think he’d be surprised by 21st-century America where, it seems, many men (and women) desire not to know. What’s up with that? The article begins:
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE RESIST SCIENCE?
It is no secret that many American adults reject some scientific ideas. In a 2005 Pew Trust poll, for instance, 42% of respondents said that they believed that humans and other animals have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. A substantial minority of Americans, then, deny that evolution has even taken place, making them more radical than “Intelligent Design” theorists, who deny only that natural selection can explain complex design. But evolution is not the only domain in which people reject science: Many believe in the efficacy of unproven medical interventions, the mystical nature of out-of-body experiences, the existence of supernatural entities such as ghosts and fairies, and the legitimacy of astrology, ESP, and divination.
There are two common assumptions about the nature of this resistance. First, it is often assumed to be a particularly American problem, explained in terms of the strong religious beliefs of many American citizens and the anti-science leanings of the dominant political party. Second, the problem is often characterized as the result of insufficient exposure to the relevant scientific facts, and hence is best addressed with improved science education.
We believe that these assumptions, while not completely false, reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of this phenomenon. While cultural factors are plainly relevant, American adults’ resistance to scientific ideas reflects universal facts about what children know and how children learn. If this is right, then resistance to science cannot be simply addressed through more education; something different is needed.
What children know
The main source of resistance to scientific ideas concerns what children know prior to their exposure to science. The last several decades of developmental psychology has made it abundantly clear that humans do not start off as “blank slates.” Rather, even one year-olds possess a rich understanding of both the physical world (a “naïve physics”) and the social world (a “naïve psychology”). Babies know that objects are solid, that they persist over time even when they are out of sight, that they fall to the ground if unsupported, and that they do not move unless acted upon. They also understand that people move autonomously in response to social and physical events, that they act and react in accord with their goals, and that they respond with appropriate emotions to different situations.
These intuitions give children a head start when it comes to understanding and learning about objects and people. But these intuitions also sometimes clash with scientific discoveries about the nature of the world, making certain scientific facts difficult to learn. As Susan Carey once put it, the problem with teaching science to children is “not what the student lacks, but what the student has, namely alternative conceptual frameworks for understanding the phenomena covered by the theories we are trying to teach.”
Children’s belief that unsupported objects fall downwards, for instance, makes it difficult for them to see the world as a sphere — if it were a sphere, the people and things on the other side should fall off. It is not until about eight or nine years of age that children demonstrate a coherent understanding of a spherical Earth, and younger children often distort the scientific understanding in systematic ways. Some deny that people can live all over the Earth’s surface, and, when asked to draw the Earth or model it with clay, some children depict it as a sphere with a flattened top or as a hollow sphere that people live inside.
In some cases, there is such resistance to science education that it never entirely sticks, and foundational biases persist into adulthood. A classic study by Michael McCloskey and his colleagues tested college undergraduates’ intuitions about basic physical motions, such as the path that a ball will take when released from a curved tube. Many of the undergraduates retained a common-sense Aristotelian theory of object motion; they predicted that the ball would….
Valerie Plame Wilson sued the CIA yesterday “over its refusal to allow her to publish a memoir that would discuss how long she had worked for the agency.” The CIA contends that her dates of service “remain classified” and that Plame’s publication of such details in her upcoming book “could have serious ramifications” for national security.
The CIA itself, however, has previously publicly and voluntarily disclosed the very information in question. In February 2006, the CIA sent an letter to Wilson that was subsequently entered into the public domain when it was published in the Congressional Record. The letter, though supposedly classified, remains available online from government websites today.
Plame’s suit argues that the CIA cannot unfairly target her as the only person who is not allowed to publish this information:
“Defendants cannot unring the bell by asserting that their documented, authorized and voluntary disclosure was just a mistake,” the suit said.
“There simply is no basis for the CIA to maintain in effect that Valerie Plame is the only person in the world who is not entitled to publish this information,” it said.
As author David Wise explains, “there are, apparently, good secrets and bad secrets, and it may depend in part on who’s telling them.” While the Wilsons are being censored, Wise notes that vocal advocates of Bush’s policies, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former CIA Director George Tenet, “have discovered that selling their secrets to the public between hard covers can reap big bucks.” For them, he adds, “It’s a slam dunk.”
The White House yesterday showed that it still knows how to play the American press like a harp.
President Bush yesterday put forth a new proposal on climate change that is most newsworthy for its attempt to muddy the debate about the issue and derail European and U.N. plans for strict caps on emissions. Bush’s proposal calls for a new round of international meetings that would nearly outlast his presidency. The purpose of the meetings would not be to set caps on emissions, but to establish what the White House — uncorking a bold new euphemism — calls “aspirational goals.”
But a change in rhetoric was enough to generate some headlines about the administration’s attention to the issue: Bush Proposes Goals on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, reads the New York Times headline. Bush Proposes Talks on Warming, says The Washington Post’s front page. Bush offers to take climate lead, proclaims the Los Angeles Times.
For a more pointed view of Bush’s statement, let’s travel across the Atlantic, where the style of journalism is less constrained than in the States.
Rupert Cornwell, writing in the Independent, described it like this: “In a last ditch — and almost certainly unsuccessful — bid to fend off international criticism of his climate change policies, President George Bush has called on 15 of the world’s biggest polluting countries, including China and India, to agree on a target for reducing greenhouse gasses by the end of 2008. . . .
“Mr Bush’s vague promise yesterday to work with other countries for ‘a new framework for greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012’ will do nothing to satisfy critics.
“The American plan places its faith in free-market mechanisms and technology to solve the problem. . . . Under his scheme, individual countries would establish ‘midterm management targets and programmes that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs’.
“But for critics, Mr Bush’s proposals were simply more of the same — a transparent attempt to create the impression that the US was not dragging its heels.”
Cornwell then launches into a heroic attempt to explain what Bush really meant:
“From the President’s speech in Washington yesterday:
“‘In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it.’
“Translation: In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll ratings. So now I have to look interested.
“‘The United States takes this issue seriously.’
“Translation: Al Gore takes this issue seriously, his movie was a hit, and it’s causing me no end of grief.
“‘By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases.’
“Translation: By the end of next year, I’ll be weeks away from the end of my presidency and this can be someone else’s problem.
“‘To develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce the most greenhouse gasses, including nations with rapidly growing economies such as India and China.’
“Translation: We will look as busy as we can without doing anything.
“‘The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany.’
“Translation: The new initiative will put the brakes on the much more robust proposal the Germans are putting forward. As long as dialogue continues, we won’t have to abide by any decisions.”
Glenn Greenwald does a good job of eviscerating the childish, simple-minded, and despicable arguments the GOP advances for more torture.
Several people have asked about getting an autographed copy of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving. I hadn’t really thought about that, but Saint Charles Sue pointed out the best way to do it: I order the book, autograph it, and send it on to the person who requested it, and they pay me. The upshot is that there is only one postage charge additional for the autograph. (Autograph itself is free, natch.) Plus there’s less bother, less shipping, etc. So it works out like this:
Autographed copy of book:
$11.95 for book + $5.52 Priority mail from Lulu to me + $4.60 Priority mail to you:
If you’re interested email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks. (Father’s Day is coming up! )