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Archive for July 24th, 2010

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Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 2:42 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving


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From an interesting Greenwald column:

UPDATE:  As several commenters noted, this is the same Kyra Phillips responsible for one of the more disgusting television moments of the last decade.  In April, 2003, she interviewed the doctor treating Ali Abbas, a 12-year-old Iraqi boy who had just lost 15 relatives, including his father, pregnant mother and three siblings, as well as both of his arms, in an errant American missile strike on the Baghdad suburb where he lived.  While this child had burns all over his body, some of them infected, putting him in constant pain, Phillips asked his doctor this question:

Doctor, does he understand why this war took place? Has he talked about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the meaning? Does he understand it?

As Joan Walsh put it at the time:  Phillips asked this "question" after the doctor explained that Ali said he hopes no other "children in the war will suffer like what he suffered"; "Phillips seemed shocked by Ali’s apparent inability to understand we were only trying to help him."  Walsh wrote that the boy’s physician had "to explain [to Phillips] that the doctors were more interested in treating the boy than indoctrinating him:  ‘Actually, we don’t discuss this issue with him because he is — the burn cases, and the type of injury, he’s in very bad psychological trauma’." 

I have no doubt that Kyra "Operation Iraqi Freedom" Phillips would be eager to explain to you how she — unlike those hordes of wretched, anonymous, partisan Internet bloggers — is an Objective Journalist who doesn’t allow any opinions to infect her "reporting."  Of course, since the opinions she expresses are the Right Ones, she — unlike Octavia Nasr — still has a job on CNN, crusading for High Journalistic Standards.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

Obama offers some solid comment on John Boehner’s "jobs plan"

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Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

AIDS Conference Calls for Ending the War on Drugs

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More calls from sensible, smart professionals to end the  stupid, unproductive, and highly destructive war on drugs:

At the recent XVII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria, more than 20,000 professionals who work in the HIV field issued a declaration calling for an end to the war on drugs and the development of an evidence-based and treatment-focused policy for dealing with drug use and abuse.

The declaration says, "The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences."

Decades of research provide a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of the global "War on Drugs" and, as thousands of individuals gather in Vienna at the XVIII International AIDS Conference, the international scientific community calls for an acknowledgement of the limits and harms of drug prohibition, and for drug policy reform to remove barriers to effective HIV prevention, treatment and care.

The evidence that law enforcement has failed to prevent the availability of illegal drugs, in communities where there is demand, is now unambiguous. Over the last several decades, national and international drug surveillance systems have demonstrated a general pattern of falling drug prices and increasing drug purity–despite massive investments in drug law enforcement.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that increasing the ferocity of law enforcement meaningfully reduces the prevalence of drug use.5 The data also clearly demonstrate that the number of countries in which people inject illegal drugs is growing, with women and children becoming increasingly affected. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa, injection drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV. In some areas where HIV is spreading most rapidly, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, HIV prevalence can be as high as 70% among people who inject drugs, and in some areas more than 80% of all HIV cases are among this group.

In the context of overwhelming evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to achieve its stated objectives, it is important that its harmful consequences be acknowledged and addressed.

Hear, hear. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of thousands of police officers, judges and prosecutors, agrees.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 1:04 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Medical

Mark Kleiman on California Prop. 19 (Legalizing cannabis)

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Mark Kleiman has written extensively on drug policy. In his blog this morning:

As I’ve pointed out, Prop. 19, the California marijuana-legalization initiative, is nonsense: it can’t do what it purports to do, because a state can’t tax and regulate a federal felony. But I’ll probably vote for it anyway, as long as I’m sure it won’t pass. Voting “No” means providing material assistance to the drug warriors – people like Louis R. (Skip) Miller, the chairman of DARE America – and their relentless disinformation campaign.

The latest example is Miller’s op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News. It’s not really worth a detailed Fisking, so I’ll offer a sample and leave the rest as an exercise for the reader:

As the chairman of DARE America, the nation’s top drug abuse prevention/education program…

Accurate, if by “top” y0u mean “most successfully promoted.” But in addition to its ethical flexibility in the use of facts, DARE has an unbroken record of negative evaluations:  no one has ever produced anything like scientifically respectable evidence that DARE succeeds in reducing drug use among its subjects, as opposed to inculcating drug-war attitudes.

Marijuana is associated with physical and mental illness, poor motor performance and cognitive impairment.

1.  Association is not causation.

2. Light use does not have the same effects as heavy use.

3. There’s no demonstration that the poor motor performance and cognitive impairment outlast the intoxication. NIDA has been searching for forty years for evidence of persistent cognitive deficits, so far without success.

One of the most pernicious effects of marijuana is that it lowers inhibitions, making users engage in risky behavior — including excessive alcohol consumption and use of harder drugs.

Fascinating assertion, backed by precisely zero evidence.

Reading this sort of argumentation – characteristic of the pro-drug-war side of the drug policy debate – gives me a strong urge to Just Say No to the people who make it.

Like it or not, in November California voters are either going to vindicate the dishonest strategy of Prop. 19′s backers – falsely promising to help resolve California’s fiscal crisis as bait for legalization – or ratify the nonsense still being preached on the other side. Since we’re currently spending loads of public money to peddle Skip Miller’s nonsense to tens of millions of schoolchildren with tax dollars, and since prohibition is currently the law of the land, I think I will give rebuking the drug warriors priority over rebuking the legalizers: assuming the polls still show the proposition losing. Having the damned thing actually pass is not a risk worth running.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 10:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Ecstasy as a treatment of PTSD

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Interesting post by Mark Kleiman:

The first published results for MDMA-assisted therapy in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress disorder are now in, and they’re eye-opening.

It’s only a 20-patient pilot study, and MDMA functions as an adjunct to therapy, not as a pure pharmacological agent such as an SSRI or an anti-psychotic, raising the question about whether the results would generalize to other therapists.

Still, in a patient group with a median of 19 years of treatment-refractory post-traumatic stress disorder, getting 10 out of 12 of them to the point where they no longer meet diagnostic criteria constitutes an unprecedented success rate. Given the PTSD burden from Iraq and Afghanistan, this research – long blocked due to prejudice against MDMA (the active agent in street “ecstasy”) – now deserves a move to the front burner. It shouldn’t need to rely on private contributions, and it should be free of petty bureaucratic harassment and foot-dragging.

It should also be free of the hypervigilance of Institutional Review Boards. The notion that someone needs to be in a hospital for 24 hours after a single controlled dose of MDMA is flat-out absurd. And there’s simply no evidence of neurotoxic effects at the dosages and frequencies involved.

And from the comments to his post:

The full paper (PDF) is available.

And also this comment by Ed Whitney:

MDMA is off-patent, and therefore there is no incentive for Big Pharma to fund a study, especially for a drug that will be administered only a few times, and not daily for life. Whether there are implications for the adequacy of “the free marketplace” alone to create innovations is left as a debating point.

BTW, I did look at all the changes to the protocol that were posted on the website for this trial, but did not see anything relating to changes in inclusion criteria. They are still a mystery to me.

On NPR’s “Fresh Air” program recently, the guest was a psychiatrist who was lamenting the fact that only a small number of psychiatrists today are even offering psychotherapy to their patients. This too has some bearing on the problem at hand. Psychiatry has become a discipline of medication management. Sad but true, but a psychiatrist who can see four patients an hour is more “productive” than a psychiatrist who can see only one.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 10:45 am

More musings on the end of the world as we know it

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It’s clear that in this session of Congress nothing will be done (again) to combat global warming, whose effects are more evident than ever. Indeed, I strongly suspect that a substantial number wealthy and powerful people are even now trying to figure out how to survive—and perhaps how to become even more wealthy and powerful—when the effects grow ever more pernicious. I have alluded to the multiple crises (and, likely, wars) as a result of crop failures and famines: we can’t expect our crops to do well as the climate changes drastically and rainfall patterns shift. A new Dust Bowl in the Midwest, for example, could create a crisis.

I note this article, "The Rush to Hedge Against Black Swan Events," in Bloomberg Businessweek. With no serious efforts to stop global warming (and I suspect that we’re within a few years—a decade at most—of the time at which it will be too late for our efforts to have any effect), the smart money is doubtless expecting quite a few previously rare calamities. Indeed, we are seeing record temperatures this summer around the world.

Jonah Lehrer has a very interesting article in Wired on the science of stress. The article has not yet been posted, but you can see here some extracts from it. The effects of stress on human health and the immune system are quite interesting===and severe. This indicates to me that, in the years ahead as crops fail and other resources (freshwater, oil) become scarce, we can expect not only wars but also extremely high levels of stress, day in and day out, which will compound the survivors’ problems.

It’s not a pretty picture, but so far as I can tell we are heading straight for it, thanks to a poisonous combination of greed (the oil and gas industry, for example) and ignorance (James Inhofe and his ilk). I doubt that we can turn aside in time—certainly no sign of it so far.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 10:40 am

Tres Claveles and Lenthéric

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The Tres Claveles brush made a good lather from the Lenthéric shaving soap—and on Monday, I’ll try with a badger brush to compare. The third pass was a little sparse, but this is only the second use of the brush.

In the event, the Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade in the Executive is still quite sharpedged and I got a very smooth three-pass shave. A splash of New York, and I’m reading for the Saturday outing.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2010 at 10:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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