Later On

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

Archive for May 12th, 2014

What the US has done: Agent Orange division

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It makes for grim reading, but we (the US) did it. It’s a NY Times article with a video.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Military

Harvey Scarvey

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I just made a batch of Harvey Scarvey, relying on memory. I encountered it in an article (by MFK Fisher?) in the New Yorker in the early 70s, and it was said to be excellent with cold pork. I am cooking a pork roast with the intention of having leftover. The impetus to cook the pork was opening a jar of this mustard, which seems wonderful. (We already finished this one, which was indeed wonderful.)

Here’s the recipe as I made it this time. (If anyone has the archival New Yorker on hard drive, I would love to have the original. I doubt a search on “harvey scarvey” will find many hits.)

Harvey Scarvey

1 cup minced apple
1 cup minced onion
1 cup minced celery
2 Tbsp good extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
good pinch of salt
several grindings black pepper

Mix well, refrigerate until ready to use.

Edit: I’m wondering now about crushing one clove of garlic into it. I think I won’t this time, but I will give it a go at some point.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Seeing America’s Longest War Through Afghan Eyes

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An excerpt from the book No Good Men Among the Living: America, The Taliban and the War Through Afghan Eyes, by Anand Gopal:

The old man sat legs folded on the asphalt, facing a bullet-ridden building. Spread out before him were Colgate toothbrushes and colored plastic combs and glossy cigarette packs promising “American flavor.” The building was like a crumbling cave, with its collapsed roof, buckling support beams, and a yawning hole for a front door. He pointed to the structure. “There,” he said, “was once something glorious.”

He had lived in this sweltering city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, selling trinkets and toiletries for as long as he could remember—“before the Americans, before the Taliban, before the Russians,” he explained. In the 1970s, the building had served as the Helmand Cinema House, the only movie theater in all of southern Afghanistan. On a Friday afternoon, you could catch double features imported from around the world. One of the most popular was Laila Majnu, a Bollywood take on a classic Arab story of unrealized love. Qays, a farmer, falls hard for a girl named Laila, but her father forbids the marriage and she is given to another man. Despondent, Qays roams the desert for years, earning the sobriquet majnun, madman. Eventually, his body is found next to the grave of his beloved, his final ode to her written in the sand nearby.

The old man had gone back repeatedly, even though he didn’t understand most of the Hindi spoken, until he had the film memorized. He had grown up in a world segregated by gender, where marriages were arranged, and this was his first love story. “It gave us all hope,” he told me, “that we would find something special in our lives.”

But one afternoon in 1992, the mujahedeen arrived in town and shut down the theater forever. Later, they rocketed it for good measure. When the Taliban seized power, the building was converted into a state-run radio station. After 2001, under the American-backed regime, the place became an opium den. A whole generation grew up never having seen a film. But the old man still remembered, and he told anyone who would listen about the time when, for two hours a week, a madman and his lover were all that mattered.
The first years after 2001 were like a dream. Society had effectively been on hold for two decades, and now, with the war over, it was as if the very notion of public life had been unearthed from a time capsule. It was a new beginning, a Year Zero. Barbers were among the first to reemerge, unrolling their mats onto busy sidewalks; for a few pennies and a cup of tea you could shave your Taliban-mandated beard, shearing away the weight of the past. Music once again rang out through the streets, and Hollywood and Bollywood DVDs, once traded like samizdat, were selling openly in Kabul.

Millions of refugees returned after years away. Investment dollars poured in, as television stations and cell phone towers sprouted seemingly overnight. An influx of aid organizations formed part of the broadest international humanitarian initiative in history, and abandoned homes were repurposed into offices for gender experts and development specialists. One result of all the outside attention was the 2004 constitution, drafted with heavy Western input and hailed as one of the world’s most progressive. In addition to protecting basic civil liberties and minority rights, the document guaranteed women 25 percent of parliamentary seats (surpassing the proportion in the US Congress).

Yet I wondered if all this was enough to erase the memories of the Taliban past. What did it feel like to emerge from those brutal years? One afternoon in 2010 I met a woman, Heela, who would help me understand what the post-Taliban world really meant for civilians. At first, however, she hesitated to talk. “I don’t know anything about these wars,” she told me. “I’m just an ordinary woman.” So ordinary, in fact, that she seemed the very embodiment of Afghanistan—troubled, tried, resilient, and ultimately beholden to a foreign power. She appeared to typify exactly the sort of person the US invasion had saved, and I wondered if perhaps, in her newfound freedom, she would offer a glimpse of the best of American influence.

Heela, then thirty-seven, was the doyenne of a tiny clan of boys. Walid, the youngest, was a torrent of mischief; Omaid, the oldest, was a pensive teenager with lugubrious eyes. Between them were Nawid and Jamshed, both of whom had a penchant for skipping school and wandering far and wide, but who always came home in time for dinner. Heela lived a life of jangled nerves and frequent distractions; when speaking, she raced ahead breathlessly, hopscotching in her story from one place to another, zigzagging across time and space like some postmodern conversationalist. She stood taller than average, with a youthful smile and large, winter-gray eyes.

As with Mullah Cable and Jan Muhammad, I was interested in Heela’s experience in the new American-backed order. But to start her story with the US invasion would be like “watching a movie from the middle,” as she put it. In truth, Afghanistan’s real Year Zero was 1979, the year of the Soviet invasion, and nothing—not the Taliban, or the American invasion, or the trajectory of Heela’s life—makes much sense without first coming to terms with the Russian occupation and its aftermath.

In the veritable Afghan prehistory of peace and anonymity, the era before the Soviets, there lies a world lost and yet to be recovered. In 1972, the year that Heela was born to a family of journalists and professionals, Kabul was a quaint, relaxed mountain town. An important stop on the “hippie trail”—a well-trodden route for Western stoners and flower children often heading to India—the town had reinvented itself in a few short generations. A wave of progressive reforms had rippled through Afghanistan in the 1950s, resulting in a government decree that veiling was optional for women. In 1964, they were granted the franchise. Photographs from the era show besuited men accompanied by women in short skirts and beehive hairdos; there are movie theaters, broad paved roads, and tree-lined sidewalks.

Out in the heavily tribal Pashtun countryside, however, conservatism still reigned and women lived cloistered in their homes. The state was largely absent, and civil society nonexistent; politics worked through kinship and patronage, leaving clan leaders and landlords to run their own fiefdoms. If you managed to make it out to Kabul and attend university, you came away with a tantalizing taste of what your country could become, and a stark, unremitting sense of the inadequacies of the world you’d left behind. As with so many other developing nations of that era, this disjuncture spawned a crisis of modernity, and the disillusioned urban intelligentsia struggled to articulate a response. Two rival currents emerged: one embracing Communism, which looked to the Soviet Union and third-world liberation movements, and the other, Islamism, which took inspiration from the Muslim Brotherhood and related trends in the Arab world.

For many years these were merely undercurrents, but they rushed to the surface in the late 1970s. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Afghanistan War, Books

Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras Take on America’s Runaway Surveillance State

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Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras appear in The Nation:

On April 30, in a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, the Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation awarded their annual Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and filmmaker Laura Poitras. The bestselling author and journalist James Bamford, one of the world’s foremost authorities on the US intelligence community, presented the award to Snowden and Poitras, who were present by live video link. Here are excerpts from their remarks.

James Bamford: I’m very honored to be here to introduce two extraordinary people, Laura Poitras and Edward Snowden.

Many years ago when my first book about the NSA, The Puzzle Palace, was published, the joke was that “NSA” stood for “No Such Agency” or, for those on the inside, “Never Say Anything.” Recently I’ve heard from some of my deep-cover sources up at Fort Meade that the old joke has changed. “NSA,” they say, now stands for “Not Secret Anymore.” Having warned of the dangers of the NSA for the past three decades, I very much prefer the latest definition. And no one is more responsible for that than Edward Snowden and Laura Poitras.

I first met Laura several years ago in London. I had just returned to England after working on the defense team for Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower and a previous Ridenhour award winner. Laura told me the extraordinary story of how nearly every time she flew into or out of the United States—dozens and dozens of times—she was pulled aside by Homeland Security, searched, interrogated for hours and often had her electronic equipment seized.

Treated like a suspected terrorist, she was an even greater threat to the Bush and Obama administrations. Instead of a bomb, she carried a video camera and was producing an explosive trilogy of feature-length films documenting the country’s tragic post-9/11 descent into bloody wars, civil liberties abuses and mass surveillance. She had completed the first two—My Country, My Country, a compelling and courageous story about life for Iraqis under US occupation, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and The Oath, a moving account of two Yemeni men caught up in America’s “war on terror,” which won at Sundance. Now, she told me, she wanted to turn her focus to the third film, the one on NSA surveillance.

Then, in January 2013, she received an anonymous message: “I am a senior member of the intelligence community,” it said. “This won’t be a waste of your time.” Sent by Edward Snowden, it would be the understatement of the century.

Years earlier, Ed Snowden enlisted in the Army Reserve as a Special Forces recruit, broke both legs in a training accident, and later joined the CIA and then became a contractor at Dell and Booz Allen for the NSA. Soon the documents crossing his computer screen began to greatly trouble him. Rather than hunting for terrorists, the agency was hunting for virtually everyone, everywhere, all the time, and conducting dragnet surveillance, often with little regard for the law or the Constitution.

The NSA had become a runaway surveillance train. Without an emergency brake on the inside, Ed Snowden hoped to stop it the only way he could, on the outside, and thus passed the evidence to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. He knew that without the documents, the agency would simply make every effort to discredit the information, as they tried to do with previous NSA whistleblowers, including Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe and Tom Drake.

While I was in Rio, Glenn showed me a document that indicated just how close that train had come to what Frank Church had warned was “the abyss from which there is no return.” In a memorandum, Gen. Keith Alexander suggested going after not terrorists or criminals but “radicalizers,” including innocent Americans, by searching the Internet for their vulnerabilities, such as visits to porn sites. Then, by secretly leaking this information, the NSA could discredit them in the eyes of their followers. Nearly half a century earlier, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had the same idea. He used the same tactic against a radical of the day, Martin Luther King Jr., by secretly leaking to the press details of King’s sex life.

As someone who has watched that train heading for the abyss for a long time, I’m very thankful for Ed Snowden’s great courage and Laura Poitras’s great wisdom.

Laura Poitras: Thank you all so much. I’m deeply honored to receive this award by a man who exposed war crimes. I’d like to share this award with my beloved friend and colleague, Glenn Greenwald. Without Glenn’s courage and focus, I would not have been able to do this reporting. Nor would I’ve had as much fun in the past months, or been able to handle the amount of stress that we’ve been placed under. So this is also for Glenn.

I’m especially honored to receive this award with Ed Snowden. One year ago, last April, I received an anonymous e-mail from the source I’d been corresponding with for several months. And he wrote something that sent my heart racing and my head spinning. Until that day, I assumed that the source claiming to have evidence of massive NSA illegal surveillance intended to remain anonymous and that it would be my responsibility to protect his identity and to report on these disclosures.

In his e-mail, he patiently explained that I needed to change my expectations. He told me that I could not protect his identity and that he did not want me to. He said he intended to claim responsibility for his actions and that he would outline his motivations that led him to come forward and the dangers that he saw inside the agency. He simply asked one thing of me, which was to safely return this information to the American public so they could decide the kind of government that they wanted to live under.

Reading this e-mail a year ago today, I never imagined I’d be speaking here in this room. I have spent many years in war zones, and I have not experienced the kind of fear and intimidation that I have during my reporting on the NSA. So it’s wonderful to be here—although I can’t be there in person, given some of the experiences I’ve had with the US government in response to my reporting.

It’s wonderful to see the amount of support and encouragement for the reporting and the international response to the information that Ed has brought forward. At this point, the responsibility lies in the hands of citizens to move forward with this information.

Edward Snowden: I have to agree with Laura about at least one thing, which is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 2:43 pm

The court that created patent trolls is now screwing up copyright

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Some judges urgently need to get up to speed on technology. I wonder if an initiative to place technologically aware judges on the bench would work? Probably not: the GOP will simply block any judge nominated by Obama, generally speaking.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Technology

Perhaps why the GOP keeps cutting funding for scientific research

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Maybe they think it will do some good. (Note the correlation is quite high: 0.992082.)


Details here. And thanks to Mr. Beetner for pointing it out.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Science

Hospitals report significant benefits in states that expanded Medicare

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The GOP healthcare plan for years has been, “Go to the Emergency Room.” In fact, George W. Bush specifically stated in 2007:

Bush spent a fair amount of time talking about health care yesterday, as well.

“The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Kevin Drum pointed out at the time:

And as long as we’re on the subject, it’s worth noting that emergency rooms have only been required to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay since the 1986 passage of the EMTALA Act. The Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, unsurprisingly, did little to enforce it. Bill Clinton tried to step up enforcement in 1994, but in 2003, after Bush Jr. became president, he approved new rules that loosened EMTALA regulations. And of course Republicans routinely complain about EMTALA to this day, calling it a “hidden tax” on the insured and railing against the fact that it doesn’t allow hospitals to dump illegal immigrants with heart attacks in the gutter. Long story short, the GOP is not exactly a stronghold of support for emergency room care for the poor. Bush might want to keep that in mind.

And now look what’s happening. Kevin Drum has a post on how hospitals in states that expanded Medicare under the ACA have seen big drops in uninsured admissions and also increases in Medicare patients—and, of course, with health insurance many of the formerly uninsured can now just go see a physician instead of going to a hospital. His post is well worth reading, and in closing he notes:

This is why hospitals support Medicaid expansion so strongly. Medicaid may not pay a lot, but on average it pays a lot better than uninsured patients. A drop of around 30 percent in uninsured admissions is a big win for the patients, but it’s also a big win for the hospitals.

Normally, of course, that would be enough to gain Republican support all by itself, but not in the world of Obamacare. The fact that Medicaid expansion benefits the poor, benefits hospitals, probably benefits state finances, and is all but free to participating states—well, it’s just not enough. Demonstrating their tribal opposition to all things Obama is far more important.

I don’t really have a good understanding of how group loyalty can override obvious facts and evidence can be ignored. Perhaps I’m just not a group-loyal person.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Government, Healthcare

Travel kit

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I will be away for three days next week—and no blogging, since I’m not taking my computer with me. One of the lessons I learned in software development is that it’s good to do things as early as possible (for example, if I had a big report due in two months, I would work on a tentative outline the day I learned of the assignment, and start writing what I could and gathering the information I lacked in the first week).

So I’m packing now. Here’s the shave kit I’ll take:

Travel kit

The Mühle travel brush is the best travel brush I’ve found; the knot stores in the base, and a large opening helps it dry. (You can get a variety of knots for it, including synthetic and silvertip badger.) The shaving soap is quite good and was selected because of the compact container. Three aftershaves from Hardy Shave Products because I’ll be away three days. (I do like variety.) And for the razor, since I’ll be using carry-on this trip, the Gillette Guard, a single-blade cartridge razor I got some time back to test as a shaving option. Because of the handle, I prefer this to the Bic disposable single-blade razor, that handle being the diameter and strength of a plastic soda straw. The Guard isn’t bad, though I did note that I was unable to control blade angle (because of the usual cartridge pivot).

It’s perhaps worth noting that, while 8 Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Cartridges cost $32.50 on Amazon, 8 Gillette Guard cartridges are $4.00, less than 1/8th the price. Of course, the Guard cartridge will probably not last the 5 weeks Gillette claims for its multiblade cartridges, but then the multiblade cartridges don’t seem to last that long, either.

For more packing tips, including a few new to me, check out this post on Cool Tools today. Some very good ideas there.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 9:22 am

Posted in Shaving

Tagged with

The Three Faces of Drone War

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Pratap Chatterjee has an interesting post at

Enemies, innocent victims, and soldiers have always made up the three faces of war. With war growing more distant, with drones capable of performing on the battlefield while their “pilots” remain thousands of miles away, two of those faces have, however, faded into the background in recent years. Today, we are left with just the reassuring “face” of the terrorist enemy, killed clinically by remote control while we go about our lives, apparently without any “collateral damage” or danger to our soldiers. Now, however, that may slowly be changing, bringing the true face of the drone campaigns Washington has pursued since 9/11 into far greater focus.

Imagine if those drone wars going on in Pakistan and Yemen (as well as the United States) had a human face all the time, so that we could understand what it was like to live constantly, in and out of those distant battle zones, with the specter of death. In addition to images of the “al-Qaeda” operatives who the White House wants us to believe are the sole targets of its drone campaigns, we would regularly see photos of innocent victims of drone attacks gathered by human rights groups from their relatives and neighbors. And what about the third group — the military personnel whose lives revolve around killing fields so far away — whose stories, in these years of Washington’s drone assassination campaigns, we’ve just about never heard?

After all, soldiers no longer set sail on ships to journey to distant battlefields for months at a time. Instead, every day, thousands of men and women sign onto their computers at desks on military bases in the continental United States and abroad where they spend hours glued to screens watching the daily lives of people often on the other side of the planet. Occasionally, they get an order from Washington to push a button and vaporize their subjects. It sounds just like — and the comparison has been made often enough — a video game, which can be switched off at the end of a shift, after which those pilots return home to families and everyday life.

And if you believed what little we normally see of them — what, that is, the Air Force has let us see (the CIA part of the drone program being off-limits to news reporting) — that would indeed seem to be the straightforward story of life for our drone warriors. Take Rene Lopez, who in shots of a recent homecoming welcome at Fort Gordon in Georgia appears to be a doting father. Photographed for the local papers on his return from a tour in Afghanistan, the young soldier is seen holding and kissing his infant daughter dressed in a bright pink top. He smiles with delight as the wide-eyed child tries on his military hat.

From an online profile posted to LinkedIn by Lopez last year, we learn that the clean-cut U.S. Army signals intelligence specialist claims to be an actor in the drone war in addition to being a proud parent. To be specific, he says he has been working in the dark arts of hunting and killing “high value targets” using a National Security Agency (NSA) tool known as Gilgamesh.

That tool is named after a ruthless Sumerian king who ruled over Uruk, an ancient city in what is now Iraq. With the help of the massive trove of NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill recently explained that Gilgamesh is the code name for a special device mounted on a Predator drone that can track the mobile phones of individuals without their knowledge by pretending to be a cell phone tower.

Lopez’s resumé yields more details on what Gilgamesh is capable of. The profile writer claims that he “supervised a team of four personnel supporting the lead targeting force in Laghman and Nuristan provinces [in Afghanistan]. Assisted top-level commanders with developing concepts, approaches, and strategies to Capture/Kill HVTs [high value targets].”

Last year, on completing his time in the military, Lopez says he took a civilian job operating Gilgamesh for Mission Essential, an intelligence contractor providing technical support for Pentagon drones. For that company, he says he conducted “pattern of life analysis” and provided support for “targeting and strike operations.” Lopez lives in Grovetown, Georgia, home to a joint Army-NSA code-breaking and language translation operation, involving 4,000 personnel that, since 9/11, has taken the lead in analyzing real-time data feeds from Central Asia and the Middle East.

Gilgamesh is just one of several NSA tools used on drones to track targeted cell phones. Another program, Shenanigans, was designed specifically for use by the Central Intelligence Agency. According to other documents leaked by Snowden, an operation code-named Victorydance used these tools in March 2012 to map every computer, router, and mobile device in Yemen.

What do men like Lopez actually think about the sort of human destruction, not to speak of the destabilization of whole regions, that Gilgamesh and its like help to unleash? In his online job pitch, Lopez indicates straightforward pride in his work: “My efforts, both as a contractor and in the military, yielded success in identifying, locating, and tracking high value targets, and protection of U.S. and coalition forces.” It would be easy enough to assume that the kind of analytical work such remote pilots do would result in a sense of job satisfaction and little more. And that, it turns out, would be a mistake.

Haunted by Death

In recent months, the first evidence that drones are not only killing thousands in distant lands, but also creating an unexpected kind of blowback among the pilots themselves, provides a curious parallel to the Epic of Gilgamesh, the 5,000-year-old poem about the Sumerian king. In the ancient saga, the gods are said to have sent Enkidu to befriend the cruel king and divert him from the oppression of his subjects. When the pair travel together to slay a monster named Humbaba, Gilgamesh begins to have nightmares about death and war, causing him to question their plan.

Today, like Gilgamesh of old, signals intelligence personnel connected to the drone programs have started reporting themselves haunted by the deaths that they have participated in, and plagued by the knowledge that, in the end, they often had next to no idea who they were actually killing. The publicity about a “kill list” in the White House has left the impression that those who find themselves on the other end of a drone-launched missile have been carefully identified and are known to the drone pilots. “People get hung up that there’s a targeted list of people,” one drone pilot told the Intercept two months ago. His view, however, was quite different: “It’s really like we’re targeting a cell phone. We’re not going after people — we’re going after their phones, in the hopes that the person on the other end of that missile is the bad guy.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 9:07 am

Posted in NSA, Obama administration

Tagged with

The economics of legalized marijuana

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Interesting article in Dollars & Sense by Dan Schneider:

In November 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington state made historic decisions to legalize marijuana for recreational sale and use, flying in the face of anti-pot moralists, drug warriors, and a century’s worth of prohibitionist policy. At the start of this year, these policies began to take effect, with pot shops opening for business for the first time on this side of the Atlantic.

Once thought to be a mere pipe dream, legalization now seems like an inevitability; at the time of this writing, no fewer than eleven states are considering some form of legislation to allow marijuana to be sold over the counter, and at least a dozen others are considering decriminalization or medical-marijuana measures. Tired of federal foot-dragging, states as disparate as Alaska, New Mexico, and Vermont are cautiously weighing the potential benefits of legalization, persuaded not only by abstract arguments about individual liberty but also by hopes of pumping money into their economies. Meanwhile, advocates have been quick to promote marijuana as just the medicine states need to fill their coffers, create new jobs, and cut costs by keeping nonviolent drug offenders out of jail (see sidebar, “The Drug War: Wasting Lives and Dollars,&rdquo).

But what would the economic impact of widespread legalization be? There are dozens of factors to consider, particularly on the revenue side of the equation: How many people will be consuming marijuana, and how much? What states stand to benefit most from growing it? Will big business take over its production and sale, or will it remain in the hands of independent growers and dealers? And how large, in dollar terms, might this whole sector end up?

It seems like high time for a little lesson in pot economics.

Out of the Shadows

Because marijuana is currently grown, distributed, and sold almost entirely on the black market and is used largely out of the public eye, assessing the value of the national market for marijuana (including imports and non-recreational uses, such as hemp fiber) is tricky. The trade journal Medical Marijuana Business Daily currently estimates that a fully legalized cannabis market could be as large as $46 billion per year, while more conservative observers peg it at anywhere between $10 billion and $40 billion.

There are about 7.6 million frequent marijuana smokers in the United States, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Nearly 23.9 million Americans use the drug semi-regularly. Marijuana is sold widely on the black market, and is readily available on street corners, in bars and nightclubs, and in high-school hallways (as 80% of students reported to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2012). Except for the relatively small number of people who have purchased medical marijuana through licensed dispensaries, the vast majority of these users buy their weed on this black market—either directly from dealers or from friends with access to a dealer.

In a world where marijuana is legal to buy and possess, this would not likely be the case for long. . .

Continue reading.

The article also includes this interesting sidebar that indicates why legalization is important: because making the drug illegal was an utter failure.

The Drug War: Wasting Lives and Dollars

At the end of 2011, there were over seven million inmates, parolees, and probationers under supervision by the U.S. corrections system—more than anywhere else on earth. Over 1.5 million of them were put into the system for drug offenses, with marijuana the most common drug represented. That same year, 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related crimes.

The federal government spends billions of dollars each year enforcing increasingly unpopular drug laws, including $3.4 billion for marijuana alone in 2008, according to the conservative Cato Institute. Not to be outdone, the states spend over $3.5 billion, to fail at eradicating marijuana growth, distribution, and especially use.

The result? The creation of millions of unnecessary “criminals,” the vast majority of whom are people of color. Despite the fact that white and black people use marijuana at approximately the same rates, a black person living in the United States is four times more likely to be arrested for simple marijuana possession than a white person. At every stage after that, the criminal justice system is structured in such a way that people of color and low-income people will face harsher penalties than their white or wealthy counterparts.

The human cost of marijuana prohibition—and the War on Drugs in general—is a critical element of drug policy reform, although outside the scope of this article. For some essential reading on the subject, consider Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Doug Fine’s Too High to Fail, or Jeffrey A. Miron’s Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition. Through their research and activism, these writers continue to reveal truths about the failures of prohibition that numbers alone simply cannot.

The jury is still out on what the ultimate financial impact of legalization would be, but in the past few years a growing body of research has explored the possible contours of a new marijuana economy. This, combined with some publicly available data and the wisdom of a few folks who have watched the legalization movement grow over the last 40 years, can give us a good sense of how the plant might (or might not) live up to its proponents’ expectations.

It’s really a very informative article, and I encourage you to read it. Another interesting sidebar:

Prohibition’s End and the Demand Question

Prohibitionists have long held that marijuana legalization would cause rates of recreational use to skyrocket. While the source of this claim is likely rooted more in fear than solid research, it’s worth examining in order to better understand what the market for legal marijuana would look like if it became fully legal.

First, it’s important to remember that marijuana use has not receded under prohibition, just as alcohol use barely receded during the 1920s. On the contrary, the practice merely receded out of the public eye, into private residences and illegal speakeasies. As Will Rogers once said, “Prohibition is better than no liquor at all.”

After Prohibition was repealed in 1933, alcohol consumption did not rise as pro-temperance activists claimed, but remained largely steady. In 1991 and 1999, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron described in papers for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) how “prohibition had virtually no effect on alcohol consumption” nor on its strongest correlate for heavy users, cirrhosis death rates.

While it’s impossible to predict in advance what the effects of legalization will be on marijuana-usage rates 20 years from now, many in the burgeoning marijuana industry believe that it will be approximately the same for marijuana as it was for alcohol. Some have held that legalization will lead to a brief increase in rates of usage, but as the novelty wears off that brief spike will recede. In researching the efficacy of Colorado’s new cannabis tax, economists at Colorado State University took it for granted that, with legalization, there will be a balancing convergence of those “inclined to consume larger quantities because it is now legal” and “those who lose interest in marijuana now that the ‘forbidden fruit’ aspect” is removed.

I’ve noticed that fears stated as facts is much more common than is good for us—not just regarding marijuana but on all sorts of political questions. For example, some on the Right have said that offering unemployment benefits will result in people not looking for work, as clear an example of stating a fear as a fact as one could hope for.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 7:49 am

Posted in Business, Drug laws

The Fatip Grande on a two-day stubble: Smooth, easy, effective

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SOTD 12 May 2014

Wonderful shave. I ordered the Fatip Grande from and it arrived in Saturday’s mail, so this is my first chance to use it.

Prep first, of course: I used the Jlocke98 mix (though lately I’ve been using MR GLO occasioinally—I do like that soap), the worked up a fine lather from HTGAM’s Meta-Nectar shaving soap, a very nice shaving soap indeed despite small-diameter puck—well, it’s a regular-diameter puck, but I’ve reset my internal puck-size assumption after using HTGAM’s 5″ pucks and now the 5″ size seems like the regular size.

The Omega R&B Commemorative brush is just wonderful now. You face a bakelite-slant-like situation: when this run is gone, it will probably be gone for good, so I suggest you get one if the $29 price is acceptable. Especially get it if you’ve not tried a boar brush: you don’t know what you’re missing. Give it a week to break in—or make a series of practice lathers. (I have a Semogue Owner’s Club brush that I am breaking in now: I make a lather each morning with it, and this week it will make its Later On debut.)  Each shave, wet the knot well under the hot-water tap before you shower, and the brush will be ready when your shower’s done.

I loaded the Fatip Grande with a Super Max Titanium blade. The cap is set back somewhat (or is somewhat narrow), so a lot of the blade is exposed, which doesn’t mean anything one way or the other, though it might look intimidating. But blade exposure is not so important as blade gap, angle, setback from the guard, and so. The part of the blade exposed by the Fatip cap is present in other razors where the cap covers it: whether exposed or not is really irrelevant.

The workmanship, fit, and finish seemed to be of very good quality, and the razor has a nice feel in the hand. I do love a fluted handle, so bonus points for that. That handle treatment is less common than I would like.

The razor also has a nice feel on the face. Unlike the Joris and Mühle R41 open combs, the Fatip is comfortable and non-threatening, and it is also very efficient. I have a BBS result with no nicks or burn, the shave being helped by the two-day stubble—I don’t understand why a multi-day stubble seems to make for a better shave, but then I don’t understand why the same blade can be perceived as excellent by one shaver and horrible by another.

Three passes to perfect smoothness, then a splash of Pinaud Coachman, a gift from a blog reader. It’s a wonderful fragrance—very old-time-y and barbershop-y, and I like it a lot. In fact, I’m moving it out to make more frequent use of it. A younger man may not like it because of the old-fashioned aspect, but it certainly seems suitable for me.

Really a great shave, and I’m very happy with the Fatip Grande and wish I had bought one earlier.

Written by Leisureguy

12 May 2014 at 7:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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