Sunday, July 31, 2005

Rant: An Analogy Of Life & Sport

I don't know whether this analogy completely holds, but I think it Illustrates something the Left doesn't seem to understand.

Life in many ways is like sport. It's governed by a set of rules or customs that define the proper conduct for the game. If youattempt to break these rules and fail to get away with it, you'll find yourself prevented from playing. In life, we call this jail. Games are also engaged in competitively, just like life. In both sports and life, we find ourselves honoring achievement and striving to become better. Inequality is regarded as natural and those who claim victory are held in the highest regard. The problem begins when the losers blame the winners for their failure. They attempt to change the rules or customs of the game to makeit more difficult for some. Imagine a soccer game with one team having 8 players the other 11 or one team having no goal keeper. This iswhat modern societies do to those who are most successful. It's hard to see a tax rate that increases the more you earn as anything else. It's about time people learnt the simple truth that life is about the pursuit of excellence and those who treat life otherwise should know why they find themselves in their dismal position. It's not due to lack of better trainer or you're opponent being endowedwith superior genetics but you're lack of determination and will. The solution lies in an ethic of self-responsibility and having a understanding that if you don't compete you'll just get passed by.

Andrew Bernstein at Cap Mag praises Lance Armstrongs Heroism As a Moral Inspiration

"Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game" - Donald Trump

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration" - Thomas Edison

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle

Quotes: Words of Wisdom

Some of my favourite quotes:

H.L.Mencken:

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule

The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.

Winston Churchill:

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

It is a socialist idea that making profits is a vice; I consider the real vice is making losses.

You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves

Few other good ones:

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. – Barry Goldwater

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. – Ronald Reagan

It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money. – P.J. O'Rourke

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. - Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Music: Billy Corgan

I don't know others tastes in music, but as far as modern rock artists go, there is no better than Billy Corgan (lead singer/songwriter of the Smashing Pumpkins). Sunday's concert was great, with the highlights being an extended solo of the Bee Gee's "To Love Somebody" and AC/DC's "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock'N'Roll). He finished up the concert with a little speech on the state of modern rock. His basic complaint was how the recording industry pushes for formulaic music thus artists keep putting out unoriginal music. Image also matters, as their lives become the focus of the media. A good example is the reformed Gun's N Roses with Axl Rose that hasn't produced anything in over a decade but still tours the world making millions.
Neil Peart of Rush summed up the situation well in 1980's Spirit of the Radio:
All this machinery
Making modern music
Can still be open-hearted
Not so coldly charted
It’s really just a question
Of your honesty
One likes to believe
In the freedom of music
But glittering prizes
And endless compromises
Shatter the illusion
Of integrity
For the words of the profits
Are written on the studio wall,
Concert hall ---
Echoes with the sounds...
Of salesmen.

Rolling Stone has a rather critical review of his new album here.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Drug Falsehoods: An Example

Last night I sat down at 8.30pm and watched some of TV3's INSIDE NEW ZEALAND: HIGH TIMES. What interested me is that the documentary made a number of claims that didn't sit right with me. An example:
They made the claim that marijuana today is 7 times as potent as it was in 1970. This claim is often made by drug warriors, and is used to convince adults that marijuana is much worse today than it was in their day. As U.S. Drug Czar John P. Walters says:
"Parents are often unaware that today's marijuana is different from that of a generation ago, with potency levels 10 to 20 times stronger than the marijuana with which they were familiar."
(The Myth of 'Harmless' Marijuana, Washington Post, May 1, 2002)
But the claim is a lie. From Erowid:

average potency has remained essentially unchanged since the early 1980s according to the government-funded Potency Monitoring Project (PMP) at the University of Mississippi

I realise that advancments in technology (e.g. hydroponics, plant cloning and sophisticated lighting systems) allows more potent weed to be grown. But I highly doubt it has increased as much as they claim, and even if it has we must remember than since "the primary health risk of marijuana comes from smoking, higher potency products can be less dangerous because they allow people to achieve the desired effect by inhaling less. "
Data from sites varies, with some saying in 1970 THC potency was 4% and others (US drug enforcement adminstration) claiming less than 1%. This site appears to be credible (relies upon Journal of Forensic Sciences for example) and u can see that going from 1.23% to 5.81% thc is not a 7x increase.



Thursday, July 21, 2005

Duh

Professor David Fergusson, director of the 27-year-long Christchurch Health and Development Study, who studies the effects of cannabis use, said the bill was a pragmatic response to the fact that 80 per cent of New Zealanders had used cannabis on at least one occasion by age 25.
"The frequency with which it's being used makes it unrealistic to continue with prohibition," he said. Read more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Drugs

So the Greens have announced a new cannabis policy, which they believe will have a realistic chance of being passed. I highly doubt that. In other news, some famous New Zealand (I won't name them, but lets say they're on TV a lot) sporting heros were caught dealing and buying. Below is an opinion piece I wrote a few days ago in response to an argument/discussion I had. Note: It is not specifically addressed to our drug policy but drug prohibition in general.

As the coming election looms I am once again witness to the spectacle of drug warriors hurling a barrage of falsehoods, inaccuracies, blatant exaggerations, and the typical sophism you would expect, at those who highlight the problems inherent in our drug policy. The status quo has been responsible for the spread of drugs into schools, over 20,000 marijuana offences resulting in over 13,000 convictions, 250,000 precious police hours, and worst of all: the creation of a black market that fosters crime and erodes our civil liberties. The recent suicide of an American man, Steve McWilliams, who was facing years in prison after the seizure of medical marijuana (which alleviated his chronic pain), is yet another testament to our futile policy. But none of this has ever concerned the drug warriors. They’re determination to continue down the same road as before increases, as if success awaits them after decades of failure. As some wise authors noted a while ago, there is something very special about illicit drugs. If they don't always make the drug user behave irrationally, they certainly cause many non-users to behave that way.
The law of unintended consequences is most apparent to those who can look past the benevolent intentions of simple-minded do-gooders. Drug prohibition has promoted crime by creating an illicit drug industry that relies upon never ending demand. This demand, which is the true source of problem, has created a $320US billion world wide industry. Forced by law to be criminals, drug peddlers often sell such poor quality drugs that even a would-be $2 shop of drugs wouldn’t go near them. These exuberantly priced drugs are what some men rob, even murder, for. The profit entices the gangsters and the corrupt police. All of this is compared unfavorably with a situation where drugs are cheap & safe and out of the hands of those who are most dangerous.
In hysteria, drug warriors retort that under legalization, use would spiral and we would find ourselves in a much worse situation. They ignored facts like the UK having higher rates of cannabis abuse than the Netherlands, home to Amsterdam, the city of legal cannabis. That America has the highest use of marijuana in the world with the most punitive drug laws should tell you something about the failure of deterrence. The evidence that the impact of prohibition on society far outweighs the costs resulting from drug abuse is too obvious to ignore. The American experiment in alcohol prohibition demonstrated that as murder rates rose throughout prohibition and subsequently decreased for 11 consecutive years following the abolition of prohibition. What greater cost exists than the lives of citizens?
Support for drug legalization is far wider than the public would believe. Studies and publications like the moderate Drug War Heresies often conclude criminal drug prohibition does more harm than good. Instapundit, a law professor and owner of the world’s most popular blog, noted recently that “Compared to the damage done by a few befuddled potheads, the Drug War with its militarization of law enforcement, bloated and corrupt bureaucracy, and gradual erosion of constitutional protections against search and seizure, and even speech, has been a national disaster. The benefits, if any, have been tiny”. Other well-known political writers like Christopher Hitchens , Andrew Sullivan have spoken in favour of drug legalization as have multiple Nobel prize winners (among them peace laureate Rigoberta Menchu, author Gabriel García Márquez, economist Milton Friedman). Recently in New Zealand there was the Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Tour which featured a former US judge, a former undercover narcotics cop and the former head of Scotland Yard's drug squad. Together with others who have seen the horror of the drug war they have brought attention to the damage done by the war on drugs.
Perhaps the greatest clue that drug prohibition is wrong is expressed through the everyday lives of citizens worldwide. Politicians like Helen Clark get it wrong when they define mainstream kiwis (or “ordinary blokes”) as “all decent, law-abiding, hardworking Kiwis”. They forget most Kiwi’s break the law (they must go along with the libertarian dictum – if that is the law, then the law is an ass) whether it be speeding or drug use. 43% of males aged 18 to 24 years have used marijuana in the preceding 12 months. This makes a large amount of New Zealand males non-mainstream. What is more absurd about this situation is how ordinary New Zealanders tolerate the infringement on their liberties like a timed scared boy running away from the school bullies. New Zealanders continue to vote for the parties that support criminalization of an act that they themselves have engaged in. This means ordinary New Zealanders are either hypocritical individuals who practice one form of morality for themselves and demand others follow another standard or they hold an indifference towards morality and assume guilt for doing something that they are told is wrong. Either way, ordinary citizens risk punishment because they chose it. This election year New Zealanders can end this insane situation where they’re private behavior contradicts their personal beliefs.
When Clem Simich, National’s Minister of Police in 1998, began making moves towards decriminalization of marijuana he was widely opposed by politicians. They did so because they knew – rightly – that ordinary New Zealanders were behind them. This year let them know otherwise.