Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

What Pete said.

"Bong Hits 4 Jesus" is a very sticky meme.

It will be interesting, and revealing, to see what the Supremes do in this case.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Then and Now


I wonder where Tony Auth was about four years ago when this version of his cartoon should have been published?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cliff Kincaid is full of shit

This guy Cliff Kincaid is, at best, overly self-assured.
But the dangers associated with marijuana go far beyond mental confusion and acting like a buffoon. It destroys a person’s productive capacity and can help make people either wards of the state, unable to take care of themselves, or criminals.
Oh, no!! Not only that, but Richard Allen Davis murdered Polly Klass while he was high!

Cliff Kincaid is full of shit.

Along with the Independent, maybe Cliff ought to read from the Guardian across the street:
Alcohol is ranked almost as harmful as heroin in a controversial new drug classification system proposed by a team of leading scientists. ...

Cannabis, recently downgraded to class C, occupies a middle position. It is rated more dangerous than Ecstasy, LSD and the dance floor drug GHB, but less harmful than tobacco [and much less harmful than alcohol].

The table, published in The Lancet medical journal, was drawn up by a team of highly respected scientists led by Professor David Nutt, from the University of Bristol, and Professor Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council.
Cliff should have read the Forbes piece:
Heroin and cocaine were ranked most dangerous, followed by barbiturates and street methadone. Alcohol was the fifth-most harmful drug and tobacco the ninth most harmful. Cannabis came in 11th, and near the bottom of the list was Ecstasy.
Hey Cliff, since you're such a conservative, I bet you support the Court's decision approving Interstate Commerce Clause application in the Raich case (about legal medical marijuana, "commerce" involving no money, and "interstate" crossing no state lines). You must think civil forfeiture is the best thing since flush toilets. As a good conservative, you must think $60B down the drain, every year, is a good use of your tax money.

I think I'll stop before I type something impolite.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Optimistic Pessimism or Pessimistic Optimism?

Iraqis: life is getting better
The survey of more than 5,000 Iraqis found the majority optimistic despite their suffering in sectarian violence since the American-led invasion four years ago this week.
Pessimism 'growing among Iraqis'
A new survey paints a pessimistic picture of Iraqis' confidence in their own government and in coalition forces.
Oh. OK.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Voting for Catholics

Catholic politicians get strict orders from pope - International Herald Tribune
BOLOGNA: Pope Benedict XVI strongly reasserted Tuesday the church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage, saying that Catholic politicians were "especially" obligated to defend the church's stance in their public duties.

"These values are non-negotiable," the pope wrote in a 130-page "apostolic exhortation" issued in Rome, forming a distillation of opinion from a worldwide meeting of bishops at the Vatican in 2005.

"Consequently, Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce laws inspired by values grounded in human nature."

So, if a politician is a good Catholic, he's got to vote against three positions I hold:
  • that gay and lesbian people are people entitled to all the rights I enjoy
  • that euthanasia can be the most humane option in certain circumstances
  • that every woman has the right of abortion
If the politician is not a good Catholic, why is he or she a Catholic at all? Such a person ought to bolt the Church in favor of another. The Unitarians would let them enjoy the sorts of social benefits attributed to churchgoing while indulging particular spiritual needs.

I happen to think the honest politician would acknowledge his or her non-theism, politically suicidal though it might be (I'm pretty sure many, maybe most, US politicians are closet non-theists).

"Non-negotiable". Right.

Friday, March 09, 2007

BBC NEWS | Africa | Morocco's war on cannabis

BBC NEWS | Africa | Morocco's war on cannabis

The Moroccan government says it plans to completely eradicate cannabis by 2008.
And I will be elected President of the United States that very same year! Imagine that.

The UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] says the biggest challenge is finding other ways farmers like Mohammed can survive.

"There have been lots of past attempts to find alternative crops, but they haven't always worked, because cannabis is a crop that commands such an inflated price," explained Abdeslam Dahmane from development agency Targa which works closely with the UNODC.

"There have been attempts at introducing apples, vines and things like that but they haven't really addressed the problem.

"It's not a question of replacing cannabis with apples, vines or avocados. The question is replacing the incredibly dynamic economy of cannabis, with an equally dynamic economy - that is also legal."
Alternative crops "haven't always worked", eh? Alternative crops "haven't really addressed the problem"?

Alternative crops haven't "addressed the problem"? What is the problem, anyway? What's the problem really? It starts with a "P". Come on, UNODC, you can do it if you try. Just say it. Come on...

Ah... I give up.

One more time, UNODC, you're almost there: "It's not a question of replacing cannabis with apples, vines or avocados. The question is replacing the incredibly dynamic economy of cannabis, with an equally dynamic economy - that is also legal."

"... that is also legal." Come on, you're so close! Say it! "P". "R". "O". "H". ...

Damn! They're either stubborn or corrupt.

OK, once more: "... the incredibly dynamic economy of cannabis". Please! Just try. Think about it. Why is there an "incredibly dynamic economy of cannabis"?

Try! "P". "R". ...

Khalid Zerouali from the Moroccan Interior Ministry says Europe's seemingly insatiable demand for cannabis is still the main obstacle to eradicating it completely.
No shit, Sherlock.

"I think in Europe there has to be an awareness of how to tackle that demand."
Please, exactly what awareness is that? Police the crap out of them? Seal their borders? Spread the incredibly powerful meme of "Just say no"?

It is thought that the urgency with which they are now acting stems from international pressure to address the drug problem.

Some intelligence experts believe the militant group which bombed trains in Madrid in 2004 was largely funded by cannabis trafficking.

And why were they able to be largely funded by cannabis trafficking (assuming, as unlikely as it may be, that such is not just a bunch of drug warrior bullshit)? Why would these terrorists have been able to fund themselves through cannabis trafficking as opposed to, say, trafficking in lettuce or squash?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cheap Compact Fluorescent Lamps

I've been using compact fluorescent lamps almost exclusively for ten years or more. I pay the extra price in the name of the energy efficiency that everyone claims for them. Even so, I've always been skeptical about claims of energy efficiency, especially when I start to think about the energy embedded in CFL lamps. Just looking at the two types of lamps (CFL and incandescent) I have to conclude that the energy it takes to assemble a CFL is many times greater than what it takes to make a standard incandescent bulb.

One of the reasons I've been skeptical about all this is because CFL's, in my experience, never seem to deliver the hours of service claimed by the manufacturers. I don't care how efficient a lamp may be, energy return on energy investment is compromised by poor durability (and greatly so, I think). I rather suspect that, all things considered, in the aggregate I've been using more, not less, energy by using CFLs. Who knows, though? In the summertime my air conditioner would work even harder if it had to deal with extra heat from incandescents. Maybe it's all a wash.

In the past couple of years I've taken to marking each CFL with the date it entered service in order to get a better sense of this. It's stupid, but when a CFL I've marked has failed, I generally just glanced at the date, bolstering my suspicion, and screwed in a replacement CFL.

This morning, though, I took the time to think about this a little bit.

A 26 watt (100 watt equivalent (yeah yeah, I know)) CFL that I had installed on November 9 2005 (480 days ago) failed in the bathroom. The bathroom has to be one of the more severe environments for a light bulb because of the number of on/off cycles as well as total running time. I thought about the usage pattern in that bathroom and figured that the lamp probably experienced about 15 on/off cycles per day, averaging 20 minutes or so of on time per cycle, which came to about 6 hours on per day. Over its cumulative service life of about 2880 hours, this bulb would have gone through about 75 kilowatt hours of energy, costing about $6 at 8 cents per kilowatt hour. It would have gone through about 7200 on/off cycles in the process.

Now, 2880 hours in nowhere near the lifetime claimed by CFL manufacturers. According to the EPA's Energy Star website, these things ought to last 6,000 hours or more.

Well, after a bit of looking around I found a document about durability testing of CFLs. The part that caught my eye was about stress testing, where they cycled CFLs on and off for the lamp's lifetime (five minutes on, five minutes off). What they found was that two manufacturers' lamps failed "very prematurely". Here's the relevant figure (click it for a bigger view):

I generally buy whatever CFLs Costco, Home Depot or Walmart are selling, which I assume are the cheapest things they can find. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that the lamps I buy are from the two sub-par manufacturers. I know the test cycle pattern doesn't match the usage of CFLs installed in my bathroom, but from the results of the test and my own experience, it seems reasonable to look for higher quality lamps. I'll see what the people at Lights of America have to say, and otherwise try to identify higher quality CFLs to buy. If I'm still here in a few years maybe I'll remember to post how the better lamps perform. On the other hand, maybe I'll revert to lower-wattage halogen incandescent bulbs for the bathroom. Apparently moisture can affect CFL's, so maybe I'll go with a higher-quality weatherproof CFL for the bathroom.

Should government ban incandescent bulbs, as is being done in Australia and as California is considering? Well, it seems to me highly likely that if we ban incandescents without, at the same time, banning sub-par CFLs like those in the graph above (presumably what I've been buying), it seems that such a ban would be worse, from a global perspective and considering embedded energy, than doing nothing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

What he said.

Online Sportsbooks, Sportsbook Reviews, Sports Forums at MajorWager:
'It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.' - 16th U.S. President Abraham Lincoln

Well, I don't know about that, but it sounds good.

Bill Maher remarked that marijuana is one of the only vices where we base public policy on the worst segment of the population. Online gambling is another. Sure, online gambling will have some addicts. But it already does, and those addicts are certainly not going to call it quits just because it is a little harder to get money out to the Caribbean. They will find a way to get it there, and, if not, they will find another way to get that same gambling fix, whether it be horseracing down the street, lottery at the corner bar, or feeding a few 20's into an Indian casino the next county over.

If prohibition is designed to protect the small fraction of people who will harm themselves, then there should be a lot more bans forthcoming. Alcohol (almost 17,000 DUI deaths in 2005 alone) and tobacco (kills about 1200 people per day) should be first on the ban list, far ahead of marijuana and gambling. Then of course we have to ban spray paint and gasoline (someone might "huff" them), cold medications (might be used to make methamphetamines), and, of course, the real killer, trans-fat. Fortunately, New York City is well ahead of the rest of the country on solving that problem.

The fact is, it is downright silly to assume that you can get rid of our vices through prohibition.

I don't gamble because I'm not good at it, I always lose, and I don't enjoy it. When I go to Vegas I drop a couple of dollars in the slots and that's it. I very rarely buy a lottery ticket. I've never been in an Indian casino, and I've never visited a gambling website. State sanctioned lotteries strike me as the height of hypocrisy.

But this column's thrust is correct (though I think the author should have avoided mentioning medical marijuana because I can't conceive of any gambling analogue). He's right, though: Prohibition is the problem.