May 14, 2007

Gonzales Has Earned Medal of Freedom

I remember well the distinct feeling of being punched in the gut, though it wasn't the first time and wouldn't be the last.

The date was December 14, 2004, and President Bush had just awarded the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, Tommy Franks, and Jerry Bremer. In the President's words,

These three men symbolize the nobility of public service, the good character of our country, and the good influence of America on the world.

The BBC must have skipped out on the ceremonies because the next day they were busy frothing over this quote about Abu Ghraib:

This kind of widespread abuse could not have taken place without a leadership failure of the highest order," said Anthony D Romero, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups given access to the documents.

The skirmish which followed Tenet's recent book tour, with demands that he return his medal parried deftly by a "Royal We" backhand, represent a missed opportunity to better understand the new world that is represented by the transmutation of this medal.

In a kind of reverse alchemy, George Bush has turned gold into lead, debasing one of the nation's highest honors in a bid to politically cheer on his failed and stupid war. So let's rename this award the Medal of "New" Freedom.

"New" Freedom is the freedom of the government to spy on its citizens without search warrants, to interminably detain prisoners without charges, and to rationalize torture with grade school word-play. It's a familiar list and too long enumerate faithfully.

Longtime hanger-on Attorney General Al Gonzales would be the next logical recipient of this honor.

I'm recommending that the Medal of "New" Freedom be crafted in a much smaller size than its old counterpart, and that it be minted from purest polonium-210. Hanging over the mantelpiece, it would pose no great hazard, but I guarantee- it will surely be a bitter pill to swallow.

May 9, 2007

Iraq Charade

Bush's war in Iraq is a failure, and those who think otherwise are fooling themselves. This week, House Republican leader, John Boehner, demonstrated the language of charade:

"We don't even have all of the 30,000 additional troops in Iraq yet, so we're supporting the president. We want this plan to have a chance of succeeding. ...Early signs are indicating there is clearly some success on a number of fronts ... By the time we get to September or October, members are going to want to know how well this is working, and if it isn't, what's Plan B."

First of all, wasn't this supposed to be a "surge" of American forces? But it appears the DoD couldn't even get that together, and instead, we've sent a trickle of poorly trained, overworked soldiers to their slaughter.

Second, what are the 'signs of clear success'? How come no one can say what they are? What is the 'number of fronts'? — zero?

Third, are these Republicans really going to wait until October to start asking 'what's Plan B'? Of course, they are, because the Bush Administration has never had a Plan B. Their eternal hubris obviates the need for proper planning. That they'd ever be wrong still has not occurred to them.

But they are wrong, and that's obvious to the rest of us. Part of the surge plan was to put US troops out among the Iraqi people so they could integrate and better understand conditions on the ground. But instead of breaking down barriers, US troops are exhausting themselves by fortifying their outposts into mini-bases. It's the only way they can stay alive.

This proves that counterinsurgency genius, Gen. David Petraeus, is wrong and therefore, continuing this war is a hopeless sham.

The most insidious and commonly heard term of the charade in Iraq is "benchmarks." This term refers to progress made by the Iraqi Parliament. But even the recently vetoed, Democratic 'time-table' bill refused to specify consequences for missing these benchmarks. Furthermore, the Iraqi Parliament isn't really a parliament at all. As a coalition of political interests, it's falling apart. It hasn't passed major legislation in weeks (unless you count their own opposition to US occupation of their country), and just as more young Americans surge their way to death and dismemberment, the Iraqi Parliament is planning a 2 month vacation!

May 5, 2007

Treating Reefer Madness With Good Old Pot

A recent study suggests that THC can trigger psychotic symptoms. Researchers observed that experiment subjects sometimes experienced hallucinations and feelings of paranoia after being dosed with straight-up tetrahydrocannabinol. While this smoke me!effect has generally been verified by countless millions of individual pothead investigators worldwide, it remains unclear whether or not this is a big deal.

Nervous Nellie schizophrenia experts like Professor Robin Murray at the Institute of Psychiatry might tell you this news should be enough to convince you to add concrete mix to your bong water, sealing it permanently and thereby sparing your jittery synapses any more damage. But this action would be premature.

Nature, which abhors a vacuum, apparently loves balance. Though she has packed a walloping large amount of THC into modern marijuana- and let's not fool ourselves, it's strong stuff these days- she has also seen fit to add a substance called cannabidiol. In back-to-back studies with antipsychotics, cannabidiol has shown promise in alleviating psychotic symptoms.

Professor Murray speculates that, because today's street pot contains so much more THC than cannabidiol, the psychotic-potentiating effects of smoking it would swamp any mitigating effects. Granted, this guy has a lot of academic schizo cred, but pray tell, Professor, where are your legions of psychotic pot-heads? Because frankly, I'll see your speculation and raise you a stack of anecdotal evidence. A very high stack at that. [Schizophrenia afflicts around 0.5% of the population. I personally know more pot smokers than that.]

Nevertheless, let me be generous and give you that one, Professor. I don't need it to make my point. THC content of marijuana hasn't doubled over the last ten years because of random mutations, it's been the result of market-driven horticultural perseverance. After all, marijuana is a huge cash crop, and, in the absence of government regulation, is guided by the Invisible Hand to meet the demands of the market ever more closely. So, in some sense the market has been asking for stronger and stronger pot and this has equated to greater percentages of THC

I suggest we treat reefer madness with good old pot. Paradoxical? Think again. If contemporary pot has double the THC content of old-fashioned pot, we should try going back to the old stuff. But that's one of the major problems with criminalizing drugs: you never really know what's in them. Greater awareness of the mental health risks of high-THC pot could lead growers to hybridize varieties with increased cannabidiol levels. Does this sound patently absurd? Hey, if McDonald's can be compelled to make a trans-fat-free French fry, anything is possible.

ps- i am not high. if you require proof, furnish a SASE and i will forward a lock of hair for testing. sorry, no urine will be shipped.

May 4, 2007

Cheaters Win

When we heard about massive systematized cheating at Duke University's business school, many lamented the state of today's youth. How is it they think they can get away with such breaches of integrity, we asked with indignant rhetoric.

But our entire culture is now a perversion of right and wrong.

These are not young people cheating at Duke, but rather students whose average age is 29 years, and they are completely normal. A study from Rutgers University found that about half of all graduate students admit to cheating, while the number of undergraduates confessing to cheating is about 75%.

This is the generation which has long been of the mind that music, movies, and software are things that should be downloadable for free.

It's difficult to make a case for succeeding without cheating when so much of our culture proves otherwise. Is not the point of our most watched TV show, American Idol, that talent is not a requirement of fame?

Since 2000, one message has been very clear: Integrity is for losers. You can win elections without a majority of votes. You can make a case for going to war by lying about the evidence. Being qualified for a job is not a requirement of getting that job. When questioned under oath by prosecutors or congress, it's OK to lie. Torture is justified if your army is bigger. The purpose of holding public office is to enrich yourself.

So, of course we are a nation of cheaters. What is the incentive to do otherwise? Where are the plaudits for the upright and moral?