Thursday, December 20, 2007

Susan Blackmore on drugs

She likes them:
Every year, like a social drinker who wants to prove to herself that she's not an alcoholic, I give up cannabis for a month. It can be a tough and dreary time - and much as I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, alcohol cannot take its place.
Some people may smoke dope just to relax or have fun, but for me the reason goes deeper. In fact, I can honestly say that without cannabis, most of my scientific research would never have been done and most of my books on psychology and evolution would not have been written.
Some evenings, after a long day at my desk, I'll slip into the bath, light a candle and a spliff, and let the ideas flow - that lecture I have to give to 500 people next week, that article I'm writing for New Scientist, those tricky last words of a book I've been working on for months. This is the time when the sentences seem to write themselves. Or I might sit out in my greenhouse on a summer evening among my tomatoes and peach trees, struggling with questions about free will or the nature of the universe, and find that a smoke gives me new ways of thinking about them.
Yes, I know there are serious risks to my health, and I know I might be caught and fined or put in prison. But I weigh all this up, and go on smoking grass.
For both individuals and society, all drugs present a dilemma: are they worth the risks to health, wealth and sanity? For me, the pay-off is the scientific inspiration, the wealth of new ideas and the spur to inner exploration. But if I end up a mental and physical wreck, I hereby give you my permission to gloat and say: "I told you so".

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Help democratize the UN!

I usually don't waste my time for online petitions, but I really like this idea:

Humanity faces the task of ensuring the survival and well being of future generations as well as the preservation of the natural foundations of life on Earth. We are convinced that in order to cope with major challenges such as social disparity, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the threat of terrorism or the endangerment of global ecosystems, all human beings must engage in collaborative efforts.

To ensure international cooperation, secure the acceptance and to enhance the legitimacy of the United Nations and strengthen its capacity to act, people must be more effectively and directly included into the activities of the United Nations and its international organizations. They must be allowed to participate better in the UN’s activities. We therefore recommend a gradual implementation of democratic participation and representation on the global level.

We conceive the establishment of a consultative Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations as an indispensable step. Without making a change of the UN Charter necessary in the first step, a crucial link between the UN, the organizations of the UN system, the governments, national parliaments and civil society can be achieved through such an assembly.

Via babble.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dershowitz on torture: "Hey, it worked for the Nazis!"

Crazy as it sounds, that's pretty much what Dershowitz is saying here:
There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works--it only produces false information. This is simply not true, as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.
Via babble. I can't help thinking there's a wee bit of an irony in Dershowitz, who jumps up and down and screams "anti-Semitism" the moment someone criticizes his beloved Israel, citing history's most notorious anti-Semites as exemplars of how to extract information from suspects. Of course he includes the obligatory line "I am personally opposed to torture", but then he seems to contradict himself here:

The members of the judiciary committee who voted against Judge Mukasey, because of his unwillingness to support an absolute prohibition on waterboarding and all other forms of torture, should be asked the direct question: Would you authorize the use of waterboarding, or other non-lethal forms of torture, if you believed that it was the only possible way of saving the lives of hundreds of Americans in a situation of the kind faced by Israeli authorities on the eve of Yom Kippur? Would you want your president to authorize extraordinary means of interrogation in such a situation? If so, what means? If not, would you be prepared to accept responsibility for the preventable deaths of hundreds of Americans?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

You can't make this shit up

More evidence that The Onion is rapidly being overtaken by reality:
A pampered pooch who inherited 12 million dollars from a late US hotel magnate earlier this year has fled to Florida under an assumed name after receiving death threats, a report said Monday.

Trouble, a white Maltese who belonged to billionaire Leona Helmsley until her death in August, was flown by private jet under tight security two months ago after receiving around 20 such threats, the New York Post reported.

It said the rich bitch was now living at an undisclosed location in Florida, a favorite with retirees escaping the winter, without naming its sources.

The paper did not say who was suspected of being behind the threats, but Trouble is said to have earned countless enemies due to a penchant for biting.

From here.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The darkest sign yet for the US dollar

Never mind the fact that three of the world's biggest oil exporters (Venezuela, Russia, and Iran) are now demanding payment in euros. Now rap stars are moving in the same direction:
Wads of dollar bills are usually as much a part of rap videos as fast cars, diamond-encrusted jewellery and scantily-clad models.

But in an apparent nod to the low value of the dollar, rapper Jay-Z's new video Blue Magic features another currency.

He is seen cruising the streets of New York in Bentleys and Rolls Royces (now owned by Germany's Volkswagen and BMW) with a briefcase of 500 euro notes.
Time to sell your greenbacks now, folks.