Archive for the ‘ Books ’ Category

Whites-only Marijuana.

I didn’t ever actually go back and blog more about the The New Jim Crow, which I mentioned here, but I’d like to bring it up again for a second. The general thrust of this book is that the War on Drugs created a permanent underclass in much the same way that Jim Crow laws and black codes did after the civil war. The statistics and stories presented in the book, as well as the description of how the broad police powers granted by anti-drug legislation and SCOTUS decisions on them have significantly damaged civil liberties, will make you sick at heart.

So for the past few days, I’ve been thinking about medical marijuana. In the early days of this blog, I made some embarrassingly naive comments about medical marijuana. I talked some about American views on poverty, and mentioned race only in passing. Looking at medical marijuana, I think I was wrong to leave out race.

I believe that widespread adoption of medical marijuana laws at the state level, without corresponding decriminalization of marijuana at the federal level, will in effect create a whites-only space to use pot. Consider, for example, the already existing disparities in the way medication is prescribed. Also, see Joe Klein’s “The boomers like it, and really, who else matters” argument in Time from a few years ago. There’s a movement for the reform of marijuana laws in this country, but it’s by and large a movement for the reform of marijuana laws for relatively-affluent whites, rather than a movement aimed at any sort of justice.

Need to bone up

Who among you can recommend me some good books to get up to speed on the following topics:

  • International Relations Theory
  • History of Africa from ~1800 onward
  • History of Asia (outside of China), from about the same time frame

I’m keenly feeling my deficits in these areas, and want to improve.

ETA: Also, any human-readable books on computer science or cryptography would be appreciated.

Gird up your loins and buckle your swashes

IT’S FINALLY COMING!!! “A Dance With Dragons,” the long-awaited fifth book in George R. R. Martin’s epic (and not epic in the trite, over-used, popular sense, but truly EPIC) fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” is slated for a July 12, 2011 release!

Words cannot describe my excitement. Ever since a good friend loaned me the first book, “A Game of Thrones,” back in college, I have been hooked. The rich world of Westeros and lands beyond have tickled my imagination and indulged my heroic fantasies for many an enjoyable hour, and I am 100% certain the next book will be just as awesome. If you like fantasy, then you absolutely must read these books, not at your earliest convenience, but now. Go to your nearest bookstore or library and prepare for a reading experience unlike any other.

I have since shared the magic with several more friends and one brother; they, too, have fallen completely under RR’s spell. For all of us, reading “A Dance With Dragons” will no doubt by akin to reconnecting with old friends after many a year.

And now that we finally have a concrete date for its release, the forthcoming HBO series will be all the more enjoyable.

Mr. Martin, despite all the moaning and bitching, your fans thank you. So very much. Please keep creating.

Who is responsible for the death of Billy Bibbit? A politician’s guide.

Liberal:  Nurse Ratched’s oppressive “therapies” prevented the beautiful flower in Billy’s soul from growing to its full potential.

Conservative:  That R.P. McMurphy was a no-account rabble-rouser if I’ve ever seen one. No respect for that nice Nurse Ratched’s authority; she’s stern, but only because she has to be – people need the stability of tradition.

Libertarian:  Billy Bibbit did not exercise personal responsibility, and that’s the cost of freedom.

Fascist:  Unnecessary excitement and improper expressions of emotion lead to chaos. Such protocols are designed for your protection, and they must be obeyed. Or else.

Neoliberal:  Well, they should’ve looked for alternative methods to compare and then selected the one that would make the most prof– I mean, yield the best patient outcomes. This is really just a case of market restriction.

Communist:  The bourgeois investors who fund the institution and perpetuate a system that shackles the less fortunate for the profit of those who have! Viva la revolucion McMurphy!

Neoconservative:  They should’a lobotomized McMurphy the minute he set foot in that institution! Punk’s like that’ll never learn! You gotta deal with ’em once and deal with ’em for good! Just look what happens when they’re allowed to roam free and do whatever they like …

I knew that “Contemporary Political Ideologies” class would come in handy one day!

Pragmatist:  Well, you really have to look at the big picture and the confluence of several conflicting forces; for example, the stubborn rigidity of Nurse Ratched’s “therapy” against the unrepentant rebellion of McMurphy, which caused an upset in the– Oh, you’re not listening anymore? Oh well. It’s not like anything I could’ve said was going to change your mind anyways …

Dear Rev. Jones: Please stop being a moron

The title belies the seriousness of Gainesville, Florida Rev. Terry Jones’ plan to burn the Quran on September 11th.

INTERPOL, the FBI, the Vatican, President Obama, and General Petraeus (just to name a few) have all come out in total opposition to the Dove “World Outreach” Center’s proposed ceremony, and for a multitude of reasons (domestic hate-crimes, violence abroad, increased threats to American troops, etc …). Those who intend to participate should take heed. Though, since people with such extreme viewpoints typically aren’t concerned with life here on Earth because their treasure is in heaven, no amount of reasoning, cajoling, or even threatening, is likely to dissaude them. It is truly unfortunate …

Switching gears for a moment, an interesting point is raised by Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, regarding the role of the media in sensationalizing this stunt:

[Awad] said he thought the media has paid too much attention to Jones and his “insignificant act. … That’s what he wants,” Awad said. “… I’m really concerned about the priorities, sometimes, of our coverage.”

Regardless of whether or not the book burning itself is just an “insignificant act,” it has become of great symbolic consequence. I applaud all those who intend to protest this display of bigotry. Hopefully the media will be equally frenzied in portraying that side of the story.

And to those who still plan on publicly burning holy books, as well as their sympathizers, do the rest of the world a favor and jump in the fire, too. You’re only going to cause more suffering in an already manic world. Some of us still have to live here, and we want to do so peacably.

For the lulz…

I’m going to begin a weekly, or bi-weekly (if you’re lucky), comic on Nerd Deal. Each panel may deal with a current event or it may not. Happy Tuesday, all.

Israel and Jewishness

Naturally, this post will address barely a red-hair’s worth of the actual questions about Israel and Jewishness, but I happened to read Rich Cohen’s Israel is Real recently, and then stumbled across this JP article on proposed changes to Israeli law, so I had some thoughts.

Zionism, in its earliest incarnation, was about creating a place where Jews were free to be Jews. Herzl was not a religious man, but was forever set apart by his Jewishness. He covered the Dreyfus trial in France, which convinced him of the gathering storm. He wanted to create a place in which being Jewish was unexceptional.

Antizionism, in its earliest incarnation, opposed this. It felt that making aliyah, moving to the land of Israel, was nefarious, in its original sense – unholy. That it forced G-d’s hand. That it was not yet time. That the Jews were meant to be a people apart, and that nationalism would never fix that.

Orwell’s description of Britain as “a family with the wrong members in charge” is frighteningly appropriate for Israel. The devil’s deal between far-right parties that puts the most fundamentalist Orthodox rabbis in charge of conversion is the most recent example of this.  Not only are the wrong members in charge, but they have the will out of the envelope, and want to write everyone else out of it. The haredi and hardliners want to cut out the rest of the Diaspora – declare Conservative and Reform conversions invalid, severely restrict who can claim to be Jewish. In essence, they want to undo the Zionist project. They want to make it so that, even in Israel, being a Jew is exceptional. They want Israel to stop being a homeland for all Jews, and make it “holy.” They want to remove the escape pod, declare the Jews of the Diaspora lesser children. They are, basically, the worst thing that could possibly happen to Israel.

In the States, we have a similar strand. As Shas and Israel Beiteinu in Israel want to dismantle the Zionist project, we have forces in the US that want to dismantle the American project. The Republican party, especially, loves to court them – the Michelle Bachmann types, the ones who declare holy wars, or want to but birthright citizen ship. Our survival, much like Israel’s, depends on how firmly we can resist them. Once the American project, or the Zionist project, stop being universal, stop being about the better angels of our nature, it ends, it dies. All we can do is resist them tooth and nail.