Archive for May 17th, 2012
Your doctor can prescribe morphine, but not marijuana. That’s how dangerous it supposedly is. The problem is that the government has consistently concocted bad science in order to villainize marijuana.
This link will lead you to a short post by Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic. Embedded in that post is the following video featuring Irv Rosenfeld, a man who is one of the few persons in the U.S. who can legally use marijuana. He made an excellent presentation that left me perplexed: How did we ever get to this point where we are denying sick people a substance that can help them? And how is it that the U.S. is willing to arrest 800,000 people per year for using a harmless drug. Harmless, you might ask? Yes, watch the video starting at minute 7.
I’ve never used marijuana or any other illegal drug. I don’t plan to. I hate to see what Prohibition is doing to this country, though. It’s time to end the craziness, but instead of acting sensibly, Obama is ramping up the war against marijuana? What is he on?
“Think of, and look at, your work as though it were done by your enemy. If you look at it to admire it you are lost.” – Samuel Butler
“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
At Vanity Fair, Michael Lewis celebrates the distinguished career of Daniel Kahneman, whose most recent book, Thinking: Fast and Slow, comes to mind at least several times every day, ever since I started reading it (I’ve posted several times on the book already, and it is so filled with challenging and often counter-intuitive observations that I will likely mention it dozens more times.
Here’s one snippet from Lewis’ article. The topic is the unrelenting intensity of Kahneman’s self-criticism, a technique Kahneman employs to a borderline-sadistic extent, though it has admittedly served him well:
He was working on a book, he said. It would be both intellectual memoir and an attempt to teach people how to think. As he was the world’s leading authority on his subject, and a lot of people would pay hard cash to learn how to think, this sounded promising enough to me. He disagreed: he was certain his book would end in miserable failure. He wasn’t even sure that he should be writing a book, and it was probably just a vanity project for a washed-up old man, an unfinished task he would use to convince himself that he still had something to do, right up until the moment he died. Twenty minutes into meeting the world’s most distinguished living psychologist I found myself in the strange position of trying to buck up his spirits. But there was no point: his spirits did not want bucking up. Having spent maybe 15 minutes discussing just how bad his book was going to be, we moved on to a more depressing subject. He was working, equally unhappily, on a paper about human intuition—when people should trust their gut and when they should not—with a fellow scholar of human decision-making named Gary Klein. Klein, as it happened, was the leader of a school of thought that stressed the power of human intuition, and disagreed with the work of Kahneman and Tversky. Kahneman said that he did this as often as he could: seek out people who had attacked or criticized him and persuade them to collaborate with him. He not only tortured himself, in other words, but invited his enemies to help him to do it. “Most people after they win the Nobel Prize just want to go play golf,” said Eldar Shafir, a professor of psychology at Princeton and a disciple of Amos Tversky’s. “Danny’s busy trying to disprove his own theories that led to the prize. It’s beautiful, really.” . . .
Then, after I left him, he sat down and reviewed his own work. The mere fact that he had abandoned it probably raised the likelihood that he would now embrace it: after all, finding merit in the thing would now prove him wrong, and he seemed to take pleasure in doing that. Sure enough, when he looked at his manuscript his feelings about it changed again. That’s when he did the thing that I find not just peculiar and unusual but possibly unique in the history of human literary suffering. He called a young psychologist he knew well and asked him to find four experts in the field of judgment and decision-making, and offer them $2,000 each to read his book and tell him if he should quit writing it. “I wanted to know, basically, whether it would destroy my reputation,” he says. He wanted his reviewers to remain anonymous, so they might trash his book without fear of retribution. The endlessly self-questioning author was now paying people to write nasty reviews of his work. The reviews came in, but they were glowing. “By this time it got so ridiculous to quit again,” he says, “I just finished it.”
I urge you to visit Lewis’ fine article. More importantly, if you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to invest the time to read Thinking, Fast and Slow.. Michael Lewis is spot on when he describes Kahneman’s work and persona (I haven’t met Kahneman, but his gentle manner and his stunning ability to get to the point and then to offer real-world applications, shine through, chapter after chapter. I’ve rarely read a book so bursting with useful ideas for understanding one’s self and others, for learning to really understand those things we think we are certain about. And Kahneman’s book is far more than this too–it is a book with ideas for helping you to avoid many types of cognitive traps that would cost you dearly. It is a book for all of those who are students of the human mind, even on their off-hours.
Federal judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York provided a tremendous, though rare, victory for those who believe in basic civil liberties, which have taken a massive beating in the context of the alleged “war on terror.” Amy Goodman and her guests (Chris Hedges, a journalist who filed the suit challenging the NDAA along with six others, and Bruce Afran, the group’s attorney) offer insight into the ruling:
In a rare move, a federal judge has struck down part of a controversial law signed by President Obama that gave the government the power to indefinitely detain anyone it considers a terrorism suspect anywhere in the world without charge or trial — including U.S. citizens. Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York ruled the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act likely violates the First and Fifth Amendments of U.S. citizens. . . . “This is another window into … the steady assault against civil liberties,” Hedges says. “What makes [the ruling] so monumental is that, finally, we have a federal judge who stands up for the rule of law.”