Thursday, November 30, 2006

They Don't Make Democrats Like That Anymore

"I am not going to tremble like a psychopath before the Russians and I am not going to surrender our rights or the rights of the South Koreans." (Harry S. Truman)

From: War Stories: Quotes

Be nice to hear some one say that about Iraq. Even a Republican.

A second thought. Rephrase for current war:

"I am not going to tremble before a bunch of psychopathic suicide bombers and mass murderers and I am not going to surrender our rights or the rights of the Iraqis."

End Drug Prohibition, You Fools

Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy is looking at the militarization of the police. In the discussion there are a number of suggestions for changing this or mitigating its dire effects. Such as the recent killing of a 92 year old woman who shot at police thinking they were home invaders. Different weapons, different policies.

Naturally I had some thoughts:

Milton Friedman estimated that drug prohibitiion kills 2,000 innocents a year (innocent bystanders, stray bullets, botched raids, etc.)

It is not a bug, it is a feature.

Anybody look at the stats for the decline in criminal violence once alcohol prohibition ended?

We subsidize violence on all sides of this equation and then we complain there is too much violence. Or try to figure out what policy or weapons system will mitigate the disaster. Tinkering at the margins.

Give me a break.

Let me make it simple for those too smart by half. Reduce the violence police have to deal with and police will become less violent. Rocket science, no?

End drug prohibition, you fools.

Maybe They Need It

Eric at Classical Values is discussing signs of the STOP Eating Animals variety. Very cute. He says traffic signs are not the place for discourse on the matter.

So I got off on a tangent naturally and posted this comment (revised and extended).

I can't wait for bioscience to be able to grow muscles and tendons in vats. Then they would not be connected to brains and eating a nice juicy steak would have no moral value.

Me? I went through a "you must all eat the right foods just like me" phase. I was insufferable. (not that I'm any different now, just not about food :-)

Then I figured out that generally you are hungry for what you need. You can smell it. You can taste it. (which is almost the same as smelling it)

Animals are vast chemical factories. The skin is leaky. You can smell fear. Why not food?


This is what makes our drug laws such a mess. People are different. Some need heroin, some don't.

Me personally? I have nothing to say about what people put in their mouths, smoke, drink, etc. I assume they are doing what they do because they need to. The rest of us ought not interfere (Politically with laws - personal intervention is fine, free speech and all. But no means no. Pressing your case does not include assault.).

So I hate the coming fat laws and the already here anti-smoking laws. Tobacco is an anti-depressant. Maybe the folks smoking it need it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

News of the Day

There have been a lot of reports in the last few days of the MSM reporting events in Iraq that never happened. In other words jihai propaganda.

You can read the reports here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

Let me tell you what Lenin had to say about such propaganda operations:

Lenin had a fundamental vision of the truth when he said 'the soundest strategy in war is to postpone operations until the moral disintegratiion of the enemy renders the deliveryof the mortal blow both possible and easy'.
From "Strategy" by B.H.L. Hart.

In other words the best offence in a war is to destroy the enemy's will to fight. For that no battleflield victory is required. All you need to do is to get reporters and the media to paint a picture. Chaos. Mahem. Civil War. Unwinable.

So far it seems to be working well for the jihadis.

The press in America is not the loyal opposition. They are on the other side.

Nothing new. Let me give you two quotes (cribbed from Flopping Aces)
Do not fear the enemy, for your enemy can only take your life. It is far better that you fear the media, for they will steal your HONOR. That awful power, the public opinion of a nation, is created in America by a horde of ignorant, self-complacent simpletons who failed at ditching and shoemaking and fetched up in journalism on their way to the poorhouse.
I hate newspapermen. They come into camp and pick up their camp rumors and print them as facts. I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are.
The first was by Mark Twain the second by William T. Sherman.

Gateway Pundit has more.

Meet Up

As I noted earlier I met up with Eric of Classical Values at the Coronado Saturday.

We were there to see the Nutcracker.

Eric has some fine pictures of the Coranado up.

He also put up this one of him and I at the levers of power.


BTW Eric is the good looking guy.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion

Justin at Classical Values has put up a posts about fusion energy machines way different from the magnetic confinement and heating machines the government is building.

You can read the post here. Eric of Classical values has another post on the subject.

For more details on the physics visit EMC2 Fusion. You can also make a donation there to help the work go forward.

An interesting question is: when was the first steady state (operation times of at least 10s of seconds) electrically operated nuclear fusion machine which produces at least 10s of millions of fusions a second built? The astounding answer? 1959. So far 18 experimenters have produced similar machines including this young experimenter.

The next question is: why have advances been so slow in since then? The answer (and a lot more) is given in this video by Robert Bussard. (note: dial up is going to be incredibally slow as the video is around 1 hour and forty minutes - aproximately 170 mega-bytes) The video tends to the technical and I will have to study it a few times to get all the details. However a fair understanding of high school physics should suffice. Even if you don't understand the physics the general concepts are easy to understand and Dr. Bussard's enthusiasm is infectious.

In any case the idea is to build a fusion device that produces no long lived nuclear radiation and that works with the forces of nature instead of against them. The voltage required to make these devices work is on the order of 10 to 20 thousand volts or less. About the same voltage as you would find in a tube type monitor or TV set. Nothing very exotic. For a full scale power producer it is predicted that you would need about 2 million volts. Well within the range of current technology for small scale devices. Currently the highest voltage used in electrical transmission is 1.15 million volts. Scaling that up to two million volts for production devices should not be too difficult.

Near the end of the lecture (about 1 hour in)Dr.Bussard gets to the heart of the matter by listing the advantages of this type of power plant.

Stop Greenhouse Effect

Eliminate Acid Rain Sources

Decrease Thermal Pollution Sources

Stop Nuclear Waste Production

Destroy Nuclear Waste Inventory

End Water Shortages Forever

Cheap Fuel Free Electric Power

Clean Low Cost System

Fresh Water From The Sea

Practical Space Flight

Global Economic Stability

Cheap, Clean Thermal/Electric Power Readily Available

Fixed Energy Prices Stabilize Economy

Low Value Cane In Third World Countries Becomes High Value Export Product

Third World Nations Can Become Economically Viable

Profitable Industrialization Possible

Destroys World Market For Gasoline

Eliminates Effect Of Oil Cartels

Oil States Suffer Drastic Income Losses
(audience: laughter - ed.)

Desalinization Plants Allow Irrigation Of Arid Lands

Cheap Water Allows Effective Agriculture

Low Cost Power Stabilizes Industrial Nations

Oil Wars Vanish

Mid-East Stabilized by Economics

Third World Becomes Fiscially Responsible
(comment: not likely, more energy does not fix bad government - ed.)

End Use Market Price Ca. $5,000 B In Year 2000 $
(all products the machine can replace - ed.)

Sell/Lease Systems To Supply Energy Plants/Production

Royalty/Lease Fees at 2% of Market Price Equivalent To Ca. 2m/kWhr Surcharge Yields Net Income (Profit) at Ca. $100 B/Year
(which means an estimated electrical cost of 100 mills/kWhr - ed.)

Dr. Bussard says he needs $200 million dollars and five years to build two full scale demo plants. The first year of his five year plan will replicate with improvements his last experiments to get data on the process that can be verified by a review comittee. The First year will cost $2 million dollars.

He says that a computer to do proper simulations on the system would cost $8 million dollars.

Wiki on Dr. Bussard:

In the early 1970s Dr. Bussard became Assistant Director under Director Robert Hirsch at the Controlled Thermonuclear Reaction Division of what was then known as the Atomic Energy Commission. They founded the mainline fusion program for the United States: the Tokamak.
George Miley at the University of Illinois is doing some work in the field. As is Gerald L. Kulcinski at the University of Wisconsin. Here is the U. Wisconsin IEC Fusion page.

A review of the lecture.

Dr. Bussard Talks

An executive summary of Dr. Bussard's Google talk.

The Bussard Reactor for space propulsion.

A number of links to Dr. Bussard's work. Scroll down.

More good links including links to the Farnsworth patents.

Update: 15 Dec'06 0431z

Mark Duncan in the comments left a link that refers to the Bussard paper given in Valencia, Spain [pdf].

A transcription of the Google presentation [pdf] with illustrations.

Mark has more at Fusion.

Here is a follow up article on the engineering: Reactor Scaling

Hendrik J. Monkhorst did some interesting work on a linear (as opposed to the Bussard spherical design) reactor. Here are a couple of articles one from Science 278 and another one from The University of Florida. Another Monkhorst paper: Science 281. Here is the patent for the Monkhorst/Rostoker design.

Wiki has a nice discussion of the reactions and some techinical details of the various Nuclear Fusion schemes including Dr. Bussard's Boron 11 - Hydrogen reaction.

Update: 11 May 007 0202z

Dr Bussards contract with the Navy has been extended for a year without funding.

Please write your Government and ask them to fund the contract:

House of Representatives
The Senate
The President

and sign this on line petition and send it to your friends to get Dr. Bussard's work funded.

Update: 30 Aug 007 0032z

The US Navy has funded the next phase of Polywell research. This is no reason to let up. The Navy plans a five year program to construct a 100 MW test reactor. With more money they could speed up development. With enough cash a three year time line ought not be difficult. Two years is an outside possibility if we really pour it on.

Update: 20 Sept 007 1012z

If you want to get more into the design details of the Polywell Reactor you might want to try:

IEC Fusion Newsgroup

Details on the design of an open source fusion test reactor.

IEC Fusion Technology blog

Update: 29 Dec 2007 2112z

I should have posted this here months ago. It is a link rich overview of Dr. B's life. He died in early October 2007. The work goes on with Dr. Nebel and Dr. Park of Los Alamos National Laboratories leading the effort:

Dr. Bussard has died.


Here is a report on what is going on at the lab.

Bussard Fusion Update

Update: 19 June 008 0739z

Here are some recent additions you might find useful.

Starting A Fusion Program In Your Home Town

The World's Simplest Fusion Reactor Revisited

Fusion Report 13 June 008

Rick Nebel Updates The Latest News (Dec 2008)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cease Fires Come and Go

Yahoo News posted an article at the top of their news page saying that the Palestinian government was announcing a cease fire with Israel

GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by telephone on Saturday that militant groups had agreed to cease attacks on Israel from the
Gaza Strip as of 0400 GMT on Sunday, an Abbas aide said.
A few hours later they had at the top of their news page that the Palestinians had violated their own cease fire.
GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian militants fired several rockets at
Israel from Gaza on Sunday just hours after the start of a ceasefire aimed at ending five months of bloodshed in the impoverished coastal strip.

The truce, which has raised the possibility that moribund Middle East peacemaking could be revived, is designed to end rocket attacks and halt a crushing Israeli army offensive.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the ceasefire may lead to "real negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinians. He also said Israel will "show restraint" in coming days over the ceasefire violations.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a moderate, ordered his security forces to ensure the ceasefire held, but it was unclear whether they would use force to prevent rocket fire.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for launching at least five rockets into southern Israel and said it would not agree to a ceasefire unless Israeli military activity also ended in the occupied West Bank. No one was hurt in the attacks.

"There is no way to talk about a truce as long as aggression continues on any of our land," the group said in a statement.
What is so amazing about this sequence is that Reuters (a Yahoo news service) rarely noticed the contradictions in the various Palestinian cease fires.

Small as it is, this sequence represents progress in the Lame Stream Media (LSM) understanding of the difficulties Israel is having in dealing with the Palestinians. The Palestinians are either liars or they have no control over their territory. It is possible that both are true.

What Will It Take?

Glenn Reynolds asks: what will it take to end no knock raids on non-violent drug users and dealers?

This is an e-mail I sent him in reply to his question (revised and extended):

I note that the scientific consensus is coming to the conclusion that addiction is a made up idea. i.e. "addiction" is superstition.

We are acting like a South Pacific tribe enforcing tribal taboos. Buying protection against the drug demon with the lives of innocents. All gussied up to look like science. "Addiction" is science. Cargo cult science.

So what will it take to end the war on this phantom menace? The evils of these raids must be pointed out and the fact that it is useless, because the medical science behind the idea of "addiction" is a total crock.

Wars kill people. If they do some good we accept that. If they do no good Americans are wise enough to desist. At this point in time Americans still think they are buying protection from "addiction" with these deaths.

So the short answer is: the raids will end when we understand "addiction" is superstition.


At the Coranado

I saw my daughter dance tonight in the Nutcracker. She did a great job.

I also had a blogger meet up with Eric Scheie of Classical Values who was in town for the holidays and also came to the Nutcracker. One of Eric's friends took some pictures of us at the Coranado. When he gets home he will post them.

I will cross post them here when they go up.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Palestinians Promise War

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal has promised Israel a renewal of their war with Israel if Israel fails to bargain with Hamas. Now why would he want to negotiate with a country he doesn't recognize for agreements he does not intend to keep?

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal said Saturday his group was willing to give peace negotiations six months to reach an agreement for a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, but threatened a new uprising if talks fail.

Mashaal was meeting with Egyptian officials who have been acting as intermediaries on the crisis over Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit and the formation of a Palestinian unity government by Hamas and its rival Fatah party.

"We give six months to open real political horizons ... we agreed on the national accord to establish a Palestinian state, with the June 4, 1967 borders," he said. "They have to seize this opportunity.

He warned that if an agreement is not reached within that time, "Hamas will become stronger and the resistance will resume ... and will go on with a third uprising."
I think he means that without an agreement or a war Hamas will become weaker.

The Nutcracker

My daughter is dancing in the Nutcracker at the Coranado Theater in Rockford. One of the most beautiful theaters in America. A short history of the Coranado. I saw Bob Dylan there. Among other places.

My daughter is one of the harem girls. The tall one.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A History of Addiction

Dani Molintas who writes for PCIJ has written an excellent history of addiction. What the public and medical communities believe and how those ideas about the nature of addiction have changed over time. This article at PCIJ about addiction was based on what Dani wrote.

Dani has sent me her unedited copy and I have taken the liberty to edit it to focus on the history of addiction. There is a lot of material here that was not included in the PCIJ article. So without further adoo:

THERE IS NO dearth of literature chronicling the dangers of addiction, particularly to drugs and alcohol: Parents who abuse and neglect their children often alcoholics or drug dependents. Domestic violence is linked to substance abuse — men who beat up their wives often drink or do drugs; those who sexually exploit children are often drunk or high when they do so. Drugs and alcohol are also used to perpetuate the cycle of violence and abuse: Sometimes, abusers use alcohol and other drugs as a way of luring and manipulating their victims. Or, they can use these to diminish their feelings of guilt or shame, or to help them deny their abusive acts.

These dangers have been noted by authorities such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as a global problem. In 2001, too the European Union passed a Declaration on Young People and Alcohol, seeking to protect youth from the dangers of alcohol misuse.

In the bigger picture, such abuse is blamed for broken families and weakened communities, lost wages and soaring health care costs. Intravenous drug use is also faulted for fuelling the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS, another huge and intractable global problem.

Drug cartels undermine governments and corrupt legitimate businesses. In some countries, addicts to support their habits commit more than 50 per cent of thefts. Revenues from illicit drugs fund some of the most deadly armed conflicts.

But what are addictions? What is this evil power that can easily overturn thousands of years of evolution that fashioned thinking, praying and creative beings out of apes, then reduce these dignified humans into depraved and out-of-control creatures?

What causes addictions? Can the blame be placed on the substances themselves; are these inevitably “addictive” substances? Are some activities inescapably addictive? Or are the addicts themselves to blame? Does a character flaw, a lack of will power on the part of the addict, cause addictions? Or is it a flaw in the genes, with some people prone to addiction, in the same manner that they are predisposed to diabetes or heart disease? Are addictions just a matter of habits gone awry, of becoming too attached to a sensation, an object – or even a person – until such time that the “addict” is reduced to becoming dependent on an addiction as his only source of happiness? Do some environments cause addictions? Do some cultures encourage addictions? Do some societies cause addictions?

IN THE 19th century, drug addiction, alcoholism, and other addictions were seen as a sign of akrasia—or a weakness of ones will. But after much scientific research into the brain made possible by technological advances in the late 20th century replaced this “psychosocial model” with the “disease model”.

Under this model, some substances are seen as naturally addictive, that after taking them for a certain length of time a person is inevitably bound to become an addict.

Shabu can quickly transform casual users into junkies. With meth, there's no such thing as a casual user. Heroin is so good; don't even try it once. Crack cocaine is instantly addictive. Just Say No.”

Such slogans reflect the powerful and commonly-held view that drugs themselves cause addiction. This belief now drives the world’s current “War on Drugs”, into which enormous sums of money are poured, spent every year to strengthen police forces, border patrols, courts and rehabilitation programs.

ADDICTION, like all behaviors, is "the business of the brain," says Avram Goldstein, Professor Emeritus of Pharmacology at Stanford University, and a leading researcher into drug addiction.

Way back in 1979, Goldstein made the claim that heroin and all other narcotics worked on a bundle of neurons deep in the brain called the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway. This is the brain’s reward pathway that regulates how a person feels or does not feel pleasure. Here, addictive drugs cause dopamine neurons to release dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Normally, these neurons are held in check by inhibitory neurons. But narcotics shut these inhibitory neurons down, and the dopamine neurons become overstimulated. Hence, the rush after a hit.

But because the stimulation is excessive, the brain has to protect itself from this abnormal surge of pleasure. It does this by becoming less sensitive to the drug. Over the long run, the user needs more of the drug to produce the high. At the same time, the reward pathways become less sensitive to the effects of endorphins, the brain’s own pleasure hormone. Thus, without the drug, the user now survives with a persistent feeling of sickness.

Following this “brain-based” view, a person who uses a drug again and again becomes tolerant and dependent, and undergoes withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. The user loses control and becomes an addict.

What about other addictions like gambling and shopping? Some doctors claim that it is possible that the brain creates peptides that equal the effect of drugs when addictive activities take place. Thus, when an addicted gambler or shopper is satisfying their craving, endorphins are produced and released within the brain, creating a high and reinforcing the individual's positive associations with the activity. As with drugs, consistently engaging in these addictive activities is also believed to cause excessive stimulation, and lead eventually to tolerance and dependence.

So addiction is caused by any substance – nicotine, alcohol, opium, heroin, cocaine, chocolate, greasy food– or activity –gambling, going online, texting –that wrecks havoc on the brain’s reward system?

THE SCIENTIFIC community was so certain of this hypothesis that they spent the past 40 years placing laboratory animals in experiments where they would “dope” themselves. In the early 1960s, University of Michigan researchers perfected devices that allowed rats to inject themselves with drugs by simply pressing a lever. By the end of the 1970s, there were hundreds of experiments of this sort—and they all showed that rats, mice, monkeys, and other captive mammals self-inject large doses of heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and a number of other drugs!

But a description of the lab conditions surrounding these experiments is enough to burst the hypothesis bubble of these decades: Imagine being implanted with a needed in one vein connected to a pump that is connected to a tube. Was it then possible that the lab animals were turning into drug addicts to ease the pain of their captivity, or to cope with the stress of being isolated from other animals and from other stimulus? Were they reacting to being imprisoned in the complex self-administration apparatus?

In time, some scientists themselves began to raise these questions. Among them are two leading researchers into addictions—psychologists Dr Stanton Peele and Dr Bruce Alexander, then of British Columbia's Simon Fraser University. Peele’s work on alcoholism has won him several awards including the 1994 Alfred Lindesmith Award for Achievement in the Field of Scholarship from the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington, DC and the Mark Keller Award for Alcohol Studies in 1989 from the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies. Close to three decades of their work has thrown a monkey wrench into the “drugs-cause-addiction” hypothesis.

As both men noted in separate studies, the only real evidence for the belief in drug-induced addiction comes from the testimonies of addicted people who believed the drug had caused them to lose control and from the research on many laboratory animals. But what if the laboratory animals are shown to be responding to their environment?

And as for the testimonies of the addicts, was it not possible that attributing causes to their own behavior was helpful salve to their self-esteems, but a far cry from reality? “By rationalizing their intractable problems, are addicts merely escaping the enormous burden of guilt for their catastrophic lives?” Peele asks.

If drugs were so naturally addictive, how do we explain the fact that doctors who give their patients large doses of opioids to manage their pain find that the bodies of these patients become dependent on the substance, but they do not become addicted? About 20 years ago, an American research team began experimenting with an invention, a bedside self-medicating machine programmed to deliver about 1 mg of morphine intravenously to patients who pressed a hand button. But even without doctor’s supervision, patients did not exceed the doses they needed for their pain, and did not become addicted.

Even outside a supervised setting such as a hospital, people have been found to go in and out of drug use, or even addiction.

"Sure, I take to the tooter once in a while, when we go out with friends. But now that I have children to support – two sets, actually, one set from my first marriage, I don't do it as often. I like the high I get, but I don't crave it…No, I don't consider myself an addict," says Derek. Derek, 47, has been working for eight years with one of the two intergovernmental organizations that have their offices almost fully based in Manila. Before that, he worked with a government office, and has been regularly employed for over 20 years.

It may be a case of denial, but Derek's experience is backed up by the many studies done in different parts of the world, note both Peele and Alexander.

Studies such as Crack use in Canada: A distant American cousin by Cheung, Y.W. and Erickson, P.G. (1997), Cocaine use in Amsterdam in non-deviant subcultures by Cohen, P. D. A. (1989), Drug use, social relations and commodity consumption: A study of cocaine users in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne by Mugford, S.K. and Cohen, P.J. (1989) show that in contrast to commonly belief, drug users go into and out of periods of cocaine addiction then return to controlled use or even abstinence—all without social intervention or dramatic discomfort.

Even census surveys taken for the past decades show that in United States and Canada, cocaine was widely available and cheap before the 1980s, but most North Americans never used it. And of those who used it a few times, few became even regular users. Before its “peak” as the drug of choice in the 1980s, in fact, cocaine was considered a nonaddictive drug, even incapable of producing physical dependence. It was only after the 1980s peak that pharmacologists began to claim that cocaine was addictive.

The belief in drug-induced addiction is a myth, Alexander asserts, and in a speech before the Canadian Senate in January 2001, he even called it the “pharmacological version of the belief in ‘demon possession’ that has entranced western cultures for centuries.”

So if the drugs themselves do not cause addictions, what do?

Addictions are diseases

In 1956, the American Medical Association declared alcoholism was a disease. From that time on, scientific research into addictions that consistently bolstered the view that addictions are "chronic, relapsing brain disorders characterized by compulsively seeking and using a substance."

Finally, capping an explosion of advances in neurosciences in the early parts of the 21st century, the World Health Organization released in 2004 report, “Neuroscience of Psychoactive Substance Use and Dependence.”[pdf] The report concluded that substance dependence is a disorder of the brain like other neurological or psychiatric disorders.

Sure, the report conceded that addictions or substance dependence were caused by many factors, and that psychosocial, cultural and environmental factors played a part in their creation. But it asserted that addictions are determined largely by biological and genetic factors.

So it seems that psychoactive substances like drugs and alcohol are able to mimic the effects of neurotransmitters that occur naturally in human brains. Eventually, these drugs interfere with normal brain functioning by altering how these neurotransmitters are stored, released or removed.

Drugs may be depressants like alcohol, sedatives, volatile solvents; stimulants like nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy; opioids like morphine and heroin or hallucinogens like PCP, LSD and cannabis—and all these have different ways of acting on the brain to produce their effects. Depressants, stimulants, opioids and hallucinogens all bind to different brain receptors, and can increase or decrease the activity of neurons using different mechanisms. Consequently, different drugs cause different behaviors. Tolerance to them develops at different rates, and withdrawal from them causes different symptoms.

But what these different drugs have in common is that they all affect the region of the brain involved in motivation. When such drugs are repeatedly taken, they repeatedly activate the motivational systems of the brain that are normally activated by things that are important to human survival: food, water, danger, and mates.

In short, substances “trick” the brain into responding as if these drugs and their associated stimuli are things needed for survival. And with each repeated exposure, the association becomes stronger and stronger, and the brain is “tricked” more and more.

At the same time, addiction is also “learned”: A person takes a substance and experiences the “high.” Because a high is, well, highly rewarding or reinforcing, it activates circuits in the brain that will make it more likely that the user will repeat whatever it is that gave him the rush in the first place.

Both this "associative learning process," plus the fact that the brain is "tricked" into believing that it needs the drug for survival combine to cause an craving so overwhelming that it can “cause relapse to substance use, even after long periods of abstinence," the report concludes.

Genetics is the other factor. One’s genes, the report says, will determine partly why one person exposed to a drug will become addicted to it, while another with the same exposure will not.

For instance, there is growing evidence that some people may be more predisposed to addiction to cigarettes, alcohol and opioids, and scientists are now deep into the study of which specific genes are involved.

So, in the end it all boils down to damaged neurotransmitters in the brain? Or to some brains being more genetically susceptible into being tricked into thinking opium is food, or shabu is water? At its simplest, this is what the WHO report says.

Or, as Goldstein quipped way back in 1979, "A rat addicted to heroin is not rebelling against society, is not a victim of socioeconomic circumstances, is not a product of a dysfunctional family, and is not a criminal. The rat's behavior is simply controlled by the action of heroin on its brain."

TO SOME EXTENT, bringing in the age-old "nature versus nurture" debate into the discussion of addiction is insensible. The action of genes is completely intertwined with the environment in which they function, after all. In this sense, it is pointless to even discuss what gene X does – or even what genes X and Y do – and we should consider instead only what gene X and Y do in environment Z.

Some studies with monkeys can shed some light. To help find out whether genetics or environment predict the behavior of organisms, behavioral geneticists “cross-fostered” certain monkeys. They took monkeys from a group that demonstrated a certain behavior that was totally unacceptable in another group, and threw them into that new group. The monkeys, given just a few moments to learn a new response in their new environment adapted the new behavior, even when it was the opposite of the behaviors they learned throughout their lifetimes—behavior that is supposedly deeply imprinted in their genes. In this case, environment won over genes.

Peele criticizes “everything about the disease approach—from separating people and their substance use from their ongoing lives, not recognizing that addiction fades in and out with life conditions, viewing it as biogenetic in origin” as wrong.

Going even further, Historian Virginia Berridge and a psychiatrist Griffith Edwards examine the social and medical history of the addiction concept as it developed in England in their book Opium and the People: Opiate Use in Nineteenth-Century England, and conclude that “Addiction is now defined as an illness because doctors have categorized it thus." (background - ed)

So do addictions boil down to being brain-based disorders that some genetically-unlucky people are predisposed to developing in their lives? Or are they creations of a “medicalized” society? Perhaps the reality is somewhere between these two poles. Or maybe, there are other parts of the addiction puzzle that have yet to fall into place?

Part of the answer is found in the WHO report itself: "Substance dependence is a chronic and often relapsing disorder, often co-occurring with other physical and mental conditions," said Dr Catherine Le Galès-Camus, WHO's Assistant-Director General, Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health.

According to the report, some studies in the US show that more than 50 percent of people with mental disorders also suffer from substance dependence, compared to 6 percent of the general population.

Does this mean that both illnesses and addictions have similar neurobiological bases? Or are addicts taking drugs to alleviate the symptoms of their mental illnesses? Does drug use bring on mental illnesses or lead to biological changes that simulate mental illnesses—such as the paranoia or psychosis caused by a shabu crash, or the altered mood states of a marijuana high?

The report has no answers to these questions, and today, there is evidence for all of these hypotheses.

If most mental illnesses are involved in anguish and mental pain, how does this relate to seeking a “high”? Could it be that addicts are people trying to alleviate some unknown pain? Could it be that addicts are self-medicating?

Drug Addiction Is Pain Management

To solve the conundrum of addiction, we can start by studying the different parts of the puzzle that already know.

The disease model tells us that one’s genetic makeup may determine how prone one is to an “addictive” substance, and how easily attached one may become attached to a pleasurable routine. It also tells us that addictions often come together with other mental illnesses.

But various studies with twins show that genetics are only half the cause of addictions. What then is the other half?

First, we also know that addictions are inextricably linked with violence, but the relationship is complex and not fully understood. We know that people can get violent under the influence of drugs and alcohol. But we also know that while addicts may engage in violence to get money to buy drugs, it is not true that the drugs themselves cause violence. Often, violent behavior comes before the use of drugs. The link between the two is still a mystery.

But what we do know for sure is that victims of violence often turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. Medical research shows that victims of sexual abuse and severe physical abuse are many times more likely to get addicted to opioids than the general public. People working to heal women know that women who were abused in the past—or those still stuck with abusive partner –often use alcohol or other drugs to deal with their pain, anxiety and fear. Many survivors of children abuse use substances to deaden the pain of past memories.

Way back in 1985, Edward John Khantzian, professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Harvard University found that many of the people who experimented with heroin and cocaine who later became “hooked” on it suffered from chronic, severe depression, anxiety, or physical pain.

“If the pain is sufficiently intense, people who become aware of the analgesic or tranquilizing effects of heroin or cocaine are likely to cling to the drug to relieve this pain, in spite of all the difficulties that this entails,” he writes in his paper, The self-medication hypothesis of addictive disorders: Focus on heroin and cocaine dependence, published in 1985 by the American Journal of Psychiatry. This "self-medication hypothesis," is supported by much of the literature of clinical and research psychiatry. Khantzian wrote a follow-up to this paper in 1997.

Vietnam combat veterans who were found to be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder were also found to be abusing drugs and alcohol, American psychiatrists led by T.M. Keane found in 1988.

"The neurotic and the psychopath receive from narcotics a pleasurable sense of relief from the realities of life that normal persons do not receive because life is no special burden to them," notes Lawrence Kolb, the pioneer in research into addictions. Kolb, whose studies of opiate addicts at the U.S. Public Health Service in the 1920s are collected in a volume entitled Drug Addiction: A Medical Problem, found that most addicts had psychological problems well before their addictions.

“Addiction is a pattern of drug use that occurs in people who have little to anchor them to life,” decide Isidor Chein, Donald L. Gerard, Robert S. Lee, Eva Rosenfeld and Daniel M. Wilner, in their portrait of the day-to-day existence of the street heroin user, The Road to H: Narcotics, Delinquency, and Social Policy, published in 1964. Their work is touted as one of the most comprehensive studies of juvenile use of heroin in New York City.

Equally intriguing are studies of medical patients who are exposed to narcotics as part of their medication. Psychologist Stanton Peels notes that while these patients build a physical dependence on the opioids, they are able to protect themselves against addiction by “thinking of themselves as normal people with a temporary problem, rather than as addicts.”

“The difference between not being addicted and being addicted is the difference between seeing the world as your arena and seeing the world as your prison… where life is seen as a burden, full of unpleasant and useless struggles, addiction is a way to surrender,” notes Jozef Cohen in his 1970 work, Secondary Motivation. Jozef Cohen quotes the addict who says, "The best high . . . is death.".

THESE DIFFERENT pieces of the puzzle fell into place the same year that WHO published its report.

An article published in Scientific American, entitled "The Brain's Own Marijuana" [pdf] (scroll past the graphics - ed) showed that the human brain produces its own equivalent of cannabis, and that such endogenous cannabinoids –or endocannabinoids—act as bioregulatory mechanisms for most life processes in the human body.

More notably, the article reported how, in 2002, scientists under Giovanni Mersicano of the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany found that people need endocannabinoids to help them “extinguish bad feelings and pain triggered by memories of past experiences.”

“The discoveries raise the possibility that abnormally low numbers of cannabinoid receptors or the faulty release of endogenous cannabinoids are involved in post-traumatic stress syndrome, phobias and certain forms of chronic pain,” the report noted.

As M. Simon, a 62-year old aerospace engineer and former nuclear reactor operator in the US Navy explains in his blog,
Power and Control, (a list of drug war and drug addiction articles - ed) “All humans show fear reactions to dangerous situations. However, in the case of one out of ten people–surprisingly the same percentage of people who are susceptible to substance addiction—the fear does not die down in the absence of the dangerous situation. The fear stays at debilitating levels.”

In most people, the endocannabinoids help the brain clear these fearful memories. But for about a tenth of the population, the memories remain and become permanently debilitating.

“The amount it takes for pain memories to decay depends on the severity of the trauma and the genetic make-up of the individual,” notes M. Simon, whose brother was killed in the drug war. He is now passionate about the study of addiction and devotes a large part of his blog to a discussion of these issues.

Simon cites the work of Roger Pertwee, professor of neuropharmacology at Aberdeen University, who claims that genetics account for a half of the nature of addictions. Pertwee’s work shows that persons with a mutated copy of the FAAH 385 gene may need more cannabinoids than the body produces to feel normal. This is probably why cannabis use is so popular among ten to twenty percent of the population, Pertwee theorizes.

BUT THE MOST COMPELLING piece of the puzzle had turned up earlier, in July 2001, in a study by Dr. Lonnie Shavelson, entitled Hooked: Five Addicts Challenge Our Misguided Drug Rehab System.

In his study of 200 addicts, Dr. Shavelson found that a high proportion of them had been severely abused children: either they were beaten, raped, or had siblings who were raped. Seventy percent of female heroin users in his sample were sexually molested before they started using heroin. Male heroin users were 25 to 50 times more likely to have been sexually abused, compared to the general population.

M. Simon writes in his blog: “At first, Shavelson questioned his study methodology. He thought there must have been a flaw in how his sample was selected or in how the questions he asked were framed. Then while he was doing his research, an article came out in the Journal of the American Medical Association that said that the addiction rate goes up for male sexually abused children. And it doesn't just double or triple. It is 25 to 50 times higher than the rest of the population.”

“In other words, those heroin addicts are suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder,” M. Simon infers.

Meanwhile, Pankaj Sah. of Australian National University offers the view, based on his work, that chronic marijuana users are self medicating for anxiety problems.

In his blog, M. Simon sums up the latest findings on drug addiction:

1. We now know that severe PTSD may be the cause of 70% or more of heroin use.
2. We know that there is a genetic connection.
3. We know there is a trauma connection.

Trauma is the other piece of the addiction puzzle, together with genetics and the effects of the drugs themselves.

Instead of “addicts,” what society may have is a “seriously untreated population with various mental problems. “Addiction, M. Simon notes, “may be in fact self treatment of undiagnosed pain.”

“I was surprised to find that this is a well-known secret in the medical community,” M. Simon concludes.

“Why are there no researches being conducted systematically to prove this?” he asks. His views are echoed by Psychologist Bruce Alexander. In his 2001 speech to the Canadian Senate he says: “If this interpretation were correct, the drug would not be the cause of addiction, but instead the pre-existing pain and the person's desperate attempts to control it would be.”

“It would be assumed that if the pain were removed, the person would abandon their compulsive use of the drug,” Alexander adds.

Or as Peele says, “cure the pain and the desire for drugs vanishes.” Could this also be true of not only drug addicts but also alcoholics, addicts to food, gamblers, compulsive shoppers, and other sorts of addicts?

If addiction is self-medication, and people in pain will do almost anything to relieve their pain, does it make sense to criminalize people for their addictions? Must society really be protected from these addicts?

Is the crime and violence related to drugs result from the sale of these substances being forced to go underground? If we took drugs away from the hands of the dealers and made them legal, would violent acts related to drug use become less? Has the world’s “War on Drugs” been a failure?

Modern Society Creates Addictions

"Economist Milton Friedman predicted in Newsweek nearly 34 years ago that Richard Nixon's ambitious 'global war against drugs' would be a failure. Much evidence today suggests that he was right. But the war rages on with little mainstream challenge of its basic weapon, prohibition."

High Times? No, George Melloan [pdf], deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

Of course Melloan offered the usual disclaimer that he "never sampled any of the no-no stuff and (had) no desire to do so." Still, it is no small matter that the editor of this paper, the citadel of conservatism, declared America's Drug War possibly a failure, and questioned the very idea at its core.

For indeed, despite the enormous sums of money spent every year to fight the world’s American-led War on Drugs, the late 20th century prohibitionist approach to drug substance use has failed in the same manner that the Prohibition in the United States failed to stop alcohol use in the late 19th century.

The prohibition laws of 1846-51 (I think she means 1920 to 1933 - ed.) in the United States only sent the manufacture of liquor underground, causing hundreds of people to die from cheap, toxic substances mixed in their liquor by unscrupulous brew makers.

Similarly, the today’s ongoing drug war has been waged for many decades, but it has failed to stop the growth of the $500-billion narcotics industry (2001 figures)

To a large degree, the failure stems from contradictions in the understanding of addictions themselves. For one, while most addiction models—such as the disease theory— claim to be value free, they actually convey distinct values about human responsibility and about the desirability of certain kinds of behavior.

As Peele notes, the modern disease view of addiction transferred the source of the evil from the addict to the drug itself. “It locates the source of evil in the drug (and) dictates that the addict's moral responsibility is to avoid the substance entirely—(or) abstain,” Peele points out. “The moral message is of the evil and allure of the illicit drug experience, and of the need totally to avoid such experience,” Peele explains.

But it was this very same reasoning that led to the Prohibition, which failed. The 19th century temperance movement—which drove the Prohibition in the U.S.—had argued that alcohol inevitably provoked loss of control, a fact that we now know to be untrue. In the 20th century, this same view toward alcohol was extended to all narcotics. Today, the belief that drugs are so inherently addictive that their regular use ultimately enslave the individual and lead progressively to moral collapse and death, is commonplace. Such moral reasoning – that drugs control and corrupt users – was graphically depicted in the classic drug film, "Reefer Madness," that has since become an inadvertent comedy.

BUT historical and cross-cultural cases show us that our modern view of addiction is not a universal concept or a universal phenomenon, but a historical “glitch”.

Since ancient history, various cultures knew about and used psychoactive drugs, but the phenomenon of drug addiction was only identified by physicians—and brought to the public mind—in the 19 th century, and in the industrialized, Western world.

Theorists in the earlier 16th to 19th centuries described narcotic addiction, but they did not differentiate addiction to opium from addiction to ubiquitous things like coffee, snuff, alcohol or sugar plums. In 1877, German physician Levinstein was the first to describe drug addiction in detail. But even so, addiction at this time was seen as just another human passion such as smoking, gambling, greediness for profit, sexual excesses, and most physicians regarded addiction as a morbid appetite, a habit, or a vice.

It was only in the 19th century that the temperance movement argued that alcohol inevitably provoked loss of control, and this same view was extended to narcotics in the 20th century. The term “alcoholic”, in fact, was accepted as a popular designation for the chronic drinker only after World War I, after the Alcoholics Anonymous was founded. Dr. William Silkworth became the first to treat alcoholics based on the idea that they suffered from an inbred allergy to alcohol that caused them to lose control of their drinking. Together with one of his patients, William Wilson, he founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, and their view of alcoholism is now most widely-accepted.

Today’s existing definitions of addiction incorporate advances in neurosciences, but still bear traces of these temperance views. The most up-to-date version of the disease theory of addictions – contained in the 2004 WHO report – sees these as dangers only for a small group of biologically predestined individuals. Or in short, only this group has to abstain, lest they progress to the “moral collapse and death” outlined in the past for all drinkers.

As Peele notes wryly, “such a revised disease theory was required because the Prohibition was repealed in 1933…and the world was now a place where drinking was ubiquitous, popular, and largely benign.”

IT IS WORTHY TO NOTE that cultures since ancient times used mood-altering and hallucinogenic substances as a way to reach profound spiritual experiences, or to get closer to God.

Taboo in Christian and Islamic societies, entheogens are both ordinary and prominent in the spiritual traditions of other cultures, which is probably why the word means “that which causes God to be within an individual”.

In some of ancient Egypt’s temple walls, for instance, pictographs show Egyptians crushing, pressing and concentrating the essence of the entheogen blue lotus, Nymphaea caerulea, and mixing this with wine. Today we know that ingesting the active ingredients of the blue lotus brings a state of euphoria.

For 2,000 years, the Greek cult of Demeter and Persephone initiated their recruits in the Eleusinian Mysteries, using the drink kykeon. Scholars believe that the barley used for the drink was parasitized by the psychoactive fungus ergot. Thus, drinking kykeon ensured that initiates would be propelled into a state where their minds would find profound spiritual and intellectual revelations.

There is also evidence that nitrous oxide or ethylene may have been partly responsible for the visions of the legendary Delphic oracle, which was consulted by the Greeks before going into war, founding colonies, or undertaking anything major in the Hellenistic world.

Entheogens have also been around American cultures for thousands of years before Columbus stumbled into their lands, bringing conquest and destruction. The peyote cactus was used by many traditional cultures in what is now Mexico. From there, it spread to North America. Other well-known entheogens used by Mexican cultures include psilocybin mushrooms, which the Aztecs under the Nahuatl knew as teonanacatl, the seeds of several morning glories and many other native plants. The tribes of South America also employed a wide variety of entheogens.

As for the prehispanic Filipinos and other Malay seafarers, they used betel nut and kava as mild intoxicants, in the same way that the south Americans chewed their coca leaves.

Paul Kekai Manansala, independent researcher on history, also notes that seaweeds containing indole psychoactive alkaloids abound in the seas of the Indo-Pacific region, and that prehispanic Filipinos and other Pacific inhabitants are known to have eaten these and the many species of hallucinogenic "dream fish” (Caulerpa taxifolia, Blue seachub, damselfish and goatfishes) that had concentrated psychoactive substances in their flesh from eating psychoactive seaweed.

And in the United States and Britain—the places where addictions were first “discovered,” it is known that opiate and other drug use was massive and indiscriminate in the 19th century.

AT THE SAME TIME, there is evidence from cross-cultural studies that alcoholism does not exist outside of Western society.

In the words of several prominent ethnographers in the alcoholism field: “Drinking problems are virtually unknown in most of the world's cultures” and “solitary, addictive, drinking behavior does not occur to any significant extent in small-scale, traditional, preindustrial societies.” They also did not observe cases of antisocial aggression, alcohol withdrawal, or solitary or loss-of-control drinking.

But it is only near the very end of the 20th century when the symptoms of addiction were first recognized. Only relatively recently—and primarily in a few Western societies—did was addictions come to be perceived as biological phenomena, or as part of the natural landscape.

How is it that a phenomenon as powerful and destructive as addictions had been missed by so many of the world's cultures for so many centuries?

Clearly, for most part of human history, people and societies had ready access to the most potent of drugs, but chose to regulated their drug use–even without today’s colossal drug war and brutal drug laws. The only exceptions to this successful self-regulation—the Chinese Opium Wars and heavy drinking in Native American groups—are more the results of the cruel domination of their cultures abuse by invaders.

The earliest researchers into addiction, working in the early 20th century, noted that addicts generally “seek relief from consciousness?” What is it in modern society that addicts may be “seeking relief from”?

In his General Theory of Addictions, Stanton Peele tells us that addicts welcomes oblivion, and seek to find in the addiction an experience that can “temporarily erase their painful awareness of themselves and their situations.”

If addiction is essentially pain relief, does the widespread occurrence of addictions show that people in today’s world have more reasons to be in pain?

IF DRUG ADDICTION is pain management, and if “true” addictions only emerged and spread in the 20th century, what does this mean? What seems closer to the truth is that addictions are a distinctly modern-day phenomenon. Is it possible that modern society itself causes these addictions?

The work of psychologist Bruce Alexander at the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, seems to imply this. Alexander had long maintained that the lab rats hooked to morphine in the many experiments from the 1960s onward –the very experiments that form the basis of our current view on addiction – were doping as a way to cope with their living conditions.

Only “severely distressed animals, like severely distressed people, will relieve their distress pharmacologically if they can,” he insisted.

To test his hypothesis, Alexander built “Rat Park”, a kind of rat utopia that sprawled 200-square-feet, 200 times the size of a standard laboratory cage. Here, the 16 to 20 rats that lived at the same time where given abundant food, balls and wheels to play with, and private places for mating and giving birth.

And did rat addicts exist in Rat Park? Apparently, no. Even rats who had been forced to drink a morphine solution for 57 days–well enough time to get them “addicted”–were brought to Rat Park and given a choice between water and water laced with morphine. For the most part, they chose the plain water. “Nothing that we tried,”Alexander wrote, “... produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment.”

Alexander's paper appeared in the small journal Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior, but was rejected by the two major biology journals, Science and Nature.

Alexander’s work was largely ignored by society, but his questions remain: “In what kind of a society would addiction run rampant, not just to drugs but to money, power, sex, work…?”

Meanwhile, the world continues to hold the brain-based, disease view of addictions. As Peele notes: “The United States is the world's leading exporter of scientific ideas…(thus) a realignment of attitudes about addiction is occurring in many countries worldwide.”


Note: I think this is so important I'm publishing it pretty much as recieved with only the links provided by Dani.

I will be adding links to the various points made and various scientific papers over time as I find them. Check back if you are interested.

The Killings Will Increase

Given the horrific bombings in Iraq in the last few days I'm going to make a wild ass guess as to why they happened and what the future holds.

First off I think this is the result of the Democrats getting elected. It is now two weeks since the Ds got elected. Time enough to plan and execute some new attacks. Pretty much throughout the Middle East the election was looked at as a repudiation of Bush and a direction by the American people to leave Iraq ASAP.

So what does a good army do when the enemy retreats? Pursue. In this case use more and worse of the tactics that gained "victory".

So what do I expect in the future? At least three to six more months of intensified killing. To end this in their favor the jihadis must maintain the dissatisfaction of the American people with the war and test the will of the new Congress.

Am I saying that if Congress had remained Republican that attacks would be steady or declining? Yes. Me? I voted straight Republican including dog catcher. I knew what was at stake. Fifty or one hundred billion in corruption is nothing compared to the lives of the Iraqis. Or for that matter any other reason that made you stay home or vote for the Democrat (assuming you are an independent or Republican or even a pro Iraq democracy Democrat).

Oh well. If we can hold out it will still be a life saving venture compared to what will happen when we leave.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Thanks to all the people working today to keep the electricity, gas, and water flowing. The phones working. The gasoline pumping. The server farms serving. The airplanes flying and all the other services we take for granted.

Thank you.

Murdered for Love

Here in the comfortable west we know that love is murder. Comedians have made good careers on the dissatisfactions of marriage. In Iran they do things differently. In Iran you can get murdered for talking to your wife in public.

Gateway Pundit quotes the Middle East Times:

An Iranian university student talking with his wife at a bus stop was murdered by another student upset over a public conversation between the sexes, the ISNA student news agency reported Sunday.

Towhid Ghafarzadeh Nadi was killed in the northeastern town of Sabzevar, where his death prompted a protest march by students, ISNA said.

"The murderer questioned the couple over their relationship, which led to a violent scuffle, and the murderer stabbed his victim with a knife," said the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, a reformist student group.

The man later told police that he "had acted because his religious sensibilities were injured by seeing a young man and a young woman talking in public," the statement added.
This points out how much we have to be thankful for in America and the West. Men and women together decide how they will live.

It was not so long ago that black men used to be killed for going out with white women in America. Sensibilities were injured. Tolerance is always paid for in blood.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mango Wars

If there ever was a Palestinian Nation, it no longer exists. What has replaced it are warring tribes.

A little over a year ago, on a Saturday afternoon midway through the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a one-kilo mango deal went sour at a Gaza Strip fruit stand. Since that fateful day, when Shaker Abu Taha refused to give fruit seller Ashraf al-Masri the exact change, 14 Palestinians have been killed and dozens more wounded in running gun battles, drive by shootings, and gangland-style murders.

The feud between the Masri and Abu Taha clans, who live side-by-side in the southern Gaza town of Khan Yunis, continues to burn 13 months later, exploding into a downtown shooting that a rights group said left five dead on November 4. In lawless Gaza, where police are powerless, Palestinians are increasingly resorting to tribal ties and a primitive, often brutal, form of street justice.

The deteriorating situation has been further enflamed by a Western aid freeze slapped on the Hamas-led government in March, which has sent Gaza’s already miserable economic fortunes spiraling and exacerbated unemployment. “It’s either the rule of law or the rule of the jungle, and right now it’s a jungle,” said Jaber Wishah, deputy director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which keeps tabs on the tribal bloodshed in Gaza.

Often sparked by something as trivial as a misunderstanding, the feuds quickly snowball, as out-of-work youth, hopped up on the torrent of illegal guns pouring into the Gaza Strip, take the law into their own hands. “The youth have nothing to do so they start problems with each other,” said Ayub al-Kafarneh, a tribal elder in the north Gaza town of Beit Hanun. Until recently, his family was embroiled in a deadly war that began when a teenage relative crashed his car into another family’s donkey cart.

“The kids fight and it becomes a problem between families. “Because of the terrible conditions, because everyone has guns nowadays, and because of the absence of any law and order, a simple problem can get so much worse.”
And yet there is talk of reviving this or that peace plan or creating a new one. It can't possibly work for the same reason we are having trouble in Iraq. Without national unity, there is no nation.

Social Control

Republicans try to solve social problems at the point of a gun (government). Democrats try to solve economic problems the same way.

Between them a citizen doesn't stand a chance.

At the root is socialism. The idea that society should be controlled by government.

The deal is: once you allow economic socialism government enforced social control must follow. In order to lower the cost of government. Ya. Right.

Social pressue ought to solve social problems. It is safer that way.

Castros On the Way Out

There are reports that the Castro family of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro is buying land. In an area that straddles the Argentina-Chile border.

Cuba’s immensely wealthy Castro family, which Forbes magazine pegs for just under a billion provable dollars, is beginning to look outward for asylum with their money. That’s why the Chilean press yesterday reported that Mrs. Castro, the second or third wife of the Cuban dictator, has just bought a parcel of land straddling the Chile-Argentina border. That way, if something goes wrong on an extradition or truth commission subpoena, she can step over the boundary and remain on the estancia. It’s an amazingly shameless effort to launder out the ill-gotten Castro fortune into potential palaces of exile. In Cuba, the word is sinvergüenza.

But it does tell us one powerful thing: The Castroites are no longer confident that tyranny will remain in Cuba after Castro’s trip to the ash heap of history.
Good news.

The stories of the Cuban people will come out in the end which will be another stake in the heart of socialism/communism.

I think if we use the prostitution index we can say that Cuba is definitely a failed state and a failed culture.

One Down Two To Go

Israel Matzav is doing some great anaysis of today's goings on in Lebanon. As background, let me say that the head of Hizballah, Hassan Nasserallah on Sunday promised to bring down the government of Lebanon. To do that he has to replace or eliminate three misisters.

Update: Reports are coming out that another March 14 minister came under attack, but was unharmed. This supports the theory that the target is indeed to eliminate enough ministers to topple the government.

Furthermore, given that the targeted ministers are Christians, it would be consistent with the same tactic the Syrians adopted after they killed Hariri when they targeted exclusively Christian figures and Christian areas. The hope is to spark sectarian clashes that would send the country into a vacuum, which is why Amin Gemayel and Walid Jumblat have urged restraint. An additional benefit for the Syrians and Iranians and Hezbollah would be the killing of UNR 1701 and the UNIFIL deployment in southern Lebanon.

Update 2: Iraq the Model puts its finger on an essential truth: "Syria thinks that just because they made a "friendly" gesture towards Iraq yesterday they would have the right to unleash their dogs in Lebanon today. That's their definition for dialogue."

This is certainly part of it. All this useless noise about "engaging" Syria has led to this. It has been interpreted by Syria as a license to kill, to make its move in Lebanon. And this is the result of the mere chatter about "engagement," that has no real policy substance! This is Syria for you. And people still act surprised, and luminaries still call for "talking" to Syria, and want to tell it what its "real interest" is, and convince themselves that Syria really is not interested in chaos. Destabilization is inherent to the Syrian regime's nature. It is their interest.
Which is exacty the point I made in The Realists are Now in Charge.

If we don't stop these "realist" fools they are going to get us all killed.

The Realists are Now in Charge

Jim Baker, Robert Gates, and the realist school of real geo-politic are back in power. They are going to bring order and stability into the world by making deals with who ever will make them. Weak democracies (such as Lebanon and Iraq need not apply). Democracies out of favor (Israel) can fend for themselves.

We are seeing the first fruits of that policy.

Either a civil war in Lebanon or Syrian control of Lebanon.

I wonder if Lebanon is the price for "peace" in Iraq?

Who ever said it was the 1930s all over again, didn't know the half of it.

Update: 22 Nov '06 0310z

Christopher Hitchens blasts the Baker Boys realists.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Military Lingo

Timmer at Sgt. Stryker says that Austin Bay is looking for examples of current Military slang. The comments contain most of the good stuff. Like this one from Timmer:

Chairborne Ranger: Office dweeb who’s never ever ever worked anywhere but an office environment and basically refuses to venture outside of the command hangar, tent, etc.. Also, any maintainer who’s been decertified from his primary duty and shoved in an office to keep him out of the way.

PowerPoint Ranger: Usually a Captain/Major who’s primary purpose in life is to create PowerPoint Presentations for the local HMFIC.

HMFIC: Head Mother Fu**er in Charge.

Death by PowerPoint: Any string of briefings, classes or forums which consists of one PowerPoint presentation after the other.

Comment by Timmer — 11/20/2006 @ 11:06 am
There are lots more with the usual profanity.

When I was in the Navy the guage of the morale of the sailors was something like: profanity every third word - the sailors are happy. When it got to every second word the sailors were very unhappy. A fine line to be sure. You had to be there.

Start of the Latest Lebanese Civil War?

The Jerusalem Post reports that Pierre Gemayel was murdered in Lebanon.

Prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut on Tuesday, his party's radio station and Lebanon's official news agency reported.

His fatal shooting will certainly heighten the political tension in Lebanon, where Hizbullah's leading Muslim Shi'ite party has threatened to topple the government if it does not get a bigger say in Cabinet decision making.

Gemayel was rushed to a nearby hospital seriously wounded, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and Voice of Lebanon, the Phalange Party's radio station, reported.

Witnesses said Gemayel was shot in his car in Jdeideh, a Christian neighborhood, his constituency on the northern edge of Beirut.
The party radio later said he was dead, as did the National News Agency.

Gemayel, the minister of industry and son of former President Amin Gemayel, was a member of the Phalange party and supporter of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, which has been locked in a power struggle with pro-Syrian factions led by Hizbullah.
If you remember recent Lebanese history you will recall that Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated in 1982. His death lead to the massacre of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

All that intensified a Lebanese civil war, going on since 1975, which then lead to Syria taking over Lebanon to "keep order".

Ever since Hizballah started a war with Israel this past summer, Lebanon has been in an unstable political state. This event could trigger another civil war in Lebanon.

Update: 21 Nov '06 2300z

Israel Matzav has some great analysis with links. He thinks that Syria is doing a coup. One cabinent minister at a time. A second cabinent minister was attacked today.

Update: 22 Nov '06 0327z

Michael Totten has more. The comments are especially good.

Jihadis Sell Out

Spengler at Asia Times looks at demographic collapse in Iran.

Wars are won by destroying the enemy's will to fight. A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women.

The French sold their women to the German occupiers in 1940, and the Germans and Japanese sold their women to the Americans after World War II. The women of the former Soviet Union are still selling themselves in huge numbers. Hundreds of thousands of female Ukrainian "tourists" entered Germany after the then-foreign minister Joschka Fischer loosened visa standards in 1999. That helps explain why Ukraine has the world's fastest rate of population decline. On a smaller scale, trafficking in Iranian women explains Iran's predicament.

To understand Iranian politics, cherchez les femmes: the fate of Iranian women sheds light on the eccentricity of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. By Spengler's Universal Law of Gender Parity, the men and women of every place and every time deserve each other. A corollary to this universal law states that the battered Iranian whore is the alter ego of the swaggering Iranian jihadi.

In the interest of balanced reporting, I cite the history of Jewish prostitution before delving into the Persian example. The Jews have lived long enough to be defeated more often than any other people. After Spain expelled them in 1492, the Jews sold their women so widely that the character of the Jewish prostitute figured prominently in 16th-century literature, notably in one of the earliest novels, La Lozana Andaluza (1528), a story of refugee Spanish-Jewish whores in Rome. After Russian pogroms drove Jews out of the Pale of Settlement in the late 19th century, Jewish women became the raw material of the white-slave traffic, supplying Argentina as well as Western Europe. Jewish prostitutes are almost unknown today, a measure of the revival of the Jewish nation.

These distasteful facts bear directly upon Iran's national decline, and the impulses that push the Iranian leadership toward strategic flight forward. Iran's plunging birth rate, I observed in essays past, will burden the country with an elderly population proportionately as large as Western Europe's within a generation, just at the point at which this impoverished country will have ceased to export oil. By 2030, Iranian society will collapse.
Bad Eagle gives us the "women are indicators of defeat" saying from an American Indian perspective.
The Cheyenne people have a saying: A nation is never conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground.
Which reminds me of an old Jewish joke. A Jewish woman is standing before a judge asking for a name change. She told the judge her name was Nafkawitz and "nafka" means whore. So the judge asked her what she wanted to chage her name to. The woman replied "Horowitz". Bada boom. Bada bing. So much for jokes.

It has been my contention that we are in a war with the jihadis because this is their last chance. Oil is running out for them. Funny thing is that America and Canada have plenty of oil because of oil shale. In fact even the Israelis have a fair amount of it. In Canada the cost of extraction runs around $10 to $15 a bbl. Even the Americans are getting into the act with pilot plants in Colorado. There is easily enough oil shale in the Americas to support our transition to income energy (solar, wind, biomass etc.)

Jihad today is not the result of a vibrant Muslim culture. It is a sign of desperation. Just as the kamikaze attacks by the Japanese in WW2 were a sign of desperation.

Spengler goes on:
One does not have to destroy an opponent's military forces to defeat him. Russia collapsed without a single shot fired when Mikhail Gorbachev and his generals understood that they could not compete with Ronald Reagan's United States. The Islamic world also has been defeated, by a globalized economy in which the US dominates the top, and China blocks entry at the bottom. As the most urbane people of Western Asia, the Persians grasped the hopelessness of circumstances quicker than their Arab neighbors. That is why they have ceased to bear children. Iran's population today is concentrated at military age; by mid-century, today's soldiers will be pensioners, and there will be no one to replace them.

That is why it is folly to approach Iran as a prospective negotiating partner, and meaningless to offer the clerical government security guarantees, for the threat to its security arises from within. Once a people has determined to extinguish itself, nothing will prevent it from doing so. There is no doubt as to the demographic data, which come from the demographers of the United Nations. But it is one thing to read the statistics, and quite another to consider the millions of intimate decisions that together sum up to national suicide.
it is interesting to note that the Europeans are also in decline for the same reason. They have given up.

On a side note: there was an Iranian blog called "Faheshe" a few years back which means prostitute in Persian. It was about an Iranian prostitute's relations with the men in her life. It was a glimpse in to the corruption of Persian life. It was not complimentary to Iranian men. It had a very interesting graphic on the mast head. The authorities shut it down.

Spengler concludes with:
What is it that persuades women to employ their bodies as an instrument of commerce, rather than as a way of achieving motherhood? It is not just poverty, for poor women bear children everywhere. In the case of Iran, deracination and cultural despair impel millions of individual women to eschew motherhood. Prostitution is a form of psychic suicide; writ large, it is a manifestation of the national death-wish, the hideous recognition that the world no longer requires Ukrainians or Moldovans.
As Spengler points out but doesn't make explicit: the Islamics have lost. What we are involved with now is a mopping up operation. Iraq has proved that mopping up operations can be very costly. The Japanese kamikazes were a fearsome weapon. They caused a great number of casualties. However, by the time they were employed the outcome of the war was not in doubt.

What we need most is faith in ourselves and perseverance. It furthers.

H/T Israel Matzav

Update: 21 Nov '06 0758z

Clayton Cramer has some interesting things to say. You should visit him often.

Update: 21 Nov '06 1431z

Welcome Instapundit readers.

Update: 21 Nov '06 1537z

Sgt. Mom in the comments suggested ROP and ROP part 2

Update: 22 Nov '06 0320z

CIA Factbook on Iran.

Update: 27 Nov '06 1236z

This may be an even better technology for Energy Independence

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Enzymes for Alcohol

Making alcohol for drinking or fuel is easy if you start from sugars. However, currently alcohol production for fuel consumes almost 20% of America's corn crop. Which is not nearly large enough to meet demand. The answer is enzymes which can break down cellulose into sugars.

The burgeoning U.S. ethanol industry will consume about 18 percent of this year's corn harvest.

By 2009, that figure will grow to 30 percent, officials said last week at the Kansas Agri Business Expo in Wichita.

"It is becoming clear that the growth in the industry cannot be sustained with grain production," said Scott Kohl, technical director for Colwich-based ICM, the nation's leading designer and builder of ethanol plants. "The industry will be driven toward cellulosic feedstock to continue to grow to meet the fuel demand."

Cellulosic, or biomass, feedstock includes residue from agricultural crops -- such as wheat straw and corn stalks -- grass clippings, wood chips and municipal trash. It offers an abundant, inexpensive feedstock and assures that grain production can continue to support biofuels and supply food for humans and animals.

But it is not without challenges.

Amy Ehlers, manager of Bio, a national trade association of the biosciences industry, said new processes are being developed that will make conversion of biomass to fuel more efficient.

"The current challenge is that the sugars contained in cellulosic materials are tightly bonded," she said. "Work is being done on enzymes that will help break those bonds and make the sugars available for fermentation into ethanol."
That means grass clippings, wood chips, and crop stalks (did I mention hemp?) can be converted into liquid fuel.
One of the advantages of cellulosic ethanol, she said, is that the raw materials needed are in good supply in all 50 states. That would allow the industry to become more spread out than grain ethanol production, which is concentrated in the Midwestern farm belt.

There are no commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants in operation, but three are planned, Ehlers said.

Iogen is running a pilot plant making cellulosic ethanol in Canada and plans to build a commercial plant sometime in the next two years, possibly in the United States, she said.

Abengoa, a Spanish company, is set to be first online with a commercial-scale plant in Spain, possibly as early as the end of this year. Abengoa owns a grain-fed plant in Colwich and plans to build another 110-million gallon plant there next year.

And Celunol has announced plans for a Louisiana plant that will make ethanol from sugarcane and hardwood residue sometime in 2007.

Richard Nelson, Kansas State University extension engineer, said one of the challenges to cellulosic ethanol is the need to leave some residue on the soil to hold moisture and prevent erosion.

"In reality, only about 30 percent of the residue from agricultural production will be available to use," he said.

Another reality, he said, is that no matter what form, biomass is cumbersome and not easy to transport.

"You have a huge amount of bulk to move," he said. "It takes about a ton of biomass to make 100 gallons of ethanol. And while the process will get more efficient, that's a lot of stuff to move."
The shorter the distance to be moved the greater the net energy gain. Which would tend to favor the enzyme process which can use feedstocks from anywhere.

If the methanol fuel cell ever gets to market it could be the foundation for an ethanol fuel cell which could make ethanol competitive on a dollars per mile basis with gasoline.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Consider Yourselves Rebuked

Over at the HuffPo Lawrence O'Donnell is making with post election pontifications from the Democrat side of the aisle. He doesn't like Pelosi's backing of Murtha and Alcee Hastings who both are tainted by corruption. HuffPo commenter CanadianJack says:

Pelosi's choice for majority leader is a no brainer. Murtha is well known and widely regarded as a hero by rank and file Democrats for his opposition to the war in Iraq, while his opponent, Steney H.Hoyer, is an unknown, except within the limited world of the higher eschelons of the Democratic Party. Mr. Hoyer, whatever his qualities, is seen essentially as a well connected party apparatchik, while Murtha is the man who had the guts to take a stand against the war in Iraq.

As I write this missive, Democratic congressmen are being inundated with emails from constituents in support of John Murtha. The election of Hoyer to the position of majority leader by the newly elected Democratic Congressmen would effectively be a rebuke Nancy Pelosi and to the grass roots party activists who did the work to get them elected.
I guess the party activists got rebuked.

I wonder if they are aware of the Lieberman debacle in CT ? In a liberal state the electorate went for the pro-winning Iraq candidate over the loser. People notice these things. Even some Democrats.

It looks like winning the election is cracking the Dems. Even before they get in office.

We know in engineering that when a brittle material cracks the crack propagates very rapidly. The Democrats are brittle indeed.

I look for an interesting two years where the Republicans mostly rule despite having lost the election. No wonder Pelosi has to get it all done in 100 hours. By the end of that time party unity will be utterly destroyed. In fact given her performance so far she may not even get 1 hour.

H/T Instapundit

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman

I'd like to honor him by posting a bit of his stuff on drug prohibition. Randy Paige is interviewing Friedman:

Paige: Is it not true that the entire discussion here, the entire drug problem is an economic problem to...

Friedman: No, it's not an economic problem at all, it's a moral problem.

Paige: In what way?

Friedman: I'm an economist, but the economics problem is strictly tertiary. It's a moral problem. It's a problem of the harm which the government is doing.

I have estimated statistically that the prohibition of drugs produces, on the average, ten thousand homicides a year. It's a moral problem that the government is going around killing ten thousand people. It's a moral problem that the government is making into criminals people, who may be doing something you and I don't approve of, but who are doing something that hurts nobody else. Most of the arrests for drugs are for possession by casual users.

Now here's somebody who wants to smoke a marijuana cigarette. If he's caught, he goes to jail. Now is that moral? Is that proper? I think it's absolutely disgraceful that our government, supposed to be our government, should be in the position of converting people who are not harming others into criminals, of destroying their lives, putting them in jail. That's the issue to me. The economic issue comes in only for explaining why it has those effects. But the economic reasons are not the reasons.

Of course, we're wasting money on it. Ten, twenty, thirty billion dollars a year, but that's trivial. We're wasting that much money in many other ways, such as buying crops that ought never to be produced.

Paige: There are many who would look at the economics--how the eco- nomics of the drug business is affecting America's major inner cities, for example.

Friedman: Of course it is, and it is because it's prohibited. See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That's literally true.

Paige: Is it doing a good job of it?

Friedman: Excellent. What do I mean by that? In an ordinary free market--let's take potatoes, beef, anything you want--there are thousands of importers and exporters. Anybody can go into the business. But it's very hard for a small person to go into the drug importing business because our interdiction efforts essentially make it enormously costly. So, the only people who can survive in that business are these large Medellin cartel kind of people who have enough money so they can have fleets of airplanes, so they can have sophisticated methods, and so on.

In addition to which, by keeping goods out and by arresting, let's say, local marijuana growers, the government keeps the price of these products high. What more could a monopolist want? He's got a government who makes it very hard for all his competitors and who keeps the price of his products high. It's absolutely heaven.

Another Friedman Drug War link:

National Review H/T MGL who is a Buddy.

Let me note that Friedman was the inspiration for this little political gem of mine:

Do Republicans support drug prohibition because it finances criminals or because it finances terrorists?

Republican Socialism. Price supports for criminals and terrorists.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Arab League Powerless

I was looking at the siege on the Palestinians and thought that it was working pretty well. The Palestinian government is having a lot of problems due to lack of funds.

Reader Paul then alerted me to a story saying that the Arab League was going to break the siege. I replied (approximately):

If the Middle East Banks want to stay in the international system they have to play by American rules.

That leaves bag men with huge amounts of cash roaming the ME in search of a way into Gaza and the Territories. Think of the cut that has to be accepted on every stage of the journey.

With such large regular flows detection and disruption is easier.

No siege is ever absolute. This effort may not be enough to stop the strangulation. In fact it might just be another Arab declaration of "solidarity".

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
It seems I was quite correct about the Middle East Banks:

CAIRO, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Arab governments have yet to find a way to transfer money to the Palestinian Authority without running into U.S. and other reprisals against the banks they use, a senior Arab diplomat said on Monday.

Arab foreign ministers, meeting in an emergency session in Egypt on Sunday, pledged unanimously to break the sanctions imposed after the Islamist group Hamas won general elections in January, but did not say how that would be achieved.

Asked if the ministers had adopted any practical mechanism to transfer funds and help banks escape possible sanctions, the diplomat said: "No ... We will have to work further on this issue."

"The issue is not limited to the transfer of funds, there are all kinds of difficulties ... The government of Israel has all kinds of controls over the licensing (of banks). It is a difficult one," he told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

An Arab political source said Arab banks can at least transfer the money in Jordanian dinars through Jordanian banks to avoid sanctions.

"The Jordanian dinar is widely used in the Palestinian territories and banks would not need to go through New York to transfer money in this currency."

"But this needs a bold political decision away from any affiliations with U.S. policy," he said.
What he means is that there is no way to escape the US dominated global banking system. I don't see how he expects Jordanian banks to escape that reach. Plus you still have the bagman problem.

They must have known all this before their meeting so I think it is fair to say that they knew this before making their pledge. In other words another expression of Arab "solidarity".

H/T Israel Matzav who has some interesting observations.