I know I’m a relentless purveyor of the Guardian.
Here are some Sunday links I found of interest.
- Latin America’s serious answer to the War on Drugs: there were 3 good pieces on the Guardian about this report from the Organization of American Sates (OAS) on the West’s ‘War on Drugs’ where the Latins put the West in their place and encourage the UN to re-evaluate. The report - headed by Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the President of Colombia, where cocaine was recently added to GDP figure - has been called ‘gamechanging’. These Latin nations state resources are exhausted fighting cartels who provide drugs to the consumption-drive West, and that the human cost has exceeded the benefits of the War on Drugs. The Colombian president is scheduled to meet with leaders in Britain in three weeks (first week of June), and editorial responses have already begun. This one - an open letter from former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Chile, a former US Secretary of State, the former UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and President of the International Crisis Group, and Paul Volcker, former US Chairman of the Federal Reserve - demonstrates the gamechanging nature of the collective reports:
“For the first time, the majority of Americans support regulated cannabis for adult consumption. Nowhere has this support been more evident than in Colorado and Washington, states that recently approved new bills to this effect. This shift in public opinion presents a direct challenge to the US federal law, but also to the United Nations drug conventions and the international drug policy regime.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, building on the call for a paradigm shift formulated by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, has called loudly for precisely these kinds of changes since 2011. Twenty global leaders have highlighted the devastating consequences of repressive drug policies on people, governance and economies not just in Latin America, but around the world.
Our flagship report – War on Drugs – sets out two main recommendations: (i) replace the criminalisation of drug use with a public health approach, and (ii) experiment with models of legal regulation designed to undermine the power of organised crime.”
- ‘UK funds poll in Pakistan on US Drone Attacks’: It’s not so much the news that makes this link worthy of note, but rather the commentary from officials.
“It appears to be the first time that the government has revealed it has carried out opinion polls on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan – a programme on which it has refused to comment publicly. Previously British ministers have said: “Drone strikes are a matter for the United States and Pakistan.”
However, there have been claims that the government has been complicit in the programme, sharing locational intelligence with US agencies to help them target the strikes.
“The UK should not need to carry out polling to determine that a campaign of illegal killing is wrong,” said Kat Craig, legal director for the charity Reprieve, which campaigns for human rights around the world. …”Ministers must come clean on the role that UK intelligence is playing in supporting drone strikes, put a stop to it, and put pressure on the US to end its campaign.”
This is a significant break from the post-2003 dual invasion of Iraq security-partnership between the US and the UK. And it’s not just determining that drones are significantly unpopular in both Pakistan and the British government, but more NGO outspokenness that could lead to a potential international calling for an end to drone strikes.
- ‘Daniel Dennett’s seven tools for thinking’: Lifelong US academic and philosopher lays down some good advice; advice, that I can see now as a third-year PhD, but would have found difficult to internalise before. All text quoted from link.
1 USE YOUR MISTAKES -
I am amazed at how many really smart people don’t understand that you can make big mistakes in public and emerge none the worse for it. I know distinguished researchers who will go to preposterous lengths to avoid having to acknowledge that they were wrong about something. Actually, people love it when somebody admits to making a mistake. All kinds of people love pointing out mistakes.
Generous-spirited people appreciate your giving them the opportunity to help, and acknowledging it when they succeed in helping you; mean-spirited people enjoy showing you up. Let them! Either way we all win.
2 RESPECT YOUR OPPONENT - How to compose a successful critical commentary:
1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.
4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.
3 THE “SURELY” KLAXON - look for “surely” in the document and check each occurrence. Not always, not even most of the time, but often the word “surely” is as good as a blinking light locating a weak point in the argument.
4 ANSWER RHETORICAL QUESTIONS -
Here is a good habit to develop: whenever you see a rhetorical question, try – silently, to yourself – to give it an unobvious answer. If you find a good one, surprise your interlocutor by answering the question.
5 EMPLOY OCCAM’S RAZOR - Parsimony: The idea is straightforward: don’t concoct a complicated, extravagant theory if you’ve got a simpler one (containing fewer ingredients, fewer entities) that handles the phenomenon just as well.
6 DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME ON RUBBISH - 90% of everything is crap… A good moral to draw from this observation is that when you want to criticise a field, a genre, a discipline, an art form …don’t waste your time and ours hooting at the crap! Go after the good stuff or leave it alone.
7 BEWARE OF DEEPITIES - A deepity … is a proposition that seems both important and true – and profound – but that achieves this effect by being ambiguous.
- ‘Overfed and Undernourished’ from Mother Earth News (*swoon*) details how classical conditioning (chemical reward system in the brain) have chemically reinforced the habit of eating high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt processed foods, and adds the recent statistic by the USDA that Americans eat more processed food than meat. They further contributed that due to high-yield expectations and market demand, industrial agriculture has failed to produce food and meat that develops to maturation, offering essential vitamins and minerals lacking in our contemporary diet. The good people at Mother Earth News then detail the 7 lacking components of our contemporary diet and encourage us to seek out more of this good stuff. Calcium, Fiber, Folate, Iron, Potassium, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D. See the link to learn what they are in and why you need them.