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The Patriot’s Guide to Legalization

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WHEN WE THINK of the drug war, it’s the heavy-duty narcotics like heroin and cocaine that get most of the attention. And why not? That’s where the action is. It’s not marijuana that is sustaining the Taliban in Afghanistan, after all. When Crips and Bloods descend into gun battles in the streets of Los Angeles, they’re not usually fighting over pot. The junkie who breaks into your house and steals your Blu-ray player isn’t doing it so he can score a couple of spliffs.

No, the marijuana trade is more genteel than that. At least, I used to think it was. Then, like a lot of people, I started reading about the open warfare that has erupted among the narcotraffickers in Mexico and is now spilling across the American border. Stories of drugs coming north and arsenals of guns going south. Thousands of people brutally murdered. Entire towns terrorized. And this was a war not just over cocaine and meth, but marijuana as well.

And I began to wonder: Maybe the war against pot is about to get a lot uglier. After all, in the 1920s, Prohibition gave us Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and that was over plain old whiskey and rum. Are we about to start paying the same price for marijuana?

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(Hat tip: Yorgos)

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The new executive politics: a democratic challenge

The institutional balance within modern democratic systems is disturbed and dysfunctional. Some of the unhappiness of citizens in many a western state about their political leaders’ remoteness, corruption, or lack of accountability can be understood as a thwarted recognition of this problem. This an old history. But there are specific features in the current alignments that we can trace back to the type of political economy that has dominated since the 1980s. The financial meltdown of 2007-09, has generated a bit of a crisis in this model, and with it the ground might be laid for reforms that address it.

The heart of the issue is what has come to be the overweening power of the executive branch in contemporary democracies, and the corresponding loss of power by the legislature. In this sense those who argue that the major task for parliaments is to strengthen their capacity to demand accountability from the executive branch are right. This is indeed a critical issue.

The growing power of the executive branch is often attributed to contingent circumstances such as a response to national-security threats and abuses of power by particular leaders. But there is a deeper process at work that begins in the 1980s with the implementation of neo-liberal policies across historic left-right political divides. It is, in fact, part of the structural evolution of the liberal state (see Territory, Authority, and Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages [Princeton University Press, 2006]). These structural conditions make the issue even more worrisome for the future of democracy.

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Legal marijuana? Whistle-blower protection? It’s all about open government.

The Web 2.0 technology is a new way to involve the public in creating policy, and it could be a model for engaging people, said Archon Fung, a Ford Foundation professor of democracy and citizenship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Because the technology is relatively new, Fung said the effort should be looked at as an experiment that can be improved upon.

Ideas that might seem off-topic, such as legalizing marijuana or publicizing information about unidentified flying objects, are probably there because of pent up demand for ways of communicating with government, Fung said.

“Some people are treating the site as a political forum in which to advance their political view and mobilize supporters,” Fung said. “One challenge going forward is figuring out how to distill the very useful input that’s already on this site in crafting the directive.”

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Culte de la semaine: EU (Of course even Beavis could argue that you don’t do justice to the word ‘cult’ by associating it to the EU. Hard as it may be we’ll still give it a try.)

Paint it white!

Steven Chu, the US Secretary of Energy and a Nobel prize-winning scientist, said yesterday that making roofs and pavements white or light-coloured would help to reduce global warming by both conserving energy and reflecting sunlight back into space. It would, he said, be the equivalent of taking all the cars in the world off the road for 11 years.

Speaking in London prior to a meeting of some of the world’s best minds on how to combat climate change, Dr Chu said the simple act of painting roofs white could have a dramatic impact on the amount of energy used to keep buildings comfortable, as well as directly offsetting global warming by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth.

Η ανάκλαση του φωτός…

Να λοιπόν ένα μέτρο αναστροφής της περιβαλλοντικής μας “κατρακύλας”, που είναι “εύκολο” και άμεσο. Όχι οτι δεν στοιχίζει – θα πρέπει να δοθούν κίνητρα και επιδοτήσεις από την πολιτεία (να κάτι στο οποίο μπορεί να πρωταγωνιστήσει η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση). Πόσο δύσκολο όμως είναι να οργανωθεί κάτι τόσο απλό; Η επιδότηση θα ενισχύσει και την οικοδομική αγορά – τουλάχιστον στο κομμάτι των χρωματισμών – και θα είναι ακόμα ένας “μοχλός πράσινης ανάπτυξης”, κόντρα στην κρίση. Και η ηλιόλουστη χώρα μας θα έχει συμβάλλει τα μέγιστα στην ανάκλαση του ηλιακού φωτός, κατά το μερίδιο της (άσε που θα γλιτώνουμε και πολύ περισσότερη ενέργεια για ψύξη, αφού θα πέσει και η θερμοκρασία που συσσωρεύεται στα κτήρια)…

Αλλά η ανάκλαση του φωτός στην πολιτική μας ζωή μάλλον είναι “ψιλά γράμματα”. Η ανάκλαση της μπουρδολογίας και της απραξίας είναι από την άλλη “διάχυτη”…

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H φωτογραφία της Σαντορίνης είναι του Προκόπη Δούκα.

Plastic Fish and Buddhist Values

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Alastair Campbell on alternative values and happiness-based policy:

John Prescott once gave Tony Blair a gift of a plastic fish which, if you pressed it, would sing ‘don’t worry, be happy’ to the former Prime Minister.

I thought of that as I read the views on the economic crisis of a Prime Minister with the wonderful name of Jigme Thinley.

‘Greed, insatiable human greed,’ he cites as the reason for current global woes. ‘What we need is change. We need to think gross national happiness.’ GNH not GNP. Interesting.

Mr Thinley is PM of the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, up in the Himalayas somewhere between India and China. Hard to compete with them economically, I guess.

Happiness has long been a measure of life in Bhutan, but they now have a new constitution which insists any policy proposal must be judged in part by the happiness it produces…

Now, who do you think he has in mind when he says:

…I still don’t do God, and I am not going all Buddhist on you, but it is worth thinking about.

Possible for Britain? Would the Daily Mail co-operate? =)

I certainly think if we were to go for a G.N.H plan in Britain, there would have to be changes in the media. Quite a lot of the TV two-ways telling us we’re all about to go broke or die of swine flu would have to be reviewed by the GNH Commission. Of course there could be no room for the Daily Mail in a country interested in happiness. So bye-bye Mr Dacre. Sorry, as the Evening Standard adverts say.

Talking of which – as the worst aspects of the Standard’s negativity happened when Dacre was bossing former editor Veronica Wadley, I look forward to the ‘Sorry’ campaign from the Mail. They could start with an apology for the role they played in fuelling a frenzy about MMR. ‘Sorry for giving you measles – the Daily Mail’. Let’s see that one on the tube.

Anyway, I slept better thank you, so my own contribution to GNH is up. I am getting some good tips too from the two very nice women who have been organising my Lisbon media schedule as I promote Os Anos Blair. Fair to say they find my obsessive punctuality a bit, well, British. Why stress myself out worrying about keeping a few journos waiting? It’s so not GNH.

They’ve even been quoting poetry at me as I remind them we are running late … Fernando Pessoa ‘oh what a pleasure it is to have something to do and not do it.’

Or take a chill pill, as my daughter sometimes says. I bet they have chill pills in Bhutan. I bet Fernando Pessoa is on the curriculum.

Brilliant!