Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Casual Marijuana Use Harmful to Brain Development: Harvard

From what I can see, no other scientific question brings out the banshees so much as a study that finds that use of marijuana/cannabis is detrimental.  So too has been the reaction to Harvard Medical School research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, that details permanent damage to the brain as a result of even casual use.  The study is hardly unique in its findings, such as this one, for example.

The study used 3-D imaging of subjects' brains to determine physical alterations and found a significant statistical correlation.  The test consisted of 40 college students divided into two groups of those who have used cannabis in varying degrees and who have not used it at all.  "The scientists found that the more cannabis the 40 subjects had used, the greater the abnormalities."

The author of the study was Dr Hans Breiter, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinburg School of Medicine:
This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn't associated with bad consequences.  Some people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week.  People think a little recreational use shouldn't cause a problem…. Our data directly says this is not the case.
Areas within the brain that were examined involved emotion, motivation and addiction.  Anne Blood, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School:
These are core, fundamental structures of the brain.  They form the basis for how you assess positive and negative features about things in the environment and make decisions about them.
Jodi Gilman of the Massachusetts General Center for Addiction Medicine:
It may be that we're seeing a type of drug learning in the brain.  We think when people are in the process of becoming addicted, their brains form these new connections.
One detractor criticizes the size of the sample, "not big enough to draw conclusions".  Standing alone, that is a true if not necessarily accurate statement.  A solid conclusion can be drawn if the differences between the two groups are significant, as this study alleges.

The appropriately named Professor Nutt goes on to say, "Whatever cannabis does to the brain its not in the same league as alcohol which is a proven neurotoxin." [sic]

Yet the study is not about alcohol, is it?  However often this tired distraction is dragged out, the fact that alcohol can be a toxic agent does not alter the fact that cannabis is pernicious.  Acute alcohol usage over time does destroy brain cells; use of marijuana in the young alters the brain structure in a malign way.

On the political side of the argument, that marijuana usage is a matter of free will and liberty, I have to argue – conservative that I am – that society has an obligation to protect itself from the more nihilistic aspects of human nature.  Liberty does not equate with license.  I have met more than a few purported Libertarians who are particularly focused on the issue of pot legalisation, but fade away on any other subject.  I question the quality of the woolen coverings of their canine appetite.

And as I began this piece, sometimes the quality of the argument is measured by the numbers of its stentorian enemies.  Let us not forget that a typical side effect of marijuana usage is pronounced paranoia.

As if by coincidence, today marks the anniversary (1943) of the discovery that LSD is an hallucinogenic drug.  Much like cocaine, it was initially proclaimed to be benign until overwhelming evidence finally prevailed upon the pop culture that it was anything but.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Obama Spikes the Football Over the IRS Success

Building on his previous victory speech in the Rose Garden about the success of ObamaCare, touting the eleventh hour surge of applications before the imposition of fines or penalties, Obama made some pen-and-ink changes to reprise his triumphalist tone about the linchpin of the imperial presidency, the Internal Revenue Service.

"The goal we've set for ourselves - that no American should go without [being taxed] ... is achievable!"

Annual photos of people and cars lining up in order to post their tax returns before the bell tonight will replace the pictures that the establishment press used of similar lines to prove the popularity of the 'Affordable' Care Act (though they skipped the appropriate use of ironic quotes).  "The debate is over!  The [IRS] is here to stay!"

The two systems are intertwined, of course.  The IRS will ensure the popularity of ObamaCare by ensuring that Americans are enrolled, otherwise a fine will be imposed.  The fact that the IRS is involved could be confusing, since Obama declared quite often that Americans won't see their "taxes go up one dime!"  (Perhaps as often as he spoke of shovel-ready jobs and keeping your doctor.)

Donald B Virrelli, the US Solicitor General, solved this conundrum during the arguments before the Supreme Court in the litigation of NFIB v Sebelius that set the 5-4 vote in favor of ObamaCare.  He first argued that failure to secure health insurance would impose a fine, thereby establishing that it was not a tax.  During the second part of the argument, he then argued that it would be a tax instead, in order to ensure the ability of Congress to have the authority for the law, in that Congress has the unlimited ability to tax.  Chief Justice John Roberts bought it.

As a celebration of the day, comedian Remy Munasifi of Reason TV tells us how "Happy" we should be:


Contact Juggling with Rings - Lindzee Poi

As a slight diversion, old friend Dave Moore provided a link to a French juggler (who is not a mime, Dieu merci) named Lindzee Poi of Angers, casting what he calls an "amelymeloptical illusion".

[Connectivity problems?  Try this link instead.]

A sample - check the link above

Yes, how does he do it?  Haven't a clue.  I can't find anything beyond this and some other examples of his contact juggling prowess, but he now has my attention.  Enjoy.

The tune, incidentally, is Comptine d'un autre été ("A rhyme from another summer") by Yann Tiersen, heard in the movie Amélie.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Get Your Ass to Mars

My sainted brother sent this brief reminder of the doldrums of our space program:

The gentleman in the photo, in case you've forgotten or, if you are a victim of public education and were never introduced, is Buzz Aldrin, who accompanied the late, great Neil Armstong in mankind's first landing on the moon.  And let us not forget that Michael Collins piloted their Apollo return vehicle that remained in orbit, fulfilling the mission requirement of President John F Kennedy that our national goal should be "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth."  Even as a young teenager, I thought it odd that he should include that specificity, as if someone might not read his precise intentions.  ("Oh, you want to bring him back too?  Well, that's a whole different kettle of fish.")

It is a pithy observation of the state of the US manned space program, which has ceased to exist, and Aldrin is part of a plan to revive it with his Unified Space Vision.
No giant leaps this time.  More like a hop, skip and a jump.  For these long-duration missions we need an entirely new spacecraft that I call the Exploration Module, or XM.  Unilke the Orion capsule, which is designed for short flights around the Earth and the moon, the XM would contain the radiation shields, artificial gravity, food-production and recycling facilities necessary for a spaceflight of up to three years.
The plan is set in five-year blocks that would include a visit to the fly-by comet 46P/Wirtanen, asteroid 2001 GP2, and then asteroid 99942 Apophis to investigate its chances of a collision with Earth in 2036.  The program would culminate with a landing in 2025 on the small and irregular Martian moon of Phobos, with a diameter of some 14 miles, providing "the perfect perch from which to monitor and control the robots that will build the infrastructure on the Martian surface, in preparation for the first human visitors."

Indeed.  Phobos is tiny compared to our giant moon (2136 miles in diameter) but orbits far closer to Mars, so that it's presentation from the surface is more pronounced than would be expected.

We would forego another mission to our own moon (no race with China, for example) except in conjunction with other space powers in a consortium, taking on an attitude of "been there, done that", in order to focus on the grander vision of Mars.

After wasting our opportunities on our space program in atrophy, it is high time to claw our way back into space.  Neil Armstrong, just prior to his death, issued a joint message along with Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell, that condemned our abandonment of a manned space program and the general withering of NASA overall.  It is a melancholy fact that the twelve men who have walked on the moon will not live to see this or any other return to active space exploration.  Four have already died (Alan Sheppard, Neil Armstrong, James Irwin, and Pete Conrad) and the youngest, Charlie Dike, will turn 79 in October.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Brandeis University Shames Itself: Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Update: Here's What I Would Have Said at Brandeis)

I grew up with the euphemism "ivory tower", which described the attitude of the academics who were making pronouncements of how the world was supposed to be, as opposed to what the common peoples' experience and observation led them to discern.  The decrees that fluttered down to us from their hallowed battlements were to be considered holy writ, supplanting the scripture from a God not yet dead but surely mortally wounded, dying a death of a thousand cuts from men humans too smart to believe in Him.

Robespierre said as much, taking the Reign of Terror down the left fork of the Enlightenment.  Even before, Galileo was tried by the Roman Inquisition not because his observations violated church teachings but because they challenged the works of Tycho Brahe and the other scientists for whom the matter was already settled.

The ivory tower expanded into the ivory compound of our universities, carefully cultivating a mutual admiration society through the rule of tenure, and it grants guest membership to the pop culture who agrees with them.  The role of the university as a place of ideas holds true only if you agree to the accepted philosophies.  'Diversity' becomes one accepted view in a hall full of mirrors.

Brandeis University has become an emblem of the movement, and the irony is bitter.  Begun in 1947 as a place of higher learning that protects the Jewish community from anti-Semitism, named for the first Jewish supreme court justice, it came about primarily through the efforts of noted Zionist Rabbi Israel Goldstein.  Its transformation has been remarkable.

The university awarded an honorary degree to playwright Tony Kushner, who has been hostile to the idea of Israel at present, as opposed to what Israel should be in his mind.  Even its creation was a mistake, and "The biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community."  That surely includes some prominent Brandeis alumni, faculty, supporters, and students, but the award was granted anyway.  South African Bishop Desmond Tutu proclaimed Israel guilty of apartheid, yet he received an honorary degree as well.

But now an honorary degree was offered to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whom I mentioned before in an article about the persecution of Geert Wilders.  Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia and eventually became a women's rights activist and writer.  Whereas one would think that those credentials would set her in the good graces of today's politicized academic community, they somehow overlooked the fact that she is a women's rights advocate as it pertains to Islam.

First seeking protection in the Netherlands, she became a member of parliament and initially became famous for writing the screenplay for and narrating Theo van Gogh's Submission, which condemns the treatment of women in Islamic society.  The film's release resulted in a furious response from the Islamic community and led directly to the murder of van Gogh in broad daylight, stabbed multiple times with the killer finally stabbing a note in place on Van Gogh's body which condemned Hirsi Ali to death as well.  Hirsi Ali went into hiding and finally emigrated to the US after a Dutch court found that she was "endangering her neighbors".  She now has a position with the American Enterprise Institute and has married historian Niall Ferguson, occasional columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and Newsweek.  She has written her autobiography Infidel and published Nomad in 2010.

After offering the degree, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR condemned the move, whereupon the university discovered "certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University's core values."  Imagine, a university not doing its homework.  The offer was withdrawn, since Brandeis' core values apparently don't stray far from political correctness.

Perhaps the Saudi funding for the Crown Center for Middle East Studies may have something to do with it.  Maybe it was a two-for-one shot that includes husband Ferguson, also of the AEI, whose works have coined the term 'Eurabia' to describe the Arabisation of Europe, and 'impire' to describe an empire that no longer reaches to its periphery and exports power, but is imploding in upon itself, to describe "post-Christian" Europe.  If not the money, it certainly adds to the idea of Jewish self loathing so prominent with the Left.

Update:  "Here's What I Would Have Said at Brandeis."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Simple Gun Logic

From the droll David Burge, known popularly as Iowahawk, now corresponding by Twitter:

Which places our military bases in the same category as our schools: gun-free, or free-fire zones.  That being the exact reason that the shooters have picked those areas, precisely because the victims cannot defend themselves.  We can talk about how mentally disturbed the shooters are, but at least they aren't so crazy that they have to start shooting up anything, anywhere; no, they wait and make the conscious decision to service the right target.

The right target includes a likelihood that a police response is not close at hand.  It took the police in the case of Ivan Lopez at Fort Hood some twenty minutes to respond to the exact location of Lopez, whereupon Lopez took the not unsurprising way out by killing himself.  Twenty minutes is a not inconsiderable amount of time (think upon how radically time slows when staring down the barrel of a .45) but it is an understandable time lapse for the MP to have arrived at the area post haste yet still have to find the shooter.  God bless the young woman who bravely confronted Lopez so that he could terminate the emergency.

As I have said before, the police only show after a crime is committed.  Relying on police alone, no matter how noble or well trained they may be, is simply an exercise in calculating how many casualties the authorities are willing to sacrifice in order to maintain the peeling veneer of security for our soldiers and our children.  The people who make such decisions are lumpen bureaucrats, who refuse to see that hope is not a course of action, but who see clearly that allowing the Second Amendment to apply to their captive audiences will require some added responsibility on their risk-averse part.  It is literally a passive yet lethal stance that feeds into the pop media culture that simply cannot trust our military to be anything but the underclass that is whipped to barely-latent murderous fury just waiting to be unleashed.  It is absurd, contemptuous, and deadly.

(H/T to the Daily Timewaster)

A Jesus Documentary You Shouldn't Miss

For those of you who have not had the inclination to read the "About me" section accessed through the column on the right, you would find an almost parenthetical mention that I have a strong interest in the history of Christianity and the development of its theology. Readers who know me only through my postings may be surprised or even shocked to learn of that lapsed avocation as I admit that there have been few occasions to address the topic within the confines of writing, nor do I have the time or audience lately to teach as I did before.

But allow me this one recommendation in passing, and this has come to me from the Reverend Donald Sensing, late of the XVIII Airborne Corps, who has posted news of a video from the Nesch Brothers of Roseburg, Oregon. Jesus of Testimony is the best recent work I have seen on questions of the legitimacy of the history and historiography of Jesus and the Resurrection. The video portrays a selection of scholars – actual scholars, not the academic charlatans of the Jesus Seminar, for example – who provide excellent testimony that attests to the historical foundation for Jesus and the Gospels.

One of my favorite renditions of Jesus: attacking the moneychangers in the Temple

I am familiar to one degree or another with the panel, though two whom I have met stick out for me. Gary Habermas, Distinguished Professor of Apologetics at Liberty University, is a prolific author who is best known outside academia for his 1985 debate with the late noted British philosopher and atheist Anthony Flew. The debate had some influence in Flew's later concession in 2004 that he moved away from his faith that there was no God to a position of deistic theism, and confirmed for clarification that he had a positive belief in the existence of God.

Steve Gregg has had an itinerant ministry throughout the West Coast and can be found through The Narrow Path ministry in Temecula, California. He is director of the Great Commission School and has a daily syndicated radio broadcast that can be accessed through his web page. His approach is intelligent and friendly and he can use terms like "preterist amillenialism" in a non-threatening way. His book on Revelation is authoritative and the introduction alone is worth the price of the book.

The video can be purchased as a means of support for the ministry, though it can be viewed for free at the link, which I strongly encourage you to do if you have any sort of interest in the topic. The Nesches, like Steve Gregg, believe that the Word of God should not be sold and typically do not ask for donations, but they do welcome financial support for their ministry. Set aside some time – it tops out at two hours, fifteen minutes – but it is well worth the effort for those who are coming to a need for understanding of the Gospels, against the pop culture who cannot help but gainsay them and their good news.