Daily Trawl

Missed my Friday Giant due to off-line commitments, but I have read a few things I found interesting over the last couple of days, so here they are.

1. Balls still rolling.

And yet civilisation has failed to grind to a halt.

Good Morning, Denver

It is hard not to notice that two issues which have been daydreams for the left for a very long time have both suddenly gained popular traction and started moving towards resolutions. I’m not the first to draw parallels between marriage equality and cannabis prohibition. One of the things that was remarked on during the process of moving marriage equality from a fringe view to a majority one was that the great post-AIDS growth in activism aimed particularly at living out of the closet had made an enormous difference. The more important people suddenly realised they had a gay relative or friend, the more people who had for years supported the idea but been prevented from speaking out by expediency kept coming out of the woodwork and writing articles.

Something very similar has happened with the growing cracks in the international consensus on cannabis prohibition, and it can be seen easily in the coverage by the FT. After the GCDP report in 2011 in which 149 major world dignitaries outed themselves as in favour of ending cannabis prohibition, the FT published a careful and guardedly positive article pointing out the economic benefits of ending the War on Drugs. There have been several more positive blog posts and op-eds since. But in the last two days they alone have published no less than three different articles [1] on the subject. The Torygraph (oddly) have generally been supportive (they were the main vehicle for Richard Branson’s press campaign in 2011 and 2012) but since ballot legalisation in Colorado took effect several of their authors have come out openly cheerleading for the project. The Independent is not immune. Add in the Nutt-Sack affair, Sanjay Gupta’s informative mea culpa, Uruguay’s current confrontation with the INCB and all the other things that have happened and you can see why this time feels a bit different than last.

The authoritarians and Sinclairites [2] are attempting to muster some kind of concerted opposition, but as David Weigel points out over at Slate, the Con arguments are … a bit weak. In related news, HSBC have finally received their wrist-slap from the US government.

2. More Popery
Daffodils for FrancisLast Trawl I noticed that Andrew Sullivan was keeping a close eye on Pope Francis. At the time I was being very cynical about the new boss (just look at the old boss!) but events since have suggested Sullivan was right. On average, the things this Pope has said publicly on several subjects (inequality, church corruption and so on) have impressed me. Then comes this:

“[The Pope] called same-sex marriage an ‘anti-value and an anthropological regression,'” Zenit, a news agency that covers the Vatican, reports. “In a conversation with Rabbi Abraham Skorka published in the book On Heaven and Earth, he said same-sex marriage is a weakening of the institution of marriage, an institution that has existed for thousands of years and is ‘forged according to nature and anthropology.'”

In this, at least, Pope Francis is no more liberal than the guy who used to run the Inquisition. But it did occur to me that the same person who said that, also said this:

Pope Francis I says the Catholic Church must stop being “obsessed” with preaching about same-sex marriage, birth control, and abortion, or it may find itself extinct. In a lengthy, shocking, and blunt interview that was given and published in secrecy, the Pope added, “I am a sinner.”

“We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”

Clearly something changed. The first quote was given in 2010 by the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, and the second after his establishment as the newly-annointed Pope Francis I. It occurs to me that to him, even if not for us, those two quotes were issued by different people; and that it is at least plausible that his views have been moderated by his change in status.

3. And from the blogs…
Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing in the Atlantic about man-made famine in the Ukraine. At WonkBlog, Sarah Kliff has worrying news about the religious right and the war on women, Neil Irwin is considering structural versus cyclic damage to the US economy and Brad Plummer is talking abut geo-engineering (he also has some suprisingly good (if not great) news on climate policy in the US). Timothy B. Lee is at the Switch talking about quantum computing and the NSA. Finally, Simon Wren-Lewis is talking sense about the British economy and the political delusions of the austerians. That last one is a bit long and wonkish but very good.

[1] Free registration required.
[2] The quote “It is difficult to persuade a man to change his mind if his salary depends on his not changing it” is often attributed to Upton Sinclair. I use the term to indicate the professional Drug Warriors at the INCB, in the DEA and DOJ, and in the boardrooms where billions are made off the WoD.


January 2014
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Per Argument Ad Astra

Politics, history, economics and rampant speculation from a victim of the Great Recession, currently at large in the West Midlands.

"When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters."
                -- Adam Smith


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