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Harrop: Celebrate freedom, not pot

As many Californians reveled with unbridled joy over their new freedom to use marijuana for any reason, this writer felt the bit of mild disapproval tighten in her mouth.

Make no mistake. She fully supports the legalization of pot, as well as the decriminalization of hard drugs. The war on drugs has been a costly failure, and the right to smoke, ingest or bathe in pot is a fine thing to celebrate. But that should turn pot into just another legal substance to be regulated, taxed and, importantly, used with care. It’s not the new Roman god.

Let me come clean. I spent New Year’s Eve slightly intoxicated by a bubbly yellow grape product. There are times when I’ve had too much to drink and acted noisy and stupid—that according to observers. (I thought I was captivating.)

I have since reined in my use of alcohol and have also come to believe that nondrinkers can have a high old time with club soda. We’ve all noticed that heavy drinkers are not so interesting as they think they are.

Look, I believe in the right to get high on alcohol or on drugs, as long as you don’t drive vehicles, operate on hearts or do other things prohibited while “under the influence.” It’s simply best to be disciplined in using these substances. That’s why portraying inebriation as the gateway to the best times of your life can be problematic.

The wonderful Thin Man movies of the 1930s and 1940s have been criticized for glamorizing drunkenness. Debonair detective Nick and his rich wife, Nora, are seen lining up cocktails and dancing to the rhythm of a martini shaker. It’s party time in post-Prohibition America.

These movies don’t entirely obscure the downside of these nightly (and daytime) bacchanals. You hear the garbled speech and see pathetic fall-down drunks. And there are scenes of Nora moaning in bed the morning after, an ice pack on her head.

The charm of these movies derives from Nick and Nora’s high style, sharp wit, unfailing kindness and, yes, willingness to break loose. One doesn’t see their daily drunkenness taking its toll in lost looks, shortened lives and, ultimately, a sad existence. For more on that, consult another movie, “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Again, the libertarian side of me supports the right to alienate one’s family, suffer liver failure and die prematurely. But the humanitarian side heralds the many who could not control their drinking and broke their downward plunge through participation in Alcoholics Anonymous.

CNN has come under some criticism for seeming to deify pot in its New Year’s Eve coverage. Much time was showered on a pot-themed party in Denver. (Recreational use of marijuana has been legal in Colorado for several years.) The slurring attendees were both boisterous and amazingly boring.

West Coast makers of fine wine were concerned that recreational use of marijuana, also legal in Oregon and Washington, would cut into their sales. Their worries have apparently eased.

“We haven’t actually seen anybody who’s laying down their glass of wine to pick up a bong,” wine writer Tina Caputo was quoted as saying. “There’s room in people’s lives for both.”

There’s also room for neither. Driving under the influence of marijuana, as with alcohol, is illegal. In California, even passengers aren’t allowed to smoke it. And the damage heavy pot use can wreak on health is just beginning to be understood.

Obviously, my preferred intoxicants are beer, wine and occasional spirits. Alcohol has been tested over millennia, and though a bong is interesting, it’s not beautiful like a Champagne glass. That’s one opinion.

But finally, hats off to all who worship neither Bacchus nor cannabis. Now go enjoy yourselves.


Letters
Your Views: We know what will happen in a nuclear war

I have been listening to the strained, angry rhetoric between our president and the leader of North Korea. It’s like listening to two 7-year-old children. With the U.S. and North Korea having the capability of creating massive numbers of deaths because of nuclear weapons, it brings back memories of what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the end of WWII.

Historian Paul Ham has written a book on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He states in 1945, when atom bombs were dropped on these two cities by the U.S., Hiroshima’s population was 320,000, and Nagasaki’s population was 260,000. Approximately 115,000 at Hiroshima died or were wounded, and at Nagasaki 65,000 were killed or wounded. The bomb at Nagasaki was subject to a force equal to 22,000 tons of TNT. In summary, more than 100,000 people were killed instantly by the two bombs, mostly women, children and the elderly.

At Nagasaki, the bomb completely burned or wrecked the city’s hospitals, and 18 schools and universities were totally destroyed. The bomb destroyed Nagasaki’s main hospital, and none of the patients survived. About 65,000 of Hiroshima’s 90,000 buildings “were rendered unusable.” The flash of the bomb lasted only a fraction of a second, but it caused third-degree burns to exposed skin.

We know what happens if the U.S. and North Korea drop nuclear bombs on each other. In regard to nuclear-war issues, I’m watching to see what kind of moral compass and soul do politicians and citizens have at this time.

LEON K. FREEBURG

Janesville


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Guest Views: We can all agree that ‘fake news’ is bad, but how ‘complicit’ are you in its spread?

The term “fake news,” already embedded in the national psyche of this country, achieved global recognition when the UK-based Collins Dictionary declared it the Word of the Year for 2017, citing its “ubiquitous presence.”

The masquerading of fake news as real, and assaults on real news as fake, threatens our democratic institutions, including that of a free press. This compounds problems abroad and creates tensions worldwide.

Collins defines the term as “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.” President Donald Trump uses it as a rhetorical device to discount an unfavorable story or distrusted news outlet or diminish the media at large.

Others are following his lead: Trump surrogates, members of Congress, autocrats and dictators elsewhere now alleging fake news treatment, and political analysts who argue that unverified information that is “out there” gives them license to repeat it as fact.

Fake news comes in different forms, ranging from total fabrication to distortion of facts to state-sponsored propaganda to the spread of erroneous content on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Trump repeatedly turns to Twitter to discredit the news media, tweeting about fake news 141 times from January through October, according to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Americans disturbingly are buying in. A Politico poll recently found that 46 percent of voters actually believe major news organizations make up stories about Trump.

This is troubling in the journalism universe. At least most major news organizations admit their mistakes. Still, we clearly we need to do more to regain reader trust.

But readers and viewers also should find the spread of fake news troubling. Which brings us to another intriguing Word of the Year. Dictionary.com selected “complicit,” noting the word’s new relevance in politics and social commentary.

Dictionary.com says complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” Put simply, it means being, at some level, responsible for something … even if indirectly.

Interest in the word spiked during 2017, including after Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona announced his retirement, saying, “I will not be complicit or silent” about the current political climate and the tone of Trump’s presidency. It emerged in conversations about alleged sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and whether others knew of the behavior but failed to stop it.

The connection between “complicit” and “fake news” is easily made. Americans have become complicit in accepting and sharing fake news. We all need to be smarter in recognizing deception.

Some advice: Don’t trust everything a friend shares with you online. Be your own fact-checker. Share only stories you know to be true. Call out “friends” who send you unverified rubbish. Be willing to pay for journalism you trust.

Our nation needs discerning readers and viewers—those who welcome honest journalism that holds leaders accountable and provides vital information for citizens to cast informed votes and contribute to decision-making.

Nothing less than our democracy depends on it.

—The Dallas Morning News


Columns
Cyr: Good news for the new year--and beyond

“Nattering nabobs of negativism” is probably the most enduring of the many alliterative pronouncements of Spiro Agnew, vice president in the Nixon administration until forced to resign because of corruption. This particular phrase, penned by Nixon speechwriter William Safire, derogatively denigrated diligent reporters for placing bad news above good.

Why, Agnew asked rhetorically, did the malicious media not put priority on the positive? He attacked “pusillanimous pussyfooters” allegedly allergic to America.

Inspired by the positive points of the spirit of Spiro “Good News” Agnew, below is a list of definitive developments that definitely deserve dissemination and discussion.

First, democracy is becoming the accepted way of life for the world’s population overall, not just the privileged few. As recently as three decades ago, the people of Latin America lived almost uniformly in various degrees of authoritarian regime.

Today, Castro’s Cuba is literally the only remaining dictatorship in the Americas. Despite pervasive and ruthless state political control, the increasingly desperate need for foreign investment is forcing Havana’s geriatric communists to loosen their iron grip. Reestablishing long-severed diplomatic ties with the U.S. is one result.

Even autocratic Hugo Chavez of Venezuela had to face the voters, and near the end of his rule lost on occasion. Tiny Costa Rica was once the beacon of freedom south of our border. Now that light spreads throughout the Americas.

Likewise, reasonably honest and contested elections are spreading in Africa, Asia and the former Soviet Union and—at least locally—China. In global context, the dramatic, tumultuous and violent “Arab Spring” has been partly a manifestation of the worldwide drive toward fair representative government.

Japan and South Korea are somewhat overshadowed by negative nuclear news from North Korea. That is unfortunate.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has responded to uncertain political developments in the United States by reiterating commitment to our alliance. Japan’s economy continues to be one of the largest, most productive on earth.

South Korea President Jae-in Moon has impressive credentials, including military service and human rights activism. This other democratic Asia economic powerhouse remains committed to the U.S.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic majority nation. The government is stable, a firm U.S. ally, effective in combating terrorism. By contrast, during the mid-1960s its drift into the Soviet orbit encouraged American military escalation in Vietnam.

Second, market economics is spreading, as alternative economic systems fail. Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 declaration of “People’s Socialism” for China has become a benchmark event for that nation and more the vast Asia region, and well beyond.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement between mainland China and Taiwan is an historic result of the free market economic revolution. Major economic barriers have come down. Regionally, Taiwan’s role as source of capital, expertise and investment is important despite Taiwan Strait tensions.

Third, collectively there is extraordinary continuing growth in economic production. Yale Historian Paul Kennedy, in “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers,” notes total world manufacturing rose from an assigned value of 100 in 1900 to 3041.6 by 1980. This long-term trend continues.

In industrial nations, the average human lifespan doubled in the 20th century. Stephen Moore and Julian Simon describe this transformation in quality of life in the CATO Institute’s “It’s Getting Better All The Time.”

Undeniably, free competitive economies and open competitive elections are interconnected, historically and currently. Adam Smith’s classic “The Wealth of Nations” appeared in 1776, the year the American Revolution began.


Arthur I. Cyr