Radio appearance

by Henry Farrell on August 8, 2006

I forgot to mention yesterday that I was going to be on Warren Olney’s “To the Point” show, which is syndicated to a variety of public radio stations. The topic was the effects of blogs on the Lamont-Lieberman contest – my less-than original take on it was that they weren’t having much effect on the ground, but that they were certainly shaping national perceptions of the competition. I did get in a few digs at Martin Peretz’s “lunatic screed”: in the _Wall Street Journal_ yesterday, which another of the guests, notorious WSJ ideologue John Fund, was touting as a sober reflection on how the Democrats were going to the dogs. If anyone’s interested, the show should be available “here”: (I don’t do the RealPlayer thing, so I haven’t verified that the feed works).

Looking for outsourcing advice

by Eszter Hargittai on August 8, 2006

I’m looking to outsource some work and could use some advice on:

1. what to call the work I need done
2. what service to use
3. what pitfalls to avoid

[click to continue…]

A hack writes

by Matt_Bishop on August 8, 2006

Thanks for that generous intro, Maria. Wiping my drool from my chin, I will see if I can get into this blogging thing. I’ve noticed one or two provocative comments on this site about the rag where I ply my trade, so I’d better make it clear that I’m blogging in a personal capacity, and in the best Falstaffian traditions, I will use my discretion and not engage in any debates about The Economist position on this or that.

The Daily Mail is another matter. I’ve just flown back to NY from London, and BA kindly gave me the chance for free to read about Britain through the strangely coloured lens of that venerable tabloid. Various staples leap out: a hatred of the soon to be ex-Lady McCartney; stories of feeble pensioners confronting teenage yobs who harass them – only for the parents of the yobs to complain to the police, who arrest the pensioners; unflattering pictures of Cherie Blair on the beach. But two stories seemed worth drawing to the attention of Crooked Timberers (if that is the collective term? maybe Crooks for short?).

First, apparently Mr Blair’s policy advisors reckon that downgrading the criminality of using cannabis in Britain has led to an increase in the use both of cannabis and of other harder drugs, thus seeming to confirm the controversial theory that cannabis is a gateway drug.

I believe that legalisation is the only workable solution to the horrendous problems associated with such drugs, ranging from the wrecked lives of abusers to the wrecked economies of the suppliers. So, what to make of these findings from Britain? First, assuming the Mail has accurately reported the conclusions, I suppose that supporters of legalisation should not be all that surprised that reducing criminal penalties increases drug use. That is clearly a risk. The case for legalisation is that the benefits of that policy change outweigh the downside of greater use.

First, users should suffer less harm, because the quality of drugs is likely to be more consistent and better in a legal market and because users should be better informed about the risks they run when they use the drug (which of course, as with booze, will not stop some taking excessive risks). Second, the supply side should be removed from the criminal underworld into the glorious light of transparent modern capitalism, where the twin effects of brand and legal liability (among other things) will work their magic. (Compare the modern booze industry with the prohibition era speakeasies, or consider the product info provided by your local drug dealer with the amount and quality of information now provided by cigarette firms to their customers.)

The problem in Britain, from my perspective, is that its policy has been so feeble – driven I suspect more by the fact that the police hated getting involved with the middle-class families whose kids now routinely use cannabis than by any more serious intent to tackle the global problems of illegal drugs. What is needed is the sort of full scale legalisation which allows customers to buy cannabis in Tesco or WalMart, from respectable purveyors like Philip Morris. Not sure the Mail will buy that, though.

The second interesting Mail story was a report that injections of stem cells are the new hot beauty therapy for the super-wealthy, apparently helping ageing organs and skin to regrow, and generally rejuvenating the bod all over. A few weeks ago, I was talking to some friends from Moscow, who told me that the oligarchs are regularly getting their stem cell shot at $10,000 a go, and that Boris Yeltsin is rumoured to be a big fan, now dancing the night away on a regular basis and looking a couple of decades younger. What this news will do for the stem cell debate in the US, one can only wonder. But can the crude use of stem cells really be such a powerful elixir of youth – or is it the latest snake oil for the rich? Is there a scientist out there who can tell me, before, in search of a full head of hair and the fresh face of youth, I hop on a plane for Moscow and one of the 50 clinics that the Mail tells me have opened there in the past three years to offer this wonder cure?

Guest blogger – Matthew Bishop

by Maria on August 8, 2006

I am very pleased to be introducing a dear friend, Matthew Bishop, as CT’s guest blogger this week. Matthew is a fellow Fellow of the Twenty First Century Trust (Henry and I are also fellows.). His biog at the Economist tells us that, apart from being ‘Chief Business Writer/American Business Editor’ of that newspaper, Matthew has written several worthy sounding books. I can add to the official blurb that while Matthew was on the Advisors Group of the United Nations International Year of Microcredit 2005 he met and briefed Angelina Jolie on micro-finance. Rmphf!

Also, and perhaps this is where the professionalism of journalists trumps us amateurs, Matthew is a consummate hack (in a good way). Several years ago, Matthew and I were at an after-dinner speech by a former prime minister of a slightly out of the way country. The PM’s heavies all wore Pele style mullets and insisted that the drink stop pouring during his speech. The speech went on and on. Several people nodded off. I believe Matthew snored, but maybe that’s embroidery on my part. I mostly stared into the middle distance and fretted about the lack of booze. The speech abruptly stopped. Our devilishly handsome chair thanked him and asked desperately for questions. Our minds were blank. The silence was painful. Someone gave Matthew a dig. He spluttered awake, took instant stock, and asked a very clever and well-backgrounded question on the politics of that country. What a pro. While others are asleep with drool on their chins, the hack is awake (just) and parlaying a little knowledge into a lot of kudos. That, I said to myself, is a man born to blog.