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Full Tilt Poker pulls out of Washington State 2010-Nov-16 at 14:56 PST

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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As I thought in September they might, Full Tilt Poker has ceased allowing real money poker in Washington State.  It’s absolutely disgusting that a game of skill like poker has such an awful legal environment around it in Washington State that this has come about.

For the record, I’m not mad at Full Tilt for pulling out… they’re just doing what they have to do.  I’m mad at our Legislature for not making the legal environment as clear as possible.

Poker, like skateboarding, is not a crime.


Alcohol worst drug overall 2010-Nov-15 at 19:09 PST

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From Alcohol ‘more harmful than heroin’ says Prof David Nutt, 1-Nov-2010:

Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack when the overall dangers to the individual and society are considered, according to a study in the Lancet.

The report is co-authored by Professor David Nutt, the former government chief drugs adviser who was sacked in 2009.

It ranked 20 drugs on 16 measures of harm to users and to wider society.

Heroin, crack and crystal meth were deemed worst for individuals, with alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine worst for society, and alcohol worst overall.

The study by the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs also said tobacco and cocaine were judged to be equally harmful, while ecstasy and LSD were among the least damaging.

This is an attempt to take a multi-perspectival approach to Britain’s overall drug policy and enforcement.  Among the things that such an approach would have to look at would be both the individual toll and the toll on society around the use of each drug.

When this group used exactly that approach, they found that alcohol clearly was the worst drug in terms of its overall effects, ranking near the top in individual harm, and ranking well above all others in terms of its negative effects on society.

By the way, Ecstasy, LSD, and Mushrooms were three of the four least damaging drugs in the study.

If we’re going to develop an Integral perspective on drug policy, this is the kind of study that we need to sanction and support here in the United States and around the world.  And we’d do well to listen to the… sorry, got distracted by some woman in a tight shirt selling beer… results.

Longer lifespans = higher retirement ages 2010-Nov-15 at 01:02 PST

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When the Social Security Act was first passed in 1935, the average life expectancy in the United States was 61 years.  Today, average life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 and continuing to grow.  The Social Security Act never envisioned an average life span this high, and yet we’re still living off of age ranges from the world before World War II.

So it comes as a surprise to me that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the bipartisan committee that President Obama has appointed to look at ways to address the federal deficit and debt, has suggested that we raise the retirement age for full Social Security benefits to 68 by 2050, and 69 by 2075.

It surprises me not because it’s too shocking, but because it’s far too tame.  Unfortunately, the short-sighted reactions came swiftly.

From Panel Seeks Social Security Cuts and Higher Taxes, by Jackie Calmes, 10-Nov-2010:

Liberal groups immediately condemned the plan when news of it broke, for its Social Security and Medicare changes and for the scope of the spending cuts. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in a statement called it “simply unacceptable.”

The furor on the left was not matched — yet — by a similar outcry from the right to the draft’s proposed revenue increases, cuts to the military or other options.  [This outcry came the next day. – Scott]

The plan has many elements with the potential to draw intense political fire. It lays out options for overhauling the tax code that include limiting or eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. It envisions cutting Pentagon weapons programs and paring back almost all domestic programs.

By 2050, we can expect the average human life span in the United States to be at least 120 years, and probably closer to 150.  Wouldn’t it make sense to leave Social Security only for the time when the vast majority of Americans are too old and infirm to continue to work?  Given the advances in medical technology we’ll see in the next 20 years, and then in the 20 years after that, we won’t see poor health, in general, until far later than we do now.

The only reasonable solution to our overburdened Social Security system is to index the retirement age to increases in longevity.  Although the Commission proposes exactly this, it follows that up with the 68 and 69 numbers.  I have no idea what projections they’ve looked at in terms of life span, but I’m damn sure they’re far too pessimistic.  Of course, we’ll quickly have more retirees than workers paying taxes to support them if we don’t raise the retirement age for Social Security significantly.

Just as we index benefits based on inflation, and we make cost of living adjustments annually, we need to make retirement age adjustments annually based on average life span, which will continue to grow.  Will we have the political foresight to pull that off?  Not until we have far more Integral politicians running things….

Supercomputing: Right on time 2010-Nov-14 at 19:08 PST

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The growth of supercomputing capability in the world continues along it’s exponential curve.  In the wake of China staking out its territory by announcing the world’s fastest supercomputer, at 2.5 petaflops, the United States announces its next move: two different 20 petaflop systems by 2012.

From U.S. building next wave of supercomputers, by Patrick Thibodeau, 12-Nov-2010:

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, home for what has been the world’s most powerful system, the Jaguar, a 1.75-petaflop system, versus Tianhe-1A’s 2.5 petaflops, is building a 20-petaflop system that will include accelerators.

That system will be ready in 2012, James Hack, director of the National Center for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge, told Computerworld. No other details about the system are being offered.

Another 20-petaflop system is being built for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory by IBM. That system has already been announced and is expected to arrive at the lab in late 2011 and be in production in 2012.

To put this in perspective, according to Wikipedia, "As of June 2010, the 500 fastest supercomputers in the world combine for 32.4 petaFLOPS of computing power."  That means that, in less than two years, we’ll have two systems in the United States that, together, are more powerful than the top 500 supercomputers on Earth today.  Japan will have a 10 petaflop system as well.

Additionally, the price per gigaflop (a petaflop is 1,000,000 gigaflops) has dropped from $15,000,000 in 1984, to $30,000 in 1997, to $1,000 in 2000, and today to around $0.14.  That’s right: from $15,000,000 to 14¢, and we’ll soon get a gigaflop for under 1¢, on hardware available to ordinary consumers around the world.

That’s how fast supercomputing power grows.  That’s how fast it grows for us as well, on ordinary computers.  More computing power, less cost to build it.  It’s fun to watch.

Charming but naïve: Obama shouldn’t run for reelection 2010-Nov-14 at 01:23 PST

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From One and done: To be a great president, Obama should not seek reelection in 2012, by Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell, 14-Nov-2010:

This is a critical moment for the country. From the faltering economy to the burdensome deficit to our foreign policy struggles, America is suffering a widespread sense of crisis and anxiety about the future. Under these circumstances, Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones.

To that end, we believe Obama should announce immediately that he will not be a candidate for reelection in 2012.

If the president goes down the reelection road, we are guaranteed two years of political gridlock at a time when we can ill afford it. But by explicitly saying he will be a one-term president, Obama can deliver on his central campaign promise of 2008, draining the poison from our culture of polarization and ending the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity and common purpose.

If Obama announced this week that he wouldn’t seek reelection, it would Bring Hope Back™ for a little while.  That’s why this idea is so charming… for a little while, it’ll be right.  The country would seem united again, there would be excitement that we could work through our problems quickly, and that we could come together around some simple ideas that most of us agree on.  Unfortunately, after some months, it would fade, and impatience would once again take over.

Soon the Democrats in Congress would stop listening to President Obama, because their neck is on the line in the next election, but not his.

And the Republicans… if you think that what you’ve seen so far is what an uncooperative Republican Caucus looks like, you haven’t seen them when he’s not even an opponent anymore.  Don’t forget, Republicans believe that the policies they’re advocating are better for the country, and a whole bunch of them just got elected, so they think they’re on the right track.  Anything he proposes that doesn’t match the story they’re selling gets stonewalled immediately, and there won’t be enough Democrats who want to fight about it to get things done.

So, really, it would lead to an even worse version of Congress than we’re seeing right now.  But what we’d really lose is the potential to have our first Integral President serve for another four years.

If he runs and loses, I’ll be disappointed and I’ll be among those who reevaluates the pace of development I think I’m seeing.  But if Obama doesn’t run at all… I’ll wonder what could have been, and where the country could have gone if someone with a clearly Integral perspective were running things just as the Integral movement heated up around the world.  I’ll wonder if we’re missing out on a chance to ride out this current storm and end up in some smoother sailing by the end of his second term, thanks to a segment of the public undergoing rapid transformation, as they take on broader perspectives.

So, I’m sorry, I must disagree with this sweet and well-intentioned idea we find written up in the Opinion section of the Washington Post.  Charming idea, but it won’t lead to the world that they think it will.

This doesn’t make a pessimist, by the way, just a realist.  I trust you already know how optimistic I am about where we’re going, because I am.

And don’t despair: the Republicans don’t actually have a credible candidate right now who can beat him in a general election, and we’re two years out.  I know that’s a lot of time, but in the world of United States National Politics, that’s less time than it might seem.  I really don’t think President Obama has much to worry about in 2012.