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David Brooks: I enjoyed pot, but you shouldn't

Here's patrician blatherskite David Brooks with an "I smoked weed, but am happy to see you jailed for it" sentiment: Weed, Been There. Done That.

In my teenage years, my friends and I smoked marijuana. It was fun. I have some fond memories of us all being silly together. I think those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships ... most of us developed higher pleasures. Smoking was fun, for a bit, but it was kind of repetitive. ...

But, of course, these are the core questions: Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

This column really gets to the heart of what's wrong with David Brooks. He sees criminalizing millions of people, and all the associated social and financial costs, as a tolerable "subtle" disincentive to something he himself enjoyed. Moreover, the reasons he gives center on the fact he stopped enjoying it when he gained the privilege of access to greater things. He even downplays the alleged medical downsides in favor of what amounts, literally, to a puritan distaste for "lesser pleasures."

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The Snowden Principle

John Cusack, actor, filmmaker, and board member of journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation, on the ethics of civil disobedience in whistleblowing.

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How Snowden orchestrated a blockbuster story: NYT ticktock on NSA Prism leaks

In the New York Times, Charlie Savage and Mark Mazzetti explain how Edward J. Snowden instructed three journalists, Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, to fly to Hong Kong about 12 days ago to "visit a particular out-of-the-way corner of a certain hotel, and ask — loudly — for directions to another part of the hotel. If all seemed well, the source would walk past holding a Rubik’s Cube."

They followed his directions, and encountered a man with a Rubik’s Cube. That man was Snowden.

In related news, NYT columnist David Brooks is an idiot: "He betrayed our privacy," Brooks writes about the man who leaked evidence of the NSA's secret and sweeping surveillance program. You have got to be kidding me.

Snowden smearing begins

Gawker's Hamilton Nolan ridicules the halfwitted psychoanalysis and smearing aimed by sneering pundits at Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who revealed the agency's expansive surveillance of everyday Americans.

We are often accused of being cynics. But even we can see quite plainly that the Prism story is huge, important, and newsworthy, and that the person who made the story happen deserves credit for helping it come out. Oddly enough, the cynics on this story reside in the ultra-establishment. They are the journalists and pundits who feel compelled to demonstrate their own sophistication by dismissing these revelations as old hat (though documented proof of these programs has never been seen before). They are those who have grown so inured to the gross overreach of government power that they can no longer conceive of it as scandalous.

David Brooks' piece is particularly grotesque, and not simply because going to it means having to look at one of his weird Zoolanderesque mugshots. Check out this paragraph:

He betrayed the privacy of us all. If federal security agencies can’t do vast data sweeps, they will inevitably revert to the older, more intrusive eavesdropping methods.

Don't make me beat you, honey.

David Brooks TED Talk: The Social Animal


[Video Link] I wasn't expecting David Brooks' talk at TED2011, about the failures of politicians to make good policy decisions, to be as funny and insightful as it was. After all, as one commenter at TED.com's website said of Brooks, "this is the same guy who accused Harry Ried of wearing a tin-foil hat and communing with extra-terrestrials just because Ried accused Bush of fabricating reasons to invade Iraq." Politics aside, Brooks' talk was one of my favorites at TED.

Tapping into the findings of his latest book, NYTimes columnist David Brooks unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences -- insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge. In a talk full of humor, he shows how you can't hope to understand humans as separate individuals making choices based on their conscious awareness.

TED2011: David Brooks -- The Social Animal