Egyptian military crackdown (2:04) The world was shocked earlier this month when the Egyptian military overthrew the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood government, arrested their leaders, including president Mohamed Morsi, and mounted a brutal crackdown that left 1000 people dead. This situation illustrates a new distinction that is coming clear in world politics: that between liberal democracies and illiberal democracies. The difference is that the former requires strong civil institutions: a constitution, courts and laws that support the rights of the minorities and political opposition, and insures that the next election is fair. Without these social supports democracy can be another way to install an illiberal regime that rigs the game for perpetual power. It took the West several hundred years to cut reliable grooves of liberal democracy, so maybe it was too much to hope that Egypt would do it in two. But still, this is a big setback.

Marijuana normalized (14:26) We seem to be at a tipping point in our cultural attitudes and laws toward marijuana use. Last week we saw two powerful figures come forward to remedy the outrage that has hundreds of thousands of people in this country imprisoned for decades for the same activities that potheads in Boulder are doing perfectly legally. The first was Eric Holder, US Attorney General, who announced that he would eliminate “draconian mandatory minimum sentences” and allow greater prosecutorial discretion for non-violent federal drug offenders, signaling a major change in the “drug war.” The other was Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, who came out in favor of medical marijuana, and called the drug war a unscientific sham. I confess to having mixed feelings about full legalization, which Colorado is in the process of implementing, because it is clear that marijuana is indeed addictive and the newer strains are super-potent. But in the fullness of history individual liberty wins out, and with marijuana as with alcohol people are better off policing themselves.

Elysium – yet another dystopia (23:53) Elysium, the new Matt Damon/Jodie Foster movie is an Occupy Wall Street fever dream, a world 140 years in the future where the 1% has abandoned the 99% to lawless slums and brutal factories. The rich have fled to  Elysium, a huge space colony orbiting Earth which is a calm, orderly world of manicured parks, well-groomed people and neo-Grecian McMansions. As science fiction it is entertaining enough, but is this really a plausible scenario for humanity? No, but that is not the point. As the great science fiction writer Ray Bradbury said, “science fiction doesn’t predict the future, it prevents it.” Ok, so Elysium is doing its job in warning us about social inequality. But what I wouldn’t give for a movie that actually attempts to show what is far more likely: a future of increased goodness, truth and beauty. Close Encounters II anyone?

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