Sunday, March 30, 2008

Feeding the monkeys

Welcome back Agenda, and a special Nice to See Ya to Jane Clifton, who begins a new column called Political Animals. Today's stream well and truly takes the piss.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Remember Iraq?

Bill Maher gets his Bring the Troops Home kite shot down by CNN reporter in Baghdad, Michael Ware:


Friday, March 28, 2008

4:20 News


Image from Scoop

NZ soldiers face court martial over alleged hashish use. So much for when in Rome... And I dispute the statistic at the bottom of the article, which says "The NZDF has a low level of drug abuse. Only one percent test positive in random drug tests." Can't find a link, but a Victoria University thesis last year put the Defence Force's illicit drug use as much higher than one percent.

In that bastion of liberal drug laws, Texas, a defendant has successfully argued that smoking pot is a medical necessity: "[B]reaking the law was necessary to prevent a harm worse than the one the law is aimed at preventing."

After accusations that the Executive Director of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs was treating Civil Society with tokenism, the man has since stated that the international drug control system is not ‘fit for purpose:’

“Looking back over the last century, we can see that the control system and its application have had several unintended consequences - they may or may not have been unexpected but they were certainly unintended.” (p.10)

“The first unintended consequence is a huge criminal black market that thrives in order to get prohibited substances from producers to consumers, whether driven by a 'supply push’ or a 'demand pull', the financial incentives to enter this market are enormous. There is no shortage of criminals competing to claw out a share of a market in which hundred fold increases in price from production to retail are not uncommon”. (p.10)

“The second unintended consequence is what one night call policy displacement. Public health, which is clearly the first principle of drug control…was displaced into the background”. (p.10)

“The third unintended consequence is geographical displacement. lt is often called the balloon effect because squeezing (by tighter controls) one place produces a swelling (namely an increase)in another place…” (p.10)

“A system appears to have been created in which those who fall into the web of addiction find themselves excluded and marginalized from the social mainstream, tainted with a moral stigma, and often unable to find treatment even when they may be motivated to want it.” (p.11)

“The concept of harm reduction is often made into an unnecessarily controversial issue as if there were a contradiction between (i) prevention and treatment on one hand and (ii) reducing the adverse health and social consequences of drug use on the other hand. This is a false dichotomy. These policies are complementary. (p.18)

“It stands to reason, then, that drug control, and the implementation of the drug Conventions, must proceed with due regard to health and human rights.” (p.19)

Better late than never, eh.

Spotless Mind

New Scientist highlights a form of anaesthetics that erases painful memories.

No

No. No no no no no no. Whew.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Ideologically Freehold

Well bugger me, I've gone and joined the Act party again. Ever since my membership with the Labour Party lapsed over a year ago, I was quite enjoying the self-sanctimonious everyman's land of no party affiliation. But there's a very interesting election on its way, and it's time to choose sides. Here's how it went:
Gudday Roger,

It is with great interest that I read of your return to the Act party, on both personal and national interest levels.

On a personal level, I voted Act in 2005, but I cannot honestly say that Act is going to get it this year, way things are going. Key is gonna hoover up that vote. I don't want to vote Nat, as there are too many philosophical differences between me and their leader. That is, I haven't been able to spot a philosophical bone in that man's body. Everyone believes in something, for Dagg's sake.

I have issues with both the current president and vice-president of Act. Mallett's a wingnut and Loudon is somewhere to the right of Hitler. Rodney is the right man for the leadership, and a salesman. I re-joined Act when the leadership vote to replace Richard Prebble began. I voted for Rodney then, and I voted for the right man. He just needs someone to slap him back into the concise anger of the status quo. If it is necessary to re-join Act to make you president again and, say, Priscilla Tate for vice-president, so be it.

In the public interest, Act has provided an invaluable brains trust and policy-setter for parliament. e.g. Treaty Settlements Deadline. It's a shame Act got culled last election, losing much of its research and policy analysis funding as a result. Heather has been giving it a good belt with what she has. But without the backup, there's only enough power being generated to light a dim bulb in the whole of Parliament.

Here's hoping your return to the fold returns Act to the vigorous potential it had back in the 90's. Here's hoping Act is known once more as the party party, the party of new ideas, the party of freedom. Here's hoping it's not just the 80's policies in new togs.

Cheers,

Will de Cleene
Roger sez,"Thanks for your email. I'll look forward to seeing you at an Act event soon." That's it, I'm off to the Act conference in Panmure. Once again, I end up crashing at RRB's house on the North Shore. His missus says gudday and calls me a political whore. "Not true", I reply. "Whores get paid."

Next day, I'm giving Auckland's bus service a blat. Take a 757 from Britomart to Panmure Basin. Takes the good part of an hour, even with the few stops it made to let passengers on and off. Pity the poor buggers doing the rush hour trip. My Wellington tan still made me the whitest person on the bus for the whole ride.

It was fun watching the suburbs change along the bus route. Wow, those Scene apartments are new. Vector Arena advertising Duran Duran. All along the waterfront to Mission Bay and beyond, not a single passenger on or off. Travelling along the black road between sand and glass. Heat haze on the harbour, glad I brought my water bottle.

Through Grey Lynn Glen Innes and the clapped-out clapboard working class housing estates. Beauty passes eyes lowered, a tidy section the best one can hope for. Through the industrial warehouse and manufacturing plants decorated with dull concrete lawns and wire hedges. Naked tit of Mt Wellington the lone landmark. Everyone off at Panmure. My own public private touring bus! The excellent chauffeur drops me at the right spot, a cigarette's length from the conference venue.

Straight to the bar, order a pint. "Nice weather we're having," I say to the barman as he pours, just as it starts raining on the balcony. The Black Caps are not doing well, and the beer goes quickly.

Go to the registration desk and Act president Gary Mallett introduces himself. Yeah, gudday. Gary Mallett used to be a Hamilton city councillor. Turns out he worked with my brother back in the 90's on a marketing scheme to move Hamilton away from its moo-cow image to a research and technology brand. The idea was dumped on by the then-mayor, a loon who wanted the main street lined with cow mannequins.

Maybe this Mallett guy is not so much of a wingnut after all. My opinion was largely based on the one time time I had heard Mallett speak in public at the Political Funding symposium last year. He gave a one-dimensional "freedom, freedom, freedom" argument which did not go down well. Time for a re-appraisal.

Have a word to an Act member, who spins the yarn about the Act on Campus stunt, where membership came with a packet of party pills. Well done, I say. Anything that makes Jim Anderton grumpy can't be wrong. I missed a scoop, but discretion comes at a high price, eh.

Shake hands with vice-president Trevor Loudon. While his dedicated hatred of socialists has its uses, it is a distraction that does not need to hang around the Act leadership. Rodney has done well at purging the spirit of Donna. Last thing Act needs is to be portrayed as a far-right gestapo party. In a closed session of Act's AGM, Trevor Loudon was replaced and Gary Mallett was re-selected as president. Good.

My brother, Randy Gonzales, turns up. Haven't seen him in, what, four years. Traditional greeting; firm handshake and bland pleasantries. Time for a screening of We're Here to Help. Not a bad little movie, although I reckon Michael Hurst is miscast as Rodney Hide.

Adjourn to the bar with Fairfacts Media from No Minister, Priscilla and Randy. We are off the record, Fairfacts! Priscilla Tate, like Brian Nicolle and many others in Act, comes from the activist branch of the Labour party. It's a fact easily forgotten by the MSM, although Roger Douglas was a Labour Minister under the Kirk and Rowling governments, as well as the Lange one.

The former Labour party supporters are there the following day. The hippy from Huntly, the artist from Eastbourne, the woman who helps disabled people become self-employed. We stand in stark contrast to Muriel Newman, who gets up on stage and declares that climate change is a fraud. When will we be rid of this turbulent prig? I thought that the last election had made it crystal clear that the people didn't want Muriel near the levers of power ever again. Sure, attack the carbon emissions trading scheme, but don't pretend to be a climate change denier. That's just flaky.

If the government can miscalculate our carbon bill by a billion dollars, and screw up the provisional tax calculation by $600 million, there's a fairly good chance we'll be pwned by prime minister Putin in no time by the proposed carbon credit scheme. Likewise, I have a nagging feeling that a new government is going to find a nasty surprise hidden in the numbers when they open the books post-election. Roger Douglas may be the right man at the right time once more.

John Key's dissing of Douglas makes the last taxi on the rank comment by Clark look lame in comparison. Which, coming from a man who had no comment on the Auckland Airport sale until he had consulted his minders, seems vastly out of character. As Chris Trotter observes, Key is That Girl.

What "right wing agenda" is John Key referring to? Ditching Working For Families and swapping with the first $30,000 income tax-free? Maybe John Key prefers people to be addicted to the public tit. De-institutionalised education? I'm sure such a thing could be sold to Russell Brown, given the right pitch. Decriminalise cannabis? Hell, I'm sure DPF would go along with that, as opposed to the Nat ban on BZP.

Y'see, I see Act as a bridge between party political differences, not the far-right tag that the MSM are keen on reinforcing. As long as Act can provide a path to economic prosperity while assuring the rights of people to have different goals, ensuring that no-one is worse off than before, then I'm in.

If Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and Rodney Hide can put aside their differnces for the public good, then there is a chance that some good can come out of this MMP environment. Otherwise, we might as well be damned and go back to FPP and the two-horse race.

UPDATE: Roger Douglas also has a go at the "hard right" label in today's Herald.

Thorndon Ghost World

Jesus, what's up with Thorndon Village? Deserted restaurants shut up and for sale, empty shops and cafes making a toothless grin along the street. It's bad enough that Lambton Quay through to Molesworth has a range of vacant or derelict space. Now the gentrified suburb of Thorndon is getting squeezed, where will it all end?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

BSG IV 4/4/08


Who is the last cylon?
John Key
Helen Clark
Roger Douglas
Winston Peters









If you haven't watched Battlestar Gallactica but want to see what the fuss is about, here's the official eight minute recap, What the Frak?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Super High Me

In the spirit of Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, Doug Benson has made Super High Me. Wired has the story, but here's the short for it:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Diary of A. Universe, Aged 13 and Three-quarters

2008 is a humdinger of a year for science projects. As well as the Large Hadron Collider warming up, the WMAP has reported back on its findings. This is what your universe looks like:



Hat Tip Bad Astronomer, via /.

Friday, March 07, 2008

38 times around the sun

Cork count time. Annual domestic consumption for a single male. Mostly stevlins but a few corks too:





What's the frequency, DPF?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

McLeod-ed Judgment

Former pot smoker Rosemary McLeod has had another attack of moral superiority on drugs. Hone Harawira already had a go at this syndrome in his speech during the second reading of the Ban BZP Bill:
"Where do we get off on banning the drugs that kids like, while condoning the drugs that our generations go for? Is that what we call 'showing leadership' is it? Sounds like gutless and petty jealousy to me. Sounds like we don't want young people to have fun, 'cause we're too old for it."
Heh. Go Hone!

After reading Rosemary's sage advice, allow me a little time to parley a response.

Rosey sez, "Faced with the choice of cannabis or champagne, I'd always grab champagne."

I say, "Well, duh. Chicks drink shampoo, guys smoke marijuana."

Rosey sez, "I spent too many years among stoned people, bored stiff, listening to dreary music, to believe it adds any quality to life."

I say, "You hung around boring people. I find hanging round Auckland BBQ parties with people yapping about property and share portfolio valuations dreary. Each to their own."

Rosey sez, "I don't support legalising cannabis. I think it would create more problems than it would solve."

I say, "Bullshit. Cannabis use among Dutch 15 and 16 year olds: ever used 8.5 percent, used in the last month about 3 percent. Cannabis use among Kiwi kids 15 -17 years old: ever used 35 percent, used in the last month 15 percent. Spot the country with coffee shops. Cannabis prohibition is a bigger problem than cannabis. More on that point later."

Rosey sez, "The Greens have always disagreed, despite their quest for purity in other ingested substances, and despite the imminent departure, next election, of advocate Nandor Tanczos, this hasn't changed. I guess that policy attracts young voters, but the Greens have been quiet about cannabis lately."

I say, "Damned straight the Greens have been quiet about it lately. The powers that be are hustling for the Soccer Mum vote, and cannabis reform is seen to be a turn-off. Rod Donald went off after the 2005 election, despairing that the stoner vote went to ALCP last election, costing his party a seat or two. This election, it might well cost the Greens a lot more and, like last time, it will be the Greens' fault."

Rosey again: "Prisons are packed with habitual dope users, and they're not just there because dope is illegal. They're there because of how drugs affect their behaviour – and in short because cannabis isn't the peace-and-love product advocates make it out to be."

I sez, "Prisons are full of drugs because there's fuck all else to do in there to pass the time. And if cannabis isn't the peace and love product it's made out to be, Rosey should go out on town some night and check out the feral chicks on the prowl after a bottle or two of the champers."

And now, the piece de resistance. Rosey sez: "TV news last weekend screened historic footage of a cannabis advocate pushing this position. His words came back to haunt him.

"To my knowledge people who smoke cannabis tend to be less violent than those who drink alcohol," said Dave Moore, former president of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party."

How he must wish he could take those words back."

I have met Dave Moore on several occasions. I took over the running of NORML Wellington from him after he gave up in frustration with Labour wimping out to Peter Dunne's veto on cannabis reform. Rosemary McLeod, you just made it personal.

Dave Moore is still correct. Alcohol has wrought more carnage per capita than cannabis ever will. Murders, car crashes, fights, child beatings and domestics are still heavily influenced by booze not buds. Daniel Moore's greed and stupid Gen Y gangsta ambition, combined with the licence to print money that is the cannabis black market, was the cause of Dave Moore's friend's murder.

"No, cannabis didn't commit this violence, any more than drugs have committed other appalling crimes – but without drugs, would they have been committed at all?"

This morning, I walked past a tribe of tuis getting stoned on Eucalyptus berries. Rosemary, we don't live in a world without drugs. We never have, we never will. Wanna know the street value of Ritalin? Debt was Daniel's problem. Money was the motive.

"Researchers have established a link between dope and psychosis in vulnerable people. This crime was lunacy and Daniel had been around dope with his father and Stanlake for years, the court heard. Could anyone be sure that didn't affect him?"

Researchers have also established a link between peanuts and anaphylactic shock in vulnerable people. You gonna start banning Whittaker's Peanut Slab too? Some people should stay away from cannabis, just as some people should stay away from tequila, absinthe or whiskey. You be the judge, Rosemary.

"This is yet another tragic story that should never have happened.

"It's tragic that Daniel killed another human being and tragic that he was so far gone – as was his victim, heavily into pornography and advertising for group sex – that the idea made sense to him."

Aye, it's tragic and stupid. But what has group sex got to do with anything? You go girl, proving Hone right.

UPDATE: Can't find a link, so here's Hone Harawira's speech in full:

Hone Harawira: Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill
Thursday, 6 March 2008, 10:19 am
Speech: The Maori Party

The Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill

Hone Harawira, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau

Wednesday 5 March 2008

A Wall Of Noise

Mr Speaker, it seems to me that all the pump and preaching, moralising and ranting, pontificating and sermonising, around this Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill is nothing but a wall of noise to hide the lack of information, and the dearth of quality research about the use and effects of BZP.

In fact, when I was able to finally peel back the noise, what I saw reminded me of a court case I was involved in back in 1981, where the prosecution had spent more than two years trying to stitch me up with what amounted to nothing more than insinuation and innuendo; minimum facts and maximum allusion.

The prosecution case was so bloody flimsy that I described their efforts in my summing up to the jury, with the well-worn cliché -

"if you can't dazzle them with brilliance,

then bamboozle them with bullshit."

And that's what this Bill is all about - bamboozling people with bullshit, to cover up the lack of proper research.

Well Mr Speaker, I won my case back in 1983, and so should all the poor bloody kids whose health and wellbeing is being shamelessly trotted out as the basis for banning party pills.

CONTROL FREAKS? FORE-SHORE!

What this Bill does do though, is confirm the view that even when all the best advice says one thing, if government is set on another course of action, then government wins out every time.

Like the Foreshore and Seabed Bill for example: 2,171 submissions, 186 presentations, 10 consultation hui, and some 45,000 people marching on parliament - an unprecedented rejection of this government's theft, and the extinguishment of Maori rights, and what does the Government go? They just plough ahead anyway.

And this Bill is similar - 80% opposed it, and government goes ahead with it anyway - go figure.

And if that's not bad enough, even the supposed Jewel in the Crown of Youth Development, the much vaunted and widely promoted Youth Parliament 2007 - even their opinions have been completely ignored.

The Youth Parliament received submissions on the status of BZP, fromthe Ministry of Health, the New Zealand Social Tonics Association, the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Care NZ and the University of Otago, and their report, tabledin this House on 11 July 2007, said:

"The Health Committee has come to the conclusion that bzp should become legal with strong regulations surrounding party pills. We have decided on this, because due to little research having been done, there is insufficient evidence proving the long-term effects of this drug.

The Health Committee recommends to the Government that party pills should be legally available with heavy restrictions on advertising, on the age that people can purchase and use these party pills, and on who can sell the party pills and where".

And yet - despite the majority of submissions opposing the Bill, and despite the strong recommendations of the Youth Parliament, this Bill is still before the House for approval.

So what do we do about it?

Well, back in the 80's and the 90's Nancy Reagan proposed aJUST SAY NO campaign against drug use, which later shifted over to just say no to premarital sex and a list of other vices that America was trying to steer their young people away from.

But that campaign was a failure because it tried to oversimplify the scope and the nature of the problem, and didn't deal with the realities of drug abuse.

What we need to do is start looking at more comprehensive and meaningful approaches than merely focusing on users.

Mr Speaker, let me be quite clear ....

The Maori Party is opposed to harmful drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, and we are equally committed to stopping substance abuse.

But we also want the best information available to make our decisions, and what we have found out is that over the last five years, our society has consumed some twenty million party pills - with no recorded deaths.

That's not to downplay any of the harmful effects of BZP - the nausea, headaches, hot/cold flushes, the poor appetite, the tremors and the shakes -mind you, those are the same symptoms that Parekura Horomia tells me him and his mates in the Labour Party Maori Caucus have been suffering since the last Marae-Digipoll came out.

Still, it is a matter of concern that party pills have become such an entrenched part of youth culture, particularly given the young age of the Maori population, and their high risk of substance abuse.

PROHIBITION

But prohibiting the manufacture, sale, supply and use of party pills won't actually solve the problem at all, 'cause party pills, like alcohol, dak, and assorted other drugs, are drugs that people WANT to keep taking, and when drugs are made illegal, what actually happens is people keep taking them, but the street price jumps through the roof, and drug use becomes unregulated, unrestricted, uncontrolled, and unmanageable, as the black market takes over.

And what about cigarettes .... well, unlike all those other drugs, 80% of smokers actually want to stop, so banning the manufacture, supply and sale of tobacco products will simply not have the same effect.

STRATEGIES

But the most effective way to deal with party pills is not prohibition, but a properly enforced, strongly regulated, harm-minimisation approach, and the evidence shows that when drugs are effectively regulated, drug use and drug harm drops.

Tighter regulations, health warning labels, controlled access, and quality and quantity controls, are proven to be way more successful than prohibition.

Youthline told the Select Committee that banning wouldn't change anything, and other submitters also confirmed what we already know - that prohibition has no effect on the demand for drugs at all.

HYPOCRISY

And in conclusion Mr Speaker, let me again say how hypocritical it is that this House can put all this energy into getting tough on BZP, while alcohol and tobacco abuse continues to maim and kill Kiwis in the thousands.

Remember what I said before? That we'd found out that over the last five years, more than 20 million party pills have been popped - with no recorded deaths.

Can we say that about alcohol and tobacco though?

Hell no!!!

Alcohol and tobacco use and abuse has been researched to death, and we know, this House knows, the people know, hell the whole bloody world knows, that alcohol and tobacco are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders every year, and yep, I'm going to say it again, alcohol and tobacco are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders every year, and what do we do?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Where do we get off on banning the drugs that kids like, while condoning the drugs that our generations go for?

Is that what we call 'showing leadership' is it? Sounds like gutless and petty jealousy to me. Sounds like we don't want young people to have fun, 'cause we're too old for it.

No issue with trying to come up with a decent answer on party pills, but let's not kid ourselves that we're banning party pills for the good of our youth, but we'll turn a blind eye to the alcohol and cigarettes that are killing them.

Mr Speaker, they tell me I can't use the word hypocrite to describe members in this House so I won't.

But let me tell you that it would take a great dose of duplicitous, deceitful, and dishonest double-dealing for this Bill to go any further in this House.

The Maori Party says - let's kill this bill and get on with reality.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Is that ginger ale legal?

Acting on nothing more than a nosey nark security guard, police raided a Hamilton residence. The 'clan lab' turned out to be a ginger beer still. While police insist they took an "appropriate response," a neighbour overheard the resident concerned having a go at the clods: "[That's] my husband's bloody ginger beer set-up."