Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Anti-drinking ad may achieve the opposite

Gee, the advertising fraternity needs to go back to basics. This ad displayed at Kings Cross station tries to deter girls from binge-drinking. But look at the imagery. Delete the uptight girl in the middle and what have you got? Everyone's idea of a good time -- what people really want to do if only they could shed their inhibitions. The choice of a middle-eastern looking guy as the 'bad predator' is interesting, too.

Message to guys: get the girl drunk if you want to score.

Other ads in the series are far better, like the one showing a young drunk dickhead razzing a thick-necked bouncer and probably about to get his head punched in.

Anti-marihuana ad out of its depth

What have the creatives in the government's ad agency been smoking? Not to mention the apparatchiks who approved it. Do they have short-term memory problems?

Pictured is the latest attempt from the feds to deter young people from using cannabis. It shows a good-looking but plumpish guy squatting sadly above a swimming pool. His reflection shows the pumped superstar he might have been if he hadn't succumbed to the dreaded weed and lost his potential.

But, coming not long after pictures of the world's top-scoring Olympic swimming medallist Michael Phelps toking on a bong (below), it lacks a certain...  credibility. Don't you think?

Big oil money behind the climate change deniers exposed

A clever global campaign to create and promote questionable science undermining support for green energy has been funded in large part by American oil giant Koch Industries.

Greenpeace has done the research tracing nearly $50 million of Koch money over nine years going to climate denial organisations, some of which was used to create non-reviewed junk science including the one that denies global warming is harming polar bears. You've probably heard of that one.

Other 'research' projects purported to show that converting to clean energy reduced employment, but were equally flawed. However the most common use of the money is to disseminate these factoids throughout the media and to lobby governments and politicians to keep burning fossil fuels, protecting Koch’s profits.

Why they don't just use the money to diversify into green energy and make money that way, I don't know. Perhaps it's simply the conservative mindset.

Science was reason's triumph… the defeat of the Beast. But what happened when the Beast learned science?  – Arthur Miller

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A favourite Labor furphy attacked

The Sydney Morning Herald has been kind enough to publish another of my letters, this one responding to a slightly strange attack on The Greens by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner that ran nationally in the Fairfax press.

I didn't have the space to query his outrage that, in his electorate, The Greens outpolled the Liberals and a swag of Lib preferences went their way. Tanner frames this as some sort of unholy alliance rather than simply the swings and roundabouts of the preferential system.

If he doesn't like it, perhaps he would prefer a proportional representation system which grants parties the same proportion of parliamentary seats as the percentage of their vote. Under this system The Greens would have several seats in the House of Representatives whereas now they have none. Be careful what you wish for, Mr Tanner.

Another way to see the preferences swing is that there is so little difference between Liberal and Labor that people are voting accordingly.

Text of my letter:

No compromise on useless policy

Lindsay Tanner does himself no favours by repeating Labor's favourite furphy about the Greens opposing its climate change legislation ("Greens do nothing to bring about change", March 25). His criticism implies the legislation would have achieved something. But its targets were a joke and there were so many compensations to the big polluters that anyone serious about addressing climate change would have to reject it.

It's true that politics is about compromise, but Labor's scheme would have locked Australia into climate vandalism for decades. Better to have no legislation and the hope of some real improvement. Calling this "political posturing" reveals more about Labor's bankrupt approach to politics than any supposed Greens cynicism. 

Michael Gormly Woolloomooloo

War on Drugs failing -- US Government

The National Drug Threat Assessment from the US Dept of Justice says the supply of all drugs except cocaine was increasing, and were being distributed through ever-widening dealer networks. This is despite constant budget increases for the War on Drugs since Richard Nixon declared the war around 40 years ago. Drug War warriors will use the assessment to demand yet more money to escalate the war. Reformers are using it as evidence that the WoD is lost and unwinnable.

Some points from the Assessment:

•Increased heroin availability evidenced by higher purity, lower prices, and elevated numbers of heroin-related overdoses and overdose deaths is partly attributable to increased production in Mexico from 17 pure metric tons in 2007 to 38 pure metric tons in 2008, according to U.S. Government estimates.

•Despite recent government of Mexico (GOM) efforts to prohibit the importation of methamphetamine precursor chemicals, methamphetamine availability increased as the result of higher production in Mexico using alternative, less-efficient precursors. Sustained domestic production also contributed to the increased availability levels.

•Marijuana production increased in Mexico, resulting in increased flow of the drug across the Southwest Border, including through the Tohono O'odham Reservation in Arizona.

•Asian drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) are responsible for the resurgence in MDMA availability in the United States, particularly since 2005. These groups produce the drug in Canada and smuggle it across the Northern Border into the United States.

•Cocaine shortages have persisted in many U.S. drug markets since early 2007, primarily because of decreased cocaine production in Colombia but also because of increased worldwide demand for cocaine, especially in Europe; high cocaine seizure levels that continued through 2009; and enhanced GOM counterdrug efforts. These factors most likely resulted in decreased amounts of cocaine being transported from Colombia to the U.S.-Mexico border for subsequent smuggling into the United States.

Nevertheless Barack Obama has ruled out any Federal moves towards legalisation, while on the other hand continuing to tolerate the ever-growing medical marihuana movement in the 14 states which have legalised it.


Conservative Fox News commentator John Stossel has a different take on it, documenting some of the outright lies the Drug Warriors tell to reinforce their industry.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

War against Kings Cross rages on

If I have been neglecting Kings Cross news lately it's partly because I have been writing about it in The City News.

But there is plenty happening, with Council considering responses to its Late-night trading research.

Despite many comments including mine pointing out gaping holes in the research which fails to actually support Council's anti-pub agenda, Council is ignoring them and forging on regardless.

Clover Moore still wants to regulate into being a 'civilised' and 'sophisticated' late night culture, with bookshops and art galleries open till 3am, which is fine by me.  But you can't regulate civilisation and sophistication (putting aside that the latter word comes from 'sophistry' which I am sure Ms Moore did not intend).

No, regulation just bans things and I am more and more convinced that the very late-night monoculture Councillors complain about is the result of their own regulation plus the uncivilised nature of a minority of suburban yobs and thugs which, short of building a wall around the city, we will always have to put up with.

With almost all street life banned, and sniffer dogs everywhere, over-regulation has created a city where there is nothing else to do besides drink on a night out. The forced closure of the wonderful Quirkz venue in Marrickville is a case in point.

But Council wants even more power legislated by the state so they can really get stuck into the late-night economy.

Cr Chris Harris correctly thinks that Responsible Service of Alcohol rules are a joke, but wants a whole bunch of enforcers trained to patrol pubs and decide who can have a drink and who can't.

Give me a break, Chris. Half the current tension and violence is caused by endless security trolls ordering adults about. I for one go to a pub to relax and do not want to be supervised by some straight authority figure making arbitrary decisions about me. Their judgements will be no more objective than bar staff. The only way to do that is to breathalyse everyone who wants a drink. Is that the brave new world you want?

No, what should be policed is bad behaviour towards others, nothing more or less. I and my friends can consume any amount in a night and not become aggressive or troublesome. Get your moral panic off my back and off my town, Councillors.

Links to recent City News stories detailing all the new rules people want, and my comment on the alcohol research are here, here, and here for a very salient Graffito of the week. More being published tomorrow including an entertaining piece My Quiet Street and a comment piece in The Hub.

Oh, and Council continues to block Cowper Wharf Road in Woolloomooloo to protect the genteel citizens of Macleay St from the horrors of car hoons, despite one of the residents who spoke on the late-night-trading research saying that the blockades "hadn't really worked". But Councillors are simply ignoring that, along with anything else that doesn't fit their temperance mindset. If you read My Quiet Street, linked above, you'll see why we have little sympathy for the residents of Macleay St!

Picture: A KX nightclub ad from 1964. A swinging place to rendezvous indeed.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A good argument to legalise ecstasy

The government seemingly still has no idea that the clean colourful little pills people take are here to stay; popular; and terrific fun if it thinks ads like this are going to make any difference at all.

If the only argument against ecstasy they can dredge up is that illegal manufacture is unregulated and possibly unsafe, the logical conclusion is to legalise, tax and regulate it. That would eliminate yukky scenes like this.

Face facts indeed.

[The ad appeared in a Mardi Gras publication distributed around the Oxford Street gay scene]

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Prohibition increases murders while anti-drug ads don't work

Just as the Federal Government is about to launch another shock-horror anti-drug advertising campaign, another study has concluded that such campaigns do no good at all because they trigger a self-defensive coping mechanism in the intended targets. This campaign will target cannabis and ecstasy, the two least harmful illicit drugs, and ice.

Health Minister Nicola Roxon justifies the campaign with panic-inducing cherrypicked statistics about youth drug-taking that ignore the fact that use of these drugs is in significant decline. She highlights the use of drugs by very young teenagers but never mentions that, as this is happening under prohibition, maybe prohibition fails to protect youngsters from drug use because unregulated dealers in the schoolyard don't have to ask for ID.

I found some interesting stats about the effectiveness of prohibition in the form of two graphs covering the last century that show the more governments spend on prohibition, the more murders are committed. If that seems counter-intuitive, just think of Al Capone in the 1920s and bikie gang warfare in more recent times, both made rich by dealing in the banned substance. The graphs are part of an interesting empirical analysis of the self-defeating effects of prohibition from Boston University, well worth a read.

This graphically illustrates how prohibition is more harmful than the drugs it fails to control.

Monday, March 01, 2010

How US prohibitionists poisoned Americans for their own good

While they project images of motherhood purity, prohibitionists tend to be consumed by a moral panic that can lead them into grave errors when they come to believe "The end justifies the means" no matter what the toll in death and suffering.

Today we see the 6,500 killed in Mexico's War on Drugs in one year. But during alcohol prohibition in the 1920s the US government ordered that industrial alcohol be laced with poison in an attempt to stop people drinking illegal moonshine re-distilled from the industrial product -- reports the author of a book on poison.

It didn't work.

"In 1926, in New York City, 1,200 were sickened by poisonous alcohol; 400 died. The following year, deaths climbed to 700. These numbers were repeated in cities around the country as public-health officials nationwide joined in the angry clamor," reports Deborah Blum.

Up to 10,000 died nationally.

Ms Blum likens this to the ideas of today's hard-core prohibitionists who want to spray crops of cannabis, coca or opium -- in other people's countries -- with herbicide. She mentions rumours that the CIA still laces illicit drugs with poison.

And we don't have to look abroad for examples of this "kill them for their own good" thought pattern. A couple of years ago Don Wedderburn, head of BOCSAR, the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, published an opinion piece supporting drug prohibition titled  something like "We need to inflict harm to prevent harm". No doubt the Don would not approve of poisoning people for their own good, but it's only a matter of degree -- the principle is the same.