Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Research shows prohibition doesn't work

Here's a scientific evaluation of the impacts of drug decriminalisation vs prohibition over a decade in the Czech Republic. It contradicts all those prohibitionists who say 'going soft on drugs' will lead to more users, greater availability, negative social and economic impacts etc etc. Anyone asserting those furphies is either a fool, a liar or both (or someone who gains from prohibition!). They have no evidence for their empty claims.

When will Australia move into the 21st century? It's such a backward colony.

Bouquets to the Czech government, where even the conservatives listen to evidence.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Turon River in a flash flood

My fortnightly river escape is known for its flash floods, having destroyed my great-great granpa's gold fossicking venture in 1851, killing some of his mates. I have thought about the risks of camping on the riverbank and keep note of the rain outlook. I didn't go up last weekend but if I had this is what I would have faced: Video shot by James DeVere at Green Point, just upstream from my usual campsite. This is the actual camping area. Hmmmn.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Interesting takes on the extended GFC and the occupy movement

As Europe lurches towards its crisis, youth unemployment in Spain is already 50% and American kids graduate in deep debt with little prospect of a job, no-one is confidently predicting the future. I liked this story in The Guardian and the perceptive comments below it, both pro- and anti-. Two comments that impressed cut-and-pasted here:


From Joe McCann:
Something most people do not understand about the form of capitalism we have.
The central idea is that all wealth should be extracted from the general population and handed over to a tiny "capitalist class", as supposedly they can more "efficiently" apply that wealth as capital. It's a similar idea to Soviet state capitalism - except in our instance, it's a social class confiscating property and not the state. And yes they have been confiscating your property and wealth, with a little trompe l'oeil.
Of course what the capitalist class really do is apply the capital to buying big houses and private jets, gated compounds, armed guards.
We've been duped into a system that just makes most of us poorer and poorer.
In the US in 1960, a single average wage was all it took to support a family, buy a house and a car, and not live in poverty. Supposedly we're wealthier than we've ever been. When you take rubbishy hi-tech gadgets out of the equation we're worse off than 1960. Though our rich are outrageously better off than they've ever been. How in a democracy can the majority chose a path that makes their live worse.
Our elites are just as bad as Mummar Gaddafi when it comes to screwing their own people.

From 'Raffine':
Public demonstrations still seem to have an effect in nations where civil society is restricted or non-existent (see the "Arab Spring") and in France (in the form of the general strike), but this political style is pretty much exhausted in the USA, almost to the point of becoming a cliché. The declining significance of street protests is made worse when organizers promise more than they can deliver, in this case occupying Wall Street. Until what happens? The closing of the DJIA? What Graeber purports to be one of the signs of the fall of the American empire, the tribal drumbeats echoing through the canyons of lower Manhattan, is nothing more than a local spectacle; meanwhile, for criminal banksters and feral traders (like the USB thug Kweku Adoboli) it's back to business as usual.
The anarchist vision apparent in this commentary ("This is why protesters are often hesitant even to issue formal demands, since that might imply recognising the legitimacy of the politicians against whom they are ranged") is no substitute for a real political theory of how the widespread change its author envisions might be actualized. Hardt and Negri suffice for the sound bite imagination of the well-meaning demonstrators; the rest of us can still hope for something more profound.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meanwhile, up on the river...

Click to see the full animated image. Watch it for a while for a deeply peaceful feeling. Enjoy!



Friday, November 11, 2011

Prohibitionists Drug Free Australia well rebutted

The usual prohibitionists recently commissioned a critique of the Vancouver injecting centre, Insite, but the critique has been shown to be without scientific merit and dependent on false methodology.

Gary Christian
Drug Free Australia (DFA) and its honorary secretary Gary Christian passionately oppose harm reduction measures such as injecting centres. Mr Christian has lately turned his attention to Vancouver's Insite, a facility comparable to the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre in Kings Cross, which itself was previously targeted in a DFA attack based on a particular interpretation of statistics.

This time, DFA's ally the Drug Prevention Network of Canada (DPNC) critiqued a peer-reviewed study published in Lancet that had demonstrated significantly reduced overdose deaths from illegal drugs in Insite's local area. This was unacceptable to the prohibitionists. Their critique, which was not peer-reveiwed,  claimed the original Lancet study was flawed and denied that the centre had saved lives, a claim DFA had also made in Kings Cross. This is remarkable as what these centres DO is professionally treat people who have overdosed, immediately and on site. Getting to the OD victims so quickly means nearly all can be treated simply with oxygen.

It's a bit like saying that people who suffer heart attacks in an emergency ward have worse outcomes than those who have heart attacks at home.

Now the critique itself has been critiqued, and found wanting. The response, by the authors of the original study, maps the many flaws in the DPNC work, starting with the following:
Using BC Vital Statistics data, they argue that overdose deaths increased rather than decreased during the period considered in our study. This apparent discrepancy is explained by several flaws in their analysis. First, our study in the Lancet focused on a defined area of interest in close proximity to Insite that included 41 city blocks... However, the data considered in the... DPNC report examined the entire Downtown Eastside Local Health Area (LHA)—an area that is much larger and includes approximately 400 city blocks.
That's comparing 400 city blocks with 41, a 10x difference. If you ignore the tyranny of distance you can come up with all sorts of wonderful conclusions. The DNPC critique seems to assume that addicts will travel up to 200 blocks or more before they inject. From what I've seen, addicts desperate for a hit can't wait to inject - in Kings Cross they almost run to the MSIC the second they score.

And that's only point 1.

I won't quote the whole document here - if you want to read the full story you can download the easy-to-read 5-page pdf at the link above or, for your convenience, here. If DFA or its allies have a credible rebuttal to this rebuttal, feel free to comment. They seem to have gone pretty quiet on this one though.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Remind me please why I am subsidising oil companies?

You know how climate sceptics go on about the chardonnay-sipping tree-hugging socialists who are dependent on the nanny state, and how governments shouldn't subsidise renewable energy projects because that would be "picking winners"? Well today's Australian Financial Review lists $10 billion in annual subsidies we the taxpayers give to coal, oil and gas companies. (Story summary below)

Meanwhile today's Australian reports that squillionnaire Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest, the most aggressive critic of the mining tax, admits that his Fortescue Metals Group has never paid a cent of tax (although they say they will start this year).

That's awesome - I pay them to pollute the planet while they avoid tax and lobby against a sustainable economy. The big end of town is truly running the place to their benefit at our expense.

Here is my paraphrase of the AFR story by Marcus Priest (I can't link because of the AFR's paywall):
While Prime Minister Julia Gillard said coal would supply energy in Australia for at least another four decades, Greens leader Bob Brown said he had lobbied treasurer Wayne Swan to abolish subsidies to fossil fuel companies and apply the savings to education, health and transport.
Treasury and the Department of Resources last year identified $8 billion in fossil fuel subsidies including a concession to North West Shelf gas. After Greens deputy leader Christine Milne marked the passing of the carbon tax legislation with a call for a “national conversation about how we can move away from fossil fuels”, Nationals leader Warren Truss said The Greens would never be satisfied.
 The Australian Conservation Foundation has identified further benefits of up to $2 billion from depreciation allowances to the oil and gas industry under rules which should be overhauled according to the Henry tax review. But David Byers, chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said the depreciation provisions had attracted investment that helped Australiawithstand the GFC. 

Thursday, November 03, 2011

How much we pay to pollute

OK we know this is Wallerawang and that's steam rising
in the background but steam still requires energy and
this is the most relevant power station shot in my photo library.
I know most people don't get excited about politics but I think you and your families need to know just HOW MUCH our governments subsidise coal-fired power stations, as recent inquiries in NSW have established. You are paying a fortune to subsidise the big polluters, a far cry from the bullshit being spread by climate change deniers. Note this quote:

"In short, this inquiry tells us, the coal-fired power stations in NSW are unable to compete... unless their coal is supplied at around one quarter of the cost of export coal. Given that Cobbora has the potential to supply 30 million tonnes of coal to the state’s coal fired power plants by 2020, as noted by the Australian Energy Market Operator, the lost export revenue potential from the mine could amount to some $2.7 billion a year, at current prices."

That's $2.7 BILLION a year from one publicly owned mine alone. Even the Arab states are investing heavily in solar because they can't afford the price of their own oil... Full story at http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/nsws-great-big-coal-subsidy-scandal

[And read the comments to see how this doesn't even include the power price hikes we are all paying.]

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Echoes of Max Dupain


A bit of fun - an animated update of Max Dupain's famous shot of the same intersection in Kings Cross C1940, which was shot from the opposite corner and had trams, not buses. Note the guy exercising in the gym, top right. I snapped this from the Kings Cross Hotel during intermission last Thursday night at the highly recommended "Mum's In" show. Might be fun to set up a Saturday night version.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The utter misery prohibition creates

Always my favourite and perhaps the most visually stunning gallery in Sydney, White Rabbit in Chippendale is exhibiting among its typically quirky offerings a photographic journey into prisons for drug users in the Shan states between Burma and China, shot by Lu-Nan. There, inmates are shackled for the length of their term; the longer the term, the heavier the shackles, up to 63 kg and most hobble around holding them up with a short cord as their ankles chafe. They are also caned and subject to harsh conditions typical of jails in autocratic countries.

This is drastically unjust because on the whole these men and women (and their children who are also sometimes incarcerated) have done nothing wrong, just fallen foul of prohibition which arbitrarily allows some drugs like alcohol while banning others. It's especially ironic as opium and heroin are the main exports from this area and I would bet my butt to a barnacle that the very government which imposes these sentences is making big bucks from the trade. These ruined lives illustrate once again that prohibition does more harm than the drugs it fails to control, and all prohibitionist governments bear some degree of responsibility for this travesty of justice, this almost invisible crime against humanity. You can also bet the rich in these countries escape this outrageous fate.

-----------------------------------

MEANWHILE former Mexican president Vicente Fox has implored the US to end prohibition, blaming it for the 40,000-50,000 murders committed in his country's US-financed drug wars in recent years (give or take 10,000 souls).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting real about Kings Cross nightlife

Police arrest a male in Roslyn St after he randomly
smashed his bag into a passing girl and
knocked her over, according to a witness. (File pic)
There seems to be a new wind blowing in Sydney, and it's a pleasant one. Good street art is staying on walls longer, new live venues are proliferating, and this: After years of we locals saying the best solution to violence in Kings Cross (or anywhere) is to arrest the thugs, not shut the place down, it seems that's what's happening:
http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/police-back-kings-cross-guards-who-are-helping-in-fight-against-crime-20111030-1mqet.html

I've reported on this as it developed, and while the move seems to be a good one, there are reservations about privatising policing. We'll see how it travels.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hard data backing the Occupy Wall Street movement in Australia

The following is my paraphrase of an analysis by Andrew Cornell that appears in today's Australian Financial Review, Perspective section, page 50 under the headline 'Arab Spring, American Fall'. As the AFR paywalls its website I can't link directly to the full story. But given the shrill, near-moronic critiques of the Occupy Wall Street movement coming from conservative apologists for the rich, I thought it important to spread this information. 
A parallel can be argued between the cosying-up of right-wing shock-jock Alan Jones with Greens Leader Bob Brown over coal-seam gas, and traits shared between the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and the Tea Party in the US. While both movements are political opposites, they are both internally contradictory and unfocused, but so was the Arab Spring a year ago, showing that is no barrier to effectiveness.

Australia’s OWS movement might have less to complain about than its US parent but the distortion of executive remuneration at the expense of workers and shareholders (ie our superannuation) is a common cause.

Here, the annual general meeting of GUD Holdings has already seen its remuneration report voted down by shareholders, while Wesfarmers has been linking remuneration more strongly to performance targets and ANZ Banking Group’s Mike Smith has frozen executive salaries, recognising that “the market is on springs”.

The weak empirical data underpinning executive pay rises is causing anxiety among those who receive them and those who award them, two groups that are joined at the hip as demonstrated by Lucian Bebchuck and Jesse Fried’s Pay Without Performance: the Unfulfilled Promise of Executive Compensation. Harvard-qualified economist Diane Coyle uses orthodox economics to justify similar conclusions in her work The Economics of Enough.

When a shareholder raised OWS concerns about executive pay at Thursday’s Amcor AGM, chairman Chris Roberts responded with a flawed argument, urging the questioner to do some “serious study”, then referring him to an opinion piece by the rabid right that agreed with his views. But he ignored the rigorous works cited above, indicating it is perhaps he who needs to do some "serious study".

Ann Byrne, chief executive of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, says the past ten years have been far better for CEOs of the top 100 companies than for investors when remuneration is compared to share value. Australian Bureau of Statistics data show wages equated to nearly 57 percent of economic output in 2001 but have now dropped to just under 37 percent.

Meanwhile, management typically looks at tightening labour conditions to make productivity gains without applying the same criteria to itself. But productivity is more closely linked to quality of management, concludes Roy Green, dean of the faculty of business at the University of Technology, in Management Matters in Australia: Just How Productive Are We? He notes Australia’s productivity has fallen since 2009 compared to OECD countries. Ernst & Young support this conclusion in the firm’s “Australian productivity pulse”.
And here's another interesting take from the God's politics blog:
"From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector peaked at 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s it reached postwar period highs by going between 21 and 30 percent. But this decade it hit 41 percent. These profits weren’t from products, and weren’t always from finding the best use for capital, but from money making more money for a new class of super-rich financial traders. And now, when their risk taking, greed, and selfishness created a mess for so many others, we bailed them out and left everyone else to suffer in the economic wilderness of unemployment, home foreclosures, pension losses, deep middle-class insecurity, and rising poverty rates."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Prohibition makes drugs easier for kids to get

Just as drug law reformers have been saying all along, these figures appear to show that prohibited cannabis is indeed easier for kids to get than legal and regulated alcohol. Medical consensus agrees that young teenagers are the most vulnerable to cannabis-related harms, so it seems that prohibitionists are responsible for an increased level of harm to kids. I hope they are proud.

From the Brisbane Courier Mail:
Alarming figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show almost 3500 charges laid against children aged between 10 and 15 over drug-related offences in the three years to June 2010, with a 26 per cent spike between 2009 and 2010.
In contrast, 1100 liquor offences by children in the same age range were recorded during the same period.
Police and health experts are worried children are increasingly taking a casual approach to drugs, especially dope, because it is cheaper and more accessible than grog. 

Monday, October 03, 2011

How conservatives equate free speech with telling lies

News Ltd columnist Andrew Bolt's recent conviction under the Racial Discrimination Act unleashed a perfect storm of conservative backlash which was remarkable in the similarity of its line from many different quarters. All of them relied on the same serious omissions and misinterpretations of the judgement, each commentator precisely mirroring Bolt's original crime. This has polarised the press, with News Ltd backing Bolt while other outlets report the judgement in a more balanced way. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott even wants to amend the Act to allow this sort of deception.

Typically the conservative commentators do not mention the serious errors of fact and distortions by Bolt that underpin the judgement. They all claim his free speech was curtailed ("gagged") because of political correctness and simply ignore that the judge explained this was not the case, because had the complaint been brought under defamation laws Bolt also would have lost.

The sheer scale of this misinformation will be effective because of the tremendous reach of Rupert Murdoch's press - he owns 70% of Australian titles. Many of his readers do not also read other more reputable titles and so will never hear the full story, with the result that voters, for instance in marginal seats in Sydney's western suburbs, are seriously misinformed on many issues News Ltd campaigns on, such as climate change. This has the power to tip elections and change history based on, effectively, lies.

Below is a typical defence of Bolt from the right, this one from Adam Creighton, a research fellow with the Centre for Independent Studies. I emailed Creighton pointing out his errors but he has not replied, apparently ignoring my analysis. Life would be so simple if you could just ignore inconvenient realities. But then that's the conservative outlook.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Rockin' friends at Toy's birthday

Rockin' at Danny's La Bussola





Toy & Mie



Mie, Toy and guest in the frame

Mie + Toy, mine hosts


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The letter they didn't publish

Yet another home invasion and shoot-up in Sydney's south western war zone last night, with the bad guys pouring petrol over a woman. These acts of terror are now a daily occurrence. Yet no-one will mention the major root cause of all this mayhem, so I poured my heart out the The SMH but they didn't publish my letter!!! For the record, here it is:
-----------------------------
The street shoot-ups in Sydney's suburbs have a stark precedent – the lawlessnes of the Al Capone era in the US. While our Police Minister and his shadow debate whether to increase penalties or address the root causes of this terrifying epidemic, no-one is mentioning the war - the war on drugs, that is. Sydney's criminals and Al Capone both grew fat under prohibition: then of alcohol, now of other drugs. Prohibition does not reduce demand but creates a black market more reliable and lucrative than any other field of crime, so criminals will always fight it out for control of territory, with the rest of us caught in the crossfire. Until we switch to policies that legalise, regulate, tax and treat, the violence will continue (Shootings turn quiet streets into a war zone, 3 September).

Michael Gormly Woolloomooloo
--------------------------------

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prohibition corrupts cops - here's a great short history

Malcolm Brown in The SMH today describes a litany of police corruption scandals in Australia without even mentioning the recent Mark Standen conviction in NSW. And these are only the ones we know about.

Apart from the problem of of big drug money tempting otherwise good officers onto the slippery slope, there must be many injustices done to others along the way as the legal process is tampered with.

Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced – Albert Einstein.

Prohibition does not work and should be ended in favour of tightly regulated legal supply.

PS (11/9/11) The stench emanating from the NSW Crime Commission is widening now its former senior member Mark Standen has been convicted, reports the SMH. It seems the drug money flowing into the Commission was being well and truly taxed by its financial analyst and his solicitor girlfriend who acted for the crooks doing deals. She was regularly overpaid with no accountability, according to my namesake, Jeremy Gormly SC who is acting for the Police Integrity Commission. Prohibition brings a spreading cancer into law enforcement, eating away at the very foundations of our civilisation. Why do Australian media and governments ignore this?


WA cops use technology to persecute people with drug convictions (but not other criminals)

WA police are using number plate scanning to identify drivers with previous drug convictions, pulling them over, searching their cars and testing their saliva, reports The West Australian.

In a recent trial 4,000 cars were pulled over and four people were found in possession of drugs. Another 18 drivers were either unlicensed or were driving unregistered vehicles - and I have no problem with this as the scanning revealed an offence being committed, and one that potentially created danger to others.

But searching people because they have a prior drug conviction is wrong for two reasons.

First, having a prior conviction is clearly not the grounds for suspicion normally required to justify a search. Presumably the convicted person has paid their 'debt to society' and should be treated with the rights of a normal person. This is why prior convictions are not revealed to juries in a trial until after a verdict has been reached.

Second, targeting people who have been found guilty of a crime which is not only victimless but in the opinion of many should not even be a crime, is a strange priority. If you were serious about using this technology to protect the community, why not pull over convicted drunk drivers, pedophiles, murderers, thieves and hitmen?

No, it's another example of the obsessive anti-drug ideology driving the WA Liberals government into a systematic campaign of social persecution.

Four out of 4,000 is 0.001% - hardly an effective use of police time and resources.

As there is not a single valid argument for prohibition, persecuting a sub-culture in its name is pernicious.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Climate change deniers disappear up their own propaganda

Professor Ian Plimer, a rock star of the climate sceptic
movement - rebutted but keeps on keeping on.
Photo by Spainy via Flickr
Rupert Murdoch's minions continue their shameless and nonsensical propaganda against the carbon tax. Janet Albrechtson in the Oz today  recycles the old "Australia is so small we won' t make any difference anyway" furphy.

A correspondent on one of my email lists rebutted it this way:
When my dog shits in the park, why should I pick it up? My costs are quite high - you tell me how big the benefit is for the Australian dogshit problem. It's 0.00001 percent. I'm not doing it!
Perfect.

Albrechtson trots out some remarkable fallacies, for instance that Henry Ford didn't need a Horse Tax to usher in the age of the motor car.

But even more amazingly she again trots out the repeatedly discredited Ian Plimer, apparently ignorant of the many rebuttals to his work and apparently too poor a journalist to do the research.

So here's a helping hand for Janet (and anyone else interested in grounding the debate in fact instead of fiction): Just Google 'Ian Plimer rebuttal' and you will find a wealth of links doing just that. Perhaps the best collection (from Wiki) is here.

I have not seen Plimer or his mates rebutting these rebuttals, but rather continually reverting to their discredited positions, indicating they are simply trying to convince the ignorant. Therefore any argument or event that features these people is similarly discredited.

Oh wait: Plimer has replied to a series of sharp questions from George Monbiot about his nonsense. Tellingly he didn't answer any of the questions but posed a list of technobabble questions in return. A very patient scientist took the time to unravel Plimer's questions here. Warning: the technobabble here will make your eyes cross.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Prohibition fuels crime wave in the north

Armed robberies on 'soft targets' in northern NSW have risen alarmingly as Gold Coast police crack down on violent crime there, reports the Sun Herald today.

The crime wave is linked in the report to post-GFC hard times, rising unemployment and drug addiction.

Assistant Police Commissioner Paul Wilson attributes the crime wave to "desperate gun-wielding drug addicts targeting convenience stores, bottle shops and chemists."

This is what happens under prohibition, you see, but as usual both the newspaper and the plod see the problem only in terms of more police crackdowns. Don't mention the War.

With the world seemingly on the brink of the mother of all recessions, expect more of the same. Yet the War on Drugs is so precious to most governments they don't even consider it in their search for spending cutbacks.

Meanwhile another bikie-criminal story in the same paper tells of the ransom-kidnapping of a Greek Orthodox priest caught unwittingly in a dispute among bikies over drugs. Truly the harms of prohibition are greater than the harms of drugs.

PS (11.8.2011) It seems the men who kidnapped the priest also kidnapped another man and shot him in the leg during an interrogation. Sweet.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Retro a go go reference

Found an awesome blog thread tonight, the most incredible collection of '60s arcana, mostly not on iTunes. I mean, how quaint is retro erotica? WARNING: Anyone watching this might be corrupted into a world of SIN! If you are under 18 years old, DON'T show this to your parents. It might remind them of something. If you are a moralist who likes underground '60s music (is that an oxymoron?) just close your eyes and listen.

Some samples:



This is enough to turn my gay friends straight - or vice versa?




And saving the best till last:


Forbidden images found cut from old film reels in a Pennsylvania cinema. Why does censorship always date so quickly? Some lovely scenes here.



And if you're not totally corrupted by now, this will do,it:



Great soundtrack to this Bettie Page tease



More hot Bettie Page:

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Funniest letter ever

In comment on Tony Abbot's crusade against the carbon tax, this letter in today's SMH:

Tony Abbott can relax. If he's right, and the gas is ''invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless'' as he claims, our entire output of it will weigh nothing. At the very reasonable $23 per tonne, none of his polluting friends will ever have to pay a cent.

Terry McGee Malua Bay

Why didn't I think of that?

Policing Kings Cross goes private

Do we want Bobbies on the Kings Cross beat - or bouncers?
Despite a long-standing offer from Kings Cross venues and businesses to fund extra police on the late night weekend beats, it seems the only extra policing will come from a privately funded security force.

The private force will have limited co-operative links with the Police.

An editorial in today's Sydney Morning Herald documents the risks of giving private businesses and nightclub owners the power to exile certain people from their "feifdom". This informal business group intends to formalise an existing database of troublemakers it has compiled to protect each other from hosting violent incidents and attracting government sanctions. The SMH lists other concerns:
Yet many will wonder about the wisdom of setting up a private security service to carry out normal policing functions. What are the powers of the roaming guards? How are they selected? What privacy rules cover the troublemaker database? How will the information on it be used, or secured?
This raises the question: Why have the state government and the police refused to consider the long-standing offer to fund "DIY Policing" using the Police force. I'd rather have them, for all their faults, than another army of bouncers pushing people around.

The informal database of troublemakers began after Newcastle instigated its early pub shutdown and venue managers noticed a spike in violence in Kings Cross. They realised groups of young men were taking the train down from Newcastle, arriving drunk and then behaving badly. It's a perfect example of the balloon effect - the displacement of problems often caused by prohibition strategies.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Another letter in the SMH

What do you think about this, published today?


Multimedia stance on monitoring minors
I can understand why some parents want to police their children's Facebook activities (''Facebook could become adults-only in Australia'', July 22). But would they also think it's OK to open their snail mail? Same principle.

Michael Gormly Woolloomooloo

http://www.smh.com.au/national/letters/why-stop-at-halftime--theres-a-buck-in-injuries-20110722-1hsxf.html#ixzz1Su7401ph

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Journo's link endemic police corruption to bikies - but not to prohibition

The extraordinary lead story in today's Sydney Morning Herald details deep and ongoing leaks from key Victorian police in the pay of bikie gangs. The leaks have seriously compromised several high-level investigations.

The central role of prohibited drugs is mentioned only tangentially towards the end of the story, which stays firmly within the usual media mindset of not connecting the rot to that proverbial elephant in the room, not questioning prohibition itself.

The gangs have million of dollars at their disposal, most probably earned through drug dealing. In one attempted transaction alone the bikies reportedly tried to buy a $700,000 phone tapping device from the Middle East. The Herald reports:
Senior bikie figures have also been given information about the contents of one of the most secret documents held by a police force - a joint state and federal law enforcement organised-crime target list.
So it's clear that law enforcement in this country is rotten and a major source of the rot is illicit drugs. No matter how the authorities crack down on such corruption, the enforcers themselves remain vulnerable to the sweet allure of easy cash.

While prohibitionists go on about the harms of drugs, the harms of prohibition are far greater - not least because it fosters an international drug distribution network which ensures unregulated drugs are easily available to anyone who wants them, including under-aged teens.

Meanwhile the SMH continues its moronic verbatim reporting of some drug junk-science produced by Dr Wendy Swift from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre. The study recycles the myth that cannabis is a gateway drug but the story contained no opposing or expert comment. I'll look further into this but it looks to me as if the study proved only that people who like drugs, like drugs.

Nor does the story recognise that all the study subjects, under prohibition, appear to be able to get any drug they want... That would mean exiting the prohibition mindset. Result: The uncritical reader will have their belief in prohibition reinforced. It's brilliant propaganda (Yes I know I said it was moronic but that refers more to the idiots who reported and edited this tripe. The brilliance lies in the slick prohibitionist machine behind it and the ability of these researchers to produce results that guarantee more funding from a government which needs to justify its unjustifiable drug policies.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Near carbon-copy echo in the room?

Just joking. Ian Verrender in the SMH today began his article on the carbon tax almost identically to my post from yesterday, writing:
Brace yourselves for the onslaught of the ideologues.
He presents some interesting points which confound climate-denier rhetoric. While deniers scream 'why should Australia go it alone?' Verrender points out that 32 other countries have similar schemes including all of Europe, which now wants to increase its 2050 carbon cuts to 95 percent and has started taxing all airlines that fly into Europe.

He concludes his story:
If you truly believe that the amount of crap we've pumped into the atmosphere during the past 200 years has had no impact on the environment, good luck getting the sand out of your ears when you finally extract your head...

A price - whether through a carbon tax or a trading scheme - minimises the heavy hand of government.

And there we have the ultimate irony. Both sides of Australian politics are committed to reducing carbon emissions. But in an odd twist, Labor is pushing for a market-based solution while the Coalition advocates government intervention. It's a funny old world.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Carbon tax will put the cat among the pigeons

Rupert Murdoch's screamers today - The Tele is totally negative
(they could have said 'What the tax will do for the planet') and
The Australian, which declared last year it would "destroy
The Greens", affirms the end of  Gillard's government. The lead headline
actually read: "Gillard's clean energy crusade", 'crusade' implying
an ideological folly. That's not news, it's propaganda.
Brace yourself for a propaganda battle now Australia has a firm carbon price, modest though it is. I think the package and its compensations go a long way to making a nonsense of the naysayers' predictions of economic disaster. Opposition leader Tony Abbott unsurprisingly declared war on it, urging TV viewers to join him in a campaign to stop it becoming law before it is due to kick in next July.

Personally I'm very happy about the $18,000 tax-free threshhold. It's a good progressive reform that helps every taxpayer but is of proportionately greater benefit to low income earners, unlike the Coalition version which always most-benefited the rich. It will also encourage people to get off welfare and into work as such a move will more likely offer an immediate increase in income.

The commentariat this morning predictably split into their ideological niches but I liked this story from two scientists in the SMH. It concludes with the following paragraphs which I think put it all into perspective:

Friday, July 01, 2011

Surprise surprise - Kings Cross residents like the nightlife

As reported in the SMH today:

The University of Western Sydney's City After Dark project found 88 per cent of residents in neighbourhoods such as Kings Cross and Darlinghurst said nightlife added to the appeal of their suburb, a view particularly strong among younger renters.
Fortunately even Clover Moore seems to have got the message that the local temperance union are a minority who simply moved into the wrong suburb, and pandering to them is a vote loser. Her rhetoric has changed from talking about "shocking evidence" of alcohol fuelled mayhem to a more balanced approach of fostering a diverse night time economy. Let's hope.

Now if I could only find a small bar where I could afford the drinks...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

'Post-truth politics'

Well I doubt that truth has ever had much to do with politics but we do seem to be entering a new era of fact-free debate.

Here's a link to an excellent Crickey post that lays it all out, in this case dissecting Australia's boat people hysteria. I like the quote:
As the late Senator Daniel Moynihan, of New York, said “everyone is entitled to their own opinions but no one is entitled to their own facts”.
I heard two gay guys walking past the front door today, one saying "and then they come to our country and use our own legal system against us". I hope they watch that SBS series screening tonight about people taking the refugee trip in reverse, and somehow read the Crikey post.

But you have to be careful of 'facts'. One of the best inversion techniques is to head your piece "10 facts about XXX" and then list 10 lies, or near lies that are difficult fore people to check up on. I got onto this one when I used to read a religious journal  called The Plain Truth at my dear late Grandma' place. The "big lie" was always in the second paragraph. After that it all made sense.

Debating with climate change sceptics

This morning I received an email from a friend who thinks the whole climate change thing is a fraud.  He forwarded a speech by David Evans who is part of the new 'Galileo movement', ie climate sceptics who compare themselves to Galileo who on this very day some centuries ago was forced by the church to recant his view that the earth revolved around the sun. This is a neat inversion of the facts I have researched because these sceptics are the ones using dodgy science, not the other way around.

This technique of inversion is used ruthlessly by aggressive conservatives worldwide and it is winning them a lot of undeserved traction. An example is the current editorials in The Australian claiming it is the fair and unbiased journal despite its declaration last year that it had set out to destroy the Greens - much like Fox News describing itself as 'Fair and balanced'.

Normally I don't bother debating with these types as they simply ignore all the arguments and hold their view. But my friend IS a thinker and a genuine person so I replied. I linked him to some excellent climate science websites that soberly debunk the sceptic claims, and reproduce the thread below. The original David Evans' speech is at the bottom; my response with links at the top.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Do not be alarmed (or even alert)

This video opinion piece is designed to reassure climate change sceptics that their opinions are really sound. Ostensibly. It's excellent and only four minutes 11 secs. Have a look!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Big-time prohibitionist speaks big-time nonsense

The rhetoric of key prohibitionists is being pushed back as the debate about regulated legalisation of drugs develops and receives more balanced media exposure, with US 'Drugs Czar' Gil Kerlikowske, admitting on a government blog that you can't arrest your way out of drug problems.

However he then launches into an almost amusing assertion that his policy of prohibition is science-based, quoting a whole lot of 'associations' between drugs and Bad Things, again based on fallacy as all the Bad Things are either highly disputable or apply to a fraction of one percent of drug users, hardly a reason to criminalise the other 99%.

He then asserts that drug use is not a victimless crime, quoting "the tragic impact drug use has on newborn babies". He links to an article which turns out to be about prescription drugs, not illicit drugs, a sly twist that typifies prohibitionist rhetoric.

But it convinces some of the ignorant, so truth becomes secondary to convenience. It apparently has not occurred to Mr Kerlikowske that, as men don't have babies, the cohort so affected would be cut by yet another 50%. Nor are drugs like cannabis or MDMA addictive in any real sense so his baby argument fails to justify the prohibition of those drugs.

But the tricky part is his implication that all drug use (not abuse) creates victims. His wording is revealing and typical of prohibitionist propaganda.

On top of that, all the Bad Things he quotes are happening in a country with one of the toughest prohibition regimes among western countries, so, prima facie, prohibition is not working.

Mr Kerlikowske also asserts that "legalising illicit drugs increase drug use" (sic) but provides no evidence for this, ignoring the fact that more Americans use more drugs than most countries despite his precious prohibition.

If he admits you can't arrest your way out of dug problems, how else would his prohibition work? It's self-contradictory.

It's remarkable that such a senior government official can produce this nonsense with a straight face.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A whack at climate change sceptics

The SMH published a letter from me today - always nice. It's on climate change and is the first one after all the Penny Wong 'miaow' letters, although at 4.23am the headline is placed after the letter on the website!

Text of letter as published:


Two severe weather events helped tip our economy into the worst contraction since 1991 (''Mining slide drags down the economy'', June 2). Whether or not these natural disasters are linked to human-induced climate change, more severe weather is exactly what scientists predict as a result of global warming.
Maybe now climate sceptics will comprehend the massive economic costs we risk if we fail to address the problem. These would make the price of a carbon tax look like child's play.

Carbon tax dwarfed by cost of wild weather

Michael Gormly Woolloomooloo

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Culture jam of the year

Have to pay these people who stopped a football match in Italy with their anti-nuclear banner. The impotence of the authorities to act is quite funny. Italy is about to to the polls to vote on a resumption of nuclear power generation in the country. Note the applause from the crowd.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ex-Prosecutor explains what's wrong with the War on Drugs

Nick Cowdery speaking at Aprés restaurant
in Potts Point this morning
This morning on World No Tobacco Day Nick Cowdery, until recently head of Public Prosecutions in NSW, spoke at a business breakfast in Kings Cross hosted by the Potts Point and Kings Cross Partnership.

His message supporting the regulated legalisation of drugs was well crafted, emphasising the criminal enforcement sanctions that would still exist under legalisation, neatly heading off the usual 'legalisation would lead to a free-for-all' assertions of prohibitionists.

The rate of tobacco smoking is steadily being reduced, he pointed out, even though it was legal. Illicit drugs on the other hand are as popular as ever.

"Criminal law is a singularly inappropriate mechanism for dealing with a market," he said before explaining that since people first chewed on a plant and found that it altered the way they thought and felt, or ate some fermented fruit, they "have rather liked the idea".

This produced a demand and that always inspires someone to create a supply, and voila, you have a market.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Beware a new police state in NSW

David Clarke at home in Cherrybrook,
heart of the hills district bible belt
Photo: Hills Shire Times

Inner city subcultures beware: hard times are a-coming.

I was dismayed this morning to hear that hard-right Christian Liberal prohibitionist David Clarke ha been appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General AND head of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice. He had held these positions in the shadow government before the elections. On top of a $17,000 pay rise, this gives him powerful influence over the NSW law and order agenda.

This is where the nice avuncular face of Barry O'Farrell, who supported Clarke in his preselection, gives way to persecution and intolerance. Front and centre will be a crackdown on users of illicit drugs as Clarke is hand-in-glove with a worldwide network of fanatical right-wing Christian prohibitionists who really want to use the law to force everyone else to live like them.

Organisations such as Drug Free Australia (linked to Drug free America) incessantly lobby politicians to get tougher on drugs, wilfully ignoring mountains of evidence showing that prohibition causes more harm than drugs, and stereotyping drug users (other than alcohol, prescription drugs or tobacco, of course) as crazy dysfunctionals as per the film Reefer Madness.

They call for mandatory drug testing and ever-harsher penalties for drug offences. For a taste of what we may face, see Florida USA* which has just brought in mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients (who have to pay for the tests!). Those caught face a year or more without benefits - can you imagine the crime, distress and mayhem that will result from creating a new underclass of unemployed drug users with no income.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Urinators wanted for city survey

Weeing in Springfield Plaza Kings Cross
Photo: Steve Lunam/SMH


The City recently trialled portable pissoirs in Kings Cross and Oxford Street, and now wants feedback. Apparently 5,500 people used them during the trial (who was counting??).

This seems to mark a bit of a turnaround in Council's attitude to Kings Cross, from a simplistic 'shut it down' to finding ways of improving the late-night situation. They also deployed late-night ambassadors in George Street, and claim they prevented lots of potentially ugly scenes and helped a lot of people. Sounds reasonable to me.

The SMH says 1600 litres of urine were collected, about 33 beer kegs. Makes you think. One thing's for sure, it's not me taking the piss.

Fitzroy Gardens in the SMH today

The community's win over Fitzroy Gardens gets a good run in The Sydney Morning Herald today, quoting yours truly and that doyen of the local cool set, the robust Bill Pilkington who betrays potential talent as a media spokesman.

Kelsey Munro reports the planning and 'consultation' cost $623,000.

There's something unfair about the way Council can throw so much public money at winning support for its own projects while the unpaid public has to struggle along in their spare time to oppose them.

The consultation process is fundamentally broken, a deep gulf yawning between street-level reality and Council's ivory tower view.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Locals win over Fitzroy Gardens but fake consultation reigns

Word has already raced around Kings Cross: After a massive local campaign of opposition, Clover Moore has backed down over Council proposals to redevelop Fitzroy Gardens and nearby Lawrence Hargrave Reserve.

Ms Moore made the surprise announcement via a Lord Mayoral Minute at last night's Council meeting.

You can read the details via the link above, but the language and content of the Minute reinforces the fake consultation processes Ms Moore has perfected since becoming Lord Mayor in 2004.

The minute opens with yet another lengthy spiel about the enthusiastic support the project had according to Council's consultation process. This support of course was never there, but was spun like fairy floss out of cherrypicked snippets and Council's biased analysis of feedback.

A prime example was the reporting on the first consultation session in 2008, when we residents were asked to use sticky notes to post what we liked or didn't like about the Gardens as they are. An avalanche of comments appeared on the 'like' board with relatively few on the 'don't like' board. Among them were many notes saying 'Leave it alone' or 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Kings cross visuals





'Are you good?' asks this sticker on a fire hydrant at the top of William
Street. In the background, out-of-focus, are three blue Piano Bar logos
under the Coke sign. 'Good at what?' I ask.


And here's the reverse shot, looking from the Piano Bar down
William Street. Beautiful people, uptight bar-tabbing protocols but
no drive-by shootings as yet. (It's an Ibrahim venue).
The Kings Cross Road sign locates it if the Westfield neon doesn't.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mediawatch busts climate sceptics

I enjoyed the episode of Mediawatch titled Balancing a hot debate in which the outright propaganda from shockjocks about global warming is exposed. Most of them interview only two scientists, active deniers Professors Ian Plimer and Bob Carter. Plimer's nonsense has been detailed on this blog here and here.

You have to give him credit for having the hide to continue presenting as an expert, but you have to wonder at the motivations of shockjocks like Alan Jones who continue to give him credibility, a wondrous approach for a so-called journalist.

Particularly astonishing is the continuing shockjock assertion that human-induced C02 is only 0.001% of the total. That figure is probably arrived at because charlatans count all the C02 in the history of the world and calculate human emissions as a percentage of that. However if you take CURRENT figures, it's more like 30%, as outlined in my posts linked above and evidenced several ways in the Mediawatch episode, eg this from Professor Matthew England:
... Atmospheric CO2 is now around 390ppm up from 280ppm pre-industrial -- and humans have emitted more than enough to be responsible for all of this rise and more (I say this as [fortunately!] the oceans and terrestrial biosphere have absorbed just over 1/2 our emissions to date). So 110ppm rise due to us out of 390ppm there today, or approx. 28% of today's atmospheric CO2 concentrations.
If Alan Jones and the like had the any integrity they would give people like this a run. Unfortunately their audience listens, believes, and the lie is spreading to the point where it will topple governments trying to address the reality.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

facebooking


OK, social networking experiment -- I'm trying to link the blog to my facebook page, on which I've just posted some pix and text about the launch last night of Mandy Sayer's new book Love in the years of lunacy. So here's another pic, to my eyes the most beautiful girl in the room (she's from Katoomba and her girlfriend is a hot drummer, forgot their names sorry!)

Let's see if I can get this up on facebook.

Monday, May 02, 2011

You find it ugly?


Every time it rains in Kings Cross I am reminded of the first stanza of Kenneth Slessor's poem William Street.

So here is the poem, and my pix taken in William Street during last week's downpour as I ventured out to get some nice Italian wine.


William Street

The red globe of light, the liquor green, 
the pulsing arrows and the running fire 
spilt on the stones, go deeper than a stream; 
You find this ugly, I find it lovely 


Ghosts' trousers, like the dangle of hung men, 
in pawn-shop windows, bumping knee by knee, 
but none inside to suffer or condemn; 
You find this ugly, I find it lovely. 


Smells rich and rasping, smoke and fat and fish 
and puffs of paraffin that crimp the nose, 
of grease that blesses onions with a hiss; 
You find it ugly, I find it lovely. 


The dips and molls, with flip and shiny gaze 
(death at their elbows, hunger at their heels) 
Ranging the pavements of their pasturage; 
You Find this ugly, I find it lovely

This shot shows the 'running fire'. It was PISSING down!

How prohibition screws the environment, too

A new report from the US claims that modern cannabis cultivation, which largely happens indoors under lights so people can hide it from police and dobbing or thieving neighbours, uses a frightening amount of energy creating massive greenhouse pollution.

It seems that in the US 415,000 indoor plants were eradicated but this has not affected supply. It's the nation's largest crop by value -- yes, worth more than corn, wheat or canola. Each joint produces the equivalent energy of running a 100-watt light globe for an hour. Each kilo equates to driving a car across the country five times; Each 4-plant module is like running 30 refrigerators; and nationwide cultivation equates to the energy consumption of 2 million average homes.

If it was legal and commercially grown this energy bill could be reduced by 75%.

An enterprising designer has wrapped it all up in a nice green graphic at http://www.lumininteractive.com/

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How Mexican cocaine supports Australian organised crime

A new report from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) documents both the immense size of the international cocaine market and the way the immense profits from it made possible because of prohibition support organised crime.

Of course the report does not seem to admit that prohibition is a self-defeating failure but the following quote from the SMH speaks volumes [my bolding]:
"We are dealing with an ever-evolving transnational phenomenon of immense size - and a recognised national security threat,'' [ACC chief] Mr Lawler says in his speech.

The report outlines a series of what it deems are the most significant criminal risks to Australia, noting that organised crime costs Australia between 1 and 2 per cent of GDP, or about $15 billion, annually.

''Organised crime reaches into many sectors - sometimes almost as a direct competitor and, increasingly, intermingled with legitimate businesses,'' Mr Lawler will say.

Drugs continue to be the most profitable black market and the principal source of profit for organised crime.

''Australians are among the world's highest per capita consumers of illicit stimulants, and drug prices in Australia far exceed prices overseas, making domestic drug production and importation highly profitable,'' the report states.

More drug busts but Sydney city getting safer

A story in today's SMH curiously contradicts various themes of moral panic and popular myth that dominate other areas of the media.

It reports a steep rise in victimless prostitution and drug 'crimes' - ie people being caught with cocaine, cannabis or amphetamines - but a reduction in crimes against person and property like assault, robbery or murder.

The City of Sydney along with parts of the north shore are the safest areas of Sydney. This curiously contradicts rhetoric about 'out of control alcohol-fuelled violence' that fills pages of media and the emails of serial complainers to Council.

The increase in 'drug crime' contradicts law and order rhetoric that the War against Drugs is working.

A passage from the story follows:
But the number of recorded cases of dealing in amphetamines rose more than 63 per cent, while possession of the illegal stimulants was up almost 55 per cent.

Cocaine possession was also up 23.3 per cent and trafficking in cannabis rose more than 33 per cent.

Prostitution offences also rose from 176 recorded incidences in 2009 to 275 the following year.

Across the state, motor vehicle theft fell 9.3 per cent, malicious damage was down about 10 per cent and stealing from a person also dropped more than 10 per cent.

The City of Sydney and Ku-ring-gai were the safest places to be, according to the bureau report released this morning. Sydney recorded fewer incidences of six of the 17 major offences and in the Ku-ring-gai council area the numbers fell in five of those categories.

But violent crime in two council areas – Ashfield and Cobar – rose almost 40 per cent and 50 per cent respectively over the two years.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The more Kings Cross changes the more it stays the same

I shot this from the balcony of the re-opened Kings Cross Hotel, now enjoying
the fruits of an inside renovation that does the outside justice.
Somehow the elements of this picture seem to sum up
certain eternal themes of The Cross!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Documenting more official bullshit about drugs

Another two snippets showing how deeply research into cannabis etc is twisted: US organisation MAPS has spent ten years challenging the Feds' monopoly on growing cannabis. The Feds have one licensed farm which sells pot to researchers. But, according to MAPS, they sell it only to people researching the potential harms of the weed. As I have pointed out before, anything researched this way would paint a bad picture (eg cars, football, rock fishing), so it's not science, it's junk science.

Our own federally funded National Cannabis Prevention and Research Centre (NCPIC) is on the same mission as the US feds and has the same problem.

MAPS researches the medical uses of currently illicit drugs (which might actually benefit people!), so they can't get any of the Federal pot and want to legally grow their own, hence their ten-year court battle.

That info is in their bulletin #6 on the link. But scroll up to #4 and there's a very interesting story "New Harvard Study Shows No Link Between Ecstasy and Cognitive Damage". Strangely that one has not seen the light of day in the major media, which continue to become less and less relevant to anyone interested in the real world.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Christchurch shakes

This amazing photo of Christchurch during the recent earthquake is doing the rounds on the internet. (I wish people would credit the photographer.) The shot reminds me of a Turner painting. You have to feel anguish for the people caught in such a huge event. You can see there is nowhere to turn. And apparently not a breath of wind, as if the earth is holding its breath. The upward travel of the peaks of dust show the power of the ground waves pushing it.

Junk Science rules the world

This blog themes on junk science which all too frequently underpins prohibitionist drug policies but the Bad Science site of Ben Goldacre, Guardian journalist, shows that the rot is much more widespread.

In short, it seems much of our society and many common beliefs are based on bullshit.

Goldacre did a roundup of the bullshit he detected in 2010 titled 'The year in nonsense' and it's frightening.

What the bullshitters seems to know is the exact point beyond which the average person will cease enquiring into the truth of a matter, so we see untrammelled nonsense being spread by credulous, lazy media while the swift rebuttals, often on blogs, go almost unnoticed except by enthusiasts.

It's all helped along by the deep irrationality of the human mind. It seems that if we learn something that refutes a prejudice it only deepens the prejudice; that if a crime has multiple victims we think it's less serious; and that what women musicians wear affects listeners' assessments of their skill.

One scam I knew about but never quantified is the tabloid journalist's technique of  correcting a rubbish story with some essential information in the 19th paragraph. Most readers, it seems, lose interest at about para 8 or 9 so the outright lie in the headline is accepted.

BTW for designers and layout freaks, there is some good info in that last link about how people read a page, including the fascinating info that when perusing a full length photo of a male, men's eyes will go to the penis area more often than women's. I wonder if they controlled for gayness in their sample? But I'm too time-poor to track down the original paper, so I'll just believe it!

This is paragraph 8 already, so I'll stop.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sending the wrong message

I've blogged about this before in, but NCPIC's new four-year funding and their continuing record of very questionable research projects prompts me to reproduce the text of a letter of mine published in The Age.

State governments are leaping onto the bandwagon to drug-test drivers and penalise them at least as heavily as drink-drivers, eagerly supported by National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC).

Here is my letter:

Sending the wrong message
BETH Wilson muddies the waters when she writes: ''These substances are highly likely to cause accidents and deaths. The likelihood of impairment because of drugs may be three times that of alcohol.''

A recent evidence review into cannabis and driving by the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre concluded in part: ''There are numerous methodological limitations in the studies reviewed that may account for the great variations and inconsistencies in their findings, which detracts from the likelihood of a clear synthesis of results.''

Population studies consistently show a much smaller rate of cannabis-related accidents than for alcohol. Nevertheless, the centre and, it seems, state governments are forging ahead as if the risk for cannabis is the same as for alcohol. This risks both the misallocation of resources and miscarriage of justice if the penalties and enforcement are made equivalent.

Pleas of ''sending the right message'' are hollow when the message is inaccurate.

MICHAEL GORMLY, Woolloomooloo

My phrase 'misallocation of resources' means this: The more time police spend on the drug aspect of driving, the less time they have to fight drink-driving which is a significantly greater threat to you and me. So NCPIC's inaccurate slogan "Smoke and drive and you're as good as drunk" may actually promote greater harm.

States in bed with criminals who profit from prohibition

While it is well known that prohibition creates the turf on which organised crime operates, globalisation and new technology are enabling a frightening illegal network in which some governments ARE the criminals as detailed in a new paper by the Global Commission on Drug Policies.

Senior government officials in countries such as Russia, Albania, South Africa and Venezuela, often favourites of the President or occupying senior policing roles, have been outed as kingpins in international crime, controlling international networks smuggling drugs, weapons, dirty money and people. Drugs are probably the most lucrative of these markets.

The rule of law, human rights and democracy itself are under serious threat while relatively honest governments fight a losing battle against these global crime organisations. Such governments are hamstrung  because they operate mostly within national boundaries while their opponents operate across borders.

Friday, February 25, 2011

"I drank the bong water"

George Clooney, "World's sexiest man" (?) focuses
on Barak Obama
You've gotta laugh. Actor George Clooney's advice to aspiring political candidates is a sign of the times.
Far from Bill Clinton's coy "I didn't inhale", left-leaning George explains in the SMH why he wouldn't run for office himself:
"I f**ked too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that's the truth," said Clooney, who has twice been declared People magazine's sexiest man alive.
Clooney, 49, said a smart political campaigner would "start from the beginning by saying, 'I did it all. I drank the bong water. Now let's talk about issues' That's gonna be my campaign slogan: 'I drank the bong water.'?"
It's a far cry from the po-faced admonitions of prohibitionists who beat up the dangers of cannabis to foment moral panic. Clooney is the polar opposite of the deadhead psychotic cannabis addict usually portrayed by these temperance campaigners.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Research we can believe in?

Prohibitionists governments like those of Australia and the USA pour a lot of money into research on cannabis, but only if the research is trying to establish harms.

Despite this, the relatively harmless nature of the drug means there are few if any damning results. Even the current focus on trying to prove cannabis causes psychosis is producing only tenuous links, even as the media seem to accept any old research as gospel.

An article by cannabis law reformer Paul Armentano outlines the Obama Government's betrayal of its own commitment to evidence-based policy - "Change we can believe in". The American Medical Association also called for more research into medical cannabis, raising hopes among reformers.

Armentano writes:

Those hopes were snuffed, however, when a representative from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the agency that oversees 85 percent of the world's research on controlled substances, reaffirmed its longstanding "no medi-pot" policy to The New York Times. "As the National Institute on Drug Abuse, our focus is primarily on the negative consequences of marijuana use," a spokesperson told the paper in 2010. " We generally do not fund research focused on the potential beneficial medical effects of marijuana."
In other words, they only look for harms. Anything researched in this way would create a bad picture, so it is hardly scientifically balanced. Other agencies such as Australia's National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) follow a similar policy, spending large amounts of scarce national health funding on their unbalanced research and subsequent anti-cannabis propaganda. NCPIC last year was funded for a further four years.

Meanwhile many people wait years for elective surgery and the shortage of nurses means more are working long or double shifts, while post-operative patients who in former times would have been cared for in hospital for a few days are filled with painkillers and immediately sent home. And try seeing a doctor on a Sunday in Sydney city. My advice is, stay healthy!

Prohibition surely screws up our national priorities.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No wonder the police love prohibition - they share the assets with criminals

A story in today's Sydney Morning Herald entitled 'The untouchables: crime fighters let gangsters take the money and run' exposes the dirty underside of prohibition.

In countries which encourage confiscation of assets suspected of having been illegally earned, the thirst for the assets tends to overshadow justice. It seems The NSW Crime Commission is no exception.

The story begins:
THE state's most secretive law enforcement agency has been sharing the proceeds of crime with organised crime figures, cutting deals that allow them to walk away with millions of dollars.
As one of the main earners for organised crime is prohibited drugs, this pattern is closely linked to prohibition. Another salient quote:
But critics say such deals do not make a dent in the amount of drugs sold in Sydney and, as they are struck in private, do little to deter crime.
Increasingly, prohibition is being exposed as an ineffective racket feeding bloated law enforcement interests.

When the Coalition wins power in March, beware their privatisation creed: their ultra-conservative christian prohibitionist faction, led by MLC David Clarke, will no doubt push for tougher prohibition while their money men are likely to support privatised prisons, no doubt with contracts that guarantee profits profits -- read 'guaranteed human input' -- for the lucky financiers.

It's an ugly scenario.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ludicrous priorities: As the law collapses, the War on Drugs continues

A nice article in The Guardian illustrates in a nutshell the stupidity of the War on Drugs and the unthinking mindset of those who believe in it.

Camden, New Jersey has a failing administration. It's a deprived, crime-ridden neighbourhood that is so broke is has just laid off nearly half its police force and raised taxes by 23%, according to The Guardian.

While readers of this blog will understand how drug prohibition both creates crime and doesn't work, the local police don't understand this and they name fighting drugs as one of the top priorities for the remains of their police force.

We are coming up to the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's declaration of the War on Drugs. While the US has spent over a trillion dollars on this war, drugs are just as plentiful, much more varied and relatively cheaper than they were back in the 1970s. over half the arrests over that time have been for cannabis, a drug that has never caused a single death.

While an obscenely rich country might be able to gloss over this colossal waste of money, times are tougher now and enclaves like Camden show just how wasteful, profligate and ineffective prohibition is. It's time for a new way of thinking, but that seems to be one of the most difficult challenges for the human mind.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Greens warn of new era of terror for NSW

According to the NSW Greens, "There’s a real chance that after the March election, a conservative coalition of the Liberals, the Nationals, the Shooters and Fishers Party, Family First and Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats could control the NSW parliament."

Apart from anything else, this would give far-right Christian extremists like Liberal powerbroker David Clarke a big say in the NSW drug laws. Picture an intolerant police-like state with people in many minority cultures being persecuted and jailed under the banner of 'drug prevention'. They are all 'sinners', after all.

The Greens have produced a pretty good 1m:33sec zombie-flick about the prospects, obviously targeting the youth audience and hoping it will go viral. Check it out!




Such a conservative coalition would want to cut back or kill harm minimisation programs that are proved to work. They would like to close down the Kings Cross Medically Supervised Injecting Centre and they hate Methadone replacement programs for addicts. Already-scarce Rehab places would likely dry up and be replaced by compulsory and coercive cold-turkey style abstinence programs (which DON'T work) and ever-expanding jails (privately run for profit, of course).

Around the world now there is a trend for conservative governments to gain power on such issues as immigration and when they get power they crack down on 'illicit' drugs. That's why the Dutch coffee shops are being closed or regulated into insolvency. It would be a real backward step if it happened here.

New 'potaganda' ignites the naysayers

Among my circles it's said that if Miranda Devine opposes you, you must be on a good track. Trouble is, she writes superficially plausible 'sound-bites' very well, so her latest attack on drug law reform will convince some people who don't really know the facts.

Again Ms Devine is fuelled by a report from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC), a body generously funded by our cash-strapped health department to demonise cannabis under the guise of science.

Their work to date has been, on the whole, almost laughable, one study attempting to link cannabis and violence through a dodgy analysis of patients at St Vincents Hospital Emergency. Never mind that one doctor who worked there said he had never once seen a patient present because of cannabis problems.