Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Reefer Madness industry in full swing

It seems the new National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC) is wasting no time demonstrating its political aim of demonising cannabis.

An article in today's Sydney Morning Herald betrays the usual symptoms of selective data being used to support a predetermined view.

On the one hand we are supposed to be horrified at the spectacle of violent dope smokers presenting at hospitals. But as usual there is no causal link between the two. These people apparently presented "after smoking marihuana" but not necessarily BECAUSE of marihuana. What other factors may have contributed to the situation of those included in the data is not revealed. Only one in four showed violence, and the data no doubt does not include the legions who present at hospitals for some other reason without admitting cannabis use because it is illegal.

The article even quotes St Vincents' media darling Dr Gordian Fulde bringing up the discredited furphy that today's marihuana is ten times more potent than yesterday's weed but then curiously contradicts the thrust of the story by saying that smokers rarely need sedation. Ten times more potent? Where's your data, Dr Fulde? (And how much was edited out of what you actually said?)

On the other hand, we see doctors from the emergency department in the same hospital writing to newspapers pointing out they have never had to deal with a cannabis-related emergency. Strange contradictions here.

Well-paid NCPIC Director Jan Copeland has apparently learned nothing from the factually supported flaming she received on an ABC blog (note particularly the posts by "Rumpus"). It is clear NCPIC is nothing but a political propaganda tool and deserves no credibility whatsoever.

And, of course, the fact that all this supposed trauma is happening under prohibition is not mentioned.

And why the Herald uncritically publishes this rubbish is beyond me. It is no more credible that the original Reefer Madness and is produced for exactly the same reasons.

PS (31 July): NCPIC is at it again in The SMH, typifying young dope smokers as 'a hard core of addicts'. 

The press release gushes: "Teenage girls are now just as likely to smoke dope as boys, according to statistics showing rates are at an all-time low but a "hard core" of addicts still remains." 

Never mind that cannabis is about as addictive as golf or stamp collecting. To use the same term for cannabis addiction as used for heroin, ice or cocaine addiction is one of the most wildly dishonest and inaccurate statements it is possible to make. It's like equating a poke in the guts to a beating murder. NCPIC and The SMH are covered in shame.

The press release goes on to twist language in one of the most brazen pieces of propaganda I have ever seen.  Those who still smoke are "committed cannabis users who have other problems in their lives." Then Ms Copeland gets sinister with what I can only see as a call for tougher prohibition: "It's going to take more than an ad campaign on television to deter them."

Older smokers had "failed to give up" and needed "more help".

It's clever spin – assuming something is necessarily a problem when that idea itself is seriously questioned. And not a word about how all these committed teenage smokers can so easily get their hands on the stuff under prohibition, plain evidence that prohibition itself is the failure.

The Herald story finishes with a repeat of yesterday's claims about cannabis-related violence in Sydney hospitals. And Gordian Fulde has been all over the radio repeating that other furphy about the terribly potent new strains of Hydro. But as one email correspondent put it today:

"What's the violence level around Dutch coffee shops, where every strain of hydro is available?"


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Climate sceptics exposed as swindlers

"THE controversial documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle misrepresented several leading climate scientists to try to convince people that human-induced climate change is a fraud, Britain's broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, has found."

The program, shown last July on ABC amid some furore, seems to have been shameless in its dishonesty. Unfortunately all too many climate change sceptics will have had their views reinforced along the way.

The general approach is very similar to much of the prohibitionist spin around illicit drug use, but unfortunately the media seem to have almost entirely lost their critical faculties in this instance. I regularly see prohibitionist messages discredited by professionals because they use suspect research and ignore sound research that challenges their views. But these rebuttals never seem to find their way into the public sphere, possibly because the truth is seen to be 'the wrong message'. Sigh. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No strings attached

People were laughing yesterday at this pole poster in my street. It's obviously a hoax, so I have obscured the phone number. The two posters I saw had been removed by late afternoon. Quite a few World Youth Day pilgrims use this street... welcome to Sydney kids, it's not all prayerful arm-waving!

Two sides of World Youth Day

Cardinal Pell, the Pope and other protectors of pedophiles might have had a secret giggle over a slip of the tongue on ABC's AM program this morning. The announcer headlined with a story foreshadowing today's Papal apology to "vixens of sexual abuse." 

A correction to "victims" was immediate.

Freud would have raved in his groll.

Meanwhile the 'spin doctors' on the Morning Show described senior Catholics as 'not only climate change sceptics but also abuse sceptics'.

On a brighter note: Pictured are global pilgrims having a good time outside the Opera House yesterday, innocent and happy. More power to them. Shame on the politics of their leaders.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bus busts a sign of the new order

While the news is full of outrage because we can now be fined $5.5k for 'annoying' a Catholic pilgrim, the same inhuman authoritarianism is pervading many other parts of Sydney life.

A fairly common sight on our buses is a weeping young Asian girl, probably from China or Hong Kong where there is a single fare for all journeys, who has been busted by an inspector for not inserting their fare card enough times for the journey. I can understand as I have no idea how many sections a journey might be. Even when other passengers offer to pay the extra fare, the inspectors continue their officious sadism.

Now Melbourne has abolished tram conductors and the same thing is happening there. But that perhaps more human city is making an issue of it via this eloquent article in The Age.

Sydney better get used to it because, ever since APEC, 'This is the way we do business now'. And they wonder why tourism is falling.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Moral panic thriving in the media

Sydney's media yesterday was in a tizz over teenagers in a 'booze and drug orgy' at the Submission under-age party in Darling Harbour. ABC reports had one girl hospitalised from an overdose of GHB. It turned out she was drunk, which at least The SMH had the decency to report. This letter they published today, however, put it further into perspective:

Restrain the rage

It seems that of 2000 revellers at a "strictly alcohol-free" under-age event on Wednesday, 0.2 per cent were found to be under the influence of alcohol and 0.1 per cent were found with illegal drugs, of which half had enough to constitute a charge of "supply", thanks to a police sniffer-dog raid ("Under-age rage",, July 10).

Six doesn't seem a particularly alarming total to me. I'd wager that if you randomly tested 2000 police officers, teachers, nurses, doctors, politicians or State Transit Authority employees while they were at work, you would find a much higher percentage.

Daniel Kell, Sutherland


Ah, so many different ways to report something.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The costs of prohibition: Police break solicitor's rib

More fallout from police bullies with sniffer dogs: A Marrickville solicitor offered legal assistance to a person in a Newtown pub who was indicated by a sniffer dog – a perfectly reasonable offer as police always ignore their own rules of engagement by searching and humiliating people in public rather than taking them to a more private place as is their right and, when searching people without a dog present, demanding their ID without proper grounds.

The solicitor, Kristian Bolwell, was floored, handcuffed and had a rib broken according to a story in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Truly, we live in a police state and it's getting worse.

I have had similar experiences with police bullies when I photographed a sniffer dog operation at Kings Cross station. I was falsely arrested for 'swearing' (but really because I refused to show my ID, demanded to see the Superintendent intead). I also had a bystander witness, a solicitor who testified I had not sworn. When I complained to the Ombudsman the police simply lied and their commander backed them up. 

However at the time when the witness spoke up, I was immediately 'un-arrested'. Funny, I can't find that word in my dictionary. One of the offending photographs is shown above, illustrating the 'shooting fish in a barrel' tactics the police use to ensure only alcohol users come into Kings Cross.

Moral panic over milk

This neat satire of the prohibition mindset revolves around the Australian practice of 'milk-running', apparently a schoolies' prank involving regurgitation. There is a link to a Youtube vid showing the distasteful but possibly artistic practice.

The 'purse-lipped paragons of public morality' just can't work out what to ban in order to 'solve' the problem -- or even to be 'seen to be doing something.' It's a great window onto the 'binge' mentality of Aussie youth, with no alcohol or drugs in the picture at all. It's not even happening in Kings Cross!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The evidence prohibitionists and journalists ignore

As Kings Cross continues to suffer the chaos of prohibition, the prohibition industry has a near stranglehold on the public image of drugs with their message of danger and eternal damnation. Yet professionals continue to publish balanced evidence telling a different story.  

Here's a link to a very sober article which draws on no less than 52 scientific studies and concludes that the current popular myths about cannabis have little substance and it should be decriminalised. It's from the Journal of Current Opinion in Psychiatry, by Dr Wim van den Brink.

Of interest is the doctor's use of the term 'drugs of pleasure', which will get right up the noses of the prohibitionists, many of whom claim there is no such thing as recreational drug use (they must never have been to a pub!).

Pictured is a bizarre incident in which two police with sniffer dogs ran the length of Darlinghurst Road with their sniffer dogs chasing a local guy before illegally putting the dogs onto him. The dogs had not previously indicated him and no drugs were found. (The victim is the guy in the Nike top with his face blocked in yellow. The second dog is arrowed.) 

What a waste of time and resources, and what a great way to make Kings Cross and Sydney an unwelcoming place. Tourists from more liberal countries cannot believe what they are seeing when such incidents occur (which is frequently).

PS (9/7/08): This succinct story from the Los Angeles Times neatly sums up the folly of prohibition and names those who benefit from it. It's not a pretty list, but the vested interests of hardline conservatives are clear.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Another upgrade whether you want it or not

The general message to Council from the Kings Cross community last night was: 'If Fitzroy Gardens ain't broke, don't fix it' and: 'no more grey paving'.

But residents attending the first public consultation on the proposed upgrade of the park around the iconic El Alamein Fountain were told a $6 million budget had already been allocated and we were introduced to consultants who had already been appointed to run the design process.

Yet we were repeatedly told that 'we were driving this'.

If that was true, the consultation would have occurred much earlier to ascertain whether Kings Cross even needed another upgrade. We might, for instance, have preferred that our defunded arts festival was resurrected and who knows what else community members might think up.

This goes to the heart of the problem with this council: THEY drive the agenda and always will until a more democratic structure is put in place – for instance precinct committees with the power to set agendas and even control some budget. It happens in other world cities and it is the only way that Clover Moore's slogan of 'city of villages' will ever mean anything, and the only way Sydney will ever become truly diverse and interesting.

Council had decided on the 'post-it note' process whereby people write on sticky notes and post them on the wall. Quickly the section for 'what we liked' about Fitzroy Gardens overflowed. The 'dislike' section was much less full but included some pretty funny notes such one complaining about the noise from the El Alamein Fountain and asking that it be turned off at night. (This would only make other noise seem louder once the 'white noise' masking from the fountain stopped but hey, such is democracy!)

This type of consultation also suppresses speakers from the public who might sway the meeting by speaking to the whole room or even, god forbid, put a motion from the floor. 

Yes, better public toilets are needed and the paving could be better maintained. Some want the carpark under nearby Lawrence Hargeaves Reserve to be upgraded (just as oil starts running out!). Still, $6 million could do so much spent otherwise.

But gee, Council's Upgrade Dept needs constant feeding or they'd all be out of a job. Next on the hit list is Forbes St Woolloomooloo, another place guilty of being paved with the heretical terracotta. God it's boring fighting this relentless top-down control.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Potts Point person tells it like it is

From today's Herald letters, concerning Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen's breakaway faction opposed to equal right for gays (or indeed women) in the church:

"Only time will tell if Peter Jensen and his followers become the VHS or Betamax of the Anglican world. But I feel I should warn him, where we early-adopting gays and lesbians lead, the rest usually follow.

Chris Aronsten Potts Point"

Pell's bells, what is it about Sydney that spawns these reactionary church leaders? Now we can be fined $5,500 if we annoy a Catholic. Queen Isabella of Spain would be pleased.