Thursday, August 26, 2004

News Digest

This first goes out on 95bfm at 8 10 on a Friday morning

It’s funny how things can get taken out of context. Or not so funny.

Thursday saw the first day of the Auckland round of submissions on the Foreshore and Seabed bill.
The Parliamentary select committee was sitting in session at the Alexandra Park Raceway. Interestingly, this venue was also the scene for a NZ First Convention – which was held in the then wonderfully named Delightful Lady Lounge.

Unfortunately, since the NZ First do the Lounge has been renamed the Rutherford Room, which perhaps better suits the dry and boring duties of a select committee.
Except on Thursday it was anything but dry and boring.

The Police were in attendance, secretaries complained of intimidation, separatist flags were kinda flown – or at the very draped prominently over tables, ejections were threatened, and civil war was apparently warned of.

Pretty heady stuff, though we shouldn’t be too surprised over what this Foreshore and seabed Bill manages to throw up – it has already spawned a Hikoi of over 10,000 marching on Parliament, a brand new Maori Party, some strife with technically apolitical public servants – although that seemed to be more a case of Labour beliefs are okay everything else no way – not to mention feeding ugly race based campaigning by National and ACT.

Sooooooo. The big news in the Papers and on the telly was that Head of Maori Studies at Auckland University, Professor Margaret Mutu had asserted that instituting this legislation would lead “inevitably to Civil War.”
That, you could say, is a very big call.
Dr Wayne Mapp, a Nat on the committee, certainly thought so. He seized on this single comment out of Ngati Kahu’s entire lengthy submission that was in reality mainly concerned with the fact that Mana Whenua is being overlooked.
Mana Whenua is loosely the idea that Maori are joint stewards of the land, and having the best, longest and closest relationship to land, they have a responsibility, and a right, to know what’s best regarding that land.
The concept is of course more complex than that but then again isn’t everything?

Well no, at least not if you’re Dr Wayne Mapp. Instead of paying attention to this concept Mapp seized on Professor Mutu’s passing comment that past warnings of civil war may well not be Hyperbole – that is unless these issues are addressed.

Fair enough comment, but still pretty unnecessary to start talking civil war.
The very idea of civil war is fraught with trouble, the country barely has an Army, and what it does have is disproportionately Maori. It is so unlikely that it only throws up questions.
Who would be fighting who? Where? Over whether the Crown should own the land? Didn’t this all happen in the 1800s? Isn’t land confiscation so last millennium? And most importantly aren’t we still paying for mistakes like those through Treaty Claims?

It is all beyond my simple mind. And evidently beyond Dr Mapp’s when he labelled the civil war claim as Treason.

Perhaps if everyone stopped playing the thoughtless exaggeration game this would be a whole lot easier. One thing is for sure - it really has to get sorted soon. It is evident, and dangerous, that just as certain groups become more militant, pretty much everyone else is well bored of the Foreshore and Seabed debate.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

ACC and Response, or lack there-of

Sooooooo. It has now been over 11 weeks since I sliced my hand whilst at work in a small yet brilliantly disabling accident.
The accident occasioned a week odd in Hospital, a five hour operation and the loss of the use of my dominant hand for two years.
While most everything has been fine - people have been helpful, girlfriend closest to saintly that she is ever likely to get, learning to write with other hand etc - the inability to work and corresponding lack of money is not fine.
Which is where ACC comes in handy. I read with interest that Diana Wichtel received home-visits from her case worker. Which hurts really - in my ten weeks of having a case worker I have received ONE letter.
That is it. Not a cent. Not a phone call. Certainly not a home visit.
Better still, the letter was to say that she could not return my calls. I've been leaving one message a week with her answering machine and in reply I've had one letter saying she could not raise me by phone. WHY DON"T YOU TRY FUCKING RINGING IT?

So Yvonne Thompson of the Auckland branch I here make a formal complaint over your inept negligence. I have not received any help or income assistance from you and am sick of living on $20 a week and the dwindling kindness of friends, and the dwindled kindness of my long suffering parents.

I don't believe that after paying $2000 in ACC levies in the past financial year that I am not eligible for a single cent.

I'd love to hear from you Yvonne............

Which brings to mind Dr Paul Hutchison's claims that the abandonment of the Market model for ACC has led to a rise in accident numbers.
Dr Hutchison is the National Party spokesperson for ACC. Many may never have heard of him but he is seriously saying that "Competition and individual risk rating in accident insurance provides better incentives to cut the number of accidents."

I can understand the wish for a no-profile MP to fire out press-releases at anything moving, but surely linking re-nationalisation and workplace deaths is at the best gauche, at the worst sick.

Anyway now for something a little different.

This correspondence followed from the 'Poisoned Pot' piece that appears below.

Have a read.


Dear Fuse,

I'd like to clarify some comments made in your inaugural edition by Simon Pound in his "In for a Penny" column regarding police cannabis operations.
Pound has his wires crossed with his statement: "Apparently police are warning cannabis consumers to watch out for the (poisoned) weed", in reference to the aerial spraying operations carried out on the Coromandel Peninsula.
To set the record straight, NORML issued a press release to all newspapers in the Coromandel area, warning smokers to be aware that some unscrupulous dealers were dipping the dyed cannabis in food colouring to mask the bluespray. NORML also raised issues of possible poisoning or health concerns that may result from smoking the sprayed cannabis. As a consequence of that, newspapers approached police for comment. Our message to the community was simple: If you're going to play with illegal drugs, you take the risks.
Pound is right to highlight this issue. As our society overflows with more toxic, chemical-based "recreational" drugs, a thriving industry is emerging. Be under no illusions - drug dealers and manufacturers are out to make money, not to provide a community service. A drug-related fatality is of no concern to them. There's plenty more customers out there.

Communications Manager Waikato Police

Apart from a minor reading error - that NORML issued the warning and not the police, who by implication welcome the extra risk to pot-smokers - Kris doesn't disagree with any substantative points in the column.

Can you, for bonus points, actually work out what exactly she is trying to say? It reads as if it were concocted with a checklist - get the message out regardless of relevancy or how it reads.

Thing is I'd figured it was pretty non-inflammatory from a police perspective. To enter in and clarify is, of course, fine but if reefer madness language was missing, it is no longer. This section here warrants ominous background music and to be voiced by the guy who does all the movie trailers:

As our society overflows with more toxic, chemical-based "recreational" drugs, a thriving industry is emerging. Be under no illusions - drug dealers and manufacturers are out to make money, not to provide a community service. A drug-related fatality is of no concern to them. There's plenty more customers out there.

dun du dun da.........

Putting aside the regrettable grammar - 'There are plenty more' perhaps..... - I'm disappointed because I consider myself almost rabidly pro-police.
This is because the police receive the bum-rap in terms of reportage. With a few recent exceptions. In the case of the Iraqi man shot fatally by a police officer the headline was further towards the favourable, while still a little sensationalist: Knifeman's wife saved by cop's fatal shot.
In this case a cop managed to shoot a man who had just stabbed him in the arm, from 7m, to save the stabber's wife. Even better, he managed to, from 7m, hit the guy in the leg three times. When this did not stop the offender from still attempting to cut his wife's throat he had to shoot him in the head. Not what he wanted to do but absolutely heroic. And incredibly difficult.
Yet, when this man should be getting medals, he instead gets to be subject to three inquiries.

Why do cops bother. Even on the best day at work a policeman can expect to deal with car-crashes, dead bodies, domestic violence, drunks, thugs, thieves and worst of all - myriad innocent victims. Everyday they are putting themselves in situations we'd rather avoid and you don't see their success on the front pages or leading the news - only when something goes wrong.
We're beyond lucky to have an honest force though you don't hear much gratitude.

Though some policies that police are obliged to enforce bug me, such as this poisoning of weed, they are not the baddies. I thought that came through in the piece, but if it didn't, it does now.

The column this is all about first appeared in Fuse, the Herald Student supplement. Unfortunately, fuse has been met with resounding indifference from those in the know.

Matt Nippert provided illumination as to the financial set-up of the paper, which was especially interesting to this contributor who signed up to have something in all six issues for the paltry sum of $300 for 2500 odd words.

Not that I'm complaining, regular readers will be aware I sustained an injury that led to an end for all of my conventional means of employment, and as a result I really have to take what is going. Though this doesn't take the sting out when it gets rubbished - even if for very good reasons.

Russell Brown has mentioned Fuse a bunch of times, mainly vaguely disparagingly as in this instance, although he seems to have overlooked the presence of at least one redeeming feature...........

Friday, August 20, 2004

Fuse Pieces

These first appeared in fuse, the NZ Herald Student mag. They were accompanied there by an embarrasing mug shot. Anyhow, here they are:

Poisoned Pot

It has been an odd week in the news. In the absence of speeding politicians or party formations things have taken a turn for the strange.

We're talking about the poisoned pot warnings. Apparently the police are warning cannabis consumers to beware of the weed.
Turns out the cops conducted an aerial spraying campaign over Coromandel growing regions. Unlike conventional crop-dusters though they have been spraying pesticide. This poison makes marijuana harmful if smoked.
Luckily, as the cops aren’t evil in this country, the pesticide also turns the plants blue - so you’ll know what not to smoke.
Sounds simple really - avoid the blue buds. Except growers, ever-resourceful people that they are, appear to have been using yellow food colouring to turn the blue plants back to a more conventional green.
Which leaves smokers in a bit of a sticky situation, if you’ll excuse the awful pun. You’d think it would be easy enough to avoid the danger by just making sure you avoided Coromandel green. Putting aside the sacrilege this statement might represent to devotees of such, the problem is you can’t always be that sure where that pot you just bought came from. There is no buyer beware in an underground market. It is very hard to trust your supplier when he or she touts their product. It doesn’t matter what low-grade food-coloured cabbage they might be getting for you because they are always going to tell you it is the meanest, cloned, northern lights skunk, bro. Just look at those crystals. Or something like that - it has been a while since I was last doing that but I’ll bet it still holds true.
Oddly enough this potentially dangerous fiasco is good ammo for those wishing to see cannabis laws relaxed. The police never intended to hurt the smokers, only the producers. If the current approach to policing pot starts endangering normal occasional users it might provide a good moment to step back and have a think about what it was they were trying to accomplish in the first place.
Not only are pretty much law abiding citizens being criminalized by the laws at the moment - both through the kind of associations they have to tap into to get hold of weed and the risk of conviction they face by indulging, but now they are also being endangered because the lack of an above board supply system means most people will have no idea where their hitherto harmless joint came from.
Blue weed and Crop-dusting cops - it’s either Monty Python or Reefer Madness. But lets just hope no one gets hurt in the process.

That was piece no1. apart from looking like I was trying to be down with those crazy pot smoking kids it wasn't too painful


Parekura Horimia has announced that he intends to shed 30 kilos by Christmas. You may have seen the photos of him in half undress, showing us the before to what he hopes comes after.

I haven’t seen so much flesh since my first flurries on to the Internet. And I was left with the same feelings of unease and that this wasn’t the kind of image I wanted to be found with on my computer.
Turns out the Minister for Maori Affairs is new to Weight Watchers and is losing puku to highlight obesity amongst Maori.

Fine project. And good on him too, it has to be in his health’s best interests. However it is a dangerous move to put your belly on the line - if, right in the glare of the public eye, he doesn’t make the target, then he’s cooked politically.

You only have to remember Donna Awatere Huata. Ms Huata lost a lot of weight. Heaps in fact. And incidentally, though maybe not coincidentally, she also gained some omni-present wrap-around sunglasses the made her look like a bad guy out of the Fifth Element. But just as her husband told the world how much better their sex was as a result (thanks Wi, much appreciated mate) it emerged that it wasn’t her sterling will power that had cut the girth, but was in fact a stomach-stapling operation.
Which wasn’t what she’d told the Women’s mags. And like Samson losing his powers with his hair, everything went quite to custard for Donna afterwards.

Since then she has been heading through half the Courts in the Country fighting fraud charges and an ACT party attempt to have her booted from Parliament. You’d think the accompanying stress may have lost the weight for her, but it was too late - the operation, and the integrity-damage, was done.

So it is a brave man who makes his personal the political. Especially seeing that Horomia is mainly known for two things- being fat, and mangling his words when he speaks in Parliament. Perhaps cutting out the one would serve to highlight the other, and he wouldn’t want that.
Although I sincerely do wish him the best it really doesn’t look good for him. Apparently to help him through the Weight Watchers programme he is relying on the decidedly un-svelte Annette King to help him count his points. Better not throw out the Mu-Mus quite yet.

It is more difficult than I'd imagined to say anything at all in a 400 word limit. But that is an economical way to take a swipe at Horomia, Wi Huata, Donna Awatere Huata, Annette King......

Thursday, August 19, 2004

We want Dick.......

This goes out on at 8:10 am on a Friday Morning


In some of the best news the anti-John Banks brigade has had in a long time the muesli-millionaire Dick Hubbard has announced that he is entering the Mayoral race.

Although he may not yet have any real policies as yet, what he does have is a good, vote-worthy image and, incidentally, an annoying predilection for exclamation marks - if you saw his full page ad in the paper yesterday you will know what I mean
He is famous for being a socially responsible businessman – whatever that means - and for flying his staff to Samoa. Hubbard certainly has the feel-good factor.

It was largely this amorphous feel-good factor that got Christine Fletcher elected Mayor in the first place. She was riding high in public opinion for her spirited activism in Parliament on Auckland education issues and was seen as more colourful than Les Mills.
Putting aside the fact that even with a fitness-factory named after him the Waikato River was more colourful than Mills doesn’t help her case.

However, on taking office Fletcher proved to be ineffective, wishy-washy and a very average manager of the council. Try to think of one thing she did – I can’t.

So along came Banks. A cowboy on his Harley. Larger than life with Bentleys, Jetskis and very un-Grey-Lynn opinions.

And, in the absence of a better candidate, he handsomely won.

How did someone with Banks’ past, well publicised, rotten outbursts win? I mean this is a guy who fought tooth and nail against the Homosexual Reform Bill, who once famously said that Asian people ate everything with four legs except tables and chairs, and so on and so nastier…. Simply a man who was the bane of Liberal New Zealand.

Well he won because the bulk of the people who bother voting in the postal-ballot council elections are the elderly, the wealthy and traditionally the right wing establishment types.
Turnout in the last election was somewhere around 40%. So all of the very vocal anti-Banksers can not possibly have voted. If you don’t vote you can’t complain.

The problem is that Banks didn’t just win – he creamed Fletcher by a stonking 15,000 votes. Although were there a better candidate and a more motivated electorate that is not an insurmountable figure to turn around.

But until Dick Hubbard put his hand up there simply wasn’t.

I mean look at them.
Bruce Hucker is well-intentioned, well-meaning, has good left wing politics, is caring and a pretty effective councillor but most importantly he is even less exciting than that description suggests.
And as far as Fletcher goes, as has been noted, there are around 15000 reasons she isn’t about to top Banksie.
So Hubbard may be just the man for the job, a candidate people might vote for. This is opposed to what Fletcher was offering which was pretty much – a vote for me is a vote against Banks.

But unless people start actually bothering to vote in these elections Banks is going to cruise back in. Honestly – even if everyone who wants Banks out manages to back one candidate it’ll still be his to lose.

First step is to make sure you are on the electoral roll at the correct address – the quickest and easiest way is to go to because unless the postal-ballot arrives in your mailbox there is no-way you can have your say. I think there is a slogan in that.

For what it’s worth I like Mayor of Auckland John Banks – he has made my world a more colourful place – but then again as a news-junkie I’m amoral, perhaps even immoral on these things. So perhaps don’t bother and, as Banksie puts it –keep the dream alive.

Slap on the Wrist

The best thing, the very best thing about this whole internet opinion indulgence is when someone sends a reply in that makes your day. This correspondence followed on from the pro-smoking rant below. Gold.

Read your blog on smoking in hospitals and felt I should drop you a line, being a public health doctor at Counties Manukau DHB and someone who helped develop the smokefree policy at Middlemore. As you note having public health system premises smokefree makes great sense in theory. Smoking is the single biggest cause of premature mortality and ill-health in the land and any DHB that didn't do what it could to reduce the harm due to smoking would not be doing its job, nor serving its public well. In practice it is supposed to make sense too - rather than being pushed off the grounds to smoke in the train station you are _supposed_ to be offered nicotine replacement patches. Which should take away the cravings, improve your lung function for anaesthetics, give you an idea of being able to live without cigarettes, etc etc. All good in theory but if no one actually offers you the patches then not much good in practice. You did choose the busiest time of the year to try our hospital (July/August) but that shouldn't stop us doing things right.
And sorry that the rest of your stay was not better - hope you are on the mend now.


And so I, feeling a bit silly, had to send a reply. I mean this guy and everyone else working in that hospital are saints really - they work like dogs and my complaining is the thanks they get. He even hoped I was on the mend. Chastened. Though if they'd tried to give me a nicotine patch I fear I would have completely lost my rag. The blog of course had some exaggeration for effect. Anyhow - this is what I sent back.

Hi there,

Thank you for your considered reply.
You will have to excuse me, I am just being the same petulant ungrateful sod I was when I was in your hospital. It is meant to be taken lightly and I'm sorry if you took it seriously as a reflection on the institution. I could equally have written a piece on the good experiences - though that would be less fun, and quite a bit shorter.
Smoking is my weakness and bugbear


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Cancerous Performance

This originally appeared in the Herald here I reproduce it in full because it is so short. Yet so rewarding.

Hospital smoking room for terminally ill

Terminally ill patients at Hawkes Bay Hospital will soon have their own smoking room, despite the health board's recent adoption of a non-smoking policy.

The 14sq m room will be for the sole use of terminally ill patients who have obtained written permission from their doctors.

Absolutely brilliant.

Sets me thinking like. I recently spent a heavily sedated week at the mercy of the Public Health System. I'm not sure I'd normally capitalise those words but anything that manages to distinguish itself so by such rank awfulness certainly merits the upper-case approach.

During my brief incarceration at Middlemore Hospital I encountered the full force of the smokefree policy that, while making perfect sense in theory, is an unworkable arse in the all-important practice.

While I waited 5 days for an evermore delayed operation on nil-by-mouth (after, incidentally, losing packets of blood and sustaining some not inconsiderable trauma) I was not allowed to smoke anywhere in hospital grounds.

Yes, smoking is bad. Awful, pointless, to be discouraged etc. But it is at your more difficult times that the incendiary crutch comes in most useful. Like when, through an act of god or some other bad-minded higher force, you are confronted with the news that have lost use of your dominant hand for a number of years. And lost the use through a grisly, quite frankly shocking, little accident. To add insult to this injury I was also put into this phenomenally inept institution, known affectionately amongst healthcare professionals as Muddlemore, put in here against my will or wish and denied leave to smoke.

The salt in the wound bit is that the cravings to do so were mainly brought on by the very inadequacies that the hospital foisted onto me. To catalogue all the shit I waded through here would be boring, and besides everyone who has been through a public hospital would have stories as good if not better, but it'll suffice to say that the nurse was distressingly overworked; the communication between medical staff and patient was distressingly non-existent; the food, when I was finally allowed to eat some, was simply distressing; the noise, all night, all day, all morning, was you-get-the-picture.......

To single out some of the mal-practice-suit-worthy mishaps by my nurse would also be unfair. It is not really her fault that her endless shifts, patients and lack of English conspired to provide her with a dickensian ineptitude.

Not that I forbore at the time. At one stage, directly after my operation, drugged out of my guns and officially still under general anesthetic, I awoke and let them have it. Awake in the recovery room twenty minutes out of the O.R I caused quite a commotion. After setting a new record for morphine administered I was still not asleep as, by rights and physics, I ought to have been. My friends and family, longer suffering than even the pompous I, entered the ward to find me yelling abuse at the nurses who, by now legally no longer able to give me any more morphine for risk of killing me, were offering me panadol. Not a pretty scene ensued, with a charmingly euphemistic and flattering eye-witness account likening my juvenile and solidly medicated performance to Winston Churchill had he found himself in a Nazi POW Camp Hospital.

But before all this, perhaps leading to all this, there was the not being allowed to smoke.

On the first day there I was instructed, by a none too interested security guard, that I was not to light the cigarette in my mouth. I had managed to steal five minutes outside, feeling weak in body and mind as a result of interminable waiting. So there I was, a drip connected to my arm, it, in turn, connected to an unwieldy wheeling device and my mouth very much connected to the smoke. And he, in no uncertain terms, was not going to let me smoke it. My closest option for complying with the no-smoking in the grounds policy was to cross two roads, get my way through a hedge and then over a railway line.

Which, although I didn't do it then ,was what I spent the next 4 days doing. And quite a picture it makes too - a bunch of hospital-gowned, drip-adorned mal-contents smoking in Middlemore Train Station out in the open in the middle of winter. Surely there is some line to be found with a little more compassion for those in the throes of nicotine addiction. This certainly did not look to me like public health, the actions of a benevolent bureaucracy. It looked like a good-intentioned state-sanctioned fuck-up playing out, and to hell with the people who fall outside the rule-making. Well, to hell or the train station (I would have picked hell for the warmth - nothing is worn under those hospital gowns and it is unforgivingly cold on those platforms in June).

So good on Hawkes Bay Hospital for that ounce of flexibility. Though it still isn't such a good deal - in order for the great bureaucracy to allow you to exercise your legal right to smoke you have to be terminally ill. Talk about setting the bar high. And more worryingly you need a note from your Doctor to let you in the room. As if hospitals were already not condescending enough to their patients.

Ah well, it is the small clawing back of rights that lead to the bigger......I hope.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

A River in Egypt

The magic thing about being in the bfm orbit is that it can provide you with the opportunity to talk with some very interesting characters.

Not many would enjoy the prospect of, for example, getting up at 6am to interview Michael Cullen about Foreshore and Seabed legal intricacies but, for me, I'm ecstatic that there is such access. These people are in no way obliged to give up their time and I feel very lucky that listeners are good enough to, well, bother. We never pay the subjects, nor, for that matter, do bfm pay me - probably for very good reasons.

Today, to get to the point, was certainly one of the feeling-lucky days.
Intrigued by all of the arguments over the proposed visit by disgraced historian David Irving, I thought it was worth a try to see if he'd come on the show.

The result of which is available here - or here

I hope you find it interesting. It quite knocked the stuffing out of me.
I'm interested to hear what people think - how does he maintain this veneer of being reasonable when he so patently is not? Or what do you reckon?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Lifejackets Optional

Tomorrow sees a free Zaoui concert happening at the Cityside Baptist Church at the top of Mt Eden Road. The afternoon kicks off at 3 30 and Don McGlashan will be playing. There will be poetry too, perhaps even a reading of a poem Zaoui wrote.

Later on a candlelit walk will take place, heading down to the gates of Mt Eden jail, the candles – according to the University students who organised this - will be a symbol of shared commitment to justice, equality and a world without fear.

This will be a protest to draw attention to the fact that a year has elapsed since Zaoui was granted refugee status, but as the SIS have gone about compiling a risk certificate - and trying to find someone who can keep their bias to themselves for long enough to review it - Zaoui has languished in jail.

In the course of this year that Zaoui has been treated, and locked up, as guilty until proven innocent his supporters seem to have gone back in time.

Poetry readings, candlelit walks and protests in general are not very now right now. Actually giving a shit is not very in either.

Embarrassment and apathy seem to have risen to the degree that someone mentions this kind of event and all you can think of is earnest sandal-y types talking about class war. Which is a shame because there are very serious problems with the way NZ is treating Zaoui that need to be addressed.

But you don’t see any serious assessments of it in the Herald until they weigh in with the Government line – that France and Belgium have their reservations – and they weighed in with this line before we even knew it was the Government line.

And now the Herald is going to print pictures of this as some kind of fell-out-of-the-sixties protest with glee – further marginalizing the issue into some kind of irrelevant hippy hobby horse.

The issues in the treatment of Zaoui are in fact tremendously dry. And tremendously numerous. There are whole websites, and one suspects lives, dedicated to compiling these so I shant try to canvass them – head out and have a look – but what I will assure you of is that every other country Zaoui has been to – even the ones that found him guilty of low level criminal association type charges - treated and housed him better than we have.

For 11 months he was in solitary confinement at Paremoremo – we don’t even do that to rapist murderers. But to a man claiming refugee status – and recieving it - we treat him with Napoleonic justice, guilty until innocent, when even the French managed to treat him better.

Maybe this is because NZ felt snubbed – he came to us via a handful of countries and ten years, and our being last to catch the political hot potato has left us angry. I mean before NZ came Burkina Faso, a snub enough to put sensitive Kiwi noses out of joint

But in any event if you are concerned about the way we are treating Ahmed Zaoui and how this reflects on our country it would do well to head along to the Cityside church. I’ll be there in spite of the planned candles and poetry. I can’t help but wonder how the flames will keep alight during such a wet action. Even so, regardless of your feelings about his guilt or innocence it does well to remember that the most sensible slogan in all this is ‘Free Zoaui or Give Him a Fair Trial” – because the ugly reality of this is that we wont even let him or his lawyers know what we are accusing him of. It is like something out of the dark ages

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Monday, August 02, 2004

Hang on, Where is Bruce Willis?

Here is a little something that got my blood up. At first I thought it might be an April Fool. Apparently it is serious. It originally appeared in the Independent, and I first saw it in the Weekend Herald.

Below I reproduce the story, as it appeared, and if you'll allow me I'll run through it with you, commenting at will. Should be fun.

British children to get jabs against drug addiction

A radical scheme to vaccinate children against future drug addiction is being considered by British ministers, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Under the plans, doctors would immunise children at risk of becoming smokers or drug users with an injection. The scheme could operate in a similar way to the current nationwide measles, mumps and rubella vaccination programme.

Childhood immunisation would provide adults with protection from the euphoria that is experienced by users, making drugs such as heroin and cocaine pointless to take. Such vaccinations are being developed by pharmaceutical companies and are due to hit the market within two years.

Jesus. Hold up. Come again?

A radical scheme to vaccinate children against future drug addiction is being considered by British ministers, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

What exactly are British Ministers doing thinking that their mandate extends to deciding physiological characteristics of future humans?

Under the plans, doctors would immunise children at risk of becoming smokers or drug users with an injection. The scheme could operate in a similar way to the current nationwide measles, mumps and rubella vaccination programme.

Who would be at risk? Poor people, kids unfortunate enough to have criminal parents, pretty much the dark and oppressed I’ll bet.
Royal love rats and Parker-Bowles’ offspring are pretty unlikely to be jabbed. They’re white, rich and into coke. Important difference.

Childhood immunisation would provide adults with protection from the euphoria that is experienced by users, making drugs such as heroin and cocaine pointless to take. Such vaccinations are being developed by pharmaceutical companies and are due to hit the market within two years.

Protection from the euphoria. What kind of protection is that? Where is our protection from the kind of people who wish to protect people from euphoria?
This is, if you'll pardon a touch of hysteria, the kind of condescending and controlling evil wrapped up in professed good intentions that informed eugenics and the Holocaust.

What if these kids want to have the chance to experience euphoria, even if illegal? Anti-drug laws are one thing but Governments are not there to decide what future citizens are going to be permitted to experience.

Further, surely not all the euphoria one experiences when taking these drugs is unique to taking the drugs. To vaccinate against euphoria might have effects on euphoria released by other legal activities.

Pre-programming the responses of humans to substances smells draconian. And it continues….. it appears that a lot of people are pushing this along:

The Department of Trade and Industry has set up a special project to investigate ways of using new scientific breakthroughs to combat drug and nicotine addiction.

A national anti-drug immunisation scheme is one of the proposals being put forward by the Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs project, an expert committee of scientists appointed by the Government earlier this year.

Professor David Nutt, a leading government drugs adviser who sits on the committee, told the IoS that anti-drug vaccines for children are likely to be among the panel's recommendations when it reports next March.

This, Greenies and Christians, is a panel of government appointed people playing God. Not with tomatoes but with people. Deciding what they will be permitted to experience. If you are a God squader or an anti-GE type this should be infuriating to you. But the issue is not even on the radar.

Professor Nutt, head of psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol and a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said: "People could be vaccinated against drugs at birth as you are against measles. You could say cocaine is more dangerous than measles, for example. It is important that there is a debate on this issue. This is a huge topic - addiction and smoking are major causes of premature death."

It is important there is debate. I'd like to debate just what you think you are doing Nutt.
Actually, Professor Nutt? They're taking the piss. Surely. I mean Psychopharmacology? Listen to this - Prof Nutt of the madey-uppy-namey-discipline says "cocaine more dangerous than measles!" But, ridiculuos as it seems, this is on the level. In any event I'm certainly developing a psychopharmalogical response - I feel very angry and in need of a drink.

I’m not sure if cocaine is more dangerous than measles, but I’m certain that the war on drugs becomes more dangerous than drugs when these science fiction dystopia solutions are being seriously mooted.

According to the Government's own figures, the cost of drug addiction - through related crime and health problems - to the economy is £12bn a year. There is a strong incentive for the Government to find new ways to halt spiralling addiction.

Last week, the IoS revealed that cocaine use had trebled in Britain with increasing numbers of users switching to highly addictive crack cocaine.

So it is popular. And expensive. And illegal. Perhaps if it were popular and inexpensive and legal 80% of the problem would disappear and the 20%, to give a generous figure, that have trouble with drugs could be better helped and focused on. But all these noses in the money trough that is constantly replenished to fight the war on drugs would be put out. And we can’t have that. No, better to extend government powers.

Scientists are already conducting trials for drugs that can be used by doctors to vaccinate against cocaine, heroin and nicotine addiction.

Xenova, the British biotechnology firm, has carried out trials on an anti-cocaine vaccine which showed that 58 per cent of patients remained cocaine-free after three months.

58%? Just by stopping their pocket money you could have better results.

Meanwhile, experts at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, have developed a super-virus, harmless to humans, which produces proteins that can block or reduce the effects of cocaine.

Oh come on. This is a bad movie script. We know how this goes, Evil Corporations engineer super-virus to control behaviour. Society enslaved. Freedoms crushed. Some dickhead reads out some Orwell quotes. It is so familiar it is cliché. But one thing is missing. Where are the good guys to save us from this fate? Bruce Willis would be nice, or a mid-80s Arnie.

The team at Scripps tested the virus on rats by injecting it into their noses twice a day for three days. On the fourth day, the rats were given a shot of cocaine. The researchers found that cocaine had more effect on the rats not injected with the virus than those that were.

Shit, I'll settle for Stallone if I have to.

Scientists hope the virus will help stop the cravings experienced by cocaine users for the drug by
blocking the pleasure they normally associate with cocaine.

This seems way too close to female circumcision for my liking. Clitorises make woman unruly and lustful. Cocaine makes the proles unruly and troublesome. Can’t have that.
Lets chop off their pleasure sectors to make them pliant. Sure it denies the pleasure their bodies were built for, but this is for their own good.

In fact this is exactly what this is. Female circumcision writ large.

This anti-drug medication is expected to be available to users within the next two years in the form of a nasal spray.

Well, slightly less intrusive maybe. Anyhow, it is coming soon. But where are those good guys? How is the reception?

Proposals to introduce a national anti-drug vaccination programme have been greeted with a cautious welcome by MPs and experts.

What? Where is the caution? They have funded this along every step of the way. This didn’t just happen, this is known as planning.
Problem is no one wants to be seen as ‘soft on drugs’. If only the same stigma was attached to ‘soft on civil liberties’. Being anti drugs and soft on human rights puts you in good company; Hitler was a notable example of this thinking and, in fact, all totalitarian regimes take this line. Pol Pot's Cambodia, Hitler's Germany, Mao's China, Blair's Britain.

Ian Gibson, head of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, said the Government would have to carry out public consultation.

That is good. The public need their say. Just so long as you have an open mind Dr Ian Gibson.

"There is no reason to think this would not be a starter or beneficial," said Dr Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North.

It would appear not.

"But ... proper consultation with the public needs to happen well in advance."

So what is he saying? - this is a goer but we do need to undertake consultation. It’d look bad otherwise.
It augers well.

David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons Health Committee and Labour MP for Wakefield, said: "This could have a huge impact on society in terms of preventing damage to others and dealing with addicts. [But] the ethical perspective does need to be looked at closely."

Wonderful. Someone talking about ethics. Lets see how this article goes on to address this important issue:

The National Treatment Agency, which manages drug-addiction programmes, welcomed any new ways of treating addiction but said there was no "magic bullet".

And that is, quite seriously, the full attention payed to ethical considerations. That is how the article ends. Brilliant.

Is anyone asking these questions?

Am I the only person who thinks this is sick?