Thursday, July 30, 2009

From bad to diverse

The Law Commission has released its long awaited discussion document on the sale of alcohol in NZ. Although 296 pages long, it has enough graphs and charts to keep even Paula Bennett amused. But as Eric Crampton points out, less amusing is that in dropping the derided BERL report to justify their recommendations, the Law Commission has resorted to quoting Brian Easton.

While BERL inflated the social costs of alcohol in NZ to $4.8 billion a year, Brian Easton puts the harm at $16 billion per year. Methinks the Law Commission jumped the wrong way to sex up their wowserism.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Reversal of doubt

The surveillance society is really upping the ante and putting the vigil in vigilante. Man caught on CCTV doing nothing illegal, ie. measuring up an ATM, has his photo published in the MSM. News just in that police now believe he had a bona fide reason for what he was doing. Just remember, folks. You don't have to be a criminal to appear on Crimewatch!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tales of Interest

Weekend links:

# With the MSM's ongoing obsessive compulsive coverage of Clayton Weatherston's sociopathic narcissism, Slate previews the black box process of compiling the next Mental Disorder Dictionary, the DSM V. China is treating internet addiction with electro-shock therapy. But I think Big Pharma are going to have a problem marketing anti-shopping treatments without causing some Ironic Displacement Anxiety. Hat Tip A&L Daily.

# Popular police harm minimisation tool, the taser, is back in the media. It's alleged that a petrol sniffing Abbo came running at police carrying a fuel can and a lighter. So they tased him, setting him on fire.

# Here in Wellington, even lawyers rejoice in a bit of urban seal delight. Things aren't so eco-friendly in San Diego, where seals were under eviction notices from their birthing grounds until the Governator changed the law:
Before Schwarzenegger's reprieve, the city said it planned to hire someone to walk the beach with a public address system broadcasting the sound of barking dogs to scare off the seals, said Andrew Jones, the assistant city attorney for civil litigation. Force cannot be used because the seals are a federally protected marine species.
# Three mayors, four rabbis and an organ bootlegger walk into a bar. Not the opening of a joke, but a New Jersey corruption scandal. As Gail Collins laments, favours are cheap.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There's a blogger in my soup

This year's Reader's Digest poll of NZ's most trusted professions lists journalists 34th, just ahead of astrologers/psychics, real estate agents, politicians, car salesmen, sex workers and telemarketers respectively. In times of frustration, where can a distrusted journo put the boot in? That's where "bloggers" come in.

According to Barry Colman, we're sucking all the bread and butter out of the financial papers with our "amateur, untrained, unqualified... columns of unsubstantiated “facts” and hysterical opinion." Linda Clark holds bloggers partly responsible for the salacious and prurient MSM reportage of the Weatherston trial (from 15:50 in). In short, bloggers are toejam to more than a few journos.

Now I can't speak on behalf of some imaginary Bloggers' Union. That management title is about as nonsensical as Chief Executive Officer of the Anarchists or Tea Lady for the VRWC. From my perspective, this blog isn't run in competition with MSM. Different estates for one thing. I'm on Third (the Commons), MSM is on the Fourth Estate.

Secondly, I'm more of a canary in a mine than a journalist. Apart from my inability to write shorthand or drink substantial quantities of hospitality, I'd suggest my role is more psychic than newshound. Even that comes with a proviso. Unlike most psychic gimmickry, I don't do Grief Porn like the distateful Weatherston trial. I'm quite content leaving the MSM selling murder for toothpaste adtime.

If this blog had a credo it would be: FFS Be Interesting. That's it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Six months in Singapore

Two companies I've been keeping my eye on this year; Rio Tinto and Temasek. Early signs of a power struggle in Rio Tinto are being echoed in Temasek too. The first ferengi CEO of Temasek is going. I never guessed things would get so frosty between China and Australia over Rio Tinto though. Where will this one go?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Interesting links

# Places like Houston and San Antonio have weathered the recession better than most US cities. Will the exodus from California to Texas turn the home of W into Democrat blue? The Economist looks at the California Texas Divide.

# Sibling rivalry - If you found that Bruno didn't live up to the hype, have a flick through what cousin Simon Baron-Cohen does in the headspace department. I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine. While Politico looks at the legendary Rahm Emanuel, the Independent dissects his brother, Ari Gold.

# A Hat Tip to Andrew Sullivan for pointing to this excellent take on the passing of Walter Cronkite at Salon:
Cronkite's best moment was when he did exactly that which the modern journalist today insists they must not ever do -- directly contradict claims from government and military officials and suggest that such claims should not be believed. These days, our leading media outlets won't even use words that are disapproved of by the Government.
Update 2 points to a short clip with Cronkite passing on his biggest regret.

# El Niño Diablo - Hordes of Humboldt squid, aka Diablo Rojo, are on the warpath off the coast of San Diego, beating up divers and smashing up their equipment. It's an omen! Fib you not. Word's been out for a month that El Niño is back.

# Hemingway failed the KGB exam, although not through lack of trying.

# And finally, due to the recent law change that repeals the right to silence in IT situations, here's Wired's guide on how to protect your data from privacy rape (at least from nosey border gatekeepers).

Friday, July 17, 2009

4:20 News

In case you missed it, here's one of the first stories that went viral about Stoned Wallabies Making Crop Circles in the Adelaide Times.

A UK cop has accused fellow officers of torturing suspected marijuana dealers.

Rotorua cops are almost drooling in anticipation at the new drug driving laws. Disability groups are worried that the weird will be unfairly hassled. Patronising cop comment of the month goes to National road policing manager Superintendent Paula Rose for this gem:

"As part of that officers take into consideration a range of factors."

Hearing impaired people identified themselves by wearing a badge, and others carried medical certificates, she said.

Deaf don't wear badges, you badgers.

Retired Seattle police chief and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Norm Stamper appears on the Huff Post calling for an end to the War on Drugs.

Mother Jones goes large with a multi-pronged look at the War on Drugs with Totally Wasted.

Speaking of special reports, the BBC covers World Drugs in Graphics.

The Guardian covers the Nice People Take Drugs campaign's deck of cards.

Esquire talks to US Congressman Barney Frank on his plan to legalise marijuana.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Law out loud

Chief Justice Sian Elias wasn't far wrong when she anticipated the media reaction to her Shirley Smith lecture, saying "it is bound to be misrepresented along the lines of “Chief Justice says murderers are ‘blameless babes’”. The media summed up this thoughtful 16 page speech with one word; amnesty.

The prison muster is probably going to hit a record high later this year. NZ already has the second highest prison population per capita behind America. The suggestion of using early release for low-level offenders to combat prison overcrowding was the last and most controversial of five points made by the Chief Justice, along with community education, intervention in risk strategies, quality of probation and addressing mental ill health.

They are all fair points. Prisons are filled with not only the bad, but the mad and sad too. While the political focus is on locking people up, little effort is expended on probation. The public are primed for impossibly high levels of risk containment for parolees, making reintegration of released prisoners into the community all that much harder.

Justice Minister Simon Power isn't having a bar of it. He's been pouring cold water on any compromise. Lock 'em up. That's what the voters want, even if it costs $100K a year to keep them in there. Offer convicts bugger all support on release, ensuring many return to life behind bars because they are unable to cope on the outside. This is not some namby pamby hand-wringing. I attended an Act conference in the late 90's where this punishment vs. rehabilitation argument saw some robust debate within the party.

The Institute of Policy Studies is hosting a lecture by Simon Power next week, Thursday 23rd July, on National's plans for the criminal justice system. RSVP to the IPS if you wish to attend. On the day before, Mai Chen is holding a public law lecture in the same theatre at Rutherford House. Should be a good week for free counsel.

This fickle land

I spent more than my fair share of my early years living in the shadows and ridges of the Tararuas. Parking at the aptly named Clifton family's place, ensconced so high in the hills they got colour TV while Palmy languished in black and white still. We'd strike out from a base camp in a back paddock and go from there. We wandered a bit through the hills, but most of the time we sat at camp while the old man went on the hunt.

I never went near the Southern Crossing, for the same reason I shy away from the Kaimanawas. I can see why some would walk it, but I'm more content with Kaitoki or Ruapehu in summer. Maybe a hike from Otaki to Shannon through the backblocks. For one, I'm a lightweight. One freak gust of wind is all it would take to throw me off a cliff. Second, all sorts of hell can break out without warning if the weather picks a fight on that chaotic terrain. It can go from beauty to misery in no time at all.

One weekend out tramping with Mountain Goat, a couple Yanks were pulled out by helicopter only a few kms up the way. On our track, it was nothing but fine weather and clear nights, when it's just the hut and the rest of the heavens above. But this other party was cold and wet and perhaps a little stupid, like Woody Allen going on Celebrity Survivor.

All due respect to the CEO of Te Papa and his mate losing themselves on those fickle heights. Both were experienced trampers caught in unfortunate circumstances.

Meantime, I missed the jolt in the deep south last night. Facebook was alive with chatter around the shaky isles. Measuring 7.8 deep in Fiordland, the NZ equivalent of Siberia, the quake also set off Fran Wilde:
Ms Wilde said in a large quake Wellington could be cut off, creating ''virtual islands in a sea of emptiness''.
Last time Wellington got hit by a big earthquake was 1888, with the big Masterton quake raising the land which would be later used for the Petone Wellington highway, Lambton Quay and Wellington airport. Earthquakes aren't all bad.

Not everyone shares my pragmatism. Some are quick to jump for the nearest door frame or convenient desk. One girl back in Tech used to faint at earthquakes. One evening there was a jolt. Half an hour later this chick comes through asking if anyone felt the quake. She had been asleep, woke up with the rattle, passed out, and only just come to again. She was unharmed but dizzy.

There's a house looming up above me on the hill with a large crack in the foundations. If serious things start moving, last place I'd want to be is ducking a house by standing under a door frame. I'd be running away from Chez Damocles as fast as I could, indoors or out.

It's not my first brush living with natural and man-made hazards. In the early 90's, I worked across the road from Paula Bennett's old job in Wairakei. The BP station there, the busiest in the country, sits next to the geothermal park. Wairakei is ten kilometres north of Taupo, which sits on the northern tip of Lake Taupo, the biggest caldera this side of Krakatoa. South of that, there's the three cones of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. One's a casual smoker and one's a regular.

If a big earthquake hit this part of the volcanic plateau, seven shades of Michael Bay could easily occur. Wairakei would quite simply disappear, increasing the size of the existing Craters of the Moon attraction considerably. That in turn could stir up one of the three cones or even the stogie of Taupo.

If Wellington would be marooned in an earthquake, consider Auckland's predicament. If all those pimply cones popped you'd snap the isthmus in half. Christchurch and Dunedin are exposed to tsunami much more than anywhere up north, largely due to the potential of South America's flat face to reflect big waves.

But why worry? Roll with it. If you really want to wallow in existential angst on the halflife of geological time, you really can't go past the giant asteroid in the face with Pink Floyd:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Truth be told, folic acid is not my favourite low pH chemical. Lysergic acid would probably come tops on that league table, followed by acetic (on the Fush n Chups), citric (for vodka), and hydrochloric (all-purpose). Folic acid would sit somewhere way beneath even sulphuric acid, so useless is it to me on a personal utility basis. However, folic acid is integral in maintaining good DNA, like rust-proofing a car or tarring a hull. Important as it is, I still don't care. I get my share of this nerd of acids regardless due to a jar of Marmite in the pantry.

However, the circumstances of fertile women are somewhat different from mine. A deficiency of folic acid in women who become pregnant is a leading cause of spina bifida. Spina bifida is a bone fide bloody awful thing to have. A mate of mine, Madame Guru, once worked for a charity fundraising arm of a Spina Bifida NGO and she filled me in on all the misery that goes with it. A lifespan lucky to reach into one's twenties, the contorted bones, etc. It's a goddamned shame to risk such affliction unnecessarily.

So I can sort of see where Nanny Labour Five was coming from when Oz offered an easy out in their trans-Tasman accord. Only thing is, there's a significant minority around this land that already have doubts on the fluorodation of public water supplies. Throwing folic acid indiscriminately in everyone's bread to save, what, 3 lives a year?, was bound to stir up a hassle. C'mon, look how the public reacted to the shower nozzle hosing. Turning food into medicine was always going to be a problem.

It says a lot by how Kate Wilkinson and National have been so completely blindsided by this thing. The Nanny State antogonism was a large part of National's election platform not one year ago and here they are crunching the gears over the adulterated bread.

It's not as if we export bread to the Lucky Country. Why should Oz care how we make our staple? Can't be arsed looking, but how much of NZ's wheat is sourced from Oz? I'm assuming it's quite a bit. Maybe it's because it might be easier just to folate all our flour along with the rest of Oz's, seeing how their populace wouldn't know how to make a tortilla from scratch if their life depended on it, what with all the processed crap on their menu. That would save the wheat producers a bit of hassle at their end. So this is not just a matter of three lives a year. The folate thing lowers an export barrier to the Oz suppliers, seeing as how they won't need to differentiate our product from their own.

As for the folate cancer link, who knows? I do know that kids eat a craptonne more bread than the fickle fertile chicks. Best source of folate for them is their predilection for spinach and feta cannelloni. Mind you, folate is not the only thing these chicks lack. It's iron. By far the easiest way to solve the spina bifida problem without favouring the Ozzies is simple. Make chicks eat Marmite. That way you can leave the bread alone.

OK, because I'm a pluralist, I'll plug Vegemite too. And if you're looking for an experiment in excess folic acid consumption, see what happens to the consumers of their new Vegemite Cream Cheese concoction, which I call Vegecrack. I bet Kraft Inc. are hoping it works out better for their bottom line than their last Cheese with Vegemite experiment.

P.S. Vegemite - Fuck your EULA.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Gottfried

When it comes to brilliant portraiture of colonial Maori, most go straight for the Goldie. Fair enough, but more recognition is due to Bohemian-born Gottfried Lindauer. While the Auckland Gallery is working on the Lindauer Project, I'm going to risk some potential C&D magnetism by posting up a bit of Lindauer's work from the Partridge collection, with commentary by JC Graham. Enjoy.

Tohunga under tapu

Tapu was one of the most deeply ingrained beliefs and religious customs of the Maori and one of the most interesting observances. The word tapu may be translated as sacred or forbidden, but the Maori tapu has a host of variations. There was a personal tapu and local tapu; tapu of one kind or another faced the Maori everywhere. It often served a purpose similar to some of the Jewish laws of prohibition and quarantine.

Priests, or tohungas, were imbued with the mysterious essences of the tapu because of their knowledge of ancient and potent karakia (incantations), religious ceremonies and their office as mediums of communication with the dread atua (gods). All high chiefs also had a strong personal tapu which prevented any common person eating out of the same food basket or using anything belonging to the chief.

The remains of the sacred dead and all connected therewith were highly tapu an anyone who had been engaged in handling the dead or bones of the dead would be extremely tapu and would not dare to touch food with the hands. Consequently such persons had to be fed in the manner shown in this picture.

The picture represents a scene in an old-time pa, the outer pallisaded fence of which, with its roughly carved posts, usually totara, is shown in the background. The tohunga is kneeling on his mats in front of a raupo whare in a remote corner of the settlement. This is his temporary dwelling, for to enter the other buildings would infect them with tapu.

The venrable tohunga in the picture was painted from life in the Wanganui district; the girl ia also a life study.

This is the first of the large canvases of Maori customs Lindauer painted for the Partridge collection and was done about 1902.

Fire making

This picture shows the method of making fire from wood by friction. The Maori was obliged to keep a fire constantly alight or else to kindle it by means of rubbing one piece of wood against another. Before long a groove was formed and the collection of dust at the lower end of the groove was kindled by the heat produced by rubbing the stick. Material such as some readily inflammable flax tow was then ignited and waved rapidly until it burst into flames.

It was an ancient custom that male and female must co-operate in this task, the woman holding the fire board steady. The best wood for this purpose was dry and well-seasoned kaikomako and the rubbing stick was a harder wood such as tawa.

An expert in bushcraft can obtain fire from a dry piece of kaikomako in a few minutes. The kaikomako is the fire godess' tree in Maori legend. Mahuika was the goddess, she had fire at her fingertips. To her the cunning Maui, half-god, half-mortal, went and cajoled from her all her fiery fingernails and toes, except one. This she refused him, and he by his incantations brought down a deluge of rain which threatened to extinguish the fires of Mahuika. The goddess, to save the remnant of the fire, threw it into the kaikomako tree, which holds it to this day. Wherefore it was that the Maoris sought out the kaikomako to coax the saving fire from its heart.

In the picture firewood and stones for a hangi, or cooking oven, are shown near the fire-maker ready to be lit when he has made the fire. The palisaded village and raupo houses are typical of the time when fire was made in this matter.

Te Hau-Takiri Wharepapa

Considered a particularly handsome man, Te Hau-Takiri Wharepapa was one of the last to cling to the ancient style of hair dress, as can be seen in this picture. His home was at Mangakahia, North Auckland. In the year 1862, he went to England with a party of chiefs in the ship Ida Zeigler. They all went to Osborne in the Isle of Wight to see Queen Victoria.

The romantic-looking Maori chief captivated the fancy of an English girl who determined to share his lot. They were married and she came with him to New Zealand. She lived with him for some years in North Auckland and then he bought her a home in Parnell, Auckland, where she lived until her death.

Te Hau-Takiri died at Mangakahia in 1920.

Tamati Ngapora

Tamati Ngapora was a cousin of Te Wherowhero, widely known as Potatau, the first Maori King. He was one of the first Waikato Maoris to embrace Christianity and became a catechist of the Anglican Church. He erected a stone church at Mangere and regularly held services there until the outbreak of the Waikato war in 1863.

Maoris living at Mangere and other settlements near Auckland were notified that they must make a declaration of allegiance to the Queen or leave these districts. The majority joined the rebels, Ngapora among them. He took little part in the hostilities and on the evacuation of the Waikato accompanied the tribes to Te Kuiti. He changed his name to Manuhiri (a traveller) on account of the Waikato having to occupy lands of the Ngati-Maniapoto.

Tamati Ngapora was at one time proposed as second Maori king in succession to his cousin. He was not chosen, but after the war exerted much influence in the King Country. Although he was unassuming and generous, the loss of the Waikato embittered him and made him stand out against any accommodation with the pakeha.

Tepaea Hinerangi (Guide Sophia)

The father of Tepaea Hinerangi was a Scotsman who married an 18-year-old girl of the Ngati-Ruanui, of Taranaki, who had attacked the Rev. Samuel Marsden's mission school in the north. They settled at Kororareka, Bay of Island, where Sophia was born. She married an Arawa man and went with him to the Rotorua district. She became famous in New Zealand and beyond under the name Guide Sophia as guide to the wonders of Rotomahana and the wonderful Pink and White Terraces. She spoke English fluently and with great charm.

The Maoris, like the Highlanders and the Irish, believe in matakite – second sight. On the morning before the great Tarawera eruption, Sophia was greatly troubled and told the proprietor of the local hotel that some great disaster was imminent, as she had seen the omen of death, the ghostly phantom war canoe, floating on the still, misty water of Lake Tarawera, the prow pointing straight at Tarawera mountain. This apparition always foretold disaster. Sophia could not be comforted and said she would never see the beautiful terraces again.

That night Tarawera mountain was rent in twain and the whole countryside devastated and the famous Pink and White Terraces completely destroyed. On that terrible night Sophia distinguished herself when with courage and endurance she gathered together and guided a large number of people to her own more sheltered whare on the shore of the lake.

With her occupation at Lake Tarawera gone, she moved to Whakarewarewa where she remained a popular guide until her death in 1911.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


28 days. That's how long this clip lasted before a nastygram arrived in the mailbox. Note that literary copyright allows insubstantial portions of a work to be copied for non-commercial purposes. But copy around 1/90th of a twenty-plus year old movie to demonstrate the economic ignorance of the American populace, that's some badass criminality.

Meantime, Commerce Minister Simon Power refuses to rule out internet disconnection for breachers of copyright. It ain't right.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

More Interesting Times

Too cold to think, here's some links:

#I don't get good reception down here in the crack of Northland, by I gather Rhys Darby's Rocked the Nation 2 is really choice. I'd link to this week's full length episode but all I can find so far are promos.

#Big ups to Ratesblog's Hickey-decimal Top 10 on Monday, pointing to CFR's sprawling and wonderful Crisis Guide to the Global Economy. If you do nothing else, have a play with the Motion Charts. After a little fiddle with them, as well as news of corporate espionage that could "manipulate markets in unfair ways,” all eyes should stay on Goldman Sachs.

#For some small time I've been wondering if they recalled Gray Davis, why in hell is no-one recalling the Governator? The New York Times looks at the contenders for next year's California Governor race, whilst Forbes points five fingers at who is to blame for the mess that the besets the land of stretch Humvees and bookless schools.

#Both the Huff and Dim Posts point to story involving an altercation between a hippie and Robert McNamara:

The most bizarre incident involving McNamara occurred when he was president of the World Bank and, off on his summer holiday, he caught the Martha's Vineyard ferry. It was a night crossing in bad weather. McNamara was in the salon, drink in hand, schmoozing with fellow passengers. On the deck outside a vineyard local, a hippie artist, glanced through the window and did a double-take. The artist was outraged to see McNamara, whom he viewed as a war criminal, so enjoying himself.

He immediately opened the door and told McNamara there was a radiophone call for him on the bridge. McNamara set down his drink and stepped outside. The artist immediately grabbed him, wrestled him to the railing and pushed him over the side. McNamara managed to get his fingers through the holes in the metal plate that ran from the top of the railing to the scuppers.

McNamara was screaming bloody murder; the artist was prying his fingers loose one at a time. Someone heard the racket and raced out and pulled the artist off.

By the time the ferry docked in the vineyard McNamara had decided against filing charges against the artist, and he was freed and walked away.

#The world can be roughly divided between two groups of people; those who have the vote and those who have AK47s. Wired takes a look at Russia's most democratic export.

#Tax avoiding rock group and Save the Planet flag wavers U2 have had their carbon footprint analysed. Conclusion? 65,000 tonnes of CO2 for this year's tour. To give you some comparison, that's about 40 Madonnas or a penance of planting over 20,000 trees.

#Werewolf 2 is out, with Gordon Campbell sitting down with the Goffinator and Lyndon Hood looks at the irony of satire. I can't afford $10 a month, otherwise I'd be tempted to swing a TransTasman subscription. If you can, and already have a TT sub, give Werewolf some support.

#One of the tragedies of living in an insular political environment is that we rarely see any decent political biographies. While US presidents, at least the ones who are literate, get book deals almost as soon as they leave the White House, over here in NZ few wish to spill their confidences when everyone is doing the same work with different hats. Aside from hagiographies and character assassinations, there's nothing. Where's Jim Bolger spilling his guts or Richard Long or Dick Griffin or Michael Cullen? Too much to lose, eh.

Thankfully, there's at least some outside record of these things. There's been a regular habit of academics reviewing each election. Bryce@liberation reviews the review of how the NZMSM covered last year's election. Hint to TV interviewers, Shut The Fuck Up occasionally.

#And finally, here's the trailer for Duncan Jones' debut feature length movie Moon:

MOON: Movie Trailer - For more of the funniest videos, click here

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Oh no, not another apocalypse

From the guy who brought you Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, the thinking man's Michael Bay has put enough CGI candy together to make 2012. How do you beat blowing up the White House (from Independence Day)? Try landing a freaking aircraft carrier on top of it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Strange Days

Robert McNamara has died. Here's feature length documentary The Fog of War, eleven lessons learned the hard way:

Monday, July 06, 2009

If cops were All Blacks

Talk about being a few Tarantinos short of a Mexican stand-off, how many cops does it take to subdue a half naked man brandishing a stick? Fear of getting wet meant a taser had to be flown in to Hamilton to solve this riddle. And the police association wonders why respect for the police is sinking faster than Stick Man on the banks of the Waikato.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Interesting Times

More weekend links:

#NZonScreen has posted up the first full period of Mr Gormsby and an old documentary on Ralph Hotere and the evolution of one of his commissioned works.

#I'm glad I grew up when it was OK for an eight year old to have his own pocket knife. It was a time when it was still considered a tool not a weapon. These days kids are so goddamn high maintenance. Movie critic Roger Ebert blogs on Free Range Kids:
We live in a reign of terror. Outside the home, molesters and drug pushers lurk. Children drown, are hit by cars, shot, electrocuted, bullied, burned, stabbed, attacked by pit bulls, or kidnapped and end up with their photos on milk cartons. When they play, they make "play dates." They can ride their bikes outside--but don't leave the block. They can shoot baskets, but in the driveway, or at a supervised playground. If some kid tells you to go f*** yourself and you whoop him, you'll be seeing his parents in court. If he comes over to play and falls down your basement stairs, you'll get sued for the house.
#Mother Jones has a big dig on the US military budget. With chapters such as Where is My Flying Tank? and The Axis of Pork, it goes to show one more flavour of financial shit that the US is in.

#Property rights to the ends of the earth - One of the few delights on acquiring my old mortgaged shoebox apartment in Auckland some years ago was reading how my land was actually an airspace and 1/26th share of the stairwell that lead back down to the earth. I, or more precisely the bank, owned a concrete and fibreboard tethered zeppelin.

Things are a bit different in Britain, where they consider property based along Roman precedent: "[C]uius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos” (“for whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to the sky and down to the depths”) You can see reflections of these things from a Maori perspective on the Foreshore and Seabed matter.

#Last week's 60 Minutes programme looked a lot more interesting on the ads than the programme actually was. In an attempt to replicate the findings of a very rigorous overseas study, the reporter set up their own little experiment. This was supposed to show off the dangers of artificial food colourings in processed foods, a serious and deserving matter judging by some of the research findings. Instead, we got kids ODing on sugar and saying that it's actually the food colourings. The only conclusion I reached halfway through was clear. Current affairs reporting teams don't know shit about science.

One group of kids was fed only natural food and another bunch with only junk food. Afterwards, the ones who ate the party food were bouncing off the walls. One little show-off in particular caught the cameraman's attention. His Mum admits that little X doesn't normally eat any junk food in his diet, let alone sit don't to such a deliquent banquet as the one served up by 60 Minutes.

In short, it was crapulent reportage. And it's not just me. The Science Media Centre has called bullshit too:
"The experiment conducted by TV3 was probably one of the most biased you could ever hope to see and only showed that if you hype children up enough with expectations and make them very excited about unlimited treat food that they hardly ever have then they will behave badly."
#And talking about food, E. coli has been found in Nestlé cookie dough. So, you might say, shit happens. But consider:
Health officials still do not know how E. coli 0157, a bacterium that lives in cattle intestines, ended up in a product that seems so unlikely to contain it. The risk usually associated with cookie dough is salmonella, a bacterium that can be found in raw eggs. None of the ingredients in the dough -- eggs, milk, flour, chocolate, butter -- is known to host E. coli 0157.
#The Tao of Physics - Niels Bohr adopted the yinyang as his personal totem for a good reason. Hot on the heals of the Dalai Lama saying that democracy not theocracy should rule his homeland, the monks are learning physics. About time.

#And finally, what would the cast of Battlestar Gallactica look like on the Simpsons?

Little Miss Wasilla

Following her shock resignation statement at a press conference on Friday morning, Sarah Palin has held another press conference on Sunday morning, where the ex-Governor outlined her planned ascension to the White House in 2012:

"I plan to walk the earth, like Kane in Kung-fu. In a VW Combi," she said during her three hour speech.

Palin went on to describe how she would take her family on a road trip of the Lower 48 States, travelling to town halls and beauty pageants around the country with her popular act of stripping to Rick James' Super Freak. Her entourage would consist of her colour-blind brother; her mad but saintly grandfather, Alan Arkin; her fuck-up uncle Steve Carell; and her parents Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette.

"We'll go where we're welcome, and in between, we are prepared to live off the land," said Palin. The VW Combi will include a formidable range of hunting and camping equipment.

Sarah Palin said that her tour has already received many invitations. Wyoming's Longshoremens Militia, a survivalist group who fight for the right to have a port in their land-locked state, have welcomed them with open arms. She also has a tour manager helping her co-ordinate the many requests from churches in the Southern states.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Return of the Seesha

For the benefit of newer readers, as well as a refresher for older ones, and in addition to the fact that the Medpot Bill is deader than universal compassion right now, here's all you wanted to know about Medpot in NZ. First off, here's Green Cross volunteer Billy McKee today on bFM.

And here's NORML's 47 page original draft written submission on the Medicinal Cannabis petition:

NORML Medical Cannabis Petition Submission

Below is the verbal opening statement to NORML's select committee appearance in support of the petition, which got me my five seconds of fame on TV3 News last year.

Feel free to dig through it all and see if you can help mash up another, sleeker Medpot Bill:

Introduction to the Health select committee for the Petition in support of Medicinal Cannabis

By NORML (NZ) Inc.


Madam Chairperson, members of the Health select committee, thank you for taking the time to review the petition on citizens’ access to medicinal cannabis. In addition to the signatures already presented, we present a further 3000 signatures in support of this petition.

I would like to spend the first few minutes of this hearing reiterating some main points from NORML’s covering statement from October 2007, when the petition was first submitted to you. I would also like to draw your attention to further research that has come to light since then. After this, there are several medicinal cannabis patients who will testify to the personal positive impact that cannabis has on mitigating their sufferings.

The Medicine

Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for approximately 4,000 years, and was used to treat insomnia, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, and pain. In New Zealand, Mother Mary Aubert, founder of the Home of Compassion, recognised the special properties of this plant. This nun, who served alongside Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War, was the first person to grow cannabis in New Zealand, dispensing it to alleviate menstrual cramps.

Nowadays, there is substantial evidence that cannabis has a range of therapeutic properties, including:
  • pain relief
  • appetite stimulant
  • antiemetic
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antipyretic
  • neuroprotection
  • analgesic
Cannabis is commonly used by people suffering from:
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Chronic Pain
  • Cancer
Cannabis research is continuing in other treatments:
  • Prion Diseases
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes
  • Gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Hepatitis
  • Hypertension
  • Osteoporosis
  • Tourette’s
The following professional bodies endorse medicinal cannabis as a course of treatment:
  • The American College of Physicians - America's second largest physicians group
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - America's second largest cancer charity
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Public Health Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Nurses Association
  • British Medical Association
  • American Academy of HIV Medicine
  • Lymphoma Foundation of America
  • Health Canada

There have been no fatalities caused by cannabis overdoses in recorded history. Ever. A US Drug Enforcement judge in 1988 went so far as to say:
"Marijuana is the safest therapeutically active substance known to man... The evidence clearly shows that marijuana is capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision.

It would be unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious for the DEA to continue to stand between those sufferers and the benefits of this substance."
In 1998, this select committee concluded that the mental health impact of cannabis “appears to have been overstated.” NORML recognises that cannabis may not the best medicine for everyone, and its use is best prescribed and monitored by doctors and health professionals.

Some concern may be raised that smoking cannabis is a counter-productive method for treating illness. This can be mitigated by use of harm minimisation techniques. For example, a vaporiser releases active ingredients from cannabis without releasing the carcinogens of burning plant material. Spotting uses a similar principle.

Many patients would ideally prefer to ingest cannabis in the form of food, as the pain relief qualities are significantly different from inhalation. Due to the expense of black market prices, as well as often debilitating medical conditions that prevent some users from producing their own cooking, this option is not common.

Quality control and safety issues in sourcing cannabis in a prohibition environment can cause more harm than any inhaled carcinogens. The quality and consistency of cannabis can vary dramatically. Cannabis may be tainted with fungi or police pesticides, which is sprayed on some cannabis plants.

Securing cannabis when cannabis is illegal puts vulnerable people in an even more vulnerable position. Rip-offs and bad deals are not unheard of, neither is violence and intimidation.

The Politics

But it should not to be up to politicians to dictate what people in suffering can or cannot use, and how they might use it. That matter should be between the sovereign patient and the best professional advice and guidance they can receive. Politicians cannot presume to know best when pain is so very personal.

Madam Chair, members of the select committee, we beseech you to go where many of our national peers have gone before. Medical use of cannabis is legal in a number of territories, including Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, and some U.S. states.

A recent report on teen cannabis use rates in the US states where medicinal cannabis is permitted shows a conclusive decrease in youth consumption:

California – use drops across the board, up to 47 percent

Washington State, across the board drop of up to 62 percent
Nevada, decrease in all age groups up to 50 percent

Maine, Hawaii,Oregon,Colorado,Vermont, ALL had universal double-digit decreases in youth consumption of cannabis.

Only Alaska, Montana and Rhode Island showed any increase at all, and these were in isolated age groups and still outweighed by net decreases in most age groups.

In Britain in 2002, teen cannabis use was on the rise. By 2007, after the decriminalisation of cannabis in 2004, teen use had dropped significantly. In the Netherlands, teen use of cannabis is less than half New Zealand’s youth usage rate.

Madam Chair, members of the committee, what we seek is not novel, nor unreasonable. We ask that medicinal cannabis is permitted to be used by adult consenting New Zealanders in consultation with their medical practitioners. Thank you.

Medicinal Compound not worth discussing

It was cruel fatalism that kept me away from witnessing the Medicinal Cannabis Private Member's Bill dismissed by Parliament last night. Originally tendered by Nandor Tanczos and adopted by Met Turei, the bill had been pulled out of the Members' ballot a few years ago. It had been postponed here and there, waiting for a receptive quorum in the House to put it to select committee. In the meantime, a fresh crop of Green Party Private Member's Bills have been introduced onto the Order Paper, and it was time to put it to the vote to stop a backlog of bills from scattering the Greens' firepower.

The Medpot Bill didn't have the numbers under Clark's Labour, so it was pretty improbable that it would have had the numbers under Key's Labour-plus led parliament. But still, it's a disappointment. Like superannuation, medicinal cannabis has been thrown into the Too Hard basket once again.

You could be 99 years old and have six weeks left to live, but the NZ Parliament has declared that you still do not have their permission for your GP to prescribe cannabis. This is for your own good, apparently. Let the doctor pump your veins full of heroin or morphine til your head explodes in neurotransmitter lightning storms, but you are not permitted to eat or inhale from the sativa and indica trees under any circumstances.

Any casual reader of this blog knows where I stand on this issue, so I will move this post onto other observations based on the conscience vote for the bill. Although Hansard hasn't posted up the vote yet, and none of the online MSM reported the ayes and noes, a secret squirrel has kindly released the tally onto the blogosphere. No Right Turn has transcribed these from the voting sheets (N.B. Darren Hughes is a List MP, not the MP for Otaki.)

The entire National caucus voted against the measure, demonstrating that the Labour-plus varnish on their platform is a very thin gloss indeed. Although Tony Ryall sat through NORML's medpot petition last year, where even the Ministry of Health wonks conveyed a level of acceptance on the matter, the Minister of Health voted No. Herceptin good, cannabis bad. Associate Health Minister Jonathan Coleman's parternalistic warnings about cannabis showed a particularly revealing level of ignorance. It just goes to show that any reform on drug laws will come from Labour, not National.

Not that Labour's support was glowing with enthusiasm. As NatRad's Morning Report quotes Lianne Dalziel during the debate, her excuse was that although she supported the underlying argument, she couldn't abide certain medical conditions such as mental illness and schizophrenia being included in the schedule.

Frankly, that's a very weak argument. Cannabis use can either help or hinder mental symptoms, depending on the individual disposition of the patient. Like SSRIs and the rest of the cornucopia of pharmaceuticals, these things should be monitored by the GP not the MP. Even then, these details could have been worked out in select committee. The MPs would still have two more chances to say No.

Likewise, I'm disappointed with Darren Hughes, Clare Curran and Stuart Nash. The dead wood votes of Goff, Mallard, Cosgrove and Hawkins are understandable, same with the ethnic conservatism of Choudhary, Huo, Sio and Winnie Laban. But I thought those Young Ones would have known better. Fortunately, there's more of a future for Labour in the ones who said Yes.

Of all the Labour Yea-sayers, I must congratulate Annette King for her vote. I was quite annoyed with her last year, when directly after Nandor's valedictory speech she started off on a blahblahblah gangs, blahblahblah drugs speech. While Goff copped out with a No, deputy leader King did the right thing.

Thumbs up to every MP in Act for voting yes, although Roger Douglas' proxy seems to be MIA (or was it abstention?). While Heather Roy had her reservations, at least she and the caucus were prepared to look at it. Unlike Johnathan Coleman, Heather was prepared to look at the science. Hell, even David Garrett voted yes. Perhaps the Three Strikes Bill has humbled him a bit.

Met has said that she will reboot the Bill in the future. With her co-leader clout to back it up, I'm sure we haven't seen the end of this.