Saturday, April 29, 2006

UK: 1st in Europe, 2nd in the World

The availability and use of ecstasy is increasing steadily despite a fivefold increase in police seizures, according to an important new study, covering the years 1994 to 2003.

Young Britons are still by far the leading consumers of MDMA (ecstasy) in Europe and the second largest worldwide, after Australia. An estimated 750,000 regular users consume about 26 million tablets a year (considered probably an underestimate).

If you or yours are into ecstasy, then the study is a worthwhile and sensible read.

Why do they do it?

If you don't know why people want to take ecstasy, here's some extracts from The MDMA Experience at (a very extensive and intensive resource):
"Taking MDMA induces an amazing feeling of closeness and connectedness to one's fellow human beings. MDMA triggers intense emotional release beyond the bounds of everyday experience. The drug also enhances the felt intensity of the senses - most exquisitely perhaps the sense of touch. The body-image looks and feels wonderful. Other people look and feel wonderful too. Minutes after dropping a pill, a lifetime of Judaeo-Christian guilt, shame or disgust at the flesh melts away to oblivion."

"When MDMA is taken outdoors, the natural world seems vibrant and awe-inspiring, perhaps even enchanted. The experience of colour is gorgeously intensified. On MDMA, Dr Shulgin [a Californian chemist] reported how mountains he'd observed many times before appeared to be so beautiful that he could barely stand looking at them."

"MDMA is sensuous and sensual in its effects without being distinctively pro-sexual. Although once dubbed 'lover's speed', MDMA is proverbially more of a hugdrug than a lovedrug: 'I kissed someone I was in love with and almost felt as if I was going to pass out from the intensity, recalls one American clubber.'"

"On pure MDMA, subjects feel at peace with themselves and the world. They discover an enhanced sense of self-worth, self-forgiveness and complete self-acceptance. Cynical thoughts and negative feelings disappear. Aspects of life normally too sensitive to talk about can be explored freely. Heightened feeling allows long-forgotten and repressed emotional memories from childhood to be retrieved with unusual ease. In some settings, painful, highly-charged and even hitherto unmentionable problems may be discussed with (rose-tinted) candour. On MDMA, a lifetime of accumulated psychological barriers and defence-mechanisms go down, somehow magicked out of existence with a pill. Anger, irritability and ingrained fear dissolve; the hostile amygdala is subdued, if only for a few hours. Ecstasy users tell each other affectionately what beautiful people they are; and they do so from the depths of their hearts."
And all the above is in addition to the strong experience of music and the urge to dance. Read about a rave night in Seattle in this recent Seattle Times article; about pink diamonds, pink hearts, candy kisses, candy ravers, 'light shows' and 'P.L.U.R.' (peace, love, unity and respect).

Yes, ecstasy should be a very beautiful feeling.
But I'll say this:

If you're under, say 18, then you should be aware that the general advice given is that, as your body and brain are still physically developing, it's riskier for you to introduce chemicals into your system. I don't know enough about that, but it seems reasonable advice. In any case, when you're inexperienced in handling potentially problematical states, it's wise to act with caution (this I do know!).
READ what happened to Mary Ann Leneghan - important!

Parents: It's happening out there like you can't imagine: or change. You'd best get knowledgeable - ie, replace ignorance with real information. And, if you can possibly do it, you need to connect with how your parents reacted to your behaviour/lifestyle when you were young: and then remember how you felt about it at the time. But most of us become too pig-headed, prejudiced and reactionary to permit ourselves to feel back that far.

If you can understand what your children are doing and why, without being pig-headed or censorious, maybe they will talk to you about it. Though you may not love what you hear, at least you'll know.
READ what happened to Mary Ann Leneghan - important!

Governments: I don't know what the answer is. But I do know that your insistence in the way of prohibition, on Drug Wars, Drug Tsars and the paraphernalia of battle, makes casualties of the public. And despite many billions of pounds, dollars, whatever, of the public's money being spent, your war is not being won.

So-called 'drug abuse' is a public health, not a criminal, issue. Its criminality is, anyway, an enticement. A senior member of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs remarks on the dangerous Crystal meth: "Moving it [up] could have the perverse effect of making it a more desirable product for users and so stimulate demand." Holland has proven over many years that accepting drug use reduces public demand. And, of course, its current criminality makes it very, very profitable - and potentially dangerous.
READ what happened to Mary Ann Leneghan - important!

Most of the drug users you would criminalise are using them from free choice: not to go against the law, but to have the experience. The fact of the illegality of such drug use is balanced against the right to choose to have the drug experience. Most free thinking people would believe they have the right to choose: also, that an authoritian government, which uses distorted and inflated arguments to achieve its ends, is out of touch; and clearly is not in control.

We choose our experiences. We go on holiday to pleasant places; we travel; we dine and drink out; we seek to place ourselves outside our ordinary everyday. We take risks to have thrills: on mountains; on rapids; on microlites, racing cars and motorbikes; at the end of bunjee ropes; on and under the sea. To me, it's all about the same basic thing: brain chemicals squirting enjoyably. Get yours as it suits you best. But know what you're doing - whatever it is.

Manufacturers and dealers: Get your act together and stop cheating people with shit. You've got a ready market of good-timers; don't be arseholes. Read the study paper noted above: 100mg is the required dose. Play the game - clean.
READ what happened to Mary Ann Leneghan - important!

READ what happened to Adrian "the bitch set me up" Thomas and his five fellow torturers, rapists and murderers.

Image: Om Eye God! © 2006 R deCinabre

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

At the Crossroads

When you don't know whether to go up or down, it's time for a radical rethink.

We seem to be getting closer to a rational approach to dealing with drugs: the need for truth is becoming unavoidable. But, inevitably, when you're trying to clear away the old rubbish you will stumble upon sticky bits.

Heads you lose, tails you don't win

Testimony given before a government committee on the UK drugs classification system achieved this anomaly:
Magic mushrooms shouldn't be in class A, the same as heroin; but if we move 'shrooms' down to a lower class it might encourage use.

Crystal meth is listed as class B, though it's highly addictive and dangerous; but to move it up to class A would make it desirable for users and so stimulate demand.
What a dilemma: whether to reveal the truth or manipulate it.
Old habits die hard.

Image 2006 R deCinabre. Use freely.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Give It Some!

If you enjoy a bit of bovver after the boozer, then the UK is the place for you. Leave your pot and your peace pipe at home and get out and give some aggro. The streets are safer for you: policing is down and the priority is low.

This is the Government position:
"Enforcement of legislation on drunk and disorderly behaviour has dropped sharply over the last 10 years. This reflects not only falling priority but also, crucially, the sheer practicalities of policing large numbers of drunk people. Arresting some one for drunk and disorderly behaviour and taking them to the custody suite can take two hours or more – during which the officer is effectively off the streets."
From a March 2005 report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies, titled 'Alcohol-related Crime and Disorder'.
"Alcohol-related crime and drunken offenders place a huge burden on the police and other public services:

- from approximately 10.30pm to 3.00am the majority of arrests are for alcohol-related offences

- there is the potential for routine incidents of public nuisance to escalate to more serious, especially violent, offences

- dealing with intoxicated offenders can be difficult and time consuming. For example, they may have to be kept in cells long enough to sober up; while they are there the police have a duty of care and have to ensure the offender does not come to harm by choking on their own vomit. The offender may have to be checked every 15 minutes. Medical attention may be necessary. Female offenders need female police officers to attend certain procedures who may have to be taken off other duties.

- intoxicated prisoners can be disruptive, uncooperative and may present severe hygiene problems, urinating or defecating in their clothing during or after arrest."

Sunday, April 16, 2006

'Going back to the blanket'

"As I lay on the blanket I thought about my school days and all I had learned.

I could talk like a gentleman, read, write, and cipher. I could name all the states of the Union, with the capitals, repeat the names of all the books of the Bible, one hundred verses of Scripture, sing more than two dozen hymns, debate, shout football yells, swing my partners, and tell dirty stories by the hour. It was important that I had learned how to get along with the white man.

But my experience had taught me that I had a Hopi Spirit Guide, whom I must follow if I wish to live and I want to become a real Hopi again, to sing the old songs and to feel free to make love without the fear of sin or rawhide."

Sun Chief, Hopi

American policy to assimilate Native Americans included removing the young from their family and tribal influences and placing them in special schools, where they were not allowed to speak their own language on fear of punishment.

"When Indian children drop out of school, stumble in learning English or withdraw into themselves, teachers call it 'going back to the blanket'."*

Not just in the USA; Canada too

On his blog, a young Canadian Inuit man writes about what he learnt of the Residential school system in Canada which operated between 1892 and 1996. He says, "some things I heard at that meeting made me want to tear my skin off with my bare hands."

Speaking any native languages was severely punished, sometimes by children having their tongues stuck to frozen fences, getting strapped, locked in a closet and/or ridiculed.

The method was complete separation from the family and culture for up to ten years or more, thus ensuring that the children would not know their own people, culture, languages and law.

He concludes:
"We are human beings; we have the fundamental right to justice. The truth must be known."

*Our Brother's Keeper: The Indian in White America, Edgar S Cahn, Editor.
Assimilation Through Education: Indian Boarding Schools in the Pacific Northwest.
Education and the American Indian.

Image © 2006 R deCinabre

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Major UK Newspapers Scam Public in Drugs Deception Scandal

Next time you pay good money for a newspaper that promises a sensational story, be careful you're not being ripped off. In fact, you'd be better off if you bought a comic; then you'd know for sure it was a piece of fiction.

Newspaper-selling clichés recently used to bait customers:

In The Times:
Cocaine floods the playground
Use of the addictive drug by children doubles in a year.
In The Telegraph:
Pupils' use of cocaine doubles
One in five secondary pupils takes illegal drugs and the use of cocaine among schoolchildren has doubled in a year, one of the biggest Government surveys of its kind said yesterday.
In The Daily Mirror:
Cocaine for kids doubles
Cocaine use among children has doubled over the past year, according to Government figures.

The manipulation of the figures, by which these attractive headlines were forged, is exposed on the blog Bad Science.
Yet again, the devil is in the statistics and the over-eager press.

(If you've got the time, and your brain's up for it, there's an interesting discussion running through the comments (119 to date) to the Bad Science article, mainly concerning 'null hypothesis significance testing'. It's an eye-opener on statistical vagaries and confusion.)

Memo: 'Data mining is a dangerous profession'.


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

Apparently, The Sun and The Guardian also carried the fabricated story: but a search in The Guardian on 'cocaine' does not find theirs online, even though it was headed: 'cocaine use doubles amongst school pupils’.

Maybe they hid it in embarrassment when they printed the Bad Science story verbatim, with its intro line: "'Cocaine floods the playground,' roared the front page of the Times last Friday."

Winston Smith is alive and well and working at The Guardian.

Monday, April 10, 2006

America's Bear Butte

A "ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing"

Up to 60 different Native American tribes travel to the sacred Bear Butte in the Black Hills of South Dakota to fast and pray.

Two drag racing strips, a biker bar*, a convenience store, campgrounds, and housing developments have been constructed there. Now a group of businessmen has received an $825,000 grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to build a rifle shooting range within a few miles of Bear Butte.

A lawsuit to stop this encroachment has been filed by six tribes. The Black Hills is a Native American's sacred ground and a 'white-man's' mountain resort. On the Black Hills Resorts site you can read about the 1983 case of Fools Crow v Gullet, where Native Americans tried to stop intrusion into their sacred grounds. (Result: they lost, of course.)

Nothing new

The U.S. government initially tried to prevent settlement of the Black Hills, having signed the 1851 Treaty of Ft. Laramie, which promised 60 million acres of the Black Hills "for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupancy of the Sioux".

Settlers respected the 1851 Treaty and accepted the fact that the Black Hills were sacred — until gold was discovered. Then they clamoured for access, and the government tried to force the Lakota (Sioux) to sell their remaining land (by then reduced to 20 million acres). This didn't work, so Congress enacted a new treaty in 1877 which seized the land, resulting in war and defeat for the Lakota.

A federal judge, reviewing the case in the 1970s, commented:
"A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealing will never, in all probability, be found in our history."
Sacred Land Film Project.
Manataka American Indian Council.
Bear Butte International Alliance.

* This is from the biker bar website, the Broken Spoke Saloon, 'the world's biggest biker bar', where new facilities are planned:
"Outside of the Broken Spoke Saloon, Sturgis County Line Amphitheater, Builder’s Bar, Schoolhouse and the Mexican Cantina, we want to leave the rest of this beautiful property untouched! So sit back with a cold one while watching a Bear Butte Sunset! It doesn’t get better than that."
(He originally planned to call his campground 'Sacred Ground' and build an 80 foot statue to honor American Indians!)

Construction has already started with grass being stripped from the base of Bear Butte.

On April 5th, news published this:
"Despite strong opposition from Indian groups hoping to prevent further encroachment on the mountain, Meade County authorities on Tuesday unanimously approved a beer license for a campground, biker bar and concert area."

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Dictator-spirit

These are extracts from a Guardian article by Jenni Russell:
Tony Blair's administration is removing the safeguards that protect all of us from the whims of a government and the intrusions of a powerful state. It is engaged in a ferocious power-grab.

The government is briskly and fundamentally reshaping the relationship of the individual to the state, of the Lords to the Commons, and of MPs to ministers.

The ID cards bill will allow the authorities unprecedented surveillance of our lives, and the power to curtail our ordinary activities by withdrawing that card.

The legislative and regulatory reform bill, now entering its final stages, will let ministers alter laws by order, rather than having to argue their case in parliament.

Then this weekend brought another shocking government proposal to increase its own power and weaken the restraints upon it. The government intends to drastically curtail the powers of the Lords. In future peers will have to pass any legislation that the government deems important, whether it was in the manifesto or not. They will effectively be neutered.

Two comments (from many) on the article:

"Is it just me or do these things have an eery parallel to Bush' America? It seems that he and Bush are up to the same thing as decribed by Jenni: seizing power and undermining real democracy. I would be curious to know what's going on in other European countries, whether there is a similiar movement by the political elites. I don't live in the UK anymore and I'm unfortunately starting to feel that that's a good thing. Boy, what a horrible thing to have to say."
"In the 1930s E.M. Forster wrote: 'We are menaced by something much more insidious [than Fascism or Communism] – by what I might call ‘Fabio-Fascism’, by the dictator-spirit working quietly away behind the façade of constitutional forms. Fabio-Fascism is what I am afraid of, for it is the traditional method by which liberty has been attacked in England.' While the Blair brigade is bossy but probably basically benign, the same may not be true of its successor governments in twenty, or even ten, years’ time. As Forster said, 'As soon as people have power they go crooked and sometimes dotty as well, because the possession of power lifts them into a region where normal honesty never pays.'"

The Continuing Rape of the NHS

The UK National Health Service seems about to descend into freefall.

Through their complete incompetence in money management several NHS Trusts are losing millions. Job losses announced in England over the past five weeks amount to more than 6,000, and could go as high as 20,000. That means the laying off of a huge number of doctors and nurses.

The NHS Trusts are worried about money.
The unions are worried about job losses.
Who's worried about the patients?

Secretary of State for Health, Patricia Hewitt, insists that patient care will not be affected:
"Patients should be reassured by the determination of clinicians and management to maintain the best care for patients."
What a scenario: the health service stripped and a bloody flu epidemic in the wings.

Is there hope?

Commenting on the Worcestershire redundancies, the trust chairman, Michael O'Riordan, said:
"It's not in anyone's interests for us to stagger from one crisis to another. We will never be able to rid ourselves of the financial baggage. If there was an easy way out, we would have taken it by now. Hard times are ahead. People can fight against us, or they can fight with us and support us as we strive to secure the future of their hospitals."
What the fuck is that about?
Be honest: it's just more bullshit, isn't it?

If you would like to see how his Health Authority goes about its business, here's a report on their earlier money-saving methods.
(ie, the ones that got them into this mess)

Soft Soap

This is from today's UK Guardian, from a report on the finding in Scotland of a swan infected with bird flu.
"There were recriminations during the day from local people at the speed with which the authorities had removed and tested the contaminated carcass, which was seen moving with the tide in the village's small harbour for days. It was not until Thursday last week that the partially eaten remains were removed by the Scottish authorities for tests.

Tina Briscoe, a university researcher who raised the alarm after spotting the dead bird, said: 'It was reported in the evening to Defra and they collected the bird around lunchtime, about 12.30 or so, the following day. I would have expected a quicker reaction, particularly because in the tidal water it could have been washed away or cats could have picked on it.'

Charles Milne, Scotland's chief vet, defended the speed with which the dead bird had been tested. 'There were a series of laboratory procedures that needed to be gone through,' he said."
The Guardian printed that. They have accepted the chief vet's statement and printed it as if it were a rational answer to the question of the delay in getting the bird out of the water for inspection.

And so we go on. Events occur; officials respond with some insufficient cover-up; our robotic press report it; and we accept it.
Fools we are.

Monday, April 03, 2006

"Reminiscent of the German Concentration Camps"

Extracted from the UK's Guardian news section and Germany section.
"For almost 60 years, the evidence of Britain's clandestine torture programme in postwar Germany has lain hidden in the government's files. Harrowing photographs of young men who had survived being systematically starved, as well as beaten, deprived of sleep and exposed to extreme cold, were considered too shocking to be seen. As one minister of the day wrote, as few people as possible should be aware that British authorities had treated prisoners 'in a manner reminiscent of the German concentration camps'."

"Almost six decades later the photographs were still being kept secret. Four months ago they were removed from a police report on the mistreatment of inmates at one of the interrogation centres, near Hanover, shortly before the document was released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act.

Although the file was in the possession of the Foreign Office, the pictures were removed at the request of the Ministry of Defence. They have finally been released after an appeal by the Guardian. The photographs were taken in February 1947 by a Royal Navy officer who was determined to bring the torture programme to an end. Pictures of other victims, taken by the same officer, appear to have vanished from the Foreign Office files.

Meanwhile documents about a secret interrogation centre which the War Office operated in central London between 1945 and 1948, where large numbers of men are now known to have been badly mistreated, are still being withheld by the Ministry of Defence. Officials say the papers cannot yet be released because they have been contaminated with asbestos."

OK, we can say, that's a while back now: apologise, pay compensation, move on.

But, have we moved on: the torture of prisoners in Iraq; Guantanamo Bay; all the deceit surrounding the attack on Iraq; 'asbestos'. Not a bloody thing has changed.

What, we must wonder, is being secretely filed away right now: with the sly deceivers relying on their own death to protect them.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pirates of the DEA

If you're one-eyed, hook-handed and don't mind a federal parrot screeching dicta in your ear, then there's a job for you.
Hundreds of boxes of cannabis-laced sweets and thousands of cannabis plants were seized on 16 March in five simultaneous
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids in three Californian cities (Oakland, Emeryville, Lafayette).

Medical cannabis advocates pointed out that these were legitimate medical cannabis manufacturers under California law. The packaging of the sweets came complete with nutrition labels and dosage recommendations as well as a note that they were intended for medical use only.
(Source: Bulletin of the IACM April 2nd 2006.
Their source: The Oakland Tribune of 17 March 2006.)

From the same bulletin, an educational note for federal job applicants (like Supreme Court judges, who continue to deny cannabis's efficacy):
Clinical study data published in March 2006 show that both a cannabis extract and isolated THC caused a significant reduction in incontinence compared to placebo in 630 multiple sclerosis patients.

A 21st Century Hero

"I'm not a capitalist."

From todays's UK Observer:

'I was born without a desire for material things,' says Tony Serra, California lawyer, 'I am a child of the Sixties and that ideology - anti-materialism, brotherhood, non-racism - these are the things I still believe in.'

In a country where lawyers are among society's top earners, he has no credit cards, savings or bank account and owns no property. All his clothes are from charity shops or the Salvation Army. His net worth is whatever he happens to have in his pockets.

Serra, 72, isn't like most lawyers, yet in a 40-year career he has built an unrivalled reputation for winning cases others dismiss as unwinnable.

In the words of one admirer, Serra 'uses his voice like a musical instrument'. He has juries hanging on his every word. His animated closing arguments often last several hours and regularly include poetry and even song.

Occasionally Serra accepts payment for his services and uses the money to pay staff and bills, but for the most part he works for free. He's just been sentenced for tax evasion - to which he pleaded guilty (though I would have thought 'earnings-evasion' was more appropriate).

Many of California's leading lawyers attended court to testify that Serra had been their chief inspiration in taking up law.

Here's a description of Serra.

Here's a picture of him (and an interesting case).

Tony Serra won the Trial Lawyer of the Year award in 2003 for his successful litigation of Judi Bari against the FBI.
Here's the Judi Bari story.
And Tony Serra's closing arguments in the case.