Oct 302009
 

They really can’t help themselves. Every goddamn thing this government proves even further that they’re not only unfit for office, some of them are unfit to live.

Alan Johnson has sacked Prof. David Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

This advisory body is supposed to provide the government with the scientific data it needs to inform its drugs policy. So why has Prof. Nutt been sacked? He hasn’t been providing data that matches what the Home Office wants its policy to be.

Earlier this week Prof Nutt used a lecture at King’s College, London, to attack what he called the “artificial” separation of alcohol and tobacco from illegal drugs.

The professor said smoking cannabis created only a “relatively small risk” of psychotic illness, and claimed those who advocated moving ecstasy into Class B had “won the intellectual argument”.

This didn’t jive with Alan Johnson’s policy-based evidence making*:

In a letter, the home secretary wrote: “I cannot have public confusion between scientific advice and policy and have therefore lost confidence in your ability to advise me as Chair of the ACMD.

“I would therefore ask you to step down from the Council with immediate effect.”

Prof. David Nutt: This is reality, minister. Let me show you it.
Alan Johnson: No! That’s not how I want reality to be! [throws toys out of pram]

Cunts.

*H/T the Heresiarch, where I read this term first. It’s great.

Aug 252009
 

The government has finally decided, it appears, to ban what people are calling ‘legal highs’: unscheduled party drugs that, like any other substance on the planet which you choose to ingest, can kill you in certain circumstances.

The two drugs, known as BZP and GBL, have been linked to a number of deaths.

‘A number’? How many, exactly?

In May, a coroner in Sheffield linked BZP, also known as herbal ecstasy, to the death last year of 22-year-old mortgage broker Daniel Backhouse.

It is understood that Mr Backhouse had also taken ecstasy.

This is a bit like saying, ‘A coroner linked BZP to the death last year of Daniel Backhouse. It is understood that Mr Backhouse had also been run over by a backhoe.’ Classic post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. But still, that’s one of our ‘number of deaths.’

Here’s another:

Hester Stewart, who was 21 and a medical student, died after taking GBL in Brighton. Both drugs would be classified as Class C.

Hester Stewart’s mother, Maryon, has campaigned for legal highs to be banned.

She told the BBC News Channel: “I’m delighted. I think the Home Office is moving in the right direction.

“We need to tell people that GBL plus alcohol can equal death. Hester hadn’t had that much alcohol and then later on that evening an old friend of hers gave her half a dose of GBL which he said was safe.

“So the two mixed together just sent her into a coma and she didn’t wake up…”

Maryon Stewart is the same woman who, back in April, was weeping all over Telegraph reporters that if the government had just banned this shit ages ago like it promised, her daughter would never have died:

“How can the Home Office not be accountable for something like this? How come it’s not classified? How could this happen?

“Some pen-pusher somewhere should be able to work out how to ban it,” said Mrs Stewart. “How come they hesitated?

“This is a disaster. It’s just beyond belief that something like this could have happened to such a brilliant, caring, intelligent girl who had so much to offer the whole world, not just her family.

“I feel gutted, I feel cheated, I feel bitterly frustrated and angry that this has been allowed to happen.”

I tried to be vaguely sympathetic the last time I wrote about this – some may claim I failed even then – but now there is simply no excuse. This interfering fucking busybody exemplifies all that is wrong with a certain sort of person today. In blaming the Home Office for failing to ban this drug and thus prevent her daughter’s death, she absolves herself (and her daughter) of all responsibility. By her own account, a friend gave her daughter the pill, claiming it was safe. WTF? I like my friends, and by and large I trust them, but even at the relatively still-stoopid age of 21, I would never have taken a random pill at a party without knowing what it was. I’m sure many people would, and do, and nothing bad happens, but that’s the chance one takes. Didn’t Maryon Stewart teach her daughter this stuff? She is, after all,

a founder of the Natural Health Advisory Service and presents a series on a satellite television channel. “In my work I teach people how to look after themselves and all the stuff I do is caring about people, and that’s the kind of environment Hessie’s been brought up in,” she said. “I’m just gutted the Home Office didn’t care enough.”

That’s right. It’s the Home Office’s fault for not caring enough about

the third person to have died in the past 12 months after taking GBL

Yup. There’s our ‘number of deaths.’ 3.

Last August, the Government’s drugs advisers told the Home Office that the substance should be classified as a Class C drug.

But because it also has a use as an industrial solvent – in the plastics industry and as a nail polish remover – officials have been delayed in framing the legislation. It is banned for personal use in America, Canada and Sweden.

Who are these drug advisers? Is it the same Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs who recommended the downgrading of ecstasy to class B, amongst other things – most of whose recommendations about drugs policy (that is, in fact, what the ACMD exists to make) are ignored by the government when they conflict with the Daily Mail’s anti-drugs crusade?

Probably not, or the article would have told us. Instead, we must wonder at these shadowy drug advisers who wish to pursue anti-drugs policies that have been super-successful in such utopian drug-free countries as…the United States.

(Leave aside the fact that GBL is an industrial solvent used in nail-polish remover. Have you ever smelled that stuff? It says right on the bottle that it’s not for internal consumption. Only a fucking idiot would ingest it.)

But all of this is by the by, really; here is what’s happened. Slightly rebellious young adult goes to party, does the equivalent of slurping nail-polish remover, dies. Mom-in-denial blames Home Office. Home Office bans slurping nail-polish remover. The one-woman crusade has succeeded. Surely the biggest problem here is not the drugs, nor even the banning of them, but the fact that one guilt-stricken grieving woman has the power to influence government policy.

Wait, that’s happened before?

Apr 292009
 

In the Telegraph: ‘Medical student dies after taking ‘party drug’ GBL that Home Office failed to ban.

Police are investigating whether she took the drug knowingly, but a long-term friend has told Miss Stewart’s family that she “never ever took drugs” and would “never have knowingly taken this substance”.

Nobody ‘never ever’ takes drugs. Nobody ‘would never’ take drugs. There’s a first time for everything.

But mainly:

In an emotional interview with The Daily Telegraph, Maryon Stewart, her mother, a leading nutritionist, said that she felt “cheated, frustrated and angry” that the Home Office had hesitated on a promise last year to ban the substance, despite it being illegal in several other countries.

She said she was “mortified” to learn of the delays in prohibiting the drug, which is similar to the notorious “date-rape” drug GHB, and said that it may take “my darling Hessie to die for somebody to take notice”.

With all sympathy for the grieving mother, allow me to impart some logic lessons.

(1) Making a drug illegal is not the same thing as banning it.

(2) Even if it were, banning a drug does not make it unobtainable or indemnify partying students against death-by-illegal-drug.

(3) Reductione ad absurdum, the Home Office should ban anything that “can lead to dependence, unconsciousness and even death by intoxication”. There goes, well, everything, since apparently human beings are so fragile they can die from an overdose of water.

I wish people would stop, stop, stop inflicting gross infringements of liberty on the populace when something uncommon, but hideously tragic and preventable, happens to members of their family. For the love of God, enough with these one-man (or -woman) personal-preference crusades!

Me? I think the Home Office should ban idiots. And itself.

Melanie Phillips loses the plot

 argh, stupid-heads  Comments Off on Melanie Phillips loses the plot
Feb 092009
 

Melanie Phillips, author of such calmly objective columns in the Daily Mail as ‘To place children with two gay men when an adoptive mother and father are available is a sickening assault on family life‘, is seemingly incapable of catching a point even when lobbed at her underhand at 20mph with a wiffle ball. Witness today’s column, entitled ‘Drugs no worse than horse-riding? The folly of these ‘experts’ simply beggars belief,’ in which she attacks everything about the recent statements by Prof. David Nutt, head of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs except (a) what he actually said, and (b) his funny name.

Let’s take a quick look at the Outrage-O-Meter. Sarcastic questions with tone of faux incredulity? Check.

Has April Fools’ Day come early this year?

Hyperbolic language? Check. [Emphasis mine.]

Yet the Advisory Council will this week propose the downgrading of ecstasy from category A to category B — having apparently learned nothing from the debacle over cannabis, the downgrading of which contributed to an explosion of all drug use.

More astonishingly still, Professor Nutt has said that ecstasy is less dangerous than horse-riding.

In an academic paper, he ridiculed concern about the effects of ecstasy by comparing it to ‘equasy’ or ‘Equine Addiction Syndrome’.

And:

You really do have to scrape your jaw off the floor. Not only will such trivialisation of ecstasy cause grave distress to parents whose children have died from taking the drug, but it knocks the ground from under the feet of parents terrified that their children will start taking it.

Cherry-picking or misrepresentation of facts and/or statistics? Check.

The only reason there are not many more deaths from ecstasy is that unlike horseriding, it is illegal.

And the ill-effects of ecstasy are not limited to death. Professor Nutt says horseriding can lead to brain damage — but fails to say that ecstasy almost inevitably harms the brain.

Pardon me while I laugh myself silly at the linguistic inexactitude of the phrase ‘almost inevitably.’

Faulty syllogisms? Check.

His co-director, Amanda Neidpath, who advocates the bizarre practice of ‘trepanation’ (boring a hole in the skull) as a protective measure against dementia, told a meeting of the World Psychedelic Forum that the Beckley Foundation’s projects included investigating the ‘possible beneficial use of micro-doses of LSD to improve cerebral circulation’.

Goodness me, micro-doses of LSD! Give ’em an inch, and soon we’ll all be trippin’. Because something is an illegal recreational drug does not mean it hasn’t got its legitimate uses, just as because something is a legal pharmacological treatment for illness does not mean it isn’t dangerous.

Unsubstantiated claims? Check.

The Advisory Council is riddled with ‘harm reduction’ advocates who, believing it impossible to prevent young people from using illegal drugs at all, are therefore reluctant to admit the full extent of the harm they actually do.

For substantiated claims, and a very thorough analysis of UK drug policy and the role of the Advisory Council, see Unity’s excellent piece at the Ministry of Truth.

Hysterical blaming? Check.

The single most important reason why Britain’s drug problem is now out of control is that a critical mass of defeatist police officers, spineless politicians, global legalisation lobbyists with bottomless pockets and the ‘great and the good’, determined to prevent their drug-taking offspring from acquiring criminal records, all talk down the risks of drug use and talk up legalisation.

And finally, graceless and inapropos classical allusion? Check.

Horse-riding it isn’t; but there’s an Augean stables here which cries out to be cleaned.

In her ill-informed, righteous indignation, Ms Phillips echoes Home Secretary and total whore Jacqui Smith, who also missed the boat entirely.

The boat, point, and plot being that Prof Nutt was not making a claim about the empirical dangers of ecstasy. He was making an observation about contemporary British views regarding risk: namely, that some extremely risky behaviours are not only legal but even encouraged, whilst others that are statistically no more life-threatening are stigmatised and criminalised (an argument elegantly proffered, with emphasis on Home Secretary and total whore Jacqui Smith’s hypocrisy vis a vis compliance with law, by the pithy Mr Eugenides).

Is it really so much to ask that the journalists who are meant to protect and promote our traditional liberties not be blithering, propagandising, disingenuous morons?