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?

Jun 172009

[From me, admittedly, on both counts.]

More comment-mining at Tim’s Guardian piece:

The lack of choice I refer to is, I believe, less due to employers than with female mate-choice. If a man wants to be a father, he first needs to attract a mate. If you’re not a good provider few women will consider you father material or worth settling down with. It’s a catch 22 – if you want to have a family you need to prioritise your career, which leaves you less time to spend with your family.

Do men really think this is generally the attitude of women? Sure, I can see that there will be those ladies who would turn down a lovely man because he had a crap income, but on the other hand, I have personally never encountered such a thing. There have been in my life recently the following:

(a) a professional female friend who desperately wanted to marry and spawn with her dirt-poor, student boyfriend;

(b) another professional female friend who is marrying a man who works on hourly pay as a shop clerk;

(c) my mother, who earned more than my father throughout her entire working life;

(d) and of course myself – I care nothing for what a potential ‘mate’ earns as long as he isn’t boring, and in fact I have never dated a man who has gone out of his way to set himself up as a ‘good provider.’

Anecdote, I know, but I can’t help feeling that amongst professional types, this person’s contention is pure nonsense, the kind of crap spouted by men who as people have trouble attracting women, but would rather blame their modest incomes and the meretricious monstrous regiment than admit it.

UPDATE:Oh! and here’s another one

Another fact that feminists cover up. Women marry “up”, not “down”. When a woman marries a man, she chooses a man earning MORE than her — even if she expects to go on working after marriage. A female banker may have an affair with her electrician, but she would NEVER marry him.

Really? Really really? Prove it. ‘Cause I would.

UPDATE 2: Argh:

Because, dear heart, when you are in your bath chair, doubly incontinent and in need of care and medical attention, it will be other people’s children who will be looking after you, wiping your bum, feeding you and making sure you get the care you need. Other people’s children’s taxes will be paying towards your pension when you retire, the costs of public services, producing the food you will eat, the tv programmes you will watch, mending the pavements you walk on and building and maintaining the house you live in.

I really object to this idea that future adults are a resource for current adults to expect to mine and utilise one day. I don’t have children so that one day they can wipe my co-worker’s ass, and neither does anybody else. And if people truly did think that way, it would be repugnant in the extreme: treating future adults as little service-tax-and-pension-generating engines rather than autonomous human individuals who may very well – pleasegodplease – get sick of being treated thusly, foment a revolution, and eliminate this hideous, fucked-up, socialist society that has held them in that sort of bondage since birth.

I want my own children to look after me when I’m old – not the children of others. I want my own children to love me enough to care for me. And if they don’t, or if I never have children, then I shall reap what I have sown, and go about with ass unwiped and frail and hungry, since the institutions that used to do that for unclaimed old folks – charities – have been co-opted by the state or, if they refused to add their biological and technological distinctiveness to the Borg, destroyed.

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. At most, students could enroll themselves into an inpatient rehab. No one can say for sure if the addiction of the students would not relapse.

(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.

Feb 172009

It’s Tuesday again, and so I wander over to the Guardian to read Polly’s latest, this time a piece about teen pregnancy (can’t fault her for the relevance factor, what with this tiny-tot father all over the news) and the failure of New Labour.

The failure of New Labour, you may ask? Indeed, she has said this very thing, although as is her wont, not in the same way most of us might say it.

She begins from the unstated premise that teen pregnancy is not a good thing, although her reasoning is a bit skewed:

Britain’s teenage pregnancy rates are appalling, with only the US worse in the west. Why? Because teen pregnancy tracks inequality. That does not absolve Alfie, Chantelle and their parents of their personal responsibilities. But the most unequal nations have the greatest number of dysfunctional families, unless the cycle is broken by determined and expensive intervention in generation after generation.

Teenage parenthood is linked to higher crime rates, poverty, and disadvantage in the children of teen mothers, as well as a greater likelihood for those children to become teenaged parents themselves. However, contrary to what Polly implies, teenage parenthood is generally correlated as the cause of those things, not a result of them. Teen pregnancy doesn’t track inequality; it precedes it.

Never mind that, though. We all agree, though perhaps for different reasons, that there should be less teenage pregnancy. Why has New Labour failed to achieve this?

First, and most disastrous, David Blunkett, at education, point-blank refused to introduce compulsory top-quality sex education. (No, don’t even stop to think about that one.) Only now is Labour at last introducing it in an autumn bill – amid fears it might get fatally delayed or succumb to the Mail’s mad anti-sex education campaign.

Translation: the government was pressured, not by the electorate, but by the Daily Mail, into not imposing a forced centrally-planned educational decree on schools.

Why else did they fail?

…money was found to provide good contraceptive clinics, but it was given to local health services with neither ringfencing nor monitoring to see that it was actually spent on teenage clinics. Why not? Because the government has been politically intimidated into ordering “less top-down” and more “local”, with disastrous results for many key programmes.

Translation: the government gave local authorities tax moneys extorted from the nation at large, but failed to impose a forced centrally-planned spending decree on those authorities.

The teen pregnancy story is a good microcosm of the Labour years. To halve the rate was a colossal ambition. It was a far harder target than halving child poverty – no simple putting of money into tax credits can change the deep culture of sexual behaviour. Of all the things the state can and can’t do, making people have sex only with the right people at the right time is the least amenable to Whitehall action.

‘Least amenable,’ take note. Not, as the rest of sane humanity might say, ‘least possible or desirable.’

And so, Polly finishes up, the problem has not been Labour’s disastrous policies of rewarding teen parents with social housing and child benefit, thus creating an incentive for teenagers to procreate, nor the complete failure of a patriarchal society to get over its Puritanical hang-ups about sex. No, no! The problem is that Labour have not done enough to force top-down social planning, paid for by punitive taxation, on a society that does not match its ideal of equality and conformity for all:

Labour has tried, but most of Europe, under more decades of social democratic governments, has worked harder for longer. Too often Labour thought it could move mountains with teaspoons, making Swedish promises with neither Swedish taxes, nor the will to force social democratic policies on to local services. There will be plenty more Alfie, Shannon and Baby P stories – testaments not to a worsening “broken Britain” but to a low tax, weak social policy century that Labour has only started to improve.

Fucking hell, Polly: even when you get it right, you get it wrong.

Feb 022009

This morning, having returned from my aborted trek to work through the barren waste that is Britain under four inches of precipitation, I switched on BBC Breakfast just in time to hear some (male) official-looking interviewee claiming that Britain’s children are the unhappiest in the developed world, and this is partly due to mothers who go out to work.

Just in time to save me from choking on my indignation, the female host of the program interjected, ‘But the survey still shows that more than three-quarters of British children say they are happy, doesn’t it?’

Cue relieved sigh.

Then, via Tim Worstall, I came across this melodramatic headline in the Telegraph: Female empowerment has caused family break-up, Church-backed report warns: ‘Female empowerment has contributed to the break-up of the traditional family, leaving a generation of children emotionally damaged, according to a controversial report on the state of British childhood.’

Oh, has it indeed? Let’s just see how, then, shall we? The article begins:

The study, backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, criticises the parents of young children for spending long hours at work and relying on childminders.

It describes an increase in the number of mothers going back to work when their babies are less than a year old as a “massive” social change and cites the fact that women are now less dependent on their husbands as a cause of family break-up.

Pass over the fact that any study backed by the Ass-Hat is suspect for that very reason (the luxuriantly-be-eyebrowed hoon), and direct your attention instead to the suggestion that women’s attempt to escape from the slavery of their biological construction damages children. But, cannily, so far our intrepid reporter has not said anything objectionable; women going back to work after birthing is indeed a massive social change (or at least it was when it became commonplace about 35 years ago) and, indeed, women are now less dependent on their husbands (either because they have suddenly become humans with full personal agency, or because so many of them lack husbands that surviving without one became a necessary skill). How, though, is this a cause of family break-up?

“Compared with a century ago, two changes stand out: first, most women now work outside the home and have careers, as well as being mothers.

“Seventy per cent of mothers of nine-to-12-month-old babies now do some paid work, this compares with only 25 per cent 25 years ago – a massive change in the way of life.

“Meantime, the children are cared for by someone other than their parents.”

The comparison, then, is being made with conditions extant in roughly 1909 – an era when, indeed, women mostly remained in the home. However, if one is going to compare women’s lifestyle choices now to those prevalent in 1909, must not one also, for the sake of thoroughness if nothing else, compare the happiness-status of the children, too? I wonder how many of the shorties working twelve hours a day down the mines were free of ’emotional damage.’

There is also the fact that (a) economic conditions, even before this recession began, have more or less necessitated a two-income household for most families, and (b) women’s entry into the workforce in the middle of the twentieth century was also a necessity, at least for those countries whose economies were trashed by the Second World War.

And whilst doing their duty for king and country, women discovered that they liked working; staying at home all day looking after brats who can’t walk or talk is pretty goddamned dull.

They also dared to realise that having an income of their own liberated them from the virtual serfdom under which they had lived in their marriages. For some, whose husbands were abusive/philandering/financially incontinent, the shiny new possibility of leaving without facing starvation or returning to their fathers in disgrace must have appeared as an oasis in the desert.

Life is, therefore, better for children and better for women. Superseding that is going to require some pretty damning evidence. Do we get some?

The article goes on:

“As a result of increased break-up, a third of 16-year-olds in Britain now live apart from their biological father.”

Oh really? A third of 16-year-olds living apart from their biological fathers is not due to the fact that their biological fathers are feckless twits? That their mothers are intellectual dullards (how difficult is it to lay hands on a condom in a nation where all contraception is free?) who have no business spawning in the first place? That custody laws in this country are heavily biased in favour of the mother?

Are these not more serious fucking problems than the fact that Mum is out working while the brat is in school so that she can ensure there’s enough money at home to keep him nourished, clothed, and entertained?

And then, bizarrely:

[The report] will draw on a Unicef study published in 2007 which showed that children in Scandinavian countries appeared happier than their British counterparts despite similar levels of family separation.

So… in other places, family breakdown does not cause childhood misery. Anybody know how Scandinavian countries compare to Britain in features like paternal absenteeism, teen pregnancy, and nakedly partial custody laws? Some statistics would be nice, but I’m prepared to bet a red dime that Scandinavian countries have less of all three.

Finally, as per journalistic convention, we get a bit of opposition at the end of the piece:

Sue Palmer, the educationalist and author of the book Toxic Childhood, said…

…”Women moved to the workplace on men’s terms,” women’s work that had traditionally been done in the home had never been valued because it was free.

“That is how everybody forgot that rearing children is a time consuming and important project.

“The point that we have got to take for the future isn’t that we take women back to the kitchen sink but that we must value what they brought to the social mix in the past.”

How relieved women around Britain must feel to have such an incisive mind working so assiduously on their behalf!

Fuck me if she doesn’t miss the point by a country mile: female empowerment is not a significant cause of ’emotional damage’ in children (as this article shows, almost against its own will), but even if it were, women do not exist to make children happy. Women are human beings too; to fault them for the deterioration of British youthful contentment is to subordinate them, fully-grown individuals with personal agency, to children.