Posts by Russell Brown

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  • OnPoint: Beyond 'a bad look',

    The government’s current tack in its cold war with Auckland Council has been interesting.

    Yesterday Radio NZ’s Todd Niall wrote a very measured column pointing out that the figures brandished by Simon Bridges and Nick Smith on council transport spending were entirely fictitious. Whether they were quoting the numbers maliciously or simply because they and their advisors are incompetent, it was important that someone pointed it out. As far as I know, only Niall did so.

    Also yesterday, John Key made these bizarre comments in a soft interview with Paul Henry:

    The Government has ruled out giving the council the power to implement a fuel tax.

    “I just think their priorities are wrong,” Prime Minister John Key said on TV3’s Paul Henry programme this morning. “They’ve got to turn around and say, what is the most important issue? The most important issue has to be, in our view, provide roading solutions in the very short-term for where people live. Only 15 percent of people live in the CBD.”

    The Government has also called on the council to rethink plans to build from the airport to the CBD.

    “If they want more tools for funding, I think they have to demonstrate to everyone they have the right strategy,” says Mr Key.

    “When the strategy they’ve got is focusing on 15 percent of where people live – not the 85 percent of where they live, or on the fact that we need to build more houses and build those houses we need infrastructure – I think the council does need to sit down with the Government and say okay, because we have a lot of experts. They are going to do that I think, because in the end, if they don’t, then their options will be limited to basically their rates, and there’s only so far rates can go."

    The idea that the council’s transport strategy only serves people who live in the CBD is nonsensical (for more detail, see Transportblog ). Rail to the airport? There isn’t even a proposed budget for that. It’s no more than a possibility.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Synthetic cannabis: it just…, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    He wasn’t having to see on a daily basis the lives interrupted by alchohol and drug abuse.

    Generations.

    If decriminalisation, legalisation (and resulting control and regulation) and taxation will contribute towards better control of supply, education and mitigation of negative effects….why do we have such a HUGE problem with booze?

    I don't think anyone is arguing for cannabis to be marketed and made available for sale in the way alcohol is -- for there to be some equivalent to the 10 bottlestores in a kilometre along Karangahape Road, or sports sponsorship or products targeted at young people.

    The question is whether making criminals of people you're supposedly trying to help is useful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Beyond 'a bad look', in reply to Tinakori,

    Sensationmongers like David Fisher and Patrick Gower eventually have the same problem.

    Actually, their practices are completely different, and lie largely on opposite sides of the line Keith draws in the post.

    He doesn’t have a left wing equivalent and that’s the Left’s loss. Danyl McLachlan at the Dim Post is probably the closest to an equivalent but without the gonzo damn the torpedo approach.

    Or the clients or the background factional disputes. I personally like Hooton, but you're being quite naive about the reasons he might take a particular position.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • OnPoint: Beyond 'a bad look',

    The other thing that they use as a replacement for their own judgement are proxies. They quote anyone who’s willing to answer the phone and say “yeah that’s a bad thing”, regardless of what the question is. There’s the issue of false balance, which again is well-trodden territory. But I want to focus on the systemic weakness that it creates.

    By refusing to put their own judgements as human beings into a story, they create a narrative vacuum, and then they fill that vacuum with people like Jordan Williams. There’s an entire industry of people like him who set themselves up to fill that vacuum, so they can control the narrative for their own private gain, or for the private gain of the people they serve. And they’re invited to do so by journalists.

    This, sir, is an excellent insight.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Synthetic cannabis: it just…, in reply to Rosemary McDonald,

    Taxes on alchohol come no where near to contributing to the costs.

    It’d be the same if dope was decriminalised.

    Got any evidence for that? Pretty much everyone who wants to use cannabis in NZ uses it already. Most people try it, most people stop. And the legal status of cannabis is a long way down the list of the reasons that people stop.

    Taxpayers currently spend $100 million annually enforcing cannabis prohibition. It’s very likely indeed that some of that money would be better spent on public health.

    I’d like to see more discussion on why so many have to chemically alter their conciousness just to relax, have a good time, cope with their life.

    Treating drug use as a moral failure has been a particularly unsuccessful approach.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Synthetic cannabis: it just…, in reply to Alfie,

    It’s complicated.

    It is. Washington State pot czar Mark Kleiman from a story I wrote last year, on cannabis and driving:

    “Nobody wants to say it out loud, but I think it probably needs a good leaving alone,” says Kleiman.

    “Here’s the problem: it’s clear that being stoned decreases your executive function and multi-tasking ability. It renders many people inattentive.

    “It’s also clear that knowing you’re stoned leads people to be cautious – the opposite of alcohol. The stereotypical stoned driver is driving 15 miles an hour in a 40 zone. He’s paranoid about how he’s driving.

    “So that sounds like good news. The other thing that sounds like good news is, when you let an experienced pot smoker get as stoned as they want and put them on a simulator, their degradation is at about the level of .08 BAC. That’s just about the threshold of what’s considered impaired driving for alcohol.

    “So all of that doesn’t sound like it adds up to extremely dangerous driving. Now the bad news – people are empirically impaired for several hours after they’re subjectively back to baseline. So the people who don’t think they’re stoned are the potentially dangerous drivers.

    “THC is fat soluble, and unless you do very fancy stuff with metabolite ratios, you can’t tell whether somebody smoked two hours ago or three days ago. And so if you have a strict nanogram per millilitre rule, which is what’s in the Washington statutes, anybody who’s a regular pot smoker can never drive. That’s not workable.

    “And the other bad news is that people don’t just use pot. So here’s a rule I would have. If you have cannabis on board, then your blood alcohol content limit is zero. You may not drive with both cannabis and alcohol in your system. And that’s an easy rule to observe. Your BAC will be zero n hours after your nth drink. So if you are going to be a smoker, you may not drive for as many hours as you’ve had drinks. Zero’s a good number.”

    The lack of a non-invasive roadside test is a significant factor, he says.

    “Unless there’s an accident and someone’s injured, I just don’t think anyone’s going to be caught for driving under the influence of cannabis.”

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Synthetic cannabis: it just…, in reply to Alfie,

    Almost certainly. Campbell Live ran numerous interviews with synthetic users, and all of them said they’d prefer to smoke the real thing, if not for the illegality and drug testing.

    I've also seen users quoted saying that natural cannabis doesn't do it for them any more.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Friday Music: What Alltracks…,

    This where I ended up on Saturday night. In the flat above Joy Bong on K Road, watching Bargain Bin Laden and Surf City. Met the parents of one of the BBL kids, who were enjoying their weekend up from Christchurch.

    Surf City:

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: #GE2015: Proper Mad,

    After this year's Budget, George Osborne refused to explain how where a Conservative government would find the additional £12bn he is promising to cut from the welfare budget.

    But it looks like this is going to be a terrible result for people with disabilities, and their carers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: #GE2015: Proper Mad, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    While it may offend the sensibilities of everyone around here, the Conservatives were constantly pushing a very simple message of “don’t put what you’ve got at risk” to people in marginals who might not have loved everything the government had done over the last five years but weren’t being given a clear, coherent alternative. And that doesn’t actually make the British electorate a pack of idiot sheeple.

    Nonetheless, the use of the SNP as a wedge issue was classic Crosby-Textor. I think what was unusual – even by the standards of the partisan British press – was the extent to which most of the national papers faithfully ran the fear-uncertainty-and-doubt line. In the week before the election, the Telegraph literally let the Conservative Party campaign office write its front-page story.

    To make it worse, many of the “5000 small businesses” said to have signed the letter in support of Cameron and Osborne (on the basis that “A change now would be far too risky”) didn’t even exist.

    It was a thoroughly disgraceful episode, but hardly isolated. I think Labour’s apparent failure to present a positive alternative to the electorate does need to be seen in the context of a press that overwhelmingly targeted it for negative coverage.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19606 posts Report Reply

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