Sep 2006

The madness of cannabis prohibition

Back in the UK it seems that the Home Office – that most trustworthy of ministries – is considering a fairly radical overhaul of drug policy. Clearly “Dr. John” Reid wants to deflect media attention from the screw-ups his department is making in the area of immigration and anti-terrorism. And what better way to achieve this than by screwing up a whole other area of policy? You may recall Reid as the minister who was discovered with cannabis in his home but to whom – conveniently – the drug laws don’t apply. The new proposals being considered involve a redefinition of the quantity of cannabis (and other drugs) which qualifies as “possession for personal use”; i.e. how much a person can possess before being classifed as a dealer and sent to prison for a long time. Up to 14 years in fact.

In the case of cannabis, the proposal is to limit the quantity considered “personal” to 5 grams. Now, I lived in the UK for a decade and a half. During that time I met a large number of pot smokers (I guess attending, and helping to organise, various cannabis law reform events will tend to encourage such encounters). I would estimate that at least 90% of those pot smokers regularly purchased their stash in quantities of a quarter ounce or more. A quarter equates to a shade over 7 grams.

So if these proposals are accepted, the practical upshot will be to define 90% of the UK’s regular tokers as “dealers”. Which is irrational in the extreme (what? drug laws irrational? surely not!) It implies that the other 10% of tokers are buying huge quantities of pot in very small portions and smoking it very quickly indeed. Or else that very little pot is actually being smoked, with lots of people just selling it to one another for the sheer joy of commerce.

There can be no question that these latest proposals are absurd. Quite aside from anything else, at a time when the UK’s prisons are acknowledged to be dangerously overcrowded, it defies all good sense that the Home Office should seek to classify perhaps as many as 2.5 million people as meriting 14 years behind bars for a non-violent, victimless crime.

But of course, it isn’t merely these latest proposals which are blatantly insane. It’s the entire notion of cannabis prohibition. And it isn’t confined to the UK, but stretches across the globe with one or two islands of sanity stubbornly reminding us that the criminalisation of a medicinal plant, popularly consumed for its recreational side-effects, is a matter of choice not divine imperative.

So I want to take a little time here to examine the issue of cannabis prohibition. I want to examine both the principle behind the policy, and the practical consequences of that policy. I want to examine them – as far as I’m capable – rationally and objectively. My position on the issue is clear, but I want to demonstrate why that position is right. And why this is not merely a difference of opinion, but a policy area where there are logically clear right and wrong approaches, and where the wrong approach has been implemented for far too long.

The Principle of The Thing

In truth it’s impossible to discover a logically consistent principle behind the prohibition of cannabis. There are extreme religious sects which outlaw the consumption of any psychoactive substances up to and including refined sugar. However it is obviously not that principle upon which cannabis prohibition is based. We live in a society which condones the use of a vast number of different psychoactive substances, from chocolate to morphine (in the words of Andrew Weil).

More than that, our society continually endorses the consumption of new psychoactive substances. Prozac anyone? Xanax? We clearly don’t live in a society which takes a principled stand against the consumption of mind-altering substances.

But perhaps the principle is narrower in focus. Perhaps we live in a society which outlaws the consumption of dangerous psychoactive substances on principle. Except again, we clearly don’t. Both alcohol and tobacco have well-documented dangers associated with them (with regards to both physical and mental health). In 1994 (not particularly recent, but representative enough) there were over 600,000 deaths directly attributed to tobacco and alcohol in the United States alone. That’s a huge number. And no illegal drug even comes close.

So it’s safe to say that while two drugs responsible for that level of carnage are freely available for taxation and purchase (from sweet shops in many countries), we do not – as a society – take a principled stand against the consumption of dangerous substances.

You could argue that we do take such a principled stance, but that we are inconsistent in our enforcement. That actually, on principle both alcohol and tobacco (and caffeine and many others) should be treated the same as cannabis; that brewers and bartenders should be imprisoned for 14 years as “dealers” and that our failure to do so is just that – a failure. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support this view, and I would suggest that asking a Home Office minister whether a bartender or a Coca-Cola salesman is ethically identical to a “drug dealer” would result in a snort of derision.

I cannot think of another principle by which the prohibition of cannabis can be justified. So whatever rationale may be behind the prohibition of cannabis is clearly one born of practical considerations rather than a moral position.

And in practice?

In practice cannabis prohibition has been a disaster. The policy is directly responsible for a massive increase in funding for organised crime and extremist groups throughout the world. It’s true that I’ve met tokers who take pride in scoring their pot from a local grower, or who source theirs directly from a Dutch organic grow collective (or whatever). But it’s safe to assume that the vast majority of cannabis purchases will line the pockets of gangsters in the supply chain.

It’s mind-boggling… with cannabis prohibition, the governments of the world have taken a multi-billion euro industry and deliberately relinquished all control over it. Instead of regulating and taxing it, they have voluntarily placed it into the hands of violent criminals (and, we’re led to believe, terrorists). I’m talking here about a global market valued (by the UN) at almost €115 billion.

Even worse, the prohibition of cannabis is directly responsible for creating close ties between the market for cannabis and the market for other more addictive drugs. In exactly the same way that selling cigarettes from sweet shops normalises tobacco within mainstream society; so it is that dealers who sell cocaine as well as cannabis have normalised hard drugs within the world of cannabis use.

When the Dutch decriminalised cannabis and allowed its sale from licensed outlets the short-term effect was an increase in cannabis consumption among Dutch young adults. However in the medium term the policy has actually reduced the number of Dutch people using the drug. Not by much, but the rate of consumption among Dutch nationals is less than that of the UK, Ireland and many other nations who have a policy of prohibition. Most importantly however, the Dutch have registered a significant fall in the uptake of hard-drug consumption. The Netherlands is one of the few nations in Europe where the average age of heroin addicts is rising.

In other words, by reducing the link between cannabis and hard drugs, less cannabis users are now trying heroin. This is the final nail in the coffin of the already discredited “gateway” theory of drug use (the idea that the use of one drug leads to another). It seems that the real gateway to hard-drug use is cannabis prohibition.

Unfortunately, The Netherlands has come under huge pressure to end its policy. It is a clear measure of the social benefits of that policy that they have – until now – resisted this pressure. One problem, however, that their policy has created is that of “drug tourism”. Well, I say that their policy has created it… it would perhaps be more accurate to claim that the policy of prohibition employed elsewhere has created the Dutch drug tourism problem.

And it is a problem. I don’t deny that. People under the influence of cannabis, with very few exceptions, are not overtly antisocial. This is in high contrast to those under the influence of alcohol. However, having thousands of very stoned foreigners wandering around your city is likely to annoy and, in some cases, inconvenience the locals. It is this factor which has galvanised a certain amount of opposition to the cannabis liberalisation policy in The Netherlands.

As a comparison, however, I’d like to hold up Temple Bar – the area of Dublin City where the nightlife is concentrated. Thanks to Ryanair and their 99 cent flights, Temple Bar has become the stag and hen-party capital of Europe. Every weekend it is filled with thousands of foreign tourists on a 48 hour binge of alcohol consumption. The comparison between central Amsterdam and central Dublin on a Saturday night is revealing. I’m not claiming that Amsterdam is some kind of hippy-dippy flower-power utopia. Far from it. But the level of outright aggression to be found in Temple Bar is genuinely unsettling. It’s a deeply unpleasant place at night.

Crappy soapbar

Another side-effect of cannabis prohibition is that it’s a policy of harm-maximisation. It makes the consumption of cannabis considerably more dangerous and more damaging than it would otherwise be. Not only has the distribution of the drug been placed into the hands of gangsters, but so has its production. Up to and including the quality control process.

There are physiological dangers associated with cannabis smoking. It is arguably carcinogenic, and while this has not been established as a fact there’s a good deal of inconclusive evidence to suggest it. It contains more tar than cigarettes (though the “twenty times more tar” claim that you’ll often read is a significant overestimation). However, as recent developments in the United States with regards to the tobacco-industry lawsuits have demonstrated; low tar cigarettes are just as carcinogenic as high-tar cigarettes. This throws the assumption that tar is the problem ingredient in tobacco into question. I’ve heard other theories suggesting that a particular lead-isotope found in tobacco (though not cannabis) could actually be the problem, which would imply that cannabis is far less damaging than tobacco.

None of that is conclusive however and research is ongoing. So for safety’s sake, it makes sense to assume that the smoking of any substance has a potentially damaging effect on the lungs and throat of the user.

Nonetheless, whatever harm may be associated with smoking cannabis is significantly compounded when the cannabis is adulterated with dangerous chemicals. And thanks to a government policy which places quality control into the hands of unaccountable and anonymous gangsters, the hashish found on the streets of Europe is often “bulked-out” with rather nasty ingredients – many of which are far more damaging when smoked than either tobacco or cannabis. This snippet from the UKCIA website says it all really…

SOAPBAR (it’s called “soap” because a 250g bar is shaped like a bar of soap) is perhaps the most common type of hash in the UK and it is often the most polluted.

Now, not all soap is bad of course, but some certainly is. At worst there may only be a tiny amount of low grade hash mixed with some very strange stuff:

Beeswax, turpentine, milk powder, ketamine, boot polish, henna, pine resin, aspirin, animal turds, ground coffee, barbiturates, glues and dyes plus carcinogenic solvents such as Toluene and Benzene

… Join us in saying “NO” to crap hash, tell your friends, tell your dealer and ask your MP why they refuse to allow quality controls for cannabis

Harm Maximisation

And that’s not all. Not only does your government enforce policies which increase the likelihood of cannabis users damaging their lungs by smoking benzene and shoe-polish, but they also resist attempts to limit the damage caused by cannabis in other ways. The physical dangers of cannabis can be eliminated entirely by smokeless consumption. Cannabis can be prepared as a food or as a drink. However, there are certain drawbacks with these which make them unpopular with many users (dosage is harder to judge, the effects can take up to an hour to become noticeable, and the social ritual of passing around a pipe is lost).

This is why vaporisation is such an excellent method of consumption. A cannabis vaporiser contains a heating element which raises the temperature of herbal cannabis until the active ingredient (THC) vaporises. This vapour is then inhaled. The process is not unlike smoking through a hookah and physiologically is entirely harmless. Indeed, it has medical benefits as the THC vapour acts as a bronchial dilator allowing the lungs to expel any particulates that may have become lodged within them through smoke or pollution inhalation.

The problem with vaporisation is that it is an expensive method of consumption. Of course there’s the initial outlay on a quality vaporiser (at least €150). However, there are two other problems with vaporisation which are made vastly worse by prohibition. Firstly, to be effective, it requires relatively fresh herbal cannabis. This isn’t widely available to your average toker who considers himself lucky if he can get unpolluted soapbar. Secondly, the same quantity of herbal cannabis will have a lesser effect when vaporised than when smoked.

See, when you burn cannabis you are guaranteeing that every last bit of THC is inhaled. Even the best vaporisers will fail to get 100 percent of the THC. Some low-quality vaporisers won’t even extract 50 percent of the THC. This essentially reduces a toker’s stash by half. Given the difficulty in obtaining fresh herb, and the absurd prohibition-driven cost, very few tokers are willing to make this sacrifice.

Quite aside from all this, most cannabis users have never even heard of vaporisers. The prohibition of cannabis inevitably leads to a reduction in reliable information available to users.

The Obvious Conclusion

Cannabis prohibition is utterly irrational. There is no moral imperative behind it. It is merely an accident of history which has generated such a counter-productive and downright dangerous policy. There exists no evidence that prohibition reduces cannabis consumption. Indeed, by driving the industry into the hands of those who are willing to act beyond the law to increase their market-share, it’s arguably responsible for a longterm increase.

Furthermore, the prohibition of this medicinal plant has resulted in the end-product becoming increasingly harmful thanks to a complete lack of quality controls and a huge financial incentive to adulterate it with toxic, though cheaper, ingredients. This adulteration cannot be prevented so long as there are no legal frameworks for the production of hash.

And of course the policy of prohibition represents a significant loss in revenue to the state given that cannabis – just like alcohol and tobacco – is ripe for taxation. This revenue, along with all profits, are instead being funnelled into serious crime and terrorism.

The sooner this absurd criminalisation of nature ends, the better we’ll be. Not just cannabis users. Everyone.

19 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Sep 2006

George Dubya's "Letters From America"

As has been hinted in the past, here at the Anarcho-Syndicalist Broadcasting Corporation we employ so-called “half-asleep agents” in key positions in many of the world’s mainstream media organisations. Along with our half-asleep agents in various governments and militaries, this allows us to develop a relatively accurate picture of who’s suppressing what and why. As Johann Rissle, co-founder of the ASBC, is fond of saying, “It ain’t worth knowing unless someone’s suppressing it.”

Now, you may recall some months ago the president of Iran (religious mentalist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) sent a letter to the president of America (religious mentalist, George Bush). At the time, I mentioned that there’d been a response from Dubya and that I was hoping to publish it on this blog.

Unfortunately the ASBC agent within the White House was compromised just prior to faxing a copy of the letter to us (in retrospect, the decision to use the Oval Office fax machine probably wasn’t the best one he’s ever made). I believed that was the end of the story and Dubya’s letter would remain a secret. You see, unlike Ahmadinejad, Bush wanted to keep his response out of the public eye. According to a leaked memo from the White House, President Bush was concerned “it might look a bit faggy” for him to be seen writing a letter to another man.

However fortune favours the lucky. A few days ago, thanks to the hard work of our half-asleep agent in the Shoraye Negahban, a copy of the letter has made it from Iran to ASBC HQ. Johann and myself have decided – despite the elapsed time – to leak it via this blog.

Dear Mahmoud,

Thanks for asking after Laura and the girls. Laura is fine. She’s just back from a short break in Costa Rica. I’d love to have gone with her as I hear the fishing is great down there. Unfortunately business kept me in Washington. I tell you Mahmoud, I work six, sometimes seven, hours a day, and even put in a half day some Saturdays, and still I can’t keep up with it all. Who’d have thought being president would be so time-consuming? I guess with Iran being so much smaller, you can probably get away with a three day week. It must be a bit like running a ball team or an oil company I imagine.

As for the kids… well Jenna and Barbara are a bit of a handful to be honest. They seem to have stayed out of trouble with the law recently, but I’m not sure how much of that’s down to the Secret Service hushing things up. Nobody tells me anything around here.

You know, I’ve often said that despite being evil and everything, you guys do have some good ideas. When I think of the trouble the twins have caused, I really believe we could learn a bit about treating womenfolk from you. Don’t mention I said that if you’re talking to Condi though. When I suggested it at a cabinet meeting a few weeks ago, she threw a right strop and stormed out. But as Rummy said later, she was probably having her period.

But look here Mahmoud, as nice as it is shooting the breeze with you and all, let’s get down to brass tacks. The United States of America has a sacred mission to safeguard truth, justice and democracy throughout the world. We shoulder this mission willingly, even though it is not without its burdens. At times many around the world (and at home) disagree with the methods we use to safeguard truth, justice and democracy. We become an object of distrust… even hatred. But we know our mission is vital to the future of the world, and we will continue to safeguard democracy no matter how many people disagree. We will continue until we have accomplished this mission.

For if not us, then who? The Russkis? I know you get on fairly well with them but come on Mahmoud! That place is on the verge of collapse. If they can’t get their own house in order, how can they be expected to safeguard democracy around the world? Their military is falling to pieces; nuclear subs sinking and the entire Red Navy unable to do anything about the stranded sailors; the naval base in Murmansk having the electricity cut off for non-payment of bills; and missile silos regularly left unguarded over the weekend. Their economy has been passed from one gangster to the next and now Putin is going all commie with nationalisation and what have you. And you can’t get a decent slice of pecan pie in the whole damn country.

The Chinese? Well, I think we can both agree that the world would be in a bad way if it was relying on China to safeguard truth and justice. They’re friends with North Korea; a place even more evil than your country (which is saying something). They have a human rights record that makes Gitmo – heck, even Abu Ghraib! – look tame. There was that Tiananmen Square thing. And we’re frankly rather unhappy with the way they’re driving up oil prices. Although I guess that’s one area you and me will have to agree to differ.

So you see Mahmoud, it really is up to us – the US – to be the world’s policeman, umpire and guardian. And I have to say that you folks in Iran are making that job far more difficult than it needs to be. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “But what are we going to do about Iran, Mr. President?” I’d be slightly richer than I already am (which is also saying something). It’s no secret that the people I was elected to serve want to see decisive action. In fact they told me that in no uncertain terms last time I met with them. “Mr. President”, they said, “we at the Halliburton Corporation want to see decisive action”.

And it’d be damned undemocratic of me to go against the wishes of my constituents, though I guess you wouldn’t understand that over in Iran. Nevertheless Mahmoud, as a Christian I’ve a duty to seek a peaceful solution to a problem before sending in the 5th Fleet. So here it is. Me, Rummy and Dick spent almost a full hour coming up with this list of demands. If you agree to implement them, I can almost guarantee that I won’t launch a series of devastating land, sea and air strikes against your major population centres and national infrastructure. Not only that, but I’ll try to talk the Israelis out of wiping you off the map with their nukes.

Here at the White House we feel these demands are more than fair (heck, you should hear some of Dick’s ideas that we ruled out). Firstly, it goes without saying that you cease all further nuclear research. It’s unacceptable for that technology to fall into the hands of evil Islamic fundamentalists. Secondly, your High Council of clerics must be disbanded. Political power needs to rest in the hands of those who have been elected, freely and fairly. I couldn’t honestly call myself a guardian of democracy if I didn’t insist on that one. Thirdly, you need to step down and allow exactly those free and fair elections I’m talking about to occur. Rummy has drawn up a shortlist of pro-democracy Iranian-Americans who will be glad to return to Iran, get elected, and take responsibility for the future of their homeland.

Once these three demands have been met it’ll be a cinch for the new, sensible, pro-democracy government of Iran to implement demands 4 through 62.

I hope you’ll agree that this plan is in the best interests of the people of Iran. After all, it does them no good at all to be a member of the Axis of Evil.

You take care of yourself, Mahmoud, and I look forward to your response.

All the best, George W. Bush (President).

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Sep 2006

25 first lines (again)

It’s the ol’ 25 first lines blog meme again. You know the drill by now; music player on random, one track per artist, no track where the title is in the first line… leave your guesses in the comments (and yes, we can all use search engines… obviously look one up if it’s bugging you, but don’t pass off the knowledge of google – or lyricsfreak.com – as your own).

  1. Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhoodBilly Joel: New York State of MindPisces Iscariot
  2. Y’say you’re lookin’ for a place to go where nobody knows your name
  3. You’ll be… magnet for money. You’ll be… magnet for loveTalking Heads: Papa LegbaPhil
  4. Wise men say, only fools rush inElvis Presley: Can’t help falling in love – Chris Y
  5. Childhood living is easy to doThe Rolling Stones: Wild Horses – Chris Y
  6. A diamond necklace played the pawnThe Beach Boys: Surf’s UpPhil
  7. Well, you didn’t wake up this morning ‘cos you didn’t go to bedThe The: That Was The DayPhil
  8. There’s comin’ a day when the world shall melt away
  9. She had a horror of rooms, she was tired, you can’t hide beatDavid Bowie: Scary MonstersPhil
  10. When she said, don’t waste your words, they’re just liesBob Dylan: 4th time round – Chris Y
  11. Here come old flat-top, he come grooving up slowlyThe Beatles: Come Together – Chris Y
  12. It’s an idea, someday in my tears, my dreamsSyd Barrett: Dominoes – Tom Mac
  13. When all the numbers swim together and all the shadows settlePsychic TV: The Orchids – Simon
  14. We got into their little black book, so they came in a spaceship to take a look
  15. Don’t sleep ’til the sunrise, listen 2 the falling rain
  16. Hey ho, let’s go! Hey ho, let’s go! Hey ho, let’s go! Hey ho, let’s go!The Ramones: Blitzkrieg Bop – Lucas
  17. Oh my Lord, I am so bored
  18. I’d like to drop my trousers to the worldThe Smiths: Nowhere FastPhil
  19. There’s space in my car… speed you to heaven
  20. My soul is in the mountains, and my heart is in the land
  21. If I ventured in the slipstream between the viaducts of your dreamVan Morrison: Astral Weeks – Chris Y
  22. Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheelThe Doors: Roadhouse Blues – PMM
  23. I lost my heart under the bridgePJ Harvey: Down By The WaterPixie
  24. Don’t you have a word to show what may be done?Nick Drake: Way To Blue – Nick and IronMan
  25. They all see you off at some point… I was always preparedStina Nordenstam: StationsPixie

A couple of relatively obscure ones, but plenty from the main stream of my collection. Oh, and I turned off my Last.fm plugin for the duration of this. So you won’t find out any answers by checking here.

24 comments  |  Posted in: Blog meme

Sep 2006

The Sunday Papers

It’s news round-up time again. There’s just so much absurdity out there, and even though I leave myself open to accusations of shooting fish in a barrel, I just can’t help but comment on some of it.

First up, the rumour mill is working overtime regarding the fate of Public Enemy No. 1. That’s Osama bin Laden, not Pope Benedict, though I guess it very much depends which side of the barbed wire you’re on. A French newspaper has published a leaked document claiming that typhoid has succeeded where the world’s only superpower has failed. All very H.G. Wells if you ask me.

The United States is naturally sceptical. They recently admitted that they’ve had “no concrete intelligence” regarding bin Laden for over two years. The idea that the cheese-eating surrender monkeys of Old Europe should be the first to hear about his death must really irritate them. Perhaps if they’d spent more time actually hunting down the guy who attacked them five years ago, and less time involving the West in a major conflict in central Asia and plunging Iraq into civil war, they might not have to rely upon second-hand leaked French intelligence.

Just a thought.

Oh, and surely I can’t be the only person who listens to the British armed forces claiming “surprise” at the resistance they’re meeting in Afghanistan and says “Well… duhhhh”. I mean, come on guys! Remember the late 70s? That whole “Red Army getting it’s ass kicked” thing? I guess NATO thought it would be different this time because they’re the good guys and not nasty commies.

Speaking of Pope Ratzinger though… talk about stirring up a hornet’s nest. Who’d have thought that Islam could be so easily offended, eh? Well, apart from Salman Rushdie. Popeman has been likened to Hitler by some muslims. Perhaps being German and wearing a Nazi uniform during the 1940s has something to do with that, but I suspect it’s more about the speech he gave in which he favourably cited Manuel II Paleologus describing the influence of Mohammed as “evil”.

I noticed that some in the Muslim community are calling for Ratzinger to be removed from office…

Muslim scholars and religious leaders at a convention in Pakistan on Thursday demanded the removal of the pope, saying his apology for comments linking Islam to violence was not acceptable.

“The pope has committed blasphemy against our Great Prophet, he should be removed,” a resolution adopted by the gathering said.

“The apology and explanation given by the pope is rejected,” it said.

These are scholars and religious leaders, right? And yet they don’t know that the Pope can’t be removed from office. He’s appointed by God you idiots! And that’s the real God we’re talking about… not the fake one all you Muslims believe in.

See, that’s really the problem I have with all this monotheistic intra-doctrinal nonsense. Every time a Catholic affirms a belief in Jesus Christ as God they are commiting blasphemy against Islam (i.e. saying Mohammed was wrong about lots of stuff). And every time a Muslim affirms a belief in Mohammed as God’s True Prophet (with Jesus just some minor bloke who paved the way) then they are committing blasphemy against Christianity.

Hell, just give them all guns and let them have-at one another. Oh that’s right… someone already has, haven’t they?

I have a lot of respect for Richard Dawkins, but at the same time I’m not a huge fan of the kind of aggressive atheism he preaches (his description of pantheism as “sexed-up atheism” is crass to say the least), but there’s no greater advertisement for Dawkins’ position than the crassness of Islam and Christianity and their childish slanging match.

Also, let’s get something straight… both Christianity and Islam are violent religions. Deal with it. Both say that “ye shall know them by their works” (or some such aphorism). And so long as there’s a bunch of believers praying by day and murdering by night then neither can claim to be peaceful doctrines.

Local news

Meanwhile here in Ireland, the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has come under fire from the Mahon tribunal. This is an investigation set up by the current government into allegations of corruption in politics and it’s already claimed a number of high-profile scalps. Of course, now that the tribunal has started investigating alleged illegal payments taken by Bertie while finance minister in the early 90s, it’s suddenly not so welcome. Defence minister Willie O’Dea has attacked the tribunal for investigating Bertie.

To be fair, it doesn’t look like Bertie was genuinely corrupt (it seems he was loaned some money by friends during the breakdown of his marriage in 1993 when he was strapped for cash and had legal fees to pay) but if he really has nothing to hide then he should accept the right of the tribunal – which he set up – to examine those loans.

And finally…

In that business called “show”, the silliness just keeps on coming. Dame Helen Mirren is pissed off by the portrayal of women on the screen. Apparently “actresses are still féted for their looks over their intelligence” and that’s got the Dame seething. Am I the only one who thinks that’s weird? Why on earth should an actor or actress be given a job because of their intelligence? Given my obscenely high IQ, should I be seething because Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are landing plum roles that should rightfully be mine?

Well no. Because I can’t act for shit. And my naked torso is unlikely to sell too many tickets when compared with Brad Pitt’s sculpted abs. Actors and actresses should be chosen (and féted) based upon two things… their acting ability and how good they look on screen. Sorry, but there you have it. Intelligence has bugger all to do with it.

UPDATE: US report states bleeding obvious

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion

Sep 2006

Banksy and celebrity

Over on Chicken Yoghurt Justin highlights the pointlessness of Banksy’s latest work. Now, I have to say that I like some of the stuff that Banksy has done. The graffiti on the Israeli defence wall was particularly good in my view. Of course, not all of his work attains that high standard, and as Justin quite rightly says; the elephant in the room does seem particularly pointless… though from a purely aesthetic viewpoint there’s something quite groovy about it as an image (ethical issues about the use of animals as artistic “props” aside). But then again, elephants are always interesting to look at, so if you can afford to dump one into your art installation there’s a good chance it’ll be visually impressive however cack-handed the artist.

Also, was I the only one to notice a very subtle backfire of the Paris Hilton CD stunt? The prank seemed to be about highlighting the absurdity of Paris Hilton recording an album based purely on the fact that she’s “a celebrity”. In other words; “the fact that you have public name-recognition means you get to do what you want”.

It’s hardly an original point, but it was, in my opinion, an old point well-made by Banksy’s prank. Unfortunately though it was rather undercut by the reaction of HMV whose spokesman said:

It’s not the type of behaviour you’d want to see happening very often, [but] I guess you can give an individual such as Banksy a little bit of leeway for his own particular brand of artistic engagement.

In other words; “we’d be very cross about this if it was just some average schlepp who did it… but, well, Banksy’s a celeb isn’t he? So that’s alright then.”

5 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Sep 2006

Quoting dead emperors

You gotta hand it to Pope Ratzinger; whatever else he is, he’s a shrewd political operator. Whispers of anti-semitism arising from his short spell in Hitler’s employ needed to be nipped in the bud. And in these polarised times, there’s no better way to say “I Heart Judaism” than sticking it to the Muslims.

And stick it he most certainly did. I mean, quoting Manuel II Paleologus? What’s that all about, eh? There’s absolutely no reason at all to cite that old Muslim-basher other than to piss off Islamic theologians. Manuel II was a Byzantine emperor who, historically speaking, is chiefly remembered for two reasons… one; he temporarily halted the decline of the Byzantine Empire by restructuring its finances and consolidating its remaining power, and two; he didn’t like Muslims very much.

This second item is best illustrated by his decision to have the mosque in Constantinople razed to the ground in the early 1400s. And as the Pope recently reminded us, Manuel II had a less than respectful view of Mohammed. “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman…”

Now, it seems that the Pope chose to quote Manuel II in order to introduce the view that it is impossible to spread the Word of God through violence:

“God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats…

Faith, Reason and the University Memories and Reflections – Pope Benedict XVI

But are we really being asked to believe that the Pope – given the contents of the Vatican Library – couldn’t find anyone better to illustrate his “God hates violence” point than a self-acknowledged Muslim-hater who destroyed mosques?

That Said…

I find the public outrage of Muslims bemusing to the point of amusing. It seems to me that the Pope – by virtue of being the leader of a global church numbering hundreds of millions of people dedicated to the principle that Jesus Christ was God and Mohammed was wrong about almost everything – is being waaay more offensive to Islam simply by existing than any citation of an almost forgotten 15th century emperor could ever be.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion