Oh, btw, here’s some cute-ass shit to tide you over for the weekend: a fucking orca whale flirting with a motor boat. Dig it.
Archive for September, 2011
I just got home. I’m in no mood to sugarcoat this. Here’s what you fucking missed.
- Dead people yammering.
- Canada experimenting with drug addiction by *heavens* not jailing drug users.
- Fear mongering about Europe.
- Writing is fun.
- Not. Quite. Sure.
- Republicans should either a) learn how to read a poll, or b) stop lying so much.
- Three cheers for the Wall Street protests.
- Friend of the blog, Jeremy Levine, winning an Emmy.
- A long rant about Tom Friedman, written while I watched the Patriots lose a football game.
I’m going to see this band tomorrow. This is the only song I’ve heard of theirs, I think, but a free ticket is a free ticket. If you see me there, and I’ve got my arms folded and I’m daintily bopping my head like the assholes in this crowd, gimme a swift kick in the ass, would ya?
Things That Would Never Happen In America: Supreme Court unanimity in support of safe-injection clinics
Insite is a supervised-injection clinic in Vancouver’s most famously drug-blighted neighbourhood that operates through a medical-facility exemption from the Controlled Drug and Substance Act.
In places without such an exemption (read: everywhere else), doing something like injecting heroin would make a person subject to arrest and criminal charges.
Essentially, Insite is a de jure Hamsterdam. And because it’s de jure, it’s a lot more orderly / sanitary. Here’s what it looks like:
And here’s a dude using the facility:
It’s the first of its kind in North America and has been extremely successful by metrics like the number of addicts moving into detox facilities (a 30 per cent increase in the number of addicts who enter detox), the number of overdose deaths (overdose deaths have declined by 35 per cent in the area of Insite)… I’m just gonna give you the whole Wikipedia summary of the evaluative research that’s been done on the clinic:
When founded, Insite acquired legal exemption under the condition that its impacts be thoroughly evaluated. Consequently, the site has been the focus of more than thirty studies, published in 15 peer-reviewed journals. The research indicates an array of benefits, including reductions in public injecting and syringe sharing and increases in the use of detoxification services and addiction treatment among patients. In addition, studies assessing the potential harms of the site have not observed any adverse effects. Preliminary observations published in 2004 in the journal Harm Reduction indicate that the site successfully attracted injecting drug users and thus decreased public drug use. However, the researchers cautioned that a full assessment of the site will take several years.
Additional research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that the site has reduced public injections, neighbourhood litter, and needle sharing. A study in the journal Addictionindicates that patients at the site have increased their use of detoxification services and long-term addiction treatment. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine echoed this finding.Furthermore, research in The Lancet indicates that the site substantially reduces the sharing of syringes. A study in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy revealed that local police facilitate use of Insite, especially among high-risk users. The researchers concluded that the site “provides an opportunity to… resolve some of the existing tensions between public order and health initiatives.”
A 2008 cost-benefit analysis of the site in the Canadian Medical Association Journal observed net-savings of $18 million and an increase of 1175 life-years over ten years. Another cost-benefit analysis published in the International Journal of Drug Policy in 2010 determined that the site prevents 35 cases of HIV and about 3 deaths per year, indicating a yearly net-societal benefit of more than $6 million. A 2011 study in The Lancet found overdose deaths have dropped 35% in the Insite area since it opened, much more than 9% drop elsewhere in Vancouver. An editorial in theCanadian Medical Association Journal noted that after three years of research “a remarkable consensus that the facility reduces harm to users and the public developed among scientists, criminologists and even the Vancouver Police Department.”
Conservatives do not care for Insite. In fact, the Conservative federal government has worked very hard to have the exemption that allows Insite to operate revoked.
How’d that go?
In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that not allowing the clinic to operate under an exemption from drug laws would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The court ordered the federal minister of health to grant an immediate exemption to allow Insite to operate.
“Insite saves lives. Its benefits have been proven. There has been no discernable negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada during its eight years of operation,” the ruling said, written by chief justice Beverly McLachlin.
The court ruled that withdrawing the exemption undermines the purpose of federal drug laws, which include public health and safety.
Here’s the decision in full. Highlights:
- “There is no reason to conclude that the deprivation the claimants would suffer was due to personal choice rather than government action. The ability to make some choices does not negate the trial judge’s findings that addiction is a disease in which the central feature is impaired control over the use of the addictive substance.“
- “The effect of denying the services of Insite to the population it serves and the correlative increase in the risk of death and disease to injection drug users is grossly disproportionate to any benefit that Canada might derive from presenting a uniform stance on the possession of narcotics.”
- “Where, as here, a supervised injection site will decrease the risk of death and disease, and there is little or no evidence that it will have a negative impact on public safety, the Minister should generally grant an exemption.”
A victory for Insite, but recall the judgment still requires each case of future safe injection sites to be litigated separately to determine whether the Minister has exercised his discretion in conformance with the Charter – also note that the court at para. 153 allows the Minister to consider “community support or opposition” in reaching this decision. It’s a win for harm reduction, but hardly a slam dunk.
Your daily dose of animal adorableness:
Question: are baby tortoises really talented-enough climbers to be able to summit a peak as ornery as their mother’s head? ‘Cause I don’t think momma plunked the little nipper up there herself, but looking at the tortoise tyke’s chubby, inflexible appendages, I’m almost more inclined to believe that he was placed there by human hands for photo op purposes. Then again, I’m a Spanish/Philosophy (though not Spanish philosophy) major, so I encourage anyone with more knowledge of reptile biology and/or culture to weigh in. And since that would be pretty much anyone, I must be talking to YOU.
I mean, yeah. Obviously. Duh. But the crisis in the Eurozone is deepening, and the chances that it will ultimately spin out of control are increasing daily. That this could very well lead to a financial disaster on the order of September, 2008 is a very real fear. The most interesting part, perhaps, is that, as Henry Farrell demonstrates below, the economic community pretty much knows this is going to happen. E.U. policy makers simply lack the political will to do anything about it. As Farrell says:
The fundamental problem here is a profoundly political problem. It used to be that bondholders assumed that the EU had changed things so that bigger member states were on the hook for the debts of the poorer member states. Therefore, it made sense to lend money to poorer member states, and bondholders were going to get their payday. I would call it a confidence bubble. It coasts along for a period of time, but once that confidence bubble gets pricked, it’s really hard to get it back. Bondholders were basing their holdings on set of political expectations — that when push came to shove, Germany would either bail out Greece, or Greece would never have to be bailed because it would behave the way that good northern states would.
In the EU, the instinct is always to fudge — to come up with technocratic fudges that are incomprehensible to the outside world but get some minimum consensus among states…But the problem is not a technocratic problem. It’s a political problem. So they’re going to hesitatingly help out the Greeks, but it’s not going to provide political actors or market actors the confidence I think they need.
He goes on to point out that there are only two real options for Europe:
…[L]et the Eurozone to shrink into a tighter currency union, or jump forward with a new fiscal arrangement, with a real potent set of institutions at European Union.
The former is the path we’re on, in case you haven’t been paying attention. It involves Greece defaulting, Italy (quite likely) defaulting, Spain (possibly) defaulting… you get the picture. These countries might all be forcibly leaving the euro as the crisis migrated along Southern Europe to the west, and shit would hit the almighty fan in the global economy. Banks holding onto debt in these countries would take a major haircut, lending would dry up, national economies would drop back into recession at precisely the moment we Really. Don’t. Want. Them. To. And metaphors would be mixed. It’d be like, “Okay, so let’s say 2012 really is the apocalypse. We have a plan for that, right?”
It’s not like the United States can do anything about it, either — and it’s not like, with this Congress, we would if we could — but there’s an eerie early Fall thunderstorm going on, and I thought I’d tell a scary story.
Adelaide Now (from August so if you’ve seen it already and you’re mad, you need to get some real problems):
The 5.5m giant shocked and delighted a boatload of tourists when he surged out of the Adelaide River, 100km south of Darwin, this week.
The huge crocodile is a favourite with tourists on the Adelaide River Jumping Croc Cruises because he loves his meal of buffalo meat and always puts on a good show for it.
5.5m is approximately 18 feet.
Sentimental, maybe, but I think it is.
Why don’t creative young writers care if they get paid?
There now exists an entire generation of intelligent people who have grown up without any expectation of compensation for imaginative work. Ever since they were teenagers, they had clever thoughts, they posted them online, people reacted immediately. They take a photo, they upload it right away; they don’t even try to sell it. Somehow, they know, money will come in from another source. They can get famous fast this way, and it’s gratifying to have a huge audience.
Furthermore, they can write about, or film, whatever they want, and that’s very attractive. They never have to prove themselves by chasing down police radio calls on the night shift, or by writing a dozen numbing profiles on local hair-salon owners. They can go right into wise observations on Iraq and gender roles.
It’s true. The idea of planning to being paid for imaginative expression is remarkably like the idea of planning to win the lottery. And it’s not like we have other jobs to go to. And writing stuff is fun.
Oscar would likely point out that this whole argument’d be moot if only we grew up as a society, and leveraged our technology to actually free ourselves as a society (as opposed to as plutocrats) from labour for the sake of the kind of individualistic “imaginative” “creative” “whatever” work he’s talking about:
Now, I have said that the community by means of organisation of machinery will supply the useful things, and that the beautiful things will be made by the individual. This is not merely necessary, but it is the only possible way by which we can get either the one or the other. An individual who has to make things for the use of others, and with reference to their wants and their wishes, does not work with interest, and consequently cannot put into his work what is best in him. Upon the other hand, whenever a community or a powerful section of a community, or a government of any kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, Art either entirely vanishes, or becomes stereotyped, or degenerates into a low and ignoble form of craft. A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the fact that the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the fact that other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that an artist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supply the demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or an amusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has no further claim to be considered as an artist. Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. I am inclined to say that it is the only real mode of individualism that the world has known. Crime, which, under certain conditions, may seem to have created individualism, must take cognisance of other people and interfere with them. It belongs to the sphere of action. But alone, without any reference to his neighbours, without any interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful thing; and if he does not do it solely for his own pleasure, he is not an artist at all.
Farhad Manjoo’d likely point out that the argument will soon be moot since the young people glutting the talent supply will soon be glutted out by the robots:
But this time could be different. Artificial intelligence machines are getting so good, so quickly, that they’re poised to replace humans across a wide range of industries. In the next decade, we’ll see machines barge into areas of the economy that we’d never suspected possible—they’ll be diagnosing your diseases, dispensing your medicine, handling your lawsuits, making fundamental scientific discoveries, and even writing stories just like this one. Economic theory holds that as these industries are revolutionized by technology, prices for their services will decline, and society as a whole will benefit. As I conducted my research, I found this argument convincing—robotic lawyers, for instance, will bring cheap legal services to the masses who can’t afford lawyers today. But there’s a dark side, too: Imagine you’ve spent three years in law school, two more years clerking, and the last decade trying to make partner—and now here comes a machine that can do much of your $400-per-hour job faster, and for a fraction of the cost. What do you do now?
Cormac McCarthy’d likely point out that this whole argument will be mooted when the environmental crisis turns catastrophic, global food and energy economies collapse, and everyone starts nuking each other. In his (lead character from the Road’s) words…
People were always getting ready for tomorrow. I didnt believe in that. Tomorrow wasn’t getting ready for them. It didnt even know they were there.