Friday, July 27, 2007

Marijuana Schizophrenia: Is Gordon Brown "Sexing up" the evidence?

Is Gordon Brown et al “sexing up” the evidence linking marijuana to schizophrenia?

“The new review suggests that even infrequent use could raise the small but real risk of this serious mental illness by 40 per cent.… The research, paid for by the British Health Department, is being published Friday in medical journal The Lancet.”

The logical implication of this kind of reasoning is that as marijuana use increases so should the number of cases of schizophrenia. However, there are no epidemiological studies suggesting this is true. Maia Szalavitz summarizes in Salon.

“Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence to cast doubt on a causal connection between marijuana and schizophrenia is a long flat-line trend in the disease. While marijuana use rose from virtually nil in the 1940s and '50s to a peak period of use in 1979 -- when some 60 percent of high school seniors had tried it -- schizophrenia rates remained virtually constant over those decades. The same remains true today: One percent or fewer people have schizophrenia, a rate consistent among populations around the world. This is in stark contrast to studies linking tobacco smoking with lung cancer, where rises in tobacco use were accompanied by rising rates of lung cancer."

Two other things should be pointed out.

1) Rates of alcoholism (34%) and drug abuse of all kinds are much higher in the schizophrenic population (together 47%) than in the general population and no one is claiming, for example, that alcohol abuse leads to schizophrenia, indeed quite the opposite.

2) Furthermore, much of the evidence linking marijuana to schizophrenia suggests not that it causes schizophrenia per say but rather that it causes the earlier onset of symptoms in people who would sooner or later develop schizophrenia.

This is opinion of Dr Iddon.

"Dr Iddon, the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs misuse, said the study did not convince him it was time to return cannabis to class B. "I don't think the causal link has been proved. I think cannabis might - possibly for genetic reasons - trigger psychosis at an earlier age." The MP, who is also a member of the science and technology select committee, said there was a danger of criminalising "hundreds of thousands of young people" if the status of the drug was changed. "If Gordon Brown changes the class of the drug, it won't be evidence-based but for political reasons," he said.,,2136479,00.html

Ottawa Citizen's Margret Kopal on Marijuana and Schizophrenia

Here is Margret Kopala quoting approvedly from the Indpendent --- the same paper that right wingers like to "Fisk"

"Record numbers of teenagers are requiring drug treatment as a result of smoking skunk, the highly potent cannabis strain that is 25 times stronger than resin sold a decade ago."

The Guardian rebutted such nonsense in its Bad Science column.

There is exceptionally strong cannabis to be found in some parts of the UK market today: but there always has been. The UN Drug Control Programme has detailed vintage data for the UK online. In 1975 the LGC analysed 50 seized samples of herbal cannabis: 10 were from Thailand, with an average potency of 7.8%, the highest 17%. In 1975 they analysed 11 samples of seized resin, six from Morocco, average strength 9%, with a range from 4% to 16%.
To get their scare figure, the Independent compared the worst cannabis from the past with the best cannabis of today. But you could have cooked the books the same way 30 years ago: in 1975 the weakest herbal cannabis analysed was 0.2%; in 1978 the strongest was 12%. Oh my god: in just three years herbal cannabis has become 60 times stronger.”

Margret Kopala “Addiction magazine predicted that a quarter of new cases of schizophrenia by 2010 will result from cannabis smoking.”

The logical implication of this kind of reasoning is that as marijuana use increases so should the number of cases of schizophrenia. However, there are no epidemiological studies suggesting this is true. On the contrary, a New Zealand study found that there has been no spike in the number of people diagnosed with schizophrenia despite a large increase in marijuana use in that country. An American study similarly found no such correlation.

Maia Szalavitz summarizes in Salon. “Perhaps the strongest piece of evidence to cast doubt on a causal connection between marijuana and schizophrenia is a long flat-line trend in the disease. While marijuana use rose from virtually nil in the 1940s and '50s to a peak period of use in 1979 -- when some 60 percent of high school seniors had tried it -- schizophrenia rates remained virtually constant over those decades. The same remains true today: One percent or fewer people have schizophrenia, a rate consistent among populations around the world. This is in stark contrast to studies linking tobacco smoking with lung cancer, where rises in tobacco use were accompanied by rising rates of lung cancer.

"If anything, the studies seem to show a possible decline in schizophrenia from the '40s and the '50s," says Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University. "If marijuana does have a causal role in schizophrenia, and that's still questionable, it may only play a role in a small percent of cases.”

For the tiny proportion of people who are at high risk for schizophrenia (those with a family history of the illness, for example), experts are united in thinking that marijuana could pose serious danger. For those susceptible, smoking marijuana could determine when their first psychotic episode occurs, and how bad it gets. A study published in 2004 in the American Journal of Psychiatry of 122 patients admitted to a Dutch hospital for schizophrenia for the first time found that, at least in men, marijuana users had their first psychotic episode nearly seven years earlier than those who did not use the drug. Because the neurotransmitters affected by marijuana are in brain regions known to be important to schizophrenia, there is a plausible biological mechanism by which marijuana could harm people prone to the disorder. Both Brown and Carpenter say that people with schizophrenia who smoke pot tend to have longer and more frequent psychotic episodes, and find it very difficult to quit using the drug.”

It should also be pointed out that rates of alcoholism and drug abuse of all kinds are much higher in the schizophrenic population than in the general population and no one is claiming, for example, that alcohol abuse leads schizophrenia, indeed quite the opposite. The following explains the magnitude of the association.

“The Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study2 (2 The ECA study was a nationwide survey that used DSM–IV criteria to determine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in the general population and among people in treatment.) found that 33.7 percent of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or schizophreniform disorder (a related disorder marked by the same symptoms as schizophrenia but lasting less than 6 months) also met the criteria for an AUD diagnosis at some time during their lives and that 47 percent met the criteria for any substance use disorder (excluding nicotine dependence) (Regier et al. 1990). Rates of substance use disorder tend to be higher among males and among people of both genders and all ages in institutional settings, such as hospitals, emergency rooms, jails, and homeless shelters. This holds true for people with and without schizophrenia (Regier et al. 1990).”

Margret Kopala “British rapper J-Rock, a rehabilitated skunk addict, told the Independent that "if you're on skunk and you have a confrontation with somebody, you feel almost untouchable."
"Skunk induced paranoia," the Independent concluded, "is behind the surge in violent crime." Remember, once you are psychotic, you don't need continued hits of marijuana to behave aggressively or to experience paranoia.”

If J-Rock says it is true, then it must be true. What utter dribble.
Anyway, this is what the US Department of Justice Department study found.

Marijuana and opiates temporarily inhibit violent behavior, but withdrawal from opiate addiction tends to exaggerate both aggressive and defensive responses to provocations.”

The notion that “skunk induced paranoia” leads people to commit violent criminal acts is so laughably fucking stupid it hardly bears comment. Not even the Bush administration makes this claim.

By the way, this is what was said about alcohol and violence in that same article.

“For at least the last several decades, alcohol drinking--by the perpetrator of a crime, the victim, or both--has immediately preceded at least half of all violent events, including murders, in the samples studied by researchers.

Chronic drinkers are more likely than other people to have histories of violent behavior.”

Update: CBC's the National

Mitch Earleywine a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California leveled an important methodological criticism against the New Zealand study referred to tonight in the CBC’s the National.

“Mr. Earleywine notes that Mr. Fergusson and his colleagues did not actually diagnose psychosis in the marijuana smokers they studied. Instead, they administered a short mental health questionnaire that asked if the respondent had ever experienced any of 10 "psychotic symptoms."

Some symptoms are clearly troubling, such as "hearing voices that other people do not hear" and having "the idea that someone else can control your thoughts." Others are not so obviously strange: feeling that other people cannot be trusted; feeling that you are being watched or talked about by others; never feeling close to a person; and having ideas and beliefs that others do not share.

Among 25-year-olds who had never smoked marijuana, the mean number of symptoms reported was 0.64. That number rose among those who smoked marijuana: Less-than-monthly users reported 0.89 symptoms, while daily marijuana smokers reported 1.95 symptoms. That rise, modest though it may be, is statistically significant.

But Mr. Earleywine believes there might be less here than meets the eye. In a letter to be published in the journal that published the study, Mr. Earleywine notes that it is fairly common for marijuana intoxication to cause feelings of paranoia, but the researchers "give no indication that respondents were asked to distinguish between feelings experienced while intoxicated and feelings experienced at other times. Thus, we are left with no clue as to whether these are long-term effects actually indicative of mental illness or simply the normal, passing effects of acute intoxication."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Liberal Fundraising or Lack there of.

“OTTAWA–Special Liberal fundraising events have so far failed to put much of a dent in the almost $4 million in debts racked up by 11 former leadership contenders.
The first event in Halifax two weeks ago – a cocktail reception featuring Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and six of his erstwhile rivals – attracted about 60 people who paid $250 each. After expenses, however, party insiders say the event netted only about $5,400.
The spoils were divvied up equally among the seven former leadership contenders who participated, leaving each with about $750. Insiders with several camps say the event didn't make enough to cover even airfare to Halifax for some candidates, much less help retire their combined debt of $3.6 million.”

Wine and cheese are not putting a dent in Liberal debt. Who knew?

The Liberals are no longer in power and the prospects of regaining power look grim. So, it should not surprise Liberal higher ups that movers and shakers accross the land are not willing to shell out big bucks to bend Dion’s ear yet alone the ears of those below him, but alas, the Liberal party higher ups just do not get it. For years the Liberals have relied on money from people hell bent on shaping Liberal policy to their specifications. However, times have changed and if the Liberals want to raise money they are going to have actually work to attract people to the party. As I said before, above everything else, that means the Liberals will have to undergo a period of ideological renewal. Canadians need to be able to answer this question; what does it mean to be a Liberal? Right now, they have not a clue.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Distorting Nietzsche to Defame A murder

The North Shore Outlook recently ran piece on convicted murder Sebastian Burns. In discussing motive, reporter Sam Cooper distorts Nietzsche writings beyond all recognition.

"Motivation for the Rafay family murders was neatly explained by the well-documented devotion Burns and Rafay shared for German philosopher Friedreich Nietzche’s “superman” doctrine, which holds that a handful of intellectually superior men are justified to act amorally for personal gain. Furthermore, the boys’ motivation and crime had “unbelievable parallels” to the plot of one of the great novels of all time, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which had in fact influenced Nietzche’s thinking. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov, a disdainful young law student, bludgeons to death a “useless and despicable” woman moneylender and her feeble-minded sister with the blunt side of an axe, simply because he believes himself a “superman.” He had planned to use profits from the murders to finance the beginnings of a career he imagined would eventually benefit society.

I wanted to make myself a Napoleon and that is why I killed her,” Raskolnikov finally confessed to a detective. That line eerily echoes what Rafay said to an RCMP detective in a wiretap following the murders.

“(Killing my family) was necessary to achieve what I wanted to achieve in life,’’ Atif Rafay said.

Where to begin? Nazis appropriated and distorted Nietzsche’s concept of the ubermensch. For this reason, most scholars studiously avoid translating Ubermensch as superman, least such a translation legitimate such readings. Nietzsche’s notion of the Ubermensch translated literally means “over man” and this is generally the preferred translation.

As for the notion itself, Nietzsche does not employ it outside of the first part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and it most certainly does not refer “a handful of intellectually superior men”. Indeed, the Ubermensch does not refer to class of people at all but rather a desired overcoming, when humanity has gone beyond Good and Evil. The same goes for “man”. To wit:

“Man is a rope, fastened between animal and Ubermensch – a rope over an abyss. A dangerous going across, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and staying still. …. I love him who lives for knowledge and who wants knowledge that one day the Ubermensch may live.”

“Alas! The time is coming when man will give birth to no more stars. Alas! The time of the most contemptible man is coming, the man who can no longer despise himself. Behold! I shall show you the Last man.”

As for your comparison between Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov and Rafay, you are again hopelessly wide of the mark. At the beginning of the book Raskolnikov is a kind of Act Utilitarian on steroids and hence the references to Newton and Kepler. What about the following statement by Rafay suggests that he believed killing his parents would further the common good?
“(Killing my family) was necessary to achieve what I wanted to achieve in my life”.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Calgary Grit, Whig and Red Tory would all make good Columnists.

I repeat what I said the other day. I am puzzled as to why the MSM, the Canwest Global and Sun Media, in particular, have been loath try to recruit bloggers as columnists. It is as if the MSM would prefer to compete with blogs for readership on an equal footing rather than getting a leg up on them by poaching the most talented amongst them. Calgary Grit, Whig and Red Tory would all make good columnists and so too would Accidental Deliberations. Hell there might even be the odd Blogging Tory, but then again what would be the point of that. After all, what Sun columnist, for example, is not a blogging Tory in spirit? Anyway, this list is by no means exhaustive and by no means am I implying that to be suitable as a columnist a blogger has to be committed to one of the major parties. All he or she has to do is write and argue well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Why is the MSM not Turning Bloggers into Columnists?

Some Canadian columnists have turned to blogging. However, I am still waiting for one of Canada’s major papers to make a blogger into a columnist. Quite frankly I am puzzled by what is taking them so long. There are plenty talented bloggers and many of them are the equal or better of many columnists.

Off I the top of my head, here are a few candidates amongst Liberal bloggers. Of course there are others.

Calgary Grit:

Red Tory:


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Salmon Arm Observer Article

I responded to Tracy Hughes’s THE MUDDLE OF MANAGING MARIJUANA thus.

“An officer there, estimated that 90 per cent of the local detachment’s files related in some way to alcohol —‑society’s legal drug.

I wonder what would happen to crime rates if we were to add another legalized drug to that list?”

If for no other reason than huge numbers of Canadians will not be charged for possession, crime rates would go down. Anyway, you are mistaken in two respects. 1) There is no firm evidence that marijuana use would sky rocket as a result of legalization. 2) Even if marijuana use did increase as a result of legalization, this would not occasion, for example, a spike in domestic violence. Marijuana is not physically addictive the way heroin, cocaine and even alcohol are and so there is no violence associated with the marijuana use and people needing a fix. Furthermore, as was noted by the US Department of Justice, there is some truth to the mellow stoner stereotype; marijuana "temporarily inhibit[s] violent behavior."

Needless to say, making marijuana legal would lead to drop in crimes associated with its illegal status.

Finally legalizing marijuana would sure up people’s respect for the law. As the Edmonton Sun noted recently most recent UN report on drug show if nothing else that
“Canadians don't care what the law says about marijuana. They're going to smoke
pot anyway. The possibility of punishment, in other words, has no deterrent effect whatsoever. As far as marijuana is concerned, Canadians think the law is an ass. And that isn't going to change.”
Most Canadian columnists, your self excluded, and most of the Canadian public alike do not believe in the rationale for keeping it illegal. Hell even the politicians do not believe in the law. Martin, Dion, Layton and Duceppe freely admitted to having tired it. Chrétien joked about decriminalizing it and according to Gordan Gibson this is what Pierre Trudeau had this to say.
“The report [Le Dain Commission] was released as we were touring a bull-semen
facility in Guelph, Ont. (I am not making this up.) The press cared not at all about productive agriculture and totally about weed. At an end-of-tour press conference, the prime minister was asked if he favoured decriminalization. We were in the semen facility's boardroom and it had a blackboard with a permanent picture of Elsie the cow painted on, perhaps in recognition of the customer base. Mr. Trudeau was very quick. Saying not a word, he went to the blackboard, took the chalk and drew a cartoonist's balloon out of the cow's mouth. Inside he slowly wrote, "I like grass!" The room dissolved in laughter.”

Last, but not least there are the two government reports on the

“The ordinary citizen, seeing the assertions implied by the law frequently belied by pharmacological fact or the effects that he himself experiences in the use of drugs, has long since ceased to look for a relationship between the harmfulness of a substance and its classification under criminal law. In this domain, it must be said that the criminal law is thoroughly outdated and outworn." Marie-Andrée Bertrand, Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of Montreal, Le Dain Commission 1973.

"Scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis is substantially less harmful than alcohol and should be treated not as a criminal issue but as a social and public health issue,"

Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, chair of the committee.

Marijuana as a Gateway Drug

Researchers have rightly noted that people who have try marijuana are statistically more likely try other illicit drugs. This gave raise to the theory that there was something about marijuana that encouraged drug experimentation. Marijuana, it was alleged, is a gateway drug. This, in turn, was given as one more reason to keep the drug illegal.

However, the gateway drug theory has until recently fallen on hard times for lack of an intelligible mechanism. The problem was that there was no coherent explanation for why marijuana would lead people to experiment with other drugs. Without this explanation doubt was cast on assertion that the relationship was more than mere correlation.

That said, in recent years researchers have breathed new life into the theory, albeit with a sociological twist. According to the new version, it is not marijuana’s pharmacological properties that serve as a gateway, but rather marijuana’s illegal status. Specifically in the process of illegally procuring marijuana, users are introduced to the criminal elements with access to other illicit drugs and hence it is the forged blackmarket relationship between dealer and buyer that serves as gatway. Ironically the gateway drug theory has been turned on its head and used as reason for legalizing the drug. The Canadian Senate employed the new and improved version of the gateway argument as a reason for legalizing the drug.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Canadian print media coverage of the Marijuana issue

"A Liberal Senator from B.C. is proposing Canada legalize marijuana and “tax the hell out of it.” Senator Larry Campbell seems to be the only politician lately to say openly what many have been thinking for years; why are so many police hours tied up busting people for smoking dope? What are recreational pot smokers actually up to? Unless the feds consider a case of the munchies, incessant giggling followed by a movie and a long snooze as criminal behaviour, reality must finally win out. Look what decriminalization did for Holland. The idea to legalize pot was touted by the Chretien Liberals in the last millennium, but the laws have regressed since then. Even the head of police chiefs for the country said publicly that legalizing pot would save tens of thousands of convictions annually, millions in tax dollars while freeing up a lot of police time for serious crime like murder, rape and robbery. "

"Liberal Senator Larry Campbell restated his preference this week to regulate and control pot, just as alcohol production and distribution is governed. Then "tax the hell out of it," Campbell urged, adding revenues could be rolled into underfunded priorities like health care. Too much is spent on enforcement and justice with too little gained, he rightly said. And it's hard to imagine any government move that would do more to kick the stuffing out of organized crime, which is thriving on this growth industry, just as it did on the prohibition of alcohol in an earlier era. ""

The Tories, when they came to power, scrapped the proposed legislation and following that arrests for possession again spiked. People might well ask whether said arrests are saving people from themselves or just sapping police energies that could be used better elsewhere.This is somewhat less an age issue than at one time, since about 50 per cent of people who toke are over the age of 30. But, no surprise, it’s often the younger people who get caught. Any changes might need to happen in baby steps, but it’s long overdue that possessing small amounts not be dealt with as a criminal act. "

"Since the decriminalization plan went up in smoke, arrests for possession of marijuana have risen by as much as 50 per cent in cities across Canada, according to a survey by the Canadian Press. Diligence has increased by police, as it should. After all, it is the police's job to enforce the law, however senseless that law may be. Does the country seem any safer or better off today than it was before the Conservatives dropped the bill? We suspect many haven't noticed a difference. Except, however, for those thousands of people whose lives have been made worse or even ruined by being stuck with criminal records for offences only a few social dinosaurs still consider worth prosecuting. According to those UN statistics, thousands more Canadians will endure the same fate until a federal government comes on the scene with the courage to bring some sense to Canada's drug laws. "

"Senator Campbell has once again put this issue on the public agenda.Most Canadians believe that possessing and using small amounts of marijuana is generally a victimless crime, and one that causes little damage to society.Indeed it is prohibition, which has created a massive black market and underground economy, with guns and violence to protect profits, which is causing more harm."

"the Conservatives have stubbornly stuck to a law-enforcement approach - blind to history and deaf to the pleas of medical and public policy experts for reform to our drug laws. …Nevertheless, the report suggests that Canadians don't care what the law says about marijuana. They're going to smoke pot anyway. The possibility of punishment, in other words, has no deterrent effect whatsoever.As far as marijuana is concerned, Canadians think the law is an ass. And that isn't going to change. "

There is near universal consensus that Canada’s marijuana laws are a joke. Some favor legalization. Some favor decriminalization. Many do not know the difference, but just want something radically different than what we have got now. Still others think decriminalization and legalization mean the same thing. The Vancouver Province, for example, seems not to know the difference. A Province headline read as follows: "Decriminalize pot: Campbell". Inside the article campbell was quoted thus. "Legalize it, tax the hell out of it and put the money into health care." CTV seems to have made the same mistake. "A B.C. Liberal senator says the federal government should decriminalize marijuana and ''tax the hell out of it,'' with the revenue going to public services such as health care."

It is time someone woke up the stodgy old guys heading the Liberal party. The Canadian public wants its politicians to take the lead on this and not wait for the courts to chip away at it piece peal. 10% of Quebecers favor Stephane Dion. Maybe if the Liberals were to actually embrace the kind socially liberal policies that Quebecers prefer (e.g., liberalization of Canada's marijuana laws) they might have more success.

UPDATE: Here is one more article.

"So, we are tops among Western countries in terms of pot use. It could be worse. We could be the biggest cocaine snorters on the planet. That dubious honour goes to Spain. Iran wins out for heroin, Australia for ecstasy and the Philippines for amphetamines. These are much more dangerous drugs than dope. Marijuana is still considered among the "least addictive of all psycho-active substances," Jurgen Rehm, a senior scientist with the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said in an article in the Montreal Gazette. We are a progressive nation in many ways, yet not quite so bold as yet to follow The Netherlands in legalizing pot. Pro-dope advocates continue to push for marijuana's legalization; the previous federal government was making strides towards decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of pot. Certainly pot can be harmful in large quantities and over long periods of use. So too can cigarettes and alcohol, legally distributed to anyone over the age of 19 in Canada. Some studies show both booze and tobacco are more harmful than dope. Yet marijuana is the illegal substance. Perhaps it is time to seriously consider decriminalizing a recreational drug that one-in-six Canadians from age 15 to 64 used in 2004. If dope truly was for dopes, then this country wouldn't be able to function with such high usage rates. But we're doing just fine. "

Toronto Star doing the Drug Czar's bidding

The associated press allowed the following highly dubious assertions made up U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy and Sterling Heights Police Chief David Vinson to go unchallenged.

“This is not your dad's marijuana,” Vinson said. “It has 10 times the THC content of normal marijuana.”

“Murphy said the hydroponically-grown marijuana is chemically supercharged and comparable to cocaine in its effects and its ability to fetch up to $6,000 per pound.”

By reprinting the associated press article, the Toronto Star disseminated the lies developed by US officials about the dangers of “potent pot”.

What is the problem with the above? Well, the legend of potent pot is mere Drug Czar myth. Yes some of today’s marijuana is more potent than "dad’s" but to claim that it is 10 more potent that dad’s is patently absurd.

Furthermore, even if we assume that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about. Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. The pharmacological affects of consuming 1 “chemically supercharged” joint versus x number of your “dad’s marijuana” joints would be no different if the amount of THC consumed is the same. As for consumption, just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level in pot the less people consume. Hence, ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high.

All that being said, if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. As would be Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay has noted, the only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. Moreover, so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

“Murphy said the hydroponically-grown marijuana is chemically supercharged and comparable to cocaine in its effects”

I wish someone would ask Murphy if he believes there are marijuana whores the same way there are "crack whores"? If he says yes, oh how I will rejoice. It will keep me laughing for years. I might even think of turning what he said into a bumper sticker.

As Liberal senator and former Vancouver major Larry Campbell rightly noted., "This is not a drug that causes criminality,'

"We don't see marijuana users going around beating and robbing people. They don't fit the criminal profile but there's a criminal stigma attached that means people can't get into the States."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Medical Marijuana as Trojan Hoarse

The government of Canada has not appealed the Ontario Appeals decision (Parker) to the Supreme Court of Canada. “The choice of medication to alleviate the effects of an illness with life-threatening consequences is a decision of fundamental personal importance. Forcing Parker to choose between his health and imprisonment violates his right to liberty and security of the person." The federal government has also not appealed October 2003 Ontario Appeals court decision that not only reaffirmed that Canadians have a right to use marijuana if they need it for medical reasons but in addition ruled that "Exposing these individuals to the risks [of the black market] does not advance the objective of public health and safety”. (The Professor Young/ Barbara Budd interview provides a good summary of the issues involved. ) In other words, the Canadians who need medical marijuana should not be forced to go to the black market to obtain it. It must be made available through legal channels. In both cases the courts gave the government time make the necessary legal changes. Both times they have failed. This most recent decision is strike three.

The federal government, rightly in my mind, sees the medical marijuana decisions as Trojan horse and so has continually dragged its feet. What they fail to recognize though is just how this Trojan horse works. They believe that the medical marijuana rulings will give traffickers a leg up and it does. The sick are not the only ones benefiting from the compassion clubs. However, in continuing to fight the rulings in a passive aggressive manner the Federal government undermines the legitimacy of Canada’s marijuana laws in the eyes of the public. The Canadian public sees the government get its fingers wrapped every three years by the courts and this enforces the Canada public’s belief that when it comes to marijuana the government is not being frank or fair. The court cases also bring the issue to the public’s attention and this reminds them of how little they think of the stated rationals for Canada’s marijuana laws in the first place.

So what are Stephen Harper’s options to nip the situation in the bud? He has but one. He can appeal the Parker decision to the Supreme Court. The problem for Harper is that he would likely loose and the political costs would be enormous. Canadians favor access to medical marijuana by a huge margin.

Canada’s Pot Possession laws Declared Unconstitutional

Canada’s Pot Possession laws are declared unconstitutional

This has happened before, but alas turned out to be a Prague Spring. So my expectations are tempered. Still I am convinced that sooner rather than later the damn will break and roughly for the reasons successfully argued in Toronto.

In court, the man argued that the federal government only made it policy to provide marijuana to those who need it, but never made it an actual law. Because of that, he argued, all possession laws, whether medicinal or not, should be quashed. The judge agreed and dismissed the charges.

"The government told the public not to worry about access to marijuana," said Judge Howard Borenstein. "They have a policy but not law.… In my view that is unconstitutional." Defence lawyer Brian McAllister, who represented the man, said the ramifications of the ruling have potential to be "pretty big."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Moore: Some more Thoughts

GUPTA: "Well, I mean, he pulls $251 from this BBC unsourced report ... Where you pulled the $251 number was a BBC report, which, by the way, stated that the per capita spending in the United States was $5,700. You chose not to use the $5,700 from one report and chose to go to a totally different report and you're sort of cherry picking data from different reports ... Well, why didn't you use the $5,700 number from the BBC report?"

Moore: Actually, the number 'Sicko' cited for per capita Cuban spending on health care - $251, a number widely cited by the BBC and other outlets - comes from the United Nations Human Development Report, helpfully linked on our website. Here it is again:
That UN report does list American health care spending as only $5,700, but it's a few years old. Since then, the U.S. government has updated it's projections for health care spending, to $7,498 in 2007. So we used that number. It's the most recent, and comes right from the Department of Health and Human Services. If the Cuban government gave a figure on 2007 projected health spending, we'd have used it.

Again, when making a comparison such as this you use a source that has figures for both. Otherwise one is open to the charge that one is comparing apples to oranges. By arguing a point on which he is clearly wrong, Moore focused attention away from the fact that he was right about the larger point. Cuban spends a fraction of what the US does on healthcare, but its health indicators are in some ways better than the US. Why is this?

Gupta was also right about Moore’s use of 2007 numbers. The 2007 numbers are estimates and estimates are not the same as solid figures and one has to note the difference. But this is minor point.

All and all, what I said before stands. Moore should have conceded these points and moved on to another comparison. Namely, Moore should have looked at the rate at which health care numbers are raising in the States in absolute terms. $7400 is long way from $5700 in a few short years and would represent a staggering increase in any other country.

GUPTA: "The point is, though, and I think you would have to concede this point, Michael, that you are trying to lead people to believe, again, people who are really concerned about this issue, that it is free in these other countries. And that is what I think is - (MOORE): It is free. (GUPTA) It's not, Michael."

Moore: “Sicko' doesn't hide from the obvious fact that higher taxes are needed to pay for free, universal health care. Former UK MP Tony Benn reads from the National Health Service founding pamphlet, which explicitly states that "this is not a charity. You are paying for it mainly as taxpayers." And 'SiCKO' also acknowledges that the French are "drowning in taxes," a line that clearly stuck with Gupta since he used it himself during the broadcast.

The medical care in countries with socialized medicine is still free. Gupta doesn't seem to grasp that. Here in America, when you go to the library and check out a book, it's free. When the fire department puts out a fire at your house, it's free. In Canada, when you go into the hospital for chemotherapy, it's free. You don't walk out with a bill. Yes, citizens pay higher taxes in countries with socialized medicine, but they don't pay the premiums, co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket medical costs that we face in America. Moreover, in other industrialized countries citizens are not bankrupted by huge bills during a medical crisis – as is the case in America, where the leading cause of bankruptcy is medical bills. (Medical Bills Make up Half of Bankruptcies. Feb. 2005, MSNBC.

Moore successfully undercuts Gupta’s point. That said, Moore does seem to run two senses of the “word” free together in Sicko. Not to be too cheeky about it but one does not need to “pay” higher taxes for something that is “free”.

Throughout Gupta get on saying that “I get it Michael”, but I kept on waiting in vain for Moore to retort that “no you do not get. You concede that Americans health care system is broken, but are unwilling to concede that the route every other developed nation has chosen, namely some form of universal health care, is superior to ours. What you have implied again and again is that while our system is surely broken, so is everybody’s. This is a false equivalency. Yes the French medical system, for example, has its problems, it is hard to imagine a health care system without some, but their health care system is better than ours and this also holds for every other Western country. We pay far more than anyone else and get less out.” Maybe next time.

Potent Pot

Former Vancouver Mayor and Liberal Senator Larry Campbell:
"Marijuana should be legalized and controlled. We should tax the hell out of it with the revenue earmarked for health care"

On my way to watch Brazil and Spain play, I listened to 1040, Vancouver’s sports radio show. It was slow day and instead of talking about sports and the game I was going to the topic de jour was whether marijuana should be legalized. Being Vancouver, naturally the consensus was that it should be. However, one Vancouver Province columnist was nevertheless concerned about “potent” pot.

This irked me. The legend of potent pot rests on some pretty shaky ground and is more Drug Czar myth than reality, but even if we assume that potent pot is a reality it is certainly nothing to be concerned about.

Indeed, saying that potent pot is reason for keeping marijuana illegal is akin to saying that alcohol should be banned because gin has higher alcohol content than beer. It makes no sense. Just as people do not drink the same volume of gin as beer, the higher the THC level the less people consume. Ironically more potent pot may be a welcome development. After all, one of the most prominent health effect related to marijuana, if not the most, is that it is usually smoked. The more potent the pot, the less people have to smoke to achieve the same high.
All that being said, Liberal Martha Hall Findlay turned the potent argument on its head. She argued that if potency is the concern, then it should be legalized. The only way to regulate the potency of pot is to legalize it. I would go even further and note that so long as the drug is illegal, producers will seek to increase potency. The higher the potency the smaller the package the smaller the package the less likely they will get caught.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Main Stream Media and Objectivity

Paul Krugman once quipped that if the Bush administration was to say the earth was flat, the following headline would appear in papers across America the next day. “Views Differ on the Shape of the Earth.” Krugman’s point was this. For the MSM, being objective means being equally skeptical and critical of two sides of any “debate” and giving each side equal time. Viewpoints should not be judged only reported. Debate is nothing more or less than the presence of differing opinions. The problem with this is that it is completely at odds with our workaday notion of what it means to be objective, viz., the ethic that when evaluating opposing viewpoints that we apply the same set of standards to each. Being objective implies being judicious/judgmental. When two or more opposing viewpoints are found to have merit there is considered to be debate. Debate is much more than a mere difference of opinion. The consequences of the MSM media holding to this notion of objectivity are many and varied, but the most noticeable and commented on is the one Krugman hits on above. Specifically, being unwilling to pass judgment on the validity of particular viewpoints, the news often violates our workaday notions what it means to be objective and what constitutes debate. As a result, are left with the impression that we are down the rabbit hole and reason does not apply. The MSM coverage of the so called debate on global warming is great case in point as is the “debate” between creation science and evolution.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dr. Sanjay Gupta vs Michael Moore

Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Michael Moore got into it on Larry King Live last night. This follows just on the heels of Moore’s blowup the day before on CNN. Moore was rightly upset by a “fact checking” piece by Gupta. Gupta made two glaring errors of fact.

"(Moore says) the United States slipped to number 37 in the world's health care systems. It's true. ... Moore brings a group of patients, including 9/11 workers, to Cuba and marvels at their free treatment and quality of care. But hold on - that WHO list puts Cuba's health care system even lower than the United States, coming in at #39."

Moore never made attempt to hide the fact that Cuba was lower ranked than the US let alone imply that they are ranked higher. Gupta did not retract what he said. Moore showed the list of the rankings displayed in the movie it Cuba is clearly listed as being 39th on the list.

"Moore asserts that the American health care system spends $7,000 per person on health. Cuba spends $25 dollars per person. Not true. But not too far off. The United States spends $6,096 per person, versus $229 per person in Cuba."

The number Moore quoted in the movie was $251 and Gupta corrected the record last night. As for the US number numbers, in attacking Gupta, Moore, as he frequently does, missed the forest for the trees. Moore says that Gupta’s numbers, although from the same source, were from 2004 and his from 2006. This is fair criticism, but Gupta rightly pointed out that the same source that Moore took the Cuban number also listed US costs at $5,700 and Moore should use the same source when making a comparison. What Moore failed to note was the huge increase in US health care costs. In other words, he should have abandoned the Cuban comparison, and pursued another. From 2004 to 2006 US health care costs went up a $1000 per person. This is incredible, but what is even more incredible is that according the same that same source costs are supposed to increase in to $7400 per person by the end of 2007. To put this into perspective, if health care costs the same amount in absolute terms in Canada over the last 2 years, that would represent a 34% increase!

Rhetorically Moore fell down when he insisted on debating whether Americans are Cubans lived longer. Yes Moore did cite the most recent stats showing the Cubans live slightly longer than Americans and Gupta asserted just the opposite, but in the greater scheme of things no one is interested in a photo finish. Moore:

“The 2006 United Nations Human Development Report's human development index states the life expectancy in the United States is 77.5 years. It is 77.6 years in Cuba. (Human Development Report 2006, United Nations Development Programme, 2006 at 283.”

The point to be made here and one Moore makes in movie is why are the Cubans mortality figures even in the same ballpark as the US.

The rest of the debate focused on wait times and here Gupta proved to be the more adapt, graceful and knowledgeable than Moore. Worse for Moore, Moore failed to bring the very things we saw in the movie into this segment of the debate. Whenever, Gupta brought up wait times in Canada Moore would fire back that if you took 5.25 million Canadians out of the equation, i.e., one sixth population or the same percenatage as do not have health care in the states, wait times would be reduced here. That is good point, but an equally powerful one is the one he makes in his movie. Namely, with respect to the US, what matters is not only how long insured people have to wait for a particular procedure once it is approved by their HMO, but also whether the procedure will be approved in the first place. For example, the amount of time Tracy, who had insurance, waited in vain for a bone marrow transplant is not on the books.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Michael Moore's Sicko: a Review

In the opening segment of Sicko, we learn of a man who severed the top of his ring finger and top his middle finger. The man did not have insurance and was told that he would have to pay $12,000 to have the ring finger made whole again and $60,000 for the same for the middle finger. He chose only the former and presumably gave the middle finger to the hospital.

As Moore makes clear early on though, this is not a film focused on the uninsured. For the first half of the movie, Moore is primarily concerned with insured Americas who were “swept into the cracks by the insurance industry”. As with all of his films, Moore takes Stalin’s infamous, but true, maxim to heart. "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic." The film is emotionally compelling. It is also funny, albeit in a Kafkaesque sort of way. For example, one woman tells how she was involved in serious head on collision, knocked on unconscious, taken to hospital while still unconscious and then told by her insurance company that she must pay for the ambulance ride because she did not get it pre-approved.

The film does have its faults. Nuance has never been Moore’s strong suit and he never fully grasps the issues at hand. Moreover, the bulky quintessential American does have a talent for telling lies of omission; the omitted Roger Smith interviews being the best case in point. In Moore’s telling of tragic story of year and half year old Mychelle Williams the aforementioned shortcomings come together. This is a court summary of what happened to her.

“On May 6, 1993, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Dawnelle Barris (hereafterBarris) brought her 18-month old daughter, Mychelle Williams, to the emergency room at Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center (hereafter King/Drew) by ambulance. Mychelle was a member of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan (hereafter Kaiser), but was taken to King/Drew because it was the nearest emergency medical facility. She had suffered episodes of vomiting and diarrhea, was lethargic, and was having difficulty breathing. Her temperature was 106.6 degrees, her pulse and respiratory rate were abnormally fast, she had abnormally low pulse oxygenation, and she had infections of the middle ear in both ears.

Mychelle was transferred to the pediatric emergency room, and examined by Dr. Trach Phoung Dang. He believed her fever might be caused by bacteria in the bloodstream. He noted signs and symptoms consistent with sepsis, a life-threatening bacterial infection that he knew requires prompt treatment with antibiotics. Nonetheless, he did not rule out sepsis or begin antibiotic treatment. Although he concluded that a complete blood culture, which could have detected sepsis, should be done, he did not order it because he believed that he had to obtain authorization from Kaiser. Kaiser had developed a program called the Emergency Prospective Review Program (EPRP) to deal with situations where a Kaiser member is brought to a non-Kaiser facility for emergency medical care. Its purpose was to facilitate the transfer of such patients to a Kaiser facility.

On the night of May 6, Brian Thompson, a Kaiser physician, was handling phone calls that came in under the EPRP. At approximately 7 p.m., Dr. Dang spoke by telephone to Dr. Thompson to arrange for possible transfer of Mychelle. Dr. Dang discussed her condition and indicated that he thought blood tests, which would rule out a bacterial infection in the blood, should be performed at King/Drew. Dr. Thompson instructed him not to perform the tests, saying that the blood work would be done at Kaiser. Apparently still concerned about the delay in treatment, Dr. Dang telephoned Dr. Thompson again, and repeatedly suggested starting the blood work at King/Drew. Again, Dr. Thompson instructed Dr. Dang not to do so. Dr. Dang noted in his chart that “Dr. Thompson at Kaiser did not want me to do any blood test.”

At approximately 8 p.m., Mychelle suffered a seizure. She became increasingly lethargic and nonresponsive. Dr. Dang treated her symptoms of fever, dehydration, breathing difficult, and seizure, but did not administer antibiotics.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Mychelle was transferred by ambulance to Kaiser. At 9:50 p.m., within 15 minutes of her arrival, Mychelle suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter. A blood culture performed as part of an autopsy was positive for streptococcus bacteria, which is readily treatable by antibiotics. The death certificate listed cardiac respiratory arrest caused by septicemia, or sepsis, that had been present for 10 hours.

Moore puts the blame squarely on Kaiser’s shoulders. He implies in the movie that it was Kaiser’s refusal to allow the blood test to go ahead that led to the toddler’s death. No one outside perhaps Dr Dang shares this opinion and the important question as to why Dr Dang was unwilling to go head with the blood test irrespective of what the Kaiser official said goes wanting for an answer in the movie. Truth be told, both sides where equally guilty. They literally passed the buck back and forth while the little girl died, but there was no official denial of coverage. No side had blinked by the time the little girl had died.

At trail, Dang testified that although he was cognizant of the fact that sepsis was a possible cause of the girl’s condition, he thought the cause was an acute asthma attack. An expert for Barris, Mychelle’s mom, blew Dang’s story apart. The expert noted that the medical record and Dang and Thompson’s conversion showed that Dang believed that it was sepsis. The expert also noted that irrespective of what he thought, it was standard practice to administer antibiotics just in case it was sepsis. The jury found for the plaintiff. The majority of the blame was assumed by Dang and the county.

Kaiser is now using Dang’s discredited testimony to undermine Moore’s account.

"Fourteen years ago, the treating physician at the King/Drew Medical Center incorrectly believed that he was treating a patient having an acute asthma attack. He had several phone conversations with one of our physicians. Neither physician discussed the possibility that the child was suffering from a grave blood infection. During the course of those conversations, given the asthma misdiagnosis, the Kaiser physician believed that necessary tests could be conducted at Kaiser once the child was stabilized for asthma and transported to Kaiser. As a result of the misdiagnosis, the child ultimately succumbed to her blood infection. We offer our deepest sympathy to her family. ….

We regret that none of the physicians involved recognized that the child had a life-threatening infection and not asthma. The movie claims we denied coverage of treatment by the doctor at the county hospital. That was not true. The issue was a misdiagnosis followed by the wrong treatment. The movie is inaccurate in its portrayal of that sad case.

This was essentially a tragic case of medical malpractice.”

Kaiser is trying to paint a case of medical malpractice arising out of corporate greed as a case of medical malpractice arising out of a misdiagnosis. What they are saying is, of course, complete and utter bullshit. Indeed, if you are to believe Kaiser “neither physician discussed the possibility that the child was suffering from a grave blood infection [i.e., Sepsis]” even though there were repeated requests made to Kaiser to have her tested for exactly that.

One can only hope that Kaiser’s efforts backfire. The insurance industry and their allies in the Bush administration have long maintained that medical malpractice suits are driving up costs and this has detrimental costs for all concerned. The cost of such lawsuits, many they argue illegitimate, needs to be capped. After all, medical error can never be fully eliminated and there is no fool proof method for preventing illegitimate lawsuits for succeeding from time to time. The Mychelle Williams case turns this talking point on its head. Mychelle Williams did not die due to medical error. The cause of her death was that no one was willing to say the buck stops here and get on with treating her in a timely manner. A reasonable conclusion to draw from this and other cases like it is this. If liability was ridgely capped, the insurance industry would be able to calculate the potential costs of not providing standard medical care and this would lead them to build into their business a rubric for determining when it is in their best interests to provide standard medical care when it was advisable to encourage malpractice or even engage in it . In other words, it would mean more Mychelle Williams.

The other half of the film is less memorable. The much criticized survey of health care systems outside the US has gotten far more negative publicity then it deserves and has only served to distract from the moral backbone of the film. The survey should be taken for what it is, namely Moore’s flippant response to the scaremongering tactics used by those opposed to “socialist medicine”. Besides, all is fair in love and Moore. What struck me about survey as noteworthy was not its superficiality, but rather the fact that not all of those that are interviewed are terribly sympathetic. As a Canadian, I was not happy to lean about the American health care refugee, or her older Canadian friend with benefits. I imagine the defenders of the French system where similarly not thrilled to learn that one of there own took a three month fully paid doctor prescribed vacation partying in the French Rivera. These are trivial complaints though.

The criticisms of Moore’s Cuba adventure carry more weight. However well intentioned the cause, when one gets right down it Moore provided a dictatorship with great PR. That said, the fact that the Castro regime was able to score so many points when given the chance reveals just how broken the US system is. No other western country would be as vulnerable.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

National Embarrassment

It is time to call a spade a spade. Canada’s men soccer program is a national embarrassment. In soccer, you get want you pay for. Canada puts very little money into developing its soccer programs, and at least as far as the men are concerned, it gets even less out. We are consistently the worst ranked team in the developed world. This is unacceptable.

To add insult to injury, the men’s under 20 team continued a woeful Canadian tradition of failing miserably in a competition hosted on Canadian soil. Not only is Canada the only host country to fail to win a gold medal at the Olympics, it is also the only host country of the men’s under 20 world cup to fail to score. We also lost every game.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

No to Uniting the Left Yes to Liberal Rebranding

I am not convinced it is in the best interests of the Canadian public or even the Liberal party to seek to unite the left.

For at its best, the NDP has provided an invaluable service to all Canadians; it widened the Canadian political debate and did so by historically being the most ideological of the major political parities. Parties concerned with the “art of the possible” are not infusing the political debate with new ideas with little chance of furthering their party at the polls. They are reactive. However, the catch 22 of such pragmatism is that such parties concede some of the field to those who are not so cautious. To use an evolutionary metaphor, the politically brave and ideologically pure help determine the policy areas to be discussed; the powerful and pragmatic determine what policies get accepted. Historically, the NDP were able to get “results” for Canadians in two ways. One, they played king maker in several Liberal minority governments. Two, they were able to achieve successes at a distance by continually infusing the political arena with new policy ideas. Either way the Liberal party benefited. By infusing the political arena with ideas from a leftist perspective, the NDP shifted the political debate in Canada leftward, leaving Liberals and not the Progressive Conservatives as the “natural governing party of Canada”.

That said, the problem is that the NDP at its worst is what it is under Jack Layton, viz., a sometimes Liberal echo chamber (on Kyoto, and Kelowna) but all in all a soulless new left party fixated on identity politics to determent of furthering social democratic ideals premised on the notion of universality. Under Layton, the NDP no longer champion European social democracy, a la Tommy Douglas. One consequence of this is that the gulf between Europe and Canada in many areas is simply enormous. The Europeans are light years ahead on a whole variety of issues.

With the NDP serving no useful purpose at this moment, it is falls to the Liberals to pick up the slack. For the sake of the party’s own electoral health, the Liberals must develop the type of social democratic ideas it has in the past poached from the NDP and in the process insure that the political discourse shifts leftward. At the same time the party must be aware of the constraints and pragmatic considerations placed on any party hopping to form the next government. This is no easy feat.

The party must also do something else. It desperately needs to rebrand itself. The sponsorship scandal and years of political compromise have stained the once bright gloss. “What is does mean to be a Liberal?” has become as intractable as “what does it mean to be a Canadian?”. It need not be this way. Indeed, it must not be this way. Having urged the party to make a break with the past in my previous post, I urge the party to return to more distant past and in the process prove two things. 1) The party must show the Canadian public, as outlined above, that it is the only major party willing to commit Canada to the best of European social democracy. 2) It must also prove itself to be the champion of social liberalism the way Trudeau did, particularly in 1968-1969.

Alas in the past couple of years the party has done neither. Sure the Liberals passed SSM legislation and promised to decriminalize marijuana and these were two reasons why Canada was “cool” back in 2003/2004, but it was the courts forced the Liberals to at last acknowledge that the issues were pregnant. Moreover, Martin did not laud bill 38 as an historic and just expansion of the societal franchise as true liberals everywhere were doing. On the contrary, Martin argued the Charter sometimes compels the government to act in way it may not like. In Martin’s words, the government can not “cherry pick rights”. The implication being that SSM was not a cherry. For Martin’s Liberals, SSM was not a righteous cause, but was rather the straight man’s burden. Martin gave SSM the defense befitting a pornographer.

Just as bad, the Liberals have followed the NDP down the rabbit hole and have begun mimicking the NDP’s love of identity politics. For example, the Liberals have embraced, as never before, the intellectual abortion that is native self government and the associated ethnic essentialism on steroids.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

New Liberal: the Liberals Need to Break With The Past

The Liberal brass seeks continuity with the past. Only in Canada would a supposedly liberal party stress tradition as much as this one. What the Liberals should be looking to do is to break with their past (their most recent past anyway) and not embrace it. The Liberal Party is not going to get back into power promising to be same old good economic managers minus the corruption associated with the sponsorship program. Indeed, the economy is not tanking. So the solid Economic stewardship card does not even have superficial appeal.

If the Liberals are going to avoid being forgotten altogether, they are going to have to do two things. First, they are going to have to undermine the impression that Harper is becoming more and more moderate. This does not mean alleging that he has some kind of hidden agenda or even destructing rhetoric designed to deceive the Canadian public. It means proposing policies, a la SSM, that will radicalize the Tories’ social conservative base and so force Harper into the open. Provided that they have chosen their issues carefully, the Liberals should be able to define Harper as being the antithesis of what modern urban Canada considers itself to be, viz., pluralistic, modern, open minded, tolerant, and pragmatic. The public will only take notice if there are two clearly defined camps.

Second, and really the flip side of the first, the Liberals need to introduce policies that will get people talking. This means fist of all proposing policies that the public has the facility to talk about, again a la SSM, and can understand if only at an elementary level. What might qualify?
Well, the Liberals so called three pillars certainly do not. They are nothing but fluffy mush brain nonsense. After all, who is not for a “richer, greener and a fairer Canada”? The devil is in the details. Here are some candidates.

1)Propose scrapping the monarchy

2)Propose mandating 4 weeks vacation a year

3)Propose free dental care

4)Propose Legalizing euthanasia

5)Propose Legalizing marijuana

6)Propose abolishing the senate

7) Again propose banning hand guns

8) Mandatory voting.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Canadians Favor Marijuana Legalization By a Wide Margin

55% Of Canadians want marijuana legalized. 41% do not. Once again, the Canadian public is way ahead of a risk adverse, dull, stodgy, set in its ways Liberal Party.