The real reasons cannabis remains illegal?

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There’s been an increase in anxiety surrounding the legalisation of marijuana in New Zealand, lately, mostly due to the impending election. Medical cannabis will eventually be completely legalised, certainly, as it’s just another medicinal drug. However, the debate over medicinal cannabis is frequently conflated with legalising recreational pot-smoking/consumption.

To be clear, smoking pot is widespread and more or less tolerated in New Zealand, unless the police have some other reason to discriminate against you. Keeping marijuana illegal is just another way of giving police the discretion to arrest people they feel might be ‘trouble’.

Forget stigma, this is the main reason it remains both commonplace and illegal. Sure, there’s probably a voting block of boomers who believe that pot is meth’s aperitif, but mainly it remains illegal because it serves a convenient purpose.

The other thing I find interesting is the way this debate is playing out in the mainstream hard-left media. Apparently, the government adds fluoride to water supplies to keep the populace dumbed down and quietly apathetic. Yet the government won’t legalise marijuana?

I grew up completely surrounded by marijuana, and knew many, many MANY people who smoked it all day, every day. If you want a relaxed, apathetic populace, we should add cannabis to the water. Or the next best thing.

To be clear, this does not mean that all people who smoke pot will be apathetic loseroos, of course it doesn’t. Most people use it like they’d use any other kind of drug (like alcohol) – to have a nice time. It’s not a permanent arrangement. If there’s one thing we know, as a recreational drug for ‘sometimes use’ it’s generally well tolerated, safe and nice.

I’m not pro or anti pot – I don’t think it’s particularly dangerous, but it’s not without its risks. Changing your brain (getting high) has all kinds of effects, not matter how you do it. It all comes down to how we judge the effects.

For instance, some people think it’s fun to get a skinful and bash the shit out other people. This is their idea of a ‘good effect’. I think it’s a crap effect. Likewise, some people believe there’s merit to mooching about in your trackies all day – I’m one of them – while others think we should be contributing to the future of humankind by spending ten hours a day mining coal. Each to their own.

 

 

Pepi pods

New Zealand is currently going through a pepi-pod phase, encouraging new parents to place their baby in a small sleeping pod to prevent cot death. The pepi-pod enables the baby to sleep in the bed next to its parents without fear of being squashed, suffocated, or otherwise lost amongst the Minties in the glovebox.

Yep, turns out that most cot deaths aren’t caused by some mysterious set of factors, they’re just caused by unfashionable ones – poverty, homelessness, substance abuse and formula feeding.

To engage in a little social history…when I was a fresh new Mum my own mother offered to whip me up a ‘banana box’ bassinet. These were common in the 1970s – a long skinny banana box covered in cotton fabric and a little wadding. Babies were separate but accessible – my earliest memories were of a gentle hand reaching down to me through a miasma of cigarette smoke so as I might receive another bellyful of thick, yellowy formula (I should note my Mum didn’t smoke, Dad did. But then so did everyone else. It was the 70s after all).

On another note, I asked Mum the other day what women did before formula. Mum grew up on a remote sheep farm – in those days new Mums did not scrum it out with sinewy Chinese girls for another tin of Karicare, yet breastfeeding wasn’t universal. Cow’s milk was the answer there – fresh, unpasteurised cow’s milk. I’d be fascinated to know how many babies received cow’s milk as their first food.

 

 

 

Housing is the new cholesterol

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.34.54 PMBaby boomers have both the majority of housing and cholesterol.

Frankly, I don’t know why we didn’t see the connection sooner. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty silly. Jesus, this is like that time I shaved my tongue. Thanks, Facebook!

Remember when housing investment was good? And then it was not so good. Then it was bad. Cholesterol started off bad, then not bad, then good. It’s in eggs.

And eggs are good, right? They’re certainly yellow. And cholesterol is also probably, possibly, potentially yellow in its effects, seek* advice** from a professional***.

Who can see the pattern?

Things are Bad, Not So Bad, Debunked, Oh my God, you can see that agenda from space! I knew that bacon flavoured lip balm was good for me!

Don’t go looking for confounders, or multiplicative effects. No. Just look for things that are Bad, Good or Yellow.

Currently, New Zealand’s housing availability is Not Yellow. This is because there is an election looming.

Roughly the argument goes something like; high cholesterol is strongly correlated with home ownership. Follow the money sheeple!

But here’s where things get beyond the scope of finger puppets. There is more than one factor contributing to the housing shortage in NZ. It’s not just immigration, speculation or intergenerational fleecing.

In fact, it’s a whole bunch of RELATED factors, with multiplicative effects which reach a series of tipping points.

Too hard too hard! Can’t we just hate baby boomers? And immigrants? I have so much hate to give!

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.39.20 PMLet’s have a look at this news article. It appeared on my facebook feed. It’s about restricting NZ’s immigration but the comments section quickly degenerated into a conversation about home ownership.

Apparently, foreigners are buying all the houses, thus driving up prices for New Zealanders. Those fuckers! Swooping in with their haircuts and fancy teeth!

Thing is, of course, only 3% of houses are bought by non residents, and that’s in the frothiest market, Auckland. (The rate is no doubt lower in the rest of NZ, as the market for wobbly weatherboard methlabs in Bunnythorpe is surprisingly bearish).

It’s not immigrants speculating on housing, it’s New Zealand baby boomers. They are seeking capital gain. This is as self-evident as it is yellow. YELLOW!

Although the average rate of investor owned property in Auckland is around 40%, around 70% of ‘entry level’ housing in Auckland was purchased by investors.

This means that would-be first home buyers face the stiffest, frothiest market conditions. (I’m only talking about Auckland here because let’s face it, compared to Auckland everything else IS a meth-lab in Bunnythorpe. Also, Fun fact; 50% of the electoral seats are in Auckland).

So where else will Sue and Brian put their money? How will they grow their wealth in order to pay for the extravagant luxuries they’ve become accustomed to, like heating and meat that hasn’t got a picture of cat on the tin?

The NZ pension pays about 20 grand. Now I can live on rather a lot less than 20 grand, but that’s because I’m a completely impoverished Gen-Xer with a student loan almost entirely comprised of compounding interest (remember that, GenY? Student loans used to have compounding interest. dissolve that in your turmeric mylk, snowflake etc.,). I consider my life fairly comfortable, but I doubt there are many baby boomers who’re willing to climb into my cut-off sleeping bag.

Let’s talk about other reasons baby boomers invest in housing.

Many New Zealanders do not retire with heaps of cash. Their superannuation scheme is voluntary and there aren’t the tax breaks that exist in Australia to encourage saving. For many, their main source of capital is their house. They can use their small savings to buy another house, leveraged off their existing house. Interest rates are low, which means their mortgage is ‘cheap’ and it’s less tempting to keep their money in savings.

As noted above, investors comprise the majority of the lowest quartile of the market. They are effectively bidding one another up, and the resulting increases in rent are worn by tenants and the government (through the ever climbing accommodation supplement – indexed to market rents. NB; In Australia, when the government transfers money to wealthy property owners it’s called ‘middle class welfare’).

Yes, this housing situation is fragile – the bubble might burst, and those who with negative equity may lose both their rental property but also the family home. Not that it matters because they’ll still have some remaining equity and houses will be cheap as chips! However, no one really thinks this will happen – the market isn’t wobbly enough for it to fall over. There may be some corrections, but the reality is, as long as the government continues to pump warm bodies into the cities, she’ll be right.

Sure, Sue and Brian could take their modest savings and invest them in the sharemarket, (Mum and Dad investors), but they’re not comfortable doing that because they don’t know anything about it. The returns might be higher but they equate higher returns with greater risk. At least a house is a real thing. You can constantly reassess your vulnerability with a house. People will always need houses.

So let’s have a capital gains tax, right? Because that will make housing more affordable for lower and middle class families, right? Less liquidity in housing means more liquidity for alternative investment. The rest of the economy will benefit in more balanced growth! Huzzah!

Well, as far as I know the only tolerable capital gains tax model floated so far is one where investors must hold on to the property for 3-5 years to avoid the capital gains tax. That might knock a touch off the froth of the speculation, but it’d be three fifths of fuck all. Hanging onto a rental property for five years isn’t a problem for most baby boomers – they’re going to live to 150 years old.

While we’re here, let’s have a bit of a chat about immigration and infrastructure in Auckland. Underfunding infrastructure is underfunding infrastructure. It’s not a matter of demand outstripping supply – you can always build more infrastructure. In the old days governments used to even plan for it! On paper! Yeah you can limit the number of people moving into cities but….

Sprawl is the new MasterChef. It’s worth it just to wait until the pressure is at fever pitch then expand the outskirts of the city, delivering the maximum profit to landbankers. Land bankers don’t want infill housing or more infrastructure within existing city limits. Neither do homeowners – no-one wants a block of flats next door. Imagine what that’d do to the market value? No, no no, Murray! It’s much safer to return a tax free profit to investors. Because; voting demographics.

It’s worth noting that Australia has capital gains tax, compulsory super that is heavily supported with generous tax incentives and is discussing ways to limit negative gearing BUT its housing market remains far too frothy for almost everyone under the age of 60 to enter in the city.

This polarised, simplified ‘debate’ is what’s known as class warfare/wedge politics.

That’s my contribution for today. Feel free to correct me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

500 words – science, anyone?

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The reported incidence of Crohn’s disease in Canterbury, New Zealand has doubled over the past decade, crowning the region with the highest reported incidence globally. Scientists around the world believe environmental factors are contributing to this disconcerting rise. In this investigation, we present the research on a disease found primarily in dairy cattle called Johne’s disease, which has the same symptoms as Crohn’s disease and is recognised on over half of all dairy farms in New Zealand. If the MAP bacteria which causes the immune responses in dairy cattle is tested and found in our local drinking water supplies, our air and our dairy products, we could be facing a public health issue of massive proportions.

OMG! Humans have a disease called Crohn’s disease that’s quite a lot like something called Johne’s disease! It even sounds the same, which obviously means it’s caused by the same thing! It’s totally like the time I got a nuclear hangover from drinking Manhattans. And it might be in our drinking water? Our dirty, dirty water? Oh God, I’m totally only drinking Coke Zero from now on! There’s public health crisis of massive proportions looming!

Thank God for plucky journalists who’re willing to lay out the circumstantial case for a public health epidemic.

For listeners at home, here’s the article in a nutshell;

– MAP bacteria causes Crohn’s disease.

– MAP is spread to humans by cow shit in the water. It is virtually un-killable.

– The increasing rate of Crohn’s in Canterbury is a direct result of the dairy conversions of the last two decades.

MAP is causing the increasing rates of Crohn’s disease in Canterbury because of dirty dairying!

And now for a spoonful of Mum’s Anti-Hysteria Elixir…..

There’s nothing new about the link between MAP bacteria and Crohn’s disease. Around 30-50% of cases of Crohn’s are likely due to MAP infection.

The incidence of Crohn’s has doubled in Canterbury in the last decade, but this is in line with the rest of New Zealand. New Zealand’s rate is on a par with many other western countries.

So why single out Canterbury? Presumably because of the initial study in 2006 that showed that Canterbury’s rate had experienced a rather rapid increase (bringing it into line with other western nations). Perhaps something happened in Canterbury leading up to 2006 that caused this increase? Perhaps it was coming off a low base?

Of course, the article is quick to suggest an answer;

A 2008 Canterbury study found that intensive dairy farming and the use of border-strip irrigation increased the concentrations of E-Coli and Campylobacter in nearby groundwater, impacting drinking water supplies. Large scale conversion and intensification of agricultural land in Canterbury is clearly linked to decreases in water quality and the resulting increase in waterborne diseases. The result is that in 2015 alone, E-Coli was detected in Christchurch’s untreated water supply 14 times, raising debate on whether the supply should now be treated.

The water got heaps dirtier! If there’s more MAP in the water, there’s more Crohn’s disease! Right? I mean, JOIN THE DOTS sheeple!

Here’s the thing. MAP is waterborne, but it’s also airborne, through dust especially. It’s in milk. And cheese too. Mmmm cheese…..

It should therefore come as no surprise that the rates of MAP infection are rising all over the world. As dairying intensifies, so does MAP. This is why New Zealand’s rate has doubled in the last ten years. So has everyone else’s.

So yeah, more cows, more intensive dairying causes an increase in MAP bacteria. There are more cows in Canterbury, and therefore more MAP. But to suggest that water is its primary vector is disingenuous – it’s in the air, the food and definitely Cats that Make You LOL.

In fact, so many humans are infected with MAP a better question might be; Why do only some people acquire Crohn’s disease and others don’t?

In other words, why are some people’s digestive tracts able to cope with MAP infection while others are not? (It also doesn’t answer why people without MAP develop Crohn’s, which is surely something Crohn’s sufferers would like to know).

This is what’s known as a multi-factorial clusterfuck. It’s hard to isolate causative factors. And what about the rate of C-sections? Or the widespread use of antibiotics?

It’s unclear why the rates of Crohn’s were high (for NZ) in Canterbury in 2006. Maybe Cantabrians ate more cheese? Maybe the increasing numbers of cows on the plains caused an increase in airborne MAP? Maybe there’s another as yet undiscovered factor at work, perhaps excessive exposure to unflued gas heaters or higher than average ingestion of that caramel popcorn from Countdown on Moorhouse Ave oh how you betrayed me you dirty sticky balls of blissbitch?

Where was I?

Yes. The article does talk about these other methods of transmission, but the focus is clearly on water. Dear reader, the message is clear; Dirty water = Crohn’s disease.

Let’s consider something that wasn’t in the article; Farmers and their families seem to have some kind of immunity to MAP. This is likely due to exposure of extracellular forms of the bacteria, in other words, cow shit. Given the shit-to-water ratio of water in the rest of NZ, perhaps we might argue that the reason Cantabrians have such high rates of MAP is lower rates of immunity amongst the population due to lack of exposure to cow shit as children.

Stand by for the next winning public health campaign;

Come on in, kids, the water’s wade-able! 

Or perhaps; You’re Soaking In It!

I’m all for fanning the hysteria over New Zealand’s appalling water quality. It’s a fucking travesty, but as someone who lobbied ECAN hard in the early 2000s, I can tell you, they came by it honestly. We all knew it was a matter of a few years before Christchurch’s artesian drinking water was gone for good.

No-one gave a rat’s clasper about it then, but it’s heartening that people seem interested now (about 20 years too late).

I often read articles from Wake Up NZ – they do a good, and important job. But cherry picking information to make a case that is at best wobbly and at worst misrepresentative of the data just exposes a weak flank. New Zealand’s water quality is a big enough story without resorting to this kind of ‘investigative’ journalism.

 

Cautionary tale…

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‘Woah! It’s lucky that the earthquake happened in the middle of the night!’

In civil defence terms, making sure that your city’s residents reliably spend half of every twenty four hours tucked up in their bottomless sleeping bags watching, ‘Cats that Make you LOL’ is a pretty good tactic.

It’s also a popular one. The first Christchurch earthquake in 2010 happened at around 5 in the morning, an occurrence that was treated as an almost zen joke;

‘If massive lumps of masonry fall onto the footpath but no-one is there to be squished under them, did they fall at all?’

Ah, yes, they fucking did actually. And if that quake had struck during daylight hours it would have likely killed scores of people. Just like the second one did, six months later. In terms of a drill, it doesn’t get better than this. The 2010 earthquake demonstrated some of the city’s most dangerous weak spots.

But for some reason nothing was done. Buildings were left open, life carried on as normal.  I’ve said before, at the time of the first Christchurch quake  it seemed as if the city was too invested in the idea that it didn’t get earthquakes to notice that it just had a fucking enormous earthquake.

Wellington, on the other hand, is carefully checking to make sure that, should/when another quake occurs, the city won’t dissolve on top of its residents. Top thinking right there.

Opportunity Knocks

 Prominent ears and moustaches

A selection of headlines and bylines from the NZ mainstream media, regarding Gareth Morgan’s new political group, The Opportunities Party (with some artistic licence provided for clarity)….

Morgan Compares Self to Trump! (stuff.co.nz)

When asked who he most resembled, Donald Trump, Ghengis Kahn or that sidekick chicky from Zena with the fringe, Morgan compared himself to Trump, saying he was not really like him.

Gareth Morgan; good for ‘local colour’ (nzherald.co.nz)

John Key’s opinion of Morgan, who has consistently provided informed criticism of his National Government, is that he’s cashed up and good for a laugh. Don’t pay any attention to him.

Gareth Morgan Only Relevant to Cats! (thespinoff)

A searching treatise on Gareth Morgan’s new political party, completely comprised of cat-puns! It’s hilarious! Forget Morgan’s long-time, studied engagement in some of the most pressing issues of economic management and social justice, THE MAN DOESN’T LIKE CATS! Stand-by for Morgan’s position on leaf-blowers and microwaving vegetables with the Glad Wrap still on.

Morgan Too Arrogant For Parliament* (stuff.co.nz)

Gareth Morgan thinks he is Socrates. And he thinks he’s so clever he can solve all New Zealand’s problems single-handedly. He thinks politicians won’t solve New Zealand’s problems because they don’t want to ‘disturb the voters’.  Also, his son is rich, not him. Also, he’ll never make it. Also, he’s not very good at political spin, which, as a journalist dealing in political spin, clearly makes him an idiot.

*yes, really!

Sure, it’s easy to pass off all this negativity as normal New Zealand treatment of anyone who has,

A) given some thought to something,

and,

B) decided to do put some skin in the game.

Belting the shit out of their own is what kiwis do best.

However, I think there’s more to it than that. Anyone who is subject to such an immediate (clumsy and feeble) attempt at marginalisation by the media is obviously a very real threat to the status quo.

I know bugger all about Morgan (except his economic thinking, of which I know almost bugger all) but his appeal is evident from space. Morgan appears to be continuing an informed, intellectual interest in some pretty important social issues that the government keeps telling New Zealanders they don’t really care about.

Watch this space.