Hard News by Russell Brown

The earth moved

Nature's grand flourishes are great when no one gets hurt. Thus, we can all feel a bit excited about New Zealand's biggest earthquake in years.

It would be a good day, then, to visit one of the veterans of the New Zealand Internet, the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences. If you felt the quake, you can tell GeoNet about it.

This has to be the most stunning example of missing the point on the cannabis debate all year. United Future MP Judy Turner has revealed in a breathless press release that "Wellington tinny houses are offering their cannabis clients free or heavily discounted samples of the highly addictive drug P to get them hooked.

"It seems to be a growing practice. They claim to have run out of cannabis, then offer P as an alternative at a huge discount. And then when they have them hooked, up goes the price."

Well, yes, this has been going on for a while. But Turner's conclusion is that that this "proves" that cannabis is a "gateway" drug. No it does not. If you could only acquire, say, sauvignon blanc, by going to a clandestine gang house where you were subsequently offered P and became addicted, would that make sauvignon blanc a "gateway drug"? No it would not.

One of the better arguments for cannabis decriminalisation is that it ought to be separated at source from the hard drug trade. This has been the philosophy behind the Dutch approach, and it appears to have been effective. Turner is welcome to rebut that argument. But if anything, she seems to be arguing that marijuana and methamphetamine should continue to be available from the same handy one-stop shop. Maybe she needs to lay off the coffee or something.

Unfortunately, good-faith approaches on the pot issue seem to fall on increasingly stony ground at United Future. Peter Dunne's rude and insulting response to a pretty reasonable letter from Green Cross is, frankly, quite appalling. Dunne can, and should, make amends by apologising to Greg Soar.

Reasonable questions in the course of a rather skewed analysis of the foreshore situation by Richard Prebble.

On the other hand, a nonsensical press release - and by golly, he's had his share lately - from Act's Ken Shirley, who objects to Kofi Annan's perfectly accurate observation that it is the coalition forces' job to ensure security in Iraq. Frankly, if it isn't the occupying power's responsibility, whose is it?

An alternative view, as you might expect, from NBR's David Cohen on the Malcolm Evans affair.

While the UN is staying, the World Bank is bailing out of Baghdad for the time being.

The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McGeough has a revealing report on exactly who is behind the Iraqi resistance is, and it's not al-Qaeda or Saddam's old guard.

A rather good English-language Iraqi newspaper, Iraq Today, has relaunched and gone online.

The Atlantic Online points out that only eight more US soldiers have to die in Iraq for the toll in the "war after the war" to exceed that of the war itself.

There's an excellent thread on Slashdot sparked by a story on DARPA's thinking on, among other things, completely new chip fabrication technologies. Moore's Law isn't a law, it's a self-fulfilling observation, okay?

Oh, and as noted, Goldenhorse are playing a free gig to make up for the debacle at Galatos when the PA blew up last Saturday. I don't think I can go, but you're welcome to turn up in my place.