Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reefer Madness 2.0

Walton Brown has made his opposition to in any way loosening Bermuda's Marijuana laws quite clear in his opinion post published today in the Royal Gazette. But do his arguments hold up under scrutiny?

Let's identify what his arguments actually were:

  1. "My objection in this respect has little to do with moral outrage and everything to do with health: smoking anything is simply not good for you. No government that cares about its people should want to validate the use of something that is so clearly destructive." A.K.A. The government has a right and a duty to stop you from doing anything that is unhealthy.
  2. "It is far more important to think about the example being set for impressionable young people, some of whom already consider it normal to get high on ganja, influenced as they are by the power of parental practice" A.K.A. When something is legal it is obviously encouraged.
  3. "I am unmoved by the juvenile juxtaposition of alcohol's legality and marijuana's illegality. The research is clear: moderate amounts of alcohol consumption can actually enhance one's health, notwithstanding the conclusions just reached by the UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs." A.K.A. Apart from the studies that show it is more harmful than Marijuana, Alcohol is less harmful than Marijuana
On the first argument, it comes down to whether or not you have the right to make your own decisions regarding health or not. The government gives you the right to drink yourself stupid, eat yourself to death and smoke (Tobacco) until your lungs curl up and die. Why then should it prevent you from smoking a relatively harmless (compared to Alcohol according to a study that Mr. Brown would have you ignore) drug which is generally believed to be impossible to overdose on (unlike Alcohol)?

Oh dear, there I go being "juvenile". How dare I make logical comparisons that don't support Mr. Brown's argument! Ah well, the damage is done, I might as well come out and say it: How can you justify the illegality of Marijuana considering legality of Alcohol?

Concerning Mr. Brown's third point (which basically says: Alcohol isn't harmful, except that it is), one must wonder why we should put the conclusions of UK Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs aside. Considering it is the only study Mr. Brown actually referenced it seems strange that we are then told to ignore it... But lets refresh ourselves on what this study actually says, in the hopes that we may be reminded why it is to be ignored.

It says: Alcohol is the most harmful drug when its effects on the user are combined with the effects on those around them (beating out Heroin by 17 points) and is the most harmful drug when effects on those around users are considered alone (beating Heroin again by 25 points). In total Alcohol scores over 70 while Cannabis scores just over 20 according to the BBC article on the study.

Ah... I remember why we were supposed to put it aside now, because it basically disproves the core argument of Mr. Brown's case. Oops!

Now lets get back to that second argument. That the legalization of something equates to an encouragement to commit that act. Well that doesn't really makes sense does it? There is a basic presumption of legality in all things and a need to prove there is a clear benefit from making something illegal that outweighs any potential costs before doing so. Legality is no encouragement and is in fact the natural state of things, any argument otherwise simply cannot be justified. Consuming large amounts of alcohol to the point where one is in danger of alcohol poisoning is legal, but not encouraged. Committing suicide is legal, but not encouraged. Smoking is legal, but not encouraged etc. The world simply does not work as Mr. Brown suggests.

The reality is clear. Unfortunately it seems to have a bias that leaves Mr. Brown's arguments without a leg to stand on. Getting beyond Reefer Madness... Ha!

Try Reefer Madness 2.0. 

It's time to accept that society is not going to collapse if Marijuana is legalized, time to accept that legalization doesn't mean that suddenly the island's youth are replaced by an army of stoner zombies and time to accept that the social costs of Marijuana are simply too low to justify an outright ban. If we can trust an adult with Alcohol, we can trust an adult with Marijuana. Either way they hurt no one but themselves. You and I may turn our nose up at it and fear the negative effects it could have on our lives, but we have no right to impose those fears on others in the form of a ban.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Step Forward And More Of The Same

Our new Premier just won a a little bit more respect from me.

Ms. Cox has announced that she has terminated the bodyguards that her Predecessor insisted on through some strange mix of egotism and paranoid. She rightly points out that no other leader in the Caribbean (except that criminal Misick) had bodyguards before Dr. Brown and has not only saved us the money previously wasted on protecting something that wasn't in danger, but also removed a symbolic barrier between the Premier and the people she is supposed to represent. For both of those reasons she is to be applauded.

On a less positive note, it seems like the hope that Rolfe Commissiong would get the boot from his high paid consultancy, considering that his main achievement thus far has been to create racial tension and infuriate large portions of the population., was only wishful thinking. He has been kept on to implement the recommendations of the Mincy Report despite the fact that, as far as I can see, he has no relevant qualifications or experience.

It is completely possible that there is a legitimate reason for his continued employment, but good luck ever finding out either way. Ms. Cox's commitment to transparency apparently ends as soon as anything involving Mr. Commissiong begins since she has refused to even release what his actual responsibilities are (something that one would assume the public has a right to know). Let's hope that this is an exception to how she will conduct herself as Premier, but exception or not it is unacceptable that our money is being spent on something we are apparently not allowed to know about. When will the Government realize that the money they're spending isn't theirs? It's ours and we deserve it to be spent well and to be spent openly, I won't hold my breath though. That's nothing more than wishful thinking.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Little Redesign

Thanks to some changes in the interface that I've been playing around with I've finally been able to figure out how to make the blog a little bit easier on the eyes.

I do apologize for the way it was before but, it was the best I could manage with my blog-illiterate ways.

The Senate

A re-post from a topic on BIAW found here

Should the Senate be an Elected house?

The issue really comes down to 2 questions as I see it:
  • What is the senate's purpose?
  • How can it best fulfill that purpose?

In answer to the first question I believe its purpose should be to advise and to balance the highly political nature of the House of Assembly. If we lived in a world where the electorate made purely rational choices it is my belief that we wouldn't need two chambers and that the only reason we have two right now is to attempt to mitigate some of the failings of democracy in reality. Ideally it would retain the restrictions it has now on its ability to delay legislation and specifically those relating to money bills.

The answer to the second question is a little more complicated. To me it seems that it is obvious that it must be a non-political entity (something that we come close to achieving by giving the Government the same number of senators as everyone else) comprised of highly educated professionals like lawyers, doctors and economists (people who can truly consider the implications and rationale behind legislation). On whether it is elected or not I find myself torn between conflicting ideas. On one hand the will of the people is the primary source of power in a democracy. On the other however, the whole purpose of the senate should be to avoid politics and emotion while focusing purely on the legal, financial, rational etc. basis for legislation which would be impossible if its very composition was based on the often emotional responses of the voting public. Thus I cannot decide between two possible options for a reformed senate:

Firstly, a purely appointed body. Appointed either by the governor or by a commission which was appointed by the governor in which members would sit for long terms (7-10 years perhaps) after which they could be appointed again but, would be an equal footing in the commissions considerations as all other potential candidates selected from the pool of professionals in the country.

Secondly, a body where 50% + 1 were appointed in the same manner as the first and the rest were elected through proportional representation.

I think I lean towards the first option because we already have a chamber that is completely elected but, I think either could work as well as the other.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Glimmer Of Sense?

We could soon see Bermuda take a step into the 21st Century when it comes to Human Rights. 

The new Youth, Families and Community Development Minister Mr. Blakeney has announced that the government hopes to be in a position to move forward on guaranteeing protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation before the end of this session. A step forward that is long overdue.

I am slightly concerned about what Mr. Blakeney meant when he said: "without compromising the integrity or the moral fibre for some who might be concerned with regard to their particular spiritual and/or religious beliefs," despite my wish to give them the benefit of the doubt. Especially now that Laverne Furbert, who on record as saying "... show me where I ever said I was against equal rights for gays. What I have said consistently is that I would have a problem renting one of my apartments to an openly gay couple." and who has argued consistently that there should be protections for those who wish to make decisions based on the sexual preferences of others when it comes to things like renting apartments, has been appointed Senator, I worry that what we will get is not a firm enshrinement of a fundamental human right within the law but, rather a wishy washy half-arsed change, watered down in an attempt to pander to the Church. Of course I might be being unnecessarily cynical but, I think there is reason for being that way.

Perhaps hoping that they will do this right isn't just wishful thinking. Only time will tell.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What's The Plan Mrs. Premier

No mention of Education in the Throne Speech on Friday although I'm going to give Ms. Cox the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was because she wants to give the new Education Minister Jennifer Smith time to run her own department.

All the same though, someone from Government needs to lay out their plan soon. This recent talk about school closures and now redefining what a school is (Yeah I don't understand that one either) is causing a lot of uncertainty and also quite a bit of worry too. Closing schools is the last thing they should be doing right now, if the education system is failing even with the current class sizes how could anyone think it's not going to get a lot worse by increasing the class sizes?

If the options are increasing education funding or raising class sizes the government should fork out the extra money. Cuts need to be made, we all know that, but education is the complete wrong place to be looking for them. It is simply too important for that.

There may well be efficiency savings that can be made in the Ministry but, we must be very careful to make sure that they have no effect on the already below standard education that public school students are receiving and closing schools is a perfect example of a cut that will have an effect on that education.

Start teaching Bermuda's youth properly, then we can talk about saving money.