August 31, 2013

Moral Panic and Social Stigma

Since it is International Overdose Awareness Day and there are no events happening here in New Zealand in order to commemorate those that have lost their lives, their family and friends or to recognise the stigma that they face, i thought i would share a research project i did on Moral Panic in relation to methamphetamine and the Social Stigma that surrounds addiction across the board in New Zealand - in order to recognise this day.

Taking the Myth out of Meth

Exaggerating the impact of methamphetamine by overstating its prevalence and consequences, while downplaying its receptivity to treatment, tends to obscure its nature while heightening horrors that promote a limited and inaccurate notion of the nature of methamphetamine addiction.

This research will explain the criteria for moral panic and apply that framework to methamphetamine, and its users. This will include a description of how this moral panic may actually blind people to the plight of its users and hinder an addict’s recovery. How a change in society’s attitudes towards methamphetamine and its users could be a more effective form of prevention and treatment will also be discussed.

What is Methamphetamine? 
  • Methamphetamine is a class A drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.  
  • A psycho stimulant of the phenethylamine and amphetamine class of psychoactive drugs. 
  • A Central Nervous System stimulant, it acts to increase the amounts of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenalin and serotonin in the central nervous system. 
  • Water soluble and available in crystal, powder, or pill form. 
  • Routes of administration are through intranasal sniffing, smoking, injection and swallowing.
What is Moral Panic?

A moral panic is a social condition that becomes defined as a threat to community values and whose nature is
The New Zealand Herald May 12 - 14 2008
presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media (Cohen, 1972). The official reaction to the social condition is ‘out of all proportion’ to the alleged threat. Reporting about a moral crisis involves a continuous exaggeration of the problematic aspects of the social condition and an
ongoing repetition of fallacies. There are five criteria that are essential to moral panic.

The first sign of a moral panic is a heightened level of concern about an issue.

Since July 2006 The NZ Herald have published at least 1000 articles with the terms Methamphetamine or P in the title. Since June 2000 or Fairfax Media have published over 1700 articles with the terms Methamphetamine or P in the title. In one week in May 2008 the NZ Herald published 12 articles in relation to methamphetamine.

Five of those articles were opinion pieces or editorials in relation to the “War on P”.

Hostility is the second sign of moral panic. Despite amphetamines being used for over a century to treat ailments such as narcolepsy, ADHD and obesity, the distinction between who uses meth as opposed to who uses amphetamines has been determined by a media interpretation of meth users.

Popular descriptors of a meth addict are: Crack head, P freak, Meth Head, Fiend, Tweaker...

"P is for losers" ~ Marijuana users.

Consensus -  the third sign of moral panic - is achieved further by the declarations that meth production is a threat to the environment, and that meth use victimizes children. After all, everyone cares about the environment and everyone is concerned with child welfare.

Disproportionality whereby methamphetamine is seen as an epidemic while the harm attributed to other drugs is minimised. The alleged addictive quality of meth is a central element of the disproportionality of the claims (Armstrong, 2007). 
“People are talking about P, the drug epidemic that is going to steal our children, fry our brains, hollow out Kiwi society from the inside”(Fairfax Media, 2008). 
“The drug is so addictive even trying it once could lead to you becoming hooked” (Te Rangi Maniapoto, Police Maori Liason Officer, 2008). 
"P's dangerous, it's devastatingly addictive, it leads to violence and it destroys lives,“ (John Key, 2008). 
“It is brutal, a demon of a drug” (Mike Sabin, 2008).    
”It is the most addictive drug any generation has had to deal with” (Paul Holmes, 2009) 
“This deceptive and very addictive drug has no social boundaries. It is the modern day plague” (The Stellar Trust, 2009). 
“P is a seriously addictive, viciously destructive drug” ( John Key, 2009 ).

The element of volatility indicates that moral panic erupts suddenly then subsides” (Welch, Price, & Yankey, 2002, p. 18).
“The rising price of methamphetamine, or P, shows a crackdown on the drug is working” (John Key, 2011).

The Politics of Fear

Fear is the primary tactic used by politicians to motivate voters to support the elected leader. This is achieved by the leaders generating or sanctioning a threat to the dominant group’s interests. The threat elicits a psychological ‘knee jerk’ reaction of support (votes) for the politicians.(Veno, Van Den Eynde, 2007).

While privately Richard Nixon recognised that drug treatment was more effective than law enforcement, in the lead up to the 1972 election he turned to crime fighting rhetoric in order to boost his polls.

National’s 2008 campaign promises in relation to waging a “War on P” in NZ, as reported by the Dominion Post in May 2008:
  • National would give police and local authorities greater powers to storm gang fortifications and run surveillance operations to crack down on P. 
  • Make it illegal to be a member of a criminal organisation. 
  • Courts would be given greater sentencing powers relating to gang members and the Sentencing Act would be amended so gang membership became an aggravating factor in sentencing. 
  • National would also look at banning P dealers and manufacturers from having the right to electronic bail or home detention. 
  • Combat the drug P by banning its main ingredient, pseudoephedrine, from use in over-the-counter cold and flu tablets.
As part of John Key's "War on P" he established 60 new residential treatment beds - or "meth beds" as they were called.

These beds were never filled, which brings me to my next topic.

What is Social Stigma?

Stigma marks an individual as being different, and those differences are linked to undesirable characteristics of the person ( Jones, E, et al.1984). Several illnesses such as epilepsy, cancer, tuberculosis, obesity, HIV=AIDS, and mental illness, have been studied due to their stigmatizing nature. Stigma results in discrimination, rejection, ostracism, ridicule, prejudice, discounting, and discrediting of stigmatized individuals.

In one study of the stigma associated with drug addiction, the term ‘‘drug addict’’ evoked images of disoriented, unhealthy, thin, and low-class individuals with behavioural problems. In another study of public attitudes toward individuals who use illicit drugs, drug users were viewed as dangerous, unpredictable, and difficult to communicate with (Semple et al., 2005).

3 Components of the Stigmatization Process
  1. Culturally induced expectations of rejection is the first dimension of stigma. The addict experiences expectations of rejection, being devalued, and perceived as less worthy because they are identifiable by a particular characteristic (e.g., their drug use or mental illness). This type of stigma can occur without ever having experienced direct mistreatment by others. 
  2. Experiences of rejection represent the second dimension of stigma. Studies of drug users have reported rejection and discrimination in the workplace and in personal relationships with family and friends. 
  3. The consequence of expectations and experiences of rejection is the third dimension. Individuals will develop coping strategies for managing the threat of stigmatization. Most drug users manage stigma by being secretive. Other coping strategies for managing stigma involve seeking social support from individuals who are sympathetic and /or share the stigma (fellow drug users). They will distance themselves from their non drug using family and friends and are less likely to seek treatment for fear of being labelled a “drug addict” (Link et al., as cited by Semple et al., 2005).

While public stigma is one part of the stigma issue, some people also learn to self-stigmatise where by they believe the stereotypes and internalize the reactions of society (Crocker et al., 1998; Fortney et al., 2004). 

Effects of self-stigma include:
  • Reductions in self-esteem 
  • Reduced self-efficacy 
  • Reduced feelings of self-worth
Myth vs. Reality

To argue that the addictive nature and destructive consequences of methamphetamine have been overblown is not to argue that the drug is harmless. However, any discussion of effective strategies to treat methamphetamine addiction requires an honest and straightforward discussion of facts.

Methamphetamine is not instantly addictive for most people who use it. Not everyone that uses methamphetamine goes on to become addicted. Individuals differ substantially in regards to the quantity of use or time frame that it takes to become addicted (Leshner, 2001).

Far from untreatable, treatment for methamphetamine addiction is similar to that for cocaine and other stimulants and just as likely to succeed. There is also evidence that meth users respond as well to treatment as most other clients. Meth users had treatment durations and completion rates that were comparable to users of most other drugs (Brecht, Urada, 2011).

According to the most recent National Drug Use in NZ Survey Methamphetamine abuse has remained the
same or stable and is not on the rise.

The idea that meth is a new drug is fundamentally flawed and has activated a set of social responses that have a harsh impact on those designated as meth users.

Amphetamine was first synthesized in Germany in 1887. Methamphetamine was discovered in Japan in 1919. By 1943, both drugs were widely available to treat a range of disorders, including narcolepsy, depression, obesity, alcoholism and the behavioural syndrome called minimal brain dysfunction, known today as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). During World War II amphetamine was widely used to keep combat duty soldiers alert.

The earliest cases of clandestine manufacturing of amphetamine and methamphetamine were discovered in 1963.

Is P an Epidemic? 

The term epidemic refers to a large number of people who have been infected with a disease, either in a community or more broadly. The term epidemic is emotionally loaded and lacks precision. Epidemic and scourge are judgment calls. There is no magic number of users above which we say there is an epidemic and below which we say there is none.

Because methamphetamine use is illegal - users, manufacturers, and distributors have strong incentives to hide their behaviour. This means the nature and extent of the problem are difficult to measure. The absence of any concrete data about the problem makes it easy to either exaggerate or diminish the impact of the drug on society (Weisheit, 2009).

 De-stigmatising Methamphetamine Addiction

One of the causes of social stigma in relation to any addiction is the perception that addiction is caused by making bad choices. It is seen as a moral weakness, associated with loss of control and lack of willpower.

The attribution–emotion model of stigmatisation suggests that because addicts are perceived as having brought their problems on themselves or as criminals, they are more likely to elicit a reaction of anger or irritation from others than someone who has no control of the onset of stigma, for example in the case of physical disability (Lavack, 2007).

While an addiction may begin as a voluntary decision to try a drug, by the time a person reaches the point of problematic use or dependence, the drug use is no longer voluntary and has been characterised as a brain disorder (Leshner, 2001).

Social Marketing to De-stigmatise Methamphetamine and Addiction

One example of the effectiveness of social marketing in New Zealand has been the Ministry of Health’s campaign fronted by John Kirwan in relation to depression. The ads have been running off and on since October 2006 and have contributed to reduced stigma in relation to mental illness, people recognising signs and symptoms of depression in themselves and others, and have prompted them to seek help.

The Four Ps of Social Marketing 

Product: The Product in this instance would be the understanding of how the stigma of methamphetamine and addiction affects our society. The objective would be to convince consumers (society) that it would be to their benefit to change their attitudes towards addiction.

Price: The price refers to the cost to society of giving up their pre conceived ideas regarding methamphetamine addiction. People must be shown the benefits of living in a society where addicts are unafraid to seek treatment, because they do not fear being confronted with an embarrassing stigma.

Place: This refers to methods used to reach people with the information or message that we want to share. The public can be reached with messages in various ways including the media, face-to-face interaction at community meetings, through posters in doctors’ offices, health clinics, and schools.

Promotion: This involves the utilisation of tools such as advertising, public relations, media advocacy, and personal selling. In the case of de-stigmatising addiction, communication would focus on creating awareness of problems associated with the stigma associated with addiction, and persuading the public that society would be improved by the removal of that stigma (Lavack, 2007).

How Can We Reduce Stigma and Promote Recovery?
  • Through improved public awareness of the scientific realities of methamphetamine addiction. 
  • By encouraging people with drug problems to seek help early in the progression of their illness, when it is most treatable. 
  • Creative campaigns to erase myths and stereotypes and to raise awareness about the realities of methamphetamine addiction and recovery. 
  • Education and teaching people that addiction is an illness, not a moral failing.  
  • Dispelling the sense of hopelessness that is currently attached to methamphetamine addiction by promoting the fact that people who have been addicted to methamphetamine have successfully recovered and now lead healthy and productive lives.

International Overdose Awareness Day 2013

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. There are events happening all over the world to
commemorate those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose, it also acknowledges the grief felt by their families and friends.

Celebrated around the world, International Overdose Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, especially for those mourning the loss of family and friends. It also spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

International Overdose Awareness Day originated in Melbourne, Australia in 2001. Sally Finn, manager of a Salvation Army needle and syringe program, was touched by the sorrow she observed among the friends and families of those who had overdosed. She witnessed their inability to express that sorrow because of the stigma surrounding people who use drugs.

Sally decided to organise an event of remembrance. To commemorate those who had died from overdose, Sally hit upon the idea of distributing ribbons. She thought she’d need 500, she gave out 6,000.

More than a decade on, that one event in the back yard of a suburban crisis centre has evolved into International Overdose Awareness Day, which is now celebrated around the world. Its global significance reflects the universality of the human emotions triggered by the tragedy of overdose – a tragedy that’s preventable.

The organisation Beginning in 2012 International Overdose Awareness Day is being organised by the non-profit Australian public health body Anex after Salvation Army Crisis Services transferred responsibility. Its theme is Prevention and Remembrance.

Anex works to increase understanding of – and improve responses to – the problems arising from the use of
illicit drugs, pharmaceuticals and alcohol. A number of committed individuals and a range of organisations involved in drugs and alcohol and emergency services make up this year’s committee.

Everyone from governments, councils, health services, police, families and individuals are encouraged to get involved and show their support.

Organisations and individuals are encouraged to develop and register their own local events or ceremonies.

Facts and Stats
• Drug overdose was responsible for 38,329 deaths in the US in 2010. US overdose deaths have increased for 11 successive years. In 2010, and for the third year in a row, the number of US citizens whose deaths were drug related exceeded the number of fatalities in road traffic accidents (32,885). Opioid analgesic overdoses have claimed 125,000 US lives in the last decade. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 
• In 2012 the number-one cause of death in 17 US states was prescription drug abuse, and that figure surpassed the number of fatalities caused by motor vehicle accidents. Source: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.
• At least three Australians die every day from overdoses. Overdoses outnumbered road fatalities in Australia in 2011. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics overdose deaths totalled 1,383, while road deaths, which have been  steadily declining, ended the year at 1,323. In Victoria prescription drug-related deaths now outnumber those caused on the road. 
• Deaths from opioid drugs in Australia are rising steadily. Accidental opioid drug overdoses were projected to increase 95.8% from 2007 to 2010. Source: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre University of New South Wales.
• In 2011 overdoses in the UK (3,338) exceeded the number of deaths in road accidents (1,960). Sources: and UK House of Commons Library Reported Road Accident Statistics. 
• Globally between 102,000 and 247,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2011. Source: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2013 world overview
• Drug fatalities surged in Scotland between 2010 and 2011, increasing  from 365 to 438 cases. The drug most frequently found was diazepam (81.4%) followed by methadone (57.3%), heroin/morphine (51.5%), anti-depressants (37.1%) and alcohol (37.1%). In 97% of cases more than one drug was present. Source: National Drug-related Deaths Database. 
• In 2010 fatal overdoses in Norway (248) exceeded the number of fatalities caused in road traffic accidents (168). Source: and UK House of Commons Library Reported Road Accident Statistics.
• In 2011, the number of people in Estonia whose deaths were drug related (123) exceeded the amount of fatalities caused in road traffic accidents (101). Source: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
• It is estimated that over 70,000 lives were lost to drug overdoses in Europe in the first decade of the 21st Century. European Union nations reported 6,500 overdose deaths in 2011. Source: EMCDDA.
• Eastern Europe and Central Asia has an estimated 3,724,000 people who inject drugs. At least two-thirds of users reported having overdosed, with 4 out of 100 being fatal, the EHRN survey found. In most countries in the region drug users are afraid to call an ambulance for an overdose because police must launch a criminal investigation when a death occurs.
• Countries in South America, including the Caribbean and Central America, reported relatively few drug-related deaths (between 2,200 and 6,300) with a mortality rate well below the global average, the UNDOC said.
• In Africa that between 13,000 and 41,700 drug overdose deaths occur a year, close to the global average per head of population. Source: UNODC 
• Drug-related deaths in Asia are extremely tentative because of poor regional coverage and reporting of mortality data, the UNODC said. However the agency estimated between 15,000 and 140,000 deaths a year in Asia.
Oceania, which includes Australia and New Zealand, has a higher than average drug mortality rate, mainly because of better reporting. The UNODC said about 3,000 drug related deaths occurred in 2011, up from 2,800 a year earlier.
• Thousands of Australians are hospitalized each year for drug overdoses and many are children. In 2005-06 there were 6,623 Australians admitted to hospital over non-fatal drug overdoses and 20 percent of these were children aged 0-4years old. 
• Powerful painkillers are being prescribed to Australians at increasing rates. In the decade and a half until 2007 prescriptions for opioid painkillers rose threefold to 7 million a year. Over the same period the number of strong painkillers available has risen from 11 in 1992 to 70 in 2007. 
• In Ireland prescription pills offences far outstrip those for heroin, cocaine and cannabis.  Of 1,500 arrests for drug-dealing in Dublin city centre between September and December 2011 just 60 were for selling drugs such as heroin and cocaine. 
• Celebrities who have died of overdose include Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Jimi Hendrix.

As far as i am aware there are no organised events in relation to recognising this day in New Zealand.

Hopefully that will change next year.

August 30, 2013

Mind the Gap

If you missed Bryan Bruce's Inside New Zealand documentary on inequality in New Zealand that aired last night - it is now online.

You can watch it here.

It shows the enormous job that a Labour government and its new leader will have ahead of them in terms of reversing the effects of John Key's damaging economic and social policies on our society.

The pessimist in me thinks the problem is almost too far gone.

'No Street Workers' sign is apparently illegal

Christchurch City Councillor Aaron Keown has taken matters into his own hands...


One of these days our government might bother to review the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. At the moment it is not doing anyone any good. Not the workers, and certainly not the residents of residential areas that are being affected by the profession.

Are midget weightlifters a threat to homeland security?

Every once in awhile i have a glance at who is reading my blog. I have written previously about the slight amusement i felt in regards to keywords that had led people to land on my little corner of the internet.

This morning i wake up to discover that the Department of Homeland Security has been on my blog. I might have been a bit concerned that i was about to become the subject of a Kim Dotcomish style raid had it not been for the fact that they landed on my blog after searching for...

Midget. Weightlifters.

All i have to say about this is - I hope those midget weightlifters are not as scary as John Key's idea of the New Zealand terrorist.

Don't go ruining the midget weightlifters' lives.

By the way...

I'm REALLY sorry for downloading Maniac. The Office of Film Classification and Literature banned it. I just couldn't help myself - but there was absolutely no criminal intent. I just love horror movies. So i should be all goodz.

August 28, 2013

How understanding your Twitter use could help you understand gambling addiction

Awhile back when the details of the Sky City convention centre deal - whereby the casino will get 230 more pokie machines in exchange for building a new convention centre was publicized - i had a conversation with a friend of mine regarding our differing thoughts on the deal. I can't recall the exact details of the conversation (it took place on Facebook). I subsequently deleted the conversation because in my efforts to win this debate i had mentioned the fact that our government had just cut the Gambling Helpline's budget by a third and their staff were facing redundancies and reductions in their hours. This was confidential information at the time and i have learned the hard way that nothing said on Facebook - no matter how tight your privacy settings are - is private.

Basically, my view was that it is wrong and that vulnerable and poor people in our society will end up paying for a very expensive convention centre for the wealthy. My friend's view was that "if it saves ratepayers money then i don't care if people who are stupid enough to get addicted to gambling end up paying for it. They should be feeding their kids instead of gambling, drinking and smoking anyway".

It was a simplistic argument to a very complicated issue.

A couple of years ago i signed up to Twitter just to see what all the fuss was about. With no followers i felt like i was talking to myself, got bored, and deleted my account. I kept wondering though, what all the fuss was about so i recently decided to give it another shot. It wasn't much different this time. With only two followers, and one being a very obviously unfriendly one - i still felt like i was talking to myself and just didn't get it.

I decided that there must be something about the appeal of this Twitter thing that i was completely missing and that i was going to persevere. This is not really unlike how on the odd occasion in the past, i have stood there watching someone on a pokie machine while thinking to myself that this is the most boring form of entertainment i have ever witnessed, and just didn't GET how people could become addicted to them. The only real difference is that i have never felt the desire to persevere with finding out the appeal of the pokies. Unfortunately - that is not the case for a lot of people though.

My Twitter use has gradually increased over the last few weeks. This gradual increase in use led me to an "aha" moment this morning.  It dawned on me that my psychological responses to Twitter are very similar to how a pokie addict must respond to those bells and clanging noises and that i was finally understanding the appeal and why i was spending more and more time on that website.

A common misconception is that the best way to ensure that a desired behaviour will persist is to reward the behaviour every time it occurs. In reality, while that statement sounds logical, research shows that continuous reinforcement generates less resistance to extinction than intermittent reinforcement. If you want a behaviour to remain strong in the absence of reinforcement, the behaviour should be reinforced intermittently so that the person becomes accustomed to some degree of non-reinforcement - or disappointment.

So i sat on Twitter for a couple of weeks, largely being ignored. Then after a little while, every once in awhile i would get a new follower, or someone would retweet or click that "favourite" button on my latest tweet. I still don't have a lot of followers, but every new follower, retweet, or "favourite" made me feel good. I started enjoying Twitter a little bit more, and spending more time on it. I was no longer just talking to myself. The beeping noise that my iphone makes when i get a new email telling me that someone likes what i have said on Twitter made me feel good. I started looking forward to those noises. They didn't happen all the time. In fact more often than not - they didn't. But every once in awhile they did.

I want more followers, more people to retweet and favourite what i am saying, so i will spend more time on Twitter. The more time i spend on that website, the more chance there is of me getting my desired result. So this morning while enjoying my morning coffee, my partner was talking to me about an important issue he was facing at work today. I was half listening to him. My Twitter feed was busy with morning news and things that i had missed while sleeping. He became a bit frustrated at me so i tried to get him interested in my Twitter with a "look at my followers! Kim Dotcom and 'insert other famous people's names' are following me this is way better than Facebook!" conversation.

He didn't get it. I saw him off to work then went back to Twitter. I skipped Uni class today. I can afford to miss class because i haven't missed any classes all year and my work is all up to date on the paper that i was supposed to be at today. It's all good i told myself.

And now i am sitting here, and despite never having a gambling addiction myself - i am understanding the appeal of the pokie machines. Just like a pokie addict, i want to hear more of those beeping noises on my phone aka receive more of those reinforcements. Now i am off to try to get more followers. I currently have 58. I want 100. And then i will aim for 1000. And then...

Right about now i am remembering the four Ls of addictive behaviour;

Love. Livelihood. Law. Liver. When a certain behaviour continues despite one or more of those Ls suffering then you know something is up. Luckily, my Twitter use is unlikely to affect my liver or get me into trouble with the law. As for the other two...

I don't think my psychological reaction to Twitter would be all that unusual. I suspect that a lot of people would have the same maybe think about that if you are one of those people with the view that the Sky City convention centre deal is ok or that people who suffer from gambling or pokie addiction deserve to suffer because they are "stupid".

Tomorrow i will go to Uni. I will never skip another day or let my work suffer. I guess i am lucky that addiction and impulse control disorders are what i am studying.

Gambling harm is real and it does not require stupidity. It just requires a brain.

As for my Twitter addiction. Think i am going to knock that one on the head.

August 27, 2013

For all the Breaking Bad fans out there

Hank and Marie watch the Video Music Awards...


August 26, 2013

In the words of a close friend of mine...

Sweet. Mother. Of. Pearl.

I wonder if Miley has had a chance to watch that and think to herself  "Hmmm I will most likely never live that down. I really wish someone had told me no..." yet???

I feel like i am stuck at improv night at a strip club. 

At lunch time.

Veggie Garden - 2013

In between the rain, wind, hail, and thunder and lightening over the weekend - i managed to get a good start on my veggie garden.

I know it doesn't look like much right now, but planted in there are tomatoes, peas, spinach, lettuce, courgettes, and corn.

For an investment of approx $40 so far - we are going to be eating fresh vegetables for free all summer!

August 25, 2013

So has Russell Brand changed his mind regarding the benefits of Harm Reduction?

This time last year Russell was speaking out on BBC Newsnight against harm reduction and promoting abstinence based recovery as the only option.

Today - he has paid a visit to Vancouver's safe injecting site - InSite Vancouver - and posted this photo on his Twitter account.

It is good to see him opening his mind and realising that harm reduction is a necessary part of some people's recovery. 

August 23, 2013

There is nothing Independent about the Independent Police Conduct Authority

The brother of Susan Burdett, the woman who was raped and murdered in her Papatoetoe home in 1992, said his sister would still be alive had police acted on a complaint by another rape victim. 
He has also called has called for a political inquiry into her death. 
Jim Burdett told a media conference in Auckland today that he believed Teina Pora, who was convicted of his sister's murder and has spent 21 years in jail, was innocent and that police had failed his sister. 
"I want to know why my sister had to die," he said. 
"I feel sorry for Teina Pora. I think he got himself tied up in knots . . . I think the only thing Teina Pora is guilty of is stupidity. 
"I have lost a sister but I have a very nice pakeha middle-class life and Teina Pora has been in jail all of his life." Burdett said he believed his sister would be alive if police had acted properly and had acted on the first complaint from a woman who said she had been raped by convicted serial rapist Malcolm Rewa. 
TV3's 3rd Degree this week revealed the woman, who was attacked in 1988, gave police Rewa's name but when they approached him he claimed to have an alibi. 
It was later established the man he claimed to have been drinking with had been in Australia at the time, TV3 reported. 
The victim complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority but it did not look into the matter.

The Independent Police Conduct Authority is nothing more than Police and the justice system investigating their own and covering each other's back.

I used to have a lot of respect for the Police. Even when my past addiction had caused me to be on the wrong side of the law - whenever i had dealings with the Police they always treated me fairly and i always knew they were just doing their job. With the exception of one police officer that i knew during my troubled time - i credit their treatment of me with pointing me in a better direction and beginning my recovery.

I used to think that people who disliked the Police must do so because they are doing something wrong. I used to think if you didn't break the law then the Police were a source of protection from people who do. I used to think that most Police were kind and ethical.

Things i have read and things that i have witnessed lately have caused me to change my mind.

That Malcolm Rewa was never investigated properly in 1988 and that a subsequent complaint to the Police Independent Conduct Authority was not followed up and that Teina Pora has spent 21 years in jail when the Police know full well that he is innocent does not surprise me in the slightest.

That my view of the New Zealand Police has changed - and i no longer trust them - saddens me.

Susan Burdett would be alive today if the New Zealand Police had acted in an ethical and professional manner towards a rape victim.

Snapchat lesson number 1

Always think twice. Even your mother cannot be trusted!

August 22, 2013

Pump up the volume

Ok so sometimes having an expired anti virus thingie installed on your laptop can have benefits. Occassionally i have to endure things that just pop up on my screen for seemingly no reason.

Tonight i was in the kitchen and all of a sudden that old song by MARRS - Pump Up the Volume - just randomly started blasting from my laptop via a pop up thingie. It reminded me of good times back in the early 90s so i youtubed the song to listen to it again and found this very cool documentary from 2001 on the history of House music.

It's long.

I'm about half way through it and loving it.

It is making me want to go out dancing. Preferably in Chicago - or the UK.


The Western Idaho Fair

My sister took this photo of my brother in law and nephew at the top of a ferris wheel.

Doesn't that scene look like something out of an old fashioned movie?

Pretty cool huh?

Right wing bloggers crack me up

They are all...


Like we heard that news first at a address instead of seeing  it all over the news and social media for like the previous two hours.

I wonder if they hold a little tape recorder in front the speakers to their stereos while they listen to Newstalk ZB so that they feel like a real reporter as they type out their breaking news while referring to themselves as a plural third person?

You know - "WE just heard this" or "WE wonder that" ...c'mon - we know it is just you sitting there with your little Dick Smith recorder.

Good on David Shearer. What a completely humble and selfless decision he made.

I have more respect for him than any other politician in this country right now.

August 21, 2013

Golly gosh

Imagine finding this in your letter box

With a neighbour like that, i think i would be tempted to "vamose" ...

Yikes - there are some scary people out there. 

August 19, 2013

Live for tomorrow

Over the weekend i shared the following photo on my Facebook page.

It had popped up in my news feed due to someone that i know following Polly Gillespie from ZM. Polly had said the following: 
Most NZ families have been effected by suicide. Both Grant and I have had close family members take their own lives. We need to know what signs to look for, listen and understand, and let people know that they are entirely accepted gay, straight, depressed, young and pregnant, old and feeling no longer useful. We like to call NZ a paradise ,and we are proud to be Kiwi, but this beautiful country has a staggering suicide rate. We lead the world in 'teen suicide'......lets reach out. xxxxxx

I received an email shortly after from a man wanting to share the following youtube video with me. That email automatically went into my "other" bin that is usually reserved for really hot American soldiers who appear to struggle with the English language and go something like this:
What a lovely picture profile,indeed you are an epictomy of beauty,that the whole woman in the world will love to look at.

Anyway - so i didn't see this man's email straight away. I noticed it this morning though. It was a brief email sharing the following video and website with me. I feel obliged to share it with the world.

I have been criticised previously, for speaking out about suicide. I have learned a lot about the topics of self harm and suicidality over the last 18 months. I have learned that some of my views and thought processes in regards to suicide ideation in the past were wrong. 

One thing i was not wrong about though - is the need for this topic to be discussed openly, publicly and without shame. 

Media release from Chief Coroner Neil MacLean 
Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean has today released provisional annual suicide statistics for the year ending 30 June 2012. 
This is the third year Judge MacLean has made the annual suicide statistics available. 
In the past year the total number of suicides was 547, which is a decrease from the previous year by 11. 
The average number of suicides for each of the past five years is 543.
"The annual number of suicides has remained relatively constant, but our latest figures show some concerning trends," Judge MacLean said.
"Significant is the jump in teenage suicide numbers, and the continued rise of Maori suicides, in particular young Maori."
The figures show: 
•    A significant rise in the number of suicides in the 15 to 19-year-old age group over the past year, from 56 (2010/11) to 80 (2011/12). The average number of suicides per year for this age group over the past four years is 55. 
•    A suicide in the 5 to 9-year-old age group, which is the youngest suicide case since the Ministry of Justice's Coronial Services Unit (CSU) began collecting comprehensive suicide statistics in 2007. The sensitivities around this case are obvious and no further details about it will be made public.
•    Over the past year, the number of Maori suicides has increased for most age groups, in particular the 15 to 19-year-old group, which is almost double the average of the previous four years. The average number of suicides per year for this age group, over the past four years, is around 21. There were 37 suicides recorded for this age group this year (2011/12). 
•    Suicides in the Christchurch region (Timaru to Kaikoura) have risen from 67 (2010/11) to 81 (2011/12). The average number of suicides per year for this region over the past four years is 74. The figure of 67 deaths last year reflected the drop in suicides post-earthquake. The phenomenon of a drop in the suicide rate after a large scale crisis event, such as a natural disaster, has been observed elsewhere. 
•    The number of suicides dealt with by coroners for the West Coast, Marlborough and Christchurch rose from 89 (2010/11) to 117 (2011/12). 
•    The rate of suicides in the 50 to 74-year-old group has dropped. The rate of suicides for unemployed people remains high compared to employed people. 
Students and retired people also continue to have a high rate of suicide.
"I continue to believe we need to gently bring the issue of suicide from out of the shadows," Judge MacLean said.  "Coroners have a responsibility to encourage the informed public discussion about how best to reduce the rate of suicide. To have that discussion we need up-to-date and complete information."

I have known three young men that have completed suicide over the past 18 months. Two were of Maori ethnicity, and one was a school mate of my daughters' who had been teased at school for being "gay".

Not only is it heartbreaking that these young men felt so hopeless that they couldn't face another day, the impact that their deaths have had on the young people that they leave behind is immeasurable. I have seen the pain every day since their deaths.

That is not what we want for our young people and nothing will change until society views suicide as a topic that is ok to talk about. 

August 18, 2013

The Bystander Effect

Eyes closed to those in need
An old man falls in the middle of a busy street and no one comes to his aid. Public apathy in the face of others' misfortune is a common phenomenon worldwide and the 'bystander effect' is the subject of much research.
Don Powley broke his arm in a fall at Auckland's Britomart Centre.
I studied the Bystander Effect in psych last term. It is so interesting and something that we should all be aware of. You would think that the more people there are around you when you need help - the more likely you would be to get that help. 

Well that was my thinking anyway. Apparently that is wrong. 

Studies conducted in subways, stores, and shopping malls found that people will provide help to a stranger 75% of the time if they are alone. In contrast, people in the presence of others offered help only 53% of the time. 

The bystander effect is most common in ambiguous situations when people will look to others in order to determine if there is a need to offer assistance. If no one else in a crowd stops to help, then people are likely to think that help is not needed - and keep walking. 

The more people that are present the more likely the diffusion of responsibility will occur whereby everyone thinks to themselves that someone else will help. When alone - the responsibility to help someone in need rests squarely on our own shoulders, but when in a crowd the responsibility is divided. 

The bystander effect is a really interesting subject and like i said - something that we should all be aware of - if we like to think that we would always offer help to someone like Mr. Powley. 

I know i do. 

Not the only thing that makes Dom a dork

Pork sausage surprise makes Dom a dork

So i have questions...

Does Sophie Hallwright not mind receiving photos of her colleague's penis on her phone? Is this normal behaviour for The Edge employees? No one is asking WHY he was sending this photo to his producer? 

Ratings survey time again. 

DJs will resort to anything for a bit of publicity. Desperate times call for desperate measures, i suppose...But if you listen to The Edge because you have heard their DJ sends photos of his penis to people - then you deserve to listen to Dom Harvey. 

Team New Zealand goes underwater


Apparently even after going under water and losing Chris Ward and Rob Waddell overboard - they still beat Luna Rossa in  race 1.

Crazy stuff.

Hope the boat is ok!

I had totally forgotten how exciting yacht racing can be.


August 16, 2013


Tinder, an app that is proving to be the latest craze in online dating, is making its mark on New Zealand, having been launched in the United States in September.  
Tinder connects to your Facebook profile and uses your GPS location to find potential matches near you. You get to scroll through pictures of other single people in the area, and you can tick or cross to say whether you like them or not.
If a mutual match occurs, Tinder launches a chat thread between the two of you (if they don't like you back, they won't know you gave them the nod).  
So, it's like speed dating, just without having to sit and talk to 20 strangers for three minutes at a time, which can get a little exhausting... Trust me.  
Tinder, on the other hand, has proven to be actually very addictive.  
Some sites describe it as being a way to find dates, but as we found out this morning, others describe it as a facilitator of casual sex. So be careful.  
The two of us that signed up as a "work-related experiment" weren't the only ones confused about the app's intention - one guy had as his tagline "I dont talk to much, Im jst a person that likes to make friends.. not like mre then friends haha jst friends... [sic]".   
Tinder claims to have made over 100 million matches since its launch and says there have been 50 marriage proposals, so it is obviously hitting the right note with some people. 
We aren't prepared to call it a raging success just yet, but it's early days. 
1. Despite initial concerns stemming from the information that so-and-so was "one mile away", Tinder doesn't actually give out this information to would-be suitors, so they aren't going to turn up at your front door. Unless that information's available elsewhere.
2. Tinder should be used in moderation - an over-enthusiastic approach yesterday means we have exhausted the available population of potential candidates for the meantime, well, until fresh meat signs up.
The app asks you to "tell your friends" about it to get more people signed up, but we really don't want to do that.
3. Coming across someone you know is a bit awkward. One approach has been to screenshot their profile to be able to use as leverage if any questions arise as to what we were doing on there - it was a work thing, OK? 
4. Setting age limits is a good idea. Before I realised this was an option, I was being recommended more 18-year-olds than are enrolled at your local high school, and just to balance out the scales at the other end, I also had a 66-year-old thrown in the mix. 
5. Once you've 'matched' with someone, it's a bit hard to know where to go from there. One guy dealt with this by asking which super power I would rather have out of stretch, invisibility, or speed... Definitely invisibility. 
6. Be careful with the swiping function - if you aren't paying attention, you think you're scrolling through the available photos of some eligible bachelor in your area. 
Nek minnit, you've swiped the wrong way and either rejected McDreamy, or said you're keen on someone who looks like they might have intimate relations with a vacuum cleaner. 
And there is no "undo" button in the Tinder-verse.

The amusing ( The app asks you to "tell your friends" about it to get more people signed up, but we really don't want to do that ) review aside that did make me laugh - all i have to say about this is - YUCK.

Computer applications / websites like that make me wish we could go back to the 80s, when life and embarking on a new relationship did not require broadband and a credit card.


August 13, 2013

Legalizing pot isn't about ending the drug war

or the stigma and discrimination that addicts endure on a daily basis.

It is not about medicine either. It is about getting high. 
At first glance, my 11-year-old son seems like your everyday, all-American kid. He loves baseball and basketball, plays Xbox with his friends when they come over, and posts innocuous pictures of the family dog on his Instagram feed. Given these mundane facts about the boy, you can imagine my surprise when, while watching the news (again, seemingly from out of nowhere) he asked me, "If pot is so bad, why are they trying to legalize it?" 
And, just like that, the long and involved talk my wife and I had given our children about drugs was tossed out the window. 
We had explained the harmful effects of marijuana. Like cigarettes, smoking marijuana introduces tar, carbon monoxide and cancer-causing agents into your body. 
Americans agree: Marijuana shouldn't be criminalized
Neither my wife nor I anticipated that our son would be stopped on the street by unscrupulous potheads petitioning outside of the local grocery store and being fed a line of rhetoric that went against what we were trying to teach him.
It turns out that potheads weren't exactly the problem; they were the symptom. Let me tell you why. 
If you have a fever and you go to the doctor and he tells you that you have pneumonia, do you ask him to treat the fever, or do you ask him to treat the pneumonia? Most of us would ask him to treat the pneumonia because the pneumonia is the problem; the fever is the symptom. 
It's the same way with the argument about the legalization of marijuana. I'm not interested in focusing on the symptom; I want to eradicate the problem. And the problem is that we're even considering legalizing marijuana at all. 
Let's take a look at the medical marijuana issue in Los Angeles (where I live) and we can see where legalization takes us. It has been my experience that anyone can get a medical marijuana card in L.A.; all you need is $25-$100 and the ability to lie about needing it. You just make an appointment with some company, walk in and state your problem(s) and why you need a card (with no proof of medical conditions whatsoever) and you will be prescribed a card that is good for one year. It's a toothless system that isn't well-regulated.
Why are some of the people who petition for legalizing marijuana so passionate about it? Because when you smoke pot, you get loaded. You fry your brain. That's why the patients I see in my treatment center call it "getting baked." Pot is all about getting really high. 
Now, I have nothing against people who smoke pot. In fact, I believe it is a crime to put someone in prison for smoking pot. Honestly, do we really need some idiot frat boy to get picked up during Mardi Gras for smoking pot and find himself locked in a cage with a monster for six months? Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy posesa terrific point when he says that criminal processing for possession of marijuana needs improvement, but legalization is a step too far. 
Marijuana supporters like to argue that marijuana is similar to alcohol. While alcohol is legal, it also accounts for tens of thousands of deaths every year in car accidents or other drinking-related misfortunes. But we can't turn the clock back on that one because it's too embedded in our society. 
Opinion: Why I changed my mind on weed
Supporters of marijuana say that marijuana should be legalized because old people and women and children who have ailments like glaucoma or cancer or intractable seizures need it.
It is painful to watch people suffer. I am not against helping people. In a perfect world, a woman suffering from cancer should be able to get a prescription from her doctor, go to a pharmacy, acquire her medical marijuana, go home and recuperate from her last round of chemotherapy. But we don't live in a perfect world, and you don't need a Ph.D. to see that the spirit of that argument is being exploited by people who aren't using the marijuana for medical reasons at all; they are using it to get high. 
Introducing legalized marijuana into our culture would be like using gasoline to put out a fire, because it stunts growth. 
Do you know why we don't see potheads out in public? It's because they're sitting at home smoking weed and staring at their television sets or playing video games all day. Do you have any idea how many marijuana addicts I encounter at my rehab on a daily basis? They talk about wanting to be productive. But what pot does is it kills their motivation -- it destroys people's ability to go out and work and to have a career. It makes them want to do nothing but lie around all day. Is that what you want for your children? Is that what you want for your loved ones? 
And how do you market marijuana? We have only just now moved into an era where cigarette smoking is commonly known to be harmful, but now advertisers have a new product to sell. Who do you think they're going to market their product to? Not you or me, because we're not stupid enough to believe the lie; we know too much. They're going to follow in the footsteps of the cigarette companies in the 1980s and market this stuff to young people. 
The very idea of that sickens me. I know what marijuana does to the human mind because I started smoking weed when I was 15 years old. It literally robbed me of my motivation to participate in my own life. I was absolutely OK with sitting around all day eating cookies and watching television and getting high with my friends. But, to go out and earn a living and do something with my life? That was all stuff that I was going to do later after I came down off of the marijuana. But, then I'd smoke some more and think, "Why bother?" . . . and, eventually, I started shooting heroin. If my family had not intervened and sought professional help, I would probably still be wandering aimlessly through the streets today; searching for that elusive "perfect high." 
Melissa Etheridge: Pot got me through 
Even if you only stay with marijuana in your repertoire of illicit drugs to abuse, it will never yield positive results. Ever. 
And, I posit this to marijuana abusers everywhere: Are you really that weak? Are you really that uncomfortable in your own skin that you can't handle living your life or having real experiences without being high? Is it really impossible for you to live life without a drug? Because, if it is, it breaks my heart and I feel sorry for you. Because that's no way to live. 
And my kid, he's going to know the truth about you. He's going to know that every time you approach him arguing for the legalization of marijuana, what you're really doing is asking him to vote to make it OK for you to spend the rest of your life half-baked on your sofa, too stoned to go out and play with your own kids or do the things you've always dreamed of doing. To my kid, I'm going to say that this means one less competitor on his road to a successful and fulfilling life. 
And, to the potheads who are so passionate about being allowed to smoke their lives away, I have only one thing to say: Dream On.

Say my name

If you have not watched every single episode of Breaking Bad, you have no idea what you are missing.

This is the best television series ever created.

Spoiler alert

Breaking Bad Watch: I Am the One Who Gets Knocked Out

If you were worried that the final run of Breaking Bad episodes would be lackadaisical in ramping up the drama and advancing the story as the finale approached: well, you can stop worrying. The return, “Blood Money,” meant business. 
Walt’s cancer is back–something broadly hinted at before the show went on hiatus but made crystal-blue-clear now. (He is also, evidently, concealing it from his family, as evidenced by his hiding his chemo-induced sickness. Because of course he is.) We now know, in the flash-forward, that not only is Walt seeing hard times–and is now armed with both a machine gun and ricin–but so is his family, or at least his family home; it’s fenced off, the swimming pool (the site of so much White family life) being used as a skateboard pit. 
And everything is out on the table between Hank and Walt. We’ve spent five seasons–well, I have, anyway–wondering how Hank would react to learning that Walt was Heisenberg all along. Would he go into denial, unwilling to accept how he’d been deceived? Would he play things cool, keeping Walt close until he was ready to lower the boom? Would a cat-and-mouse game follow, building to a confrontation in the final episode or two of the series? 
Nope. Granted, the jaw-dropping throwdown between Hank and Walt was precipitated by Walt’s figuring out that Hank was on to him. But you can see–after his literally sickened response to first learning–that the discovery has awakened a fury in him. There’s no regret in his turning on his brother-in-law, no apparent fear or hesitation, but rather, great relief.
It’s an astonishing scene (in an episode, by the way, by Bryan Cranston, as if to spike the ball). And it’s a reminder that, while Cranston has won deserved praise for playing Walter White for five years, he hasn’t carried this series by himself. Dean Norris and Cranston are both eye magnets here, and the force just arcs between them as your attention is drawn irresistibly to both at once. 
(MORE: Breaking Bad Is Back: Why It’s the Most Moral Show on TV
The conflict is both explosive and subtle at once. There’s a lot of alpha-dog fury here, from the blammo! moment when Hank punches Walt out. But listen to the fencing match of their dialogue, the way Walt, even as he’s caught red-handed, pleads with Hank without ever actually confessing in so many words. (“These wild accusations, they could destroy our family. And for what!”) 
And then, as Hank presses his attack (“Rot, you son of a bitch”), a silent turning point is reached, and the subtle pleas become subtle threats. (That point, perhaps, is when Hank insists that Walt bring the kids to him and Marie.)
There’s a great moment where, having spent his fury, Hank finally lets show some of his confusion and amazement that Walt–nerdy, brainiac Walt whose chops he was busting way back in the pilot–is not just a criminal but a composed, controlled, ruthless monster, and that Hank has been living, professionally and personally, inside a massive lie. “I don’t even know who I’m talking to,” he says, and it’s a wonderfully plaintive, lost line reading by Norris. He’s furious, but he’s also still a little sick, and it’s not the potato salad. 
Walt answers with a characteristic understated threat–“maybe your best course would be to tread lightly.” But by now we know the stakes, because we know precisely who Walt is. There’s no more left to say for now, and so Walt and Hank stare each other down, size each other up, in a Western-like final long shot. 
Game freakin’ on
Now for the hail of bullets: 
* Maybe even more menacing than Walt’s threat to Hank is the coldness with which he dispatches Lydia, who–after apparently her takeover of the business has gone south–is essentially begging him to save her life. Walt may be acting out of commitment to go clean for good, but his refusal is pure Heisenberg. Who would think the phrase “Have an A1 day!” could be so frightening? 
* Walt, though, is not the only one who’s learned to scare people off. Skyler is stone-cold in shooing Lydia off–”Never come back here”–but equally impressive is how incisively she sizes up the danger. (As the saying goes, no one has ever washed a rental car.) The scene, I think, shows that as much as she and Walt are working to go legit, Skyler too has been changed by the past year, in ways that can’t be unchanged simply by buying another car wash. 
* Walt, as I’ve written earlier, does believe in his typical hubris that he can change that if he stays out of the game, no matter what he’s done before, he can be a decent person again; “The past is the past.” Jesse, who isn’t able to retrofit his morality so conveniently, isn’t buying it; still haunted by Drew Sharp’s murder, he’s trying to get rid of his money as if it were cursed. The past, for him, is not past; it’s soaked into every one of those $100 bills. 
* And yet even in this moment, even as Walt insists he’s quit the game, it’s clear he’s hardly changed–at least not in his ability to look at Jesse and baldfacedly lie about not having killed Mike. (And another brilliant line read from Aaron Paul, who pours a five-gallon jug of contempt into, “Yeah. Like you said. He’s alive.”)
* We still don’t know whom the machine gun is intended for. Are we all guessing that the ricin is meant for Walt himself?
* Nice callback to the season-4 poison caper as Huell watches Jesse light up a cigarette in Saul’s waiting room. 
* “Why do you think McCoy never likes to beam nowhere? Cause he’s a doctor, bitch! Look it up, it’s science!” 
* I would not have pegged Walt and Skyler for Squeeze fans! Though “If I didn’t love you I’d hate you” would at this point be a pretty optimistic read on their relationship. 
* Please tell me AMC is going to license Schraderbrau novelty mirrors for sale. 
* And the return of the Breaking Bad Visual of the Week: Not the showiest shot of the episode, maybe, but I really liked the disorienting pull-back after Walt discovers the GPS tracker. That, or Jesse hurling stacks of bills from his car like a guilt-wracked paperboy.

Life is not going to be the same when this show ends. I have heard an awesome rumour that there is going to be a spin off though...

Better Call Saul!