Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic, but Australia Day is an obvious discussion starter. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please

93 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Throughout the neo-liberal controlled western world there are two constant themes, or non-negotiable core tenets.

    They are:

    1. The terrrrsts are everywhere and require the police/surveillance state we now have with no privacy and rapidly vanishing rights and freedoms;

    2. The only way to run the world is by privatising all aspects of government and placing almost all power and control in the hands of private for-profit corporations to run what used to be government functions.

    In this light, I find it darkly amusing that the US justice department is suing the company that was supposed to do the security checks on Edward Snowden (the NSA contractor and whistleblower who worked for a private corporation but had authorised access to all the nasty secrets we are learning about).

    They outsourced the spying and they outsourced the security checking! What could go wrong?!

    In a 25-page complaint, the Justice Department said that U.S. Investigations Services, the largest of several firms that have government contracts to investigate current and prospective federal employees, lied about 665,000 checks it conducted between March 2008 and September 2012.

    USIS devised an elaborate scheme in which the Falls Church, Va.-based company told the government it had completed probes of people whose backgrounds, in fact, had not been thoroughly vetted, according to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday in a federal district court in Alabama as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit against the firm.

    That company got $2,000,000,000 from US taxpayers during the period in question.

  2. Megan – my response to you regarding nicotine warning labels was stuck in moderation but is now visible on the previous page of comments.

  3. @TerjeP
    I agree that it wouldn’t make sense to put the exactly same health warnings on e-cigarettes as on cigarette packets, since e-cigarettes don’t have the same health risks.

    It seems to me that the biggest potential issue with e-cigarettes (and possibly the case for regulating them) is that by enabling nicotine addicts to perpetuate their addiction they maintain the market for regular cigarettes, with the relevant health consequences. It’s interesting that you mention vaping an e-cigarette in a nightclub. A friend of mine, who is also one of my few remaining acquaintances who still smokes, uses e-cigarettes for precisely this reason (i.e. to ‘smoke’ in indoor public places), but smokes regular cigarettes when he is outside or at home. So e-cigarettes enable him to avoid the social restrictions currently imposed on smoking, but without avoiding the health effects.

    But e-cigarettes also raise an alternative question – if they were made readily available, then what would be the basis for allowing lethal, conventional cigarettes to continue to be sold? If a safer alternative is readily available, surely such a dangerous product should be banned. 😉

    Similarly, the comparison with caffeine and paracetamol is potentially as much an argument for the sale of those products to be more tightly restricted as it is an argument for the sale of alternative nicotine delivery systems to be deregulated.

  4. @TerjeP

    How easy is it to overdose on the nicotine vapour fluid, either through inhalation or ingestion? Is it something that an addict desperate for a fix could foolishly use in a way that could harm themselves. You can only smoke cigarettes so fast and even a die-hard caffeine addict would have a hard time downing 100 odd pills. Is the e-cigarette fluid just as inherently difficult to over-consume?

  5. @TerjeP

    Yes, I missed that.

    I wasn’t “spreading misinformation” and I didn’t mention “carcinogenic”, in your comment you say nicotene can be lethal. There is nothing inconsistent in what I wrote, but I note that you didn’t respond to the actual question: “Is nicotene good for you?”

  6. @Megan

    Yes, the US has gone so comprehensively stupid, it’s collapse is assured. Pity they will drag the rest of us with them.

  7. Noting the PM’s issues with ABC not playing for the team, perhaps Australia could introduce the Egyptian Solution of arresting and charging the offending journalists with the following items in the quote below:

    In a statement, prosecutors said the defendants aimed “to weaken the state’s status, harming the national interest of the country, disturbing public security, instilling fear among the people, causing damage to the public interest, and possession of communication, filming, broadcast, video transmission without permit from the concerned authorities”.

    Well, who could argue against that? (Certainly not a journalist…)

  8. A friend of mine, who is also one of my few remaining acquaintances who still smokes, uses e-cigarettes for precisely this reason (i.e. to ‘smoke’ in indoor public places), but smokes regular cigarettes when he is outside or at home. So e-cigarettes enable him to avoid the social restrictions currently imposed on smoking, but without avoiding the health effects.

    There are lots of warnings on tobacco as well as taxes. I don’t see too much point in conflating the issues. In terms of one purchase supporting another I’m sure there are lots of other products used in tandem. For example take away coffee and cigarettes are probable consumed in tandem a lot. I’m sure some people even use nicotine patches to tide them over between smokes. And lots of anecdotes show some people use e-cigarettes to quit smoking and some even quit vaping after they have used vaping to quit smoking. But anecdotes, whether yours or mine, don’t really amount to solid arguments either way.

  9. Megan – I think I did already answer your question but just to be certain let me state explicitly that nicotine can be good for you depending on circumstance and quantity. It is not always good for you and at the right dose it is lethal.

    My reference to misinformation had nothing to do with your question. The misinformation was the claim that nicotine is the poison we have been warned about for years in regards to cigarettes. You suggested:-

    “This is the same poison we’ve been warning you about in cigarettes for all these years. You may die.”

    It is this claim that I criticised as misinformation. Tobacco smoke is carcinogenic. The nicotine in tobacco smoke is addictive. But the nicotine in tobacco smoke or e-cigarette vapor has no other significant health consequences.

  10. How easy is it to overdose on the nicotine vapour fluid, either through inhalation or ingestion?

    I’d say pretty near impossible through inhalation. And not hard at all through ingestion.

  11. @TerjeP

    It is this claim that I criticised as misinformation.

    You are being uncharacteristically sloppy and slippery.

    I made no such “claim”. And to say “It is this claim that I criticised as misinformation”, is not correct. It may have been what you intended to do, what you wished you had done or what you now say you did – but it isn’t what you did.

    When is nicotine “good for you”?

  12. @TerjeP

    Thank you Dr. TerjeP. I take it you are a medical doctor or a PhD in medical science?

    Given all the problems in the world, is the “right” to “vape” all that important? If coffee was banned (and I am a bit of an addict) I suspect I would think; “Okay, I can drink a bit more tea, save money on coffee as it’s so expensive and my oesophagus will benefit as coffee seems to increase my acid reflux. Let’s look on the positive side. This could be a good thing.”

    But then I don’t believe every one of my whims, predilictions, affectations or self-indulgences is some kind of sacred right… or even that good for me.


    Toxicological Data on Ingredients: L-Nicotine: ORAL (LD50): Acute: 3.34 mg/kg [Mouse]. 50 mg/kg [Rat]. DERMAL (LD50): Acute: 50 mg/kg [Rabbit]. 140 mg/kg [Rat].

    Above toxicology is for pure nicotine. Density of pure nicotine is about the same as water.

    eJuice is typically diluted to about 2% purity.

    So to kill a 50kg rat via oral ingestion would require 2500mg of pure nicotine or 125000mg of e-juice (125mL or ten bottles).

  14. I think Tim’s point is right. I’d be perfectly happy to legalise e-cigs while banning the carcinogenic kind, and that is what we would normally do in such circumstances. No one would suggest allowing asbestos to be used, given that we have safe substitutes.

    I’m sure Terje will agree, and thank him for pointing us all in the right direction.

  15. I’m sure Terje will agree, and thank him for pointing us all in the right direction.

    I think arguing the case for a ban on cigarettes would be much easier if e-cigarettes were widely available with solid uptake by ex smokers. So if you want to ban cigarettes then promoting legality and awareness about e-cigarettes as an alternative is a good path to follow.

    I wouldn’t personally agree with a ban on traditional cigarettes because at the point of wide availability and high uptake you’ve mostly achieved the health goal anyway and I personally think people should be free to smoke so long as they don’t significantly impinge on the right of others to not smoke.

    But we can follow the same path and part company at a later junction. And either way we can save lives relative to the status quo. IMHO.

  16. p.s. Prohibition can have unintended consequences. An outright ban on cigarettes prior to a sizeable transition to e-cigarettes would likely create a vibrant black market in tobacco at which point the tax effect on dissuading smokers disappears.

    p.p.s. I’ve probably smoked five cigarettes in my entire life. I’m not a smoker and I’ve never been a smoker and I generally wish other people didn’t smoke.

  17. @TerjeP

    Dang! I really wanted a 50kg rat.

    An outright ban on cigarettes prior to a sizeable transition to e-cigarettes would likely create a vibrant black market in tobacco

    You realise there exists an enormously vibrant black market in tobacco right now? It becomes more vibrant every time taxes/prices go up – simply because people want to pay less for their tobacco than the government wants them to.

    You would agree to e-cigarettes being free?

    That would certainly deal with a lot of those other issues.

  18. Yes there is already a black market and the government seems keen to move more people to the black market. An outright ban would really do it.

    If you want to hand out e-cigarettes to your friends for free I would agree to it and I would even praise you for your generosity.

  19. p.s. If disposable e-cigarettes with nicotine like the Njoy King were readily retailed in Australia I’d buy a heap to hand out to friends who smoke.

  20. @Ikonoclast

    This is the problem, as you say to Terje;

    “But then I don’t believe every one of my whims, predilictions, affectations or self-indulgences is some kind of sacred right… or even that good for me.”

    But it is a fact that some human beings do think that they have the sacred right to ‘force’ others to indulge them in these whims and do think that this is a good thing. We won’t ever change these hearts and minds now that these minds have been formed. Some people can change their minds but not people who are not interested in ‘the other’.

    This type of person actually seems to have no interest in others; in people who are not like them. I think this intense focus on ‘self-interest’ is a form of what psychology defines as a personality disorder. Personality disorders are not amenable to any treatment that is approved of by ethics committees.

    The only solution for the human species is to do as the Aborigines did and either breed these people out of the gene pool or ensure that they are raised so that the personality traits common to this type of person, are of benefit to the group.

  21. Julie – Let me see if I have this right. You’re upset that some people who smoke are trying to force you to stop forcing them to quit? And they are the ones that have trouble seeing the world from other peoples perspective. And you want to use eugenics as a solution. Is that correct?

  22. Nothing to do with smoking Terje – think the big picture and human nature and you might get close. I just do the civil disobedience thing if I wanted to smoke whatever I might want to smoke. If that was too dangerous I just get over my need to be different.

    Do yu see that Aborigines used eugenics as their solution? Because that is what I said was the way to breed out the potentially bad genes. Don’t you think that all cultures that set up marriages were doing selective breeding?

    But really it is the upbringing that is the critical thing because if raised up right, people with a lack of empathy for others can be very nice people and contribute wonderful things for a collective. 🙂

  23. What bothers me is that modern corporate capitalism continually develops new modes of artificial consumption (highly sugary drinks, e-cigarettes and so on) and then advertises and promotes them heavily. Any opposition to these modes of consumption is seen by some as an infringement on individual liberty. But the “liberty” involved is merely the liberty to be the willing dupe and slave of modes of consumption and excess consumption which are wrecking individual health, societal health and the whole environment.

    Just as in the invention of financial instruments, so it should be with the invention of new modes of luxury or discretionary consumption. The burden of proof ought to be on the innovators to prove both non-harm and some form of utility, the later being assessed by social consensus. If e-cigarettes can likely move some or all nicotine consumption to a less harmful platform that probably has medical and social utility.

    But I still say we need to look through a far more critical lens at the proliferation of consumerist innovations, especially given the huge environmental and limits to growth problems we now face. If we don’t control and moderate ourselves and our impact on the planet, natural forces (biological and physical) will control us in a much more summary manner.

  24. If e-cigarettes can likely move some or all nicotine consumption to a less harmful platform that probably has medical and social utility.


  25. Yesterday there was a health warning in Sydney. The authorities advised pollution from cars and industrial plants together with a particular ozone level is such that the outdoor air can adversely affect the lungs and the respiratory system of people. Children, the elderly and people with asthma are advised to minimise physical activity outdoors, particularly in the afternoon hours.

    My best guess is these warnings did not deter the private anti-smoking ‘police’ from controlling the few hiding places left for smokers in the CBD and in most suburbs.

  26. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has given permission to dump spoil from Abbot Point. Leaving aside the questionable decision making of GBRMPA both now and in the recent past this is the latest wound in a ‘death of a thousand cuts’. The main problem is not the spoil dumping or the construction/expansion of Abbot Point that requires it but the actual mining of new coal deposits in the first place. The whole enterprise should be shut down now before more money is wasted on this foolish investment.

    The next thing we’ll hear, I’m sure, besides the ‘who could have seen it’ damage to the reef, will be the ‘oh we can’t stop this coal mining because we’ve spent all this money already’.

  27. I have a quibble with something Tim Macknay wrote a few weeks ago, if he’s around the traps.

    Tim, in the Monday Message Board thread of January 13, in a discussion about crime rates, you wrote that “the homicide rate has remained roughly stable for around thirty years”. It’s true that the paper you cite does say that “the homicide rate has remained relatively stable since it peaked in the 1970s”. However, the same paper goes on to say later that “Homicide rates since the early 1990s have fluctuated slightly from year to year…but the overall trend has been downward”, and reports a statistically significant downward trend in the *number* of homicide victims, never mind the rate.

    I think the discrepancy comes from the fact that the “relatively stable” remark is made in the context of a literature review, and refers to the view expressed in a 2000 paper. In it, the author does indeed say: “An upward trend occurred during the 1970s, reaching the level of around 2.0 per 100,000 population at the end of that decade. Since then, the rate has remained relatively stable, except for two temporary fluctuations in the 1980s.”

    Even by 2000 there were early signs of a downward trend, although commentators were being understandably cautious about interpreting it as such. But 14 years later, the picture is clear. Even the paper you cite is somewhat out of date—it’s from 2008. The most recent report by the Australian Institute of Criminology about homicide rates (which is summarised here: shows how the homicide rate (in terms of incidents) has fallen from around 1.9 in the early 1990s to 1.2 in 2008-9 and 2009-10. The latest statistics from the ABS, presented in “Recorded Crime—Victims, Australia, 2012”, show a combined victimisation rate for murder and manslaughter of 1.2 in 2010 and 2011 and 1.3 in 2012.

    In a following post (to avoid ending up in moderation) I’ll link to an ABS article discussing crime rates, including homicide rates, over the course of the 20th century. It’s from 2001, so it also talks about homicide rates stabilising after the 1970s. But it shows that current homicide rates are close to the level about which rates fluctuated in the 1940s, when they reached their lowest recorded levels in Australian history.

  28. On a different topic, the decline in Victoria’s road toll from 1024 in 1970 to 224 last year is a stunner, considering population growth and higher car ownership. Various causes no doubt but this has to be a vindication of regulation and behavioural programs and a reminder that government can successfully devise and implement a multi-variable social policy of benefit to all.

  29. @kevin1

    Yes. I detail some of the changes in rates in the second last paragraph: from about 1.9 to 2.0 per 100,000 population in the early 1990s to 1.2 to 1.3 in recent years, with essentially the same results whether you look at homicide incidents or victims (a given incident can obviously have more than one victim).

  30. I’m still waiting for a decent response from the ALP, with regards to Abbott’s comments concerning the ABC recently. So far, Penny Wong and Jason Clare have made some pretty wimpy responses, mainly concerned with the notion that Abbott is going to make cuts to the budget of the ABC; well, that remains to be seen. I would have thought that the bigger issue was Abbott’s framing of the ABC as being un-Australian by virtue of the fact that they seem to support everyone but us. Why aren’t the ALP members out there and criticising Abbott for that? After all, it is clear that the role of the ABC is not to go around promoting the government of the day, or Australia more broadly; it’s role is to provide Australians with news that is reliable in its veracity, among other things. For a sitting Prime Minister to attack the ABC for not supporting his government (and by extension, Australia—I think that’s what Abbott was insinuating), instead of concentrating on whether the ABC is reporting in accordance with its charter obligations and with journalistic integrity—something in short supply in some commercial media BTW—which is really the issue.

    The problem with the latest attacks on the ABC over its reporting of the asylum seekers’s claims that the (Royal) Australian Navy caused them to be burnt on the hands, etc, is that the ABC’s reporting is accurate, as far as it goes: the journalists reported the claims made by the asylum seekers, they reported on the difficulty with getting information from the navy to rebut the claims, and they reported on the Indonesian police investigation into the allegations made by the asylum seekers. In all of the ABC news reports I heard and saw on the TV, not one of them stated the claims as fact, or implied that the claims were actually true. One journalist made a statement like: “If these claims were true, then…” and the next thing we know, the MSM has converted this into the ABC stating the allegations were actually true.

    We witness far worse in the MSM every day of the week. To use a Howardism, all this anti-ABC stuff is confected outrage, and nothing more substantive than that.

  31. @Luke Elford
    Hi Luke – just came across your comment. Yes, I think I must have read that remark as having been made in the context of 2008, without realising that the observation itself came from a 2000 paper. I stand corrected on that point. I agree that 2008 is now a few years ago, and I’m happy to concede, based on your more recent data, that homicide has in fact significantly declined in recent years.

  32. @cyenne40: Apparently the end of the Age of Entitlement includes our entitlement to facts.

    @profsarahj: @fran_b__ a whole new meaning to “queue jumping”

    @fran_b__: @profsarahj we will decide who goes to the toilet, and the circumstances in which they do.

    It’s all so horrible, one has to try to make light of it.

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