A reaction to RTE’s unbalanced “Head Shops” program

Nirvana Head Shop, South William Street, Dublin

Nirvana, big in the nineties, are making a comeback...

So as the head shop debate rages on, RTE decided to throw in their two cents on the issue with their imaginatively titled “Head Shops”. A balanced discussion of the highs and lows (or Saturdays and Mondays, depending on your perspective) was just the tonic the country needed for a such a hotly discussed subject. A brilliant expose of the roots of legal highs, the people for them, the people against them, the statistics on the dangers caused to people, the numbers for the levels of crime caused and reduced by them. Unless somebody slipped some highs into my tea I’m pretty sure it was the equivalent of Bray Wanderers playing Brazil, a one-sided look that was sure to please the masses of Duffyites.

The stage was set for a rundown of the lows of Head Shops. Some type of scummer fella with his face fuzzed out, the type of thing normally reserved for witnesses and pedophiles, was telling the country that snorting a line made you “mad ourrav it”. A clear portrayal of the type of people using it. Two seconds was given to a man saying “its a witch hunt”, not making it clear whether he was for or against (he was against, having been on the news a few weeks previous). Next was on to the Dáil, for the concerned citizens were marching to save the children. Here we saw lots of people waving placards, and one unfortunate who had stabbed himself in the wrist when high. 14 seconds was given to a foreign chap who was calling the banning of the head shops something close to fascism. The rest of the time was given to the protesters.

Jacqui Synpe and friends protest a local head shop

"Ban Head Shops, now, lets go to the pub next door"

Off to Roscommon so to speak with Jaqui Snype, who was leading a team of volunteers, working on a rota, to picket the local head shop all the time. “Are you proud of what you started?”, presenter Philip Boucher Hayes asked. Off course she was she said, she was protecting the children. Outside the shop he asked, “does anyone believe that if this place closed down tomorrow would anyone stop taking drugs?”. One man used his powers of logic, clearly backed up by concrete proof, said that because of the recession people wouldn’t be able to afford the diesel to drive to Athlone and buy drugs. Makes perfect sense. Another said, “80% of the younger ones won’t go looking for drugs but when they’re in a place like that, its like a sweet shop”. I’ve trawled for those figures, but can’t find them. Could they be made up? No, why would he do that? No, it can’t be a figure off the top of his head. 97% of people never make up figures off the top of their heads. Could he be in the 3% that I made up that do?

On next to Newbridge, which has two head shops. 2 minutes and 58 seconds was granted to Lorna, the manager of The Hemporium, in which time she stated that people were free to do what they wanted with the product. Described as “brightly lit with sparkly cabinets filled with curious and wonderous items, all the best tricks of the retail trade employed”, he may as well have used a split screen, one side with the shop, the other with Willy Wonka’s face. Adding the Oompa Loompa music would have been genius. Finally it was described as a “high-class retail experience”. Funny that, a shopkeeper making his shop a nice experience for customers. It’s like a trick Satan would use. Luckily it’s not used in regular shops, I’m glad they’re stinking shitholes that place no value in a nice premises. The owners of the shop refused to comment, leaving Lorna to field the hard questions. Maybe this was because they have horns and can only come out at night, or maybe because 8 shops have been attacked in recent months, and showing who you are to regular drug dealers could be really bad for your health. 55 seconds was also given to how the drug world, and how they are reacting to legal highs, all leading back to stabby arm man from the protest outside the Dail telling us how his friends wanted to kill him for protesting against head shops.

17 year old Chloe McDonagh, sitting beside her mother, was next up to give us all an education. She had an attack after taking “Wildcat”, which had her featured on the front page of a local newspaper. Her mother stated, “I thought she had a few drinks on her”, but soon she realised it was legal highs she had taken. Still, forget about the underage drinking she was taking part in, that doesn’t matter. Off to a pub to get some reactions from people, where a man and his child were enjoying an afternoon session. A lot of close-ups of pints and we were once again wiser to the effects of head shops.

Back to the big smoke for the finale of the show, and we were informed that 300 people had gone up to a window on South William Street to buy highs. Using Boucher Hayes’s powers of mathematical statistics, he informed us that this hatch was opened 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Work out the maths and you find that that’s an awful lot of people buying highs. But factor in that this was a Saturday night, the busiest time on the Dublin nightlife scene, and you realise that it’s as balanced as Meat Loaf and Kate Moss sharing a see-saw. He finished by saying “will demand dwindle when the ban comes in? Almost certainly”, a fact he almost certainly made up himself, adding as his last words that it will “make criminals of the people buying it”. A true statement, ne’er explored.

Presenter, RTE Head Shops

I'm going to be a famous investigative journalist. Like Sherlock Holmes.

What is most disturbing about programs like this is the lack of clarity over the issue. Yes, testing and regulation need to come into action, but none of that was really explored. In fact only 4 minutes and 10 seconds was given to any argument for the cases of keeping the head shops open. In the 30 minute program this equates only to around 16% of the entire output of the show. Hardly fair and balanced, it never interviewed the Gardai in relation to crime statistics, or the Revenue Department regarding the amount of taxes paid by these businesses. It had no facts on the decline of organised crime regarding drugs. Instead it dwelled on the rants of protesters, and human interest stories of users designed to tug on the ole heartstrings, a tactic so lazy that it is not actually asleep, its dead.

So for some statistics omitted from the show. There is approximately one mephedrone death in Ireland per year. Thats compared with 7.1 per 100,000 alcohol deaths and around 69 deaths from poisoning by use of prescription and over the counter medicines. In 2008 controlled drug offenses were 23,405, compared with 21,984 in 2009, down by 1,421. Importation of drug offenses were down from 67 to 46. Possession of drugs for sale or supply were down from 4,302 to 4,039 and possession for personal use was down from 18,093 to 16,811. In fact there was a reduction of controlled drug offenses of 17.2% in the first quarter of this year.

All these figures tell a story, a story that it seems RTE did not want to be told. All the figures are freely available from government websites like cso.ie and http://www.coroner.ie. In a fair and balanced society we need a fair and balanced media. Without it we can only repeat the past mistakes of governments. As mentioned in my last blog on this subject, the criminals are the only ones who will win. Then we’ll have a program on the effects of illegal highs. And maybe guns.

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Leak Foreign Office memo – Funniest attack on Pope Benedict could hardly be a mistake.

Fly my pretties....

A recently leaked report from the British Foreign Office is really hopeful in its ambitions to get the Pope to try new things. Amongst others, it suggests for him to go to a job centre, for a range of Benedict condoms to be sold, bless a civil partnership, reversal of policy on women priests/bishops and the funniest of them all, “apologise for…….”. The last one really gets me. With the state of the Catholic Church at the minute, the British government left that one vague. I mean they have so much to apologise for that it would be environmentally unsound to use paper to list them all. Dot, dot, dot is a much more economical way of doing it. Could this be a deliberate jibe at the Pope and his church?

Britain doesn’t have the same love of the Vatican as Ireland, only around 9% of people call themselves Roman Catholics. In the past few years this has risen considerably, with the Catholics beating the Anglicans in the race to be the group that believe in some really odd superstitious stuff that has the most members. But remember, immigration from Eastern Europe has been huge in the last few years, and most of them are Catholics. So it still leaves most of the population as non-catholics. His sphere of influence is small, and with his scheduled visit in September, could this actually be a well-timed prank?

FCO memo leaked regarding Pope Benedict's visit to Britain

The Pope's shopping list, he pays for his goods with a reality cheque

Earlier in the year the Pope outraged Britons by attacking the governments Equality Bill. Basically giving rights to minority groups such as homosexuals, the bill was seen as offensive to people of faith. Yes, they still want to burn you, you gays. “It actually violates the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded and by which it is guaranteed” was the Pope’s response. By natural law he means the most unnatural of law, the belief system of a made up man in the clouds who is hard-wired to our brains, who sees everything we do and think, and will send us to the fiery bowels of hell for any bending of his rules. He also stated, “the effect of some of the legislation designed to achieve this goal has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs” Another way of saying that if you’re gay or some other minority your beliefs don’t matter. Hypocritical beyond reason, the Pope wants his club to be on top. I must point out that this bill would force the church to employ all types of people. Could you imagine that? Some type of sexual deviant working alongside priests? I mean those gays, they’re contagious aren’t they?

It’s of little surprise then that the government would even put this list together, let alone leak it. I can just imagine the laughing as they add more and more ridiculously offensive things to the list (offensive to the Vatican, to any normal being they seem like the only way to save the shaky institution). Things that everyone is thinking, but things that a government would never think, right?

“I have an idea, how about we ask the Pope to dance the macarena with a couple of bishops?”

“Oh oh, I’ve got one. How about we ask him to apologise for that volcano in Iceland”

“Yea yea, and while we’re at it, lets ask him to break dance in a mosque, to show he’s accepting of all faiths”

Worried about the divisions between the church and the secular state Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, said “There’s a ‘familiarity breeding contempt’ in some circles of society about our Christian heritage which leads to the distasteful events we had yesterday with that memo.” He clearly misses the point. It’s not familiarity that is the problem with the church, it’s the church itself. In a modern society it has no place, and the leaking of this memo shows how seriously the church is taken.

In the end apologies were given, and the Pope decided not to cancel his visit to the UK. Maybe he has a sense of humour after all. I mean condoms? Come on, we all know that they are made by satan* in his factory of female lesbian priests. He would probably have a good chuckle over that.

*Satan is the true name for Richard Dawkins, who plans to have the Pope arrested when he comes to the UK, much in the same way Pinochet was.

A call for some sensible debate about head shops and legal highs

Protest outside Dail Eireann calling for the ban of legal highs

"Say you want it banned or I'll blow your fucking head off, you stupid hippy

Head shops, head shops, head shops. The scourge of Irish society, these demons are going to take away our kids, turn them into gurning muppets, and eventually see their brains bilge out their ears something akin to what the earworm did to some hapless idiot on Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn. Yes, these unregulated drugs are more evil than the catholic church, global recession, public sector strikes and the war on terror combined. Hell, they are the war of terror. It won’t be long before 87% of our budget will be spent arming the army (because, you know, two planes and 63 machine guns doesn’t really constitute an army), so that these scumbags can be annihilated. In the mean time we have the good and true fighting for our children. With Joe Duffy leading the charge of old biddies, and major criminals making the most out of legal petrol and empty Miller bottles, our streets are safe. For now.

Liveline presenter

Joey the Hut - Slug like creature that listens to moaners from beneath his rock

There has been a slew of protest marches, Castlebar, Clontarf, Ennis, Newbridge, Roscommon, the list just goes on. It seems that call to Senor Duffy has caused people with very little to do to come out of the woodwork and start shouting at passers-by that their kids are in mortal danger. If you said these people are on drugs it wouldn’t be hard to believe. But just as Facebook campaigns are dominating modern consensus, so is Joe. The ranting public on his show have firmly put head shops in the sights, which is going to lead to a bigger comedown than speckled Mitsubishi’s. Now with bigger groups like Europe Against Drugs (EURAD) getting involved, the debate can only go one way, down.

All groups involved vehemently believe that head shops will be the death of modern life. They argue the cases  against legal highs without ever taking into consideration the problems caused by an outright ban. They refuse to see any arguments for their legalisation, and use the same one-sided plea’s, no make that shouts, to see every head shop owner in the country castrated, set on fire and finally crucified in a huge public witch hunt. The point they are missing is that when these shops go underground it will be a very different sort of management running them.

When Nirvana head shop was burnt down on Capel Street, €500,000 was found in the safe. A huge wad of dough. Another was reported to be paying €70,000 a month in tax. €70,000? Now that’s a lot of money. Ireland’s gangland union have noticed this a long time ago. But instead of marching down O’Connell Street about their loss of earnings, they took the more pro-active approach of burning down their competitions businesses (allegedly, it could always have been Joe Duffy and a couple of disgruntled listeners on the way home from the boozer after downing several litres of that good drug). What does this say about the selling of legal highs? There’s a heck of a lot of money in it, and some one is going to make it, laws or no laws.

According to that wonderful ray of media, The Sun, drug dealers are buying up huge quantities of legal highs while they are still allowed. It doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to work out what that spells. Once the doors are closed of the local head shop, you’ll be buying your highs from Deco behind a chipper in some dodgy estate. That means your money is going to fund some more guns so these guys can blow the faces off each other in order to keep selling more illegal drugs that were once legal, and were once paying for public projects through tax revenue. It also doesn’t take a genius to work out the benefits of having this stream of cash coming into our shit economy. €70,000 a month from one head shop  works out €840,000 a year. If each county had one shop that would equate to €21,840,000 to the exchequer. And that’s only at a 21% tax rate. A rate of 50% would put this figure over €50,000,000. Of course these are just rough estimates, but the point is simple. Either we use this money to benefit our country. Or we let drug dealers take it. What drug dealers take would be closer to €100,000,000, because they take gross profits with no tax. For some reason they can’t be bothered to pay tax. Go figure.

What will happen if we don't ban head shops

Please sir, can I have some more? Drugs.

One main argument of the naysayers is that in the future the people who are now munching on their bottom lip on a Saturday night from the effects of legal highs, will still be munching in the future because of the long-term effects of the drugs. What people fail to realise is that a vast amount of our population aged between 30 and 40 were necking shitloads of illegal bangers during the Nineties and early Noughties. Many of them were doing it in the Olympic Ballroom which was owned by the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds. Speed, coke and pills were the norm for that generation, and now these people are in positions of power. Now they run companies, medicate people, plan towns. The adverse effects of their drug taking hasn’t stopped their ambitions, and hasn’t turned the country into a bunch of drooling idiots that need constant supervision so they don’t shit all the deli counter in their local Mace. People from the Sixties took more acid than fell in the rain of a few decades ago (where did that rain go, incidentally?). It all serves to make the argument for closing the shops weaker.

Of course shouting and barking by people will always win, and public hysteria always makes more sense than intelligent debate. Why look at the problems surrounding the banning of it when you can just make up your mind based on a radio show. One which gives credence to the common man over specialists who have years of education behind them. What would they know? They don’t know me, or Ireland. I don’t trust educated people, the smug bastards. But, as always, what people don’t know they fear, so it will be banned. By June we should see the sale of these products ended by the Gardai,

June 26th is World Drugs Day, a day in which we discuss the shame of drugs. Maybe its time to stock up, and turn it into the biggest mashfest this country has ever seen.

The joys of mornings.

Jeremy Kyle daytime tv

I stole all my wife's money because I'm addicted to gambling. Now I teach scum how not to be scum

Waking up to Jeremy Kyle’s pug faced rantings is not the most wholesome of ways to start a day filled with recessions, natural disasters et al. Television doesn’t really sit well down the local Spar. Spotty teens serving you, one eye on the till, one on the cast of the national  zoo during feeding time. Kyle is obnoxious, his manipulating would put the chubbiest of unemployed builder off his breakfast heart attack and life reducing ham and cheese jambon. Even a swig from the obligatory coke couldn’t wash down the sound of a fat pregnant Glaswegian berating her boyfriend for sitting on his pasty bum smoking copious amounts of weed and not getting a job. Thank god for radio.

Ah morning radio. It’s like a kinder bueno, the lite way to enjoy life. Tom Dunne still trading on his Dr Bill sketch, wearing thinner than the latest Americas Next Top Model contestant. Gerry Ryan leading a large group of overweight Irish people, as they whore themselves on both television and radio, denying themselves the porky pies that allow them to forget the 100 % mortgage hanging over their heads, heads covered by the sun roof of the monstrous Mercedes SUV they drive their one overweight child to the school that’s 125 feet from their front door. And of course there’s the king of them all, the most loved midget of mornings, Ray D’arcy.

What is it about Ray D’arcy that people love so much? Is it the same contributors he rolls in week, week out? Case in point, Maeve Higgins. Like, the way like, she reviews stuff, and um, like the way she’s like, so quirky in her like, viewpoints, makes me like, want to tune in every, like, week. This useless turd fills the national airwaves with her inane brand of humour (lets call a spade a spade and call it “humour-lite”, or at least use that spade to dig a large hole and throw her in), and has Ray gushing more your plumbing this winter. It doesn’t end here. Quentin Fotterell gives his opinion on why Mary didn’t text Ned after a recent date, was it because Ned never explained he had plenty of road frontage from the farm he fought his brothers for, or because he hadn’t because he knew that road frontage is no good without money to buy bricks. I don’t know whats more annoying, the way Fotterell raises his voice like an Australian soap high school student at the end of every banal statement he makes, or his pseudo American accent. Thats exactly what I want, a hiberno-amercian-antipodean giving me advice on how best to score a Bertha at half ten in the morning.

I talk shit. And I like Paulo Nuttini.

Contributors aside, its D’arcys music aside that probably keep most punters glued to the radio. Whats that song your playing Ray? I’ve never heard that one before. Paulo Nuttini you say? Thats a very Italian name for a man from the Caribbean. Oh he’s not from the Carribean you say? He’s Scottish? And he’s not 97? Jeez, this is a conundrum. Can you play him again for me again because I really want to get to grips with this enigma. And again. Yep, one more time. Ok enough. No Ray, I said enough. The real truth must be that Ray has shares in Nuttini Industries, and is making a mega fortune from playing the same songs everyday. And it doesn’t stop with the chameleon Nuttini, D’arcy has a select list of songs he plays, and he plays them with vigour. Yes he’ll throw in the odd PiL song, maybe a Stone Roses anthem, or even on a good day Love Will Tear Us Apart. But even these songs are repeated, albiet on a monthly rather than daily basis. I bet Ray was one of those guys who would fill the jukebox down the local with coins, play the same song 100 times, and leave laughing all the way home. He probably spends his afternoon watching Jeremy Kyle smirking at how much he’s annoyed his loyal listenership by playing the same songs day in day in day out day in (annoying isn’t it?).

The only way to overcome all of this is to quit your job and stay in bed until the one o’clock news. At least then you can revel in the fact that you didn’t actually quit your job, AIB bank took it from you.

Dragons Den – Irish Stylee

So season two of the show where a load of smug looking business men/woman (because obviously men are better at business) ask repetitive questions at wide-eyed oddballs, hawking the latest in health snacks made from toenail clippings, is back. I mean the Irish one is back. You know, the one that feels a little embarrassing to watch? The one where you’re routing more for the poor sweating sucker than one of the money wielding warty dragons? The one you watch every week because you somehow hope it will be as entertaining as the British original? The one where I could pick faults at all night putting more question marks in this paragraph and only angering myself further? Well the hope is gone, the empire has striked back, we are all being frozen in carbo-bobby-coffee and being shipped back to the evil land of crap Irish television.

A bunch of twats

Now, it’s not all bad in the land of telly. TV3, once the poor mans rival to RTE, was only to be scoffed at for its miserable sets that looked like they were designed by blind monkeys trying to write a novel about how the future is going to look. You know, the way Back to the Future 2 said we would be all driving flying cars and have the ability to control the weather by 2015. The sets still look kind of shoddy, and Martin King is still on every program they produce (he is a robot covered in skin sent back in time by the Cyberdyne Systems to make sure we all have flying cars by the year 2015). They have discovered the true meaning of TV, lots of stuff about people. Freaks, weirdos, criminals, all the things that make ITV. It works for them, thousands of stoners stay up half the night watching “Can Fat Kids Hunt”, a program where a group of moaning fatties are sent to the jungle to try to survive. Its kind of like “Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” only without celebrities. Far more entertaining than celebrities actually. All this piffle was just leading to the point that The Apprentice on 3 is a good old watch, always entertaining and kudos to 3 for puling it off. Compared to Dragons Den its Ulysses.

“I’m looking for investment of €15 for 10% equity in my company. We are making €200,000 per year”

“Well it looks to me like you overvalued you business, so I’ll give you €7.50 for 47% of your business.”

“But we made €200,000 per year”

“I am the cream of Irish business. Nothing in this country runs without me. Even though you have never heard of me I am like the wind, and nothing will work without my say so”

“I accept you offer”

I like to call the Dragons assbags, but must people would just call them thieves, bullying their way into good ideas, taking half of some poor sweating bastards business that he has spent ages building up. It’s as if the five people sitting in the seats believe that the normal laws of human interaction don’t exist. Sarah Newman, the one that looks like a horse only wearing glasses sporting a worse haircut, who has only invested once, sits in the middle of the group, like a Cleopatra who can’t get sex often enough so destroys peoples lives instead. One couple who had set up a moderately successful business, were offering 10% €15,000. Newman thought this to be a bad deal, and instead of wanting a tenth, she wanted half. Not wanting to insult them, she added an extra five grand onto the deal. Insulting? She mays as well have called them mutated kangaroos wearing jumpers made out of shit. And so it goes on.

I would rather have Brian Cowen invest in my business than this pack. When the only excuse they can come up with for not investing in your business is that you over valued your company, you have to wonder what idea’s they can bring to the table. They’re smugness is their downfall, and if five minutes in front of them is enough to make you want to slam your face through your TV screen, how would it be to actually have to discuss business idea’s with them. The words “wood chipper”, “jump” and “into” spring to mind.

Until RTE get some engaging business people, with of critical questions and constructive idea’s, I will be watching the superior English version ad nauseum on Dave. At least the puns are of a higher calibre.