Saturday, November 15, 2008

Transform blog: BEST OF

After a little over two years, four hundred and fifty three blog posts and over 225,000 page views (10,000 unique visitors a month and a regular spot in the Wikio top 100 UK political blogs really isn't bad for a non-commercial super-niche policy blog like this one) we thought it was time to assemble a Transform blog best-of list. And here it is.

There is obviously an enormous amount more material that has not been included; much of it press releases, published articles and straight news reporting - so it's definitely worth going for a browse through the archive menu down there on the right.

I've gamely tried to divide the list up into various categories but there is inevitably a lot of cross over so don't pay them too much attention. If the bad science, bad politics and bad journalism headings all seem a bit negative, that's partly because the good news blogs tend to be 'this is good *point*' and as such just aren't as interesting, and partly because at this stage of the campaign, there's sadly still a lot more bad stuff to critique than there is good stuff to celebrate. There's other categories: cannabis gets its own one, as does alcohol and tobacco, international news, a small one for scoops, and finally a miscellaneous category for all the best-of blogs that didn't easily slot in elsewhere.

A big thanks to our bloggers, readers, and all those who have posted comments (even the trolls).


In many ways a distraction from more pressing drug policy issues but, particularly with the whole sorry reclassification saga unfolding over the last few years, it has obsessed the media and correspondingly provided a rich vein of bad reporting, bad science and political idiocy that is hard for a critical drug policy blog to ignore. The Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday in particular have distinguished themselves, but they have been far from alone.

Daily Mail, Bad Science Drugs Deaths and Reclassification
Aug 06. The first blog to really critique bad science and misreporting of drug statistics. On this occasion linking cannabis reclassification with a rise in opiate deaths (that took place before cannabis was reclassified - Doh!). More Daily Mail silliness here and here.

How the Independent on Sunday got it horribly wrong on Cannabis
March 07. A masterpiece in poor journalism is forensically taken to pieces. The biggest hit count of any blog post to date. Follow ups part 1, part 2

More shoddy reefer madness reporting of cannabis risks
July 07. The Lancet fails to discourage poor reporting of statistics.

Brown on cannabis - it gets worse
Sept 07. The cannabis reclassification saga comes to a head, the new PM makes a fool of himself, and any vague pretense of evidence based policy making goes out the window once and for all

More Independent on Sunday reefer madness exposed
Oct 07. A case of grotesquely misrepresented research and shock headline-mongering. The authors of the research question thanked us for this one, the IOS have failed to apologize or print a correction (also belongs under bad science)

Smoking stuff bad for lungs shock
Jan 08. Another one of those reheated drugs bad for you-shock stories.

Millions quit cannabis following reclassification
May 08. Satire – pulled in tonnes of hits after 'going viral' on social networking sites


There's been lots going on around the world - from crazy drug war excesses to inspiring reform news, with the US often at the center of the vortex. But increasingly it is the UN drug control agency’s struggle to come to terms with half a century of failure and a legal infrastructure no longer even remotely relevant to the challenges of the modern world in particular that has made for a particular brand of hard to ignore bureaucratic drama.

UNODC ramps up the weird drug warrior rhetoric
Nov 07. The UNODC director talks about ‘evil’, ‘junkies’ and ‘Britney Spears’. And says ‘fuck’.

What Darwin Teaches Us About the Drug War
Dec 07. Brilliant analysis from guest blogger Sanho Tree, on how enforcement acts as natural selection in the illicit drug trade, making the criminals ever more sophisticated and violent.

UNODC Director declares international drug control system is not ‘fit for purpose’
Mar 08. Not a scoop exactly – but you heard it first here.

When all else fails: blame Amy Winehouse
Mar 08. Various big hitters from the Prime minister to Antonio Costa lining up to blame celebrities for the failure global drug policy. Buck passing on a grand scale. See also INCB prioritise celebrity tat over human rights abuses and mass murder

Traditional coca use: caught in the cross fire
April 08. Some of the forgotten victims of the drug war

US Congress celebrates 75 years of drug legalisation and regulation
Sept 08. All a bit hypocritical really

Drug Free America Foundation clash with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
Oct 08. A clear points victory for LEAP


There's plenty out there with old-school prohibition clearly requiring a monumental propaganda effort of it to keep itself propped up in the face of overwhelming failure, and sustained critique. A number of these blogs ended up featuring, occasionally starring in the Guardian’s regular bad science column (as did some of the cannabis stuff above).

At last! polonium 210 in cigarettes hits the news
Dec 06 We’ve been going on about the scandal of radioactive cigarettes and lung cancer for ages – but still no-one seems interested. You try.

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and 'Prohibition Works!'
Mar 07. Commentary on statistical tricks used by drug war propagandists

Nitrous - No laughing matter
Mar 07. The normally sensible MHRA get in a spin over laughing gas.

Child drug vaccines: the worst idea ever
Feb 07. Mercifully they have yet to materialise

How to spin drug prevalence data: a beginners guide
April 07. This one is linked from several degree courses around the world. Nice.

Is this the most pointless drug research ever?
Jun 07. Cocaine detected in the air, in Rome. Why?


Watching the Government attempt to argue its way past sustained parliamentary critique of the classification system has been a bizarre and depressing spectacle - warranting its own bad science sub-category. It's an issue that shows no sign of let up with the upcoming miserable show down over ecstasy.

Classification and Deterrence - where's the evidence?
Oct 06. A detailed deconstruction of the Governement’s preposterous response to the Sci-Tech select committees suggestion that the deterrent effect of classification is un-evidenced.

Meth is Class A - we can relax now.
Jan 07. The ridiculousness of the classification system laid bare

The Lancet and drug harms: missing the bigger picture
Mar 07. Nutt et al spell out their methodology for assessing drug harms – a step forward, but key conceptual errors mean they have missed the point: drug use harms and drug prohibition harms are not the same.

Ecstasy reclassification meltdown; it begins again
May 08. As the cannabis saga draws to a close a whole new world of stupidity opens up, but with a different drug.


So much to choose from.

Playing SOCA with drug policy?
Jan 07. Discussion of why the Government’s new serious crime agencies drug brief is doomed from the outset, and the politics of why it was set up in the first

Yet another leaked government report critiques prohibition/calls for regulation
Feb 07. Still, the message doesn’t seem to be getting through. Politics and expert advice evidentely don’t make comfortable bed fellows in drug policy.

No10 drug policy e-petitions: a total waste of time?
Mar 07. The answer would appear to be ‘yes’

The War on Lemsip
April 07. The meth panic provokes some predictably risible knee-jerk responses

Drugs minister gives a masterclass in drug policy spin and evasion
May 07. He’s no longer drugs minister – having graduated with honours and moved onto bigger fish

Gordon Brown on Drugs: friend of the mafia, enemy of pragmatism
Sept 07. More prime ministerial drug policy hypocrisy

NZ drug warrior pwned by Dihydrogen Monoxide hoax
Sept 07. Desperate drug warrior antics exposed

Home Office refuses to release strategy evaluation research
Sept 07. An ongoing disgrace as the Home Office, in the spirit of informed debate, refuses to release independent analysis that might make it look bad. The FOI appeals on this are still rumbling on.

Why we need a cost-benefit analysis
Aug 08. The most reasonable policy call possible – but still they wont do it. I wonder why?


For some reason illegal drugs are like a magnet for bad journalism. Beyond the reefer madness silliness above there has been no shortage daft drug panics, shoddy reporting or utterly pointless make-up-a-story-from-nothing journalism.

The anatomy of a drug panic
April 07. Even the Guardian are not immune from a good drug panic story. This time its BZP.

Ridiculous magic mushroom non-story makes 'news'
April 07. Contender for worst drug story ever

Rubbish drug story of the week
April 07 dustbin sniffing is apparently sweeping the country. ridiculous

Loads of people taking drugs shock!
Aug 08. The same story recycled each year by lazy journalists.

Ketamine: badger tranquilizer
Nov 08. Where did the horse tranquilser meme come from?


Transform are interested in effective regulation and control of all drugs, and alcohol and tobacco are far from perfect.

Supercasinos, drugs and alcohol prohibition: more than a whiff of ministerial hypocrisy
March 07. Ministers fail the consistency test when it comes to regulating ‘vice’.

Why alcohol ads being pulled from kids replica kits is nowhere near enough.
April 07. We moan about this on the blog, the following month it changes. FEEL THE POWER. (unfortunately there is still somewhere to go)

Why Transform supports the smoking ban
July 07. Yes, sometimes prohibition is the appropriate and sensible response.

Government complicity in the alcohol marketing scandal
May 07. Government can’t seem to get the level of regulation right for some legal drugs either.

Pseudoscience tobacco advertising from the bad old days
Oct 08. A collection of the very worst, most exploitative tobacco adverts from 30s, 40s, and 50s.


When stuff gets emailed in, or stumbled upon, we’ll cover it.

Forget the war on drugs. Here comes the WAR ON GUMMI BEARS!
Feb 07. No one can say we don’t break the big drug stories.

Home Office spin guide for the new drug strategy. Part 1
Feb 08. The Home offices very own guide to answering tricky questions on legalisation/regulation, leaked to the Transform Blog. Actual genuine scoopage.

UNODC director describes DPA event as '1000 lunatics', 'obviously on drugs'
Mar 08. Failed to win any friends by later refusing to apologise

UNODC director goes to Amsterdam: the lost report
June 08: SCOOP!


Various other interesting stuff that didn’t fit neatly into any of the above categories

Has the heroin prescribing debate reached a tipping point?
Feb 07. Another senior policeman calling for heroin prescribing makes a media splash (he and media apparently unaware it is already both legal and prescribed).

A tribute to Eddie Ellison
Feb 07. Eddie Ellison, Transform friend and Patron, a senior drug law enforcer who became an outspoken and eloquent advocate for reform, who died in January 07. See also Interview with Eddie Ellison, former head of the Met drugs squad

RSA Drugs Report - so near and yet so far
Mar 07. Transform’s commentary on the RSA drugs report

Arnie, Whitney and the Hoff say: "STOP THE MADNESS!"
April 07. Hilariously bad 80’s video demonstrating the dangers of using celebrities in anti-drug campaigns

Prohibitionist rant trashed in the FT Economists' forum (with some help from Transform)
Aug 07. Transform hangs with ‘the world’s leading economists’

Drug testing company welcomes expansion of drug testing - shock
Aug 07. With much poor science spouted in the process.

Richard and Judy back drug legalisation
Jan 08. Yes, that Richard and Judy, the nations favourite TV couple

Transform in...wait for it...Take a Break magazine!
Jan 08. A truly momentous day

The Daily Mail's occasional forays into drug law reform
April 08. Very occasional.

A 12-step program for drug war addiction
May 08. As with most treatment programs – it’s hard to vouch for the effectiveness of this one

How much tax revenue are we gifting to criminals?
May 08. New research from the Netherlands suggests: a lot.

The opium war's front line: Afghanistan, Iran and Hampshire
June 08. It’s an international problem, with an international solution

Is Drug Policy Climate Change Happening?
July 08. A new member of the Transform team reviews media from the previous few days

Drugs, knives and moral panics
July 08. Different issues, similar media driven panics

Why crackdowns on drugs in prison completely miss the point
July 08. Essay on how policy makers are missing the bigger picture.

A response to Ian Oliver's anti-legalisation comments in the Independent
Aug 08. A workman like Transform blog smack-down

Former Director of UK Anti-drug Co-ordination Unit calls for legalisation
Aug 08. One blog that pretty much wrote itself

Treatment - a new definition
Oct 08. Drug users as hazardous waste

photo: Guardian


David Wright said...

I am an ex-I.V heroin user. I am now undergoing the combined Pegulated Interferon I.M injections/Ribavirin tablets chemotherapy in an attempt to clear the Hepatitis C virus.
The side affects of the treatment are horrendous and I only have a 50% chance of clearing the virus. I caught the virus in the 1980s before the implementation of needle exchanges.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that if clean needles were available to me and clean pharmaceutical diamorphine(heroin) had been dispensed to me by a doctor I would not be suffering as I am now.
Also the treatment for Hepatitis C costs over £18,000 per patient and bearing in mind 2 out of 3 I.V/EX drug users have this virus is showing prohibition cost the NHS billions.
Finally the so called 'War on Drugs' that has been fought since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act has proved to be an unwinnable war that funds crime and costs the tax payers billions. Surely it is time to listen to the scientific evidence and act accordingly.
David Wright

strayan said...

David, I dream of a world where the people who deprived you of sterile needles and diamorphine are held accountable for the impact of their destructive policies.

The horrors of prohibitionist regimes are only just beginning to be uncovered.