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Roger Crisp’s Posts

Nice People Take Drugs (Too)

The drug and human rights charity *Release* recently launched an advertising campaign in which the slogan ‘Nice People Take Drugs’ was displayed on the sides of London buses. Their aim was to encourage society to face up to the reality that a huge proportion of the population does at least experiment with drugs and to combat the popular assumption, which underlies a good deal of political rhetoric and media coverage, that since drugs are simply ‘evil’ there is no point in seriously debating drug policy. Those ads are now being withdrawn by the company that booked the space, after advice from the Committee of Advertising Practice:

Apparently, Release has been told that their strap-line would be more acceptable if it included the word ‘too’. This suggests that the CAP may have felt that the public would read the original claim as equivalent to ‘All those who take drugs are nice people’. But even adding the word ‘too’ may not be enough. For the new sentence might be read as: ‘All nice people take drugs, along with other things (such as holidays when they can, advice when they need it, offence when people are rude to them, etc.).’ Of course, no one would have understood either the new or the old sentence in these ways. But in fact, though it should be up to Release how they word their strap-line (the censorship charge they have made doesn’t seem far-fetched), adding ‘too’ does bring out more clearly what they want to say: that we should stop demonizing drug-takers and have an open, impartial, and well-informed debate.

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Decimating Democracy?

Labour MP Shahid Malik has resigned as justice minister after claims about his expenses were published in the Daily Telegraph:
Shortly before standing down, he claimed that the extensive media coverage of the expenses issue is in danger of ‘decimating democracy’.

There’s room for debate about whether Mr Malik is using the verb ‘to decimate’ properly. The word comes from the practice in ancient Rome of killing one in ten of a group of soldiers as a punishment for mutiny – not nine out of ten. But of course Mr Malik’s usage is now so common that it probably has to be accepted as part of standard English.

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Contradicting Nature

Rubén Noé Coronado Jiménez is 25 and pregnant with twins. He is unusual in that he is a transsexual man, in the middle of hormone treatments and about to undergo a full operation to change his sex: . The operation has, of course, been postponed while he and his female partner await the birth… Read More »Contradicting Nature

Designer Babies and Slippery Slopes

Designer babies are in the news again. The LA Fertility Institutes, headed by a 1970s IVF pioneer, have offered the opportunity for potential parents to choose traits such as the eye and hair colour of their children: Unsurprisingly, slippery slope arguments have already begun to appear: Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Centre for… Read More »Designer Babies and Slippery Slopes

Achievement and the welfare of children

A report commissioned by the Children’s Society claims that the aggressive pursuit of individual achievement is damaging the interests of children in the UK: The principal author is Lord Richard Layard, whose book *Happiness: Lessons from a New Science* (Allen Lane, 2005) is the best account of the last few decades of research on… Read More »Achievement and the welfare of children

To Leak or Not to Leak?

Last Thursday, anti-terrorism police in the UK arrested the opposition minister for immigration, Damian Green ( He is suspected by the police of ‘conspiracy to commit misconduct in public life’, having published documents leaked to him by a junior civil servant. That official was himself arrested on 19 November, and has been suspended from duty. We should expect that many other such officials are now asking themselves whether, if they come across some document which they believe is a matter of public interest, they should leak it.

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The Morality of Suicide Bombing

Since the 1980s, the popularity of suicide attacks – primarily bombing – has grown rapidly. There are now hundreds every year. As I write, the BBC is reporting a suicide bombing which appears to have killed eight people in Pakistan: The motivation of suicide bombers has been widely discussed by sociologists, historians, psychologists, and others. My topic, however, is not their motivation, but their moral status.

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National Borders

An eight-year-old Iranian boy has been released after spending nearly two months in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre ( Child M, as he’s known, has been given body searches and now, unsurprisingly, seems to have various physical and psychiatric problems. His case is an especially clear example of the effects of national borders, and border controls, on people’s lives.

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Postcode lotteries

In its just-published report Taking Exception on the allocation of cancer drugs by UK Primary Care Trusts, the Rarer Cancers Forum (  provides further evidence of a ‘postcode lottery’ operating within the UK National Health Service. For example (p. 26), the Mid-Essex PCT has granted 96% of requests to its ‘exceptional cases panel’, while neighbouring South-West Essex PCT has granted none.

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