Russians use insane squirrel as mascot for anti-alcohol campaign

Trying to get Russians to stop drinking is one of the few things more doomed to failure than trying to get The Cubs to win the The World Series. Still, in both cases, you have to try – right? The Russians have purposefully turned this job over to one of the least appealing mascots ever – an insane squirrel with a terrifying case of mange. This is not as bizarre as it sounds. According to The Telegraph:

In Russian slang, delirium tremens, the moment of inebriation when people start to get the shakes and to hallucinate, is known as “belochka” or “a little squirrel.” The squirrel in the video, who is red-eyed and bedraggled, is therefore shown ranting, singing, and delivering a nonsensical monologue.

That’s kind of how I imagine Glenn Beck is when he first gets out of bed.

He talks about “chasing spiders up the walls” and finishes up by offering to kill his neighbour’s wife because she is “the devil.” “Are you a boozer?” the deranged squirrel asks in the finale. “Then I am coming around to your place.”

Just replace “spiders” with “Nazis” and “his Neighbor’s wife” with “Democrats,” and it’s practically a transcript of Mr. Beck’s show.

Demon squirrel wants you!

To say Russia has a severe problem with alcoholism is to dangerously understate the case

Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. Russians drink more than 32 pints of pure alcohol per capita per year, more than double the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. In his great book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, David Remnick expressed his total amazement at a Soviet general being sacked for drunkenness this way: “I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” At the start of World War I, Czar Nicholas threw a bone to the serfs and got rid of the government tax on vodka. This cut the government’s budget in half.

This ad campaign follows a decision to reduce the amount of alcohol permissible in motorists’ blood to 0 and the introduction of a minimum price for a half-litre bottle of vodka of 89 roubles ($2.80). To put the price issue into context consider that a Russian airline pilot has a net average monthly salary of $864 and a bus driver nets $242.

It also suggests the Russian economy is doing better. In November 2008 stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories were producing vodka faster than they could sell it.

Social networking for people in “recovery” — or the 2nd A in AA stands for what?

From an organizational standpoint, Alcoholics Anonymous has many admirable qualities. First, it doesn’t accept money from anyone but members of AA. Second it has a long and cherished tradition of anonymity.

The principle of anonymity is a basic tenet of our fellowship. Those who are reluctant to seek our help may overcome their fear if they are confident that their anonymity will be respected. In addition, and perhaps less understood, our tradition of anonymity acts as a restraint on our members, reminding us that we are a program of principles, not personalities, and that no individual A.A. member may presume to act as a spokesman or leader of our fellowship. If an A.A member is identified in the media, we ask that you please use first names only (e.g. Bob S. or Alice F.) and that you not use photographs or electronic images in which member’s faces may be recognized.

pillsThese two policies may have something to do with the fact that AA has survived so much longer than other groups which have tried to help alcoholics.

Sadly neither policy is in evidence at the Recovery Media Network’s new social networking site, 12StepSpace.com. There you are free to post a picture & profile of yourself and tell the world of your struggle to recover from alcoholism/gambling/overwork/internet addiction/stuffed animals/men& women who love too much, et al. Once you have added your profile sleep soundly in the knowledge that your effort is putting money in the pockets of the site’s owners & sponsors. The featured sponsor? A drug company hawking its drugs to help you overcome your dependence on drugs. That’s some catch that Catch-22. While it is disgusting, it isn’t novel: Another drug company already started a MySpace page under the guise of helping others.

Mashable pretty much nails everything that’s wrong with this attempt.

While 12stepSpace celebrates things like a user’s Recovery Birthday, and offers a buddy to chat with if you need someone to talk to on an immediate basis, there’s no distinct emphasis on recovery or the 12 step process. Having a dedicated section for online and offline resources, as well as inspirational stories or a physician or clinic finder (that’s not an advertiser) would make the community feel more like a place for sharing stories and finding help, and less like a MySpace clone.

Yeah, but that suggests there’s anything besides cynicism at work here.

(UPDATE: My apologies for attributing cynical motives to the organizers of 12StepSpace. It’s the drug company that’s cynical. Judging by their complaints I’d say the site’s organizers are just amazingly naive.)

Drug co. wants substance abusers to get hooked on its MySpace page

pillsReckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals DOESN’T WANT YOU TO ABUSE oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and methadone. That’s why they have started the MySpace page Addiction411. It has nothing REPEAT nothing to do with Reckitt making Suboxone and Subutex, which are supposed to fight painkiller addiction.

TechCrunch nails it: “If MySpace wants to be serious about addressing the issues facing its users, they should put up a non-sponsored resource. The function of Addiction411 is to sell more drugs, not necessarily to help users.

Headline of the day: Study finds caffeine abuse among young Americans

At first glance this definitely fell into the “No Kidding” category, but it turns out

The American College of Emergency Physicians said a review of records at the Illinois Poison Center in Chicago found more than 250 cases of medical complications from ingesting caffeine supplements, 12 percent of them requiring hospitalization, including treatment in intensive-care units. The average age of those who had abused caffeine supplements over the course of the three years studied was 21. The research did not involve caffeine drinks such as coffee or cola.

Which is too bad because I am still waiting for someone to do a study about rates of caffeinated beverage drinking among the young and whether the age when the drinking of said beverages is decreasing. Specifically I’m talking about coffee cuz it seems to me I see 11 & 12 year olds at Starbucks pretty regularly. That’s so wrong. Because it means I have to wait longer in line. And besides with what Starbucks is charging these days I’m pretty sure I’m gonna get mugged by some pre-pubescent so hard up for a triple pumpkin cappuccino fix that if he doesn’t get one RIGHT NOW he’s going to break in to my house and make it so I can’t use my computer and then sue me for the case of carpal-tunnel he gets while doing this. Further proof that caffeine should only be used by the old and tired. Write your congressman now! Let’s get the TSA in on this one … uh oh … caffeine crash …

(BTW, thanks to adfreak for the graphic…)

Dear Big Oil: It’s time to declare victory and shut up…

"If we didn't have this level of profitability, I don't think we could get the supplies to where they need to get to."

John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co.

The oil industry should just give a gag order to itself. Yes, they are making a helluva a lot of money — the biggest challenge they face is choosing between "obscene" and "pornographic" when describing their profits. They feel compelled to defend their earnings because … well, I don't know why. Because some PR person said they have to? The only explanation that anyone would believe — "Because we can" — is apparently not in the approved soundbite check list. 

Oil companies should consider it, though. Not onlu would it have the novelty of being the truth, but it is also far better than what they actually are saying. In addition to the quote above, other excuses include the famous "in Europe gasoline prices are more like $5 per gallon to $7 per gallon." (Ummm, isn't most of that because of taxes? What does that have to do with profits? Maybe the oil companies are saying that if their profits were really big they would be pay for for national healthcare and college tuitions?) Another loser: saying oil is inexpensive because look how much it would cost to fill it up with … (not making this up) … coffee. Fortunately for the oil co. exec who said this did it on NPR so the interviewer neither laughed in his face nor asked a follow up question.

Word to the wise: It's never too late to shut up.

Perhaps the oddest comment on the topic of oil from the Sunday yak fests:

"This is a global business, and it's not only that we need to add to supply, but we need to reduce demand. In the United States alone, we have about 2 percent of world oil reserves, 5 percent of the population and yet we use about 25 percent of the world's consumption of oil."

This from wild-eyed radical conservationist James J. Mulva (who is not only the chairman of ConocoPhillips Co. but the only oil company CEO to have played a key role in a Seinfeld episode). Are consumers so gullible as to believe the oil-company-as-environmentalist PR position? Probably, and if they don't it won't be because BP didn't try hard enough.

Even corporate America now making fun of Bush

From a press release:

The President Is Doing Something About Gas Prices – Six Flags President Mark Shapiro, That Is

NEW YORK, May 5 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — The President announced today a plan to do something to address record gasoline prices — Six Flags President Mark Shapiro, that is. This spring, he's giving the green light to a new discount promotion for everyone paying more at the pump.

Or maybe it's playing off the fact that we really don't expect the government to actually do anything about our problems. I report, you decide.

Driving under the PR influence

It should come as no surprise that Rep. Patrick Kennedy is currently treatment for “addiction to prescription pain medication.” This is not surprising because of his family heritage or his own personal history of problems with substance abuse but because that is what always gets said under these circumstances.

This phrase comes like clockwork from the PR reps of every movie star, musician or other demi celeb who gets busted behind the wheel. It must be in some handbook under “what to do when client gets busted for weaving across the white lines even if he or she has in fact been snorting them.”

It is such a wonderful wording, cleanly and quickly making it clear you haven’t been doing anything grossly illegal. You weren’t stoned out of your gourd on horse tranquillizers. You hadn’t just smoked the entire agricultural output of Northern California. You just took to many of those damn pills that the doctor gave you. It was medication, right? It was prescribed, right? You were just doing what you were supposed to and things got a little out of hand. That after all is what happened to Rush Limbaugh.

“He became addicted to pain killing drugs, prescribed by his physician for a medical condition.” OK, so The King Of The Dittoheads allegedly bought 1,733 hydrocodone pills, 90 OxyContin pills, 50 Xanax tablets and 40 time-release morphine pills – an amount even Elvis would have found excessive – but they were PRESCRIBED!

Judging by how often it is invoked, prescription pain killers must also carry less stigma than saying you were fece-faced from chugging down a few fifths of whatever. Alcoholism in the PR world implies lack of control whereas medication abuse sound much more like one of those things you could just stumble into.

Let’s get one thing clear, I have no reason to doubt that Rep. Kennedy was in fact incapacitated by something his doctor told him to take. He has even named names — blaming his driving misadventure on “Ambien, a sleeping pill, and another medication, Phenergan, for treatment of a stomach disorder.” And why not believe him? He has been very forthright about his problems before and just based on odds alone, abuse of prescribed meds must happen to at least some of the celebs who claim it. But it remains a phrase that should at least raise the eyebrow of anyone who reads or hears it.