Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Snowstorm in Kings Cross

Yes, it snowed last night in Kings Cross when residents attended the second public consultation on the coming upgrade of Fitzroy Gardens, site of the El Alamein Fountain.

After Clover's standard speech about all the wonderful things Council is doing for us, we were shown three design options for the park, supposedly driven by the 800 comments received at the previous consultation.

Despite being repeatedly told this was all about what WE wanted, each of the three council-designed rebuilds all involved a complete repaving, glossing over the fact that the biggest bloc of resident comments had said things like "leave it as it is" and "No more grey granite".

The snow got thicker in a Powerpoint display when we were told one of the things "we didn't like" about the park were the broken and cracked pavers, complete with a picture of a few slightly sunken tiles covered in Ibis-shit.

This of course justifies only better maintenance, not a rebuild. I can show you plenty of broken or cracked grey granite pavers throughout the city, but they don't seem to be used as a rationale for repaving the whole city.

I regularly walk the park and cannot now find any pavers in disrepair. In fact the paving seems in really good nick. One local I spoke to thought the park needed repaving -- "these pavers are disgusting" -- until I pointed out that any new paving would be just as stained in about three months.

At no stage have any structural or functional problems with the park been identified by council.

No, the real agenda here is simply Sydney's renovation disease, a cultural cringe which cannot leave anything to grow old gracefully, obtain a patina of age or exist long enough to come back into fashion. Sydney remains stuck in its teenage-girl phase, changing its clothes three times a day in an effort to impress.

Now Kings Cross will have to endure another year or so as a construction zone with its fallout of damaged businesses, intolerable noise and rampant production of greenhouse gases. So much for Clover's green credentials.

It's not "about us" at all, it's about feeding Council's voracious upgrade department, and it's about sham democracy and sham consultation from our bureautocracy.

Of course another thing "we didn't like" was the markets, particularly the Sunday Rotary markets which, along with the Gardens, has been on Council's hit list for many years. One wonders why, if we don't like it, it continues to make money. Note, the markets were also one of the things we said we "liked".

There was no information on how the markets might continue during the construction work, but the management of both markets "had been consulted". How democratic.

Two of the design options move the children's playground under the trees for shade, right in the firing line of the Ibis-shit. Smart.

The Ibises "were a management issue" we were told, without any specific solutions being offered.

Option Three involved moving the huge mature Fig tree, centrepiece of the park, to one edge. What could possibly go wrong?  

We are getting an upgrade whether we want it or not. It's inevitable as they had decided the budget and appointed the designers well before the initial community consultation (read: 'snowjob'). In that light I recommend Design Option 1, the least radical.

You can send comments to Kathleen Ng --

See the spin on Council's website here.

Report on initial "consultation" here.

Pictured: Beautiful Fitzroy Gardens as they are now. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.


The war on drugs, American style

While failing to significantly change drug use patterns, the US War on Drugs is claiming thousands of lives including ritual torture-decapitations and the murder of politicians and journalists in Mexico. This is the ugly future desired by "tough on drugs" zealots even though the only winners seem to be arms dealers. Funny that.

The pictures come from an interesting website run by US police who, having experienced the dark side of the drug war, oppose prohibition.  

For the amazing dope on the carnage in Mexico, check this article.

And we think the fallout is bad in Kings Cross!

PS (20/10/08) The drug-war bloodletting in Mexico is reported in the Herald today, the story as usual studiously ignoring any comment questioning the effectiveness of prohibition, leaving the uninformed reader to react with horror and intuitively wish for even more prohibition. They even blame the increase in violence on cocaine use. Very twisty.

PPS (14/12/08) Another take on the Mexican drug war carnage via the Christian Science Monitor claims 5,400 lives have been lost this year (more than Americans killed in Iraq) and that the crackdown has doubled the price of cocaine in America. This is seen as a measure of success even though it means ever-higher profits for suppliers and dealers, making the business that much more attractive. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kings Cross gangster murdered: prohibition takes another life

Apparently he was a Kings Cross gangster named Todd O'Connor. Apparently he might have been involved in a drug supply gang called "Notorious". But maybe not. In any case he was murdered in Tempe on Sunday night, shot through the head. 

And apparently all the bikie gangs of Sydney are competing for the lucrative drugs turf in Kings Cross.

While this fallout from drug prohibition makes for colourful news stories, we don't need it any more than Chicago needed Al Capone. The sooner we discard this dysfunctional way of managing drugs and redirect the wasted $$ millions into productive directions, the sooner we can enjoy a much happier society. Are you listening, Premier Rees?

'Pal' lives on in the news

John O'Connor, known locally as Pal, keeps making news after his death on 27 September (see previous post & comments). Today's lead letter in The Sydney Morning Herald is from an ex-prison officer who tells how our jails are used as welfare accommodation by many. He says Pal might still be alive if he had been imprisoned and he calls for part of the prison budget to be reallocated for basic shelter for homeless and mentally ill people. Are you listening, Premier Rees?

PS: (9 October) Pal's funeral at St Canices is reported in The Sydney Morning Herald here.

PPS: (10 October) Another Herald story today (looks like a major re-edit of yesterday's -- thanks to a commenter for the link)

Note the 13-year-old runaway line. My info is that Pal was diagnosed as schizophenic at age 13 and kicked out by his parents. It's from a good source but it's still only hearsay.

PPPS: (11 October) Adele Horin opines in the SMH about a 'homes-first' approach to helping people like Pal. An anonymous commenter on the Todd O'Connor story above finds it all "nauseating and hypocritical." I have asked for clarification.

PPPPS: (14 October) Yet another letter to the editor about Pal, this one from people who were with him when he died.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Location, location, location

While the rest of the city claws and scrambles for that famous Sydney view, paying a fortune and even poisoning trees in the process, Council has decided we need to see flowers instead. This is the flower installation they have temporarily placed on the land bridge over the Kings Cross Tunnel, which was built as an observation deck for the impressive view down our very own "Champs Elysees" back to the city, pictured below but now obscured by the plants. While it's all very funky and nice and all, surely they could have designed better for the position -- and not created a hidden, dangerous dead space behind it. But what would we know, we're only residents.

International experts talk sense on cannabis

A panel of international experts has concluded that the prohibition of cannabis causes more harm than the drug itself. The UK's Beckley Foundation commissioned the panel in the lead-up to next year's UN review of global drug policy.

The panel's conclusions have received wide news coverage (even in the SMH!), a rare but welcome balance to the hysterical and inaccurate stories we are usually bombarded with.

Typically, the anti-drug zealots will ignore this new report and continue spinning their increasingly transparent propaganda.

I challenge Jan Copeland, director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, to discredit the findings of the Beckley Cannabis Commission, as her supposedly "evidence-based" message is diametrically opposed. As she is privileged to possess the resources to do this, and either she is wrong or the Commission is wrong, avoiding the issue will destroy any credibility NCPIC may have.

If she cannot or will not discredit the Commission, it must be concluded that NCPIC is immorally wasting millions of taxpayer's dollars in its partisan mission of disinformation.

I challenge Jan Copeland to explain the contradiction between her portrayal of cannabis as a seriously dangerous drug rivalling Ice and the Beckley Commission's conclusion that:

The probability and scale of harm among heavy cannabis users is modest compared with that caused by many other psychoactive substances, both legal and illegal, in common use, namely, alcohol, tobacco, amphetamines, cocaine and heroin.

PS: 7/10/08 The actual Beckley Commission report is now online. The conclusions and recommendations are on Page 169. Please note the 49 pages of references. An appendix outlines desirable directions for research into cannabis, offering a wider agenda than the present politically directed search for harms. Of note among these are two areas that have been crying out for attention: Proper epidemiological research into the effect of cannabis on car accident rates; and research into the precursors, genetic or otherwise, indicating why cannabis is enjoyed by some but causes anxiety in others. Knowing the warning signs of psychosis could be a useful tool in preventing harm.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Confessions of a cannabis 'addict'

Prohibitionists are spending a whack of taxpayers dollars trying to establish 'cannabis addiction' as a significant problem. Jo Baxter of Drug Free Australia recently stated at an international forum (1) that "there are still at least 200,000 people in Australia... who admit to being addicted to cannabis". As she was referring to the Australian Household Drug Survey (2) which does not give figures for cannabis addiction, it appears to be a prime example of the porkies these people spout.

An acquaintance of mine told me the other day she had conducted a 'medical experiment' on herself. After 40 years of smoking pot almost daily, she decided to give it up to see what would happen.

Result: nothing. A week after she stopped (on the weekend), she had a strong urge to smoke and trawled the house for dregs, but didn't smoke. Next weekend, the same. Then nothing -- no problems, no side-effects, no withdrawal symptoms. She is now five weeks into her fast. That's not even indicative of a significant psychological dependence.

It is salient, I think, that she has never smoked tobacco and did not consume it mixed with her pot.

She is a pleasant, healthy, employed, functional person with adult kids who are themselves studying or employed.

OK it's a sample of one but 40 years is a long time and any sane person would have to admit that if she had been using heroin, cocaine, tobacco or amphetamines she would have been deeply addicted.

This gels with my knowledge of the long-term smokers I know. The only time I have seen anything like dependence in a pot smoker was when they mixed it with tobacco.

I guess Jo Baxter must either be talking about a different substance or she is deeply deluded.



(Thanks to Gary Gahan for pointing out the Jo Baxter material on an email list.)