Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sydney suffers split personality over Sin City

The Underbelly-inspired avalanche of television, books and museum exhibits about Kings Cross sits in strange contrast to the ongoing War on Kings Cross being waged by Council, the State Government and a few local NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard).

Latest is an exhibition in the Police and Justice Museum, Sin City, described today by Michael Duffy in the SMH. with a few juicy quotes from a new book by former High Court Judge Michael Kirby. Interestingly, 71 people were reading it when I logged on. By contrast, nobody else was reading about an art exhibition by visiting rocker Niagara, and only eight people were reading about indigenous students being six years behind other school students in literacy and numeracy.

People seem to love life in the fast lane up the Cross, but you'd never know it from the moralistic rhetoric coming from police and City of Sydney councillors.

Ever was it thus, I suppose, going back to our convict origins. What bemuses me is why the partying masses tolerate the nanny-state attitude of the authorities. My theory is that it's all rooted in Catholic-type guilt as the sinners tug their forelock and say "Sorry, Your Honour, I know I did wrong but I can't help myself". They promise not to do it again -- at least until the next weekend rolls around.

My other theory is that the more our society is oppressed by nannyism, the more people will behave like children instead of adults, so the ever-increasing regulation reduces the personal responsibility of the governed class and the problem just keeps spiralling.

Pic: Some of the thousands of partygoers still flocking to Kings Cross. What chance do sour old Councillors have in combating the joie de vivre of Sydney's gorgeous youngsters?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

War on Drugs increases violence and crime: study


Canadian academics have reviewed 15 major studies into the effects of anti-drug policing and report that 13 of them found that drug law enforcement generated worse crime and violence.

The Independent reports: "The study by the Canada-based International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) found that heavy-handed tactics, ranging from attempts by the American-sponsored Colombian armed forces to eradicate drug cartels to the arrest of dealers in Sydney, had led to increases in violence. Often, this violence is fuelled by criminals arming themselves to profit from price rises caused by seizures of drugs or the dismantling by police of dealing networks."

And: "The study, which highlights the drug-related violence gripping Mexico as an example of the vicious circle fuelled by crackdowns, said researchers in Florida had recorded a five-fold increase in violence and property crime linked to drug arrests."

Full study pdf here:

Of course ex-US drug czar John Walters denies all this, saying in The Washington Post that most of the violence is criminals killing each other so that's OK. Except for the truckie killed by a stray bikie's bullet in Sydney recently, and the thousands of police killed or injured in the Mexican drug wars... except for them, Mr Walters.

Some shocking and graphic pictures of a drug bust in Mexico recently supplied to this blog show the reality of this violence as people are being massacred with no arrest or trial. The US Drug czars believe this is what "success" looks like, a very strange and worrying mindset.

Warning: the following images are violent and distressing. However it is sometimes only by showing such images that the reality of a violent policy can be brought home. All prohibitionists to some extent share responsibility for this bloodshed, which is ironic as so many of the extreme drug warriors profess to be Christians.

Top picture: From the Canadian study

PS: The World Today on ABC Radio interviewed the lead author of the study.

Keystone cops destroy pot smokers' lives

New Zealand police have busted hundreds of people nationwide for growing marijuana and selling hydroponic garden equipment in an elaborate sting operation, 'Operation Lime'.

They monitored people buying hydro equipment and followed them, as well as posing as customers and buying gear themselves.

Such a huge, expensive and resource-heavy operation would be understandable in the face of a genuine terrorist threat, a major fraud scheme or a pedophile ring, but to mount it against pot smokers who have not hurt anyone is utterly stupid.

The operation would be laughable except that many of those caught will face serious charges, spend much time in jail, and have their assets confiscated by a greedy and stupid government.

The sheer stupidity of police in believing their own spin is exemplified in the self-congratulatory gloating of  Police Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope, who said, as reported in The NZ Herald: "Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand. The harm that this drug causes New Zealand communities can be conservatively estimated at $430 million a year. It hurts every community in every part of the country."

The following oxymoron alone is good enough for stand-up comedy: "Cannabis is the most abused controlled drug in New Zealand". If it's controlled, how can it be abused?

And "$430 million a year" in harm? How are you calculating that, Mr Pope? Would you care to compare it with the damage caused by alcohol, which will now inevitably increase as the far less harmful drug will be harder to get and more expensive until new suppliers come in to fill the ever-present demand?

But police will get plaudits, promotions and pay rises while the prosecution and jail industries will get a fat bonus for increasing harm to the communities they are supposed to serve.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Underbelly lawyer names the root cause of jail murder

I continue to be amazed that the media storm around the latest Underbelly series, set in Kings Cross, never mentions the pivotal role of prohibition in driving the engines of crime and corruption.

So full marks to Rob Stary -- lawyer for Carl Williams who was brutally bashed to death yesterday in a Victorian prison -- for naming the unmentionable.

He was asked by Adam Spencer on ABC 702 whether this murder was "the end of the story" of the circle of deaths and corruption around the drug dealing Moran family and its enemies.

Mr Stary had explained how the war had erupted in an argument over the retail price of prohibited amphetamines. Carl Williams' mob had been undercutting the Morans, who got toey. When they had a meeting about it they agreed to bring no weapons but Jason Moran brought in a .22 pistol and shot Williams in the stomach. Williams was saved by his ample fat, and lived to go on a killing spree, his vengeance on the Morans.

But was Williams' death the "end of the story"?

No, he replied, this was just the beginning of a new chapter. In any society that had a prohibition model, these events would make no difference to the distribution of drugs, he said. This is because new people would simply come in to reap the huge untaxed profits prohibition makes possible.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Prohibition shoots itself in the foot

The self-contradictions of prohibition are causing dangerous and insoluble crises around the world but still the media mostly refuse to recognise this.

Afghanistan, for instance, is not only the globe's leading opium supplier but has now also been crowned the king of cannabis, reports The Independent in the UK.

An estimated 3,500 tons of hashish is netting farmers, warlords and the Taliban a share of over $AUD100 million each year, a figure possible only because prohibition inflates the price astronomically.

And all the queen's horses and all the queen's men occupying the country seem unable to do much about it, not least because the drug crops are funding their enemies.

Destroying the crops results only in driving farmers into poverty and they naturally respond by hating the invaders, providing rich ground for the Taliban and other operators. Cannabis can earn them over $3,500 per hectare, a huge amount for them. Imagine how you would feel if foreign troops dressed like The Terminator dropped in from the sky and destroyed half a year of your work.

The tougher the rest of the world gets on drugs, the higher the price and the richer are the markets for international drug cartels. Indeed the DEA in the US lists increasing the price as a marker of success in their unwinnable war.

But none of the above analysis informs The Independent's report, which in written entirely within the prohibition frame and speaks in terms of Britain providing four more helicopters to help paramilitary units target drug lords -- each of whom would be replaced immediately to tap the rivers of cash flowing into the country.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Different story, same pattern in Canada's London Free Press.

The story quotes police who raise the alarm because the high quality cannabis grown in Canada is being exported to the US and some of the profit is being used to import guns back into Canada. As the story says, guns hurt people. A lot of cocaine is also being imported. So Canada has a worse problem with guns and hard drugs because cannabis is prohibited in the USA, despite remaining that country's favourite drug.

"It's a vicious circle," says a Canadian cop. He got that right. Still, the reporter sought no comment from drug law reformers to finger the fundamental cause of that vicious circle -- prohibition. Australian media: please take note.

Picture: An Agfhan cannabis farmer north of Kabul (AP)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Magistrate calls for medical marihuana

It's one thing when some wild-haired feral demands that marihuana be legalised (even though they may be absolutely correct), but it's another when a growing chorus of magistrates, doctors and law enforcement people do so.

The latest is a South Australian magistrate who laments having convicted in the last year 25 people who clearly used the drug as pain relief for an incurable or terminal disease -- in other words, medical marihuana.

The magistrate, Mr Clynt Johansen, has to get around what he sees as bad law by convicting without penalty, as in the case of 60-year-old Colin Linder who grew cannabis to provide relief from his fibromyalgia. Anyone who has that affliction, or has family members so afflicted, will know the intense and chronic pain it brings.

The magistrate even buys into the long-disproved myth that cannabis is a gateway drug, but dismisses it as irrelevant in the case of older people with terminal or chronic disease.

But the response of the South Australian government, which pursues a tabloid-driven anti-drug policy, is idiotic beyond belief to anyone who actually follows the research.

The attorney-general claimed allowing medical marihuana would "lead to cannabis for everyone"; and the health minister's office raised the mental illness bogeyman.

The fact that pot is already available at every high school in the country makes nonsense of the attorney-general's meaningless sound-bite; that any mental illness linked to cannabis is already occurring under prohibition does not occur to these prohibition dogmatists; and that alcohol causes far higher rates of mental and physical illness and untold deaths, but is legal, must not be mentioned.

But by repeating these fallacies, the politicians keep them alive in the minds of the ignorant public and the prohibition roadshow remains an electoral advantage. Or does it? The Adelaide Advertiser poll is running at nearly 60% in favour of outright legalisation; nearly 27% in favour of medical marihuana and only 14% wanting prohibition. You too can vote if you follow the link in the text today...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

How prohibition fuels organised violence

Chris Masters in the Telegraph today writes about gang violence in Melbourne and Sydney in a story headlined 'Why Sydney's hitmen are deadlier'. Under the usual pictures of the Ibrahims, Morans and the late Michael McGurk, he explains various motives behind the violence and deaths, including the practice of an underling serving jail time for a superior but not being properly rewarded after release.

Innocent bystanders killed by stray bullets in gang shootouts are listed.

Then Masters concludes with a neat summary of the role of drug prohibition in all this:

Most often the fighting is down to distribution rights, with the drug trade a common denominator.

The Australian market is, by international standards, lucrative.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, a gram of cocaine that sells for $97 in the US attracts $285 in Australia. Police recently observed one transaction of precursor chemicals originally offered at $120,000 a box soon after selling for double that sum.

While overall homicide rates have trended down over the years, the rate of violence attributed to organised crime remains steady.
And the long-awaited Underbelly 3 - The Golden Mile, set in Kings Cross, debuts this Sunday, Channel 9 8.30. It gets a rave review plus some great Kings Cross footage on The Australian site here.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dangerous days in Kings Cross

Ex politician Michael Duffy today writes in the SMH about the dark days of police corruption in the Cross. On the eve of the latest Underbelly series, The Golden Mile, Duffy tells the harrowing story of two detectives who blew the whistle on local detectives who lived the life of the long lunch while extorting money from drug dealers, including the known pedophile Dolly Dunn. They neglected police work to such an extent that Kings Cross became a virtual free-for-all.

The whistleblowers were hounded out of their jobs and the country, in fear of their lives or of being framed. These bad old days of Kings Cross are exposed in books by the two whistleblowers: Watching the Detectives by Deborah Locke, and Dirty Work by Glen McNamara. Two more for the Kings Cross collection.

I find it interesting that, in the face of this cornucopia of books and TV shows about 'the bad old days' of the Cross, some current locals keep insisting "it's getting worse" as they call for more measures to stop young people partying.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sting regains his sting

I hereby retract the bad review I gave Sting's first solo album in The Moruya Examiner in 1985, headlined 'Sting loses his Sting while Dreaming of Blue Turtles'. Sting has redeemed himself by coming out in support of drug law reform, writing a lucid piece in the Huffington Post that had the drug warriors unable to respond except with formulaic babble.

The War on Drugs has failed -- but it's worse than that. It is actively harming our society. Violent crime is thriving in the shadows to which the drug trade has been consigned. People who genuinely need help can't get it. Neither can people who need medical marijuana to treat terrible diseases. We are spending billions, filling up our prisons with non-violent offenders and sacrificing our liberties.
All of which is factually correct. Note Sting does not condone or encourage drug use -- he just criticises the War on Drugs. Then comes this response from DARE, an anti-drug outfit that for some reason is allowed to teach stuff in American schools:
Sting should stick to singing and not meddle in matters he doesn't understand. We do not need pop stars coming out and making irresponsible statements like that
Note there is no rebuttal of any of Sting's points, no revelation of how his position is irresponsible. They assert that a rock superstar who most likely has seen the drug world from inside out doesn't understand what these self-appointed preachers think they do.

More from Sting, former lead singer of The Police, describing succinctly the ugly world drug warriors are happily creating in their delusional and self-righteous pursuits:
Civil liberties have been trampled. Law enforcement has been militarized. Literally hundreds of billions of dollars -- dollars denied to urgent problems ranging from poverty to pollution -- have been spent. People who do need help with drugs have been treated as criminals instead. Meanwhile, resources to fight genuine crime -- violent crime -- have been significantly diminished. And in exchange for all this, the War on Drugs has not stopped people from using drugs or kept drugs from crossing the borders or being sold on the streets.