Thursday, July 29, 2010

More local blogs

I found a new and different local blog, Vampires of Potts Point.

It presents "creative Goth" fiction using local settings. It's giving me ideas to extend my Gothic Sydney photoart series. I'd like to meet the mysterious author!

And yet another, Tracey Grace's blog, which features longish well-written pieces and local pics focusing on street people. Tracey is fairly new to the area and records her journey as she grapples with being confronted by the street people society has discarded.

Her latest piece asks how to respond to begging. It's good.

Drugs enter the Federal election; Clichés fuel Lingo Bingo

Oh oh! Today both major parties announced they would "Get tough on crime", singling out gangs and knife crime. There was talk of police using metal detectors to find knives. Fair enough I guess. Knife crime gives me the shudders, but banning the import of knives won't stop people using kitchen knives.

Of course the Liberals tied the crime to illicit drugs. True, but only because of prohibition and "getting tough on drugs" creates the huge profits that attract the criminals. The same old dog is chasing its tail.

Regulated legalisation would knock the stuffing out of the whole illicit industry and make the streets a lot safer for the rest of us. And it would make money through taxes instead of costing billions.

Meanwhile I've had a bit of fun publishing the ultimate political speech, in The City News, based on the political clichés submitted by listeners to the Lingo Bingo competition Richard Glover is running on ABC 702 -- plus a few the listeners missed.

I've offered the speech to aspiring candidates because if they delivered this speech somewhere verifiable, they might resolve the Lingo Bingo game in one swoop and get a free kick on air.


How the War on Drugs victimises minorities

A major study conducted by the UK Drug Policy Commission has found that gay men may be three or four times as likely than straight men to use drugs.

This will come as no surprise to people who know inner city life and culture, and backs up data in Australia's Household Drug Surveys which show young men use recreational drugs more than other demographics.

But what it quantifies for the first time is that the War on Drugs is inflicted more heavily on minority groups than the general population.

Prohibitionists might respond that this is unavoidable simply because certain groups use more drugs than others, and this is by definition bad and therefore interdiction is for their own good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Magistrate invokes fairy tale in cannabis custody case

The prohibition of cannabis has been used by an "obsessive" father as a lever in a court battle over custody of his child, as reported in The Sydney Morning Herald.

The 5-year-old lives with his mother, and the father's case rested significantly on her occasional cannabis use. Without her knowledge he had the child drug-tested and also complained that she gave the boy food containing artificial colouring.

Magistrate Warwick Neville awarded custody to the mother on condition that she submit to urine and hair follicle drug tests for the next 18 months. However he accepted that the mother was committed to her role and there was no evidence the child had come to any harm in her care.

Mr Neville's approach -- in which he somehow likened the vicious little drama to the Harry Potter stories -- swallows whole the prohibitionist myth that a parent's moderate use of cannabis is equivalent to child abuse, while on the other hand alcohol use by parents is acceptable.

There is absolutely no evidence for this. Rather the opposite, as alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis by any objective measure.

So here we have the alcoholic down the road allowed to keep the kids while the moderate, caring toker up the road has to go on the wagon and have her time taken and bodily privacy invaded for 18 months. If the poor woman switches to drink, everything will be fine in this fantasy land the Magistrate appears to inhabit.

In his Harry Potter analogy, he likened the mother's sometime cannabis use to being under an evil spell, "caught in a twisting vine called the Devil's Snare".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Media still spreading drug war myths

An otherwise creditable report by Asher Moses in The Sydney Morning Herald spreads one of the most blatant Reefer Madness style lies of recent times.

In a story detailing how the 'legal high' industry is using the internet and innovation to get around prohibitionist intervention, Moses wrote:
The Wall Street Journal reported that the so-called "legal highs" had been blamed for the deaths of two young people in Britain and Sweden and British authorities said they may have contributed to as many as 30 deaths.
This referred to Mephedrone, (Cat or Miaow), a derivative of the mild social stimulant Khat that is taken daily in North African countries but banned in the west.

However a Sky News report by China Correspondent Holly Williams said this:
Mephedrone hit the headlines in March after the drug was linked to the deaths of two teenagers in Scunthorpe. However, post mortems revealed no trace of the chemical in the blood of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19.

Drug warriors chasing their own tails

Police comments about a recent massive cocaine bust unintentionally underline the futility of prohibition.

As reported in The Australian:
WHEN NSW Police this week announced they had seized a 240kg shipment of cocaine from Mexico, officers were full of praise and caution.

"Until the head's taken off, it's never over," Detective Chief Superintendent Ken McKay told the ABC. "These people will come back at us. The profit margins are too great not to."
My bolding of the last sentence betrays the essential unworkability of prohibition, which is the very thing that jacks up the prices and creates the irresistible profits. Yet still the DEA in the US boasts about the success of their War on Drugs by citing price increases resulting from their efforts.

The quote above continues a current theme of police commentary which demonises a drug because of problems actually created by prohibition, a circular argument. The other big theme in the same vein is that people should avoid ecstasy pills because they don't know what's in them.

What the drug warlords seem not to understand is that the normal rules of price elasticity or risk are not the same for drugs as for, say, apples. If apples are in short supply and double in price, buyers simply switch to bananas for example.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dodgy sparkies and appeals to dob in neighbours mark War on Growers

I always feel sad when I hear police on morning radio congratulating their peers on another bust of an indoor cannabis grower.

This week it was a 74-year-old man caught growing 162 cannabis plants in a house in Minto. He was remanded in custody, set to face a major charge and probably a long jail term.

I was sad because he had done nothing worse than a brewery worker, because cannabis is safer than alcohol by any objective measure, and fuels far less social damage than its violence-inducing cousin.

His worst crime may have been simple greed. Or 'ambition' as it's called in the big end of town.

But according to a report in today's SMH, the panic about indoor growing has moved to the sparkies who rig up the grow-rooms, often stealing power from the grid (which presumably the rest of us pay for -- another cost of prohibition).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Details around murder emerge in court

The Ibrahim family has -- almost inevitably it seems -- been connected with the execution of Kings Cross 'identity' Todd O'Connor in 2008. The SMH reports on the trial of  Hugo Jacobs, in which prosecutors infer the murder is connected with a web of events around the shooting of Fadi Ibrahim and his girlfriend, who are out on bail, accused of plotting the revenge murder of John Macris.

The lawyers paint a colourful picture of nightclubs and drugs, with the accused claiming he was meeting the murdered man to buy $20,000 of cocaine, but heard the shots as he approached the rendezvous in Tempe and fled. Todd O'Connor's ex-flatmate turned up to testify, watched from the gallery, according to prosecutors, by a large tattooed man they said was John Ibrahim's bodyguard.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surveys ain't surveys

A good researcher can design a survey to prove anything -- or two surveys that show opposite results. Organisations who commission surveys know this, and spend a lot of time shaping the questions before going live.

So the approach taken by a UK survey that showed 70% of people support the conditional legalisation of cannabis is interesting, especially when commissioned by the Liberal Democrats, who are junior coalition partners in government and who ran on a decriminalisation platform.

Rather than asking the bald question "Do you approve of legalisation" like our Australian equivalent surveys, the Lib-Dem survey gave people options that defined the term explicitly as explained below:

"Rather than just ask whether each drug should be "legalised", the poll gave brief descriptions of three regulatory options and asked the public to pick which they thought most tolerable for each of a series of drugs. The options were:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who still believes the prohibition myth?

That's the title of my story in the latest edition of The Hub, summarising some of the themes of this blog. A change of layout plans meant it was significantly subbed down from 700+ words and published without the pic I supplied. So just for the record, herewith is the original story and the pic.

Poison pills show harms of drug war

Today's Daily Telegraph runs a piece about pills and cocaine in Sydney being cut with poisons in the face of a worldwide MDMA shortage.

Police, as per usual of late, rail against the drugs on the grounds that people don't know what's in them.

But it is their own War on Drugs that created the MDMA shortage and keeps the whole drug dealing business in the hands of criminals who put whatever they like into their unregulated product, so the police argument is circular and ludicrous.

Because people still want to experience the pleasures of drugs, all prohibition achieves is a balloon effect. If they put the squeeze on the popular, safer drugs, people just move to more dangerous alternatives. Thus the War on Drugs creates more harm.

This is also evident recently with crackdowns on mephedrone (cat or miaow), which has led to Chinese factories churning out variations that tend to be more harmful. Early stories of deaths and mutilations caused by mephedrone have been proved completely false, just more Drug War propaganda spread by immoral media. The British have responded to the new chemicals by automatically banning all new recreational drugs. This completely removes any evidence base from the process and shows up the War as a purely ideological obsession and oppression.

There is some hope, though. The Lib-Dems in coalition power in the UK has launched an internet appeal for people to identify areas of over-regulation, and the War on Drugs features strongly.

Australia, however, remains in a McCarthy-like dark age of ignorance and harm.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Why is marijuana illegal?

You'd have to question anything, let alone a law, that was based on documented lies. But the outlawing of marijuana in the US in 1937 was based on outright lies, extreme racism and 'yellow journalism' largely from the Hearst press.

A pretty well sourced and footnoted account of marijuana prohibition can be found on the drugwar rant site.

The article contains some eye-opening quotes, for example, from a 1934 newspaper editorial:
“Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.”
After all, you couldn't have a black look a white in the eye, could you.