Thursday, July 31, 2008

Excellent Piece on How Other Countries are Working with Drugs

It's our last chance to get tough on drugs

By Neil McKeganey
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 31/07/2008

Have your say Read comments

We used to count the number of addicts in the hundreds; we now count them in the hundreds of thousands. The UK Drug Policy Commission's report published yesterday - Tackling Drug Markets and Distribution Networks - contains an alarming body blow of further statistics.

Britain has a problem which is now thought to be worth in excess of £5.3 billion a year, and which the Government is spending about £1.5 billion a year trying to tackle.

As much as 60 per cent of crime may be connected to the illegal drugs trade; and the sex trade in our cities, and increasingly in our rural areas, has the women's dependency on illegal drugs at its heart.


There are thought to be in excess of 300,000 children growing up in homes where one or both of their parents are dependent upon illegal drugs. For these children drug abuse is a fact of their everyday life.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has suggested that countries get the drug problem they deserve. But if that is the case, what, one might ask, has Britain done to deserve a drug problem that is virtually without equal in Europe?

The easy - and misleading - answer is to say that poverty and social exclusion are causing the problem. The trouble with that response, though, is that it divests the individual from taking any responsibility for their abuse.

Yes, drug taking proliferates in areas of social breakdown but it also causes social breakdown. Abuse has also now spread across all social classes, and among the rich and the famous.

The "poverty causes drug abuse" mantra is simply too easy an explanation. For too long we have couched our nation's drug habit within a moral vacuum in which the decision to use or not use illegal drugs is seen to be a matter for the individual.

Some commentators seem to be frightened of expressing a moral view in relation to illegal drugs, for fear of being castigated as a spokesman for the extreme Right. But moral judgments are not the preserve of the Right-wing and moral agnosticism is not the preserve of the political Left.

Moral judgments express our view of how we want to live and how we want to be treated. Instead of seeing illegal drug use as a human right, we need to see it for the hugely negative social cancer that it represents.

For the past 15 years, government has pursued a drug policy that has been more about reducing the harms associated with illegal drug use than about reducing the scale of the problem itself.

That is where we are going wrong. Yes, policy must focus on treatments that enable addicts to become drug free, but also on hard-hitting prevention with robust enforcement.

Policing the problem means tackling street-level drug dealing directly. It must also mean tougher action against those who profit from the trade. We need to ensure that our police are protecting our communities. This will not be done through intermittent, high-profile campaigns, but sustained action.

The UK drug problem is barely 40 years old. In that time, it has spread to take in somewhere in the region of 1 per cent of the population. And that's only directly. Indirectly, it is responsible for over half of the nation's crime and thereby reaches towards us all.

The horrors associated with even a 2 per cent growth in our problem would simply be beyond the capacity of any of the current systems to cope and the drugs trade would truly have won.

If we don't tackle drug abuse right now, we will look back in 10 years' time and regret that we missed our last chance.

Neil McKeganey is Professor of Drug Misuse Research at the University of Glasgow

Quote of the Century

Kevin Falcon:

"No need to worry about a slide during the Olympics."


Now is has been revealed.

The moment BC Cabinet ministers are sworn into office, they are given extraordinary powers, such as communicating directly with Mother Nature, channeling The Forces, and God's cell number.

We rest humbled and reassured.

Slip Sliding Away

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Victor on "The Slide"

We can bet the photos of the Highway 99 slide are being studied by every country sending a team here for 2010. Try this. If the next winter Olympics were to be in the French Alps, and if the side of a mountain in France were to peel off and cover the highway with truck-sized boulders, BC folks would be bleating about the safety of our athletes and visitors.

If I were Gordo Carbo, I would pave the Duffy Lake Road and build the required bridges. Yep. Lots of money. But without a fully functional alternative highway, we look like idiots ploughing ahead on a one road plan.

VANOC has assured us that in the event of a slide. alternative air transportation will be found for athletes. Wonderful. So a family with 3rd degree burns could be stuck in Whistler, but the Luge team from Zimbabwe would have a chartered chopper at their disposal.

Remember, John Furlong's last job before being crowned as VANOC chief was as manager of the Arbutus Club. From Head waiter to Head Honcho of the Olympics.

As usual, BC has a competence problem.

Hysterical Comment Crashing Down on Us

Dateline 2010 - Location BC - 2010 Olympics cancelled because of unstable mountains on the 'Sea to Sky' highway route.

Highways Ministry spokesperson stated, "due to 5 years of continued blasting for new highway construction has rendered the 'Sea to Sky' highway unsafe for motor traffic."

VANOC spokesperson is quoted in saying, "VANOC is unable to refund Olympic tickets due to lack of funds."

IOC spokesperson is quoted as saying, "The IOC will sue the province of BC for the full cost of the 2010 fiasco and the 2 week moving of the event to Salt Lake City."

The provincial premier and highways minister are in seclusion in Hawaii.

CN Rail suing the BC provincial government for loss of the railway, a cost more than the original sale!

And the Olympic naysayers, "I told you so!"

An enquiry is scheduled to take place after the end of the Basi/Virk/CN Rail case is concluded, sometime in 2015.

Think the Opposite

What do you think when you see a headline that assures us that there will be "No tolls on contraversial highway, minister says?"

I'll tell you what I think.

Based entirely on past experience, I think that this is pretty much a gold solid guarantee that there will be tolls on the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

What Gulag are we in?

Vaughn Palmer continues today to put the wood to the Great ICBC Cover-Up.

Hiding behind transparently guffy legaleeeeze, the Liberal government refuses to inform the public
in any meaningful way about this disgraceful misuse of public monies.

ICBC and BC Ferries almost daily demonstrate the problem with basic or essential services being transformed int arms-length corporations.

On these matters, Premier Campbell has no legs on which to stand.

Good Luck 2010

This foto taken from The Province website is (add adjective here)...horrifying, amazing, chilling, scary, prophetic...

You can watch the Global video here, and read the coverage here.

O.K. Sorry.

Last week, I wrote in this space about Vancouver City Councilor Tim Stevenson's recommendation to council that money be spent on attracting lesbian tourists.

I criticized Stevenson for what I felt was a frivolous motion and for an idea I felt was best discussed with Tourism Vancouver.

Tim Stevenson phoned yesterday and gave me the background of this story, including the fact that this was, indeed, an initiative of Tourism Vancouver. The agency had already spent about $100,000 marketing to gay travelers, but had not spent any money targeting lesbian tourists in particular. It also had no more money in this year's budget to do so, and thus needed a council motion to add $25,000 for this expenditure.

O.K. Fair enough.

I appreciate Tim's call and the info and I apologize for a hit that may have been uncalled for.


Coming to Festival Vancouver Next Week - Bill Charlap

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Loyal-Tease - A Liz James Rant

I've had it! Had it up to my ears with retailers' plastic plugging up my wallet.

Had it up to my ears with having to produce a "club card" to qualify for a fair price, or for "points" that will get me little but the odd dollar off the price of a produce I don't want, five years hence.

What got me started on this rant?

The forecast was for rain all day today. So I promised myself a treat; this year I would buy myself a rain jacket at the beginning of the rainy season, rather than settling for a $14.99 job in a year-end sale.

Went to Work Warehouse, found nothing suitable. Went next door to Mountain Equipment Coop. Found a nice Goretex item. It fit. It was a good colour for winter visibility. Priced at $155 - $173.60 including taxes, it was not cheap, but not out of line, so I took it to the checkout counter and waited in line.

When I heard the customer ahead having a verbal with the clerk, after I saw him hand over a $5.00 bill, I had the first hint of what was to come.

Sure enough, "What's your telephone number, please?" the clerk welcomed me.


"Have you bought here before?" he followed up.

"No," says I.

"Oh - well we're a coop, " he explained, "you have to be a member to buy here; but it's only $5.00," he said brightly.

"In that case," I replied, "you'll need to return this to the rack, because I am not prepared to pay $5.00 for the privilege of spending close to $175.00 in your store."

What gives with us Canadians that we put up with these scams?

Safeway requires a club card to get a "member's price" that's often double the regular Walfart. Save-On also requires a card to rack up points whereby, if you ever get close to earning $5.00, they ask you to donate your points to charity - does it actually go to the charity?

Shoppers Drugs, Zellers, HBC - they're all on the same "loyalty customer" bandwagon - a bandwagon Indigo-Chapters excels at with, perhaps, the worst "membership" of all at $20 a shot...

And don't even get me going about gas stations and their 3.5 "savings" scam at the pump.

These schemes are nothing but rackets that, to my mind, fly very close to the line of fraud. The real purpose, of course, is to obtain personal information that we'd bitch loud and clear about, if the schemes were mooted by government. Retail establishments want to know who we are and how old; what we buy; how much we spend and how best to invade our space with telemarketing and email.

In many cases, "sale prices," "specials" and "20 percents off regular" are also spurious. How often must a store hold a Scratch n' Save weekend, or a "Senior's Tuesday", or a "Warehouse Sale" before its "regular" price becomes 30-40-50 percent lower than the sales tag indicates?

How many of last weekend's North Vancouver Sears Customers realized that the 25% off an $18.00 Alia top was beaten, hands-down, by the $7.99 price in the TanJay store just around the corner in the mall? No wonder the clerk was prepared to do a price-match - it was preferable to my having a discussion with her a couple of decibels higher.

Don't get me wrong here - that these scams continue is not the fault of the clerks. It is the fault of us customers who put up with it all -- and of the governments who fail, year after year, to tighten the rules.

So - if you readers out there agree with me, if you want things to change, if you are prepared to pay a fair price for goods but no more - then, for crying out loud, do something about it. Stand up for yourselves.

Send your concerns to Mark Startup, President and CEO of Retail BC at: or to...

BC Minister of Economic Development at:

Hon. Ida Chong <>

and to --

Sears Canada at:

Shoppers Drugs at: ?? buried somewhere on its website?? or call your local store

Shell Canada at:

Imperial Esso at:

Chevron Canada at:

PetroCan at:

and, to be fair, the best invite of all at: Chapters-Indigo - "If you are dissatisfied, write to us"

It is not my intention to "pick-on" these retail establishments. They are not unique. They are just those I've remembered from recent experience. Most stores operate on a variation of this retail theme. It is their effort to attract customers to their products.

What no corporate decision-makers seem to realize, is that the very best attraction of all is for a store to offer its customers -- quality products - fair prices - truthful warranties - and attentive but not cloying, well-informed/trained customer service.

That would have far better effect than forcing customers to wait in line while someone has to find and dig out their plastic club/points card.

And lastly, remember this -- If it looks like a store, behaves like a store, and sells items for sale to make money like a store - it IS a store - no matter what it may call itself on the door.

Elizabeth James

Paradise Found

Look no further.

This is the Ocean Wilderness Inn at Sooke, BC.

This is the view from your bedroom or the Japanese hot tub or any number of chairs and tables on the front lawn.

Hummingbirds, a peacock, apple trees, quiet, fresh air. A path to the beach.

And most importantly, Lori and Andy, the warmest and most gracious hosts.

Lori not only fed us sumptuous and delicious breakfasts this weekend, but she also booked us into extraordinary dinners at local restaurants.

Here's the website.


Go for three days. Go longer.

You'll be happy.

I Wanna Be Yours

Being elected to federal office must be quite the plum.

How else to explain geniuses like Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe and Scott Brison going deep, deep, deep into debt to finance their campaigns?

It is so nice of the government to give these exemplars more time to pay off their loans.

Could the government speak to the chartered banks on our behalves for similar kindnesses?

And Another Thing...

Yesterday, I kvetched about BC Ferries service and somehow I managed to forget my biggest complaint.

One of the the few rewards of getting older is DISCOUNTS.

But at BC Ferries, being 65 years or more will get you a free ride on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays.

What do the think will happen?

Hordes of senior citizens will storm the boats on the weekends and cause the ships to list portside? They'll need extra medical staff and diapers? The tuna salad will go in a flash?

Tony & Friends

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lovely Ferry Service

We had the great displeasure of taking two trips with BC Ferries this weekend.

On Friday, we travelled on one of the big, new ships from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay. On Sunday, we returned on a much smaller, older boat.

Dare I list the insults and discomforts?

How about $93 each way for a small car. That's because I made reservations ($15) and then changed the route ($9), albeit with two weeks notice. How much of an inconvenience was that to an electronic service, and why should I pay another $9?

The return trip ran 20 minutes late, which meant little to us, but the lady sitting next to me had to catch a bus which she was sure to miss.

The boat was one usually used for Gulf Islands service, which means that it was way too small and sardine-packed.

As long as we're raising prices every twelve minutes, maybe we could think about running more boats, more often and bigger.

Isn't it convenient for a government to make these basic services arms-length corporations run by former Americans?

Oh, I'm getting old.

I asked that same question last week.


Telling Letter to Liz from a parent

25 July, 2008

'Morning, David:

Yesterday, I copied the email I wrote to you on this subject, to neighbours who have an intellectually-challenged son.

They are a senior couple who, not only have cared for that son for his entire life, they have worked with several groups in the wider community to provide housing, care, education and other services to people who similar problems to their Michael. They have more than pulled their community weight, in ways that you and I can only imagine.

This is the email I received in reply; perhaps your readers might find it of interest --

Hi, Liz:
Thank you for your advocacy on behalf of all the Michaels in this fair land.
Few people will care, but this war has been going on with us in BCACL (parents advocacy group) for several years.
Recently a government agency was developed - Community Living BC. This agency now has a budget to fund/serve people like Michael - but they never have enough funding,
We have some school-leavers here on the North Shore that do not have any funding as yet, and the IQ situation is yet another problem complicating the issue.
We do not have enough developmental psychologists to test most of the people. This is not an intellectual/sickness/illness we can cure. It is a developmental "how you function" condition which usually lasts a lifetime.
Educational psychologists who work in this field are few and far between. All of them will tell you that an IQ can be interpreted in lots of different ways. It is not an exact science that can be measured to produce an "OK, this is the cutoff point" decision.
Therefore - what we should be asking instead, is: "How does this person function in today's complex society/community?" and, "What safety net do we need to put in place for this person, or these people?" Parents cannot do it all, especially as they get older.
Just do not get me started.
Heaven help us and the developmentally-delayed people, - but perhaps every politician, every family needs a kid who is different - and then see the tables turn! (Somewhat along the lines of the current television ad by Children's Hospital - "If it was your child, we wouldn't need to ask." Liz)
I am pleased, though, that some people in the community can be aroused.
Regards T.

Secure Games? From a reader....

Hi David

Recommend reading local author Christopher Shaw's "Five Ring Circus" to get
a more realistic idea of what is required by VANOC et al to secure the 2010
Games and how badly officials have deliberately underestimated the security
costs of the GAMES.

Some of my thoughts...

The only port city to host the Winter Olympics...three major railway lines
pass by many of the Vancouver venues, both support venues and sporting
venues and major hotels...20% of the workers in the region work downtown...a
mountainous corridor stretching 120 kms...a nightmare...what will they do,
shut down rail operations, shut down the port? Will every container need to
be opened and investigated arriving at port? What will the cost be to the
economy if they have to shut the port or the railways?

Here's what CBC reported during the 2005 trucker's stike at the Vancouver

"B.C.'s business community is demanding that the federal government end a
paralysing and sometimes violent truckers' strike at Vancouver-area ports
that is costing an estimated $75 million a day."

Just how will the security measures for the 16 day 2010 Games impact the
normal economy of BC and Canada? February is a very busy month for grain
shipments at our ports, will these shipments be delayed by security
Getting to and from places of work will be impacted by road closures and
usual transit systems will be overloaded by visitors. But it may all even
itself out if we look at Salt Lake City's (SLC) example. At SLC airport,
more people left the state of Utah during the Games period than came in.
Sales tax revenues for the month of February in 2002 to the state seem to
show that revenues were flat in comparison to previous year revenues for the
same period in 2001. A modest .6% increase in sales tax revenue was felt in
SLC only.

Imagine thousands of security officers, armed forces and secret service
agents from over 20 countries floating around...the security cost in Salt
Lake City 2002 was over $350 million in US dollars, the CAN dollar traded at
62 cents during that time. SLC is not a port city and mountain events for
the 2002 Winter Games was only 15 km from the city core and SLC had no major
railroads adjacent to any of the Olympic venues.

Security costs are being hidden in local, provincial and federal budgets
much the same as Colin Hansen tried to hide the costs of the Olympic
Secretariat office in Victoria saying they shouldn't be included in the 2010
Olympic costs. The indirect costs to our economy need to factored in. The
government is all too quick to inform or disinform us of the 2010 Games
benefits but dead in the water when it comes to informing us of the full
costs of hosting the Games.

Johnny Griffin, R.I.P.

Johhny Griffin, who played here in Vancouver a number of times in recent years to wowed audiences, has died.

A solo is playable below, and the NY Times obit can be read here.

Johnny Griffin

Friday, July 25, 2008

Grabbing the Rays

Off to the wilds blog posting tomorrow...

Get out there and enjoy the shortest summer in memory.

And try to find a bird other than a crow.

Today's Province Column

will appear next friday...

Don't even ask....

Government at its Worst

Yesterday, I wrote in this space about the morally challenged Premier, Gordon Campbell, and the dangerously limited Minister of Children & Familes, Tom Christensen.

The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the government could not turn its back on developmentally disabled people on the basis of something as useless and questionable as an IQ test.

Not liking to be told what to do, and not liking to spend one penny on anything that isn't MONUMENTAL, the Preem and his lacking lacky made a new ruling IN CAMERA WITH NO CONSULTATION circumventing the court decision.

Now, if you or your child has an IQ over 70, you are not qualified for government help in surviving the rough and tumble of this life. That includes buying an ugly, shitty little bungalow in North Vancouver for only $890,000.

I am please to see in today's Sun that Pete McMartin has joined me in condemning this sickening behaviour, as has Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, BC's crusading children's representative.

Turple- Lafond says she is already dealng with over 200 cases of developmentally disabled teens who have lost their support since turning 19, many because their IQ tests read a point or two above 70.

I have a question.

If a person is developmentally disabled his/her entire life, does he/she suddenly, miraculously become a gifted scientist, concert pianist, school teacher at the age of 19 and therfore needs no more help from us?

Really? I didn't know that.

This government is way beyond cheezy and sick and petty.

Ask yourself who was the last great government in history that played with the lives of the disabled?

The Rogue ICBC

Good for Vaughn Palmer.

Today is, I believe, the fourth day in a row that he has devoted his column to skewering ICBC and the government that shields it in this "chop shop" mess.

It's pretty discouraging when the cops turn out to be the crooks.

Sfortuna...sono triste...

Soldiers will now patrol Italian streets.

Venice bans begging.

Reports from Bella Italia are regularly discouraging these days. The garbage piles up in Naples, costs of everything are through the palazzo roof and salaries for even the most skilled are still lying somewhere in the canals.

My love affair with the enchanted, enchanting Venice is waning, ever so slightly.

Alora, we shall see...


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Give the Premier a (Moral) IQ test

The papers are full of 2010 news.

So much being spent on security. So many athletes doing such and such to prepare. Traffic nightmares to come.

Premier Gordon Campbell smiles at daily foto ops for the occasion.

The true measure of this government and its callous leadership, however, is to be found in this hideous story.

B.C. to deny services based on IQ

Policy based on lawsuit could put developmentally disabled adults as risk

Behind closed doors, Campbell and one of the worst and most incompetent ministers in B.C. history, Tom Christensen (Children & Families, lord help us), signed an order making an IQ of 70 or under the criterion for receiving social service help for the developmentally disabled.

Has there ever been a more petty, mean, detestable and indefensible action from a local government?

Campbell and his thugs are telling us regularly, usually with our own tax money, that we are living in a financial paradise, that all is great, that the economy is fabulous.

If this is true, why would you begrudge helping out a family who have a child with limited intellectual capacity?

That dreadful fool Christensen even said one month ago that doing this would be wrong.

Nice to see that he's right when he's wrong.

IQ tests are hardly reliable and scientific at the best of times. They are mere indicators, taken seriously by few.

This matter should not be complicated.

If a young man or young woman is, by any observable standard and by no means other than heredity and the roll of the dice, brought into this world significantly less able to deal with the usual challenges than most, we, as a filthy rich society, aught to help that soul survive.

This is arguing over pennies, while spending millions on frivolity and idiocy.

This is chizzling over pennies and people's difficult lives.

It is ugly in the extreme and it has Gordon Campbell's picture all over it.

Roger's a Wreck

Roger Federer, the number one tennis player in the world, is now a certifiable head case.

He is suffering from PTND, Post Traumatic Nadal Disorder, a rare condition brought on by the relentless onslaught over a period of several years of a young Spanish dynamo who gets into your head and acts like Kryptonite does on Superman.

It is said that Federer, who has been the second best clay court player in Paris for the last three years, lost his finals match to Nadal two years ago in the tunnel before they came out for the match. The apocryphal story has Nadal jumping up and down and freaking out Roger so badly that the game was over before they hit the court.

This year, Nadal didn't beat Fed in the Roland Garros finals; he crushed and demolished him, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0, in a match that was unwatchable for its profound level of embarrassment.

In last year's Wimbledon, Fed's fifth win in a row, he came within a hair of losing to Nadal.

In this year's final, won by Nadal in an epic, already legendary match, Nadal prevailed 9-7 in the fifth set and in the dark.

But Federer had already lost the match in the second set when he was up 3-0, then 4-1 and went into his famous cruise control, losing 4-6.

Cruise against Rafael Nadal. Nada, baby.

So yesterday it was hardly a surprise, if still horrifying to witness, that Roger Federer, with 12 Grand Slam titles, only two away from equalling Pete Sampras' record, came completely unglued in the second and third sets against number 23-ranked Gilles Simon of France. Fed lost 6-2, 5-7, 4-6, spraying forehands all over the York Centre park.

Worse, Mr. Classy evaporated to be replaced by Mr. Truculent, Senor Argumentative, and Monsieur Pouty.

Do you think Roger has been rattled by his loss at Wimbledon two weeks ago?

You bet.

Can he recover his cool and his forehand for Flushing Meadow a mere few days away?

Not likely.

If he pulls his fragile self together and wins in New York, it will be the biggest and best comeback I will have witnessed.

But I'm not putting my money on it.

I think Roger Federer needs a great coach, a ward full of psychologists, a long rest, and Tania Harding to start dating Rafa.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Our thanks for the following three articles sent to us from Al Arsenault, retired VPD officer and crusader for real treatment of addictions.

Iran Fights Scourge of Addiction in Plain View, Stressing Treatment

A ceremony in Tehran in May celebrated a recovering addict’s first anniversary free of drugs.

“I was in an awful condition,” said Ali, describing 12 years of addiction to opium and alcohol. “I reached a state that I smashed our furniture and threw our television out of the window.”

Ali, 31, who has a wife and child and identified himself by only his first name to avoid possible embarrassment to his family, is among more than 800 addicts struggling to overcome their habits at a free treatment center in central Tehran.

More than a million Iranians are addicted to some form of opium, heroin or other opium derivative, according to the government, and some estimates run as high as 10 million.

In a country where the discussion of some social and cultural issues, like homosexuality, can be all but taboo, drug addiction has been widely acknowledged as a serious problem. It is talked about openly in schools and on television. Posters have encouraged people to think of addiction as a disease and to seek treatment.

Iran’s theocratic government has encouraged and financed a vast expansion in the number of drug treatment centers to help users confront their addictions and to combat the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, through shared needles.

The center in central Tehran, which is called Congress 60 and is run by a private nonprofit agency, is one of 600 centers that provide drug treatment across the country with help from government money. An additional 1,250 centers offer methadone, free needles and other services for addicts who are not ready to quit, including food and treatment for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted infections.

Iran’s government, trying to curb addiction’s huge social costs, has been more supportive of drug treatment than any other government in the Islamic world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

It was not always this way. After the 1979 revolution, the government tried a more traditional approach: arresting drug users and putting them in jail.

But two decades later, it recognized that this approach had failed. A sharp increase in the crime rate and the number of people infected with H.I.V., both directly linked to a surge in narcotics use, persuaded the government to shift strategies.

“We have realized that an addict is a social reality,” said Muhammad-Reza Jahani, the vice president for the Committee Combating Drugs, which coordinates the government’s efforts to fight drug addiction and trafficking. “We don’t want to fight addicts; we want to fight addiction. We need to manage addiction.”

No one knows for certain just how widespread addiction is. The official estimate is 1.1 million people, according to Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, the leader of the security forces. Mr. Moghadam has banned the use of any other statistics on addiction, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.

But some experts put the number much higher. At a conference on addiction in 2005, Ahmad Kavand, an official in the Interior Ministry, put the number of addicts at 10 million, or about one in every seven people in Iran, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.

Southern Tehran has neighborhoods where homeless addicts can readily be found sleeping in parks or openly injecting drugs. The smell of opium in residential neighborhoods, even in affluent areas, is common.

Opium has deep cultural roots in Iran. It has long been considered an effective painkiller, and its use is socially acceptable. Many addicts start by smoking opium occasionally, and move on to heroin and other opium-based narcotics after becoming dependent.

In many cities, a bride brings the equipment for smoking opium as part of her dowry. Before the 1979 revolution, the government gave opium to addicts to enable them to avoid drug dealers.

“Opium in our culture is like Champagne in France,” said Dr. Ali Alavi, with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “Many use it for entertainment.”

Drug abuse is even more common outside Tehran and other large cities, particularly in the provinces along the drug-trafficking routes that run from Iran’s long eastern border with Afghanistan, where opium poppies are grown, to the northwest, where it is transported to Turkey and Europe.

More than 93 percent of the opium produced for the world’s illicit narcotics markets comes from Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Iran is the main trafficking route for nearly 60 percent of the opium grown in Afghanistan.

With opium production skyrocketing in Afghanistan, some Iranian officials accuse the American military of ignoring poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, even though it is a major source of revenue for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

“We think the Americans want to keep this source of infection near us,” said Mr. Jahani, the Iranian antidrug official. “Because of the animosity between Iran and the U.S., this is the best way to keep our resources and forces occupied.

The Dead

Insite status quo feeds 'living dead'
Vancouver Courier
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
To the editor:
Re: "Health Minister cites VPD cop in Insite attack," June 27.
As a former resident, parent and non-profit organizer in Strathcona, it's time to
speak my feelings regarding Insite, which I'm sure will not be popular.
If it is true that addictions are an illness and treated as such and if it is true
that "supervised" injection sites are part of "harm reduction," then Insite
belongs in a medical facility and needs to be part of the process of recovery.
I initiated a non-profit organization dedicated to self-employment, which opened
the first new business on Hastings between Gore and Cambie a few years ago. I
was a resident of Strathcona, my daughter was raised in the community. From
my perspective, institutions such as Insite enable individuals to continue their
dysfunctional lives, provide make-work projects for the power barons who run
conglomerate non-profit organizations and continue to foster the attitude that
illness, abuse and horror is normalized.
I have no way of knowing whether the "scientific" research provided by
supporters of Insite is accurate or skewed. That being said, if Insite is
contributing to lessening the spread of disease and keeping individuals alive, it
belongs in a medical facility such as St. Paul's wherein people who use such a
facility are strongly encouraged to leave their community to receive treatment
as cancer patients are required to do. I feel the same way regarding the NAOMI
trials, which disperses free heroin to addicts.
The Downtown Eastside faces incredible challenges in the next two years, with
$1 million condos embedded amidst even more social housing for the "hard to
house." If there is any plan related to that neighbourhood, one is mystified in
trying to understand what that plan is.
For the life of me, having lived in that 'hood, I see no evidence of any "harm"
being "reduced" in the neighbourhood. The living dead in front of Insite is just
one more "going nowhere" testament to the salaries of the individuals who run
the various organizations dedicated to keeping the status quo in the
Perhaps Insite should continue, but addicts need to understand that, if they are
to be granted a sanctuary to continue their deathwish, then such a "right"
comes with obligations. Their obligation to keep such a place open would be to
leave their community to receive treatment (and it should be considered
treatment), realize that usage of such a service is part of their commitment to
Print Story - network 7/9/08 9:12 PM Page 2 of 2
reevaluate their lives and consider treatment. Otherwise, Insite is an unsightly
and dangerous experiment in enabling the living dead. The people outside the
facility may be animated, but who would call that "living?"
Ruth Meta,
© Vancouver Courier 2008

Prescription drug abuse set to exceed use of illicit narcotics globally

Prescription drug abuse set to exceed use of illicit narcotics globally
Already outstripped traditional illegal drugs in parts of Europe, Africa
and South Asia: report Last Updated: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 8:13
PM ET The Associated Press

Abuse of prescription drugs is about to exceed the use of illicit street
narcotics worldwide - and the shift has spawned a lethal new trade in
counterfeit painkillers, sedatives and other medicines potent enough to
kill, a global watchdog warned Wednesday.

Already, prescription drug abuse has outstripped traditional illegal
drugs such as heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy in parts of Europe, Africa and
South Asia, the UN-affiliated International Narcotics Control Board said
in its annual report for 2006.

In the United States alone, the abuse of painkillers, stimulants,
tranquilizers and other prescription medications has gone beyond
"practically all illicit drugs with the exception of cannabis," with
users increasingly turning to them first, the Vienna-based group said.

And unregulated markets in many countries make it easy for traffickers
to peddle a wide variety of counterfeit drugs through courier services,
ordinary mail and the internet.

"Gains over the past years in international drug control may be
seriously undermined by this ominous development if it remains
unchecked," INCB president Philip Emafo said.

Discount medications that seem to be authentic often turn out to be
cheap but powerful knockoffs concocted from recipes posted on the web,
Emafo added.

"Instead of healing, they can take lives," he said, characterizing the
danger as "real and sizable."

Up to 50 per cent of all drugs taken in developing countries are
believed to be counterfeit, the board said, citing estimates from the
World Health Organization.

Buprenorphine, an analgesic, is now the main injection drug in most of
India, and it is also trafficked and abused in tablet form in France,
where the INCB estimates 20 to 25 per cent of the drug sold commercially
as Subutex is being diverted to the black market.
Canadians ditching heroin for prescription narcotics

A study published in November 2006 in the Canadian Medical Association
Journal found that heroin was no longer the opiate of choice among many
substance abusers in Canada - prescription narcotics such as morphine
and OxyContin were taking its place.

Researchers studied street users in seven cities across the country in
2005, and found that heroin remained the No. 1 illicit opiate only in
Vancouver and Montreal. In the five other cities - Edmonton, Toronto,
Quebec City, Fredericton and Saint John - more often than not, getting
high meant taking prescription opioids like Percodan.

When the study was released, lead author Benedikt Fischer, an addiction
researcher at the University of Victoria, said the switch to highly
addictive prescription narcotics among street users likely represents
just the tip of the iceberg

He said he suspected the numbers would be much higher if the general
population was factored in.

The INCB said the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs nearly
doubled from 7.8 million in 1992 to 15.1 million in 2003. Among their
prescription drugs of choice: the painkillers oxycodone, sold under the
trade name OxyContin, and hydrocodone, sold as Vicodin and used by 7.4
per cent of college students in 2005.

Although the number of U.S. high school and college students abusing
illicit drugs declined in 2006 for a fourth consecutive year, "the high
and increasing level of abuse of prescription drugs by both adolescents
and adults is a serious cause for concern," it said.

Counterfeiters are exploiting intense demand for prescription drugs that
can give a "high" comparable to cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine, the
watchdog group said.
(c) The Canadian Press, 2007

Penny Wise

$125 Million ++ for security for 2010.


And this could buy how many classrooms, teachers, books, day care spaces, MIRs, treatment beds, and on into the misplaced night....

Who Done It?

Vaughn Palmer, as he often does, has performed another wonderful public service.

In today's column, he goes over the ICBC "chop shop" story in full - ICBC employees fixing and reselling smashed cars at cut-rate prices to friends and insiders, etc.; vice-presidents covering everybody's tracks, etc.

But what makes this update so important is that he reminds us that we know nothing substantive.

Who did what? What are their names? Do they still work for the Corp? Were they fired? Paid Off?

Isn't it wonderful how governments pass on their public responsibilities by taking public institutions and making them arms length corporations that are answerable to no one?

Save Us from the Judges First

The shootout at a Victoria nightclub, which resulted in one death and other calamities, has found a familiar new twist.

The 22-year old accused murderer was out on bail on drug and gun charges.

One of the conditions of his bail was that he not be in possession of a gun.

I asked this very question just a few days ago in another case...namely, who will monitor or police such conditions?

Answer: No One.

Next question.

Who will monitor and police the judges who are an increasing danger to the community?

Another Tax to be Axed

Cudos to Don Cayo, writing today in the Sun about the heinous property transfer tax.

Read it and cringe.

No, Say It Isn't So


You may have trouble believing this.

But it is reported in the Province and we have no reason to doubt it.

It's just that it points to a stupidity and selfishness so craven and hideous, one sputters.

Dad shuts son, 2, inside car to go see Batman movie

That's the headline.

is the story.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fire the Customs People Who Disgrace Us

Six aboriginal dancers from Papua New Guinea were detained and questioned by Canada Customs at YVR for 6 hours and then flown back to their home.

This group was here on a cultural exchange.

They don't speak or understand English.

But two idiot bureaucrats treated them like criminals and deported them on the spot.

I think this is sickening.

Why are these two destructive fools still employed by this country?

Why has Ottawa not responded to the complaints in this case?

Why are known criminals and thugs happily sipping lattes in our sunshine when these perfectly innocent guests are treated so shabbily, so inhumanely?

Will no one take responsibility?

Next !

"It's not city council's business to make specific decisions about specific marketing initiatives by Tourism Vancouver," said Ladner.

This is Peter ladner, who is running for mayor.

And he is absolutely right in this case, responding to the frivolous and irrlevant recommendation of Vision Counsilor Tim Stevenson that the city should be spending more money to attract lesbian tourists.

This "idea" is as potent as Free range eggs and beautified dumpsters.

New Law Gets My Vote

The Province reports that both drivers in a two car collision were drunk.

I think that's a good program and should be written into law.

All drunk drivers must crash into each other and no one else.

Earth to Ford Motor...

Never thought I'd see it.

DEARBORN, Mich. — The Ford Motor Company, which devoted itself for nearly 20 years to putting millions of Americans into big pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles, is about to drastically alter its focus to building more small cars.

The company that brought you the Exploder and that lost only $15 Billion in the last two years is finally getting brilliant.


No doubt their execs pull in HUGE compensations, when, in fact, they should be put on trial for being polluters.

Read the blessed news here.

Killer Poetry

"PARIS — Radovan Karadzic, one of the world’s most wanted war criminals for his part in the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, was arrested Monday in a raid in Serbia that ended a 13-year hunt."

So reads the NY Times first paragraph.

My favorite part of this story is that Mr. K. did not waste his time hiding in barn lofts.

No. The man who had thousands raped and terrorized and placed in extermination camps published a book of children's poetry in 2002.

Who was the enlightened publisher?

K. is charged now with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Come on...he writes poetry for kids. He can't be that bad, can he?

I'd like to add Wally Oppal and the B.C. Human Rights Commission and the National parole Board to this scenario and see what we get.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Advances in dentistry.

This is the news?

Reno Resolution, and other Zen Experiences

Now that I've definitely decided NOT to renovate the bathroom off my bedroom, I have quickly come to love this room that I had begun to hate.

I'm accepting where I am and what I have.

Renovating the bathroom was just a diversion, a way to avoid other, more urgent tasks, like writing a new draft of a book I've been working on.

All hail my beautiful OLD bathroom!

(That's not it. I should be so lucky.)

The High Cost of BioFuels

Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis
> Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive
> Aditya Chakrabortty
> Friday July 4 2008
> The Guardian
> Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian.
> The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.
> The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe, which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.
> Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.
> "It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White House," said one yesterday.
> The news comes at a critical point in the world's negotiations on biofuels policy. Leaders of the G8 industrialised countries meet next week in Hokkaido, Japan, where they will discuss the food crisis and come under intense lobbying from campaigners calling for a moratorium on the use of plant-derived fuels.
> It will also put pressure on the British government, which is due to release its own report on the impact of biofuels, the Gallagher Report. The Guardian has previously reported that the British study will state that plant fuels have played a "significant" part in pushing up food prices to record levels. Although it was expected last week, the report has still not been released.
> "Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises," said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough to eat."
> Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and fuel prices as "the first real economic crisis of globalisation".
> President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: "Rapid income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for the large price increases."
> Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had a marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices.
> Since April, all petrol and diesel in Britain has had to include 2.5% from biofuels. The EU has been considering raising that target to 10% by 2020, but is faced with mounting evidence that that will only push food prices higher.
> "Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate," says the report. The basket of food prices examined in the study rose by 140% between 2002 and this February. The report estimates that higher energy and fertiliser prices accounted for an increase of only 15%, while biofuels have been responsible for a 75% jump over that period.
> It argues that production of biofuels has distorted food markets in three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel, with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in grains, driving prices up higher.
> Other reviews of the food crisis looked at it over a much longer period, or have not linked these three factors, and so arrived at smaller estimates of the impact from biofuels. But the report author, Don Mitchell, is a senior economist at the Bank and has done a detailed, month-by-month analysis of the surge in food prices, which allows much closer examination of the link between biofuels and food supply.
> The report points out biofuels derived from sugarcane, which Brazil specializes in, have not had such a dramatic impact.
> Supporters of biofuels argue that they are a greener alternative to relying on oil and other fossil fuels, but even that claim has been disputed by some experts, who argue that it does not apply to US production of ethanol from plants.
> "It is clear that some biofuels have huge impacts on food prices," said Dr David King, the government's former chief scientific adviser, last night. "All we are doing by supporting these is subsidising higher food prices, while doing nothing to tackle climate change."
> Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2008

Donald O'Connor & Vera Ellen, from "Call Me Madam"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Zoom, zoom, zoom...NOT!

The news, announced in today's Province, that Oak Bay will be the first city in Canada to allow electric cars on its streets is both welcome and puzzling.

Didn't I just read that Quebec was making the same announcement, the immediate result of which is that the Zenn is stepping up production in its Quebec plant?

And while I welcome electric cars and look forward to seeing more of those then the behemoths we now have on the cit streets, I will look forward to seeing LRT trains running along street tracks on time and every two minutes in rush hour and every six minutes otherwise, just like in many cities in the world.

Our city driving has now become an unmitigated horror.

The only thing worse is the pathetic excuse for public transit. Daily, I am told of twenty and twenty-five minutes waits. Puleeeeeese!

Johnny Mathis - West Side Story

The Rules of Dis-Engagement

Would one of you smart people please explain to me how CBC makes its judgments and determinations when it comes to obscenity and pornography?

Last night, I watched the first hour of Quentin Tarantino's one great movie, "Pulp Fiction." This was before he went completely insane and decided that slashing up a mother in front of her 5-year old somehow constituted entertainment. Before he declared publicly that filming violence made him hard, and he wasn't talking about endurance.

We might ask why the government funded network is showing American movies or any other American thing in the first place, but that's a whole other debate.

Here's my puzzlement.

Every time one of the characters in "Pulp Fiction" said "f___" or some derivation thereof - and they said it every fifth f______ word - the sound track bleeped. So there was a symphonic proliferation of bleeping this and bleep that.

But these words came through, sans censor, loud and clear: pussy, shit.

So can you explain to me the mind set or the Book of Kells that CBC mis-management is using for a doorstop?

Come on, you f______ pussies, explain this shit to me.

p.s. BY the way, it has taken me all these years to notice that Steve Buscemi played "Buddy Holly," the waiter who serves John Travolta and Uma Thurman.

The Good Judge

Judging "Ivory Tower Avoidance" and other follies

LET’S REMIND GOVERNMENT THAT JUDGES AND POLICE WORK FOR US July 16, 2008 SUNDAY July 12, another in a series of blue-sky days; but here I am, hunkered down struggling to meet a Monday morning deadline for this column. Shuttering out uplifting blue skies, I peck away at the keyboard under a couple of dark clouds that hover ominously over our criminal justice system. One is the disturbing release on bail of alleged perjurer Inderjit Singh Reyat, the bomb-maker implicated in the 1985 Air India in-flight explosion. Some time ago Justice Patrick Dohm denied bail for Reyat in a multi-count perjury case arising out of the Air India trial. Dohm based his decision partly on the ground that it was necessary to deny bail in order to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice. I think Dohm reacted appropriately to Reyat’s involvement as a bomb maker in two terrorist attacks in which 331 unsuspecting innocents were killed. The appeal court over-ruled Dohm and released Reyat stating in part that “An informed member of the public would recognize that Mr. Reyat is entitled to the presumption of innocence in relation to the perjury charge, regardless of his past criminal misconduct for which he has already been punished by serving sentences totalling the equivalent of 25 years.” That statement is ivory-tower avoidance of harsh realities. Surely an informed member of the public would disagree with the appeal court judge and say that Reyat is still a dedicated terrorist and would point out that the trial judge characterized Reyat as an “unmitigated liar under oath” concerning the plot to blow up two aircraft. An informed person would surely say that time spent in jail does not in any sense amount to repayment of a debt to society; that there is no such principle in the law; and that it is merely a metaphorical wiping clean of the punishment slate. Reyat will never mingle among us as a rehabilitated citizen of virtue for he can never shed his participation in this massacre. Judges need frequent reminding that as a branch of government they must always be a force in maintaining peace and order in our communities. It is not within their mandate to mollycoddle a self-admitted killer terrorist. After the appeal judge granted bail, she somehow concluded that her judgement, including bail conditions should not be made public, on the basis that an earlier order banning publication of the initial bail hearing precluded publication of the details of her judgement. Wrong, wrong, wrong: Once pronounced a judgment belongs to the public and not to the judge who rendered it. The second dark cloud is the slapstick-like behaviour of a dysfunctional integrated squad of RCMP and municipal police, a mob squad actually. Clouseau-like infighting forced federal prosecutors to short-circuit the mob squads multimillion-dollar investigation of several high-ranking members of the Hell’s Angels. This integrated squad working under the apt name Project Phoenix was part of the Organized Crime Agency of B.C. Its target: some leading Hell’s Angels. However the targets faded away as the first order of business became internal matters. The dominant RCMP squad members turned against the designated lead investigator, a municipal police officer and he was fired. A civil law suit arose from the ashes of Project Phoenix with former lead investigator Allen Dalstrom bringing a wrongful dismissal claim against David Douglas, the former chief officer of OCABC, who fired him; and Kevin Begg, head of the provincial government’s police services division. At present the RCMP seems to have regained its stranglehold on mob investigation with the OCABC being supplanted by a new Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, an integrated team of RCMP and municipal police officers. It is the same game under a different name: the unmanageable RCMP in charge, its operation beyond the reach of our Police Act and law ministers, and worst of all no civilian oversight and no accountability. I am certain that when the Dalstrom suit gets to court it will expose the “we-know-best” RCMP as incapable of working on a true partnership basis with municipal police forces. Hopefully there will be testimony concerning the Police Services Branch of the ministry of the Solicitor General and whether it is stacked with RCMP retirees. In her report of November 2, 2007, The RCMP Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Dr. Linda Duxbury included the following assessment in her “key conclusions”: “RCMP culture is not one that supports change. Nor is it one that promotes workplace health or provides competitive advantage. “Words that describe the general culture include: paramilitary; hierarchical; … overcommitted; one that declares victory before achievement; overstretched; one that shoots the messenger; risk adverse; defensive; low trust; one of winners and losers; one that gives preference to dealing with issues rather than people; one that under values human resources; cash managed; non aligned; siloed; focused on process and face time not commonsense and output; change fatigued; exploitive …” This ailing organization has de facto control over the future of policing in British Columbia and with the seeming acquiescence of the premier and his law ministers they are preparing to accept another 20-year fiefdom in British Columbia. We must always remind ourselves that we live together under a constitution that proclaims our right to “peace, order and good government.” Yet awareness of our constitutional rights without action will result in our democratic society being turned upside down. Then our coalescence as a law-abiding people will be fruitless as our executive, legislative and judicial branches of government – together with their bureaucratic agents and police – imperiously anticipate our obedience. Soon it will be time to cast our ballot with a vengeance.; Published July 16, 2008 in the North Shore News

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Let the Light in, Gordon

Bravo to the Vancouver Sun's very strong editorial this morning calling for even the lowest level of transparency and decency from the Campbell goverment.

This administration has been making secrecy its watchword for far too long.


You know why nothing can get done at City Hall?

You know why improvements to city life and health are less than zero?

Because 3 city employees and various departments and managers and clerks have been caught up in The Great Kerrisdale Tree Fort Initiative!

Thank god, we have these stellar guardians of The Right, and the nice neighbours to help them along.

Jack and Sam, you may NOT have a tree fort in your own yard. So there!

And don't mind about the homeless and the drug addicted living near by. We'll get to them in the next millenium sometime.

Just after we stop this guy from selling alternate newspapers or flowers near the bank.

Parole Board is Unbelievable

These idiots have struck again.

Will no one stop them?

A guy enticed hundreds of young girls on the internet to have sex with him. He managed to get at least two to comply.

He was sentenced to nine years.

Against the advice of his case management team, the irresponsible crew of misfits in the Parole Board has released him after less than one year in prison.

They say he has shown insight and understanding about his crime.

Hahahahahahahaha...I'm crying already.

The man is not allowed access to the internet while on parole.

Hahahahahahaha...I'm crying again.

The internet is like ants, locusts, cockroaches and mice. There are more of them than there are human creatures.

The internet is EVERYWHERE. You can't escape it.

How are these geniuses planning to patrol this injunction?

PLease, please, please ask Stephen Harper to totally revise the National Parole Board. It is a bigger danger to the community than drug cartels.

Flushing Meadow, Two

A group in San Fransisco wants to renames the local sewage plant in honor of President Bush.

You can join their petition at this site.

We miss this kind of citizen satire.

Do you remember Yokum Foikus, the Town Fool?

I was standing in front of our second rehab house back in the late 60's on a lovely summer day and I suddenly did a double take.

A man wearing a medieval jester's costume, complete with dangling bells, walked pass me with an ass. Yes, a real live grey beast of burden.

Foikus was active during the upcoming civic election.

We need him again. Soon.

Margaret Wente's Fourth Column on Drugs

Wente is the first and only journalist in Canada to completely and totally "get it." She has embraced the painful truths of this story utterly. In focusing on Billy W., she has perfectly illustrated the beauty and the bureaucratic madness. Bravissima!

VANCOUVER — Billy Weselowski has seen it all, and he hates what he sees on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. “You can't go a block without a bicycle pulling up and giving you all the syringes you want,” he growls. Mr. Weselowski knows this world all too well. He grew up here. His childhood was a nightmare of violence and abuse. At 13, he blacked out from booze for the first time, and quickly wound up on the streets. He injected, snorted, stole, pimped women, stabbed men and became an accomplished felon. He was the hardest of the hard core. Today, he runs rehab programs for drug addicts that borrow from the tough-love model of AA. He has successfully treated thousands of people, using an approach that emphasizes structure, personal responsibility and abstinence. But this approach to addiction is deeply out of fashion. The experts who make drug policy, allocate public money, dispense research funds, advise politicians and push for reform aren't interested in hearing from people like him. Instead, they're interested in “harm reduction” – which, among other things, means giving people all the syringes they want. [Photo] Bethany Jeal a nurse with the Downtown East Side Clinical Housing Team, holds a typical tray with an injection kit that will be handed out to drug users at Insite. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)
In Mr. Weselowski's view, harm reduction is a farce. “They're killing people by the truckload,” he says. Canada's official drug policy is known as the Four Pillars approach: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. In practice, prevention and treatment have been neglected, while harm-reduction measures have steadily gained ground. Free needle and methadone programs are now widespread. (The term “needle exchange” is obsolete; needles are now handed out by the boxful.) Hundreds of addicts a day visit Vancouver's supervised injection site, which has become ground zero in an angry war of words. Yet, harm reduction remains the orthodoxy of the day. “The supervised injection site is beyond questioning,” says one Vancouver resident. “You are branded unprogressive, unfeeling and everything else ‘un' if you criticize it.” David Marsh, the Vancouver region's medical director for addictions, says harm-reduction policies are often misunderstood. “Essentially, harm reductions are interventions that help reduce the harms associated with drug use, without necessarily requiring that drug use be decreased or stopped.” They are a compassionate way to help the most addicted and marginalized of them all, to tide them over until they're able and willing to seek help. “It's part of Canadian tradition not to turn our backs to people at their lowest.” Harm-reduction advocates now rule the drug policy establishment. They dominate Health Canada, addiction research centres, drug policy groups, and the public health services of local governments. Nowhere is this more true than B.C., where social attitudes toward drugs are the most liberal in Canada. Public officials have fought tenaciously for the supervised injection site. For some, it represents a crucial step toward a far more sweeping form of harm reduction – legalization. Many harm-reduction advocates believe the real harms are done by drug laws, not drugs. Prohibition is impossible, prevention is futile, and abstinence is unattainable for many. Therefore, if we stop criminalizing drugs, we'll get rid of most of the drug problems – the international gangs, the billions wasted on interdiction and enforcement, the crimes committed by addicts who need drug money, the imprisonment for petty drug crimes, and so on. It's an attractive theory, at least on paper. Drug-law reformers have ideological allies around the world, in think tanks and at major universities. Among them is financier George Soros. Because of his deep pockets, he's been called the Daddy Warbucks of drug legalization. All of this is spicy stuff. Harm reduction is a hot research field that attracts major money and offers major career opportunities. At Vancouver's international drug conference last year, no one was interested in reactionary things like 12-step programs, rehab or recovery. The noisy marijuana lobby provides a lot of fuel for this crusade, despite the fact that pot is not the issue. Marijuana use is not what creates the lion's share of crime, public disorder, massive costs to the health system, and ruined lives. The real problem is hard drugs, especially cocaine. Vancouver's last three mayors have been outspoken advocates for legalizing marijuana (and the source of a certain civic pride for Vancouverites). The current one, Sam Sullivan, has called for medical versions of hard drugs to be available to addicts. The city's official drug policy calls for the federal government to legalize marijuana, and also to review its prohibition policies for other illegal drugs. Three years ago, B.C.'s public health officers – the same ones who've cracked down on smoking – released a detailed report calling for “government controlled supply” for formerly illegal drugs. “Harm-reduction strategies have not been as effective as possible due to their implementation within the prohibition model.” It laid out an ambitious model for “post-prohibition harm reduction,” where the government, guided by its wise public health officers, would supervise the production and distribution of legal heroin and crack. Cuckoo? Not so much. Top health officials in B.C. already endorse the use of medical heroin, and a trial program has just wound up. Some of them belong to groups lobbying for legalization, and least one influential official is a vocal advocate for the benefits of psychedelic drug use. Not surprisingly, the group that runs Insite, Vancouver's safe-injection site, stridently opposes current drug laws, as does the publicly funded drug users' lobby, VANDU. These two groups are notorious for the noisy lengths they go to in order to silence their critics. They're also good at high-profile PR stunts, such as the recent demonstration on Parliament Hill where they planted 868 wooden crosses to symbolize the 868 people who overdosed at Insite. “Insite was about people dying – friends and neighbours!” spokesman Mark Townsend told me in an interview. In fact, the research found that Insite averts around one overdose death a year, not 868. When asked about this discrepancy, Mr. Townsend brushed it off as irrelevant. Given the current government in Ottawa, it's unlikely that the push for legalization will make headway any time soon. There's also another obstacle: the public. Health officials have faced citizen revolts in cities where people don't want free needles passed out in their neighbourhoods. Sadly, all this theatre has deprived Canadians of a genuine debate over drug policy. The question isn't whether Insite is good or bad. The question is what steps we can take that really will reduce the harm drugs do. Despite the shouting, it's not too hard to guess where the moderate majority stands on drugs. They don't want people prosecuted for smoking a little weed. (After all, plenty of them do it, too.) But hard drugs are different. We don't want to decriminalize them. But we also don't want to punish addicts by throwing them in jail. We want a humane drug policy that will help them get better – and if that means giving them a choice between rehab or jail, then maybe that's okay. So maybe what we need is not more Insites but more Billy Weselowskis – people who can give drug addicts a shot at dignity and a life. Mr. Weselowski knows that even hard-core junkies can recover. After all, he did. “We help get them connected to a spark of hope inside their souls."