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."

Letter to the Auditor General from a Citizen

Dear Sir:

I would to like to offer my sincere apologies for the verbal tirade directed
at yourself and your office by one member of the legislative assembly, the
less-than-Honourable Pat Bell.

This member's juvenile behaviour was directed personally at yourself based
on the Office of the Auditor General's recent report, "Removing Private Land
from Tree Farm Licences 6, 19 & 25: Protecting the Public Interest?"

As a citizen of this great province, I felt ashamed at the behaviour
exhibited by an elected official who appears not to understand the role of
the Auditor-General's Office. I suggest that Mr. Bell inform himself of the
Auditor General Act. It is important that government, even in a democracy,
contain avenues where the people's business is conducted in a transparent
manner and that it be accountable. Systems of checks and balances are
important especially in an era where more government decisions are being
made by fewer elected officials, mainly its Cabinet, and more by unelected
government appointed officers residing in the Office of the Premier.

From my understanding the Auditor General reports to the Legislative
Assembly, which is comprised of 79 elected members, and although being part
of government, the work undertaken by the Office of the Auditor General
should be independent and not influenced by government.

I have watched with interest how the current government, first elected in
2001, with their majority, drastically reduced the budgets of two of the
government's oversight departments, The Office of the Auditor General and
the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. These offices are
an essential part of modern democratic governance and they should monitor
the actions of government to ensure accountability and transparency. I am
hoping your office's report does not cause the government to take punitive
measures by reducing your office's future budgets.

I would like you to know that the current government promised the citizens
of BC both improved accountability and transparency as well as a commitment
to consult with the citizens when it campaigned in 2001.

I would think that the Honourable Pat Bell should commend your office for
doing the work that ensures that his government's promises are being

Unfortunately, the reaction your office received in the matter of the above
mentioned report may be a response to information not favourable to the
current government and possibly the reaction was in fact a response to
information not first vetted through the Office of the Premier's Public
Affairs Division.

Although in the past, I have not always agreed with the conclusions made by
your office, I still respect its role in government.

I am encouraged that your office undertook its investigation into the
removal of private lands from tree farm licences in response to the many
requests of concerned citizens. I would hope the government would carefully
study the report and specifically address the issues in your comments,

-the decision was not adequately informed - it was based upon incomplete
information that focused primarily on forest and range matters and the
interests of the licensee, with too little consideration given to the
potential impacts on other key stakeholders;

-consultation was not effective and communication with key stakeholders and
the public about the decision was not transparent;

-and the impacts of previous land removal decisions were not monitored to
help inform future decisions.

Please take the time to commend your staff for the work they are doing not
only on behalf of the Legislature but on behalf of the citizens of BC.


Phil Le Good
1507 Vidal Street
White Rock, BC