Thursday, December 26, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Mind (more or less) of a Writer

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Witness the latest news. Is it all of a piece?

Item: Many millions of tax dollars (upwards of $90 Million) are given to social services agencies for child welfare and not even one file is opened. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is B.C.’s fearless child and youth advocate. Her latest findings verge on the criminal. Committees were struck, meetings were held and deeply concerned people talked. Travel and accommodations and meals were covered. Aboriginal children in particular remain completely “under served.” Try at mortal risk.

Item: A second major long-serving doctor has resigned from Surrey memorial Hospital because he has no faith in the hospital’s ability to respond to Code Blue alerts, such as cardiac and respiratory emergencies.

Item: B.C. Government orders review of Fraser Health Authority.

Item: A full page - reprinted no doubt in its entirety from a pharmaceutical PR kit – report in the paper tells us that pediatricians are endorsing Prozac for kids. We are supposed to be cheered by this horror. It is, of course, a monstrosity and a huge public scam, but we are being conditioned to buying in to the madness. We are being convinced that it is good for us and for our children to get all doped up at the age of 5.

Item: The largest convention ever held in this city will occur when 48,000 come to Vancouver for the 2025 International Convention of Alcoholics Anonymous. But wait. How can this be? I have been in public meetings and heard with my own ears from officials and experts that A.A. doesn’t work. The man, who for two City of Vancouver mayors, was the drug czar at $100,000 a year and who has been showered with many civic and national awards for his contributions to the field, said in plain English that everyone knows that 12-step programs do not work. He was inviting us to join in on the mayor’s latest plan to give prostitutes free heroin and heroin substitutes. The czar and the mayor felt it was important and humane to keep prostitutes comfortable in their chosen field of work. Many experts have told me with complete knowing conviction that A.A. - and Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Emotions Anonymous – that none of these programs is really effective and that only a handful of people ever profit from them and then only for a short time. And that therefore, we ought to be giving people free drugs and alcohol to make their hopeless lives more tolerable and keep the poor slobs from braking into our cars and homes. And all of these people who have told me these things over the years are experts and doctors and psychiatrists and political leaders. 

But this all leaves me terribly confused because if 48,000 people are coming here for an A.A. convention and each of those delegates represents 1,000 or more clean and sober members who will not be making the trip, that’s a lot of clean and sober people who seem to have got that way by walking into church basements and saying, “Hi. My name’s Jenny and I am an alcoholic.”

It leaves me even more confused because of the thousands of people that I know personally who are clean and sober A.A., N.A. and C.A. members, and the many millions of people worldwide who claim similar status. Why are all those people trying to fool me when the experts have told me that this stuff doesn’t work?

I’ve called this little rant “Convergence,” because I believe there is a pattern here.

In this province, the Health Authorities are powerful, distant, dictatorial and combative with the very people they are meant to serve. They have sets of frozen ideas and they are determined that constituents will march in step to their drum beat. The monies wasted are gigantic and appalling. Bad programs are supported because they toe the line, good programs are refused because they don’t fit The Master Plan and the bureaucracy increases in direct proportion to its inefficiencies.

Never forget that the single consistent operating principle of all bureaucracies is Cover Your Butt.

Maybe we have become a nation of mandarins. Maybe we are already China. Maybe this is the result when half the available jobs in the country are with a government.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

DANCING with ADDICTIONS & ACCOMPLISHMENTS has invited me to speak next Tuesday evening at 7 P.M. at the Waterfall Building, 1540 West 2nd Avenue. Come join us.


 David Berner    Nov 5 2013

David Berner is the Executive Director of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada and runs addiction therapy groups at the Orchard Recovery Centre on Bowen Island, British Columbia and for VisionQuest Recovery Centres. An early pioneer in the field of residential treatment, David founded the X-Kalay Foundation Society in 1967, the first of its kind in Canada for addicts, alcoholics, ex-cons and others. David has recently chronicled his life and advocacy for addiction treatment in his wonderfully received book, All The Way Home. 
David is also an accomplished broadcaster, actor, journalist, social activist and teacher. Local audiences best know him for his many years as an enormously popular Radio Talk Show Host on CKNW Radio, and these days you can see him four times a week on his public affairs show on SHAW COMMUNITY TV, CABLE 4. David regularly contributes to many local and national newspapers and magazines.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Straight Lines?

I read a great line this morning over breakfast:

"It is a puzzling fact that the shortest line between two points is often a dead end."

What could better explain the death wish known as Harm Reduction or the manifestations therein known as Insite, free needles, free crack pipes, free heroin, methadone and alcohol?

In their rush to adopt the addicts way of non-thinking - we call it looking for the Silver Bullet - the good doctors have created a new kind of black hole, right here in our midst.

Not satisfied with the harm done here in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, the good doctors now want the Great Misfire to spread to other Canadian cities.

We are pleased to report that Ottawa and Toronto are resisting this pestilence with strength and good common sense and a clear sense of humanity.

The mantra used consistently by reductionists that their madness is based on evidence and everyone else is some mad, ill-informed ideologue is called public relations and spin.

Those of us who actually know the names and addresses of thousands of clean and sober people in long term recovery base our position on working and living in the front lines.

Have a nifty day.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013


A beautiful record of yesterday's wonderful gathering is offered here by Dr. Bill Hay. The piece includes words and many delightful pictures and a video.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013


I just don't get this headline.


Should there be something compelling or arousing or stimulating about watching a big hole in the ground...get bigger?

OK. Maybe 7 minutes, 12 tops and then it's on to buy those new shoes.

Even the workers are smoking cigarettes and staring blankly like they can barely remember the summer they went swimming with their friends at the lake and that strange thing happened...

I say when newspapers are so desperate for headlines that they make childish fun of legitimate construction projects...well, it's just not the world I grew up in, you know what I'm saying?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

O beautiful for spacious skies

Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are starring in a new movie called “2 Guns.”

All of the advertising for the film shows our two heroes, back to back, firing their ready pistols while dollar bills rain down upon them.

This is no doubt a crucial plot line, but does it also tell us a lot about the actors and the makers of the film?

Washington and Wahlberg are both genuine movies stars, bankable and beloved by their fans. Washington also happens to be a gifted and serious actor who studied for years at ACT in San Francisco. Wahlberg was a rocker, until Penny Marshal of Laverne and Shirley fame spotted him and told him he ought to be in the movies. That’s where he’s been ever since.

My concern is this. 

In the current climate of gun debate in the United States, only weeks after the end of the Zimmerman-Martin trial and in the same decade as several mad mass public murders, how can anyone of conscience peddle this drek, take money for it and call it entertainment. The title says it all. Guns are good. Guns are fun. Guns are the right solution to problems. Did the NRA sponsor this idiocy?

Whatever I may have thought of Washington (considerable) and Wahlberg (not much, lucky dope) before this celluloid poop, I now think a lot less.

Acting – even for big movie stars, often especially for big movie stars – is a precarious business at best. You may live at the top of Mulhullond Drive and you will still wonder where your next pay cheque is coming from.

Nevertheless... do these folks live entirely in a bubble? Do they not read the papers or watch the six o’clock news?

Can they be citizens or men of conscience?

Apparently not.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Friday, July 19, 2013

Little evidence harm reduction reduces harm - VANCOUVER SUN OP-ED

 By David Berner,

Vancouver Sun
July 19, 2013 5:04 AM

 A report by the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS on harm reduction programs and Insite released last month is not science; it's public relations.

 Authors Drs. Julio Montaner, Thomas Kerr and Evan Wood have produced nearly two dozen papers on the use of Insite. They boast of good results in connecting addicts to treatment but convincing evidence is lacking.

 The current campaign reports significant reductions in drug overdoses, yet the Government of British Columbia Selected Vital Statistics and Health Status Indicators show that the number of deaths from drug overdose in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has increased each year (with one exception) since the site opened in 2003. In addition, the federal government's Advisory Committee on Drug Injection Sites report only five per cent of drug addicts use the injection site, three per cent were referred for treatment and there was no indication the crime rate has decreased, as well as no indication of a decrease in AIDS and hepatitis C since the injection site was opened.

 Claims of success for Insite made in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in 2011 were challenged in a 15-page, heavily-documented response penned by addictions specialists from Australia, the U.S. and Canada, and by a former VPD officer who worked the DTES for years.

 In A Critical Evaluation of the Effects of Safe Injection Facilities for The Institute on Global Drug Policy, Dr. Garth Davies, SFU associate professor wrote: "The methodological and analytic approaches used in these studies are compromised by an array of deficiencies, including a lack of baseline data, insufficient conceptual and operational clarity, inadequate evaluation criteria, absent statistical controls, dearth of longitudinal designs, and inattention to intrasite variation. None of the impacts attributed to SIFs can be unambiguously verified."

The doctors evaluating Insite are the same people who created Insite and who have been awarded more than $18 million of taxpayers' money for their initiatives in recent years. Dr. Colin Mangham, on our Board of Directors, has been a researcher in this field since 1979.

"The proposal for Insite was written by the same people who are evaluating it - a clear conflict of interest. Any serious evaluation must be independent. All external critiques or reviews of the Insite evaluations, there are four of them - found profound overstatements and evidence of interpretation bias. All of the evidence - on public disorder, overdose deaths, entry into treatment, containment of serum borne viruses, and so on - is weak or non-existent and certainly does not support the claims of success. There is every appearance of the setting of an agenda before Insite ever started, then a pursuit of that agenda, bending or overstating results wherever necessary."

 Our President, Chuck Doucette, asks to see an independent and unbiased cost/benefit analysis.

 "The four pillar approach only works when each pillar is properly funded. Prevention reduces the flow of people into addiction. Treatment reduces the number of addicts including those living in the DTES. Policing keeps a lid on the open drug dealing and the affects of the associated problems on the community. Only after these three pillars are properly funded can we afford to spend money on Harm Reduction initiatives that do not encourage abstinence. Putting HR first is like running up debt on your credit card and never paying more than your minimum payments."

 No one would object to free needles, crack pipe kits, methadone, heroin and places to shoot up if only they were the side show and not the main event, if only they ever led to real health.

Harm reduction and Insite are palliative.

They both spring from a deeply cynical and arrogant world view: You are an addict and you are hopeless. We will keep you "comfortable" while you continue to die.

 This is a curious position considering the millions of men and women who admit they are addicts and choose every day not to pick up their poison. I know many such clean and sober citizens.

 We owe one another a chance at dignity. To offer less is not only costly, it is monstrous.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Saturday, June 1, 2013


I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to get the magic code here, so please click on  this link for the second or third most fun you've ever had:


Friday, May 31, 2013

The Law of Unintended CON-sequences


Pot products need childproof packaging: study


Since state's laws were relaxed, 14 children have been sent to hospital after ingesting marijuana in foods such as brownies and candies

So, the kids in Colorado are dropping like flies cause the alleged
grown-ups are all into grow-ops.

And this is what your leading BC health authorities are working overtime to bring to a neighbourhood near you.


Now, what about driving or walking down the street or cycling in a community that is high all the time? That'll be fun, won't it?

And our famous Canadian productivity? That will really soar, won't it when we're all lookin' at the rainbows and just, like, diggin' it....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Psychiatrists are prescribing millions of doses of powerful anti-psychotic drugs to infants and toddlers.

Aside from making children crazy, these poisons facilitate dozens of health crises including diabetes, obesity and the increased risk of heart disease.

There is no more dangerous and questionable pseudo-science on earth today than psychiatry.

Ask Dr. Daniel Carlat, whose book is called "The Trouble with Psychiatry - A Doctor's Revelations about a Profession in Crisis."

What is the difference between your nutty know-it-all with a shingle in an office with potted plants and your average Main-and-Hastings drug pusher?

The shrink gives pills to babies in diapers.

And the average unknowing unthinking uninformed middle class striver/consumer thinks the shrink is a good guy. He must be because he's a doctor, don't you know.

Does any government have the courage to put the brakes on these child abusers?

Friday, May 17, 2013


It's been a while since I was posting three or more blog items a day, and I am not planning on resuming that schedule.


There are two items of public mischief and malfeasance in the news today that I think call for some response.

1. Former TV reporter and now Canadian Senator, Mike Duffy has resigned from caucus. He should have resigned from the Senate and from public life.

Mr. Duffy has lived a charmed life. He been from the beginning One of the Anointed

Given positions and appointments in public life way beyond his qualifications, he posed as a parliamentary expert in the media for years. He pushed his deeply intoned vowels at us and we shook our collective heads. Who is this dork, exactly?

Then shifting quickly from the fifth estate to the sinecure of a lifetime salary and pension in that august body of irrelevance known as the Senate (GET RID OF IT, TODAY!), Duffy quietly spent our tax dollars doing exactly...what?

Oh yes, he claimed expenses on a house that he rarely saw.

That's $90,000 worth of false claims.

This is called lying and fraud and a crime.

Forget betrayal of public trust. None of us was holding out for that.

This little creep and the PM's right hand man who is attempting to bail him out are both detestable. They are both examples of why voter turnout is so low.

2. Arsonists have burned down a new house at First and Victoria. They don't like "gentrification."

These folks are criminals. Could The Law please respond.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Classic Hoagland Piece

The New York Times March 23, 2013 Pity Earth’s Creatures By EDWARD HOAGLAND Edgartown, Mass. AESOP, the fabulist and slave who, like Scheherazade, may have won his freedom by the magic of his tongue and who supposedly shared the Greek island of Samos with Pythagoras 2,500 years ago, nailed down our fellowship with other beasties of the animal kingdom. Yet we seem to have reached an apogee of separation since then. The problem is, we find ourselves quite ungovernable when operating solo, shredding our habitat, while hugging our dogs and cats as if for consolation and dieting on whole-food calories if we are affluent enough. Google Earth and genome games also lend us a fitful confidence that everything is under control. We have Facebook, GPS apps, cameras on any corner, week-ahead weather forecasts round-the-clock on-screen, repair crews ready to restore “power” if it ever flickers out. Power to the people is a worldwide revolutionary slogan advancing democracy, but presupposes a more ancient meaning: the prehistoric conquest of every other vertebrate on earth. When I lived on Samos myself in 1965, I heard about perhaps the last wild leopard killed in Europe. It had swum across the strait from Mount Mycale in Turkey, only a mile or so away, presumably a bachelor seeking virgin territory, and when discovered and chased, had taken refuge in a cave, where the Samians promptly walled it in to die of thirst. Wouldn’t you have done the same? I suspect that Aesop, however, might have advocated setting it free to garland the 27-mile long island (and thus Europe) for a few more years with a last whiff of the eons preceeding modernity. Sadistic flicks, sea rise, assassination drones: are we up to playing God? A tectonic shift in civilization has never happened this fast before, and we’re still part-chimpanzee with double Ph.D.’s in trial and error. Invent pesticides and see what they do to our organs, sell civilians assault rifles and count the schoolhouse shootings, experiment with longevity and economics, friendship and cellphoning. By our own account we’re pigs, yet bearish, owly but mousy, catty and bovine. We beaver at work, hawk merchandise, and ape others by parroting them. We’re lemmings, wolfish, snakes in the grass, weasels, bucks, hens, leonine or sharks. We’re beaky or tigerish, doe-eyed, raven-haired, foxy, chicken-hearted, slow as a tortoise, meek as a dove, sheepish, dogged, old goats, goosey, sitting ducks or vultures. We butt in, bull ahead, change our stripes or spots, strut like a peacock, weep crocodile tears, ram through or swan about. We’re rabbity, calf-eyed, we beat our chests like gorillas, buzz off, or act like a jellyfish. Aesop would perk his ears, pick up a pen at this thicket of still current figures of speech. But what he, Aristotle, Linnaeus, Darwin, Emerson, Kipling would make of what’s going on should give us pause. I don’t mean whether they would like e-mail and “the cloud” so much as the price in demolitions paid, the dramatis personae wiped out. Even Isaac Newton, sitting in his apple orchard, might wonder, “what have you done with the birds?” — was it a fair trade? Will Robert Frost be the last great poet to notice that leaves are gold before they’re green? And his beloved stars; where are they? Would Newton need to fly to Australia or the Andes to gaze at them as before — and feel the magic of the plane was worth it? So much of creation has gone up in smoke to produce glass skyscrapers flocks fly into, superhighways, on-demand electronics, seven billion people in flabbergasting densities, that it’s anybody’s guess what these luminaries would say. Would they prefer what used to be called “God’s green earth?” It’s a steeplechase, hell-for-leather and exhilarating, for the highest stakes, but not knowing where we’re going. Call it progress or metastasizing, what we have done as a race, a species or a civilization is dumbfounding. Every inch of the planet is ours, we claim, and elements of clear improvement are intertwined with cancerous excess: the two-car American dream empowering women’s independence but engendering horrendous African droughts. Would Emerson and Aristotle find their hair standing on end, or would they grin so hard their mouth muscles finally wore out? And Darwin’s reaction to the tsunami of discoveries succeeding his? A ride on the subway, a month of inquiries, a walk in the park? “Is there any nature left?” he might ask, without concluding if he was pleased. Planes high as the sky, kids with instant gratification from fingering a gizmo, and no gangrene. The seethe dizzies us, also (two billion people were alive when I was born), though we’re acculturated to extraordinary amounts of disorientation — the steely shriek of wheels underground, hostile searches at airports, changing lanes in heavy traffic at a mile a minute, sudden bureaucratic notifications — without blowing a fuse. Strokes and heart attacks we postpone by surgery or pharmaceuticals, plus an evolving tolerance for stress. Yet my patriotism is shifting, from America in its triumphalism toward the wider sphere of everywhere: Africa, India, England and New England. The total entity is entering troubled waters. There are precedents for our imperial decline but not, in written history, for climate alteration on the scale that’s looming or for gargantuan extinctions in forest and ocean — our global skin. Simulations have become an addition for us, collaging reality into surrealism and taming it for convenience, entertainment or profit. Simulations are faster, zanier and tailored to our preferences, sentimental or otherwise. IT’S fantasy, amusing, but as technology closes in upon mimicking God, once again are we up to it? Who shall live, who shall die? We’ll save the pandas and the whales that sing prettily, but, like godlings, we’re playing with fire and water, tides and industry. The “City Upon a Hill” will have wet feet even if scientists simultaneously, let’s say, clone a mammoth to prove their prowess. I’d like to ogle the mammoth but would prefer to hear the bobolinks and wood thrushes singing in the spring as before. We have Dumbo but are losing Jumbo for his ivory (remember the cruel phrase “tickle the ivories,” for piano-playing?), and the former needs the latter for good grounding. Kindle presents a lapful of world thought and literature on tap at a tap, but will the owners pore over it with wholehearted absorption, as book lovers used to do? And when cars drive themselves, will the operators lavish their leisure on the landscape or on a tablet in their hands? We’re a species as slippery as mercury, appropriating any space of every shape from the Sahara to the Arctic Circle, so perhaps we can adapt to surreal simulacra transmitted through the ether, too. At least a critical mass of observers has not yet turned pessimistic. Photosynthesis we’ll have for growing calories, plus the blessings of rain, and like lichen, be hard to dislodge even in extremis from the rocks of our home, living willy-nilly in reduced bands. A sparer version of civilization may emerge, a throwback to leaner virtues. To kill so vastly as we have (a third of life?) and yet remain unscathed seems unlikely. I do meet younger people who are fervent about reform. Theirs is a preliminary zeal, still suffocating underneath the indifference of older generations. But love is central to life, now and again overriding selfishness for a spell. Love, mercy, pity are vividly called for with respect to corals, songbirds, sea mammals, lofty trees and other majesties, not to mention endangered pleasures like eating clams and marveling at the starshine in the depthless heavens. Nature is undefended by the powers that be, having no vote or much innate appeal to the sort of “people people” who run for office. They don’t saunter (Thoreau’s favorite term) and gaze, turn off the motor and open the window when passing a pond to hear the spring peepers sing — won’t know if the frogs have all died from toxicities. They’ll jog on a treadmill for their heart’s health while scanning spreadsheets. It’s not just ponds being steamrollered for industry, but gazing itself being lost to Twitter. The attention span involved in formulating a menagerie out of cloud shapes in the sky while lax on one’s back in the grass has been eclipsed by what’s interesting on-screen 20 inches away, and conscientious parents will troop their youngster to a planetarium, as to the dinosaur hall next door. These stars at least are carbonated, a firmament in whirligig mode, like the animated characters that populate children’s programs. Mason jars and the verb “leapfrog,” instructive bedtime stories like “crying wolf” and the goose that laid the golden egg, or the image of Death as a somber figure hefting a scythe — are these all gone? Certainly wolves and scythes are, and the 30th-generation captive-bred lion lying sleepily on cement in a zoo will be no match for the pep and gab of pizazzy graphics designed for a new century. Even if we’re fired or a hurricane is predicted, the temptation is simply to switch channels. “Out of the woods” once meant clearing your head, or protesting “in a pig’s eye” if you couldn’t. “You can lead a horse to water,” we’d tell the boss before quitting. Will we still “crow” about small victories, speak of a predatory matron as “a cougar” or somebody scammed as a poor “fish” — still sniff the scent of loam and cedar, dangle our feet in a creekbed (unless we feel “a frog” in our throat) and “eagle eyed,” scan the sky for barn swallows and chimney swifts or a glistening meadow for spider webs jeweled by the dew? Mostly that’s over, but Aesopian metaphors were artesian if not prehistoric. The tortoise and the hare, the lion saved by the mouse, the monkey who would be king, the dog in the manger, the dog and his shadow, the country mouse and the city mouse, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the raven and the crow, the heron and the fish, the peacock and the crane. From where will we draw replacement similes and language? Pop culture somersaults “bad” to mean good, “cool” to mean warm, and bustles and bodices segue into tank tops and cargo pants, as in a robust society they should. But will a natural keel remain, as we face multiflex, multiplex change? “Hogging” the spotlight, playing possum, resembling a deer in the headlights, being buffaloed or played like a fish: will the clarity of what is said hold? A “tiger,” a “turtle,” a “toad.” After the oceans have been vacuumed of protein and people are eating farmed tilapia and caked algae, will Aesop’s platform of markers remain?

Edward Hoagland is a longtime nature and travel writer, and the author of the forthcoming novel “Children Are Diamonds: An African Apocalypse.”