Archive for the 'Politics' Category

A Coalition of Losers? Not At All – A Government with the Support of the Majority

Monday, May 10th, 2010

There is probably no better statement of the need for electoral reform than the now familiar slogan that a Labour-Liberal Democrat Coalition in the United Kingdom would have been a “coalition of losers”. The Vancouver Sun splashed the headline from the Daily Telegraph across its electronic edition.

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Lions in the Coliseum? The Price of Entertainment

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

The market value of a commodity always says something interesting about our culture. You can, for example, buy a Spanish Cava for about $15, but a bottle of French Champagne will set you back more than $50. Is the difference in taste and experience substantial enough to justify the greater expense? Let the debate begin.

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Forty Years of Marijuana Research: Reflections on 4/20 and the Prospects for Change

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

My first foray into marijuana research began 40 years ago, in the spring of 1970. It was what sociologists call participant observation research; I smoked some hashish with my friends in my final year of high school, and observed its effects on my behaviour. I noticed that the experience enhanced my appreciation of music, increased my appetite, and made me laugh at things that I might not ordinarily think were very funny. In sum, not a bad way to spend an evening in a small town in Ontario. Not as wild and crazy as an alcohol-fueled evening, but not entirely disappointing either.

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Banning Handguns: Towards a Safer Society

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Handguns are potentially dangerous commodities, though gun advocates will also insist that they are more protective than dangerous – tools for the protection of home, family and personal property.

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Advice for the PM: How to Respond to Those Pesky Marijuana Questions

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has thrown down a challenge to millions of computer savvy Canadians, inviting their questions through the medium of YouTube. And Canadians have complied, throwing a horde of complaints, quizzes and diatribes at the Prime Minister, on topics ranging from climate change to prorogation. Perhaps surprisingly, the most common questions focus on his government’s approach to the control of marijuana. We will hear from the Prime Minister on Tuesday, but I thought it might be helpful to provide him with a little advice before he puts his fingers to the keyboard. Here are two of the more popular questions, and my suggested responses.

“Mr. Harper. Why aren’t we keeping marijuana away from children by controlling it as we control alcohol and tobacco? Why are we encouraging gangs & crime by making marijuana so profitable? Why are you ignoring how ineffectual the current policy is?

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Protesting the Olympics? It’s Time to Join the Party

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

There is no shortage of potential issues of protest in Vancouver and beyond – a lack of support for homelessness, mental illness and addiction, the missing and murdered women of the downtown eastside, a dearth of affordable housing, an increasing gap between the rich and poor in Canada; all of these problems come quickly to mind.

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Protesting the Olympics: For and Against

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I confess that I have never been a big booster of the 2010 Olympics; I’ve always thought that the money we’ve spent and continue to spend on inviting the world to the Lower Mainland for two weeks could have been better invested in more worthy causes – supportive housing for the mentally ill and addicted, the creation of a more progressive system of taxation, improvements in the quality of public education and health care, and more accessible and environmentally friendly public transit.

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Insite: Stephen Harper’s Crusade Against Science

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Unfortunately, the British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision on Insite may not bring an end to the Harper Conservatives’ determination to shut it down – a facility that our province and our city have quite fairly described as a health care initiative.

Friday’s judgement was interesting and complex, with debate focused on such related issues as interjurisdictional  immunity, provincial paramountcy, and co-operative federalism.  But what was really interesting were the more general policy statements, unencumbered by Canada’s legal structure, and aimed at the heart of the policy issues that we have all been debating. The dissenting judgement, one which would have allowed the appeal of the federal government, concluded, “The current harm reduction model employed at Insite cannot stand isolated from the sourcing, distribution and sale in Canada of the illicit drugs used in its facility, by willfully ignoring the context in which those drugs arrive in the possession of its clientele. This conflicts with Canada’s constitutional mandate for criminal law, which includes the control of dangerous and addictive drugs for the health and public safety of its citizens”.

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A Less Violent 2010? No Quick Fix

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

As we turn the corner on another decade, hopes for a more peaceful society seem to be somewhat elusive —  locally, nationally and globally.

Here in Vancouver our city Council has approved the licensing of Mixed Martial Arts, a sport that takes boxing to another level, while still retaining its key goal – one man displaying the speed, ferocity and strength to knock another unconscious. On the national stage, the rate of handgun homicides in our major urban centres has been climbing for a decade, as young men with guns kill their adversaries for a wide range of reasons, ranging from theft and failure to repay debt, to imagined or real insult.  On the international stage, matters are even worse. We have literally tens of thousands of individuals, again almost always men, committed to killing as part of some ill-conceived political and/or religious agenda (or mental illness).

What’s the solution? Well, first, let’s separate the mixed martial arts combatants from the young gangsters and the terrorists; at least these folks are playing by some rules. And I must confess, as much as I dislike the blood and the violence, I’m not sure that prohibition of the sport is ultimately a helpful strategy. Increased regulation brings increased safety for those who choose to participate: restrictions on eye gouging and groin kicks, for example, and the comfort of knowing that a properly certified neurologist is sitting ringside.

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A Holiday Conversation About Crime: Talking with a Taxi Driver

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

We climbed into the back of the taxi and began an air-conditioned 45 minute drive through the back roads of St. Thomas, en route to our hotel. The town of Charlotte Amalie was our point of departure, the hub of the island — a home port for cruise ships and folks like ourselves, travellers by ferry from the British Virgin Islands.

 

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