The United Nations on Drugs: Alice in Wonderland Revisited

September 18th, 2010

The most recent edition of The Guardian Weekly, a typically “progressive” news outlet, devoted a full page to the wildly speculative musings of Antonio Maria Costa, the outgoing director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Mr. Costa made three key claims, none of which have any compelling empirical support. First, he argued that making illegal drugs more freely available will lead to more “public health damage”.

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On the Farm: Book Review

September 18th, 2010

On The Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women, Stevie Cameron, Knopf Canada, 726 pages, ISBN 978-0-676-97584-0, $35.00

The wretched saga of Willie Pickton has taken centre stage in the province of British Columbia for more than a decade, capturing our attention in staccato bursts – the escalating disappearance of women from Vancouver’s downtown eastside, the search for a serial killer, the arrest of Willie Pickton, the exhaustive forensic investigation of his Port Coquitlam pig farm, his preliminary hearing and trial, and the ensuing revelations of the grotesque character of his crimes.

Stevie Cameron’s “On the Farm” captures much of this history and more, taking us from Willie Pickton’s childhood to his trolling for victims, typically drug addicted prostitutes, on the downtown eastside of Vancouver. She describes the personal histories of many of the missing women – their upbringings in often troubled homes, their difficulties in adjusting to schools and community, their drift into substance abuse and prostitution, and the circumstances of their disappearance, typically lured to the pig farm with the promise of good money and free drugs.

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Warren Gill, 1949-2010

September 11th, 2010

The recent death of Warren Gill is a loss for all of us who knew him. He was funny, perceptive, mischievous and charming, a person who made everyone comfortable and who pretty much lit up every room that he walked into, that proverbial twinkle in his eye. From his obituary in the Vancouver Sun……

“Warren was one of the sweetest men on this planet and his ‘fan club’ comes from all walks of life. He made everyone feel at ease and was a kind and loving person who was a constant support for family, friends and colleagues: never judgmental, a peerless sounding board and confidante. Warren’s energy and love for life was contagious, as was his laughter. His keen intelligence and quick wit, combined with his optimism, enthusiasm and aura of happiness, carried him through life, even in time of great stress and physical difficulty…”

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Cheech and Chong/Stephen Harper

July 21st, 2010

Not surprisingly, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are not very impressed with Stephen Harper’s plans to intensify the war against cannabis and its derivatives. They noted earlier this week that the Prime Minister appears to have his head up George Bush’s butt (they are speaking metaphorically, I assume); their advice is characteristically blunt, “Wise up, you douchebag”.

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The Millionaires of Cape Roger Curtis: The Day the Music Died

July 5th, 2010

I don’t want to talk about it, how you broke my heart…

By Neil Boyd and David Hocking

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Canada Day Resolution: Stop Building More Prisons

June 30th, 2010

In these days of public sector restraint there is one realm of waste that is often neglected – the planned and pointless expenditure of billions of tax dollars on new provincial and federal prisons, the consequence of a series of Conservative crime bills.

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Responding to Crime: Fear Drives Politics

May 31st, 2010

In 1910 Winston Churchill stated that one of the “unfailing tests” of a civilization lies in how it treats crime and criminals. In 1967 Pierre Trudeau told Canadians that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

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

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

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

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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