Tag Archives: illegal drugs

Articles I'm Digesting 24/4/2009

Here are some pieces from around the web that I’ve been digesting this week.

Why the bluster has given way to bland by Patrick Brethour in the Globe and Mail

This excellent article summarizes what I think is the most exciting trend in BC right now – the race for the pragmatic centre in our politics. Those from outside BC often fail to understand its politics (if I’d got a nickel in college for every time I was asked: how can the same people vote for the NDP provincials and The Reform Party federally???). This piece goes some way in explaining the province’s political history to those not from here.

Also of note… despite the claims of some reformers, British Columbia has already experiment with a Single Transferable Vote (STV). In twice in 1952 (the first election generated an unstable government that lasted 9 months) with the Social Credit Party winning out both times. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t discuss electoral reform, but let us not pretend that it is something untried and completely novel.

Clinton says US shares responsibility for Mexico’s drug violence by By Warren P. Strobel in the Christian Science Monitor

This isn’t a fancy or insightful piece – but it is important. For the first time in memory a senior figure in the US administration has said what everybody has long known, that:

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians,”

The war on drugs is now so deeply a part of the American political way of life I have little hopes of seeing a dramatic shift anytime soon (no matter how good or accurate the movie Traffic was). Nonetheless, this is a critical step. More importantly, it starts the US down a path where discussions around address addiction as well as curbing and managing demand become more plausible strategies.

As many of you know, I’m sadly confident we are never going to “win” the war on drugs and drug violence, especially by curbing supply – indeed, as I wrote the other week, not even the RCMP believes this anymore. This is what makes strategies like Harm Reduction, and places like the Insite injection site so important. They don’t replace policing and prevention, but as the last 40 years have helped demonstrate, progress will be impossible if harm reduction is not part of the mix.

hbus, the transit day tripper by Holly Gordon in The Coast

He’s a great little story about a scrappy programmer in Halifax who is trying to build a parallel – and better – transit route planner on line. Cities should be begging for people like William Lachance – the create of hbus.ca beta – which “scrapes” bus information from the official site and repackages it in a more helpful and useful way. Imagine that – a citizen helping the city deliver a service more effectively!

Sadly, the City of Halifax doesn’t see it that way:

“We can’t give our information out for somebody else to put up and run their own Metro Transit trip planning because we ultimately are accountable for it,” she explains.

This concern is of course, nonsense. By her logic, she should be preventing someone from calling a friend and asking them to look at the bus schedule and telling them when the next bus will come because… well now that friend “controls” the data and not the City of Halifax. This really is 19th century thinking run amok.

Of course ask William what responses he gets and you hear a slightly different answer:

“You get one of two responses,” says Lachance of Metro Transit’s replies to his friend’s—and later his own—requests. “One is just ‘no.’ The other one is that they give you their policy on the dissemination of geographical data, something on the order of ‘give us a lot of money and we’ll give you the information you can basically only use for personal use.'”

While both responses sound different, they are functionally the same. “We, the city, will not give you data your taxes paid to create.” Why? Because we don’t want to, or… because we think we can extract still more money from you. This despite the fact that most local governments actually lose money trying to sell their data. Heavens forbid that actual citizens try to make their city easier to navigate.

The No-Stats All-Star by Michael Lewis in the New York Times Magazine

This is one of these delightfully insightful pieces about how really digging into the numbers can reveal truths that often go unseen. Here is the story of Shane Battier, an NBA player who is relatively unknown and whose basics stats suggest is an ordinary player. And yet… dig a little deeper and it is reveal that when he is playing the stats of players on his team are better, and those of players on opposing teams are worse.

Battier clearly has some basketball styled “soft” skills that make him effective, but that would likely be ignored or remain unseen to the majority of sport’s scouts and observers.

I’ll admit, one reason I really enjoyed this story is that I think there is a little bit of Battier in all of us, and in certain special people around us. There are people in my life who are like Shane Battier, I perform better, react faster, think more clearly, when they are around me. In addition, I’d like to think that there are boards I’m on, people I work with that, while no one can say “yeah, David is excellent at doing that” that nonetheless I help the group work more effectively… Indeed, I often fear this is most of what my professional life is like – that I help everywhere, but in a way that is to hard to pin down in manner that is tangible or recognizable.

Shootings in Vancouver – how our definition of success leads us to failure

After a rash of shootings in Vancouver last week (which continues) I was completely astounded to read this quote by the RCMP in the Globe and Mai:

Violence between competing Mexican cartels is squeezing the flow of drugs from source countries such as Mexico and Colombia through cities such as Los Angeles, one of the major sources for Vancouver-based groups that buy and sell illegal drugs, says Pat Fogarty, RCMP superintendent with the combined forces special enforcement unit. Gangs in the Lower Mainland are now fighting over the dwindling supply.

“The distribution lines have been disrupted,” Supt. Fogarty said yesterday in an interview. “It’s like in any marketplace – the demand stays high, but there’s not as many distributors out there because the little guys get knocked off.”

“The bigger ones survive, the other ones don’t. And these guys don’t resolve things through a court process. It’s ‘I want my piece of the pie’ – well, there’s none left for you.”

Essentially, the RCMP is admitting that the more successful it becomes – the more capable it gets at limiting the flow of drugs – the more violence we can expect from drug dealers on our streets.

Why? Because when demand remains constant and fewer drugs are available, their value will increase making it more tempting to use violence to hold on to, or increase, your share of the marketplace. In essence, the RCMP is admitting that attacking the supply side of the drug trade is an ineffective approach. (The irony of course, is that the reduction has nothing to do with RCMP strategy or tactics but, as the Center for Strategic International Studies notes, everything to do with the geopolitics of the drug trade).

So, the RCMP has inadvertently admitted that the key to managing the War on Drugs is not to reduce supply, but to reduce demand.

This is precisely what makes projects like the NAOMI trial and the Insite injection site so important – they help to both reduce demand for drugs and, in the case of NAOMI, eliminate the demand from illegal sources altogether. This is what makes the RCMP’s opposition to Insite and NAOMI even more puzzling. If – by their own admission – reducing demand is the only way to effectively reduce the crime associated with the drug trade, why are they trying to shut down our most effective tools?