A long update

I had a quiet long weekend. There was almost a last minute plan to rent a cabin up at Whistler – somewhere with a fireplace and hot tub for 10 or so people to relax for the weekend. But it was planned too late and we couldn’t get enough people to commit. Probably a good thing, considering that storms ripped through BC on Monday and closed the sea-to-sky highway and cut power to most of the area.

I’ve had some slightly obsessive video game tendencies lately. I spent most of Sunday playing Half -Life 2 and Bomberman. Nothing too anti-social yet, but I’m bracing myself and trying to prepare Emily for when Mass Effect comes out in 2 weeks. I’ve been looking forward to this game for months, and from what I’ve read and seen in the reviews this game is going to rock my world. I almost ashamed to admit it, but I bought the the prequel book and read it in 2 days. It’s like I’ve done the required reading for a massive homework assignment, but in this case the assignment involves killing aliens and chatting up exotic aliens. I can’t wait.

Chris Wasik asked me about the recent spat of gang murders in Vancouver. It really hasn’t bothered me at all. Maybe my Winnipeg upbringing hardened me. Or maybe its really not that bad. So far its gangs killing gangs, which really doesn’t affect me, and the Vancouver shootings were in expensive neighbourhoods (proving you have to be a drug lord to afford Vancouver housing prices).

My take on the problem: The gang violence in Vancouver is driven by drugs. Of that everyone agrees. Supposedly, the latest violence has stemmed from a drop in pot prices which has reduced profits for gangs and made debts hard to repay. And when debts aren’t being repaid, Tony starts breaking kneecaps. The root of the problem is trafficking drugs is a lucrative business but highly risky. As such, its gangs and organized crime that takes it on.

There are 2 possible solutions. 1) Crack down on pot smokers and try to kill the demand that’s fuelling the underground industry. 2) Legalize pot production and have legitimate farmers grow it, much like tobacco, thereby driving out organized crime.

I don’t think a drug crack down will work. “The Canadian Medical Association estimates that 1.5 million Canadians smoke marijuana recreationally” (source), and we don’t room to put 1.5 million Canadians in jail. The US has been waging a War on Drugs for the decades, without any success. Read this paragraph on alcohol prohibition and tell me if it sounds familiar:

“Many social problems have been attributed to the Prohibition era. A profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished. Racketeering happened when powerful gangs corrupted law enforcement agencies. Stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. The cost of enforcing prohibition was high, and the lack of tax revenues on alcohol (some $500 million annually nationwide) affected government coffers. When repeal of prohibition occurred in 1933, organized crime lost nearly all of its black market alcohol profits in most states (states still had the right to enforce their own laws concerning alcohol consumption), because of competition with low-priced alcohol sales at legal liquor stores.” Wikipedia

So why not legalize it, regulate it like tobacco, and tax it like tobacco. Vancouver’s former mayor agrees with me. The fact is marijuana is no worse than tobacco or alcohol. I probably wouldn’t smoke it, legal or not, but its legal status should be based on science, not ideology. For an interesting take on which drugs are bad, see this report from Britain.

Translink is getting barriers – I think this is a dumb idea and a waste of money. Supposedly our minister of Transportation went to London and decided barriers at stations was a good idea. I wonder if Kevin Falcon rode the Docklands Light Rail when he was in London. The DLR is London’s newest line, it will service the Olympic Village in 2012, and it is almost identical in design the Vancouver’s SkyTrain (both built by Bombardier). If Mr. Falcon did ride it he would have noticed it was built without any barriers or gates. Why not? Because the cost of installing and maintaining gates far outweighs the costs recouped from fare evaders.

Give One Get One – If I had any use for a sweet little laptop I’d be all over this deal. Mom – any use for a kids laptop out at the Ponderosa?

We had a really interesting talk at work by Jim Hoggan called You Can’t Spin Mother Nature – done in the Al Gore slideshow format. They actually had to book a conference room at the Fairmont Hotel to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. Part of the talk was the standard Al Gore material, some was Canadian specific content, but the most interesting part was his focus on PR firms who cloud the debate. Jim Hoggan is a PR guru who recently took on his own industry for confusing the public on climate change, and started the Desmog Blog. He talked about the tobacco lobby, astroturf organizations, junk science that is designed to paralyse Canadians so decisions are delayed.

I bought my ski pass for Cypress. I’m looking forward to lots of snow and a wicked snowboarding season.

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