Saturday, April 4, 2009

Michael Duffy, the bikies, the new drug laws, prohibition and sundry gorillas

(Above: the gorilla and Al Capone. Guess which one carried out the worst crime against humanity).

Firstly to a mater of national importance, arguably a national crisis. Possibly requiring the intervention of the Prime Minister.

Well if the Ruddster can get so heated over meat in a sandwich, what on earth does he make of the John Farnham re-mix of the Phil Collins Cadbury ad (for ostriches with heads in sand, it features a pensive gorilla waiting to bash the skins, and then joining in the song with more vigor than skill).

The original was a viral hit, a multiple award winner, yadda yadda. The Farnham version sucks. Not just a little. Hugely. It's a national tragedy. It's an international embarrassment.

Australia is the laughing stock of the advertising world. Of the world full stop. I know I'm late getting to this, but I thought the thing was so vulgar, so inept, so ham-fisted, so dumb, it would have been yanked by now. But there it was again last night on national television in all its hideous awfulness.

Stop it, stop it now, before we all go blind.

A pity I wouldn't eat Cadbury's cup and a half of joy if it was free, but I've decided to boycott all chocolate products for a week. A month if necessary. This cannot stand.

In other news, Michael Duffy, the esteemed columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald, has broken ranks with the law and order crowd, shocked the world, and given me very little to write about.

It seems the Duffster is agin the war on drugs, which, like the war on terror, has proved a singularly useless and ineptly conducted war. 

Drug laws allow gangs to flourish, he argues, and I'm not going to rehearse his arguments in full here since I largely agree with them.

Now this position is not news - the Duffster reports that twenty years ago one of the first articles he wrote was an argument for the end of the prohibition of heroin, for which he was roundly criticised. But intelligent conservatives in various parts of the world made the leap a long time ago as well - if you want to catch up on William F. Buckley's insight, you can go here for a summary of  a National Review symposium conducted in July 1996. In it, Buckley led the obvious card:

WE ARE speaking of a plague that consumes an estimated $75 billion per year of public money, exacts an estimated $70 billion a year from consumers, is responsible for nearly 50 per cent of the million Americans who are today in jail, occupies an estimated 50 per cent of the trial time of our judiciary, and takes the time of 400,000 policemen -- yet a plague for which no cure is at hand, nor in prospect.

The figures are worse these days, and the war -  Mexico and Afghanistan are current hot spots - is getting bigger, and without an end in sight.

The Duffster makes some obvious points, but the most important one is the fact that it's actually us - the way we buy and consume illegal drugs - that keeps the drug trade alive.

Strangely this puts him in company with Phillip Adams, who as recently as the 31st March spent some time on the issue interviewing Terry Nelson, a cogent speaker on the issue and with lots of practical experience (and which you can hear or download at time of writing by going to the Late Night Live site here).

Of course we have a precedent for the futile war on drugs, and it was the attempted prohibition of alcohol in the United States, which perversely led to Eliot Ness being canonised as a movie hero, but really had to be the stupidest expression of the banning mentality ever devised, and led to a flourishing gangland with many gangland wars (still it gave the world Al Capone, and movie-makers have been grateful ever since).

Of course legalisation has its perils - the alway sensible Dutch have had to deal with the stupidity of the British crossing the channel for some cheap thrills, thereby distorting the effects of their own experiment, and leading to some small retreats, but even so, it's way better than the mindless ferocity of the drug war in the United States, or here in Australia.

We're off to see Lucinda Williams next week, and there she is yesterday in the Metro section of The Sydney Morning Herald admitting I smoked a lot of pot over the years (as well as drinking large amounts of Southern Comfort and doing psychedelics before settling on red wine).

Now I guess that makes her a self-confessed criminal, and she should be locked up straight away and given a term for proclaiming her criminality (heck it's as bad as a gold medal winning swimmer snapped at a party sucking on a bong). 

Or maybe we should accept some personal responsibility. As she also noted, when young, lots of people experiment, some people push the self-destruct button and never come back, but lots of others make it back with a better understanding of themselves. A lot stop doing drugs altogether. A few even manage to handle alcohol.

Whatever, just as I thought things were going well (even if the drug war's going badly) inevitably the Duffster comes up with a cheap shot or two which ruins the intent of his article. Unfortunately, it's typical and reflects the ongoing, never ending politicisation of the issue. Just when he has the opportunity to be generous, Duffy goes snide and smarmy: 

A market analysis of the drug issue suggests that Nathan Rees's new anti-bikie laws will fail because they address a symptom and not the cause of the problem. They will create lots of headlines and photo opportunities, which is the key performance indicator for politicians today. But in business terms all they will do will be to give a big advantage to the bikie gangs' competitors in the drug trade.

Apart from being ineffectual in the long term, the new laws will interfere with some basic human rights. Most of the Labor lawyers and commentators who were prepared to die in a ditch for Bill Henson's right to photograph naked children have gone strangely silent in the face of the government's latest assault on civil liberty. It's a reminder that the biggest gang in town is still the Australian Labor Party.

Actually dear Duffster, it's your mates in the media who get hysterical about the drug war, and the bikies and the lock 'em up mentality, especially the tabloids and the free to air shock jocks, and the radio talk back clowns. You can't get a sensible thought out into the ether that will cut through their manufactured hysteria (and let's not count the number in the media who've actually inhaled at some point in their lives).

Nor is it just the Labor party who's the biggest gang in town. The Liberals have been kicking the law and order can for years, and along with Labor have supervised a substantial growth in the prison population. If O'Farrell had been in power, I can imagine him doing exactly the same as Rees, and in fact if Rees hadn't made his move, he likely would have been outflanked by O'Farrell pursuing a law and order agenda. 

Zero tolerance, yadda yadda. The sort of crap we cop every day from the right wing commentariat as well as their hand puppets of choice.

You only have to remember the stench of hypocrisy, the never-ending blather and the enduring hostility to the needle exchange program, and the safe injecting room in Kings Cross amongst political clowns of all kinds and creeds. And the media cheerleading on the war on junkies. But let's remember it was the Liberals who were the most ferocious breast-beaters, the most fervent and the most irrational in relation to this particular matter.

By way of contrast, you only have to read your fellow columnist Richard Ackland in The Sydney Morning Herald Rees goes gangbusters with draconian response on March 27 or his article Triumphs and disgraces of law and order on April 3rd to see the absurdity of your indignation.

Don't you read the Herald Duffster? Or just it's sensible liberal with a small 'l' commentators? I can understand why, but still ...

But there you have it, somehow the mob who got mad about Bill Henson's right to photograph naked children have gone silent. And dumb conservatives never understand why at the end of the day they're not worth having a conversation with. It's a reminder that the biggest problem in town is still the gang who wear a blinker over one eye, and always carry a chip on the shoulder and an attitude. 

And it was going so well up until then Duffster. We had a shared view of the world. But I guess since I thought the whole thing about Bill Henson was an absurd beat up, I'll just shut the fuck up and go silent. And it'll be another cold twenty years in hell before anybody discusses the drug war sensibly. Sheesh, talk about extending hands in peace and friendship ... give me William Buckley any day.

So to this week's score, which I almost waived, since I was beginning to feel the vibe man, the peace and harmony of shared thoughts and shared visions with the Duffster:

Ability to slag off the Labor party as if the Liberals had nothing to do with it: 11
Ability to drag in a completely irrelevant swipe at Bill Henson supporters, and throw in the thought of naked children for good measure: 11
Ability to abuse Labor lawyers and commentators by living in a dream world inhabited only by the Duffster: 11
Capacity to understand how this kind of cheap point scoring actually undermines the rest of his argument: 1
Ability to present himself as a sole crusader when even the likes of William Buckley got into the game well over a decade ago: 1
Apparent inability to listen to Phillip Adams presenting exactly the same line in an entertaining way: well actually that deserves an elephant stamp. Who can listen to Phillip Adams?

(Below: Robert Stack as Eliot Ness. Couldn't stop the grog, what makes you think he and Nathan Rees will stop the drugs? But gee that demonic grin makes him look cute, and as for the tommy gun ... can I have one for Christmas?)

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