Thursday, August 27, 2009


Portugal 409 mod 500              

Drugs in Portugal: Did Decriminalization Work?

Portugal has the most liberal drug laws in Europe. In 2001, it became the first European country to officially abolish all criminal penalties for personal of drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Has it worked. Yes!
Time/Maia Szalavitz/ 26 August 2009

Read or download the full report by the Cato Institute in the US: Drug Decriminalisation in Portugal: Lessons for Creating Fair and Successful Drug Policies by Glen Greenwald


Photo: Susana Vera, Reuters

Mexico quietly decriminalizes drug use

Now marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and heroin will be tolerated for personal use. It's part of a bid to free up resources and jail space so that authorities can focus efforts on big-time traffickers.

Christian Science Monitor/Sara Miller Lima/24 August 2009              

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Argentina and legalizing pot

Argentina follows Mexico toward decriminalizing marijuana. What does this mean for the war on drugs?

Argentina’s Supreme Court ruled that it’s unconstitutional to punish adults for private marijuana use, a big step toward decriminalizing the drug. The ruling is based on the “privacy clause” of Argentina’s constitution—private pot use doesn’t “offend public order or morality”—but it comes just days after Mexico eliminated criminal penalties for holding small amounts of drugs. And Brazil and Ecuador are close behind.

The Week/27 August 2009

See also: Latin America on Its Way to Legalizing Drugs, Experts Say [Latin American International Herald Tribune]

Colorado's Marijuana Economy: An Explosion of Ganjapreneurship

Medical marijuana has been technically legal in Colorado since kathleen2000. Medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are expected to double to 60 by the end of 2009. Illegal Marijuana farmers are now selling legally to the dispensaries.

Pic: Kathleen Chippi who runs One Brown Mouse Cannadis Healing Arts Center

'Considering the prevalence of the underground market, legitimizing the business has the effect of tightening controls over it, regulating who can legally purchase, sell, or grow it, which puts unscrupulous drug dealers out of business, this reducing the availability of product through any but official channels. The controls that come with legalization effectively reduces its availability, rather than the contrary. '

Two part article. Part of a series 'Recession Road Trip' by Christina Davidson/ The Atlantic/ 26 august 2009

It's Time to Legalize Drugsleap-badge

By Peter Moskos and Stanford "Neill" Franklin. Moskos is a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the author of "Cop in the Hood." Neill Franklin is a 32-year law enforcement veteran. Both served as Baltimore City police officers and are members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Having fought the war on drugs, we know that ending the drug war is the right thing to do -- for all of us, especially taxpayers. While the financial benefits of drug legalization are not our main concern, they are substantial. In a July referendum, Oakland, Calif., voted to tax drug sales by a 4-to-1 margin. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates that ending the drug war would save $44 billion annually, with taxes bringing in an additional $33 billion.

Washintgon Post/August 17, 2009


Mark Leffingwell / Daily Camera / AP

The Great American Pot Smoke-Out  has been held on April 20th for many years. This gathering of  thousands of people  at the University of Colorado in Boulder in 2009. Photo was taken at 4:20 p.m., when the entire crowd exhaled at once. See full set of pics at Time/Photos.


afghanistan-opium-fields       US Soldiers inspect Afghan poppy fields.

US puts Afghan drug lords on hitlist to disrupt Taliban finances

• 50 traffickers with links to insurgency targeted
• Move marks major shift in counter-narcotics strategy

The question of how to deal with the opium poppy harvest and drug trade in Afghanistan, the source of 90% of the world's heroin, has been a highly controversial issue for years.

Richard Norton-Taylor and Jon Boone in Kabul/The Guardian 10 August 2009

Drug-traffic-routes-and-cartel-areas        Map showing operations of organised crime in Mexico. Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence   Read: On The Trail of the Traffickers about the Mexican drug war. More than 11,000 people have been killed since late 2006.




Wednesday, August 26, 2009


                                                                                                                                  Copy of wilco 108This is mainman Jeff Tweedie of Wilco holding his  wee birthday cake on stage at the Troxy in East London last night, surrounded by a shower of spangles, accepting the warm love and best wishes of the crowd.

It was a standout performance for band that quietly and steadily have become one of the great bands in America of today. To describe their music, they have their roots and feet in Americana, their heads in experimentalism, on a par with Radiohead.

With their three-guitar line-up, backed by keyboards, bass and Copy of wilco 139drums, they create sonic symphonies, great swelling rousing swirls of beaty noise. Next they break it down to sweet and affecting highly crafted songs of the prairies, for those nights when the wind is howling outside your log cabin. The band as a unit are tight, drilled and honed by long roadwork,  expertly skilled and adept at negotiating the slides , breaks and seques a Wilco song requires, like experienced white-water rafters caught in a tricky current. They do this with a lot of heart and humour. They seem open, relaxed and were obviously enjoying themselves.

Copy of wilco 146This was a stand-out performance and, for some reason, it made me feel that this is what it must have been like to see the Byrds in the Avalon Ballroom.

Copy of wilco 064 The Troxy, by the way, is a great old-fashioned art deco venue, with balconies and a great wide floor. We found a sweet spot where the sound was perfect and the bass moved right through your body.

Unable to take an SLR camera into the place, I was working with Copy of wilco 037my small Sony digi, which I hadn't used for almost a year, and just experimenting with settings at random. I like the results. They seem to capture the moods and colours and energy of the music.

We - Emma, Kailash, Louis & I - were the only ones dancing, like loonies, in our corner of the arena. It was a joyous experience.wilco 003

Monday, August 10, 2009

GLAD DAYS: Tom Paine & William Blake, The Dirty Strangers & John Sinclair


'Glad Day' or 'The Dance of Albion' by William Blake (c.1794)

Two beautiful glad days, with a large moon in the sky. Things are afoot.

Thursday night, torrential rains. I'm in the bar when friends arrive and tell me they're just off to the Lewes Little Theatre to see 'In Lambeth' by Jack Shepherd, there's tickets left, would I like to come. No question.

132 Some background. Jack Shepherd has always been one of my favourite British actors. He has produced a huge volume of work in his long career and is a man of great integrity and character. His play 'In Lambeth' is of special interest. I first saw it on the BBC years ago (happily this version is now available on YouTube).


'In Lambeth' is based around a meeting between Tom Paine and William Blake. The scene is Blake's back garden and the play begins with he and his wife sitting up an apple tree in the nude. Tom Paine turns up for supper (by arrangement or unexpectedly, I'm not sure).

The play, written and directed by Jack, who also plays PaineTom Paine in this production (the BBC film starred Bob Peck) is based on the story of a 'real' meeting between Paine and Blake when, legend has it, Blake warned Paine not to go back to his lodging and to escape to France before he was arrested. Paine takes Blake's advice and just escapes from Dover ahead of the clutches of the secret police of those days.

 200px-William_Blake_by_Thomas_Phillips Whether this incident happened is questionable. Blake and Paine certainly travelled in some of the same circles. Modern biographers of Paine and Blake ( and Peter Ackroyd respectively pay it little mind).

The first major biography of Paine was  the 2-volume 1892 edition of 'The Life of Thomas Paine' by Moncure Conway, he records that Paine gave a speech to the 'Friends of Liberty' of "inflammatory eloquence". The following night, at the house of friend called Johnson, a number of sympathisers to his cause were present, including the 'mystical William Blake.' Conway then quotes Gilchrist's account:

"On Paine's rising to leave, Blake laid his hand on the orator's shoulder, saying, 'You must not go home, or you are a dead man,' and hurried him off on his way to France, whither he was now in any case bound to take his seat as a legislator. By the time P:aine was at Dover, the officers were in his house... and, some twenty miniutes after the Custom House officials at Dover had turned over his slender baggage, narrowly escaped from the English Tories. These were hanging days! Blake on the occasion showed greater sagacity than Paine, whom, indeed, Fuseli affirmed to be more ignorant of the common affairs of life than himself even. spite of unworldliness and visionary faculty, Blake never wanted for prudence and sagacity in ordinary matters.'

This goes to heart of the great interest of the play. Here are two men living in revolutionary times - the birth of a New World. Paine  believes in political and social action, changing the world through practical efforts, repealing bad laws, extending the social franchise. Blake is more concerned with changjng the individual from within. Both speak with great eloquence and the dialogue and interchange between them is fascinating, moving and very contemporary.

This production was first- rate. Luke Shaw was brilliant as Blake and Lisa Bealby as his wife Catherine was equally excellent. Shepherd as Paine was expertly done. We were captivated and held by their wonderful performances.

It was a night of torrential rain. In the interval I was out having a fag in my hoodie (how sad is that, in the rain!) when a big guy with a leather jacket came out for a smoke. This was Vinnie. We fell into conversation. He said things in this country have got to change. He's been reading Marx and was studying Rousseau and related thinkers. He spoke in a heavy Scots accent and was full of righteous anger about the state of our country.That night I was full of thoughts.

The Friday night - a most beautiful evening, balmy weather, beautiful skies darkening to stars and bright moon.Dirty Strangers565

I'm putting on a gig: The Dirty Strangers (fantastic band) and the legendary beat poet, writer, activist John Sinclair, former manager of the MC5 and founder of the White Panther Party.

In person, John is immediately delightful. A man at peace with himself, open and courteous and with an enthusiasm that is contagious. Laughing at being considered a legend. He says "I am a Bodhitsattva". He has no fixed home, has being taken in by two young people in Amsterdam, financially dirty strangers 005supported by well-wishers. He has an internet radio show and does live appearances. At these he improvises free verse/raps/blues songs and delivers them with spirit and gusto - as we discovered. His book, 'It's All Good', available from Head Press, is an excellent collection of well-written essays on various aspects of his busy and eventful life. He also gave me his CD of 'Detroit Life' by John Sinclair and His Motor City Blues Scholars. He tells me he is writing poems to every single Thelonious Monk track. Some of these are on the album.

dirty strangers 036 Alan Clayton of the Dirty Strangers is a  powerhouse, a man of banter, with a Fred Perry and a porkpie hat. His songs are warm and joyous rock 'n 'roll tunes that make you smile and want to dance. The band as a whole are superb. George Butler on drums,  John Proctor on bass and Scottie Mulvey on keyboards just have a real natural groove with Alan as a full-on frontman pumping it up with a big smile on his face.  Their set with John Sinclair, in which they set up some great blues rhythms while John improvised his beat poems was a stonker. They'd never played together before, had 10 minutes soundcheck time, yet it all melded beautifully and received huge rounds of applause. Catch them if you can at the 100 Club in Oxford Street on August 19th.

dirty strangers 066

dirty strangers 061