Posts Tagged ‘drugs

Bigger And Badder Than Rob Ford? Meet Rev. Paul Flowers

- December 4th, 2013

 

Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and wonder: Is it better for a politician to be an alcoholic or a crack smoker? (And what about crystal meth?)

 

To be frank, the molten mass that is Ford Nation apparently doesn’t seem to care one way or the other as long as the politician/alcoholic/crackhead pledges to lower taxes, cut spending and kick lefty ass.

 

But for the rest of us who wonder about these things, Britain’s ever-reliable Economist news magazine has taken a serious look at the question. The Economist’s answer may be a bit squiffy — and that seems to be, in large part, because renegade Rob Ford just keeps throwing off the equation, bless his dangerously palpitating heart — but at least they’ve taken a shot at it. Maybe even a double shot with chaser.

 

The Rob Ford freak show is the triggering mechanism for the world’s current interest in debauched politicians, but the Economist rightly points out that Toronto’s mayor isn’t the only politico who has been wandering the streets in search of a buzz with a paper cup full of vodka and a cranium full of addled, feverish impulses.

 

The Economist cites, as other examples of the breed, Florida Congressman Trey Radel (convicted of coke possession, currently in rehab and fighting to stay in office) and disgraced British politician-clergyman-banker Paul Flowers who … well, believe it or not, Paul Flowers actually makes Rob Ford look like a bit of a choirboy. (That would be a crack-smoking, stupor-chasing, wannabe-party-monster, infantile choirboy, but a relative choirboy nonetheless).

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Pick you poison: Paul Flowers, above, or Rob Ford, below.

Ford-front-Sun

It’s really quite surprising we haven’t heard more of Rev. Paul Flowers on the westerly side of the Atlantic. He’s a public figure of gargantuan appetites, most of which are either unlawful or unsavoury. And, for those keeping score, he’s a lefty, a bosom buddy and (probably illegal) financial backer of the inner circle of Britain’s Labour Party.

 

Flowers — a Methodist minister, long-time municipal councillor, official advisor to the Labour Party and bank chairman — abused and defiled every one of his ecclesiastical, political and financial positions. In the process, he somehow “lost” about $2.5 BILLION for Britain’s member-owned Co-operative Bank (although it isn’t member-owned any more: It’s now controlled by the hedge fund that kept the bank from going under).

 

Of course, Flowers has been suspended indefinitely by the Methodist Church; he has been kicked off Bradford municipal council (for having really nasty porn on his council-supplied laptop computer); he was forced to resign from all positions at the bank and in Britain’s co-operative movement as a whole; and he is currently under investigation and being grilled by a parliamentary committee over his failings as bank chairman and his role in some very suspicious “donations” made by the bank to high-ranking members of the Labour Party.

 

And that was before the really bad stuff happened.

 

Because, you see, while all this other ghastly business was going on, Flowers was spending most of his free time and whatever spare cash and expense chits he had buying and consuming vast quantities of drugs with paid companions … to make the pain go away, I assume.

 

Just days after abjectly apologizing for his deplorable failings as a banker to a parliamentary committee last month, Flowers was out buying and using 1) marijuana, 2) crack cocaine, 3) crystal meth, 4)GHB (a downer club drug) and 5) ketamine (another downer), and partying with “friends” to whom he was bragging about “how he had put one over on them — ‘Tory c****,’ he called them.”

 

That last part is according to one of Flowers’ partying “friends,” who — shades of Rob Ford’s crack-dealing “friends” — surreptitiously used his cell phone to record Flowers ordering and paying for the drugs in question.

 

And, of course, the whole sordid tale — with pictures and links to the video — was splashed across the front page of the Mail on Sunday within a week. Take a look, if you want.

Mail-on-Sunday-front

The “friend,” Stuart Davies, said he went to the Mail, video in hand, because he was “disgusted by (Flowers’) hypocrisy” — certainly not because of the substantial cheque the Mail editors handed Davies in return for the video, a load of incriminating text messages and a few choice quotes.

 

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Unlike the Ford situation in Toronto, British police have laid a number of drug charges against Rev. Paul Flowers.

 

Here’s what author Frederick Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) had to say about Flowers in a recent opinion piece in Britain’s Daily Express.

“The Rev Paul Flowers’ private life seems far beyond the odd pleasures pursued round the swimming pool at Cliveden.

“At three levels it appears to involve pretty relentless use of rent boys, use of five illegal narcotics and the alleged mass misuse of expense accounts. The last named, if true, involves large-scale embezzlement which is a form of theft. But is it all just one debauched man’s private life? No, it is more than that.

“This decadent cleric was also chairman of a major bank, brought to ruin under his auspices, which was created specifically to support and fund the Labour Party. As such he was a financial adviser to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, both now trying to use the ‘nodding acquaintance’ excuse.

“In fact the Co-op boss was a close friend and, via the bank, supporter and funder of Labour. But a bank has trusting depositors who believe that their life savings are safe.

“On one occasion Flowers, via the bank, donated £50,000 (about $90,000) to Ed Balls’ private office. It seems not a shred of concern was shown for the character of the donor, or the friendship behind it which was not ‘nodding’ but close and warm.”

 

Whew! Doesn’t that make you feel better as a Torontonian? At least Rob Ford isn’t a minister of the church or chairman of a bank and he never chipped in $90,000 of Toronto public funds to subsidize Mike Duffy’s Senate activities in Ottawa. And he never lost $2.6 BILLION of taxpayers’ money down a fiscal “black hole.” And Ford has only admitted to using two or three illicit drugs, not the “five illegal narcotics” Flowers has copped to.

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But let’s get back to our original question: Is it better for a politician to be an alcoholic or a crack smoker?

The Economist weighs both sides of the equation, consults experts and decides … to pass the buck.

Drugs, the Economist opines, are more harmful to the individual but overall alcohol abuse is more harmful to society. Or is it the other way around?

The Economist concludes:

“So is it better to have a politician who is an alcoholic or a drug addict? An alcoholic is a bit more likely than a crack-smoker to die, but the crack-smoker is more likely to have his judgment fuddled. Drinkers are also slightly less likely to slip into dependency; crack, heroin and meth are more moreish than alcohol (though no more so than tobacco). Drug-using public figures may also have more trouble maintaining the trust of voters. For one thing, taking drugs implies breaking laws, an undesirable characteristic in those who write them.

“There is also evidence that users of certain illegal drugs are slightly more likely to experience breakdowns in personal relationships than those who abuse alcohol. Professor Nutt and his colleagues found that on this score, meth and crack were the most damaging substances. That seems to have been borne out by Mr. Flowers, the “crystal Methodist”, who has been disowned by many former allies and whose appointment to the Co-op is to be the subject of an inquiry. Mr. Ford, by contrast, is doing his best to prove the researchers wrong. Still in his post, he has promised to run for re-election next year. One recent poll suggested that his approval rating had not been affected much by the scandal. Indeed, one-third of Torontonians intend to vote for him again.”

 

… Well, maybe that will change if, like Rev. Paul Flowers, he were to start bragging to rent boys about all the crystal meth, GHB and ketamine he’s done or is planning to do. Or maybe not. We certainly know it wouldn’t harm his standing in Ford Nation if he was recorded cocking (that’s cocking, not coking) a snoot at the “lefty c****” on council.

 

My oh my, I shall miss Rob Ford when he’s gone. The world may be a more wholesome place then, but it certainly won’t be as interesting.

Ford Won’t Go To Rehab

- November 6th, 2013

Rob-Ford

So Mayor Rob Ford has finally admitted that smoking crack cocaine is one of the many “mistakes” for which he’s been apologizing lately.

 

So what?

 

It happened once (maybe), he says, “probably in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”

 

But it will “never, ever, ever happen again,” Ford promises.

 

And some people will believe him, like Charlie Brown believes Lucy when she promises she won’t move the football — again.

 

Ford’s rationale is that he made this “mistake” — smoking crack cocaine or being so bombed he didn’t notice he was being recorded while smoking crack? — because he was drunk at the time.

 

Ford is blaming all his problems on drinking, “getting hammered ” as he puts it.

 

His solution? “I just got to maybe slow down on my drinking.”

 

Which means Ford plans to continue drinking, a practice he claims is the source of all his problems.

 

He just plans to drink less, “to maybe slow down.” At least in public. On their weekend radio show, his brother advised Ford to drink in the basement of his home. The mayor agreed that would be a better — safer — place to get “hammered,” rather than in public. On the Danforth, say, or at City Hall or at a charity gala or at a hockey game in the Air Canada Centre or in a high school parking lot or in a crack house.

 

But Ford plans to keep indulging in the particular addiction for which he blames all his problems.

 

Just because he was drunk doesn’t absolve Ford of anything. What will the next “never-ever-ever-happen-again” apology be for?

 

Will it be drunk-driving and vehicular homicide charges because he eluded his handlers and went for a besotted joy ride after putting back “a few pops” in the basement one night? Will it be assault (again)? Will he give injection drugs a try — just once and only because he’s drunk? The possibilities are endless.

craig-robertson

Sun photographer Craig Robertson — one of the nicest, calmest people in the world — gets a stiff arm and a noseful of Rob Ford’s dirty laundry in this frame grab from the National Post website. (Craig couldn’t very well take a picture of himself being assaulted, could he — at least not from this angle?)

I’m not blaming Ford for being an alcoholic. I’m blaming him for lying to himself and to the people he keeps asking to trust him, mistake after mistake after mistake.

 

He’s an alcoholic. Maybe a functioning alcoholic — most of the time — but an alcoholic, nonetheless.

 

I spent a lifetime in the newspaper business, so I know plenty of alcoholics — non-drinking alcoholics, functioning alcoholics, semi-functioning alcoholics, lunch drinkers, binge drinkers, all-night drinkers, non-functioning alcoholics, derelict alcoholics, homeless alcoholics, dead alcoholics.

 

Some of the best-known journalists in Canada are alcoholics. But if you still see their bylines, they probably stopped drinking — stopped, not “cut down” — years or even decades ago. They’re still alcoholics and always will be; they just don’t drink any more. For whatever reason — love, family, job, health, hope, self-respect, exhaustion — they removed alcohol as a centrepiece in their lives.

 

One ex-newspaper friend, a former star (not Star) writer and now a fairly heavy political insider, has a saying when it comes to alcohol: “I don’t do one well.” He’s so right for so many of us, Rob Ford and me included.

 

Like Rob Ford, I consider myself a functioning alcoholic. Fortunately I’m in a stable relationship and have a fairly well-balanced life, so I’m able to keep my drinking under control — only on the weekends (usually) and in moderation (usually).

 

But, like Rob Ford, I still drink too much sometimes and do crazy things while drunk sometimes (nothing for which I’ve ever had to make a public apology, mind you, although there have been a few private apologies).

 

And like Rob Ford I simply cannot envision life without alcohol, at least some of the time and to some degree. And for that reason, I cannot — yet — embrace the possibility of giving up alcohol completely, of living a life that does not include a glass of deep red, fragrant, plump, mouth-watering, spirit-raising wine. Or two. Or three. Or four. Or … I told you I don’t do one well.

 

So I understand why Rob Ford is not pledging to take a month or two off work to go into rehab and “get his private life in order,” as so many people are advising.

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He simply cannot, will not quit drinking completely at this time. As hard as it is to believe, the stakes are simply not high enough yet. He still has wriggle room. He can still say “sorry, sorry, sorry” and “never, ever, ever again” and go on doing what he’s been doing.

 

He may moderate his behaviour for a while. He may control his drinking for a while. But he hasn’t solved his “problem” and it hasn’t gone away. It’s just waiting to come roaring back out, leaving havoc and mayhem in its wake.

 

And then contrite, sad-eyed, red-faced Rob Ford will come trotting up to the microphone once again to say:

 

“To the residents of Toronto, I know I have let you down and I can’t do anything else but apologize and apologize. I’m so sorry. Folks, I have nothing left to hide. The past is the past and we must move forward. These mistakes will never, ever, ever happen again.”

 

Until the next time.

I Want My Own Submarine

- May 13th, 2012

Yellow_Submarine

One day when I was in my middle teens, my father —completely out of the blue —  said this to me: “I could buy you a sailboat but I’m not going to. It wouldn’t be good for you.”

 

I just stared at him like the crazy man he apparently was and said nothing. What do you say to a statement like that?

 

I puttered around in little borrowed Sunfishes and whatnot, but I had absolutely no interest in owning a sailboat of my own. And I certainly never asked my father for one. The thought had never crossed my mind — until my father put it there.

 

In the course of a summer afternoon, I had gone from having zero interest in boat ownership to suddenly craving — needing — a sailboat to call my very own. Fortunately the instilled madness soon passed, much like an ambush craving for nicotine five or six years after you quit smoking.

 

I never did find out what prompted my father’s bizarre (albeit, for him, normal) pronouncement, but I had a flashback to it earlier today when I learned that the U.S. government will not let me chug around in my own submarine — even in international waters.

 

Of course I don’t really want my own submarine. I find the idea dumb, claustrophobic and dangerous — especially if it was a homemade DIY submersible, which is really the only way I can see the average person acquiring a submarine.

 

But my Pavlovian teenage rebellion (which never really disappears completely, no matter how old we are) suddenly kicked in when I read that the U.S. Congress had, in 2008, passed a law making it illegal for me, as a private individual, to own and/or operate a submersible or semi-submersible vessel on the high seas, in international waters outside the normal territorial jurisdiction of the United States of America.

 

The law is formally entitled “an Act to amend titles 46 and 18, United States Code, with respect to the operation of submersible vessels and semi-submersible vessels without nationality.”

 

Among other things, the law says this:

 

‘‘§ 2285. OPERATION OF SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL OR SEMI-SUBMERSIBLE VESSEL WITHOUT NATIONALITY.

‘‘(a) OFFENSE.—Whoever knowingly operates, or attempts or conspires to operate, by any means, or embarks in any submersible vessel or semi-submersible vessel that is without nationality and that is navigating or has navigated into, through, or from waters beyond the outer limit of the territorial sea of a single country or a lateral limit of that country’s territorial sea with an adjacent country, with the intent to evade detection, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 15 years, or both.”

 

You can look it up yourself. Here’s a link to it on the U.S. Justice Department website.

 

 

As you see, there’s the twist of “without nationality” involved but, really, who is the United States government to go poking its nose into my business — and threatening me with 15 years in Leavenworth — if I manage to construct my own unregistered submarine and successfully navigate it a few hundred kilometres out into the Atlantic Ocean?

 

(Just writing that last bit made my stomach knot up with dread: Who would do something as insanely suicidal as that? Actually, I’m sure there’s someone out there who would, if they haven’t tried it already. If he or she wants to be buried alive at sea in a coffin of his or her own construction, how is that the business of Washington, D.C.?)

 

It turns out that, in fact, plenty of people (with less money than James Cameron) are building their own submarines and taking them down as much as 100 metres in waters from the Baltic Sea to coastal Florida to lakes in China.

 

Tao-Xiangli-metal-barrels

Here’s one report from Ananova, a British web news service, in 2008:

Tao Xiangli made the 1.6 tonnes submarine mostly from metal barrels and improvised parts by hand, reports Zhong’an Online.

“Metal barrels are possibly the best material for me because of their low cost,” said Tao, a migrant worker in Beijing.

The 20ft submarine is cramped inside with room for only one person but it features pressure meters, monitoring cameras, a TV set, oxygen supply and headlights.

“Although the equipment is simple, it’s enough for a basic submarine, and more importantly, it enables the passenger to see things clearly underwater,” said Tao.

It took Tao more than a year of research and experiments, but he says the most difficult challenge he faced was not a lack of knowledge, but of funds.

“The devices for submarines are all expensive, so because I couldn’t afford them I found a lot of inexpensive replacements,” he said.

Tao said the basic submarine cost him £2,200 (about $3,500), the equivalent of a year’s pay.

 

A year later, the China Daily newspaper ran these photos and reported:

Tao-Xiangli-afloat

Tao Xiangli prepares his homemade submarine before operating it in a lake on the outskirts of Beijing September 3, 2009. Amateur inventor Tao, 34, made a fully functional submarine, which has a periscope, depth control tanks, electric motors, manometer, and two propellers, from old oil barrels and tools which he bought at a second-hand market. He took two years to invent and test the submarine which costs 30,000 yuan (that’s about $4,700 — up from the $3,500 reported a year earlier).

Tao-Xiangli-lake

 

Now of course the U.S. government has what it thinks is a good reason for passing the no-you-can’t-own-a-submarine act. Doesn’t every government always have a good reason for passing any law? Oh, it doesn’t? You mean some laws are stupid and wrong and counter-productive and actually damaging to the fabric of society? Really? Who knew?

 

Turns out the U.S. anti-submarine-ownership law is aimed at South American narcotic cartels smuggling drugs into the U.S. (or at least close to the U.S. before being transshipped at sea to surface vessels) on fibreglass semi-submersibles.

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U.S. drug busters estimate about a third of all cocaine shipped from South America to the U.S. is now transported on narco subs built at hidden shipyards along the coast of Colombia and elsewhere. How they could know the percentage breakdown is beyond me (and I take it with more than a grain of salt) but it does indicate that there must be quite a few of these druggie subs floating around out there in the ocean.

 narco-submersible

Here’s a link to a story that takes you inside a drug-smuggling sub.

 

 

According to the New York Times, U.S. drug busters believe the Colombian cartels are building about 120 subs a year. Each sub carries anywhere between three and 12 tonnes of cocaine, depending on the size of the vessel.

 

Here’s a link to the New York Times piece.

 

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that about 10% of all narco subs are captured. (Again, how do they really know?) Others are sunk by their crews after making delivery to avoid detection. And still others return to South America to make several subsequent trips.

 

But I don’t care about the drug smugglers.

 

There must be other ways, other legal means to scupper the narco navies without infringing on the right of lunatics around the world to sink or swim in submarines of their own fiendishly clever devising.

 

Here’s Chinese inventor Zhang Wuyi, for example, who has designed, built and sold several different models of personal submersibles.

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zhang-wuyi-2-submarine

 

And German U-booter Michael Henrik Schmelter takes his homemade sub to depths of 100 metres off the Baltic coast near Kiel.

 

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But my favourite is a Florida physics teacher named Karl Stanley who has built a couple of submarines in his home machine shop that can descend to depths of 100 metres as well (with a theoretical crush depth of  almost 200 metres). Both Karl’s one-man and two-person subs are made from large propane tanks  (of two different sizes) and are pedal-powered underwater.

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Here’s a link to Karl’s website where he explains how he built his subs.

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These people are all Grade A kooks in my opinion, but what would the world be without kooks doing things that other, rational people consider insane?

 

With or without the blessing of the U.S. government, they’re going to take their dangerous dreams to sea.

 

All I can say is good luck and God help ‘em.

 

And I would advise them all to hoist a piratical Jolly Roger. It seems like the only flag they should be sailing under.

Tao-Xiangi