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Sheffield Lib Dem Council leader Scriven sings for hotel chain promo

Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council stars in a promotional video for Mercure Hotels, which has emerged online.

In the video he sings (or at least mimes to) the Lou Reed classic Perfect Day, but with the lyrics reworked to tell the story of a tired businessman arriving at the hotel after a Hectic Day.

The Mercure St Paul’s Hotel in Sheffield is set to act as a base for delegates to the Liberal Democrats annual conference in March.

It has played host to various council related events and conferences, most recently a leadership summit for Sheffield First Partnership, of which Mr Scriven is chair.

On his twitter feed, Mr Scriven has insisted that the video was “an internal training video”, and that he was not paid.

Thanks to all who helped out with SheffieldPolitics’ recovery of the video, which was deleted by the original uploader this morning.

http://sheffieldpolitics.com

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Jody McIntyre talks about politics, war and equality.

The media have painted a picture for the general public to think that these young people are insolent and job shy, this is how some older people are seeing it. This is an excellent speach, not just showing the truth but also showing just how corrupt the politicians are.

 

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Critical Thoughts on going beyond The Student Struggle

So the Lib Dem conference coming to Sheffield City Hall from March 11-13 – the first time Sheffield has hosted a conference by a national political party.

Thugs meeting thugs… It’s time for me to duck out.

It’s interesting. I personally feel that non-violent civil resistance is one of the most effective forms of protest. Don’t get me wrong, by that I don’t mean well behaved civilians walking along the well planned routes decided by the police and being watched over by the still plotting and scheming state as they march past…(read my first critique here)

There has much been written on The Recent events from The Fight For Parliament (A Personal Recap of the 9th Dec)

How do we engage with this rage against the machine?

13 years of New Labour there was but a mummer and when the social privilege and status of The Middle Class is under direct attack we see  the formation of a new mass movement?

The state using Kettle tactics that risk Hillsborough-style tragedy says a doctor now more than ever we need to look at new ways forword here are some further thoughts.

If all that is we have to offer when the Lib Dem conference comes to Sheffield City Hall from March 11-13 is the same old march from to a to b and back home on the coach, as was done under 13 years of New Labour, it has been much the same from The Poll Tax Riots we have given under in fear.  It took Millbank to brake that fear.

Once more if we let the people down and also feel fucked over by the lack of critical thinking/looking towards new forms of taking action then we will once more fail to engage with The Working Class.

So what has been taken from students to make them so angry?

Hope, that’s what. Hope, and the fragile bubble of social aspiration that sustained us through decades of mounting inequality; hope and the belief that if we worked hard and did as we were told and bought the right things, some of us at least would get the good jobs and safe places to live that we’d been promised. – Laurie Penny, New Statesman

A single image from a day of movement marks out competing visions of hope. A boot through a Millbank window fed the dreams of resistance that many in the Left have been craving since talk of austerity started. The same boot posed a question that plays out in the university occupations that preceded it and have since blossomed in its wake: what is it exactly that we are hoping for?

The question of how students have inspired people to act, engage and organize to combat the Government’s austerity plans is an important one.

It is one that also potentially contrasts with some of the views of students themselves. For let’s be clear – it is not necessarily (or even principally) the University or its defence that mobilizes people’s desires and dreams outside the student movement. Defending the ‘right to education’ may be what sparked student revolts, but those of us who are not students have been drawn in because we want, more than anything, to resist and fight.

And to resist and fight you need to know that resistance is possible, that you will not be alone, and that you can win. For the most part the resistance so far to the regime of austerity has been rote and uninspiring – a betrayed strike here, a sacked workforce there.

Minor victories and thousands of words spoken of an inevitable uprising, of an insurgency against the restructuring. The boot through the window took us beyond the rhetoric and yearnings. It showed rage and the will to fight.

It showed cops overwhelmed and underprepared, Tory offices ransacked and the beautiful excess of an insurrectionary moment. It inspired because it was truly magical, and people saw for themselves that battles could be waged, people would fight, and winning was possible.

But beyond this what support is there for the ‘right to education’? For this was the starting point for the riot and the thread that binds the demonstrations, the walkouts and the occupations. Cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance, shedding whole university departments and countless staff, and raising fees.

The restructuring is an attack on ‘education’ as it exists in the University; a wholesale revision of who can access what.

It is perhaps taken for granted that ‘we’ all support the right to education, and that we are all united in our defence of the University. But what if we are not?

What if it is our rage and not our hopes that are united? What if we are together only for the fight, but not the victory?

Laurie Penny nails the motivation behind the riot – hope. Or rather, the restructuring of hope and its coming scarcity. A restructuring and scarcity because hope is not something eternal or ephemeral. Hope is a material thing, produced and distributed through social channels and institutions. Institutions like the University.

What do we mean by a socially produced hope? Different societies produce different kinds of hopes. In fact, every single society produces different kinds of hopes. Hope is a mobilizing and organizing force that structures the direction and possibilities of our lives.

As memory shapes our understanding of the past and how we understand what we are now, hope shapes our understanding of the future – what there will be, what there could be, who and how we will become something more than we are today.

Both hope and memory give form and purpose to our actions; they give our lives meaning.

There are competing versions of hope in a given society, but there is also a hegemonic form to hope. For us, living in a becoming-neoliberal world, that hegemonic form is aspiration. Not aspiration in the sense to aspire to greatness in some heroic Greek sense, or something romantic and colourful.

No, for us aspiration has a particular hue and tint – it means social mobility. It means a better job, more money, more things and a higher rung on the career ladder. Hope is individual in our world, never collective – the hope of entrepreneurs dreaming of making it big. Not just climbing the ladder but also winning out over all others. We hope for social mobility. Which is exactly how Penny frames it, as do most of the placards on the streets. Hope, the dominant form of hope, is to do better than your parents.

Hope is not evenly distributed – what hopes there are and who has access to them depend on where you are located (be you poor, or black, disabled, a women, young, living in the regions, etc). Neoliberal hope – aspiration – is increasingly restricted to an ever-smaller circle of people: those people doing well through the current crisis; those people above the buffer of the ‘squeezed middle’. For the rest, there’s the lottery.

(To be clear, there have been ‘no hopers’ for quite some time – an underclass living a kind of social death of meaningless, pointless lives, hidden away behind ASBOS on estates But this is to become the norm for many, many more people).

This in turn leads to a scarcity of hope and an increasing number of people subject to a social death – a life defined as without future and therefore without meaning. A life trapped with nowhere to go. This generates a crisis of hope that can manifest in a number of ways.

The most obvious is resentment against those seem to still have hope. It is also visible in the desperate attempts to salvage some hope – through the memories of privileges of nationality, race and gender (such as mobilized by the BNP).

The current crisis marks a turn from a mixed economy of hope – where neoliberal policies and subjectivities press up against older forms of entitlement and ideals of fairness and social mobility.

We are living through the birth pangs of a truly neoliberal age where meaning, hope and the future itself are scarce and out of reach for most of us.

It is here, at the juncture of a new social order and the collapse of the remaining entitlements of the welfare state, that the restructuring of hope comes to be generally seen as a crisis of hope. We are entering an age of scarcity of the future.

It’s clear that the students are revolting against the loss of this hope and future. Social mobility (as such actually exists) is under attack. The ‘squeezed middle’ and their children will become, like the existing underclass, a footnote to the bigger and brighter stories of the well-to-do professionals.

The student revolt speaks to us all as the first open revolt against the expansion of social death and the collapse of the more general circulation of aspiration.

So the loss of entitlement is real, and the revolt is too. But we should stop here and ask if that is the end of the tale told by the boot. Did that kid kicking in the window really just want to be better off than his parents? Did he really want to keep the University as it stands?

Let’s go back to the idea behind neoliberal aspiration – social mobility. Social mobility means getting ahead, doing better than your parents and your peers: it means that while you move other people have to stand still.

Social mobility requires both winners and losers. Hope – or aspiration – confirms the unequal world in which we live. And education – that formal process of differentiation, where some end up with degrees and contacts and others jobs without a future – is essential to the creation and maintenance of that inequity.

It reinforces the role of the University in unequally distributing meaning, possibilities, wages and other forms of social wealth.

Put this way, the right to education means the freedom to be unequal. The right to education works to underpin the myth of meritocracy – the myth that it’s through hard work and ability and not connections, class and privilege, that people get to where they are.

The right to an education means that if you perform well in standardized tests (helped by being well off, going to the right school and having a stable family life) then you deserve to go to University and cement your place up near the top of the social hierarchy (as long as you make it into a relatively decent university, though how many ‘bad’ ones will remain after the cuts is an open question).

The betrayal of the right to education – by either there not being enough jobs for graduates (as is the case for a third of existing graduates), or by the rising costs of ‘earning’ a degree, putting it out of reach for all but the very wealthy – is the betrayal of the right to not being working class.

Looking at it this way, through the broken glass.

We can see that the riot went beyond mere aspiration. Just as the university occupations have gone beyond the simple question of the ‘right to education’. The joy to be found in revolt overflows the boundaries of a pedestrian desire to get ahead.

But here both we (both we who are students and we who are not) find ourselves in a double bind.

We need to defend mobility in the world as it stands – its defence is the defence of actual existing lives and the real possibility to have a meaningful social existence. And we need to defend the funding of education as it stands. To resist paying more for education is to defend the social gains made by previous generations and to defend the social wage.

And defending it is exactly what many students (and many of their supporters) are doing. But in merely defending it we are in fact defending the most sacred of neoliberal freedoms – the freedom to be unequal. Defending this freedom means defending the University as a filtering device set up to segregate us into educated and not; those with access to a ‘professional career’ and those who do not. Those with meaningful lives and those without.

So we must go beyond mere defence.

The riot is as much about dreams that have yet to become possible as they are over the loss of existing entitlements. There are hopes that lie dormant or hidden that speak of different ways of being; of different kinds of dreams and futures. The crisis of hope and the coming scarcity of the future for many people is a betrayal that makes possible a different kind of hope – a hope against hope, violently against aspiration and cold conformity.

The student revolts then are the fracture in the facade.

Students sense that not only are their lives changing, but that the myth of mobility that has underpinned the University in recent years is coming undone.

These protests are the first protests in Britain to contest the changing meaning of hope, and the austerity of dreams that is the coming neoliberal future.

But to be honest and faithful to the riot and the promise of a different kind of hope, an act of betrayal is needed. A betrayal of the University and education as it stands. For here we come full circle.

For if the protests and occupations speak only of the importance of education, and the necessity to defend the University, people will quickly fall away.

People can see clearly what the University is now.

The window is broken. We can see clearly that the University is a machine that creates social death. Eventually the inspiration of the initial fight and victory will fade, and the content of the revolt will have to stand on its own. If the content of that struggle is only to restore that machine, to defend the freedom to be unequal, failure is all we can hope for.

But if the struggle calls into question the very existence of such a machine, and reopens the question of learning as opposed to education – to self-development, the exploration of interest and inclination, and to allow for the navigation of curiosity and desire; in short, learning as a way of creating new possibilities and meaning – then the window may stay broken for a long time to come.

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Kettle tactics risk Hillsborough-style tragedy – doctor

A senior doctor has warned that police risk repeating a Hillsborough-type tragedy if they continue with tactics deployed during the recent tuition fee protests.

The anaesthetist from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, who gave medical assistance to the protesters, said that officers forced demonstrators into such a tight “kettle” on Westminster Bridge that they were in danger of being seriously crushed or pushed into the freezing River Thames.

The 34-year-old doctor, who set up a field hospital in Parliament Square, said that people on the bridge suffered respiratory problems, chest pains and the symptoms of severe crushing.

“Police had us so closely packed, I couldn’t move my feet or hands an inch. We were in that situation like that for hours. People in the middle were having real difficulty breathing.

“It was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen – it must have been what Hillsborough was like. The crush was just so great. Repeatedly I tried to speak to officers, telling them that I was a doctor and that this was a serious health and safety risk,” said the doctor, who did not want to be named.

Her comments will raise fresh concerns over police tactics during the protest 10 days ago during which almost 50 police and protesters were hospitalised.

During the Hillsborough tragedy of April 1989, Britain’s worst sporting disaster, 96 Liverpool fans died when police failed to control crowds and a lethal crush developed. Hundreds more were injured after being squeezed against the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, which was hosting that year’s FA Cup semi-final. The inquiry into the disaster led by Lord Chief Justice Taylor established that the main cause was a failure of police crowd control.

Student Danielle Smith, 21, from Dagenham, studying creative and professional writing at the University of East London, said she was squeezed so tightly during the kettle that the day after it felt “like I’d been in a car accident”.

“I couldn’t move, and it hurt to laugh, breathe, sleep, sit down and eat. To do anything just really hurt. For days after I took as many painkillers as I could a day. I had real trouble standing in such a tight space. Again people were getting crushed. I had a shield in my face a few times. The police just hit those closest to them, they weren’t really thinking about who was in the wrong or right.”

She said it was incredible that none of the hundreds of protesters sandwiched between two lines of riot police fell off the bridge: “The people around the edge, they were screaming, saying they thought they were going to fall off.”

The Aberdeen doctor added: “The sides of the bridge were only waist high and all it would have taken is one stumble and someone could have gone over the side. I’m surprised that no one died there. And if anyone had been injured, I would have struggled to respond even if I was stood next to them.” She said that when several police became caught inside the kettle they were screaming to get out. “They were experiencing what we were experiencing.”

Her comments also include allegations of disproportionate police violence, pointing to the number of serious head injuries among protesters. Along with two colleagues who had volunteered to staff a field hospital, the doctor said they treated around 30 protesters.

“It got incredibly violent. The vast majority of injuries I saw were head injuries. I was surprised how much force the police had used. Between us we probably saw thirty folk. A couple of people also had injuries to their wrists and elbows where they had raised their hands to cover themselves from baton blows.”

Witnesses say a section of the crowd were ushered from Parliament Square around 9pm onto Westminster Bridge before being kettled for around three hours until they were released.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said kettling was used to control sections of the crowd, who had became violent, while minimising force. He said that every effort was made to keep the crowd as safe as possible.

guardian

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Lib Dem Conference the circus is comeing to town..

Lib Dem conference at Sheffield City Hall from March 11-13 – the first time Sheffield has hosted a conference by a national political party.

Thugs meeting thugs… It’s time for me to duck out.

It’s interesting. I personally feel that non-violent civil resistance is one of the most effective forms of protest. Don’t get me wrong, by that I don’t mean well behaved civilians walking along the well planned routes decided by the police and being watched over by the still plotting and scheming state as they march past…

For some years I have not gone to or attended demos in London, I’ve felt such frustration and anger when faced with a snarling, ignorant police officer, calling me names, swearing at me while I’ve stood, calmly and politely asking to leave the area before the violence kicks off. I’m not interested in fighting police. I’m not interested in getting pulverised when caught between them and the very brave, but very ignorant and reactionary, protesters who may want to fight. Thugs meeting thugs… It’s time for me to duck out.

When the G8 come to Sheffield I was in a very desperate circumstance, being a part of the dysfunctional attention seekers was, I thought, a means to an end and looking back at what happened it was just another play for today. We all had our set roles, aims and objectives from the protesters to the Police. When the Liberal Democrats come to Sheffield in April it will be much the same.

The students and young people at these protests, I personally feel, have every right to fight if they so wish. The government does what it likes and the police tend to do as they like – it is deeply unjust to proclaim that these young people, who are having what they know of their futures torn up and trampled on, are wrong to resist that. However, even though it may be an animalistic and instinctive right of any human being to fight back and defend through violence, further study and thought about how to stand against the government may provide an alternative, and most probably optimal, outcome.

The state are all too ready for what Paul Scriven calls thugs, we could debate for an age who have been the real thugs on the student protests, a section 14 was imposed in Sheffield, The Police in their riot vans, batons at the ready, lined the route of the protesters. Much the same when the circus comes to town in April.

The protesters, or should that be dysfunctional attention seekers, will no doubt be protesting. Once more, as with the G8, the real impact of holding such a conference in Sheffield will be on the people of Sheffield and Paul Scriven says it is of benefit for the people of Sheffield. Need I remind him that people not involved in the G8 Protest were followed, stopped and searched, due to fact they knew people involved, or had alternative viewpoints but nothing to do with the protest itself. Once more the lives of working class people will bare the impact of such a conference coming to Sheffield.

The middle class and the Police will no doubt play their part in the play for today, then we will have the same old crass headlines, along with commendation As a long standing Anarchist, I need to make it very clear that I have no time for Middle Class protestors and the Police, both are a part of the state, the problem not the solution. Neither is a full scale riot a solution or meaningless protest where the dysfunctional attention seekers shout their slogans and sell papers to each other. The circus might be coming to Sheffield but I see nothing to get overjoyed about, we need to seek alternative ways of expressing our discontent at the injustice of Capitalism and all what it stands for, agreed.

There is nothing I hold in common with the protesters or the current government and you will find this be the fact for millions of working class people. Of course we either take now or stay the same, once more you will not even find myself involved with the dysfunctional attention seekers, the greatest key is to understand that they have a heart. Do not reinforce their self trickery; violence towards them reinforces that what they are doing is just and right! By smacking you when you are calm, it hurts them. If an entire crowd is calm but calculated and organised, the police aims will be revealed.

In the end it will eat itself from the inside out.

http://www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk/news/local/major_operation_for_lib_dem_conference_1_2862026

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Ainsworth is right, we should end drug prohibition

Since we first prowled the savannahs of Africa, human beings have displayed a few overpowering and ineradicable impulses—for food, for sex, and for drugs. Every human society has hunted for its short cuts to an altered state: The hunger for a chemical high, low, or pleasingly new shuffle sideways is universal. Peer back through history, and it’s everywhere. Ovid said drug-induced ecstasy was a divine gift. The Chinese were brewing alcohol in prehistory and cultivating opium by 700 A.D. Cocaine was found in clay-pipe fragments from William Shakespeare’s house. George Washington insisted American soldiers be given whiskey every day as part of their rations. Human history is filled with chemicals, come-downs, and hangovers.

And in every generation, there are moralists who try to douse this natural impulse in moral condemnation and burn it away. They believe that humans, stripped of their intoxicants, will become more rational or ethical or good. They point to the addicts and the overdoses and believe they reveal the true face—and the logical endpoint—of your order at the bar or your roll-up. And they believe we can be saved from ourselves, if only we choose to do it. Their vision holds an intoxicating promise of its own.

Their most famous achievement—the criminalization of alcohol in the United States between 1921 and 1933—is one of the great parables of modern history. Daniel Okrent’s superb new history, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, shows how a coalition of mostly well-meaning, big-hearted people came together and changed the Constitution to ban booze. On the day it began, one of the movement’s leaders, the former baseball hero turned evangelical preacher Billy Sunday, told his ecstatic congregation what the Dry New World would look like: “The reign of tears is over. The slums will soon be only a memory. We will turn our prisons into factories and our jails into storehouses. Men will walk upright now, women will smile, and the children will laugh. Hell will be forever rent.

The story of the War on Alcohol has never needed to be told more urgently—because its grandchild, the War on Drugs, shares the same DNA. Okrent alludes to the parallel only briefly, on his final page, but it hangs over the book like old booze-fumes—and proves yet again Mark Twain’s dictum: “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

There was never an America without chemical highs. The Native Americans used hallucinogens routinely, and the ship that brought John Winthrop and the first Puritans to the continent carried three times more beer than water, along with 10,000 gallons of wine. It was immediately a society so soaked in alcohol that it makes your liver ache to read the raw statistics: By 1830, the average citizen drank seven gallons of pure alcohol a year. America was so hungry for highs that when there was a backlash against all this boozing, the temperance movement’s initial proposal was that people should water down their alcohol with opium.

It’s not hard to see how this fug of liquor caused problems, as well as pleasure—and the backlash was launched by a furious housewife from a small town in Ohio. One Sunday in 1874, Eliza Thompson—a mother to eight children, who had never spoken out on any public issue before—stood before the crowds at her church and announced that America would never be free or godly until the last whiskey bottle was emptied onto the dry earth. A huge crowd of women cheered: They believed their husbands were squandering their wages at the saloon. They marched as one to the nearest bar, where they all sank to their knees and prayed for the soul of its owner. They refused to leave until he repented. They worked in six-hour prayer shifts on the streets until the saloonkeeper finally appeared, head bowed, and agreed to shut it down. This prayer-athon then moved around to every alcohol-seller in the town. Within 10 days, only four of the original 13 remained, and the rebellion was spreading across the country.

It was women who led the first cry for Temperance, and it was women who made Prohibition happen. A woman called Carry Nation became a symbol of the movement when she traveled from bar to bar with an oversize hatchet and smashed them to pieces. Indeed, Prohibition was one of the first and most direct effects of the movement to expand the vote.* This is one of the first strange flecks of gray in this story. The proponents of Prohibition were primarily progressives—and some of the most admirable people in American history, from Susan B. Anthony to Frederick Douglass to Eugene V. Debs*. The pioneers of American feminism believed alcohol was at the root of men’s brutality toward women. The anti-slavery movement saw alcohol addiction as a new form of slavery, replacing leg irons with whiskey bottles. You can see the same left-wing prohibitionism today, when people like Al Sharpton say drugs must be criminalized because addiction does real harm in ghettos.

Of course, there were more obviously sinister proponents of Prohibition too, pressing progressives into weird alliances. The Ku Klux Klan said that “nigger gin” was the main reason that oppressed black people were prone to rebellion, and if you banned alcohol, they would become quiescent. An echo of this persists in America’s current strain of prohibition. Powder cocaine and crack cocaine are equally harmful, but crack—which is disproportionately used by black people—carries much heavier jail sentences than powder cocaine, which is disproportionately used by white people.

It was in this context that the Anti-Saloon League rose to become the most powerful pressure group in American history and the only one to ever change the Constitution through peaceful political campaigning. It was begun by a little man called Wayne Wheeler, who was as dry as the Sahara and twice as overheated—and a political genius, maneuvering politicians of all parties into backing a ban. He threatened them by weaving together a coalition of evangelicals, feminists, racists, and lefties—the equivalent of herding Sarah Palin, the National Association of Women, David Duke, and Keith Olbermann into one unstoppable political force.

With the implementation of the 18th Amendment in 1920, the dysfunctions of Prohibition began.* When you ban a popular drug that millions of people want, it doesn’t disappear. Instead, it is transferred from the legal economy into the hands of armed criminal gangs. Across America, gangsters rejoiced that they had just been handed one of the biggest markets in the country, and unleashed an armada of freighters, steamers, and even submarines to bring booze back. Nobody who wanted a drink went without. As the journalist Malcolm Bingay wrote, “It was absolutely impossible to get a drink, unless you walked at least ten feet and told the busy bartender in a voice loud enough for him to hear you above the uproar.”

So if it didn’t stop alcoholism, what did it achieve? The same as prohibition does today—a massive unleashing of criminality and violence. Gang wars broke out, with the members torturing and murdering one another first to gain control of and then to retain their patches. Thousands of ordinary citizens were caught in the crossfire. The icon of the new criminal class was Al Capone, a figure so fixed in our minds as the scar-faced King of Charismatic Crime, pursued by the rugged federal agent Eliot Ness, that Okrent’s biographical details seem oddly puncturing. Capone was only 25 when he tortured his way to running Chicago’s underworld. He was gone from the city by the age of 30 and a syphilitic corpse by 40. But he was an eloquent exponent of his own case, saying simply, “I give to the public what the public wants. I never had to send out high pressure salesmen. Why, I could never meet the demand.”

By 1926, he and his fellow gangsters were making $3.6 billion a year—in 1926 money! To give some perspective, that was more than the entire expenditure of the U.S. government. The criminals could outbid and outgun the state. So they crippled the institutions of a democratic state and ruled, just as drug gangs do today in Mexico, Afghanistan, and ghettos from South Central Los Angeles to the banlieues of Paris. They have been handed a market so massive that they can tool up to intimidate everyone in their area, bribe many police and judges into submission, and achieve such a vast size, the honest police couldn’t even begin to get them all. The late Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman said, “Al Capone epitomizes our earlier attempts at Prohibition; the Crips and Bloods epitomize this one.”

One insight, more than any other, ripples down from Okrent’s history to our own bout of prohibition. Armed criminal gangs don’t fear prohibition: They love it. He has uncovered fascinating evidence that the criminal gangs sometimes financially supported dry politicians, precisely to keep it in place. They knew if it ended, most of organized crime in America would be bankrupted. So it’s a nasty irony that prohibitionists try to present legalizers—then and now—as “the bootlegger’s friend” or “the drug-dealer’s ally.” Precisely the opposite is the truth. Legalizers are the only people who can bankrupt and destroy the drug gangs, just as they destroyed Capone. Only the prohibitionists can keep them alive.

Once a product is controlled only by criminals, all safety controls vanish and the drug becomes far more deadly. After 1921, it became common to dilute and relabel poisonous industrial alcohol, which could still legally be bought, and sell it by the pint glass. This “rotgut” caused epidemics of paralysis and poisoning. For example, one single batch of bad booze permanently crippled 500 people in Wichita, Kan., in early 1927—a usual event. That year, 760 people were poisoned to death by bad booze in New York City alone. Wayne Wheeler persuaded the government not to remove fatal toxins from industrial alcohol, saying it was good to keep this “disincentive” in place.

Prohibition’s flaws were so obvious that the politicians in charge privately admitted the law was self-defeating. Warren Harding brought $1,800 of booze with him to the White House, while Andrew Mellon—in charge of enforcing the law—called it “unworkable.” Similarly, the last three presidents of the United States were recreational drug users in their youth. Once he ceased to be president, Bill Clinton called for the decriminalization of cannabis, and Obama probably will too. Yet in office, they continue to mouth prohibitionist platitudes about “eradicating drugs.” They insist the rest of the world’s leaders resist the calls for greater liberalization from their populations and instead “crack down” on the drug gangs—no matter how much violence it unleashes. Indeed, Obama recently praised Calderon for his “crackdown” on drugs by—with no apparent irony—calling him “Mexico’s Eliot Ness.” Obama should know that Ness came to regard his War on Alcohol as a disastrous failure, and he died a drunk himself—but drug prohibition addles politicians’ brains.

By 1928, the failure of Prohibition was plain, yet its opponents were demoralized and despairing. It looked like an immovable part of the American political landscape, since it would require big majorities in every state to amend the Constitution again. Clarence Darrow wrote that “thirteen dry states with a population of less than New York State alone can prevent repeal until Haley’s Comet returns,” so “one might as well talk about taking a summer vacation of Mars.”

Yet it happened. It happened suddenly and completely. Why? The answer is found in your wallet, with the hard cash. After the Great Crash, the government’s revenues from income taxes collapsed by 60 percent in just three years, while the need for spending to stimulate the economy was skyrocketing. The U.S. government needed a new source of income, fast. The giant untaxed, unchecked alcohol industry suddenly looked like a giant pot of cash at the end of the prohibitionist rainbow. Could the same thing happen today, after our own Great Crash? The bankrupt state of California is about to hold a referendum to legalize and tax cannabis, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has pointed out that it could raise massive sums. Yes, history does rhyme.

Many people understandably worry that legalization would cause a huge rise in drug use, but the facts suggest this isn’t the case. Portugal decriminalized the personal possession of all drugs in 2001, and—as a study by Glenn Greenwald for the Cato Institute found—it had almost no effect at all.* Indeed, drug use fell a little among the young. Similarly, Okrent says the end of alcohol prohibition “made it harder, not easier, to get a drink. … Now there were closing hours and age limits, as well as a collection of geographic proscriptions that kept bars or package stores distant from schools, churches and hospitals.” People didn’t drink much more. The only change was that they didn’t have to turn to armed criminal gangs for it, and they didn’t end up swigging poison.

Who now defends alcohol prohibition? Is there a single person left? This echoing silence should suggest something to us. Ending drug prohibition seems like a huge heave, just as ending alcohol prohibition did. But when it is gone, when the drug gangs are a bankrupted memory, when drug addicts are treated not as immoral criminals but as ill people needing health care, who will grieve? American history is pocked by utopian movements that prefer glib wishful thinking over a hard scrutiny of reality, but they inevitably crest and crash in the end. Okrent’s dazzling history leaves us with one whiskey-sharp insight above all others: The War on Alcohol and the War on Drugs failed because they were, beneath all the blather, a war on human nature.

Johann Hari

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Students Should Not! be panicked by mets published pictures

Once again the Met have released a set of images of people they want in connection with the student protests last Thursday 9/11/2010.

If you or one of your mates is one of them, you’ll be worried and unsure about what to do. Before you do anything, read this first.

The dilemma is this – if you hand yourself in, you are DEFINITELY throwing away your chance of walking away from all this. If you don’t hand yourself in, you MIGHT get caught anyway – or you might not. And they MIGHT give you a slightly tougher sentence – or they might not.

Handing yourself in does NOT guarantee a softer sentence. Those who gave themselves up after disorder at the Gaza protests a couple of years ago, DID NOT get noticeably lesser sentences than others.

The fact they have published your photo means that they probably DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE. The police have a hard job tracking people down just from a photo.

Even if you have previous convictions, there are lots of reasons why they still won’t know who you are. They may not be able to get a link to your police record just by having a photo. If the picture they have is not clear, or you have changed appearance, they have no chance.

GOING TO A LAWYER at this stage may NOT BE A GOOD IDEA. If you go to a lawyer for advice they will tell you to hand yourself in – they will be duty bound to do so.

Having the name of a good lawyer to keep in your back pocket in case the worst happens may be a very good idea.

You might want to read the advice FITWATCH gave after the Millbank demo. It may be relevant.

STAY PROUD of yourself. The police were brutal and violent on Thursday. Defending yourself and others against police attack should not be treated as a criminal act.

IF you are arrested:

Say NO COMMENT to ALL questions in interview. DO NOT justify yourself to the police. DO NOT comment on why you were there. DO NOT comment on who you were with. DO NOT comment on what you did. SAY NOTHING – for your own protection and that of others.
Get in touch with defendants support at Green and Black Cross.

Really Fit

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