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Rachel Notley being sworn into office.

Rachel Notley being sworn into office.

This is taken from the interview titled: Does Capitalism Cause Drug Addiction?  The piece that I am going to excerpt is about how we view addiction in society.  If we are to believe Hari, it isn’t about a failure in moral rectitude or falling into a drug laden trap of compulsion; but rather it is the atomization and rampant consumerism in society that causes the addictions we see today.

Ratpark“Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. The drug war is certainly not what we’ve been told it is. And the alternatives aren’t what we think they are.

And there were two people here in Canada who really helped me to think about this. One is guy called Bruce Alexander. He’s someone you will know the work of. If you had said to me four years ago, say, “What causes heroin addiction?” right, I would have—I would have looked at you like you were a little bit simpleminded. I would have said, “Well, heroin causes heroin addiction, right?” There’s a story we’ve been told about addiction, how it works, for a hundred years now, that’s so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that it seems like our common sense, right? We think if the first 20 people on the rows here, if we all used heroin together for, say, 20 days, there are chemical hooks in heroin that our body would start to physically need, right? So, on day 21, we would need that heroin. We would physically crave it. And that’s what addiction is; that’s how we think it works.

And the first kind of chink in my doubt about that was explained to me by another great Canadian, Gabor Maté in Vancouver, who some of you will know the work of, amazing man. And he pointed out to me, if any of us step out of here today and we’re hit by a bus, right, God forbid, and we break our hip, we’ll be taken to hospital. It’s very likely we’ll be given a lot of diamorphine. Diamorphine is heroin. It’s much better heroin than you’ll score on the streets, because it’s medically pure, right? It’s really potent heroin. You’ll be given it for quite a long period of time. Every hospital in the developed world, that’s happening, right? If what we think about addiction is right, what should—I mean, those people should leave as addicts. That never happens, virtually never happens. You will have noticed your grandmother was not turned into a junkie by her hip replacement operation, right?

I didn’t really know what to do with it. When Gabor first explained that to me, I didn’t really know how to process that, until I met Bruce Alexander. Bruce is a professor in Vancouver, and Bruce explained something to me. The idea of addiction we have, the one that we all implicitly believe—I certainly did—comes from a series of experiments that were done earlier in the 20th century. They’re really simple experiments. You can do them yourself at home if you’re feeling a little bit sadistic. Get a rat and put it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Bruce comes along in the ’70s and said, “Well, hang on a minute. We’re putting the rat in an empty cage. It’s got nothing to do. Let’s try this a little bit differently.” So Bruce built Rat Park, and Rat Park is like heaven for rats. Everything your rat about town could want, it’s got in Rat Park. It’s got lovely food. It’s got sex. It’s got loads of other rats to be friends with. It’s got loads of colored balls. Everything your rat could want. And they’ve got both the water bottles. They’ve got the drugged water and the normal water. But here’s the fascinating thing. In Rat Park, they don’t like the drugged water. They hardly use any of it. None of them ever overdose. None of them ever use in a way that looks like compulsion or addiction. There’s a really interesting human example I’ll tell you about in a minute, but what Bruce says is that shows that both the right-wing and left-wing theories of addiction are wrong. So the right-wing theory is it’s a moral failing, you’re a hedonist, you party too hard. The left-wing theory is it takes you over, your brain is hijacked. Bruce says it’s not your morality, it’s not your brain; it’s your cage. Addiction is largely an adaptation to your environment.

There was a really interesting human experiment going on at the same time as Rat Park, which kind of demonstrates this really interestingly. It was called the Vietnam War, right? Twenty percent of American troops in Vietnam were using heroin a lot, right? And if you look at the reports from the time, they were really worried. They thought—because they believed the old theory of addiction. They were like, “My god, these guys are all going to come home, and we’re going to have loads of heroin addicts on the streets of the United States.” What happened? They came home, and virtually all of them just stopped, because if you’re taken out of a hellish, pestilential jungle, where you don’t want to be, you can die at any moment, and you go back to a nice life in Wichita, Kansas, you can bear to be present in your life. We could all be drunk now. Forget the drug laws. We could all be drunk now, right? None of you look very drunk. I’m guessing you’re not, right? That’s because we’ve got something we want to do. We’ve got things we want to be present for in our lives.

So, I think this has—Bruce taught us about how this has huge implications, obviously, for the drug war. The drug war is based on the idea that the chemicals cause the addiction, and we need to physically eradicate these chemicals from the face of the Earth. If in fact it’s not the chemicals, if in fact it’s isolation and pain that cause the addiction, then it suddenly throws into sharp contrast the idea that we need to impose more isolation and pain on addicts in order to make them stop, which is what we currently do.

But it actually has much deeper implications that I think really relate to what Naomi writes about in This Changes Everything, and indeed before. We’ve created a society where significant numbers of our fellow citizens cannot bear to be present in their lives without being drugged, right? We’ve created a hyperconsumerist, hyperindividualist, isolated world that is, for a lot of people, much more like that first cage than it is like the bonded, connected cages that we need. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And our whole society, the engine of our society, is geared towards making us connect with things. If you are not a good consumer capitalist citizen, if you’re spending your time bonding with the people around you and not buying stuff—in fact, we are trained from a very young age to focus our hopes and our dreams and our ambitions on things we can buy and consume. And drug addiction is really a subset of that.”


I’m very happy to see that some places in Canada are starting to turn on to this sort of thinking – Medicine Hat Alberta for instance where they are working toward eradicating homelessness – by giving people homes to live in – because it is cheaper to do so that the current methods.

First off, WE DID IT!!!!  The Notley Crew crashed a tidal wave of orange crush all across this province. They have secured a majority government and did the unthinkable – won as a progressive party in Alberta! While Arb has already posted about the victory, I want to post about the defeat. The defeat of this political dynasty that has reigned for 44 years is monumental and was largely engineered by themselves. And while power has been what has held this unholy alliance of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and progressives together, it is the loss of this power that will destroy them.

To understand the defeat of the PCAA one should understand that they have been a big tent party from the beginning. Peter Lougheed came to power by creating the recipe for a modern petro-state. His plan to drive business and bring investment into the province brought the fiscal conservatives in droves while his plan to build hospitals, schools and infrastructure with the resulting inflow of cash, brought the progressives along. The social conservatives held strong to the Social Credit party for a time but eventually they realized they were better served by having a seat at the government’s table rather than sitting on the sidelines.

And that is the crux of what kept this party together decades upon decades. Power. And lots of it. Massive amounts. In fact, in the entire history of this dynasty they have only elected less than 50 candidates twice. In their twelve straight election victories, seven have been with a popular vote greater than 50 percent and three greater than 60 percent! Numbers like those are rare in democracies where the head of state is not called Dear Leader. While it is indeed true that this power kept the party together, it is also what tore it apart.

The thing with that much power is that it always breeds conflict on who should be controlling it. Just ask Caesar. And much like Rome, Alberta was strongest when it was held together by strong leaders, namely Lougheed and Klein. And while Lougheed managed to retire on his own terms (or at least from what I can tell), Klein most certainly did not. Once Klein announced his intent to retire before the next election in March 2006, he was already dead in the eyes of his party. He ultimately suffered a humiliating 55% on his leadership review as the sheep that were his flock revealed themselves as the wolves they really were. Klein would resign and the wolves were already fighting to see who would be the new Dear Leader.

Therein lay the problem problem that would haunt the PCAA until 2015 where their hubris would be the end of them. First came Stelmach, everyone’s second choice who made the mistake of challenging the true masters of the PCAA by trying to raise royalties on the bitumen leaving Alberta. He received his just deserts and ended up on the floor next to Klein. Next came Redford who was the choice of the progressives that didn’t stick around to prop her up. She was the personification of the corruption and arrogance the PCAA  had gained after being a multi-generational government. Watching her go down brought to mind the image of Nero playing the lyre as Rome burned.

Then finally came the nail in the coffin, Diamond Jim Prentice. Not because he was impotent like Stelmach nor an avatar of corruption like Redford, but instead because he was so effective. Winning by-elections that nobody thought he could brought him the credibility and the strong leadership the PCAA needed to finally coalesce around. It was this strong leadership that lead the PCAA down the rabbit hole that was their end. To highlight their strategy going before calling an election:

1.Blame Albertans for their mismanagement of our resources that caused us to be in a debt situation again. The fact that he also infuriated ordinary Albertans by telling them to look into the mirror and then refusing to apologize for it didn’t help facts either.

2. Infuriate the progressives by running an austerity budget that literally destroyed all the progress they made side the days of Klien.

3. Infuriate the conservatives by raising taxes everywhere.

Calling an election not only after pissing of the entirety of the Alberta populace is one thing, but waiting a few weeks to confirm that they are still pissed off and still calling the election anyway is another thing. The only people they still had rooting for them were those still feeding at the trough. Not until the polls started showing a NDP victory did the swine take a moment to raise their snouts from the slop bucket and proceeded to threaten sick children if we as Albertans dared to elect the NDP.

Well, we as Albertans elected the NDP anyway and now the covenant of power that was the PCAA is over. That which bound the disparate factions of Alberta together in darkness has been thrown into Mount Doom and cannot be reforged. There is no longer any need for the progressives to flock to the PCAA as the NDP is in power. There is no longer any need for the conservatives to rally for the PCAA as the Wildrose is the opposition. The provincial Tories are currently stuck in the middle without anyone at their side. Unless they manage to pull off what will be a literal miracle (or at least the Jesus on toast kind of miracle) and convince the Alberta electorate that they have changed for real this time and to give them one last final chance, I expect their future to reflect that of what happened to the Social Credit party way back when that political dynasty died off.

The dynasty is dead. May we never have another one.


Needs more kittehs to improve political image.

Needs more kittehs to improve political image.

Sometimes I think it would have been better if we had actually passed our own Canadian Patriot Act.  At least we would have a predictable baseline of oppression of every day Canadians not to mention a political target to take action on.  Rather, we have the chaotically raging adolescent security boner the Harper government occasionally plays with and thus leaves me unsure of just when its going to go off and make a mess of things (looking at you bill C-51.)

This latest story of the PM’s own propaganda hacks exposing Canadian soldiers and their families to possible violent retaliation leaves me wondering how to categorize this particular brain-fart properly.  Is it the usual arrogance of our PM, safely ensconced in his warm fuzzy blanket of narcissism or is it just the PMO drones slavishly making stupid mistakes?

“Another video showing the faces of Canadian military personnel has surfaced on the prime minister’s website, just days after his office was forced to remove two similar videos that potentially endangered soldiers’ lives.

This time, however, the video seems to have been posted with the approval of the military.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s staff took down two videos shot in Iraq and Kuwait because they risked identifying Canadian Forces members and exposing them and their families to possible attacks.”

You would think that our war loving PM would be a little more in touch with the concept of Operational Security.  Opening up our soldiers to retribution because he needs to be seen on the battlefield isn’t exactly the best PR move in the book.  This wasn’t rocket science the media that wasn’t a part of the PMO personal propaganda squad had very strict instructions.

“Media travelling to Iraq and Kuwait with Harper were required to sign a five-page agreement pledging to uphold operational security. Among other things, the agreement instructed reporters not to publish photographs that could identify any personnel “who are not designated spokespersons.”

“Publication or inadvertent dissemination has the potential to jeopardize operations and endanger lives,” the document warned.”

So I think we can reasonable rule out ignorance in this case.  Hubris and stupidity are making a comeback as far as the reasons for this security breach are concerned.

“CBC News has confirmed the military never screened or approved the 24 Seven videos as initially claimed.

The Prime Minister’s Office admitted it had made a mistake. Rob Nicol, the prime minister’s director of communications, issued a statement expressing regret and promising to review PMO protocols for posting images online.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson also issued a statement, saying that after reviewing the two videos, the military determined they presented only a low risk. But he said they should not have been posted.”

Whoops.  Stupidity confirmed.  The necessity to provide hate-fap propaganda to the Harper faithful apparently out-weights the risks to the Canadian soldiers in said propaganda.  It’s always refreshing to know where your government stands on the safety of Canadians.

“The opposition has been scathing in its criticism of the government throughout the whole affair. NDP defence critic Jack Harris Friday accused the government of being more concerned about “the prime minister’s propaganda” than the safety of Canadian troops.

“They had about four or five different stories,” Harris said, “and they never did acknowledge that they misled the Canadian people.”

I’m completely shocked that the PMO’s office would flagrantly abuse the security of Canadians for political gains.  Do keep in mind the lovely juxtaposition of this same government bringing in legislation to spy on Canadians (bill C-51) ostensibly to tighten domestic security and enhance public safety.

Way to lead by example Steve!  Keep up the good work, I’m feeling safer already!



OrangeCrushLet’s be honest folks, this election win by Rachel Notley and the NDP was completely unexpected here in what has been fortress Tory Alberta for the last 44 years.  I watched the election write itself out with trepidation for the first hour and a half, because one can never forget, this is Alberta, and for the longest time you could elect a half a bag of stale nacho chips here as long it sported the Tory Blue colours.

And then it happened.  The seat count exploded for the NDP and the Orange Crush never looked back.  No Tory Minority, No NDP Minority but… damn son…  an NDP Majority government.  The missus and I, around 9:30, broke out the Honey-Jack and toasted Rachel Notley and the new political future of Alberta.

I am very glad that we have a new government as of today, the old PC’s by now could be nothing but rife with patronage, cronyism and corruption.  Out with the old corruption and all that; hopefully we’ll have a nice long window of reasonable governance before the new wave of graft starts.

It is important for the NDP in Alberta to make good on their promises to the people of Alberta.  For the record here are the highlights

Notley campaigned on having the wealthy pay more to fund better health care and education. She’s promised:

  • A Resource Owners Rights Commission to review the royalties oil companies pay to the province.

  • A boost in the corporate tax rate to 12 per cent from 10 per cent. Increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018. Current wage is $10.20.

  • More tax brackets for high earners than the Tories are proposing: a 12 per cent rate on income between $125,000 and $150,000; 13 per cent on income between $150,000 and $200,000; 14 per cent between $200,000 and $300,000 and 15 per cent over $300,000. NDP would also roll back the Tory health levy.

  • The creation of 2,000 long-term care spaces over four years.

  • A ban on corporate and union donations to political parties.

    Well there we go. Let’s hope that we see movement on these issues as early as the new budget that will be coming up


Another thought does occur to me, as I am still processing this NDP win in Alberta: How does this affect the prospects for the upcoming federal election?  Is there enough momentum to carry the Orange Crush to the next level – and in Harper’s hometown to boot.    I’m thinking the political landscape has become a lot more volatile, not only in Alberta, but in Canada as well.

  For once, the polls in Alberta were right.

For once, the polls in Alberta were right.

Time for a change in Alberta.  Let’s give Ms. Notley a chance.


A link here to the official Elections Alberta site. I’m looking at you younger crowd, ‘unbusy’ yourself and vote this time to make a difference.

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