23 February 2009


It's not that I want to take drugs and can't afford them and they're hard to get, or anything like that. To the contrary, if I wanted to snort coke, shoot junk, smoke pot, drop acid or X or any number of other things, it's easier and cheaper to do that now than it's ever been in my whole life.

The war on drugs is a failure. We've lost it. In spite of the billions of dollars spent on eradication and interdiction, prosecution and incarceration, illegal drugs, anyones you want, are cheaper and more available today than ever before. And we have the war on drugs to thank for that.

Making drugs illegal makes bad guys rich, corrupts governments and police, and creates significant health problems. We should have learned that in the 1920s when Prohibition made the mafia richer and more powerful than it would ever have been otherwise.

Education, regulation, taxation, and when necessary rehabilitation are all far better, and more cost-effective, ways to deal with people's perfectly normal desire to get high. What we do now makes the problem worse, not better.

Get over it. It's time to withdraw from the war on drugs.

So, what's that go to do with me since my current drug of choice - single malt whisky - is legal?

I need to spend some time in Northern Mexico. In Tijuana, Ensenada, the mountain road from Ensenada to Tecate, and then in Mexicali and some of the factory areas around there. The next proposed book in my detective thriller series starts out there, and I need to do some research.

But it's a war zone. One of the front lines in the war on drugs. More than six thousand people were murdered in Mexico last year in the ongoing drug war. Ninety percent of those were people directly involved on either side of the battle, but that still leaves another six hundred plus innocent bystanders. The violence has occurred all over the country, but most of it has been around the border towns with the U.S. Right where I need to go.

Am I scared to go there? Well, frankly, yeah, enough to give me pause. I have no desire to get kidnapped, robbed, falsely arrested, hit up constantly for bribes or hit by a stray bullet. I've never felt unsafe in that part of Mexico before. (I was pickpocketed once, but she was awfully sexy and artful and it was my own damn fault. I sort of remember her fondly.)

So if I don't get my research done for my next book, don't blame me. Blame the war on drugs.

And if I waste too much time otherwise, blame Twitter, and Facebook, and MySpace, and Crimespace, etc.

I dropped MySpace. It was useles, mostly a bunch of kids and hard to manipulate in the ways in which I wanted to manipulate it. I'm sure if I was a cute boy band I'd feel differently. But it's been a long time since I've been either a boy or all that cute, so I don't.

I recently started twitting and I've got my doubts. People tell me it's useful. I have yet to understand why. Yesterday I found myself responding to a friend's tweet (is that the word?) with my own about having just avoided Greenpeaceniks at my local supermarket on my quest for oysters that they didn't have. Does anyone really care about that? Is it anything more than a waste of time if they do? I've been on Twitter for about two weeks now and I think I have encountered two items that led to something I can honestly say was of any use to me. I might have sold one or two books to people who are following me. But added up, I've spent a lot more time looking at it than any of that seems worth to me. Considering how often some people tweet, it is a miracle that they have time for anything else.

Facebook is making me crazy. Luckily all those idiotic "memes" - list 25 different ways in which you've picked your nose, scabs, zits or butt in the last week - seem to have mostly disappeared. Or maybe they've disappeared from my page because I've refused to respond to them. Last year it was all that - so and so has thrown a snowball at you, do you want to throw one back - crap. I've been found by some people who I'm pleased have found me; and some who I would rather have remained hidden from. So I guess that's about a wash. I don't know. I'm keeping my Facebook page because everyone keeps telling me that writers have to have one. But it makes me grumpy.

Crimespace is better. At least it's focused on crime writers - of which I am, apparently, one. I have met some interesting and useful people there. The only problem I've got with it is that its forums tend to be somewhat predictable, and sometimes, when they aren't, I can't really respond honestly to them for the sake of writerly politics and courtesy. (It's the same reason I avoid reviewing other crime writer's books.)

The internet can be an amazing, time-saving, money-saving tool. Or it can be the most seductive time suck there is. I need to find ways to strike a balance because I enjoy being seduced every bit as much as the next guy.

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