Drug market & gang war

Maybe you’ve read about it. The war that is taking place in the streets of Copenhagen these days over the market for illegal drugs with Hells Angels supporters AK81 on the one side, and immigrant street-gangs on the other. The war does not yet involve mortar attacks and air-strikes, but ‘just’ drive by shootings en masse and plain liquidations. And it is all taking place in the middel of the city. Charming.

Anyway, the solution suggestions from the liberal/concervative minority government (supported by the national socialists) are as dim as you would expect. I’ve heard two suggestions: 1. Safe conduct for handing over firearms to the police. 2. A ban of motorcycle gangs. [To be fair, it should be noted that 1. originally was a left wing suggestion.] But I think it is obvious to everyone that these are only temporary and doubtful solutions.

Instead I would like to see a debate about two alternative solutions.

A. Liberalising the market for drugs. As a layman, I immediately see three sub-markets for illegal drugs with (presumably) a high degree of substitution between the substances. There is the market for mild substances such as Cannabis, a market for weekend-drugs such as ecstasy, and a market for the highly addictive as heroin. The market for the mild substances could be liberalised with the Netherlands as an example (state controlled outlets with prices below the black market) and the market for the highly addictive substances could be highly reduced by introducing doctor prescribed heroin for addicts (which is probably a good idea under all circumstances because it would prevent a lot of the crimes related to raising money to buy these drugs for addicts). I see no overt solution for the weekend drugs-market, but it is my conjecture that easy access to mild substances would reduce this market.

B.  See that war as a social phenomenon with roots in social marginalisation, alienation, unemployment, low education, ghettoisation. That requires a lon-run intensive effort, which is likely to be very, very expensive, but the Government seems to place a higher value on spending ~20 billion DKR [*] of taxpayer money on digging down high voltage air-power cables to beautify the scenary. But perhaps the Government coalition has envisioned the digging as a labour market programme for gang-members?

[*] = I have that  number from a recent article in Weekendavisen, but I could not find a link to that.

Eurovision Song Contest & Politik

Information.dk har en fin artikel om Melodi Grand Prix og det Russisk-Georgiske, Russisk-Svenske, Israelsk-Arabiske forhold. Her et citat fra den Russisk-Georgiske del af historien:

“Ironisk nok deltog Georgien sidste år, blot et par måneder før Ruslands invasion af landet, i det Internationale Melodi Grand Prix med sangen “Peace will come”.

Sangerinden var blind, hvilket måske kan forklare det nu noget åbenlyse fejlskud.”

Reflections on H1N1

An interesting viewpoint from a nurse and researcher from Princeton University:

“Our interconnected global community will certainly confront another disease crisis; therefore, we must learn from the response to the current H1N1 crisis to do a better job in the future. During the initial stages of any outbreak, public health professionals and the media must be cautious when providing numbers on how many people are infected and how many have died. A country’s disease reporting capability is only as good as its medical and public health infrastructures. Therefore, we must assume that the numbers from countries with poorly integrated medical and public health infrastructures and large numbers of uninsured will be inaccurate.

And we must not forget that the name of the disease matters. By using the name “swine flu,” health officials inadvertently tied the disease to pigs even though there was no evidence that pigs were involved. The name led to some countries inappropriately slaughtering their healthy swine herds or banning pork products. They should have used the name “influenza A (H1N1)” from the start. In future outbreaks, health officials should only refer to a pathogen by its scientific name, taking care to avoid naming the causative pathogen after an animal, location, or subgroup of people to avoid inadvertently placing blame or scapegoating.”

At first it seems hard to disagree, but from a precautionary point-of-view, it is probably a good idea to exaggerate the risk initially, when little information is available, and then adjust the risk-level accordingly as more information becomes available. To me, it does not seem sensible to reject initial information based on the country of origin, but rather to judge the information by the quality of the accompanying documentation.

A second point is that Egypt might have ordered the slaughter of the 300,000 pigs anyway, purely because of religious reasons. The authorities were just waiting for an excuse…

European Parliament elections 2009

Here in Amsterdam (as in Denmark) it seems as a big secret: the upcoming election for the 700+ seats in the European Parliament. Is it because we only vote for a tiny fraction of the many seats that noone cares? Or is it just the ‘times-of-not-caring’ about European politics because we are doing so well (disregarding the current crisis)? {Has the social democrats been too successful?}

Anyway, here’s a link to viewpoint by an LSE-professor. He thinks that the UK-national parties sees the election as a mid-term vote and therefore treat it merely as a national contest, but:

 “A big difference between the European Parliament and most national parliaments is that the European Commission and the EU governments cannot railroad their laws through the European chamber. Coalitions have to be built issue-by-issue. As a result, more than 50% of amendments proposed by the European Parliament end up as law. In this respect, the European Parliament is more like the US Congress than the House of Commons.

So, European Parliament elections matter. If the centre-right wins we can expect more market liberalisation, fewer environmental regulations, and more restrictive immigration policies, while if the centre-left wins, we can expect stricter environmental standards, more labour market rules and liberal immigration policies.”

So maybe the the lack of interest among the public (if there is a lack of interest) is caused by journalists and politicians who are focusing on the wrong issues. In Denmark, it seems to me, that every discussion surrounding an EU election ends with a discussion of the EU membership (a referendum of 1972). Today the discussion is about the threat of east-expansion of the Union to the Danish welfare system and the labour market - in particular the flexicurity-system and ‘the Danish model’ (a system of no minimum wage in combination with strong unions that negotiate wages with the firms – around 75 per cent of Danish firms have made deals with unions). But these decisions – most notably the one opening the labour market for Polish labour - have already been taken, so why don’t we focus the discussion on something relevant? (climate, agricultural subsidies, market (de)regulation)

…but that’s just my five (euro) cents.