EJ Dionne at the Washington Post discovers right-wing postmodernism, something Australian bloggers have been banging on about for years.

The more this point gets hammered, the better, particularly as there are still some conservatives out there who actually care about old-fashioned things like objective truth.

Via Tim Dunlop and Pandagon. See also Mark Bahnisch

Schapelle Corby and the war on drugs

by John Quiggin on May 28, 2005

The big news in Australia has been the trial, in Indonesia, of Schapelle Corby, a 27-year old beauty student accused of smuggling marijuana into Bali[1]. In the middle of the trial, in which Corby vigorously asserted her innocence, nine young Australians were caught trying to smuggle heroin out, and now face the death penalty. Corby’s conviction and twenty year sentence has caused major problems in the often fraught relationship between Australia and Indonesia, which had improved in the wake of the tsunami disaster.

Like lots of others, I’m not too happy about the Corby case. But I think most of the complaints from Australia have been misdirected. The problem is not with the trial which, while not as procedurally tight as the Australian equivalent, seemed basically fair[2] to me. The real problem is with the sentence. The likely imposition of the death penalty on the Bali heroin smugglers is even worse.

The reason that attention hasn’t been focused on this issue is that, as a society, we’re fairly hypocritical about the war on drugs. At one level, we recognise that it’s essentially pointless and unwinnable, like most wars. So we’ve gradually backed away from lengthy prison sentences for bit players, and even abandoned the idea that the capture of a few “Mr Big Enoughs” would make any real difference. But it’s still convenient for us that our neighbours should have draconian laws, the burden of which falls mainly on their own citizens. It’s only when a sympathetic figure like Corby gets 20 years for an offence that might have drawn a good behavior bond in Australia, or when some stupid young people end up facing a firing squad that the contradictions are exposed.

fn1. This isn’t as unlikely as it might sound. There’s a big demand among European and Australian tourists in Bali for the type of marijuana in question, and buying from local suppliers is very risky.

fn2. That is, as fair as other drugs trials. The nature of the war on drugs is that normal legal principles have to be suspended if the law is going to be made to work at all. The routine use of procedures bordering on entrapment, and the effective reversal of the onus of proof, once possession is established, are examples of this, in Australia just as much as in Indonesia.